Publisher(s) Self published
Mode(s) Single player
Developer Adam Cadre
Genre(s) Interactive fiction
Initial release date 1999
Designer Adam Cadre
|Platforms Z-machine, Web browser, Microsoft Windows, Linux, DOS|
Awards XYZZY Award for Best Individual PC
Interactive fiction games Slouching Towards Bedlam, Photopia, Spider and Web, Galatea, Lost Pig
Varicella is a 1999 work of interactive fiction by Adam Cadre, distributed in z-code format as freeware. It is set in an alternate history which features roughly modern technology mixed with Renaissance-style principalities and court politics. The characters of Varicella use contemporary language from their home in a Renaissance castle, continuing the contrast between old and new. The player character is Primo Varicella, palace minister in Piedmont, who has to get rid of several rivals for the regency following the death of the king. He was inspired by the Machiavellian protagonist of Profit, but given even more despicable antagonists (just as variola is more virulent than varicella), thus making players willing to go along with his schemes. The international situation in the game is described in passing: Piedmont is part of a loose confederation of kingdoms that make up a Carolingian League and is engaged in a war against the Republic of Venice.
It won four XYZZY Awards in 1999 including the XYZZY Award for Best Game, and was nominated for another four. The game was discussed academically by Nick Montfort and Stuart Moulthrop in their 2003 paper Face It, Tiger, You Just Hit the Jackpot: Reading and Playing Cadre's Varicella, and by Dr. Wendy Morgan in her 2003 paper Touching (on) Character: New Engagements in New Media Narratives. Cadre himself claimed in a January 2002 interview that it was the best game he had written up to that point:"Photopia has made more of a mark, I suppose, but Photopia is a short story; Varicella is a world. There are so many things to see and do… it's definitely the game of mine that I'm hoping that future pieces I might create will most resemble, in structure if not in content."