There was something cinematic about this story. Yes, I was occasionally clicking on my mouse, but mostly I was watching this go by, fully immersed and emotionally engaged in deciding whether to steer the story towards more dramatic but potentially painful topics or to choose a safer, more avoidant path. On my first play through I figured that there was no sense in holding back. I can tell you that choice made for a memorable and touching experience, but I was so drained at the end of it that I did not reply. Maybe I will at some point, but not for a while.
Needless to say, when a story connects that way with the reader, the author has done something right, and is towards the top of my list.
The game follows the main characters from age 8 (in 2001) and through university. The setting of the story is a ficticious version of an online virtual pets website like Neopets, i.e, a multi-user virtual environment centered on virtual pets, but in which chatting with other users is a central activity.
When the two main characters met in this environment, I was nervous that the story would take a cringy turn towards stranger danger territory, but thankfully, this is not about online pedophiles trawling for innocent children, but actually two children using the website in a very positive way and building a virtual friendship that eventaully becomes not so virtual.
This game taps a lot of nostalgia from that era but I’m one generation too old to have experienced this directly The ficticious website and the culture of online RP is a dead ringer, though, for what I saw my kids grow up with.
This work is more multimedia than almost anything I’ve encountered in IFComp and avoids the clumsiness of most attempts to include sound in text games. At best, sound in most twine games can enhance atmostphere and often I find it gratuitous or distracting, but it really worked here. The voiceovers were used sparingly and to dramatic effect, the sound effects were short and unobtrusive.
The subject matter was relatively heavy and I’m reluctant to call it a game, but it very much succeeded in the CYOA aspect — I felt like my choices mattered and took them seriously.