Labyrinth, matrix, same thing basically

 

The significance of choice and the consequences of our choices were talked about a lot this week. Josh Hall’s DCC capstone project, Antiflanerie, featured one video where the story ended abruptly before it even really began if the viewer chose a certain option. Since there was no way to rewind, the short film emphasized the permanence of choice and the many unknown possibilities that disappear once a decision has been made (of course, in Jeremy and Carter’s case, you could just reload the web page). This preoccupation with choice can also be seen in many aspects of popular science fiction media, like The Matrix. The movie famously asks, “red pill or blue pill?”, setting the stage for a massive divergence of stories. If Neo chooses the red pill, the movie unfolds. If he chooses the blue pill, he’ll never know what could have been. The idea of making the “right” decisions as ubiquitous in interactive fiction as it is in anything else. As Aarseth says in his article, readers of ergodic fiction or cybertexts are no longer “safe” because they must participate in the narrative and take choices into their own hands. In the text adventure documentary  we watched in class, one man mentioned that the “smart person” feel of Infocom’s interactive fiction games was a main strength of the company. It was implied that intelligent decisions (made by an intelligent person, naturally) were necessary to win. I found that comment incredibly interesting – it raised the question of how ego affects one’s investment in a game. The “non-trivial effort” described by Aarseth in his article requires “readers” of interactive fiction to interact with their surroundings to propel their way through the story, and in games like Colossal Cave Adventure, this isn’t easy. The way that creators motivate the discovery process, therefore, is by creating obstacles that are difficult enough to slow down users but not difficult enough to stop them. I mean, guys at MIT were making breakthroughs in computing that eventually lead to the Internet, and they stopped working for a week just to figure out a game in which you need to catch a bird while not holding a black rod (which scares it) just so you can throw the bird at a snake later in the game. It’s really not rocket science – it’s just arbitrary rules made up by someone with a prolific imagination. Yet, work in the programming world ground to a halt just so that people could outsmart it by making the right choices. It’s a powerful testament to the power of immersion in interactive fiction and a person’s desire to prove their intelligence.

 

 

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One thought on “Labyrinth, matrix, same thing basically

  1. “I found that comment incredibly interesting – it raised the question of how ego affects one’s investment in a game.”

    A fascination observation. It’s worth remembering that Colossal Cave Adventure was only “solved” (someone earned the max points available) when a “smart” programmer decided to dig through the source code to find the answer to one of the puzzles. Talk about ego investment!

    Like

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