IF Comp 2016: Take (Amelia Pinnolla)

Take is a dystopian gladiator-fight made in Inform 7. Spoilers past the cover image.

Cover art for Take

The subtitle, “one joke, until expiration”, suggests Take could end up being annoyingly wacky. Instead, once it gets going, it’s more serious and bleak than I was expecting. And makes me feel slightly … guilty? Called out? for writing my own take on it. But that’s not going to stop me!

You play the part of Katy, a gladiatorial personal-essay writer “gangpressed” into a Hunger Games-style cagematch. Your #hot #takes are growing stale and the audience is weary: you have to escalate your stories more and more, giving pieces of yourself away to perpetually hungry onlookers.

Take immediately put me in mind of It Happened to Me: How I Became a First Person Human Trafficker, and, as it turns out, this article is recommended as further reading in the walkthrough. In Take, you’re victim and fameball; I feel desperately sorry for Katy, and Take lays hints of substance abuse issues, but the grimly matter-of-fact narrative voice rejects pathos.

The prose in Take is sharp and venomous, preoccupied with the injustice of Katy’s situation while self-conscious about the vacuous media-bubble nature of the “vulnerability pageantry”.

You resort to the old fallback: how totally weird it is to live such a mediated life. You write, as a comparison, “Heisenberg,” then delete it, then write “Truman” and delete that, then give up and drop in the first celebrity who comes to mind.

And then there’s the occasional sucker-punch.

You write about your hands, which are too small for gauntlets; the first battle you fought, your opponent thought he’d been sent a child soldier, and fought twice as hard.

The restriction of the extremely limited parser works well for the piece. Each action makes you send more takes to your director: takes are the only thing you can do, the only thing you feel you’re good at.

Where Take slips up is in its noun coverage: when the blurb says “there is nothing you can’t take” I want to take everything, dammit. This is highlighted in the feast scene where there’s more description and I get a series of “That’s not something you need to take” messages. During the introduction and feast sequences, I received feedback from my monitor about my takes, but I wasn’t sure whether the audience was responding to how well I was doing, or whether it was randomly generated. I also came across a couple of truncated sentences in the fellow-soldier descriptions.

But these are relatively small flaws. Between the tight, sardonically bleak style, the dystopian worldbuilding, and the sharp satire (I advise trying >TAKE BRAND), Take is a thoroughly engaging experience. By the time it became explicit what Katy’s role really is, I was genuinely invested in her fate; the post-credits ability to >WIN is marvellous in its low-key creepiness. Take continues, and I think will continue, to prey on my mind.

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