The clouds clear for The Silver Lining

I can never resist the chance to follow up on two Gameshelf posts at once, so here you are:

The Silver Lining is a fan-made King’s Quest game that, as Kevin noted back in March, found itself cease-and-desisted earlier this year by the company that owns that IP. Rather than vanishing quietly, the project’s fans got the word out, bringing global attention not just to its legal plight but to the fact that the project existed at all. Certainly, the first I’d heard of Silver Lining was its “Sorry, we’re shutting down now” announcement page, concluding with a heartbreaking image of game-protagonist King Graham’s trademark cap lying abandoned in the dust. And somewhere nearby lay a link to a petition…

Today, I learn via a review by John Walker in Rock Paper Shotgun that the project has ridden the resulting wave of new fan support to overcome its legal disputes, and has also followed through and made its first episode available for play. It’s a short review, but then, it sounds like a very short game. It does make clear that the game attempts to pack a lot of narrative into tight quarters in novel ways:

Look at a vase in the halls of the castle and you won’t hear, “It’s a vase.” You’ll instead hear a tale about the Queen when she was young, playing in these hallways. Look at the floor and rather than being dismissed you’ll likely listen to lines and lines about how King Graham feels about the situation he’s in - his son and daughter-in-law’s wedding being interrupted by a mysterious, cloaked figure, who has put the pair into an undisturbable sleep.

(Rather reminds me of IF games like Bronze, actually, but that’s another rack of bells.)

I consider this news a twofer because Gameshelf reader JayDee offered up the site as a source of solid game reviews, one of several great responses I got to my previous post asking for exactly this.

I note with interest that the site seems to divide its reviews into two categories: “An Hour With”, providing initial impressions soon after a game is released, and (as is the case with this piece) “Wot I Think”, essays written after the reviewer has spent enough time with the game to fully digest it, perhaps weeks later. Many titles eventually get representation in both categories. I find this dichotomy an interesting tactic of dealing with the fact that games can often take a long time to absorb well enough to properly comment on, while acknowledging the reality of the pressures a review-based publication faces to react quickly to the appearance of new works.

An aside: I see the word “tribute” applied to Silver Lining in this review and others, but I don’t find it a great fit. It implies that the new work is merely a celebratory acknowledgement, or otherwise contains little original content, as in “tribute band”.

To my ears, more appropriate would be a word like “fanfiction”, or perhaps just the more general “fanwork”. The Silver Lining was created by people so filled up by the canonical King’s Quest stories that they couldn’t help but find more stories spilling out of them, and then labored intensely to make them real and shareable. The result is something entirely new — grounded in work invented by others, but then extending into wholly original spaces.

The internet plays host to a movement offering growing legitimacy to these transformative works, with greatest emphasis on their presence in written fiction. I look forward to it crossing over ever further into games.

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One Response to The clouds clear for The Silver Lining

  1. Andrew Plotkin says:

    This issue of fan games has been on my mind recently, since someone pointed out that the IFComp official rules say "You may not base your game on works currently under copyright without permission from the copyright holder."

    I tried to explain this, and wound up tripping over my tongue, because I just hadn't thought about that rule since its inception. (In 1996, with the gloss "This avoids the entire issue of copyright and the ethics involved.")

    It's true that entering fanfic into a competition *for prize money* goes over a line that most fan communities avoid. On the other hand, we have plenty of non-IFComp venues, and a fic-specific minicomp would be perfectly possible. (And yes, the Archive accepts fan works; there have been a few there since the early years.)

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