The traversal method of Pry quickly becomes intuitive. Zooming in and out on a touch screen is already natural enough for a traverser, so zooming out to see the subconscious and zooming in to see what the main character sees is easy to understand and easy to figure out if the traverser misses the instructions. This work is significantly easier to traverse than more complicated or nested pieces of E-lit, and is presumably more palatable to a traverser who has not spent much time with E-lit, while still having controls that will intrigue traversers familiar with more complicated E-lit. The basic structure, zoom out to see subconscious, zoom in to see sight, and the base level being the conscious thoughts, the text that is the thrust of the story, could be a structure that other electronic works could use. The traversal method seems so versatile and something that could be applied in many different stories to create many different effects that build the main character that it could create its own genre if enough authors mimicked this traversal style. The separation of thoughts, sight, and the subconscious are used in Pry to illustrate the experience of PTSD. I could see this traversal method translating to other mental health disorders in interesting ways, such as making the sight and thoughts more difficult to access over time and the subconscious become overpowering or taking control from the traverser and switching between perspectives rapidly.
The three perspectives combine to create a constant montage, that the traverser controls. During my first traversal through the first four chapters, I tried to switch perspectives as thoroughly and regularly as possible, cycling through conscious, subconscious, conscious, sight, repeatedly in the same order. The conscious is between the subconscious and sight and by opening the subconscious or looking at what the character sees you progress the conscious text, so it is presumably impossible to see both the sight and subconscious that corresponds to one conscious thought, unless the visuals and subconscious last longer than a single conscious thought. It was difficult to traverse this way though, and I found myself switching between just the conscious thought and sight during the demolition chapter and switching mostly between the conscious thought and the subconscious during the first chapter, as the main characters sight is of his perspective in bed. The traversal method and the many montage combinations that can be created with it mean this work is best understood by being traversed multiple times.
The prologue for Pry was interesting. I thought this piece of fiction was going to be a feature film. I knew James was going to enlist in the military because of the things he put in his pack. In addition, he took a piece of dog hair with him to keep as a memento. I cannot help but to think that Tarzan has a meaning. I assume the book could be some sort of foreshadowing for events that happens later. Luke and Jessie are important characters in this interactive fiction. It’s unfortunate that we see so little of Jessie in the first for chapters; I really want to know more about her. It’s interesting that we see a vision of her stabbing James. I did not see that part coming. I am also trying to figure out if Luke and Jessie tried to murder James, or if these visions related to James’s PTSD. It’s hinted that James is losing his sight. This is interesting because we do not know what cause the ailment. Ultimately, I think the story is about James dealing with PTSD.
I like the interface and navigation. It was like I was playing a game; I pulled me into the work. Cinema can not achieve such a thing. I initially had to ask a peer how to navigate from segment to another. I missed somethings because my hand covered some of the screen when I had pinch and spread my fingers across the iPad. I did miss some of the kinetic text in some of James’s visions. I can not wait to finish this interactive fiction.
Pry tells its story through a mixture of medias. Described in the Apple Store as “…a book to watch and film to touch…”, video and accompanying audio, stand-alone audio clips, as well as text make up the bulk of the user’s experience. The prologue plays as a short video, establishing the protagonist and the narrative space as well as the tone for the rest of the piece. A young man packs for a trip with little explanation given. The prelude is short, but in the way the protagonist lays out all of his objects so meticulously, to shove them all into his bag when his ride arrives, the Tarzan novel mixed in with bare essential objects, the hesitant moment that leads them to stop and collect a lock of hair from the family dog… few words are spoken, but these little details shows the depth of the character and the world that they reside in. It also prepares the reader for a narrative that won’t just be handed to them, but must be sorted out from the small details left unsaid.
The first chapter jumps to another point in time and throws the user into a scenario resembling sleep paralysis as text appears on a black backdrop, providing narration and prompting the user to use the multi-touch feature of the iPad or iPhone’s touchscreen interface. By dragging a thumb and a finger away from each other with a “prying” gesture, the user forces the protagonist’s eyes open, staring at the water stain on their bedroom ceiling as shadows pass by. Releasing their digits from the touch screen causes the eyelids to close once again, and the text narration reflects on the world in the narrative space. Likewise, the user is prompted to use thumb and finger in an opposite “pinching” motion to invert the narrative: rather than taking in the external surroundings of the protagonist, the user gets a visual glimpse into the protagonist’s mind. Again, releasing the gesture causes the scene to return to the narrative text.
