I think what I like most about electronic literature and text-based games is that they share a certain existential quality I have always admired about books – they don’t really exists unless we’re reading them. Sure, a book as an object can sit on your shelf, but it’s like the proverbial tree in the woods – if I don’t open the book, how do I know there are even words there? Do the characters exist when I’m not reading about them? Of course not. They’re not out doing things that I can’t see and when I come back to the book I’m not confused because a bunch of time has passed.
That is a comforting thought to me as I frustratingly fight my way through text adventure games and sessions with ELIZA and Galatea. If I leave this webpage – they will shut up and my frustration ends. Phew.
I made the most progress in a game called 9:05, in which you, as the main character, wake to realize that it is already 9:05 am and you have a meeting at 9:00. The gameplay for 9:05 made the most sense of any that I have played. The commands were far more logical than those for Adventure or Zork and it is much harder to get lost. Also, 9:05 tells you almost every time you make a move what is around you, so there is less need to start drawing maps and having panic attacks. Ten points to Gryffindor.
I still got stuck trying to get on the highway. Good thing I didn’t make a video blog entry, or it would be rated mature for language.
As mad as I am driven by my inability to think far enough outside the box to enter a cave or make it to work on time, I still greatly prefer the games to the hypertext poetry. I appreciate that each time I click a word, the next few lines of prose form cohesive sentences, I still feel as though this is merely an experiment in coding, not poetry. It is (surprisingly) in the hypertext that I find the greatest gap between elit and “traditional” literature. At least some of the games and interfaces give interesting details that form stories. I don’t read books that I want to end, so I don’t like to read hypertext that I just have to get through.
I definitely think that elit and hypertext leave a lot to be desired, but perhaps as I delve even further into the internet I’ll find some that don’t make me want to blindly click hyperlinks until I’ve reached the end of the poem. To their credit, now that I’ve started playing some text adventure games, I feel ridiculously compelled to win at least one for my own satisfaction, not just for homework.