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January 9, 2008

Plotkin's "Shade"

I do not want to repeat the same sentiment I have had about interactive fiction, but I feel I must.

I remember, very vaguely, hearing about this game from some of my extremely techno-geek friends.

I was not, however, prepared for the mind-job waiting those who play through Shade. Of course, as with all good works of art, the title is active - as the player is living in the shade of reality.

I think the most difficult part was figuring out how to begin. It never really crossed my mind to get off the futon (just as most college students don't want to get off the futon). Where Shade differs, though, from some of the others is that it is inherently and terribly psychologically a thriller. While there is a feeling of being trapped in the "Colossal Cave Adventure" as you enter the maze, "Shade" instead starts slow and then very quickly becomes this mounting feel of apprehension and urgency.

While finding your way through a maze is difficult (no matter how many dwarves you must kill), it doesn't really trap you, like the flowing sands. Of course, we are not expected to find ourselves trapped within our own minds, in our own vacations, etc in the cave adventure.

Of course, this opened up yet another avenue of exploration in IF games - the psychological thriller. You can get so engrossed in the game that it is both affective and effective.

I had never really played anything like this before I played the game Eternal Darkness on the GameCube. "Eternal Darkness" also played with the player's minds by using insanity effects - as your character continued to witness things that shouldn't happen, your sanity meter would decrease. As it dropped down to nothingness, your character would be afflicted by various visions or...whatevers. The insanity effects would vary, of course, from things like your head would fall off and you would die...or you would slowly sink into the floor as you walked...or, the best, is that a "blue screen of death" would appear on the teevee screen indicating a system failure....only for a flash of light and everything would right itself.

The game would mess with your mind. So did Shade.

Posted by KevinMcGinnis at January 9, 2008 11:26 PM


Yes, "Shade" has a following, and Andrew Plotkin has serious geek cred.

This game riffs on the "My Apartment" simulation that beginning IF programmers invariably fill with in jokes for the friends with whom they intend to share it. But the psychological drama delivers an effective punch.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at January 10, 2008 12:52 AM

I totally agree. IFs really do mess with your mind. At the beginning of the game I thought I was a vampire because whomever I was playing would not open the shade, and then when he talked about the fesitival he mentioned something about throats. I did not finish it however so if I am right then...wow.

Eternal Darkness, however, messes with your mind visually and that would probably freak me out a little. I am not one for mind games and scary movies so I stay away from many horror-like games. I think that Shade would be worse though since you can not see what exactly is going on. It is almost like being stuck in a dark room with some odd creature.

Posted by: Ashley F at January 10, 2008 5:04 PM

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