Ectocomp 2018: Death. By PowerPoint.

Ectocomp 2018: Death. By PowerPoint.

deathbypowerpoint

Death. By PowerPoint. is a Twine game by djakajack.

Right from the very beginning, in the Berry Ballroom, we see irony in the conference room conversation in that everyone apart from the protagonist speaks in legalese, yet the protagonist understands them perfectly, or at least appears to face no issues with comprehension (not that the meaning of their words is unclear; just that they are inaccessible given the old-fashioned expressions and proper nouns). This is further reinforced by the marked informality of the protagonist’s responses, which are characterised by slang and other casual talk; this indifference on the part of the protagonist towards the other characters is consistently followed through. In the Candy Ballroom, though, there is a reversal of roles – now the protagonist (Nate Farthmudlow, the same as before, but younger) is the one speaking in inaccessible sentences, and other characters have no problem understanding him. On the other hand, the choices provided to the protagonist, and the actions that follow, suggest a sensitivity to the outworldliness of the scenarios taking place in the classroom that all but Nate seem indifferent to.

There is irony in choices, too, especially in the “pay for the bill” scene. The far-fetchedness of the scenario is very starkly contrasted with the bluntness of the imperative “pay” and the staccato-like quality of each of the other monosyllabic words (“for the bill”), lending the phrase a sense of exaggerated humour. It hit hard, and I literally laughed out loud. This consciously dry tone in response to over-the-top scenarios worked most of the time, with this being the best example of its effectiveness, though its prevalence also meant that it started feeling a little forced. It is worth noting, however, that one particular scene, the ending scene, carries this meta, self-aware voice to another level, when the delivery for the¬†explanation as to why the protagonist reacts with such indifference is in itself indifferent (‘”Oh,” says Marley. “I suppose I should have seen that coming.”‘). This is worthy of praise because the author, in providing this explanation, successfully mitigated the risk of undermining the voice established throughout the rest of the story, effectively reinforcing this voice while adding to the plot at the same time.

(A minor quibble: considering the relative weight of each sentence, I think the dense Impact font is slightly superfluous, adding unnecessary friction to the text.)

I also liked how the PowerPoint theme was adhered to with each of the features of the remote control reduced to its most basic elements, bearing a single specific function. If there’s a hidden message behind this, it could be that the ability to flick through PowerPoint slides with the mere push of a button represents the transient, flickering moments of life, which, recalling the devastating effects brought about by the laser pointer, can be influenced by a single but powerful action that drastically changes the scheme of things.

The light-heartedness of the ending scene, however, fell a little short for me because it came across as an unsatisfying response to a story that had quite a number of loose ends untied, leaving us to speculate about how the turn of events could have been possible. Granted, the most likely explanation is clear: the protagonist has a brain tumor, and that influenced his perception of reality. But why then would the nurse in the emergency room leave him alone, knowing his condition, and how would he escape? What then were the “real” scenes that took place in each of the conference rooms at the first hotel? I certainly don’t mean that I would have preferred an “it was all a dream” conclusion, which would probably have felt simplistic, but some clue or explanation was in order, in my opinion. This is even more so given that the brain tumor doesn’t seem to be the sole explanation for the weirdness that occurs, as hinted at by clues throughout the story that point to some kind of time travelling phenomenon as an alternative: the fact that no one in the Berry Ballroom has seen a laptop, demonstrating their backwardness; the classroom scene in the Candy Ballroom, in which we see a younger version of the protagonist; and the reference to earlier events through the presentation he finally gives. (Or maybe the brain tumor and the time travelling are related.) Apart from this, though, I had no trouble with the suspension of disbelief.

A small suggestion: in the part where the protagonist clicks through the file manager, it would have been cool if each folder could only be opened by clicking the relevant link twice, so it would be a slightly more realistic simulation of the double clicking required in the actual file explorer.

ICE CREAM FLAVOUR: Sea salt caramel. The contrast between the sharpness of sea salt and the mellowness of caramel is what makes the flavour stand out, achieving an effect that either would not be able to achieve on its own.

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