Beneath Floes (Bravemule, Pinnguaq)

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Beneath Floes is a folk tale of Inuit culture, created in collaboration with Inuit contributors. (There’s a browser-based play option as well, but at the time of writing, that version wasn’t serving audio well, so you may prefer the download.) Recently a Kickstarter raised the funds to have Beneath Floes translated into Inuktitut (an indigenous language of the eastern Arctic) and Anishinaabemowin.

It is both a story and a meditation on story-telling, one which starts by explaining to the reader how much is going to be under the reader’s control. Not a lot, as it turns out: you mostly get to change small details, details that explicitly don’t branch the plot, while the horrible core story is beyond the player’s capacity to change. But the effect is very different from, say, the also very linear interaction in My Father’s Long, Long Legs, or the fact-mingled-with-fiction of Coming Out Simulator 2014.

Nonetheless the small details that you’re allowed to affect are not selected arbitrarily. Does evil, in your mind, have a hooked nose or a button nose? Do you associate yourself with an indigenous hero or with Superman? Perhaps we’re allowed to make these choices because we inevitably see reflections of ourselves in the stories we’re told, no matter who the teller is. Elsewhere — a dark sort of joke — you can pick which of two strings of gibberish numbers and letters the qallunaat, the white people, have assigned you as your identifying marker; or, in another place, you can change (by one year) the date associated with an anthropological recording. History is slippery, but the fundamentals hold.

I appreciated, too, the passages where material that relies on cultural context is presented just clearly enough for someone not native to the Arctic to understand, but yet not overly explained. A favorite passage:

It’s said that your father shot a caribou and failed to kill it, but that’s one person’s belief—not a well-liked individual, either.

From context, it’s clearly a scandalous thing to fail to kill a caribou. A whole ethos is implied but not explained.

Beneath Floes is not completely linear, however. There are at least two endings that I found, and as far as I can tell, what makes the difference is what you decide about the protagonist’s willingness to do violence.

4 thoughts on “Beneath Floes (Bravemule, Pinnguaq)

  1. I am floored at this, thank you!

    One note: I hope you were able to play with audio intact! I just noticed that my webhost, Squarespace, broke the game’s audio integration two days ago by changing how their file storage system works. I’d encourage folks to download it through itch.io (also free) until I can get the in-browser version fixed: http://bravemule.itch.io/beneathfloes

    I’ve made the Bravemule links redirect to itch.io in the mean time. My apologies for the awkward timing on this.

    • I did get to hear the audio on my first playthrough; I played a couple times more recently with the sound off because of having other people nearby, so I didn’t realize it was broken. I’ll put the itch.io link up top so people are more likely to use it.

  2. This sounds very cool, especially the part about making it available in Inuktitut and Anishinaabemowin! I only wish I had heard about it in time to contribute to the Kickstarter.

  3. Pingback: Snake Game (Vajra Chandrasekera with Tory Hoke) | Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling

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