The second half of Pry further expands on the previous user interaction method. This is done by evolving the prying open and shut interactions to view through the main characters and thoughts, to being able to flip through different camera shots and make them last however long the user wishes.
This portion of the narrative, in Chapter 7 was especially interesting to me, since it seemed to be trying to convey an even more cinematic approach to narrative storytelling. Being able to watch each shot in the scenes however long one wanted made it feel as if I was editing the scene to have the timing that I felt was most interesting. I would be interested to compare how long the people made each shot of each scene last, and see if it gave the scene a different effect than what I experienced.
I also found it interesting to play around with how the shots looked overlayed on one another, just in case any imagery was hidden. However, I found nothing out of the ordinary for Pry from this method.
My interpretation of Pry is that it is about a man who enlisted in the military at a young age, although his eyesight was destined to deteriorate rapidly throughout the years. He developed many relationships with several people, one of which was a girl named Jessie. She died in an accident of some sort, and the main character continues to blame himself for her death. He works with his friend named Luke, who he does not trust because of the way he encourages reckless behavior if the main character and others.
Throughout Pry, there are themes of grief, guilt, deceit, PTSD, etc. most of the narrative is the main character trying to comprehend his thoughts caused by anxiety disorders from his real thoughts. Pry takes a non-linear look at how someone might deal with emotions and try to understand themself while dealing with several nearly debilitating issues (anxiety, PTSD, loss of eyesight, etc.).
Unfortunately, due to my forgetfulness and the fact that I don’t have an IOS device at home, I was unable to write about the first sequences of Pry on time for the previous blog entry. So, I will briefly summarize what I thought of the experience as a whole. I thought that Pry was an incredibly engaging piece of electronic literature, even despite the fact that it had me feeling confused quite a few times. I honestly can not summarize the storyline with any confidence as it all felt like a blur to me, but I feel like this was the intention of the piece. Everything throughout Pry seems to be told in an incredibly disjointed and unique manner for each chapter. I found chapter three to be memorable with its use of reading braille interactively.
When it comes to engaging sequences, I enjoyed the chapter titled “camp” in which pinching or expanding your fingers either changes shots during a scene or goes from one scene to another based on the context. At first, when I pinched my fingers, it appeared that the scenes were going back in time, back to when the main character was a child. Expanding my fingers seemed to move forward in time to the character’s time spent in the war.
I definitely found myself engaged, but also confused at the storyline and sequence of events. If I had to see what the main theme of the story was, it would be the main character dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder or something to that effect. This can mainly be noticed during the characters subconscious flashbacks to explosions in a warlike setting when doing demolition work in chapter 2. I feel that this lends to my idea that the story being told in a confusing manner was intentional, because the main character’s mind is always racing and never at ease since the dramatic events that he had to go through.
Overall, I found this piece to be confusing but also engaging at the same time. I think this is because of its highly immersive interface. I enjoyed opening the character’s eyes and diving into his subconscious at a moment’s notice. I just wish I was better at following the general storylines in these pieces of electronic literature. I feel that it is something that will come more naturally to me with practice.
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 second half of Pry continues the themes of the first half with James struggling with poor eyesight, PTSD, and his internal struggle with the mysterious character Jessie. As the second half goes on, however, Jessie becomes less of a mystery and more of a tragedy. By navigating through the three stages, the struggle that James faces both with Luke and Jessie is explained, with James’ eyes open by talking to Luke, his eyes closed by thinking of Jessie, and in his subconscious with the guilt he feels about Jessie’s death.
Chapter 6 marks the point in Pry where everything begins to come together. The expanding wall of text allows the reader to pry through the sentences to reveal that Luke and Jessie developed a relationship, which James reported after his love for Jessie grew into jealousy. Jessie found out and lashed out at James. Still upset, Jessie sat out of the poker game happening later. As a result, Jessie was outside during the game, when their base was attacked. Jessie died in the attack, and James blames himself for her death.
