Critical Play: Creatures Such as We

Creatures Such as We is an interactive fiction game designed by Lynnea Glasser (Choice of Games LCC). In this game, the player plays as the “Director of Activities” of a moon tourism company. They need to welcome incoming guests who are designers of a game (meta!), the ending of which they just had an unfulfilling experience with.

The aesthetic this game aims for is very clearly narrative. The game contains very detailed description but no visuals or sounds, requiring the player to use their own imagination to supply the more sensual details. However, this results in long blocks of texts that are sometimes difficult for me to stay focused throughout. I played the game on both my laptop and my phone, and it was easier to maintain focus on my phone (perhaps related to how it is easier to scan text on a phone). But having played other IF games, I think Creatures Such as We is still able to maintain a reasonable length for each page of text (before a choice is made, or a button is pressed to advance to the next page).

Long blocks of text are separated by a button that advances, to keep each page to a reasonable length for easy scanning / maintaining focus. 

One thing I noticed and would love to incorporate in future games is where Creatures Such as We incorporated “personalize-able” choices (age, ethnicity, gender identity, etc.) I think most games would put this at the very beginning, and while this is a great mechanic to create fun as self-expression, I find that when this is done in games with other aesthetics as the main focus, the “create-your-character” sequence at the beginning detracts from the fun of the game. An extreme example are RPGs (such as Dragon Age: Inquisition) with extremely lengthy and overly detailed create-your-character sequences — in my opinion, the main fun of these games (especially in the first play through) is narrative, and having to go through a long list of personalizations (often going into very minute details such as your character’s eye height) deflates my anticipation for the narrative fun I was looking forward to having. Creatures Such as We deals with this by having the create-your-character sequence after a section of narrative with meaningful choices — ensuring that the player has had a taste of the narrative fun that it promises. The create-your-character sequence itself is broken up into one with age, ethnicity and gender identity, and the player is able to input their name later during a conversation with another character, making it a more reasonable break from the main narrative. (Additionally, I noticed that this for me has the effect of integrating the create-your-character sequence more closely with the game — I usually have a nickname that I use in games, but for this game I was compelled to use my actual name.)

IF games are often written in second-person POV, and something I have struggled with is writing dialogue choices that imbue emotional nuances without explicitly stating those emotions (“You said sarcastically” or “You can’t control your hatred”). I thought the following dialogue options (image below) encompass a good strategy of dealing with this — the first 3 options do not explicitly state the main character’s emotions, rather trusting the player to put themselves in the character’s shoes and guess their emotions. However, the 4th option presented a potential conflict in the reality of the world (whether there have been accidents with the space suits or not), hence it is important to specifically say that choosing that option is “lying,” to avoid the player misunderstanding the story.

About the author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.