Journal #4 – ENGL 335

feb 04/18 • [quests and game play]

When I was still in elementary school, I used to spend a lot of weekday afternoons in my grandmother’s basement, playing flash games on sites like newgrounds.com. So when it came time to play Donna Leishman’s Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw and Jason Nelson’s various digital oddities, I felt I was returning to somewhat familiar territory. Yet, as I played, I wondered how my experience would compare to the majority of people who encounter these works.

Deviant doesn’t give the player any instructions. I started methodically hovering my cursor over objects on screen, waiting for the arrow to change to a pointer and indicate I could click on something. The story is conveyed almost entirely through the visuals. If you’ve ever played a point-and-click puzzle game like The Visitoryou’ll notice the similarities, though Deviant‘s story requires more interpretation to understand.

Of Kevin Nelson’s work, I really enjoyed i made this. you play this. we are enemies. The disclaimer on the title page, “stop trying to ‘get it'” was a liberating message to put up front. It played like a typical platformer, though the rough, hand-drawn illustration style sometimes made it difficult to discern which pieces of a platform were solid, or which objects would harm you. That said, I really enjoy the art style. Nelson has taken familiar pages on the internet and scribbled all over them, annotating and doodling the way you could on a notebook (albeit with the ability to include animation and videos as well). The busyness of the style, and the unclear rules about which things are “good” and “bad” might be off-putting to some, but I also think they’re the things that encourage exploration. There is so much to look at and read, and sometimes the only way to learn how to get through the level is to do it the wrong way and learn from your mistakes.

My major questions after this week are whether digital literature involving gameplay is a) more accessible than other forms of digital literature and/or b) likely to become more accessible to the general public as the popularity of video games increases. And further, how do projects like the ones we looked at this week factor into the conversation about whether video games are “art”?

Resources:

Donna Leishman, Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw (2004)

Jason Nelson, Digital Oddities and Creatures:  “game, game, game and again game” (2008), “i made this. you play this. we are enemies (2010)

The Visitor (flash game)

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