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7 Stars IFReview Rating Voices

IFReviewed by Emily Short on 2006-08-01 04:13 

Game Profile

Aris Katsaris and madninja


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IFR Overall Rating
7 Stars IFR Overall Rating
Well. This game posed a problem for me, because I played it when it came in, and sat there feeling vaguely punched in the gut, and then couldn't discuss it with anyone because no one else was able to play it yet. It owes, as another reviewer noted, an unmistakeable debt to Photopia, both in the structure (nonlinear event sequence, shifting perspectives) and in the theme (inevitable outcome, innocent protagonist one would like to protect.) And like Photopia it is manipulative in ways that I feel and resent as a player, that make me disengage slightly. Manipulative or not, though, I did, in spite of myself, find much to care about, which is a tribute to the skill of the author and the humanity of the characters as revealed in their conversation.

Having raised that comparison, I'm now going to ignore it. Photopia is perhaps the most widely-reverenced work of IF in existence, and I'm not interested in trying to determine whether Voices approaches it in quality; the power here is almost entirely subjective, so I can't know whether other people will respond to it as I did. Instead I'd like to address it on the terms that the author raised: is it acceptable, interesting, workable, as a piece of propaganda?

I'm biased, naturally, being Christian; one is bound to have certain reactions to a game that rails openly against a Christian God. At the same time, I found it less offensive than I did Jarod's Journey, which in my opinion reduced and belittled the deity and his agents, making Jesus someone to be addressed in formulaic forms and his angels little glowing critters in unwrinkled robes -- a kind of cross between the Sylvania Light Bulb Man and a spokesbeing of Tide With Bleach. Where was the spectacle, the wonder, the glory, the terrible wings and eyes?

Voices came closer, I thought, to respecting the content of my religion -- by trying to address it seriously and directly -- than JJ did by trying to make it into something advertiseable and shallow. Yes, Voices railed against God-- but railing against God is often done. Cf. Jonah, and Job, and Jacob wrestling with the angel; Abraham bargaining for Sodom and Gomorrah; Peter with his failures, Thomas with his doubts, Jesus himself asking to be spared what he knows is coming. I could see something like this being written by a Christian author, in fact.

To all this, I thought, the romance aspect was almost tangential. The matter of the game is Love, yes, but it's divine love and protective love and the desire to spare what cannot be spared. So the plot rang false for me, finally; but maybe this is because I have other answers for Aris' questions than the ones he settled on. Believing what I believe, I would make the story differently; which I guess returns us to the question of whether a story can or should be inherently evangelical. I would've made Tapestry differently, too.

Ultimately, I guess, I thought the theological questions raised were ones that have already (at least for me) been adequately answered, though people will, of course, go on poking at them for as many generations as religion itself endures; to postulate a just god in an unjust world is always problematic. It was a problem for the Greeks before Christianity existed -- what to do with this Zeus character, who was supposed to be a force for justice but who kept handing out bad things to decent people, and (on top of that) in all of these stories did assorted nefarious things? The explanations there are complicated and sometimes half-hearted (Zeus is bound by Fate, eg; there's nothing he can do about what Must Be. Or: Zeus is in favor of justice, but he doesn't care very much about individual humans.) Christian arguments about free will are much more interesting to me, and effective, but I am, as noted, biased.

All that said -- I wasn't persuaded, I wasn't even really all that challenged in the terms of my belief, but I do think that this is more the way to go than some other efforts we have seen. If you want to convey something, then writing a story that conveys it as part of the soul of the story is a good way. Perhaps even better would be to allow for some interplay, create an NPC (or someone) who plays the Devil's Advocate (God's Advocate?). But still. Intriguing.

    Emily Short Profile

    IFReviewer Rating
    10 Stars IFReviewer Overall Rating

    Name Emily Short
    Gender Female