Thank you to everyone who remembered my birthday this week! To say that 2020 has been very difficult (for everyone in the entire world) is certainly an understatement. I am just thankful to be alive and somehow still be able to provide for my family (however diminished this capacity may be). I am also thankful for some small wins on the writing front, such as the launch of my first CYOA interactive narrative.
I am happy to announce that The Book of Red Shadows, my play-by-email story, successfully debuted at this year’s all-digital Singapore Writers Festival from 30 October to 8 November. Thank you so much to the MCCY, the National Arts council and, of course, the SWF team for making this happen. Special thanks also to our producer Sara Y. and the crew of Spaceship Thirteen for putting this project together, as well as to our tireless Game Masters, Wayne Ree, Eugene Lim, Nicholas Chan; our Game Manager, Weiqi Chuah; and Adela Lee, who handled our marketing and promotions.
Lastly, thank you also to the two hundred eighty brave souls from around Singapore and overseas who willingly signed up to be our experimental tests subjects. Your eagerness to have your moral compass sorely tested resulted in our game slots being filled very quickly. Sadly, we had to turn quite a number of people away.
After ten days of playing, about 26% or roughly 72 of you players managed to make it to the end of the story (without your character meeting a horrible or otherwise gruesome end). Congratulations! I hope you enjoyed the experience.
For those who did not get to play, this story was a serialized narrative in ten parts, with an option to follow one of two threads at the end of every chapter. Within a certain narrative limit, reader/players and game masters were able to add elements to personalize their journey, creating a unique story path that couldn’t be played again in the same way. The sole objective of The Book of Red Shadows was to avoid making plot choices that would end the narrative prematurely, as well as to somehow be get to the writer’s original ending (my story ending) despite obstacles and the different ways to get there.
Here’s the synopsis:
Set in 2220, at Singapore’s colony in Mars, where the consciousness of the newly dead are pressed into National Service by the secretive Project Red Shadows. In exchange for a chance to be restored to life, they must help a massive AI alter events in the past for the benefit of Singapore’s colony in Mars. However, things are not what they seem. There are dire consequences whenever they interfere with fate. Moreover, there is a secession movement planning a rebellion against the government from Earth. A digital ghost is haunting the project, and a vicious time hacker is also trying to erase NS operatives from existence for good. The Book of Red Shadows is a dark odyssey about the true nature of time, the consequences of weaponizing artificial intelligence, and the search for hope and meaning in an increasingly bleak world.
An Interactive Story with game-like elements played over email.
The Book of Red Shadows had many media mentions during and after SWF 2020. Here’s a small selection –
“It was the most mesmerizing experience I ever had. Every scenario presented was penned in detail as the story launched into more complications than you would ever expect. The choices were open-ended, giving you more control over the path you would like to take. I felt a sense of loss when the 10 days ended, wishing that it would have been longer.”
“It’s pretty absorbing. The text sent each day is also, well, uniquely Singaporean and not without a dash of parody. If you like classic CYOA adventures, I strongly encourage you to give this dark saga a try.”
THE SCRIBBLING GEEK
“(This is) A chance to enter the strange universe of speculative fiction author Victor Fernando R. Ocampo in Play This Story: The Book Of Red Shadows.”
THE STRAITS TIMES
“Specifically for SWF2020, voices in the SingLit community produced 20 innovative commissions in digital literary works. Begin with Play This Story: The Book of Red Shadows.”
“This year’s offerings include unusual formats such as Play This Story: The Book of Red Shadows.”
“Fun activities include a psychological horror game that takes place entirely over email (Play This Story: The Book of Red Shadows).”
“Thrill-seekers will enjoy Play This Story: The Book of Red Shadows, an interactive, psychological horror game based on a fictional universe by the speculative fiction author Victor Fernando R. Ocampo.”
THE A LIST
“Crafted by Singapore-based author Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, the intrigue begins with you freshly deceased – yet kept ‘alive’ by mysterious government technology.”
“The speculative fiction of Victor Fernando R Ocampo is recast as a choose-your-own-adventure experience taking place entirely over email.”
THE BUSINESS TIMES
“Play This Story: The Book of Red Shadows (is an) offline interactive (game) that would be sure to keep one on their toes.”
“Innovative digital events include Play this Story: The Book of Red Shadows, an interactive psychological horror game based on the speculative fiction of Victor Fernando R Ocampo that unfolds over email.”
“SWF also features voices from the community in the form of 20 innovative commissions in digital literary formats. This includes interactive psychological horror game Play This Story: The Book Of Red Shadows, which takes place over email.”
“This year’s innovative offerings include unexpected offline formats as seen in Play This Story: The Book of Red Shadows.”
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