By fluidly switching between these three narratives modes, the internal, external, and the text, with simple gestures the chapter advances in cryptic chunks that the user has to piece together. By giving the user control of which of these three channels are activated, when, and for how long, the user becomes more engaged, and the three narrative streams align in a combinatory fashion. With that control, the experience of the user can vary, as in multi-linear narratives, with some media objects theoretically being missed, which encourages multiple go-throughs.
Overall, I really enjoyed Pry. It was cinematic, atmospheric, and really drew me into the character and his story. From the beginning, I liked how it seemed to be divided into clear sections of narrative–reality, lucid thoughts, and intrusive thoughts–but that quickly became blurred with the imagined Jessie appearing and looming over his bed, and continued bleeding into each other as the story progressed…until even you, the reader, is uncertain as to what exactly is James’ memories or imagination and what is actually happening (or has happened). The mechanics of opening James’ eyes, or ‘pinching’ them further shut and retreating into memories and intrusive thoughts, was both visually compelling as well as helped to build James as a character.
I also liked the metaphor of his current career. As a construction worker, he is literally trying to build something of his life, but all he is able to do is tear it (buildings, his life) all down in explosions both literally and metaphoric. The braille motif was very interesting as well. I liked the mechanics behind it, running your finger over the images of the dots to see what it means to James, as well as the symbolic nature of the motif. I took it as foreshadowing concerning his vision: as James’ mental health deteriorates, he is unable to ‘see’ what is actually happening in his life and what is his own intrusive thoughts and flashbacks…and so he’s becoming literally unable to see as well, relying on braille and memories to find his way through the world.
Finally, I thought that the overall story was really intriguing. I thought the author did a great job of crafting a realistic world and characters, immersing the reader into James’ state of mind and being. The cinematography helped to portray James’ mental state as well, from the clear, steady camerawork of the prologue, to later scenes with off coloring or tilted cameras as James’ view of the world around him grows more skewed and distorted. I can’t wait to keep reading and find out what happens next.
Part 1’s five chapters are multimedia dreamscapes that tell the story of James, a demolition consultant six years out from his return from the first Gulf War. He’s slowly going blind, and he’s an unreliable narrator; those factors affect the way the story unfolds. The narrative is fragmented, the visuals atmospheric: Charlie Kaufman by way of an acid trip. Pry is greater than the sum of its parts. Multimedia content isn’t just embedded and integrated. It incorporates the iPad’s haptic gestures: the pinch, the drag and the pry.
Chapter 1 opens with two lines of white text on a black background. Readers can pry — yes, that word again — those open into four lines of still-coherent text. Repeat the gesture above and below any line: Text expands until it reveals video footage, delving deeper into the main character’s psyche.
“The storyline transitions back and forth from the perspective of the main character, James, a veteran from the Gulf War six years later, and the perspective of the reader. With sometimes smooth, and sometimes jolting, disorientating flashbacks between the past and present, interspersed with video clips, rapidly flashing sets of words, and audio make Pry constantly moving, and kinesthetic, stimulating.”
I think that the mechanic of the story is a real unique way to progress throughout the story by having us to swipe or touch or pinch and I thought that was a good change into the storytelling part of the piece. The story itself, to me, was lacking in a way that it didn’t really pull me into the story. I didn’t feel like I wanted to continue reading other than to see how to progress in the story.
I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. I found the use of text sound and visuals incredibly interesting. The scenes I found the most interesting, were the stabbing scenes. There were two scenes like this in chapters 1-4. One scene contains what I believe to be the main character’s love interest, and the other what I believe to be his brother. I found it incredibly interesting how these scenes were used almost as a climax, and a breaking point that led into the next chapter. I’m not sure what the symbolism and meaning behind these scenes are, but I think that the violence and rushing of images, is a wonderfully striking end to these chapters.
I also found the use of braille interesting in this piece. I think that eyesight will become a very important theme in this piece. I also think the use of braille really pairs well with the mechanic that drives the piece. Sliding your fingers on the screen to “open your eyes” or “close your eyes”, drives the story.
I also found the use of dark imagery interesting in this piece. The dark tones really project the darker themes in the piece, and portray the mystery behind the piece.
