by Andrew Plotkin
One of the many sub-genres in interactive fiction is "one-room IF," where an entire game takes place in one location. Some of these games are shorter than others; Shade is definitely on the longer side, although still short by normal IF standards.
It's "a one-room game set in your apartment" that starts off light enough, and slowly devolves into an absolutely disturbing masterpiece with an ending that will leave you stunned—and immediately desiring a replay. There is plenty of room for interpretation as to what actually happens to your character in the end; form your own opinion after two or three plays. Suffice it to say that Plotkin is a master of messing with your head, and this short work, to me, is his greatest masterpiece in that regard.
Shade, definitely the shortest game in this top five, was released for the 2000 IF Competition, which history has judged to be the best competition yet. Shade came in tenth, quite a bit too low in my opinion, and although it was nominated for six XYZZY awards, it only won Best Setting.
Such is often the fate of a game that refuses to be upbeat, instead opting for a decidedly dissonant tone. Andrew Plotkin should be proud for creating such a short game that can disturb the player so deeply.
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