Monday, October 12, 2015

"Arcane Intern (Unpaid)" (review)

 "Arcane Intern (Unpaid)" is Twine game by Astrid Dalmady, entered in the 2015 Interactive Fiction competition.  This was the next game served to me from a randomized list.

Most of us who are now in professional positions remember at one time working in a low-pay or no-pay internship.  This game, though set in a fantasy world, effectively evokes the spirit and tribulations of that first starter job.  I remember bosses (it seemed like everybody was my boss back then) who nurtured me and I remember others who cut me down.  I remember feeling sometimes rewarded and sometimes misused.  The most important knowledge I gained from my internships was the wisdom I came by unexpectedly... but perhaps never so much as the character in this story manages to gain knowledge which her employers did not intend for her to acquire.  (At least that was how it worked out the first time I played).

More after the spoiler break

Since my overall impression was positive, what follows are minor quibbles.  The choices early in the story are largely cosmetic, there primarily for pacing and other narrative effect.  I went back and replayed the interview scene.  My interviewer gave nearly the same responses regardless of how I answered his questions.  The consequence was I never really felt like he was listening to me.  I felt that way even before playing through the second time, when I realized he absolutely wasn't listening to me.

The only truly interactive bits are near the end.  That has been my experience with a lot of Twine stories. I am sure that is partly a consequence of the fact that authors don't want to write three or four entirely different stories based on an early choice.  But there are better ways to code low consequence choices, to make the player feel that all choices matter.

I went back and played a second time, this time not sharing my magical powers with my roommate.  I found that ending much less satisfying.  I don't know how much the players first choices will affect their overall reaction to this piece.  That's a risk when authoring CYOA fiction.

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