I can’t wait to continue to delve into the piece, and really unlock the mystery of it.
PRY tells the story of a Gulf War veteran who took a job as a demolition consultant, which he got from Luke who was his squad leader. In the first chapter, James is lying in bed staring up at the ceiling, thinking about the job and the stain up on the ceiling. It becomes apparent that James has vision problems as exhibited by what I assume is intended to be eye floaters. When you peer into his mind, you see flashes of Luke and Jessie, and then when you open his eyes you see a hallucination of Jessie stab him. What follows is an explosion of different parts of the same moment.
The use of different effects, the text, the visuals, really come together. The quick succession of shots in the first chapter tells so much information, especially when you go through the story for a second time; showing how much affection he had for her and how all of it was blown away in an instant. He feels as though it was his fault for what happened as he reported to his superior officer what was going on between Luke and Jessie. In Chapter 4 there was a point where he made reference to Jesus and Judas.
The story shows how war can have lasting effects on an individual. There are moments like in Chapter 2 where as the Hartman Plant was being demolished, if you go into his mind you see images of people being killed from the perspective of an AC-130 Gunship; and how sound of those explosions can trigger those memories.
Chapter 4 also shows the blurring of reality and fiction. Luke is sitting at the table in the hotel room shuffling cards. Chapter 7 explores this more so, with conversations that are clearly happening outside of the war zone being portrayed as if they were happening in that setting. Chapter 7 really shows how James seems to have lost ability to percieve what is real and what isn’t real, at the start it was less extreme but by Chapter 7 what is happening in the present versus what happened in the past becomes muddied
Pry is an incredibly engaging work about a young man returning stateside after serving in the Gulf War. The prologue immediately pulls the reader’s curiosity through it’s setting, and powerful cinematography. Pry’s visuals do not feel like video game cut scenes, the user gets an impression that this novella purposely created a movie to embed throughout each chapter. The quality of production is high and contributes to the feeling the user is “playing a movie” instead of “playing a game”.
My personal favorite part was the braille chapter. I thoroughly appreciated the mechanics of using fingers on the touch screen of an iPad in the same way blind individuals use raised braille characters and fingers to trace each line. I immediately felt like I was learning to read- mirroring the narrative where the main character’s mother is teaching her son to read the braille characters.
The video playing on screen (similar to the image above) behind the braille characters and one’s finger is often the same quality/style of a home-movie or “found footage” which makes the scene incredibly intimate. During my experience I found having part of my hand covering the screen unobtrusive compared to other sections “prying” open the main character’s eyes. Perhaps this is due to my lack of familiarity with iPads since I have never owned one personally, and I was borrowing from WSUV’s collection to view this work. However I specifically recall several moments during the second chapter where I was trying to get a grasp of maneuvering the environment and felt I missed pieces of plot because my hand was covering part of the screen that had a small yet critical detail.
Pry is an impressive work that really captures a perfect synchronous environment of iPad and E-Lit. My only complaint for the beginning half is the gem system which makes little sense to me in context of narrative or function- but is driving my completionist tenancies absolutely bananas.
From the prior research that we have done on Tender Claws’ piece Pry, it is an extremely intense representation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This concept becomes much more clear by the end of the first chapter, continuing into the second chapter, with surreal imagery of death and war. The protagonist visiting his friend at a construction site, for example, triggers memories of explosions while serving in the military.
Within Pry, the interactor flips through three stages of the protagonist: eyes closed, eyes open, and subconscious. The lines between the three often become blurred, but primarily the eyes closed represents thoughts via text, the eyes open represents reality via video, and the subconscious represents war flashbacks via avant-garde sequences. By constantly flipping through these three stages, Pry gives a feeling of chaos and fear that aims to artistically represent the effects of PTSD on its victims.
The navigation of the piece is extremely simple, only requiring the interactor to advance by “prying” the protagonist’s eyes open and closed by pinching the screen. This allows the protagonist to freely flip between the three stages while moving through the piece, while putting the interactor in a place of physical connection with the events taking place in the protagonist’s mind. By pinching the screen shut, the interactor is taken into the protagonist’s mind, similar to film reel, that is constantly racing with text and war footage.
Pry is a powerful piece of electronic literature that attempts to shine light on mental illness through the advantages of technology and interaction. To say that the piece succeeds in doing so is an understatement.
