Goal and meaning of IF game Shade

Warning – spoiler for the game Shade

In the work by Nick Montfort Toward a Theory of Interactive Fiction he says that “Many IF works have a goal that is explicitly presented or that becomes clear during interaction.” The game Shade as far as I can tell is one of the exceptions to the general IF rule. Shade does not have a clear goal nor does a goal become clear during interaction as far as I can tell. At the end it says:

>…
Nothing left to do. Time passes.
The sun crawls higher.
*** SHADE ***

This to me means that I have completed everything that I was supposed to. I have read this work of interactive fiction from beginning to end. But the goal or object of the game is left in the dark. At first I thought the object of the game was to get the shade over the window in your house open! As far as I could tell, the game was a navigation of the thoughts of a delirious person who had gone on a “desert festival” mentioned in the in-game travel guide and was now a lost hiker.  I repeatedly got the sense that the character I controlled was recalling his past of just before he got on the plane. I think in his thoughts he was confused and started to think it was reality. Halfway through I think his mind started to slip further and further as more and more sand starts to show up. Instead of figuring things out when sand is all around him and waking up to realize the situation (of his impending doom) he is still confused and does not grasp reality. I know this because when you turn off the stereo towards the end it sounds off one final report about hikers still missing, and the character says that it is “old news.” Does this mean he had a radio with him? or it was it just more confusion in his thoughts? Either way, he never snaps out of it and I assume he is lost for good, delirious in his thoughts and dying of thirst in the desert. That is my interpretation to this IF.

One thing that puzzled me greatly was the ‘figure’ at the end. I could not figure out who this ‘figure’ represented.Was this his shadow? a shade of himself? This part of the story truly puzzled me and if anyone can shed some light on it I would be grateful. This is the second to last response from my command input from the IF:

<examine book
The tiny figure crawls out from under the sands. It’s dead.

“You win,” it says. “Okay, my turn again.”

This made little sense to me. I would like to know what some of your thoughts are, my classmates, on the story and ending of “Shade.” What do you think happened? How do you interpret this part of the story?

On a final note, I think the game was well done and is a good representative of the capacity of IF games. My original thoughts was that all IF games would be adventures where the hero has to find objects and solve puzzles. In “shade,” the world you are in seems normal but progressively becomes stranger and stranger as weird things start happening. Are you in reality or a dream state? Does walking through a mirror to complete a puzzle mean anything? Let me know your thoughts!

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1 Response to Goal and meaning of IF game Shade

  1. Mufasa says:

    I agree with the assessment that the main character is delirious and likely stranded in the desert. The game starts with its mind games early on. To begin the character must force himself to stand up, in most games this is a free action, here is must be specified. This makes sense if the character is collapsing in the desert. The author describes the water (after you find a sink that works) as a mirage. This is interesting because the most prevalent mirage is of false water.
    In addition though delving into the source code of the game I found a few other quotes that would affirm the thought that the character is a hiker who is lost and delirious.
    “The land is nearly barren. Dunes roll away towards the rising sun; a little shade trails behind them, but that will soon be gone. The sky is flat and empty blue”
    “You hear nothing. The helicopter is long gone”
    “The shadows shrink as you watch. The dunes aren’t high here, and the sun is rising fast.”
    “The futon is definitely on the downhill side of the dunes. The frame is half-buried and a few lines of sand trickle down the sheet-wrinkles, but it’s the same old futon in the end.”

    As to the very end, I am unsure, it seems to die often “The figure falls. After a few seconds… it still doesn’t move.^^The sands quickly cover it.” In addition to your quote about it being dead. I suspect the figure is some sort f desert animal our dying character is anthropomorphizing in his delirium.

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