Sunday, January 19, 2014

Review of "The Experiment" by Kieran Coghlan

I've been following Kieran's work with interest for years now, and it's interesting seeing how it's changed over that time. I remember in... 2009 or something, speculating with my girlfriend at the time that he must be a psychology student, given the nature of his fantastic entry, "Waiting for the Light." Now, four years later, I'm reading the vivid descriptions of the carpeted corridors and potted plants of a psychologists office, and can't help but wonder if this is a reflection of the changes in his own life. Has he moved out of the lecture hall into the office? Are these carpeted corridors and potted plants borrowed from his own life?

Speculation aside, "The Experiment" is a brief, but intriguing little piece. I suspect (and he even acknowledges) that he didn't have a lot of time to do a full entry this year. Indeed, "The Experiment" is almost, well, literally an experiment, rather than an actual, full gamebook, with only 24 sections, at an average of less than 100 words each. It's short. Really short. But it's doing something with what it is, and if it is an experiment, I'd say it's successful.

Total Score: 11/25


The opening is nice and brief, but that's about the best thing that can be said for it. It doesn't, all said, give you much reason for investing. It doesn't hook you, you might say. Instead, it relies on the natural curiousity of the reader to propel said reader forward.

On the plus side, it doesn't promise much to let you down on, later!


The choices are weak, and don't really bring about many consequences, other than mildly affecting the dialogue you end up getting. And there's no "game" mechanics at all. While I don't consider mechanics necessary (or rather, I consider player choice to BE the primary game mechanic) he just doesn't do a whole lot with the choices. Still, it's not one, because what little choice is there is actually the meat of the gamebook :)


Coghlan is a talented writer, and the places where he stretches his legs are worth it. The few places. All in all, this suffers from obviously not having had a lot of time invested in it. Many of the paragraph sections are barely a line or two long. There's just not much to sink your teeth in to.


I'm giving this as much as a 3 because it has the little twist at the end, which does raise some interesting questions. The whole thing seems to be a delivery method for the one essential question... much the way that fries are a delivery method for salt.

There's no story to speak of otherwise, but the twist and the essential question at the end (which I won't spoil here) are enough to bring it up to at least a 3.

Secret Sauce

Nope. Nope nope nope. Sorry. Look, it's a neat gimmick, but that's all that this is. I can't give it a high score in earnest when it's competing against other entries that bring so much more to the table.

And to be fair, this is nothing against Coghlan. I know he can do better--he even demonstrates his ability in flickers in "The Experiment"--but he just didn't have time to do a proper entry, and that's fine.


  1. I liked it as it made you think. It certainly has scope for greater things. You also bring up a good point that some Windhammer entrants have enough entries for an analysis of their evolution.

  2. Thanks for the review, Ashton. As was pretty clear, this was something I did in a couple of days that I thought people might find mildly diverting and hopefully I was successful in that. Obviously it can't really be compared to the proper entries this year so I shall not dispute your scores.

    Sorry to destroy your theory, but I have never studied psychology and Dr, Mullin's working environment barely resembles my own. Still, it's nice to be inspiring theories ;)

    1. Thanks for commenting, Kieran. But, darn it-I was so pleased with my theory, too!

      Ah well, better to know ;) I'm glad you're not offended by the score. And you yourself acknowledged in the piece what it was and what it was shooting for. I maintain it was successful at what it aimed to do.