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June 15th, 2009

Fictionlet

Greg staggered out of the hall and into the living room, only to have to step back and lean on the wall for support. His eyelids and eyebrows were twitching as he tried to force his eyes open, only to have them involuntarily squeeze shut in a painful squint; his head hung low and he was barely moving. "Uuunphff..." he managed to say.

"You look like I feel," said Brigid from the counter, where she hovered over a half-finished bowl of cereal. "I thought you were a morning person."

"Unh?" said Greg again. "I feel terrible. I don't understand it. I went to bed normally, I slept normally ... but I feel like I've been up for 24 hours with a pair of crying babies screeching into each ear and someone rubbing lemon juice into my eyes."

"Welcome to my world."

"I know ... I never really understood what it was like before. I feel like one giant bruise. Every inch of my body feels like it's been pummeled by an angry librarian with particularly pointy knuckles. And you go through this every morning?" He managed to slide along the wall and into the kitchen, where he stood staring at the coffee maker as if trying to figure out what planet it was from.

"Well, not every morning," said Brigid. "But six out of ten, I'd say."

"It's horrific," he said, and with a look of sudden realization reached for the cabinet containing the coffee mugs. "How do you keep from stepping in front of the nearest bus and ending it all?"

"Mostly by pushing other people in front of the bus instead," Brigid replied. "By the way, there's no coffee in that coffee. We ran out yesterday."

Greg stopped where he was as if he'd just heard the worst news of his life. "Right. Tell my secretary to hold my calls, I'm going to go back and die peacefully in my bed." He began the long slide back along the wall towards the hallway.

Brigid looked over at the answering machine. "Hold his calls," she said.

"Thanks," said Greg, stumbling off towards his room. "It's nice to know I can count on you in a crisis."

-The Gneech

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Spooky Adventure Games

Suddenly I find myself in my periodic mood for a spooky adventure game. The Lost Crown was the last one I played, and I enjoyed it quite a bit when I wasn't being frustrated with it, but I don't know that I'm up to watching Nigel Danvers glide-walk painfully slowly around a seaside village in Kent again just now. I think I'd like something a little less ghostly and a little more weirdly this time around, probably because of all the Lovecraft I've been reading lately.

Problem is, short of The Lurking Horror there doesn't seem to be much in the Lovecraftian adventure market. There are plenty of "survival horror" games with a bit of Lovecraftiana tossed in — sirfox tried to turn me on to one called Eternal Darkness that had fun with "sanity" effects, and I was kinda-sorta interested in it, except for the fact that I had to keep shooting zombies with shotguns. Peculiar as it may sound, I don't want the imminent death of my character by something jumping out from behind a wall and attacking my health meter to be a factor in a horror game. That emotion, assuming it conjures up something other than "annoyance" or "amusement" is terror, not horror.

See, what I really want isn't a "horror" game at all, but a "weird tale" game — it's kind of a hard distinction to make other than to point and say "Yes, that's it!" or "No, that's not it." But what makes a weird tale weird, is that its essential premise is that on some level, the world just doesn't work the way you think it does, and you have to come to terms with that, as opposed to a horror story, which is about either scaring the pants off of you or making you toss your lunch, depending on when it was made and the intelligence of the creator.

So for instance, if Eternal Darkness hadn't had all that mucking about with forcing you to fight waves of zombies, it would have been closer to a weird tale, but since it was spending so much time trying to make you afraid that "you" were about to die, it was more of a horror, see?

There's more to the topic than that; my ideal version of such game would probably be half 1930s Sim anyway, or at least be heavily themed in that direction, with a cozy-style mystery that gradually unfolds into some sort of cosmic horror. Think The Dagger of Amon-Ra, except that at the end the murderer turns out not to have been an art-smuggling cop [1], but an ancient Egyptian wizard trying to bring forth Apep to devour the world. Or something along those lines.

And spooky. But without any real combat to speak of.

-The Gneech

[1] Is it possible to spoil a long-OOP Sierra adventure game from 1991?

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