Shufflecomp: Mirrorwife

Shufflecomp is responsible for introducing me to Nightwish, specifically “Over the Hills and Far Away”, which is the inspiration for a piece called Mirrorwife.

I can totally see why someone might have picked this song. It’s got a simple, tropey premise that turns up everywhere from medieval ballads to current-run lawyer shows: dude is falsely accused of a crime, but he chooses to pay the penalty rather than present his alibi, which is that he was sexing up his best friend’s wife at the time the crime occurred. It takes an instant to understand and there are a gazillion ways you could hook off of it. No subtleties about the music either: big singing! Big guitars! It’s all about the emotion and the color. Even if you’re not particularly a fan of its genre, you can at least get it.

Which is why Mirrorwife is such a surprising evolution of the song. It takes the simple barebones premise and turns it into something strange and fantastical, which takes most of the game even to understand. (Sure, it’s a short game. But still.) It takes a song about separation and makes a game about homecoming, of sorts. And it does this in a way that is intentionally spare and dry. Though it’s in Twine, and though the story concerns people, most of Mirrorwife is told through settings and object descriptions, terse and evocative and cold.

I liked the story. It’s still about infidelity, and bad marriages, and being silent, and being punished for something that wasn’t your fault, but it’s about those things differently. In the original song, the protagonist could save himself with a word, but chooses not to speak it; in Mirrorwife, speech is impossible and would not in any case be believed. It is a story about living on the margins, without power, without autonomy.

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