Get Some Culture In You


You may recall I put together a game at the Global Game Jam earlier this year, about writing. I was imaginatively calling it Writer for a while there, for the lack of anything else. It was also WriteQuest and Write Game and other crap, none of which worked. It’s a spiritual successor to Art Game. It’s now called Eveline for reasons I want to go into for a second here (as I try for the billionth time to restart the writing part of my life, how appropriate and not ironic at all).

One thing about Eveline is that a core objective was to “trick” the player into reading a work of literature – in this case the short story, you guessed it, “Eveline” by James Joyce, found in the collection Dubliners. The game wasn’t conceived specifically around that short story, but more just the general idea of a game in which a core objective was to consume/pay attention to a serious literary work. Originally I had Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” as the text, but it was a bit long to feel like anyone would “sit through it” so I chose something briefer.

I really like this idea of having other works of art inside a game, and importantly the idea of foregrounding them through the way the game works itself. The Witness has a nice example of this: not the movies that play so much, as they seem so separate from the actual play of the game (though full credit for getting Tarkovsky in there), but the timed challenge that includes two movements from Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt” (“Anitra’s Dance” and “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, back to back). Unlike most encounters with game music, here the drama of the music is intimately connected to what you’re doing in the sense that it represents the time you have left to solve puzzles. Combine that with the drama of the second piece in particular, and you have this kind of magical integration of play and music that I find to be quite rare (though see also great stuff like Proteus obviously, it’s just this version draws on pre-existing “great” music).

So Eveline is perhaps along the same lines, but with the intent to really have the player focused on reading by blurring it with the idea of writing – as you type the story, it appears for you to read. You create and consume it at the same time. It seems to me like there should be more of this kind of thing. Perhaps it’s one way around the ways in which videogames often seem so stunted in terms of the kinds of themes and effects of currently existing “great” works in other media. Just steal them…


18 March 2016
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