**For some reason I posted this at 10pm on April 30th but it says I posted it on May 1st?**
For my final project in the class, I decided to do a collaborative piece with Elaina using Twine. Throughout this project, we thought it would be interesting if we pass a Twine file back and forth and each add something to the story. The only thing we both knew were the direction we wanted the story to go, the treasures the player could get, and where the story would ultimately end up. Since we did it this way, there are things about the project that I still haven’t discovered, and things Elaina hasn’t yet discovered either. This was an interesting way of working because it’s really strange to now know exactly what’s in your project. At the same time, it was also really exciting because one of us would play through it and message the other and be like “this was such a great idea how did you do it?”. It created a sense of excitement when you open the file for the first time after the other person worked on it.
We decided to base our Twine game off of the pieces Colossal Cave Adventure and ZORK. I did my ELD entry on CCA and Elaina did hers on ZORK, and since they were so closely related we decided it would be a good idea to implement them into our final project and work together. Not only did we heavily base our story and format off of them, but there are also multiple easter eggs such as some of the treasures you can find in our version, you can also find in CCA or ZORK. However there are also a few key differences with our version as well, such as the navigation system. In the originals you would type the commands in, but in our version since it’s on twine the navigation is through hyperlinks. Due to limitations with the Twine format we used as well (Harlowe 2.0) we weren’t able to find a way to implement an inventory system or point system the way we wanted to. It was fun to work in Twine not only because of how much we can do on it, but also because unlike these original games, we were able to see a map of our final project and users are also able to look at the cave map to see if there’s anything they missed or just for some guidance. Originally we had planned that to beat the game you had to collect all the treasures, but near the end we decided to change it to each treasure giving a unique ending if you decide to give it to granny. We decided on this because we thought it would create more of a multilinear story. It didn’t seem fair to make the ending the same no matter what choices the player made, because then what was the point of them making all of those decisions?
The biggest struggle for me with this project was definitely the cave. I mapped out most of the cave and it got really confusing making sure everything connected correctly and was going where it was supposed to. I think the final version ended up having almost 40 different rooms just in the cave. This was also my first time completing a Twine of this size, so it was also really interesting to plan out all the different paths the character could take, what would determine each kind of ending they could get, and what big decisions should we have the player make that will affect their entire gameplay. My favorite part was being able to create all of the sassy and pithy things that the narrator of the story says, and being able to play through the final completed version of the game was also really cool. Colossal Cave Adventure is arguably one of the most important pieces of electronic literature, so it was really cool to be able to create a newer version of that with our own twist, with today’s standards of technology.
The second part of Pry is just as immersive, while revealing more of the actual story. Chapter 5 starts with James taking another job that leads him to a bridge where he eventually falls off into the water after his vision fails him, he then appears in a desert where the text just keeps saying “Go back” with various other phrases. I think this is him trying to go back into his mind to the time he was at a base, since that was also mentioned. If you try to pinch into his mind, it’s just videos of him still sinking into the water from when he fell on the bridge.
Almost like while he’s sinking into the water, his mind is thinking about his past, somewhere else completely. Chapter 6 was pretty cool, as it started off with just two lines of text and every time you pried the text open, more would appear until eventually you could “tear” the text in half to see a video behind it. Eventually, the chapter ends and forces you onto the next one. Chapter 7 then begins with James and Luke sitting in the desert by a fire they built, and as you pry, you can switch between multiple videos while their voices talk in the background.
It was really cool to be able to switch between all kinds of different things happening in the same place while still hearing the story behind it. Chapter 7 also starts to reveal more of the story between James and Jessie. It’s apparent that James blames himself for Jessie’s death, even though she died because of an attack in a building. James says that it was his fault, and that she called to him but he ran away, leaving her to die. However the text, and presumably Luke, say that he wasn’t there at all, and he was in a different building across the street playing poker. It’s revealed through more videos that James and Jessie got into a fight, which caused her not to go to the poker game and end up in the building that was attacked, causing her death. James says that she wasn’t at the game because of him, and if she was there she would have lived, making her death his fault. At the end of chapter 7, James pulls himself out of the water, and the user is unable to pinch or pry into his mind anymore.
