Earlier this semester, karmakona wrote about the similarities between Andy Campbell’s The Flat and Poe’s Telltale Heart. The themes she brought up were interesting, but I also thought about how The Flat functions as a game.
With the addition of the visual interface and interactivity, The Flat gains a more game like quality. The text on its own is interesting enough, but the spooky atmosphere – with creaks and moans and the occasional ghost – amps it up a notch. Given a countdown of two minutes, ten seconds, when The Flat starts, the player feel a sense of urgency to finish.
The problem with looking at The Flat as a game instead of a piece of literature is that you feel compelled to find a way to win. Once your time is up and the ending has played out, you are prompted to Re-enter the Flat, giving a sense of hope that you could do something differently, find something new, and get a different ending.
After playing it for the first time, I wondered if there was a way I could avoid the ghostly ending, if there was a ‘good’ ending. As far as I can tell, there isn’t. No matter what you do, you cannot win and avoid the specter at the end. But this drive to win can remove appreciation of the text. Instead of reading though the text, the player may feel compelled to finish the game as fast as they can, rushing through the flat in the two minutes allotted to them. The fact that the text is sometimes cut off depending on where the player focuses the camera leads to less notice of the text as well. On the other hand, there is a possibility to discover more of the text each time. The drive to win could lead to further, deeper exploration of the Flat, trying to find anything new that they can. I personally found myself in strange mix of the two. I wanted to get through the rooms as quickly as I could, but I also found myself discovering new things to click and read.
As a game, The Flat isn’t very satisfying; you always lose. As a piece of fiction, it’s haunting and compelling, with more being discovered upon each play-through.
Go and experience The Flat here, best played with headphones in and in a dim room. (Or right before bed at 1am like I did. Whoops.)