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Socratic Method
Review by: Jonathan Rosebaugh
Game: Voices
By: Aris Katsaris

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In a competition where most games presented love as a solution, Voices presents love as a question. Are there times, perhaps, when love is the wrong thing, an unjust emotion that should not be felt? And what do we do if there are? Voices does not answer these questions -- that would be presumptuous -- but it helps the player to answer them for himself, if he so wishes, by poking at preconceived notions in a very Socratic manner.

The characters are plain enough, at first glance. God and Satan, Michael the Archangel, Joan of Arc, and the not-quite-nameless soldier who loves her. Enough for a medieval morality play, or a fairy tale. This is neither. God is relatively undefined, which is reasonable enough, but Satan is fleshed out in a manner that makes one almost feel sympathy for him. In fact, he's probably the most detailed of the characters. The PC definitely knows more than the player, in this game, and it's what you don't know that determines character interactions. Perhaps this makes the game unfair, but I think it's no more unfair than was Photopia -- that is, unfair as all hell, but it doesn't matter.

And perhaps the characters are a morality play after all, for they are the frame where questions are put to us. There is, first, the question of justice. Why does Jhenette have to die? Why are both our the player and our the PC's hands tied? There are other questions, of free will and love, but those are easier to answer, though perhaps at the cost of an overly simplistic world view. Some questions cannot be answered so easily, and perhaps they cannot be answered by those of us who see with mortal eyes. Perhaps they are not a part of "all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

These questions are the point of this game, which is quite possibly the only Christian IF game written which didn't suck. The author has put storytelling above evangelizing, which means that the religious layer is much deeper, since it forms the basis of the world view, rather than the basis of the plot. I prefer it this way. I think it captures what Emily Short referred to as "the terrible wings and eyes". It has the sense of deepness, of glory that was in some of Madeline L'Engle's later books, though not entirely without some of the flaws of her earlier works.

Does it succeed? Perhaps. As a purely philosophical work, it suffers, mostly because it is so short. As entertainment value, it also suffers. At the most important moments in the game, you have only a binary decision, which cuts down on the exercise of choice. As a story, though, it is a work of art. That's really what I play IF for, so that's the basis that I'll make my decision on. It's not a matter of win or lose, you see, but of how -- and why -- you play the game.

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