You Couldn’t Have Done That is an entrant in 2020 Interactive Fiction Competition. All of the entries can be played here.
In You Couldn’t Have Done That, you are a teenager named Theodora, “Theo” for short. It’s your first day working at Lydia’s, a trendy clothing store in the mall. The first day on a new job is difficult for anyone but, along with being nervous and wanting to make a good impression on the boss, you are also autistic. Throughout the game, you’re forced to deal with people. There’s a janitor in the mall. There’s a customer who you recognize from school. You have two very different coworkers. Many of the things that many people do automatically, like smiling back at someone, are things that you have to think about and make a conscious decision to do. Some people you meet are empathetic. Most are not.
Throughout You Couldn’t Have Done That, you are given options for how to deal with the situations that arise through the day. Often times, I would pick the option that, to me, made the most sense just to be told that “You couldn’t have done that.” Even though you may want to and you may know it’s what most people would expect you to do, you simply cannot do it. It was frustrating but that was the point. Every time the story says, “You couldn’t have done that,” you experience the frustration that Theo experiences every day. The game puts you directly into Theo’s head and you see the world through her eyes and, by the end of this short story, you are hopefully a more empathetic person than you were before the story began. Theo’s day is not easy but the story at least ends on a note of hope. It can get better.