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I think we ought to let him hang there, let him twist slowly, slowly in the wind.
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7 Stars IFReview Rating Jane

IFReviewed by Emily Short on 2006-08-01 04:17 

Game Profile

Author
Joseph Grzesiak

Idiom
English

Authoring System
Inform6

Release Year
2002

IFR Overall Rating
8 Stars IFR Overall Rating
Separator
Rating: 7
House or Office: House
Played to completion?: Yes

I'm not going to address this as a game, because it isn't one. It's an interactive story, much like Photopia; given that fact, it's solidly implemented (I encountered no bugs), and competently written in a technical sense (I encountered no grammatical problems, etc). What really deserves discussion is how it takes on its topic, domestic abuse.

This is an especially difficult subject to write about, and write about well, because playing the role of an abused woman requires that you sympathize a certain amount with the motivations that lead her to stay, placate, and conceal. I didn't have her history, and I certainly didn't share her self-doubt: I found I got angry on her behalf, and made her as defiant as I could, whenever possible. It irritated me when the game took over again, forcing her to apologize to John, when what she should have been doing is walking out the door.

Now, I realize that from the perspective of an abused woman, that option is often just not there — for psychological and emotional reasons, not for practical ones. I think that the game doesn't quite convey this; it's certainly there in Jane's words, but I-the-player was pretty divorced from those feelings, and did my best to make Jane behave as a free, self-confident woman. I'm not sure what you would have to do in order to get the player to be motivated to apologize to and cover for John from time to time; the result might be something like Rameses, with the player character refusing to obey the player's instructions. Or possibly it would have to start off with some good times — Jane out with her husband and friends, basking in appearing to be very fortunate in her domestic life. Then, once you actually had a stake in this appearance of happiness, showing the ugliness behind it... I don't know whether that would work or not, but you might be able to explore this psychology in greater depth. Maybe. So while I think this was written in good faith and portrays problems that really exist, I also don't think it takes full advantage of the potential inherent in an interactive story-telling. I will add that I think, for this subject matter, that would be very very difficult, and the results painfully disturbing.

On the other hand, this game also avoids trivializing the issue or lapsing into painfully bad taste. When I saw that you sometimes play the role of the husband, I got nervous — I didn't want the game to force me into the position of abusing Jane myself just to make the story progress. Thank goodness that the author didn't decide to go that route, because I would've found it quite distasteful.

Emily Short Profile

IFReviewer Rating
10 Stars IFReviewer Overall Rating

Name Emily Short
Gender Female

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