The Boss of Mr. Hardjono's Verdict: Hey -- fuck you, Harry!
Comp 98 Judge's Verdict: I thought this game was worse than everything else in the comp, on average.
My Verdict: Sometimes real life sucks and a computer game can point that out. While the game is stylized and sophisticated for a net.rant, it could have made some concessions to video game playability and really stand out.
You may not like the tone of Harry Hardjono in Human Resources Stories but it nevertheless presents an interestingly cynical look at life for a modern computer programmer. It offers a somewhat-lacking interactive opportunity to BE... Computer Programmer. Unfortunately, it appears to be rushed for the very reason it exists.
I just started working as a professional programmer three months ago. I was hired with the understanding that I'd learn a lot on the job. I was also lucky enough to get a great manager. While I don't expect to finish my career at my current company, looking into the reality that HRS projects, I don't know how pumped I am to leave anytime soon. HRS offers, in the form of a multiple-choice "test," a chance to interview for a job in software development. Your grade and salary are offered as the game ends -- presuming you manage to get a callback. It is here where I feel that the game is lacking. Yes, much has been made of its response to xyzzy. Yes, the game's setup limits the amount of interaction that can ever truly take place. I understand all that. I get all that. On the other hand, I love experimental IF and had no issues with that whatsoever. The problem that I had is when its attempt to model reality is overruled by its desire for replayability. I can accept the fact that I am at an interview where I have multiple choices, instead of having to communicate in full English sentences. What I can't accept is that the interview ends when a few "incorrect" or unwise choices are made. Computer games by no means have to be approachable to every single human that can tell the difference between one and zero, however, feedback is required for decisions made in an adventure game. I was able to get somewhat into the game but invariably fell extremely frustrated when it abruptly terminated. I had no idea if it was due to the last command I entered or if I filled up enough awful responses to terminate it at that point. The Space Under The Window is another minimalist game that can be unexpectedly terminated. The fundamental difference, however, is that TSUTW allows the player to choose a different path each time the game is played. Human Resources Stories offers no such opportunity for variation. It is not inconceivable that you might go on different interviews and be offered different questions. If such a thing were allowed, HRS would be seriously improved. The lack of cause and effect is, of course, a problem.
Human Resources Stories offers an incredible seed of an idea. I would love to see this game expanded with explanations as to why certain choices were correct or incorrect; or it simply offer more interview questions. As it is, the termination of the game can be likened to player death, the cause of which the player is usually ignorant. At any rate, it would definitely be a niche piece. Many of us playing the games in the annual comp are or will be software developers -- if Mr. Hardjono can manipulate the stress and rage of being in this field into interactive fiction it will definitely be appreciated by those of us just starting out.
When the player unsuccessfully interviews the game responds with a final line: "The phone never ring." Whether that was a typo or not I found it haunting and Kafkaesque. It was one of the scenes that remained embedded in my head long after the competition. The thought of getting myself in a situation where the only road to entertainment software development is through the custodial staff is chilling. Where things are out of whack, where the phone simply sits there, cruelly teasing in its
Human Resources Stories was, without question, *not* the worst game in the competition last year. Mr. Hardjono possesses the passion and rage to seriously create a long-lasting and controversial piece of interactive fiction. I sincerely hope that his cruelly hypocritical managers goes easy on him in the months leading to this year's competition so that some of his emotion and fire receive ample attention and development. Whether you find it interesting or not you can not ignore it.
Puzzle Difficulty: N/A
Parser Responsiveness: N/A
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