Below is a copy-paste of my full feedback from the two anonymous IndieCade jurors who reviewed my game. If I had to sum up my feelings about it, I’d say that the lack of well-defined criteria is a problem – as you’ll see, the second juror I drew was entirely concerned with the extent to which ‘play’ communicated the ideas I was trying to express.
I actually think that’s an entirely fair place to come from if that is what IndieCade states they want to be, but they don’t. And you can imagine how things might have gone differently if I’d drawn a juror who was more interested in sheer narrative, or even just in evaluating the game based on what it was trying to be instead of something that it was obviously(?) not. I could go on at length about why only the end of the game should be like the end of the game, or why I don’t think surreal, Eternal Darkness style effects would make any sense at all, but… Well, I won’t.
Entry: Actual Sunlight
Juror #2 (Rejecting?)
Actual Sunlight seems to follow in the recent influx of personal games, and touches on subject matter that many people can relate to. Along with that, there is usually a question about if a game is resting on the subject matter to be unique, or if the play is something remarkable and in the spirit of innovating the medium.
Most of Actual Sunlight’s themes rests in the exposition, and it’s hard to see where the artist’s intention comes out through play. This isn’t to say this shouldn’t be a game, only that it doesn’t offer much in the way of innovation past using games for personal expression, and that on its own isn’t really the sole domain of this game.
I could have seen this game have more instances of the final scene, where the places the player would assume control and agency are taken away from them because of depression. The character has a lot of self-antagonism and shows through words how self-defeating he is, but the player doesn’t necessarily internalize that. There isn’t necessarily any learning or a chance to establish much of a connection with the character through play. It would be interesting to have the game resist and foil the player in the way the character’s depression gets in the way of his life. There are also some surreal events in the story that would lend well to the game format, playing with perception of reality and how that affects someone with depression.
Juror #1 (Accepting?)
This intimately personal story of dealing with the ups and downs of life and contemplation of death is compelling. It takes guts to put one’s self out there, and I believe that anyone who plays this will appreciate that.
The full playthrough is only a half hour or so, but there is so much text that that half hour feels much longer when playing it. This is very, very, very, very text heavy, and the numerous full screens of text leave one pervasive thought in mind as the game wraps up: “I feel like a jerk for saying it, but this is simply too TL;DR”.
BUT! With that said, please understand that this is only meant as constructive criticism to help you continue to make your impressive game better and better. I am recommending that the game be at the event, because even if there is a lot of text, the game does a fantastic job of bringing your real inner struggle into the user’s world — I commend you for your effort and for your success in framing something so personal in an intriguing way.