IFComp 2015: In The Friend Zone

by Brendan Vance. (Twine, play here)

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This Twine game plays on the oft-repeated phrase ‘friend zone’, using it as a literal prison for Nice Guys. It brands itself as a horror-parody ‘in the tradition of Franz Kafka’, but I’m not sure Kafka could have topped this level of bizarre imagery.

What is by far the most distinctive thing about this game is its writing and mythos, really. There are apocalyptic scenes galore, and Lovecraft inches his way into each scene. It feels like the game Neka Psaria. It feels like a slimy version of Stross’s Rule 34. It feels like some kind of regional gothic, made interactive. This game reads like Porpentine… kind of, with more effigies and less cyberpunk.

The story appears to be set in an elaborate mythos with Priapus (in its original form, a Greek god of fertility and protector of male genitalia) worshipped as a kind of malevolent deity.

It’s no surprise that there’s sexual imagery throughout, though the imagery seems less erotic than violent. There is also quite a fair bit of violence, though at that point it felt more abstract than visceral. This was partly because the targets of the violence were nameless and, for all purposes, not distinct.

Apart from that, I found it hard to get my bearings. The way to progress through the game isn’t really clear – you start off naming a person you’re looking for, but exactly what has happened to that person is very unclear. It made it frustrating for me, half because I kept ‘walking’ in circles, half because I didn’t know how to advance the story.

Nevertheless, Vance’s writing is sound. It never veers into Lovecraftian purple prose, despite its influence, and putting aside my misgivings, this is an able piece of genre writing.

EDIT: linked to Vance’s (er, I presume) tumblr.

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