Horror: Colin Sandel’s Quit Your Job Simulator 2014 is a horror game about being trapped in your office while you wait for a compilation to work out. Like One Eye Open (of which Sandel was a co-author), it does some effective things with empty space and solitude and smells that aren’t quite right. If there’s a solvable puzzle here, though — anything that would have let me survive the evening, for instance — I totally failed to discover it.
Science Fiction: We Are The Firewall, Alan DeNiro. Firewall concerns a number of different characters, in a cyberpunkish future world dominated by Google-glass-like gadgets and online games that are disastrously hackable, many of whom work for a sinister Company.
Alan DeNiro is one of my favorite Twine authors on the basis of Solarium, which still gives me a shiver of Agh Creepy feeling whenever I think about it. He actually wrote We Are The Firewall first, but I missed hearing of it at the time. It’s challenging, structurally: there are a bunch of different storylines that diverge from the beginning, and the more of them you play, the more filled-in the epilogue text is; so that the game is like a bundle of strings knotted together at each end. As with Solarium, agency over the events of the story is minimal, and choices are mostly about the order in which you will see information. But it also just feels a bit less self-assured than Solarium. There are loads of Twine macros at work, doing a range of dizzying things like changing the text before your eyes or making bits disappear or causing the screen to shake. Sometimes that’s a useful effect, but sometimes a sentence I was reading blinked out before I made it to the end (and I’m a reasonably fast reader). The result is that Firewall kept me a bit anxious all the time, that I might not get it, that I might not be working hard and fast enough to get it, that I might have to replay things if I wasn’t very careful. The sense of frenetic anxiety is maybe appropriate considering that a lot of the story concerns things like human trafficking and drug smuggling and drone bombings. Nothing is stable in the world of the characters, either.
Comedy/Slice of Life: Ham and Egg Lawyer is a considerably more realistic piece: you’re a new lawyer, but not the kind in Suits or in any TV show featuring James Spader. You are missing some key information about how to get started on various cases, and all your would-be clients have no money or have really unsuitable problems (or both). The bulk of the choices are basically personality-quiz style options about whether you want to treat your clients ethically or try to make yourself some money, conceal your ignorance or admit to it, etc. As a game, it’s not entirely satisfying (I’d say) because there aren’t really any significant results to your actions: at the end you get a score representing how much money you earned, how stressed you are, and what’s happened to your reputation, but there’s no difference in the narrated outcomes. As a piece of interactive semi-non-fiction, though, it’s kind of fun. The various situations appear to be based on things that actually happened to the author, and they’re engagingly narrated. So it’s good to read, but it’s worth not going into it expecting a detailed simulation game, because this is not that.