The Space Under The Window / Andrew Plotkin (1997)

Doug Lowenstein, President of IDSA's Verdict: All the extreme violence depicted toward inanimate glass in this game make it extremely unfit for small children,  immature teens and anyone affected by jenidec or botcholism.

Illiad, the Author of the net.comic-strip User Friendly's Verdict: Yes! Finally a game not afraid to shatter some Windows! Linux! Linux! Linux! Da, comrade?

My Verdict: This is what it's all about. This is why we get out of bed, hop onto the newsgroup, download video games and play them. You want your friends to play it, your lovers to understand it, your soul-mate to be affected by it.

The Review...

Entertainment software in 1999 is often riddled with cliches and hackneyed gameplay. Understandably, there is a lot of money at stake for many publishers and they are simply uninterested in putting money into untried concepts -- no matter how promising. Interactive fiction, of course, has no such problem as there has only been about two commercial text games released in the last six years. From this freedom and underground movement comes greater opportunity for artistic expression.

Andrew Plotkin's 1997 piece The Space Under The Window is, as he states "not what you're expecting." Although it was created with Inform 6, it does not use standard  commands such as "get," "north," or "drop." It instead presents the player with a scene and offers an opportunity to expand on certain sections of the narrative as determined by the player's choice of word entered on the command line. The game offers a chance for its player to determine the prose presented and, consistent with all of Plotkin's work, does so in an atmospheric and chilling manner. This particular game has an initially innocent, pedestrian flavor about it.

The player can create many different scenarios by choosing to focus on different pieces of the text. In virtually all cases, the end story that results is one where the world presented is as unfair, depressing and bleak as our own particular reality with an often singular subtle difference. Plotkin manages to distill the disappointments of reality and subtly twist them: as if all your personal problems still existed, yet in addition you lived in a world without the color red or ever feeling warmth. All while only vaguely aware that something was missing.

Except for The Sentinel, no game ever created has offered a more concrete example of the power and potential of entertainment software. Under no other medium would The Space Under The Window be possible. Playing it is accessing a glimpse of the future, a time when this hobby has had great energy and passion invested, resulting in greater maturity. The game's only fault is its length: it's unfortunately quite short. The ride it offers is a dank, consistently interesting one but it's always over much too quickly. If there were one game deserving of expansion or, possibly, a sequel, it would be this one. It's the kind of game that so enraptures you while not playing it, but does so without hang ups of how to get past certain puzzles. It makes you wonder exactly what can be expanded upon, which snippets of Plotkin's writing are still-to-be unearthed.

At some point it is hoped that the entertainment software industry could support art like this game, and that developers could have eight months available to d