Monday, October 10, 2016

IF Comp '16: 500 Apocalypses

500 Apocalypses, by Phantom Williams

"500 Apocalypses" is a series of vignettes where, if anything, you have even less agency than "Black Rock City." But because of premise and context it works far, far better.

The entry (I can't call it a game) is a series of short fictions about the deaths of alien civilizations. It presents itself as a found object; a database discovered in deep space on which these entries were stored. The entire experience involves clicking through and reading these entries at your leisure. Sometimes they will be hyperlinked to other entries of similar subject matter, but otherwise, there are is no choice or interactive elements. You pick an entry from the main menu (they represented as a cascade of blue dots with nothing to distinguish them) and get a bit of micro-fiction.

Luckily, the writing in "500 Apocalypses" meets the challenge a project of this scale presents. The entries are imaginative, surprising, solemn, and profound by turn. They vary in length from just a few lines to a handful of  paragraphs, and each one brings something unique to the project. In the dozens I explored I didn't come across any clunkers. The imagination on display here is quite the accomplishment, especially considering the size of the project. Five hundred short stories is a real achievement.

While the interactive element is at about the minimal amount that a Comp entry can have, "500 Apocalypses" in no way suffers for it. As anyone who's gone on a wiki walk knows, exploring a database can be a fun experience in itself. The stories here are worth discovering, and the premise gives the entry that grounding that I felt "Black Rock City" to be missing. I think that despite being on the far end of the story/game division "500 Apocalypses" will do well.

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