IFComp 2015: Seeking Ataraxia   1 comment

By Glass Rat Media. Played to completion on iPhone.

There’s a habit I picked up with an old car of mine that I still carry to this day when I park at work. I circle the car and check all the doors to make sure they are locked; I check the inside to make sure there isn’t a light still on; I check the headlights to make sure I haven’t left them on. This is true even though my new car has both auto-locks and a very loud beep if I leave the lights on. But it’s habit and I persist. Sometimes I get so nervous about it that even after checking the doors I will walk around and check them again; or, I’ll be walking away, be slightly uncertain if I checked them (even though I probably did) and do the whole circle the car ritual again.

What I’m saying is I have some emphathy for the main character in Seeking Ataraxia.


In the opening, the unnamed protagonist (played by “you”) is at a therapy session where he is diagnosed with OCD. (“unwanted ideas, images, or impulses that seem silly, nasty, or horrible?”; “constantly worried that something bad will happen because you forgot something important?”)

You then, in a series of small choices, lead the main character through their weekend where they have to brave a pharmacy for medication and really ought to study for a test except his roommate Chris left a mess from a party.

It’s pretty short and I feel like the intent is to just give the perspective of being inside the OCD mind. Given that, Seeking Ataraxia nailed its target: the part where the main character panics trying to find Chris’s hiding cat and imagines it dead or the part where a study session is foiled by the looming mess outside strike me as some of the most realistic scenes of this competition.


However, I’ve got some issue with the choice structure. The game is short but the small moments are crafted into an epilogue which represents big effects. If you don’t call the otherwise-unmentioned Alice at the right time (even if you left a voice message earlier) she will stop being your friend. If you postpone going to the therapist you just will never go. If you don’t confront your mother she’ll remain domineering. But remember this is based on choices of a single weekend, and it seems like the game is sending the message that if the choices aren’t done right the first time they will never be done now and forever.

It’s almost as if, Quantum Leap style, you as a player have the chance to inhabit someone’s body for a short time and steer them in good ways; if things aren’t righted by the end of the story, the character’s life falls apart once they regain agency. Assuming Seeking Ataraxia is partly a public service announcement, it’s good to encourage action right now, but bad to suggest once the opportunity is past you might as well give up.

Posted November 11, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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One response to “IFComp 2015: Seeking Ataraxia

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  1. Pingback: IFComp 2015 Summary | Renga in Blue

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