IF Comp 2013: '100,000 years' by Pierre Chevalier

I'm reviewing the games entered in the 19th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition that I complete within the two-hour time limit for open judging.

Brief and intriguing, 100,000 years is an interactive poem.  It uses the hypertext medium better than parser-based attempts at interactive poetry tend to use either the command prompt or keywords.  Its strength lies is its innovation, the way it uses its extremely minimalist interaction mechanic to reveal the poetic technique.

The method of interaction actually feels like an organic part of the poetic structure.  There are no choices to select or links to click; the interactive poem is simply controlled by clicking ASCII arrows to move between the six stanzas.  This should be too minimal to be effective, but the way that this mechanical is tactically related to the content of the stanzas is actually quite interesting.

Not to say that the poem's minimalist design isn't a problem.  Although the minimalist mechanic is integrated perfectly with the design, the poetry itself is too simple to be memorable.  Each stanza simply contains four lines, with only basic parallelism.  I don't know poetry well enough to critique the poetic method or to know whether the structure is based on an established form, but I know that good poetry tends to lend itself to contemplation and further revelation upon careful re-reading.  100,000 years's only non-obvious subtext is a circularity theme revealed by the interactive mechanic.  The stanzas tell a simple science fiction story with minimal poetic technique, and there seems to be little room for analogy or metaphor.  This makes the poetry very accessible, but it also fails to give the reader something to take away.

It took me only four minutes to read and interact with 100,000 years, and I feel that I've thoroughly absorbed everything the poem has to offer.  A briefly pleasurable experience as an artistic piece, 100,000 years is especially interesting for its successful interaction mechanic.  As short and accessible as it is, there is no reason not to take a look at its innovative design.


  1. Ha! How nice. There is some an intention for subtext /analogy/metaphor in 100,000 years, but it was very risky to expect the reader to get interested to it given the very short span of time he would devote to the piece (because of its short length).

  2. Thanks for reading, Pierre.

    I'm always open to analogy and metaphor, and I often look for it intentionally. (I'm not a hardcore literary buff or anything. Even though I interpreted 100,000 years as poetry, I don't usually read poetry.)

    I think your work expresses circularity strongly by being so tightly unified. I think the unity of mechanic and narrative is important for short interactive works, and 100,000 years is successful in that.


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