IntroComp 2014: 'Mount Imperious' by kaleidofish

Unafraid of delving into the the complexities of character relationships, the Twine piece Mount Imperius from IntroComp 2014 sets up a natural disaster story by pitting conflicting personalities against each other. At the end, as the hook teasing the transition into the unreleased full version explicitly requires the player to choose which part of the sundered fellowship to pay more attention to. The experience of playing the hypertext story as a whole feels surprisingly similar to viewing an indie film.

It never was much of a fellowship to begin with, despite the fact that the game creates a strong sense of ensemble. Instead of carrying the plot forward by the characters' camaraderie, the story actively subverts any sense of fellowship. The personality quirks of the protagonist and the four supporting characters come through strongly, but we have no great reason to like anyone. Perhaps one character shown to be an ignorant privileged tourist indulging in a Captain Kirk fantasy is intended to evoke dislike, but otherwise we don't even have much reason to hate the characters, either.

The story is about this crew's mountaineering expedition on the fictional Mount Imperius. There is little to say about the plot, as most of the introduction is dedicated to explaining the reasons of the characters for being on the expedition through flashbacks or through the protagonist's monologues.

These are delivered as simple side-nodes, passages of text revealed by clicking words that simply lead back to the parent node without changing the game state. There seems to be one mutually exclusive choice between three nodes, but that only affects one brief narrative section -- you can view one of three possible conversations. One result of this implementation is that the protagonist hardly feels like a player character despite the narrative being told in her second-person voice. The character-driven writing is effective enough to prevent this minimally interactive implementation from feeling too much like a hypertextual documentary. This dynamic of character-driven narrative with broad but linear implementation may be what gives the game such a strong movie vibe. Something about the subject matter and tone screams "50 minute indie film" to me.

There are several directions where this initial scenario could take us. Embracing the cinematic feel evoked by the flashbacks and the character-heavy focus, it could tell a natural disaster story highlighting human suffering, sympathetic to its characters whether or not it ends happily. Another possibility is that could be a tragedy in the classical sense -- a story where flawed people seal their own doom because of their poor moral choices. The result could be interesting, but it has a long way to go from this sparing teaser.

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