The first half of Pry was really enjoyable, and I’m really excited to go through the second half now. In the prologue, I didn’t really understand what was going on and even after going through the first four chapters, I’m still not sure I understand it. However, Pry was so immersive for me I found myself sucked into the story and it really feels like you’re actually there. The way you “open” the characters eyes to see the world around him and “pinch” the screen to go further back into his mind is such a unique way if viewing the story that adds so much to the storytelling. There were also multiple points that just had me mesmerized staring at the screen. I dont remember exactly when it was, but at one point there was just a load of words flashing into the screen changing rapidly. I caught myself just staring at it completely entranced by this and it was insane. I think I can honestly say I’ve never been as invested in a digital story before.
One of the coolest parts, which I’ve already seen a couple people comment on as well was the Braille chapter. The idea that as you scroll your finger across the Braille on the screen it actually reads it to you was absolutely genius. I love the effect that has, not only does it contribute to the story and the characters vision loss, but it helps you relate and further pulls you into the story making you feel like you are the character in the story.
I’m still not completely sure of the whole story, from what I can tell it’s about someone who used to serve and he’s dealing with life after. Some of the things he’s struggling from are his PTSD, and like mentioned before, vision loss. Overall, I think this app does everything right. It’s really just an amazing work of art and I can tell the people who made this put a lot of work and thought into it. I also really want to know who the girl in the beginning was that (I think?) killed him.
Final Project Description – Jake Martin
For this class’ final project, I will be doing a team project with Elaina. We’ve decided we wanted to further research hypertext fiction and collaborative Electronic Literature by creating a work of hypertext fiction within Twine. The style of the game is going to take inspiration from past interactive games such as Colossal Cave Adventure, and ZORK. Like these games, our version of the game is also planned to have an inventory system. We’re not sure yet how or if we can incorporate a scoring system into this in Twine. We also plan to include some sort of tribute or easter egg in our version of this game to the originals. However, since we are using twine we will not be using the text parser aspect of these other games, instead it will be a piece of hypertext fiction, where the player clicks through the stories by making certain choices that will be laid out for them. This piece of work is going to be based off of Little Red Riding Hood, and will contain many aspects of that story. The story will start out with the player (Little Red) being tasked with delivering a basket of goodies to her grandma. Before leaving the house, the player will be given the option to explore inside and outside the house to collect key items before leaving. After leaving the house, the player will tumble into a cave, where they must work their way through the puzzles to reach grandma’s house. Once you reach grandma’s, she asks you to venture back into the cave to collect her lost treasures. Reaching grandma safely will all the tasked treasures results in winning the game, with various different ending based on what items you took from the house in the beginning of the story. We do also plan to incorporate the wolf into the story as some kind of antagonist, possibly finding him down in the cave will cause him to attack you. For this project we’d like to explore the idea of passing back and forth the twine project and each of us adding our own ideas into it, so while we have a storyline and gameplay laid out, the journey to get there will end up being a surprise to both of us. We also like the idea of using Twine because the unique way the player can go into the actual Twine project, and look at the multiple paths lain out like a map.