The second half of the story also goes into further detail about James’ deteriorating eyesight, which was likely caused by the attack. He’s afraid to tell Luke that his eyesight is poor, causing even more internal conflict.
Above all, the second half continues to be about PTSD, with James becoming even more distraught internally, his subconscious turning into an obscure collection of words. James’ depiction of PTSD becomes much more personal, however, with the addition of the guilt he feels towards Jessie and betraying his brother, which was hinted at in Chapter 3 with James reading about Jacob and Esau.
Pry is a commentary on a multitude of things: war, PTSD, love and jealousy, coming to terms with blindness, and more. It feels overwhelming, which is the point. James is overwhelmed by everything that is crashing down around his life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pry is an app that tells a story in a unique way. It is all within the first-person perspective starting with chapter 1 however, there are three perspectives within the main character. There is what he sees in the real world. These are usually shown through video. There are his immediate thoughts which are usually shown as white text in front of a black background. Then there is his deep consciousness. Here the viewer sees all sorts of abstract things that tend to loosely connect to what he is looking at or thinking about. These three perspectives can be looked at anytime by using two fingers to simulate prying open or closing his eyes. Most of the experience is this process of prying eyes, but in one chapter, the user holds their device horizontally and simulates the experience of reading braille as they slide their finger over the screen. The braille is even read out loud in real time. The story isn’t super clear, but from what I understand it starts with the protagonist leaving to join the military. The story jumps past all of that and his experience in the military is told through flashbacks. They are flashbacks because you see them in his head. These flashbacks were so vivid that I was sometimes caught off guard in which of the three perspectives I was looking at. What drives the story forward is the user checking in on all three perspectives. You can’t move on if you only look at one.
I will say that I have already traversed pry in an earlier class this year, but it was still interesting to go through it again and find more details that I had missed on my first playthrough. The use of gestures and interaction with this piece work perfectly, I think. As the reader looks at the real world and back to his thoughts it shows that time is moving, and you can either spend your time looking out to the world around you or miss it to see what is going through his mind. This work follows the story of James a demolition consultant after he returns from 1991 Gulf War. With his vision failing you look into his mind and try to understand what is going on as his past collides with his present. With every action you can dive deeper into James’s thoughts or try and ignore the idea that you are losing sight. The gestures that you use also remind you of the situation you are in some of the gestures needed are the simple tap, or swipe. But mostly you will either pinch or pry to look at his thoughts or to open his eyes to the world around him. The creators of this interactive “tender claws” have made a piece that I have seen nothing like and it is amazing to see the creativity and thought put into this piece.
One of the main sections of Pry that intrigued me would be Chapter 3 with the read-aloud braille. I found this intriguing because in a digital-screen setting, braille seems to be essentially useless. However, I feel that this portion worked well with the main character reading aloud as the user ran their finger across the screen.
Another section that I found intriguing was Chapter 4, where the main character is paranoid that his friend is going to try to kill him. I liked how Pry shows this paranoia by blurring the main characters normal vision, thus encouraging the user to see his subconscious, which ends up being riddled with possible murder weapons and different deaths. I feel like this connected well with the introductory portion of the app, where the main characters girlfriend attempts to kill him in a jump-scare as well.
These two moments in the app both contribute small details to the constantly growing story, hinting at different key factors that the user should take note of. One of these especially being that the main character has a fear of being murdered by those he cares about.
I feel that the combination of text and video in this app works very well, and the exploratory method of “prying” between video and text and a combination of both makes it very intuitive for the user to traverse whichever of the main three narrative structures that they want to, whenever they want to (within the allowance of the narrative).
I think that this work is about a person with PTSD and/or schizophrenia. I believe this because the way the narrative plays out and provides us with both reality and subconscious fears is very similar and accurate how it feels to have real-life anxiety. It becomes hard to distinguish between what’s actually happening and what is a fear, and I think the constant switching between conscious and subconscious helps to blur the separation and make the truth even more indistinguishable. The flashbacks and worst-case-scenario subconscious beliefs definitely hint towards this work focusing on a character that has some sort of mental illness.