Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker
Before we start this is not a review of The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker, as there are plenty of those about and pretty much all the ones that I’ve read nail exactly all the pros and cons of this game. Here’s one which covers all bases. As for me, I don’t think I’ve got anymore to add to what has already been said about this FMV, text driven questioning, adventure game. It’s enjoyable, experimental but flawed. However, the fact that you type questions to interact with the patients in the game is quite a big deal. Sure, the technology is still evolving but there is scope for this genre to become a lot more complex. Someday the Turing test will get beaten and when it does, it will have a profound effect upon many things, gaming included. But this post is not about The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker per se, but what I’ve learned about myself while playing the game.
Over the years I learned the value of listening and taking notes the hard way. Anyone who deals with paying clients quickly grasps the need to succinctly ascertain what the bastards want. Because I enjoy the foibles of the English language and the cut and thrust of a good debate, I pride myself that not only do I listen, but I can penetrate and interpret the meaning of words used in a discussion. However, although The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker is not a flawless recreation of the conversational process used by Psychiatrists, its not a bad approximation. And I quickly found out that my logic and process driven Q&A approach towards “my patients” was not getting the desired results. I was supposed to be empathising with them in order to treat them, rather than subjecting them to an interrogation. If ever there was an example of a situation that could be improved by soft skills, then this was it.
Video games can often be frustrating. So can people. Therefore, a game predicated on subtle conversation with individuals who are potentially disturbed or deliberately duplicitous, is at some point going to turn into an uphill struggle. It is here that some of the deficiencies of the text parsing software and the branching dialogue trees really add to the problem. To succeed when playing The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker you have to listen to the answers and know when to follow through with a simple response or something more specific. Patience is the key and for some people such as myself, this is a big ask. It makes me acutely aware how my temperament makes me eminently unsuitable for certain professions and that we are not all renaissance men and women who can learn anything and succeed at it. It’s good that I don’t have to deal with such people in real life, because my response to their vagueness would be to put a pipe cutter on their leg and expedite the proceedings.
D’Avekki Studios have certainly moved the FMV game genre forward and I shall be keeping an eye on text parsing technology. As this sort of capability becomes better, more common place and cheaper, I would love to see it feature in other gaming genres. It’s presence in an MMO would greatly help with immersion, allowing for more in-depth, nuanced conversations with NPCs. In a wider context this faux conversational software has all sorts of other alternative uses that could be beneficial. From learning the nuances of the English language, improving public speaking skills or experimenting with the dynamics of social situations. Such tech may also have a theraputic application. In the meantime, I shall push on with Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker as I endeavour to unravel this mystery. I’m going to try a different approach from now on and am I’m glad in a way that I met with initial failure, as it has ultimately presented me with an opportunity for self-improvement.