A little over a year ago I became interested with interactive fiction, books or video games that are stories the player creates or manipulates. As a kid I loved reading Choose Your Own Adventure books, so much so that I asked my first grade teacher if I could create one for a writing project. She said no. Recently I discovered that interactive fiction was still alive and kicking, which inspired me to play around with various programs in the hope of developing a game of my own. My best attempt at creating a Zork-like game unexpectedly turned into an as-of-yet unpublished novella called Nimossany. The main reason why I’ve been so resistant to publish is because of the story’s perspective. Second-person present tense is a difficult to write, and equally difficult to read. If the author can’t convince the reader that the “you” in the story is actually them, then the reader will be lost and bored. For a long time I considered changing Nimossany‘s perspective to something more typical of prose fiction. However, three well-written works have convinced me that sticking with second-person is the right move. The three modern games that I feel have influenced my decision are Depression Quest, Gone Home, and Dear Esther. Each of the games make use of different storytelling styles to convey some very difficult, hard to digest themes, and present them in a way that makes game play engaging and personal.
There is a game on my PC I can’t avoid playing. It’s one of those things I know I shouldn’t keep wasting time on, but I do anyway. I’ll never beat it, and playing it usually leaves me frustrated rather than content. I asked myself why I keep playing Wolfire’s Receiver, and this is what I discovered.
Imagine waking in an endless building complex filled to the brim with deadly robots. Sure, you have a gun, but do you know how to use it? Do you have ammunition? Is the safety still on? Normally a gun in a video game is simple; you press one button to reload, and another to make things in front of you stop living. I’ve played many first-person shooters where players can sprint while reloading a light machine gun, then score multiple head shots after leaping off of a cliff. Receiver does a very good job of showing how ridiculous that would be in real life. The game was created as part of a 7-day challenge, and has a lot of rough edges compared to other shooters. Because of this I’m hesitant to even call it a game. It’s more of a gun simulator that’s been wrapped into a game prototype. Every part on the game’s three firearms is simulated, and must be manipulated by individual keyboard keys. In order to prepare the M1911 for firing you have to eject the magazine, holster the weapon, slide bullets in one at a time, unholster the weapon, slide the magazine back into the gun, take the safety off, slide the top slide back, and aim the weapon. Was there a bullet already in the chamber? Well, now it’s on the floor. Learning how to reload is a chore, ammunition is sparse, navigating the rooms is uncomfortably suspenseful, and the enemies’ attacks are always lethal. Why would anyone willingly submit to such a difficult time sink? Because it’s awesome!