King of Bees In Fantasy Land

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King Of Bees In Fantasy Land is a short, yet interesting piece of Hypertext fiction.  In it The reader controls the decisions of the Space Knight, who has the goal of eliminating the Bee King on the planet of Garaxas so that humans, who are fleeing a dying earth, can settle onto and colonize the planet.

What is interesting here is that at almost every opportunity when the player interacts with a bee, the bee is friendly and non-threatening, yet the player has the option of killing the bees at almost every interaction. The bees are often very helpful to the player, offering various hints and advice for the making the way to the King Bee.  When the player takes the opportunity to attack a bee, they immediately destroy it with out a fight being out up. It really plays off the violence trope that seems to dominate games, particularly the action/adventure genres. By giving the enemy that the player has been told is “evil” and “dangerous” personalities that make them very kind and non-threatening, we can see how ridiculous the trope is, as it takes for granted that every foreign thing that one would encounter in an adventure games would be hostile towards the player. This is especially true if the player has been told that said foreign creature is hostile.

The game is pretty funny at parts and shows the character's innate biases.

The game is pretty funny at parts and shows the character’s innate biases.

This theme stays all the way to the end of the game and though there are at least a couple endings, there is no “correct” ending. Or it could be said that they are actually both “correct,” as the endings are presented as if they were always the preferred ending. It is interesting because this game gives the player the opportunity to question the given knowledge, and there is no punishment or reward for doing so. It just gives the option, and that is all.


  7 comments for “King of Bees In Fantasy Land

  1. mstough
    April 14, 2014 at 12:11 am

    I know earlier in the semester we talked about how many games teach the player to kill anything that is foreign as it may be dangerous or lethal, which ultimately teaches us the practice of genocide. I think it’s very interesting that this game challenges this fundamental expectation of conflict, especially with an insect many fear or have been taught to kill. I also wonder if this focus on the bees not being a negative thing has to do with the recent concern of the consequences of bees going extinct.

    • Cameron Hodge
      April 14, 2014 at 8:09 am

      Regardless of intent, there’s certainly an interpretation one could make regarding the extinction of bees. The elements of the game would seem to fit well, with an evident inborn desire to kill that which is different or perceived as threatening. One could argue the game lays the blame at the feet of pesticides, chemical pollution or other human behaviors.

      I think it would be more interesting as a commentary on xenophobia, however. As silly as it is and even making the claim of xenophobia as subject-matter, it’s pretty tough to empathize with a king of bees. One could argue that a basic inability for the reader to see the game as such might work in the messages’ favor–albeit making it a message that wouldn’t be received.

  2. Dylan Tibert
    April 14, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    As someone who has a learned reflex to defy what I believe is expected of me when I am given the opportunity in a game or branching narrative, I found the consistent reward for doing so in this game to be absolutely delightful. After keeping my crew waiting for an unreasonable amount of time at the start of the game in order to see how far I could take it, further encouraged by the chuckle-worthy textual responses the game rewarded me with, I began to talk to be bees with no intention of terminating them, and was further delighted to find dialogue options where I was not even asking questions that pertained to the mission, where I was given the choice to simply “talk sand” with the sweeping bee. I was having such fun, and I couldn’t help but reflect on how much less enjoyable my experience would have been if I simply blasted the bees. The degree to which the game’s instructions flaunted its bias towards violent resolution was hilarious in both its witty writing and the absurdity of realizing that assumptions like that are common in so many storytelling forms, games especially. The reward for subverting your imperative mission, to constantly look for the omnipresent pacifist and diplomatic solutions even when it was buried under columns upon columns of violent commands, created a completely different (and arguably more interesting game) for those who didn’t just take the instructions for granted. This game was a hoot, holy shit.

  3. nbemis
    April 14, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    I think that a lot of the humor of this piece comes from its self-awareness of video game convention. The terrible grammar of the game before the treaty signing scene are a humorous throwback to a time of horribly-shoddy, “all your base are belong to us”-style translations. Just happening to have a pair of “muck-resist” boots on your person, being able to refill a non-existent stamina gauge by resting, and shooting cans in order to level up your “gun skill” were other well-thought-out jabs at the little things which take a player out of the immersive experience of a video game, and remind them that after all, they are just playing a game.

    The experience of the treaty signing scene is pretty amazing because after going through a pixelated, crude-looking world, the character is suddenly able to see everything in the way it would be rendered on a modern word processor. The abandonment of the simplistic, colorful world of the typical video game and its promise of adventure at the cost of innocent digital lives is abandoned for the stark reality that if this adventure were actually happening, the player would be responsible for killing or sparing innocent sentient organisms.

  4. karmakona
    April 14, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    I agree with the previous comments in remembering our class discussion about this ultimate lesson in genocide. I believe that the contrast between the clear and repeated command to kill the king bee, and the aforementioned kind and helpful behavior of the bees in the game, is meant to jolt the player’s decision-making process, and re-think the point of the game. It could be commentary on the way humans in history blindly follow orders to exterminate a group with no prior knowledge of their wrong-doings, and with no apparent reason for doing so. (I am not arguing that there is ever a good reason to kill a living creature, but simply that one would be less inclined to do so if the target was friendly and not aggressive).

  5. star
    April 16, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Killing the bees was not gratifying. I enjoyed talking with the bees more than I did trying to complete the mission. I think it is interesting that they chose the setting of the dessert. So much current misunderstanding and conflict is occurring in places that have a similar landscape. Perhaps this is a critique on western (U.S.) foreign policy and reasons for war. In the game I definitely questioned the purpose of the mission and the lack of information the game gave about the reason for attacking the bees prompted me to be suspicious of the options the game gave me. Maybe I am desensitized but I didn’t think the description of the violence was very graphic. This game has no sound and just enough description to get you through the game. Maybe this is done to created the effect of blind following of orders.

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