Monday, 5 January 2015

"Modernism", 1993.

Well now, in my introductory post to this blog I said that while posting spoilery game captures I might as well leak the transcript to the Modernism text adventure game -- ignoring the fact that I already did, um, 15 years ago. But hey, where is content more likely to languish in obscurity, unread -- on Blogger or on Everything2? (Trick question: the correct answer is... on LiveJournal!)

The basic gimmick at play here is that a lauded game developer has made two interactive fiction scenarios superficially inspired by, if not necessarily derived from, existentialist works No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre and Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. If you can make a worst-case scenario interpretation of both works' titles, you know what to expect. Still, there's a kick from enjoying a joke by interacting with it rather than simply receiving it -- probably the formal hook that has contributed to the eternal appeal of the "knock knock" joke.

   Welcome to Modernism.

This mailware game enables you to experience all the frustration and boredom of modernist drama, without leaving your computer.

Modernism
A Text-Adventure MailWare Game
by Jacob Weinstein
based on the works of Samuel Becket and Jean-Paul Sartre

Copyright (c) 1993 by Jacob Weinstein. All Rights Reserved.

Although choice is an illusion, your options are:
   1) See the legal details of MailWare
   2) Play “Waiting for Godot”
   3) Play “No Exit”
   4) Quit

Enter 1, 2, 3, or 4:  3
If you become bored with this setting, and would like an opportunity to revise your decision, type “restart.”  Unfortunately, this option is not available in real life.

A Barren Room
   You are in an room which you recognize as Hell. Strangely, even your fellow sufferers seem absent.

> i
You are empty-handed.

> n
There is no exit.

> s
There is no exit.

> e
There is no exit.

> w
There is no exit.

> u
There is no exit.

> d
There is no exit.

> in
There is no exit.

> out
There is no exit.

> score
You have not gotten any points. This makes you wonder if you are dead.

> xyzzy
The word “xyzzy” is a meaningless construction that refers only to other words.

> about
By leaving the verb out of that sentence, I assume you are making a statement on the impossibility of action. Bravo.

> restart

Enter 1, 2, 3, or 4:  

A Vast Plain
   You are on a vast, featureless plain.

> i
You are empty-handed.

> l
A Vast Plain
   You are on a vast, featureless plain.

A large, hearty man appears, tugging a thin, sickly man at the end of a rope. “I am Pozzo,” the large man proclaims. Then he leaves you.

> w
Ditch
   You are standing in a muddy ditch.

> n
A Vast Plain
   You are on a vast, featureless plain.

> e
A Barren Wasteland
   You are in a place without hope.
   You see a leafless tree here.

> x tree
The barrenness of the leafless tree serves only to heighten the emptiness of your surroundings.

> wait
Time passes...

> wait
Time passes...

> wait
Time passes...

Lucky and Pozzo pass by you, moving swiftly. Within moments, they have vanished into the horizon.

> wait
Time passes...

Nothing happens.

> wait
Time passes...

You are seized with a certainty that Godot will be here at any moment.

> wait
Time passes...

A small boy appears. “Go east twice, and west once, and Godot will meet you there,” he instructs you. He leaves as suddenly as he came.

> e
You do not move.

> e
You do not move.

> w
You do not move.

A small boy appears. “Godot cannot come tonight,” he says apologetically, “but he will be here tomorrow.”  He leaves as crypticly as he appeared.

> wait
Time passes...

You think for a moment you spy Godot, but it is only a trick of the fading light. There is no one there.

>help
The word "help" is a meaningless construction that refers only to other words.

>quit
You have not gotten any points. This makes you a Christ symbol.

Do you really want to quit? (YES or NO) > no

Okay.

>quit
You have not gotten any points. This makes you without hope.

Do you really want to quit? (YES or NO) > n
Okay.

>quit
You have not gotten any points. This makes you baffled.

Do you really want to quit? (YES or NO) > n

Okay.

>quit
You have not gotten any points. This makes you impressed by the intellectual superiority of the author.

Do you really want to quit? (YES or NO) > n

Okay.

>quit
You have not gotten any points. This makes you question the existence of God.

Do you really want to quit? (YES or NO) > n

Okay.

>quit
You have not gotten any points. This makes you aware of the meaningless of life.

Do you really want to quit? (YES or NO) > yes

(The game has ended.)
A bit long-winded, perhaps, in terms of the bang for your buck, but as far as parodies of existentialist literature go in gaming, they remain near the top of the heap. Believe it or not, this is not the only time "Waiting For Godot" has been the subject of a video game adaptation:

Perhaps because being featured on YouTube thrusts one to more prominence than does releasing a TADS datafile that requires the download of an interpreter in order to run the program, while Jacob Weinstein got off scot-free, the author of the more recent adaptation featured above was served with a cease and desist notice from attorneys representing the estate of Samuel Beckett, resulting in a series of absurd name changes. Strange but true!

How curious that Waiting for Godot, a narrative in which nothing happens (twice!) has been adapted into two video games, while the similarly action-packed My Dinner With Andre remains untapped. (Though I suppose that if you want that kind of thrilling conversation-tree action, there is no lack of visual novels to fulfil your requirements.)

Modernism was a little impish digression for the author between two relatively substantial and well-regarded works, the 1991 game Save Princeton and 1995's Looney Toons homage Toonesia, which placed 2nd in the 1st annual IF Comp's TADS category -- back when different authoring systems competed separately -- difficult to envision TADS and Inform being segregated when works made with ChoiceScript, StoryNexus and Twine are now integrated into the main thrust of the competition! (Trivia: the top-placing entries in that initial IF Comp were included in Activision's Infocom omnibus CD-ROM "Classic Text Adventure Masterpieces".)

...

Exciting news from the site's launch!

Who do I know in Malta? Oh yes -- hello, Pippin Barr! Glad to see you enjoyed my little bit on your Let's Play: Ancient Greek Punishment! Keep up the good work! (It's just so neat when you can look at anomalous data in a site stats page and be able to peg it down to one unique individual on a planet filled with anonymous surfers.)