Jordan Mechner is the writer and designer of groundbreaking cinematic games such as Karateka (1984), Prince of Persia (1989), and The Last Express (1997). His most recent, in collaboration with a small team within Ubisoftâ€™s Montreal studio led by producer Yannis Mallat, is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The gameplay is based on acrobatics, spatial puzzle solving, the manipulation of time, and swordplay. This gameplay connects to the story of the Prince through the Dagger of Time, which Mechner characterizes as “at once a weapon, a receptacle, and a MacGuffin.” The story is told in past tense narration — perhaps for the first time in a video game — with a noir flavor. As one progresses through the game the situation of the narrator’s telling is slowly revealed, pointing to influences such as Thief of Baghdad and, further back, to the traditional frame tale of 1001 Nights.
Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy is the 18th century’s answer to Douglas Adams — irreverent, funny, and surprisingly hypertextual. Shandean Ambles (drafted at the Shandy Hall under Sterne’s imposing nose) parodies this work of nine volumes in nine short steps. Come explore indecent ghosts and sexual harrassment, quills and LCD screens, marbled papers and marble halls where the sauce and the plot never thicken.
The Breakup Conversation is a satirical simulation of the conversation at the end of a romantic relationship. The player is expected to perform a breakup over instant messenger, while the computer, playing the role of the soon-to-be-ex, will attempt to guilt and emotionally manipulate the player to give in and fail to break up. The engine includes knowledge of numerous â€œguilt gamesâ€ that could take place during a breakup, and some ways of getting through them — for example, the â€œitâ€™s not you itâ€™s meâ€ ritual, the â€œwhy are you doing this to meâ€ blame, the refusals to discuss issues, and other ways in which people panic, reason, plead, lay guilt, and so on. These rituals are treated informally, and meant to be exaggerated and entertaining, rather than psychologically felicitous — they were inspired by sitcoms, personal anecdotes, and popular self-help books on relationships. The Breakup Conversation is a Windows executable program.
Word Museum was created for the Brown University “Cave” — a room-sized virtual reality display. It asks how one can integrate writing into a scalable 3D space when it seems the scalability and 3D can only serve to render text illegible. Is it possible to write a poem that is readable from many angles, that remains legible even when animated, by using only letters that are still themselves if flipped over or turned upside down?
Bobby Rabyd, a.k.a. Robert Arellano, details the “Summer of Hate” by relating intermixed stories of death in the San Franciso Bay area in 1969. Sunshine ’69 was the first Web novel. On its release, Robert Coover said, “no one has grasped the nature of this new thing called the ‘Net with more supple-minded alacrity than the writer Bobby Rabyd.” See the Directory entry for more information about this piece.
This novella was winner of the 2001 Electronic Literature Award for fiction. Larry McCaffrey, who judged the contest, said of it: “Once inside the work itself, users encounter a series of writings – anecdotes, incidents, bits of story, and meditations – drawn from the memories and creative imagination of its playfully unreliable (and textually seductive) female protagonist at various key junctures of her youth (at age 4, age 10, 20, etc. )…. Fisher creates an interconnected web of branching, narrative possibilities that evoke not just the girlhood of a single protagonist but a broader perspective of girlhood(s).” See the Directory entry for more information about this piece.
This all-text game improved upon Adventure by better understanding commands, more richly simulating its world, and adding a character, the theif, who appeared throughout to challenge and motivate the player. Zork was originally written for fun by researchers, who developed this interactive fiction collaboratively on a computer at MIT and made the program available for online play. The game was later adapted into successful commercial software, as the Infocom trilogy Zork I-III for home comptuers. Ethan Dicks has made the “original” MIT version of the game available for modern platforms.
In this game of Solitaire the reader has a hand of three cards. Each card holds an image and a text, each portraying a stark moment in a potentially disturbing narrative. Any of the current cards can be played into the story or discarded in favor of another, and patient readers will be dealt joker cards — which allow for the insertion of one’s own text. Taken together, it adds up to a system for constrained composition and play.
Screen was created in Brown University’s “Cave,” a room-sized virtual reality display. It begins as a reading and listening experience. Memory texts appear on the Cave’s walls, surrounding the reader. Then words begin to come loose. The reader finds she can knock them back with her hand, but peeling increases steadily. Screen is the first work of electronic literature for which novelist Robert Coover is a co-author. See the Directory entries (1, 2) for more information about this piece.
The Glide project encompasses a constructed language, a game played with that language, an online space for communication via the language, and an oracle that delivers its messages via the language. The Glide language is composed of simple curved lines that combine into glyphs that can link and morph, and which are the key to understanding Slattery’s print novel The Maze Game (the first chapter of which is presented, illustrated, on the website).