The game “Cave Adventure” by William Crowther widely accepted as a form of interactive fiction, this one in particular as the original interactive fiction game, but, as seen in the Aarseth reading, people debate on how it applies or fits into the idea of ergodic literature and cybertexts.
A lot of the debate falls on the word “nonlinear” that Aarseth uses as the defining characteristic of ergodic literature. In my opinion, I think that “Cave Adventure” is the premiere example of this idea of nonlinearity. Aarseth describes the conflict as in how people define the word nonlinear. In his view, most of society “focused on what was being read” while he “focused on what was being read from.” The way that I view this is that pieces of ergodic literature are databases of information, events, people, etc. Whilst traversing the text, one reads events in a linear manner, in that events happen one after another. However, in the grand scheme of the entire database, these events can come from anywhere within the database.
I think it’s also important to establish “Cave Adventure” as a text here. I think the common first reaction is to label the game as common RPG and not a text because it is something that you play and there are things that you control. However, according to Aarseth, they are similar (not exactly the same but similar) to “other literary phenomena” because they “produce verbal structures.” What sets this form of interactive fiction apart from both printed books and role playing games is that it combines aspects of both worlds.
Essentially most of Aarseth’s argument comes from how we define these literary objects. The quote that stood out to me the most from Aarseth was the following; “When much energy is spent on showing that P is a perfectly deserving type of Q, the more fundamental question of what P is will often be neglected.” Basically, if we keep trying to say that, for example, interactive fiction such as “Cave Adventure” is perfectly like other types of literature, we miss the point that interactive fiction is a standalone type of literature and has interesting characteristics that make it unique.
In this case, I think that “Cave Adventure” is defined by its nonlinearity. In this case, more than other forms of ergodic literature, the reader can visually see the nonlinear breaks because you no doubt will get lost and have to backtrack. This also erases the idea that the events happen linearly as well, especially after you read the same scene 4 times in a span of 10 minutes. For example, while I was playing the game, I got “lost” before even reaching the cave, wandering about and reading the same 4 scenes, yet thinking I was taking a different path every time. So, as the title implies, the story that I experienced included a grueling trek to find the cave in what was physically, within the database of the game, a pretty small area.
Thus “Cave Adventure becomes a literal form of Aarseth’s idea that ergodic literature is much like a multicursal labyrinth. The text takes quite a bit of effort to traverse, it’s almost impossible unless you take notes and map out the cave while playing. While a cave resembles a labyrinth because both contain mazes, the more important part is that when you make a decision, that decision makes other parts of the story (or cave) less accessible. This came out in my own experiences within the game. I played the game twice, giving myself a day apart between. While I died multiple times both days, I ended up in completely different parts of the cave without even trying that hard. The second day I reached a cavern I didn’t know exist that brought me through a brand new storyline.
This is the defining characteristic of ergodic literature. Yes the events you read happen linearly in a sense because they create a storyline. However, that storyline changes based on your decisions, an effort you, the reader, put into the story, something you cannot do with a printed book.