Virtual Reality has recently risen in popularity in recent years. A type of technology that in theory “transports” you into the world of whatever game you’re playing, movie you’re watching, or story you’re reading is a very interesting concept that has been around for many years. We’ve only recently started to get the technology to actually be able to create this in a way that is effective and works how it should. Virtual Reality was also the basis of the movie “Ready Player One”, which is set in a future world where basically everyone lives in a VR world, because the real world is corrupt and slowly deteriorating. The idea of being able to actually enter and interact with your favorite worlds is a fantasy that most of us have wanted since we were little kids. Didn’t you ever want to be in the world of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson, Eragon, etc? With VR this will eventually be possible. Video game companies are already capitalizing on the world of VR. Such as the PlayStation VR with motion controllers and a headset that will transport you into the world of a video game. This isn’t the first time a VR set was created by a company. The first time I actually learned about VR was when I was doing a timeline of the history of Nintendo consoles for a school project. One of the ones I found was called the Nintendo Virtual Boy, which was a system that had the idea of using VR to play games. However, the console was a massive flop mainly because of the technical limitations there were at the time. Mostly the fact that the only colors you were able to see were red and black.
The idea of VR is so cool and has been around for quite a while, so it’s going to be awesome to see what we can do as technology only progresses. Augmented Reality however, is far more common. While Virtual Reality transports us to other worlds, Augmented Reality effectively puts other things into our world with the use of camera or other device. AR was really big on Nintendo’s DS Systems, most notably I believe the DSi was the first to start using AR through the use of its camera. The 3DS expanded on this by giving us 3 dimensional augmented reality. As a kid, this was really cool to play with and something I used all the time. Of course, the limitations were still there so most of the games were just little minigames and weren’t too amazing, but it was still something very new and fun to explore. The use of AR was then made extremely popular through the use of the app Pokemon Go, which came out in 2016. The use of AR in the app is optional, but many fans of the game were loving the idea of seeing Pokemon in their every day life. There were so many posts on social media of funny places people had found Pokemon and everyone was having a ton of fun with the idea.
“The keywords in this file were typed into AOL’s search engine by users who never suspected that their private queries would be revealed to the public.”
The one I mostly looked into this week was the video “I Love Alaska” by Lernert Engelberts and Sander Plug. The first thing I noticed is that the background is a picture of Alaska, which is obviously fitting for the story. As the story goes on, it looks like the picture is moved and becomes dark which I saw as the passing of time in a day/night cycle. I wasn’t sure but at least to me it looked like the picture was the same throughout. The format of this piece of work is flarf, which is using primarily Google searches in a type of poetry or other work. The online network is made very visible to us in this work, as the “storyline” is that of a middle aged woman, whose searches on the internet were made available to the public by AOL. Throughout the video she is referred to as “#711391”. She uses the internet to talk about her secrets when she can’t talk to anyone else. Such as searching things like,
“I thought I could handle an affair but I couldn’t”.
The story itself is very interesting because you get to essentially see into the mind of someone who didn’t ever expect anyone to see her searches. This story is so emotional and raw I was extremely invested in it. It’s also a good reminder that not only is the internet permanent, it’s never really private. This is an important lesson in today’s time because a lot of people think the internet is more private than it really is. Google always remembers your searches, FaceBook knows that you’ve been looking at recently and will show you ads to represent that.
The first piece I looked in-depth at was “How to Rob a Bank” by Alan Bigelow. This piece has actually been my favorite piece of interactive fiction so far. The story takes place on the phone, and throughout the 5 parts switches between Ted and Elizabeth’s phones. Ted is searching “how to rob a bank” and throughout the story also uses google for many other things, such as “how to take a hostage” and “how to steal a car”. Throughout the 5 parts we also see them both playing different games, using the app store, going onto Buzzfeed, and many other things people use smartphones for. Eventually he meets up with Elizabeth, and escapes the police. In part 3 they then begin to rob banks together, and donating some of the money to charities after an article suggests they might be a modern day “Robin Hood” duo. Elizabeth’s sister then tells the police of their identities and gives away their information, and Elizabeth and Ted go into hiding and have a baby girl, who they name Alexandria. Most of part 4 is told through Elizabeth writing posts to her baby girl, which we as the audience get to read. The 5th part is then mostly told by Elizabeth’s sister, who told the police about their identities and is now writing blog posts about them. It is revealed that the couple started taking the baby with them to rob banks, and that they had stolen enough money to live off of for the rest of their lives, so it’s unlikely they will ever be seen again. The sound plays a huge part in this story, such as the background noises of cars driving by, and even at one point, Elizabeth singing to her daughter. The most interesting part of this piece of work to me is that their relationship is based completely off of bank robbing. It’s the reason they get together, and as shown in parts 4 & 5 it is eventually what rekindles their relationship. When they aren’t bank robbing, Ted starts to distance himself from Elizabeth and their relationship. Only by bank robbing again and bringing their young daughter with them, are they able to save their relationship. This work was really immersive to me and I love how well the story was told through the use of the smartphone. Not only were we able to read the character’s story but we also got to see more mundane parts of their lives, such as the apps they play. I think my favorite part was the fact that the time and battery % on the phone was always changing. It was a really nice attention to detail.