I believe this occurred during the first chapter (?). Pry likes to drop hints very quickly on the readers. This one included. In the beginning, Pry rapidly tells us something about “symptoms”, “common”, and “violence” when we close the protagonists’ eyes. This led me to believe that he is probably suffering from PTSD. If that’s true what is this image doing in Pry? I believe it is hinting at not only is the main character suffering from PTSD (which also tells us he was a soldier at one point which is supported by flashbacks and the prologue) but also that he is starting to go blind. We see this when Josh, in the second chapter, to gets blurry and closing his eyes simply doesn’t cut it anymore.
Here is an image of Josh, our protagonist’s friend, when his blindness was at it’s worst. Looking at this is almost trippy. It made me want to look away and blink my eyes several times to try and clear away the fog.
I find these images to be the most interesting because it tells me that the main character has more than one subconscious. If you adjust the pinch of your fingers on the screen, you get different levels of his subconscious. He has one that is on the surface level and is meant to distract his mind from not remembering the horrific things that he has seen. The other levels are hallucinations and memories of his subconscious. Jessie killing him, the coffee stain messing around on the ceiling. Those are all hallucinations that never actually happen. The memories are the GameBoy, hanging with Jessie, and possibly even the night vision video of a missile launch. This tells me that by the next chapter he might actually go blind and may even go crazy. In the second chapter, he spoke about how he depends on his job and Josh. With his sight gone it may be impossible for him to keep going. We will most likely see more of his memories and illusions of his memories as well while the real world might only be represented with sound and inner monologue.
I have had the pleasure of viewing this work last semester in another class and I think it is absolutely brilliant. This work is about a guy named James, a former soldier of the Gulf War, who works as a demolition consultant. James is going blind and also likely suffers from PTSD. Understanding these key details about James affects how the story is told and understood. The author’s use of all the different multimedia elements are what I think make this work so intriguing. The way that text montage segments were used to illustrate his subconscious are a perfect way to describe how erratic memories can be triggered. The use of video gives the user a first-hand look of what James sees in both present time as well as events that are parts of his memory or subconscious. There is also a lot of kinetic interaction used in Pry. This helps to tap into the user’s sensory modalities, which helps tell the story and influence the way that the user experiences the work. These kinetic interactions also give the user the feeling of a first-person point of view. The use of sound in Pry helps the story to unfold as well. It aides the user’s feelings of being immersed in the story. Spread and hold, pinch and hold, touch and drag are some of the actions that are required by the user in order to experience this work. The spread and hold action simulates the opening of the eyes. It is almost as if you, the user, are “prying” the eyes open. The pinch and hold actions initiate memories or flashbacks. I would compare this action similar to when people squint or squeeze their eyes closed when they are trying to remember something or trying to not see something.
One of my favorite parts of chapter two was when the building was being demolished. This moment connects James’ present vision, current thoughts, and memories of his subconscious. It was at this moment for some reason that it really clicked with me how I am meant to understand each of the three spaces (eyes open, closed, and pinched to reveal his subconscious).
At one particular moment, what is seen when his eyes are opened, when they are closed, and when we are peeking into his subconscious all display same type of event, but in different settings.
This is from the scene when his eyes are open and he is viewing the building is being demolished and an explosion occurs.
This is from the scene when his eyes are closed and he is having flashbacks of his time playing video games during his down time while he served in the war. Explosions are occurring in the game.
This is from the scene from his subconscious. Video montage of explosions are occurring in this scene.
In first watching the prologue we open to shots of an ordinary home. The young man who is first focused on I thought was running away from something with the quick jump cuts and nervous looks. However, as the prologue ends it doesn’t seem that he is running away but leaving for something else.
Chapter one then takes a shift to a soldier, I was unclear if this is supposed to be the same man in the prologue, or if the story was shifting gears. Through rapid video, it seems as though the character is struggling with a war in his mind. Flashbacks of fighting and a romance are seen in rapid succession.
Chapter two is another shift to a plant of some sort that the character is working at. As we look at the inner thoughts of the character we see his thoughts of past, present, and future, and with each a level of uncertainty.
Overall I like this interface used to tell the story. I think its highly effective. I was reading it and a friend next to me was like “that looks really cool, what is that?”. Visually captivating is how I would describe it so far.
Being able to pinch the screen and peer into the characters thoughts is a great way to show the inner struggle of the protagonist.