Our Boys in Uniform

It appears that the author has an axe to grind. The message is hammered in with the subtlety of a falling anvil -- the angry narrator "invites" the player to tread his way through the maze of lies and propaganda to elicit the truth about the US involvement in World War II.

There are several problems here.

First of all, the choices are limited, for the most part, to single highlighted words in the text. Even within the context, it is not always easy to determine what the significance of each word or phrase, either as a choice or as a judgement. In a way, it seems we are presented with several answers but no questions, which (contrary to Douglas Adams) is the reverse of how real life works.

Secondly, there is the delivery of the message. It takes up the whole game and swallows it up, leaving nothing behind. What this means is that the only way to proceed is to nod and agree -- we don't discover the message in the course of playing, but rather we play by accepting the message. It's a little like "Jarod's Journey" from several years back, without the pretence of wanting to educate.

Thirdly, there is the question: what is the story? The message takes up so much of the foreground that the war itself appears to be no more than a backdrop. What we have left is the narrator and his experiences and reactions. Left at that, I would say that we actually have a very good story, a tale of bitterness and cynicism, of a man who had no wish to play any part in his nation's celebrated contribution and who therefore questions the celebration itself.

What spoils it all is the framing: the opening paragraph, explaining the gameplay, and the conclusion. This is not the narrator speaking, but the author -- this is an earnest statement that the views of the narrator should not be taken as the opinion of a character in a story, but as actual concrete fact. We are no longer asked to sympathise: we are instead instructed to follow. There is no longer a story, only an essay.

It is easier to accept a message when it is presented before you as a "possibly alternative" than to accept it when it is thrust into your face as the absolute truth.

Here is crabapple jelly on toast, and a charcoal tablet which is good for you. Eat it. Eat it now.