The Archivist and the Revolution

The Archivist and the Revolution is a interactive fiction set in a dystopian future.

You play a trans person who is working as an „Archivist“, extracting historical information that were decoded into the DNA of bacteria strains by preceding societies. Recently, you were fired from your job, and turned into a contract worker – getting much less money for the same thing, you can’t pay for your bills anymore, and might soon be evicted from your room.

The world is described as shattered and dirty – fascists have overtaken the rule, and erected a authoritarian regime; the protagonist missed the uprising against them, and is now one of the last remainders of a suppressed minority, substantially isolated in a hostile society. You can decide how you want to try to deal with the situation, and have different options at hand – the player can even decide how to interpret the circumstances and happenings, or sometimes even how other people react to you – the traditional POV-Character is dissolved in these moments (which is fitting, since the whole story is told in a posthumanist context). At the very end, you and your actions might be judged – it remains unclear if these are the inner thoughts of the protagonist or another, omniscient narrator.

The game and its world are well created – not only in the sense that it contains many creative ideas that go beyond the (also present) science-fiction cliches, but also since it does a really good job to depict the struggles and predicaments of the protagonist – the descriptions and structures feel inherent logical and very natural, and even though many of today’s many pressing matters are thematised, it never feels tokenistic doing so – a common pitfall for political art. Gameplay elements are not set arbitrarily, but used to amplify the narration – various options exist, and you can only see a tiny bit of them in a single play through – not only they exclude each other, but also because the protagonists resources (including time and impetus) are all strictly limited – choices have to be made. Compared to other hypertext fictions, the gameplay elements are rather weighty – and some things (especially when it comes to the endings) that wouldn’t fly in a linear text do work thanks to this. The whole structure is very skillfully crafted, and helps to create a dense and striking atmosphere. The language, on the other hand, is simple, clear, and direct – personally I’d have preferred it a bit more poetical, but this is a matter of personal taste.

The narration is supported by carefully used and tastefully placed sound- and graphic effects – they wouldn’t be needed, but are welcome anyway. While I found the game to be rather harmless, there are optional trigger warnings available for those who are more sensitive in these terms. The games source code was released under a MIT-license, making it FLOSS.

„The Archivist and the Revolution“ is a well realized, highly political piece of hyperlink fiction that doesn’t need to hide behind most of the contemporary commercial science fiction stories I’ve read in the past few years; its direct language, its naturalist approach, the – rather pronounced – gameplay elements, and its clear political agenda make it enjoyable to underground gaming enthusiasts and a larger audience alike.

The developer, Autumn Chen, developed various other games surely worth to check out.

Worked well on OpenSuse using Firefox.


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