Electronic Literature is a genre that is taking the world by storm. In a field as creative and nuanced as the multidimensional world of Electronic Lit, it gets difficult to draw the lines regarding what is art, what is literature, what is genre, what is anything, etc, etc. So why draw them? Many writers and creators of new forms of literature ask exactly that question in regard to nearly all aspects of their craft. As a declared “newbie” to the field, I took flight to the idea of playing a game while reading a story while reading a poem.
Created by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, “Icarus Needs:” is a hyper-comic adventure game starring Icarus Creeps advertised as a “5 minute game”. As you bumble around the interiors of the panels your whereabouts and mission soon become clear. You come to find that you’ve fallen asleep playing video games and have now become trapped inside some sort of alternate, surreal, video game-comic-book universe and must find a way to save your girlfriend Kit and escape back to reality.
As the narrative opens the player is told to use the arrow keys to move up, down, left, and right, as well as to walk over objects in order to pick them up to use. The player is given a location, and two lists; one showing things in the player’s pocket and the other showing tasks yet to be performed. A lone piano offers simple notes that float across the blue, somber tiles.
In addition to these aspects of the presentation, the player is quickly introduced to a narrative speaker who continues to address and converse with your character throughout the duration of the game regarding various landscape changes and items that you encounter. On occasion the seemingly simple conversation may turn towards the meta, as Icarus and the disembodied narrator interact with one another. As the scene changes the color schemes and music swiftly follow suit, giving each “area” a distinct presence. These aspects of the game give the experience a very minimalist effect, despite the seemingly extravagant and colorful display. Upon wandering around from panel to panel to panel looking for a wrench I felt strangely as if I were playing a text entry type game, despite the picture being clearly depicted before me.
As you travel from scene to scene, solving puzzles and speaking briefly with your missing love over giant phones, finding missing crowns for squirrel kings and wandering sewers looking for anything you begin to realize that the bets are off. The entire time you’ve been invested in even the simplest aspect of this story, you’ve been writing your own and manipulating the one presented to you. Upon playing the game over and over again, finding barriers between actions I hadn’t yet discovered or noticed, I found more and more delight in the simplicity of the strangeness. Upon reaching the end you aren’t sure you want it to be over, so you click restart and the story begins.
Throughout the wide worlds of electronic literature, interactive fiction, and the like, many bases have been touched in the pursuit of new ground within genre. Authors and computers alike have traversed many boundaries of writing and style as well as form and presentation through their workings together and, in some cases, apart. Poems can now write themselves, stories can hold a hundred pathways through them all yielding different endings, and because of this mass “re-culturing”, if you will, nearly every form of art/media/literature/ has been given new life and ability. Enter “Icarus Needs”, an inventive work of interactive fiction and artistry that combines the building of a story, with the construction of a comic strip.
Play “Icarus Needs:” here!
To check out other work by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, visit his website!