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Have You Played... A Wolf In Autumn?

the sun is setting

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

David Szymanski makes short games that experiment with interactive storytelling in ways that are usually fascinating and often creepy as heck. On the rare occasion I meet someone who has played through his back catalogue, The Moon Sliver is usually the game we spend most time discussing. I find my mind returning to A Wolf In Autumn more often though. It’s a very strange game and I don’t think it’s entirely successful, but it’s a beautiful and thoughtful thing well worth playing.

Szymanski makes games that raise questions. The stories are sometimes vague – in fact, I think part of his process is to create interactive stories that are mostly about searching for meaning and sometimes failing to find it – but there’s a beauty and a sadness to his best work. It feels odd to call them horror games in a way, even though A Wolf In Autumn is definitely unnerving and occasionally goes right for the jugular, because for all of their sometimes violent and frightening processes, they often have something gentle at their core.

The same is true of some of the best horror fiction, of course, and perhaps I’m being cautious about the term ‘horror’ because that so often means jumpscares and hide-and-seek. The horrors here are often unseen and you have to really squint to even see their shadows and silhouettes. But they are very real.

There are free games as well as commercial ones on Szymanski’s itch.io page. I haven’t played most of the interactive fiction but Fingerbones is a good starting point among the free stuff.

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Adam Smith

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