Adventure/Interactive Fiction Game of the Year 2015 Runner-Up: Ryan North's To Be or Not To Be

By Kelsey Rinella 21 Dec 2015 0
It apparently uses the text from the First Quarto It apparently uses the text from the First Quarto


Stories are very strange. You’d think they’d just be about telling people what happened, but cultural expectations about stories have a lot of other requirements. A perfectly accurate transcript of real people talking sounds idiotic, as is often observed by those who are skilled at writing dialogue. A story told the way life happens would inspire concerns that the storyteller might be suffering a stroke, with bizarre tangents that lead nowhere and near-disasters or obsessive hopes which connect with no larger theme. We often speak of such things as filtered through culture, but this suggests that what’s left was all originally part of the story; a better metaphor might be a shadow puppet seen by the light of culture, so thoroughly do our expectations add shape and color to the result.


Giving people an opportunity to reflect on all of that in a way which adds some perspective by focusing on a classic of English literature rather than anything people might identify with is great and all, but Ryan North's To Be or Not to Be from Tin Man Games mostly just amuses the crap out of people. Why not spend some time imagining what Hamlet would be like if people didn’t just take hallucinations at their murderous word? Kind of ridiculous, when it’s pointed out. What if we just stopped worrying about boring old Hamlet and his indecisiveness anyway, and went about advancing the cause of science and indoor plumbing?



Tragedies only have the foreboding and awful inevitability with which they’re freighted because we let them. Life offers quite a lot of opportunities for recovery and forgiveness; think about all the people who’ve done you wrong and whom you haven’t gone on to murder. Heck, none of the people you’ve wronged have murdered you even once! They might have gone on to run marathons or have babies or lose themselves in the droning minutiae of a bureaucracy. The idea that every slight (even the ones we only suspect) must end in some decisive climax would seem absurd if it weren’t so common in fiction. To Be Or Not To Be mines that foolishness for the laughs it deserves, and does it so cleverly that the fun lasts far longer than the simple premise would suggest.

To see all of the games recognized in the Pocket Tactics Best of 2015 Awards, visit the 2015 Awards Index page.
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