“Three portals have opened to uncharted worlds. Earth has sent a team of explorers to investigate them, but after an accident, you are the sole survivor. Your mission remains the same: survey these worlds and write the only accounts of them that outsiders will ever know.”
Interactive narratives (video games) are a source of endless fascination for me, as they are a unique approach to narrative that requires interaction between the work and the interactor (the player) to create the story. Films and television shows will play out whether someone is watching or not; music does the same. Novels (both graphic and text) do require some interaction from the reader, as books do not read themselves, but that interaction is limited to the reader allowing the story to progress via page turning. Games, however, allow the player influence over the narrative to one degree or another. Even the simple act of pressing up on a thumbstick to make a player character walk across a room creates a story- a short story that is not terribly interesting but a story nonetheless.
The upcoming Elegy for a Dead World, by studio Dejboaan Games, will allow players a still greater degree of control, as they are tasked with writing the stories of deceased civilizations. The best part: these civilizations are based on three poems from three Romantic Poets: Percy Byshe Shelley (Ozymandias), John Keats (When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be), and Lord Gordon Byron (Darkness). The poetry from the Romantic period is perfect for the creation of worlds, as the events that informed it led the writers to recede into their own minds to both explore and hide from the dark turn that humanity had taken (expect a “What am I talking about?” article in the near future).
“This is a game about writing” promises the above video. The main player-game interaction will be done through engaging with writing prompts and traveling to the writing prompts. Traversal will be simple (don’t expect platforming) because the focus is on taking in the worlds and writing their stories. This game is an exercise in creativity. Writing prompts will begin an idea or thought and the player is left to finish them. Through completing these prompts the player will flesh out the history of these worlds and themselves.
This leads to what I find to be the most interesting aspect of the game. Indirect roleplaying. All stories are filtered through the teller. In telling the stories of these worlds the players will be telling about themselves or a character they create in their mind. Every observation and subsequent records will tell people about the worlds but also make them ask. Why did this person focus on that? How do they come to their conclusions? Who are the people telling these stories?
As a writer, roleplayer, and occasional studier of romantic peotry I am looking forward to this game, which comes out early next year. I emailed Dejobaan to ask if they will add more worlds after the game’s launch and they said, “if there’s enough demand/support for more worlds, then absolutely.” Personally, I would like to see William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge get worlds of their own. Both Tintern Abbey and Lines Composed Upon Westminster Bridge are thematically strong poems for a Wordsworth world, and Kubla Khan would be perfect for a Coleridge world.
I will keep my eyes on this game and I recommend you do the same. So, what stories would you like to write and what worlds would you like to see?