Thanksgiving

By Hannah Powell-Smith (Twine; IFDB; play here)

You are ‘Casey’, an anxious college student with lots to hide, and you’re going to your boyfriend’s house for Thanksgiving. Can you keep it together?

Thanksgiving is designed with an eye towards those who unfamiliar with IF, with a preliminary explanation on how to progress in the story and colour-coded links (red is for eavesdropping; green is to progress).

The story largely involves navigating your way through social interactions with relatives: do you act cheerful, or distant? Help out, or try and remain invisible? The player took on the PC’s responsibility to keep the PC’s story straight. NPCs will remember your story, not least your boyfriend. What exactly was ‘true’ is not always clear:

But when it comes to opinions, it’s hard to remember what you’ve said and what you haven’t and what you’ve said to Tommy.

The story also benefits from the PC’s ‘eavesdropping’, adding texture and details to the boyfriend’s family. It was suited to the close proximity that comes with family gatherings on occasions such as this.

I thought the idea of concealing one’s identity was well done. We only ever see the bits of her past that she’s actively trying to hide from her boyfriend’s family, while other incidental details – her real name, details about her family – are irrelevant and thus omitted. Yet, the PC’s past emerges in so many ways: not just in her new name, but also in her uncanny ability to spot scammers, perhaps even in the game’s key mechanic of choosing the approach to social interactions. I would not know how accurate any of this is, but Thanksgiving feels like an extraordinarily nuanced account of the minefield that is social interaction.

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