For information on this project, be sure to check my post, In search of narrative, character, and empathy.
Certain things become clear when playing A Mind Forever Voyaging:
- Text adventures are hard work. Hard work can engage and reward the player. Hard work can also occasionally feel like drudgery.
- When writing is *everything* in a game, it's more likely to be interesting, and in this case, powerful and compelling writing.
- Steve "Nostradamus" Meretzky is a frighteningly prescient storyteller.
- Games that force us to use our imaginations speak to us in ways modern games rarely access.
- Cartography is best left to professionals.
I'm roughly halfway through the game. To say that A Mind Forever Voyaging has me in its spell would be an understatement. I took a nap today and dreamed I was in Dr. Perelman's office waiting for him to return with a mission for me. I'm an avid gamer, but I can't recall ever dragging one into REM with me.
I attribute this odd experience to the single most important aspect of AMFV: it thoroughly engages me intellectually, far more than any modern game I can think of. I simply can't stop thinking about it.
Without revealing any spoilers, I will say that AMFV seamlessly weaves into its futuristic narrative a dizzying array of contemporary issues--religious extremism, border security, terrorism, fundamentalism, executive branch expansion of power, and many others--all addressed by a game created over 20 years ago. It is frequently rather chilling, and I find myself repeatedly marveling at the many ways this narrative--a self-conscious rendering of a future America--paints an unsettlingly accurate picture of today.
Like most text adventures, AMFV makes you work harder than you're accustomed to in a game, and that effort is a double-edged sword. Your investment certainly draws you into the game and makes you feel as if you have a stake in it, but all that work can also feel overwhelming at times. Taking notes, drawing detailed maps, and tracking your various operational modes (you're a sentient computer) can begin to feel tiresome, particularly after you've been at it a while. I'm finding that a 2-hour session is all I can manage without a break, but with a baby in the house that's about all I get anyway! :-)
The question of empathy is still up in the air for me. AMFV absolutely clicks as a story, and the evolution of PRISM's (i.e. my) knowledge of the world and relationship with Dr. Pereleman continue to make me feel very attached to the game and eager to track its unfolding events. But I believe designer Meretzky also wants me to care about the several bleak futures presented by the game...and I'm not quite there yet. Can a computer experience pathos? If a computer is my avatar, will I experience an empathetic disconnect from the other human characters and events? So far my engagement has been intellectually vigorous but emotionally a bit torpid. That could easily change, however.
Tomorrow I hope to finish A Mind Forever Voyaging and conclude this mini-diary. More soon.
If you're reading these posts and want to know more about the history of interactive fiction, I recommend Nick Montfort's book "Twisty Little Passages," which you can find in my "bookshelf" on the left side of this page.