IFComp 2015: Map   1 comment

By Ade McT. Completed twice using Gargoyle.

Derek calls this your “little patch of wilderness”. That’s his half-joke that isn’t a joke at all, but instead, really it’s a cutting indictment wrapped up in humour – contempt masked with levity.

“You can’t even look after the bloody garden,” Derek snapped at you once, after an argument about something you can’t even remember. “It’s what you wanted. It’s why we moved here for goodness sake.”

When you were first married, gardening had been your passion. You inherited it from your mother, you suppose, whose own garden was, each year, a wondrous mass of colour and life.

Elaine’s children, Brady and Samantha, have left the house. Elaine and Derek are moving. Map is set in the week before they leave, in their large empty house.

Yet, day by day, the house gets larger. Strange new doors appear. A plant starts to grow and fill a room, and more.

There is a creative magic to Map that I hate to ruin with details, and I might suggest simply going and playing it. But if you’d like more (or have played already), keep reading past the map.



Each day that passes, when the house grows, a door opens which represents possibility — a past event in Elaine’s life. After the scene plays out, Elaine gets to choose; either how she originally chose, or how she wants to change it. The scenes are intense in a way that defy simple analysis, but I can say the echoes of reality were palpable.

“So, Mrs. Paterson, what do you think?” asks Mr. James. “Can Brady keep on playing hockey? I’m sure I can keep him out of any serious harm’s way.”

Do you tell Mr. James “yes” or “no”?

The relief in both Mr. James and Brady is palpable. Before, when you had said no, it was like the life had drained out of Brady. He still attended school, and he was still a good kid, but it seemed as though he didn’t really enjoy anything anymore. You could see it in him, and although it made you question your decision every day, and it broke your heart to see the change in him, you always justified it to yourself, knowing that at least he was safe – he wouldn’t get hurt anymore.

This is, in a way, time travel. Elaine’s choices can literally change reality.

If Map was a simple lesson in changing wrong choices, it would not be unique. However, the choices are not simple “right” or “wrong”. There is no judgement, only results. After the choice is made and a day passes, the house reflects the result. Characters who were previously gone might start to wander the house.

It’s possible to change reality drastically enough to change the original family configuration (Brady, Samantha, Derek, Elaine). Is it moral to make a choice “better” when it causes others to literally not be born?

I will say Map has some technical issues — it almost appears the author did not care how many lines displayed after a particular paragraph because there was 1 or 2 or 3 more or less at random. Some of the characters could use more conversation choices — while the scenes make them vivid, there is an opportunity to ask specific things, but only a small subset of topics get acknowledged.

Even given that, Map accomplished something novel, perhaps unique to me because of the resonant events, but still — the first ending I reached made me cry.

I have heard people denigrate and even mock extreme emotional experience as a criterion for art. Maybe that’s true; maybe it’s not related to art. But I cannot deny something significant happened.

The street is too open. There are too many eyes – all those blank windows reflecting and multiplying the world. Even thinking about passing the end of the driveway makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s as if, unbounded by anything solid, all that space is too big to endure. It might dissipate you entirely.

Posted November 14, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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  1. Pingback: IFComp 2015 Summary | Renga in Blue

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