My own e-lit project — my final blog

I’ll admit straight away to my own mistake; I have a habit of being too ambitious about my own projects. This might not seem like such a big issue on the face of it, but a huge drawback from this is that your project never lives up to your expectations — and unfortunately you start feeling inadequate about the worthy of your work, and in some cases even about your own abilities as well. At one point, I had to tell myself that I need to make some cuts to my e-lit in hopes of ever churning out anything resembling a final product — and I did, and I’ve come to think that it was for the better.

For some time, during my research for the right medium to use, I looked at “Quing’s Quest VII” for inspiration and guidance, at least as far as it could teach me something about hypertext. Some parts of the piece proved useful in the process of planning, but I looked elsewhere as well. I chose to do my class presentation on “Inanimate Alice”, a point and click adventure that tells the story of a young girl growing up on the road as her parents work forces her to move in-between different town throughout her life. Inanimate Alice depicts a more serious tone than Quing’s Quest VII, and while Inanimate Alice is not not a hypertext, it still conveys an interesting feel through the combination of eerie music, pictures with distorted effects and shot in awkward angles, and the sense of something being wrong or amiss — usually this turns out to not be the case and everything in the piece works out for the best despite the false impressions earlier on.

I chose Inklewriter for the appropriate medium to present my project. I already knew quite early on throughout our lectures that I wanted to make a hypertext fiction as the medium speaks to my nostalgia for early video games. I think, as far as hypertext fiction goes, that Inklewriter offers some interesting options for an interactive fiction. The “if”-system, or more commonly considered as a “condition”-system, allows you to manage exactly just how much information and options your reader is granted based on what they’ve already read of the piece. The if-system works like this; you pick a paragraph within your story that relates to something of your own choosing, you attach a marker to that paragraph, and once the reader reaches the paragraph with the attached marker, it signals for the Inklewriter text to allow the reader to view the paragraph further down the line that is connected to the marked paragraph.

This sort of customization allows for quite the intricate design, as you are able to decide exactly how you want your reader to go about exploring your work. In my project for instance, the Lord of Light, I’ve purposefully designed the condition system to prevent the reader for having free access to all of the available information until he or she stops by certain parts of the story. The idea is that the reader isn’t necessarily supposed to know who “character A” is, and only once they’ve read a passage about “character A” will the pathway to learning everything one could want to know about “character A” open up to them. This is a simplistic design at its face value, but once you’ve passed the 8000 wordcount it becomes quite complicated and convoluted — which is exactly what I aimed to create. And I had a lot of fun with creating my final project for electronic literature.

The story of the Lord of Light went through a few revisions. It started out as your basic fantasy based political warfare between different noble families. The aim of the text was for the reader to eventually be part of the voting component of the text where you cast your vote for who your choice of the next ruling family of the fantasy kingdom. It was a neat idea, and I still think I might go through with developing that project following the conclusion of this course. But the final result of the Lord of Light was something quite different. The Lord of Light morphed into a blend between a ‘choose your own adventure’ and a detective fiction. The plot weighed more in the direction of finding and discovering clues regarding the overarching plot and history of the fantasy world, as compared to the previous idea of creating a conflict between different monarchs that solely focuses on the reader’s own morales and values to decide the eventual king. All in all, I’ve created something very different form what I started out trying to create, yet it still resembles the original design idea enough that I didn’t have to switch from Inklewriter to somethign else.

Who owns my games?

One of my favorite games of all time is the puzzle game Peggle. After being introduced to it in 2008, I have played countless times on multiple platforms, including PC, Android, iOS and X-Box (my favorite platform to play Peggle on). Recently, while trying to think of a new game to download to my Android phone, I felt like playing Peggle again. I bought the game for Android years ago, but I was disappointed to find that it was no longer available on Google Play Store. As it turns out, PopCap, the company behind Peggle, retired the game in August. In stead, a new version of Peggle – Peggle Blast – can be downloaded for free. But the thing is: as much as I love Pegge, I hate Peggle Blast. It’s a for-mobile-only, freemium game with lots of in-app purchases and bad gameplay. So, no Peggle for me…

Peggle is an awesome game!

This experience did make me think, though. While Peggle Blast is free, the original Peggle game was not. I paid good money for that game. And I bought the game knowing that I would be able to download and play it on any future Android phone. I don’t know why it’s not available anymore (though, I bet it has something to do with getting people to play the freemium game instead), but it doesn’t feel right. If PopCap doesn’t want people to be able to buy Peggle anymore, that’s fine. But I had already bought it. A transaction was made. I had one more game than before I bought it, and not as much money. I bought it! The game was mine! Wasn’t it?

I’m not sure anymore about who owns my games. Did I pay for Peggle, or did I just pay for the right to play Peggle. And it’s not just Peggle, or mobile games – It’s the whole gaming industry. Most of my X-Box games are located in the cloud. What happens when someone decides to turn that cloud off? And the games I do buy in a real-life, physical store, and I have a physical copy of, can’t be played without having to download a huge update.

The times when I could just buy a game and play it right away is over. Whether a game is bought online or as a physical copy, my feeling of ownership of the games I buy is not as certain as it should be. Most games need to have an internet connection (at least the first time playing it), even if it’s a single-player game. Most games need to be downloaded, even when owning a physical copy. And the games get updated constantly, feel incomplete without purchasing extra downloadable content, and, as was the case with Peggle, can disappear from existence.

There are many technological reasons for why games are changing. The level of internet access allows for games to be larger than what could be fitted on a game disc, as well as a constant string of updates and bug fixes. This of course isn’t all that negative. But financial incentives and the success of mobile gaming are encouraging game developers to create free games with ads, in-game purchases and episodic content, in stead of creating finished quality games for gamers to buy. And it’s partly our own fault. We’ve become so accustomed to things being free that we don’t want to buy even small, cheap mobile games. And the developers see that – and respond to it. So for the future of gaming, I hope people get tired of the freemium gaming model. I want my games back!