The Week In Hypertext
Today I played these three things:
1. Mashkin Sees It Through by thecatamites
thecatamites has been making a game every day of the month this month. In this, his first Twine game, literary capital takes center stage. I don’t have much to say about this except that it’s a Twine game with good, Pynchonesque writing. His games almost always feature a narrator or two, and here the distinction between reader, player, and narrator blurs (at first Gaussian, then a directional lens blur, then a Photoshop swirl filter). Remember the Twine revolution? Oh yeah, looks like that’s showing no signs of stopping.
2. The Entertainment by Cardboard Computer
Regrettably, I was unable to play this in its native Oculus Rift format, but perhaps it’s a good thing I didn’t because I might have died on the spot. Remember when I kept talking about how you choose the dog’s name at the start of Kentucky Route Zero Act 1 in lieu of explaining why the game is good? Here’s something which resembles a real reason: Cardboard Computer displays rich literary and theatrical influences and their motifs of intertextuality are sublime. And they Know How To Do Graphics.
I’ve been lucky enough to use an Oculus Rift twice and I love the way you can see the pixels. The hypermediacy of virtual reality is far more fascinating to me than the prospect of being subsumed in immersion. If you’re using new technology to make new games and you’re doing things the right way, you look at the affordances of the technology and find a creative way to design a game to those affordances, rather than plastering existing designs onto it and softening the edges. (And you’re probably making a first-party Nintendo game.) I think the Oculus Rift is going to do wonders for the verb of looking in first-person games, in ways 7DFPS game jammers couldn’t dream of.
The Entertainment knows looking.
And that’s not the half of it.
The Kentucky Route Zero games have not only spun the adventure game structure (point-and-click movement between stages and dialogue trees) into something cool (relinquishing preciousness and glibness), they’ve now done the same for the adventure game’s self-awareness. And now The Entertainment marries the hypermediacy of the Oculus Rift and its early-VR aesthetic, with the theatrical and hypertextual hypermediacy of the games in the Lula Chamberlain mythos (if you don’t know what this is, play Limits and Demonstrations again).
This game dropped the same day John Carmack announced his leave from id Software to work full time on the Oculus Rift. John Carmack seemed to be the only public figure who knew what was up with computer graphics. Don’t fall into the trap of associating him as an icon of the game industry’s technological drive for photorealism. He was one of the good guys. Now he’s at Oculus. And The Entertainment is as much the future of video games as the Oculus Rift is. And the future is fucking cool.
3. Writing by Tully Hansen
A fierce literalisation of neurotic, tangential, stream-of-consciousness and the hesitant self-editing process into mutable prose. Long enough that the novelty wears off, which turns out to be a good thing. This is a very Tully thing to write. I have failed to take it as a cautionary tale of editing esoteric flourishes and in-jokes out of my writing. But at least I no longer consider drawing attention to them.