(I also liked how they watched Bonnie & Clyde together, that’s a great reference.)
The second piece I looked at was “CityFish” By JR Carpenter. Although not as interesting to me as the first one, I still thoroughly enjoyed this piece. The first thing that caught my eye was the side scrolling layout of the story, which I think was a perfect decision to tell the story in. As you scroll through the story, time passes, almost like a timeline. I was almost at the end of the piece when I discovered that by clicking on the images, a video would pop up. So naturally I had to go back through and watch some of the videos. The videos help move the story along in a way that the text couldn’t do alone, which is part of the reason why I was so surprised I made it almost to the end without noticing. The collage like format is perfect for the story, as it reminds me of someone who travels a lot. Lynne, the narrator of the story is forced to travel to New York to visit her aunt and uncle because her mom “needs a break”. The imagery of the collage background is a perfect reminder that the main point of the story is Lynne’s travelling experiences. Like “How to Rob a Bank” I think this story is more immersive, you’re being brought into Lynne’s story, complete with pictures, sound, video, and the complete storyline.
The first pieced I looked at was “Cruising” by Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar. It was a really cool and interesting way to tell the story. As you move the mouse side to side, it goes through a slideshow type strip a the bottom. When you pull the mouse up or down it will either zoom in or zoom out of the story. Although it was a really cool idea, I’m not sure I exactly liked it. It was pretty hard to control, at least for me, and the constant moving and zooming in and out actually made me feel a little nauseous. It is possible iI was just doing it wrong though. The second one I looked at was “The Dreamlife of Letters” by Brian Kim Stefans. If I’m being honest, I didn’t really understand this one either. I’ve never been a huge fan of poetry, especially poetry that is made to be confusing on purpose. I do understand the importance of poetry and interactive poetry, it’s just not really anything I think I will ever be interested in. I did try really hard on this assignment to find one of them that I did like. I went through each one but either I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to do them, or they didn’t really make sense to me.
*EDIT* I’ve just now realized that I never got past the introduction part of “The Dreamlife of Letters”. I’m not sure how I didn’t get past it before, since I looked at it for a good 5-10 minutes. Now that I’ve explored this piece deeper, I actually really enjoyed it. I love how it flows through without anyone having to interact with it at all. Out of all of them, I think this one ended up being my favorite piece to explore through.
Like I said before, I understand that they are an important piece of history in literature, and interactive poetry is very important in electronic literature. But this is a type of electronic literature that really challenged me. I did like that there were some in video form such as “Rain on the Sea” that I found myself understanding a little more. It goes by really fast, complete with music to match the speed of the switching letters and numbers on the screen.
The first game I looked at was “With Those We Love Alive”. I actually really enjoyed this one. The story was a bit confusing but as I went through it I found myself more and more invested in it and how the story would play out. I loved the attention to detail in some areas that didn’t have any significance to the plot but were still very descriptive on how things looked. There were some powerful images as well. I’m not sure where exactly I found it but at one point I stumbled across the sight of an angel’s corpse, which is a very powerful message to convey. As well as multiple references to other dead people or corpses,
“Pale, shriveled humans sleep forever on the floor. Pipes run from their heads into iron barrels.”
