Alice is Missing – Reflecting on the Gameplay Experience

Gamers play games for any number of reasons. It might be escapism from the day-to-day grind, or they want to do heroic things. I often select games based on my perception of the experience I can have as a result of play. This short article is about a recent experience playing Alice is Missing.

In January 2021, I wrote a review of Alice is Missing and put it on my shortlist. Fast forward nearly two years, and I finally got to play it with a group of friends via Discord. To put this article in context, please start by reading my game review: Who’s Alice and Why is She Missing? – A Review of Alice is Missing.

Alice is Missing is a different sort of game with an innovative design in which you play most of the game silently via texting or another messaging app. The game’s overall design, including messaging, a countdown timer, and an emotional experience, uniquely positions Alice is Missing within the gaming space.

A bot automated everything for us on Discord, which was terrific and efficient. Once our characters were chosen, our facilitator prompted the bot to unlock our group chat channel and all necessary one-on-one private chat channels. These chat channels simulate group and private texting between the characters. At timed intervals, cards need to be handed out to specific players, and the bot handled all of this for us, allowing us to focus on the emerging narrative.

The game is all about real-time conversations Alice’s friends are having as they try to piece together what might have happened to Alice—through messaging and is limited to 90 minutes. The gameplay is emotionally intense and will not be for everyone. I would advise those considering Alice is Missing to play with friends you are very comfortable with and use safety tools like Line and Veils. Our emerging narrative was fast and furious, both in the group chat and in private one-on-one conversations.

Every game is different. There will be different locations in town, different important people, and thus different suspects, and the game’s final outcome will vary. During our game’s 90 minutes of silence, we explored the various locations around town, looking for clues, and slung theories back and forth, many of which were accusations against each other. Some of this directly resulted from the pre-game secrets we had to create. We found a bag with a large sum of money in a location Alice was believed to have been at last, which prompted us to theorize she was involved in some sort of blackmail. We also found that one of the important people established during setup had gone missing and was later found with Alice. Only through the intervention of another player character was Alice found and able to escape, closing the game.

When the game comes to a close, a short debrief sequence is worked through, which is an effort to allow the players to decompress. I am thankful that the author put in this mechanism as the tension in the air was palpable, and decompression was necessary. Another reason I suggest playing with friends you are comfortable with. Once the game is over, and the debrief is complete, Alice, the characters, and the town itself cease to exist forever.

If you think you’ll enjoy an emotionally intense game, Alice is Missing is absolutely worth playing. In my opinion, this is not a game you break out at the local game shop. It is an emotional rollercoaster, best experienced with friends. With every game being different from the last, I am looking forward to playing it again with the same group of people with whom I am comfortable with.

~ Modoc

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