“Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw” by Donna Leishman is unlike any electronic literature that I have come across so far. It is a point-and-click, text-free, historical retelling of one of the most well-known cases of demonic possession in history. Of course, I had no idea that Christian Shaw was a real girl until the end of the game, but that’s besides the point. The basis of the game is to click your way through a map to tell a visual story. The map alters slightly, and the player must have a good eye in order to figure out what to click on next.
The small map that the player must navigate.
Each time a player clicks on a part of the map, the camera zooms in and shows what is happening in that area of the map. With each new discovery the player makes, more options open up that carry along the story line. The player sees what appears to be a demon enter a small girl (see featured image), and then subsequently watches her deteriorate as she vomits strange items, dances around a fire, and rolls her bloodshot eyes around in her head.
As the game goes on, the player witnesses the girl’s father take her to a church. She is surrounded by priests and bishops as a large, gray building rises from the ground. Six people are trapped in the building, and the player unknowingly lights the building on fire when they click around the windows. The player can then zoom in on each dying person’s face. The game abruptly ends after this moment, so I was a bit confused at first.
After the game ends, there is an option to click on a textbook. If the player reads the text, it reveals the story behind the game. Christian Shaw was a real girl in Scotland in 1696, and she is one of the most famous documented cases of “posession” out there. At the age of 11, she began to show strange symptoms such as vomiting straw and eggshells, going into a trance-like state, acquiring seemingly random injuries, contortions, and sunken eyes. Three men and three women in her town were arrested and accused of witchcraft during this case. They were accused of casting a demon into Christian. They were all put to death (hence the people in the burning building). Though the case is largely disputed today, it must have been pretty terrifying back in the 1600s.
I found this work to be very interesting because of its format. Though there is no text until the end, the point-and-click mechanic allows the reader to make the same discoveries and draw the same conclusions that they would if they were reading. Perhaps, I would argue, the interface used to tell the story adds more to it than just plain text. The disturbing images and light music in the background add an atmosphere that conveys everything it must without the use of words. The player of this work, then, can fully immerse themselves in the puzzle of finding where to go next to advance in the story rather than reading a linear description of the historical event.
If you are interested in playing through this brilliant little game, you can find the link here.