“Death jungle chokes the land to the north. To the south, ashen wasteland. A dead person is sitting on the balcony, swinging their legs.”
Also, as you go through the story some of the scenes will change. Such as after you make the Empress a weapon, if you go into the throne room there will be the option to view whatever weapon you chose to make her. Another component of the story is that based on your choices, the character will draw different symbols on their body. Some that I remember were; shame, relationship with the chasm, insight, and more. I noticed the main way to progress through the story was just to go to sleep until the next part unravels.
I didn’t enjoy “Howling Dogs: Room” as much as I did the other one. However, after noticing a mention of an empress in that story as well, I went back and noticed that the two were actually made by the same person, which is something I didn’t notice before. They both were stories made using twine, and they definitely have similarities but the stories were very different. “Howling Dogs: Room” is mostly about a person who seems to be trapped in a very boring life, just barely scraping by with the minimum. On top of that, it seems like the character is living through an artificial world through the use of VR. An interesting aspect of this is that the player isn’t allowed to continuously using the VR machine unless you guide them to eat and drink first, forcing you to constantly go back in forth if you want to continue. I also find this interesting because this machine is forcing the character to keep themself alive if they want to continue going into the virtual reality.
“My Boyfriend Came Back From The War” is a very interesting hypertext story. It starts off as one big screen, and as you click on images or the hypertext links, the boxes split up and become smaller and smaller. At the “end” of the story, all the boxes are just black boxes with white outlining with no text or images inside. The story is about a man who comes back from some type of war and him and his girlfriend are having various conversations depending which links you choose. In one area the boy proposes to her, and they decide to get married the next month. In another, it is revealed that while he was away the girlfriend cheated on him with the neighbor, and then begs her boyfriend not to kill him. It’s interesting because there isn’t much storytelling going on, a lot of it is up to reader interpretation. The few lines of dialogue there are in the story rarely have more than a few words. I also like the use of the images as links as well, such as the different clocks and the images of the couple. It’s possible I just went through the story wrong, or wasn’t able to figure out how to explore it to its full extent, but for the most part there didn’t really seem to be that much of an option for the reader. It seemed once you starting working your way through a box, even if there were different options they would all lead to the same place. I guess it could be seen as multilinear based on which box you choose, as each one can be perceived as a different storyline. However the way I looked at it they were just multiple different conversations that went on after he came back.
Like most hypertext, this confused me. However, I did really enjoy the aesthetic used of the boxes slowly getting smaller and smaller as you progressed through the story and were able to make different choices. I think I got the main idea of what the story was, as well as some of the more important outcomes for the storylines. Like I said above, I also enjoyed the relationship between the images and the pieces of text in this. It really feels like it blends together that much better and I love in the beginning that you click on the image of his face, and then once it splits up you have the option to click on his face again. I like the grainy black and white style the pictures have going on, it makes the story have more of a sinister feeling to it, almost like you’re not getting the whole story of what’s happening between the two (which I don’t believe we are, I think there’s much more to the story). It’s different from other pieces we’ve seen in the past because usually you pick one story and pursue it, and if you want to pick a different route you start over. This one you can go through every single route right after each other without having to restart or go again, since they’re all on the same page.
It’s hard for me to say what I think the future of hypertext fiction will be. I don’t think it will die out, as there will always be people and pieces of work that will keep the genre alive. I do however, think that it will dip in and out of popularity as the years go on and as more technology is developed. In the past, hypertext fiction is something that has repeatedly grown popular for a short while, only for it to die down and come back again later. The best example I could come up for this is the company Telltale Games, a gaming company that exclusively creates “Choose Your Own Adventure Games”, or works of hypertext fiction. This company became increasingly popular a couple years ago, to the point of creating stories for big names and other game companies. The Walking Dead, Minecraft, and Batman are a few series’ who got their own Telltale Games. Although all their games got generally favorable reviews, and fans loved playing them, on September 21st, an announcement was made that Telltale Games would be shutting down. The reason? Not enough people were interested in and buying the hypertext fiction genre of video games. Unfortunately, no matter how well something is made, if there isn’t an audience to watch/play/listen to it, then it becomes unprofitable and will come to an end.
