Please Pass The Milk Please

Please Pass The Milk Please is a short, amusing interactive fiction game. It was inspired by They  Might Be Giants song of the same title. The entire song only lasts for ten seconds, and to my understanding is part of a larger “song” that is made up of numerous short snippets, all of which also have corresponding games. I haven’t really listened to They Might Be Giants before, so I was a little baffled by the short song, but I think the interactive fiction game it inspired plays with the idea of brevity really well.

I thought it was really interesting to see the piece as a response to the song, as it mimicked certain qualities of being short and quirky, while also elaborating on the premise of passing the milk. The piece provides a context for the  song: you’re sitting at the table across from your brother, Sam. On the table are a few objects: milk, obviously, two cups, and a plate of  69,105 brownies. I’m not joking, count ’em. Because the game is minimalist like the song, it challenges the player to be creative with what they do. Once you finish the game once, it gives you the option to see the different endings, or receive a hint on the different amusing things you could do. There are multiple endings to the game, most of which are not exactly happy.

When I first played the game, I felt compelled to explore my surroundings, as that’s what you normally do in IF games. However, since there wasn’t much to look at, I eventually had to face passing the milk. At first, I didn’t even think to type out the phrase “pass the milk,” and opted for the usual “take.” This resulted in my brother almost crying. pptm2Once I figured out that I could pass the milk, I realized how short the game really could be. Once it started you could just pass the milk, and it’s over. I’m not sure if other people’s first thought was to try passing the milk, but I thought it was interesting how my previous experiences with IF led me away from that simple and kind of obvious answer. Of course, finding that appropriate ending was only one aspect of the game. It has numerous different endings that happen when you interact with different objects in the room. This elaboration made for an interesting and amusing piece.


  6 comments for “Please Pass The Milk Please

  1. egajeton
    March 16, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    I found this piece amusing too because of the questions I have about it despite it being very short. After playing around with it, I think the ultimate goal was to somehow get a cup of milk to Sam. However, when I typed “look under the milk,” it revealed that the expiration date was March 24, 1992. That makes me wonder why the milk was there in the first place, and why Sam grins after he takes a big gulp of it because of the characteristics we are told (it seems he cries easily; even when I typed: “throw milk at Sam,” it responded: “Sam is too startled to cry”; why would he smile after drinking spoiled milk?). He isn’t too young because he’s able to catch a brownie if you throw it at him and throw it right back, so it makes me wonder if it’s a continuity issue. Otherwise I’m enjoying this piece’s dry tone (“run with scissors”; “The last thing your need right now is a trip to the hospital. Also you don’t have any scissors”; “you did not pass the milk”) as I continue to try to achieve all 12 different possible endings.

  2. mstange
    March 16, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    This is defiantly one of my favorite pieces I’ve read for this class. It’s simplicity and short length really shines in the medium of IF. Normally, if this were just a normal text, as opposed to to hyper text. You would just give the milk to Sam and that would be it. But in IF this suddenly becomes a slightly more open and longer piece. Where it is very easy to win to the point you have to go out of the way to lose. You can still lose, however, and that is where all the fun and interesting parts of this seem to be.

  3. Mary
    March 17, 2014 at 11:25 am

    When you said this piece is short, I had no idea it could be finished in one line. I played through it several times and I really like this piece. It could actually be one of my favorite ones that I’ve done. How simple the “quest” is really makes it stand out from other interactive fictions. Another thing I really like about it is how there are several different endings and not many of them are happy. For instance: if you type in “take brownies” Sam essentially throws a hissy fit and throws everything on the ground. One of the most fun parts is examining everything you can more than once and seeing how both the platform and Sam react.

  4. Bekka
    March 17, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    I like that this piece and be finished in one line by simply typing ‘pass the milk’ – it’s a nice turn on the usually extensive interactive fiction genre. With many other interactive fiction games I’ve played, I’ve found myself becoming exhausted by the end. That’s clearly not a problem here.
    I also enjoy the fact that you’re encouraged to find weird/amusing things to do aside from passing the milk. Very fun to mess around with!

  5. Dylan Tibert
    March 24, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    I feel like I shouldn’t talk about paratext so much, but I think one of the most interesting ideas this short performative piece pokes at is our relationship with the titles of the pieces we read. More often than not, titles are chosen (along with other paratexual information) to superficially inform the reader on what they’re in for or possibly tease a connection that will become later after/during the reading of the text. Titles can range from ambiguous and cryptic to literal and straightforward, but regardless of how literal the title might be the common impulse is to go into the text operating on the assumption that the title does not exclusively contain context necessary for understanding of the text, or in this case getting the good(?) ending of the game. While there are context clues within Please Pass the Milk Please that Sam wants the milk, it is not often that the title of a book can be read as a literal part of the text- in this case a bit of context-rich conversation that occured before the body of the text described your surroundings. I love it when a piece messes with the otherwise unchallenged assumptions that the reader might want to make, and I think this re-appropriation of paratext was an interesting example of that.

  6. karmakona
    March 24, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Dylan’s comment reminded me of a game that we played earlier in the semester entitled “Everybody Dies” where nobody, in fact, dies. Instances like this, and the overall increase in exposure to electronic literature have made us less reliant on the title for an explanation or description. This is why our initial guess is not to pass the milk to Sam. Instead, we try other actions like looking under the milk for the old expiration date, or throwing the plate of brownies at Sam. Perhaps the brevity of the game is supposed to focus the player on the intended action. Maybe it’s as simple as showing an example of a young child, and trying to convey that being polite and sharing is the goal, and will be more rewarding than the other less hospitable options.

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