IFC10 review – Gigantomania

This is a review of a Comp game, and as often happens in reviews of Comp games, I will be Saying Things about this game.  THE PICTURE is coming up…


Gigantomania, by Michelle Tirto and Mike Ciul, is a beginner game, with some faults.  If you need a hint or don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing, I’ll post the main goal of each section (as I understand them) in a moment.

The title is not a reference to Stalin, by the way.  In order to create an economy of scale, there were plans to combine villages together into huge farming combines.  These schemes were later called ‘Gigantomania.’

Overview:  I hit some major bugginess, which required that I play most of one section pretty much blind.  The writing and storytelling are a little young, giving the impression the author, Ms. Tirto, is perhaps a senior in high school:  she experiments in the way young writers do, and neglects things experienced writers attend to.

-update- As a commentor clarifies, this was not bugginess.  The game was being clever…  I fear a lot of people aren’t going to get that.

An overview of the game — if you need hints, this is what you’re supposed to be doing:

First level:  The Farmer.  Your goal is to survive by getting the Collector what he wants.

Second level:  The Factory Worker.  Your goal is to get through work, get some bread, and have a conversation with your roomie, all without having things go wrong.

Third level:  The Commissar.  Your goal is to remove the contraban from your office.

Fourth level:  The Leader.  Your goal is to win.

The bugs I had were in the fourth level.  This entire level is in conversation format.  It seems to be on rails, but I didn’t check.  The bugs? — I had entire conversations like this:


1) <dxe4>

>> 1

1) <Qc7>


I’m guessing this means I got an incompletely-programmed game.  Or I did something to break it; but if so it was remarkably fragile.

I bluffed my way through this section, and the game came back.  After this rough patch, it came back for an ending image, which was okay.

Throughout the game, there are a few lines that really don’t work.  The internal dialog at the end didn’t really do it for me.

I guess my major criticism is this:

Really, this game is too easy.

The first section is all about how you’re starving and can’t both eat and make quota.  But you can quite easily gather up enough food to make quota, eat, give some away to an enemy who threatens you, and give more away to another farmer who ends up short.  And you have food left over!

True, this might all mean you don’t have enough tomorrow; but the game never gets to tomorrow for this character.  So the abundance of food to meet game needs undercuts the ability of the game to make its point, that the character can’t get enough to meet his own needs.

And so on.  It’s an attempt to criticize Stalin’s regime, but the author gets confused about her basis for making the criticism.  For example, in one case you have to bribe a baker to get some food — your ration cards aren’t enough. 

The author seems unaware that during this same era, Americans similarly had to buy food on the black market.  In my home town in my grandmother’s day, if you walked in to the butcher’s and asked for meat, he’d tell you he was out.  You had to (a) be from town, and (b) slip him money under the counter.  In which case, he’d still tell you he was out… but under the counter he’d slip food back to you.

Now, there’s a big difference between trouble getting meat and trouble getting bread.  Fine.  But the focus is placed by the interactivity on the bribing.  The real criticism is in the baker’s lecture to the PC.  This passage ought to have been the heart of the game, and every character ought to have participated in the process the baker describes:

Thus, the player would have gone through the dysfunctionalizing of Russia from within the dysfunctional system and seen how the system created perverse incentives that sabotaged it.

Also, I kinda wish the historical perspective were longer, and included some recognition of the also-utterly-corrupt feudal system that the Bolsheiviks replaced, with the nobles’ administrators squeezing everything they could out of the serfs, controlling all information to nobles while pocketing the bulk of the proceeds…

Overall, my biggest criticism of the game was that it wasn’t game-like enough.  Ms. Tirto, please make the next game you design more interactive, and enable the player to somehow alter the PCs’ fates!

Published in: on October 21, 2010 at 1:08 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I took it as a way of perhaps establishing awkward silence, the sort people in power use to their advantage, or maybe even signifying that the moves passed by quickly–as they should, once there seems to be an obvious taking move in a chess game. It doesn’t seem to vary no matter what I chose, though, which ruins a lot of possible interactive things e.g. punishment for beating Stalin by mistake or losing too easily.

  2. You know, you’re right: those are chess moves. So the game’s NOT buggy — it’s being clever.

    I had understood it that you, the player, are Stalin; you’re getting his internal monologue; and you do win.

  3. Glad I could help with the chess detail. The rest of your review certainly helped pinpoint what I couldn’t, e.g. that this game was missing something but I had no real suggestions of what.

    I’m curious as to how the author(s) went about picking that game, especially since it is an anachronism (Parada-Zvjaginsev, Wijk an Zee 1995.) Perhaps it’s that White has more numbers and lots of moves but is helpless in the end. I didn’t consider internal monologue–I thought maybe Stalin gave his advisor some decently strong moves to play that he could look brilliant beating in the end.

    I also found that just waiting around gave a different “successful” (?) ending to part 2. Perhaps the author was trying a psychological experiment on learned helplessness a la H2G2’s darkness in the Vogon Ship. If so, it was flawed since one good strategy when you have 2hrs to play a game is just save, wait a bunch, and see how you die–but it kicked me to part 3.

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