Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Switcheroo (review)

"Switcheroo" is a web based story by the Marino family, entered in the 2015 interactive fiction competition.

Switcheroo is a story about a boy's magical transformation. This can be read and enjoyed at two different levels.  If you're a shallow thinking sod like me, you can read it as a goof-ball children's story, and enjoy it quite a lot.  But at another level, it gives the adult reader or older child some deeper symbolism to consider and discuss.

As a goofball children's story, this was a lot of fun.  There are funny bits, an embedded card game, a silly (mostly irrelevant) scoring system and references to other children's stories.  I loved the simulated card game, which parodies both "American Girl Dolls" and collectible card games like "Magic".

At another level, this game is about identity and the difficulty that all children (but especially foster children) have understanding and asserting their own identity.  I say this even though I had initial concerns that this would be JAHPAGI (just another hypertext parable about gender identity).  After playing the game to the end, I concluded that it went much deeper than that.  Sure, it is consistent with the modernist view that gender is a social construct:  one can wear girls clothing or not, play with the other boys or not, act aggressively or not, and none of those choices has any dependency on the others.  But this isn't JUST about gender identity.  Identity is complex, and the story recognizes that complexity.

Lucian Smith has reviewed this game and analyzes its meaning as it relates to foster children in greater depth than I feel qualified to do.  I recommend reading his review, but not until after you've played the game.

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