I really enjoy hypertext fiction. I like the idea that you decide the outcome of the story, and that your choices truly affect what happens. I do think for a work of this genre to be enjoyable, it needs to be done the right way. If there’s too many or too little options, or the story becomes so meddled and confusing that there doesn’t seem any point in continuing, then it becomes more work than enjoyment. Since a story with multiple storylines can be difficult to properly write out and execute correctly, I feel like this is the image that hypertext fiction often gets. Like I said before, I don’t think hypertext fiction is going to die out (at least anytime in the near future), but I also don’t think it’s going to get extremely popular in the near future. Even newer medias such as Bandersnatch seem to have excitement for a few weeks, and then the whole genre gets lost in the depths of the internet again.
Hypertext definitely goes somewhere that regular print cannot. Print books in the past have been “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. However, the constant flipping of the pages, and navigating through the big piece of text is a lot more frustrating than just being able to click on a particular link in a story and get to the next point. If one were to create a hypertext fiction piece of work, I think most of the time one would lean toward creating it on a digital medium. The evolution of technology and hypertext as one have created this genre of fiction that is compelling, exciting, mysterious, but unfortunately, not very popular.
The Babysitter by Robert Coover is definitely an interesting story to say the least. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure I completely understood what was happening the majority of the time throughout this. At some points in the story, it seemed like things weren’t actually happening, like they were all a part of some dream sequence or imagination, yet in other parts it all seemed very real. At the same time, the reader has to infer which perspective the section is in everytime it shifts, since it doesn’t tell you. I read through it one time, just to get a basic understanding of it, and then I read through it again trying to piece it together in a way that makes sense but still, it left me feeling annoyed and at the same time, wanting more. From what I could comprehend, the story has 3 “main” perspectives. 1.) The parents Mr. and Mrs. Tucker, 2.) the Babysitter (I’m not sure what her name is), and the Tucker children, 3.) and the babysitter’s boyfriend Jack, and his friend Mark. Mr. Tucker, Jack and Mark, and Jimmy the oldest Tucker child, are all in some way infatuated with the babysitter. Jimmy is referred to multiple times as wanting to spank her, as well as trying to catch and spy on her naked such as when she’s getting into the bath Mr. Tucker is (I think?) having some sort of fantasies about the babysitter and the things he wishes to do with her. While Mark and Jack both end up at the house with her trying to engage in sexual activities with her, and eventually trying to force themselves on her.
Although this isn’t my type of literature, and I was definitely feeling more frustrated than anything, I do understand why The Babysitter was an important piece that paved the way for current hypertext fiction. There is definitely some type of spiderweb type narrative going on in the story, but the reason it becomes meddled and confusing is there’s not really a way to navigate through it. With Twine, the reader is able to “choose their own path” by selecting different options to continue the story. With no option like this in The Babysitter, the reader is basically forced through every possible outcome of the story. Although this isn’t the best way to go through a text like this, it was still a very good model for later texts to build off of. It introduced the idea that a story could have multiple paths to go down, and it’s based on how can be based off of the reader’s decisions. The premise of the story is good, it just lacks the “Electronic Literature” aspect it needs. In other words, when Robert Coover was creating this story, he was just lacking the technology he needed to truly make it work. If this story was remade with twine or something similar, I’m sure it would be understood much better, with the added bonus that the reader would actually get to “choose” the outcome of the story. Which would actually be great because I’m interested to know how the story (stories?) are actually supposed to go!
Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg
The Babysitter by Robert Coover