Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2016 Review: A Time of Tungsten

Posted by Reiko on November 21, 2016

This is a review of a game from the 2016 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

A Time of Tungsten
Author: Devin Raposo
Format: Web – Twine

It’s a science fiction story set several centuries in the future, after humanity has dispersed into the universe. There’s a framing story of two techs who seem to be scanning a recording for glitches, and the recording itself tells the story of a materials scavenger on board an exploration and mining ship as part of an official government team. The scavenger has been injured during a mission and goes through memories while waiting for rescue.

I found the story interesting, but really overwritten, often with words misused. I’m not sure how much of that is deliberate; one of the techs comments about a phrase that’s wrong. But there’s a lot of waiting and random details in the story, as well as other details, like news articles, that help flesh out the setting a bit. An example of the overwritten style, when rain “begins to pour heavier [sic]”: “My MEA uniform, at first a proud and even bold statement of my stature as an agent of this most dangerous and riveting government agency, is now fully drenched in what I can only assume to be perfectly sanitary rainwater.” In other words, “my uniform is now soaked.”

There’s kind of an explanation late in the story – the recording has been sort of constructed from the raw memory data by running it through an algorithm that uses techniques of classic literature to write a narrative. It’s essentially computer-generated text from an experimental process, so naturally it’s not going to be very well written. The frame story is mostly dialogue, and the epilogue is so short that it’s hard to tell if the style is really the same as the recording text, but I think it is. In other words, is this an in-universe explanation for deliberately florid text?

The ending is somewhat abrupt, as well. I’m not really sure what the point was, other than to examine the memories of an agent lost on an illegal mission. The actions of the captain at the end weren’t really explained, either. Maybe it would help to replay, but there were just so many waiting scenes and irrelevant details that pad out what’s actually a rather short story, that I don’t have much desire to reread it all.

Time: 1 hr
Scoring: base 7, -1 for florid text, -1 for too many waiting scenes
Score: 5

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