April 11, 2013 1:48 PM | Andrew Plotkin
18 Cadence is a new interactive text piece by Aaron Reed. He's the author of Blue Lacuna, a monumental parser-IF game from 2008... (Huh. That was five years ago now. Crazy) ...and a whole host of other experimental story-games, as you'll see on his web site.
18 Cadence is the story of a house, and everybody who lived there in the twentieth century. Which is to say, it is the story of the twentieth century, written small and in intimate details.
You play, or read -- do I want to get into the "is this a game?" debate? No, terminology is a drainpipe. You interact with this piece by dragging text elements down from the header, onto the blotter. Every character and bit of scenery has its line of text, in every year that he, she, or it appears. You can mutate each fragment through a few variations; you can combine some of them into longer sentences; you can arrange them as you choose. That is the entirety of the mechanics.
Story threads run through the century, of course. People move in, marry, raise children, leave, and die. You can follow these threads, and find out what happened to a particular person -- that's the observational mode of the work. Or you can construct an arrangement, and say something about a character or event -- that's the participatory mode. Whether your notion of a character jibes with Reed's, well, that's the tension in all interactive storytelling, right? 18 Cadence foregrounds that tension, discarding all the boilerplate of skill-challenge and puzzle-challenge that most videogames embrace without a second thought.