Because I Am (Still) Alive

“One way or another, the dream will come. Fight.”

(*I recommend checking out my first post on this work before delving into this one~)

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Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive is a dark, twisted, and fantastical Twine game that invites readers to become participants in the act of experiential inscription by asking readers to draw sigils on themselves as they work through the piece.  These sigils are meant to represent experiences typically invisible or intangible or hidden like “new beginnings” or “pain you can’t show” or “shame that taught the ocean everything it knows”. Of the work and its design, Porpentine states, “After playing, the reader has a tangible record of their own choices and identity beliefs in the drawings on one’s skin.”  These physical acts of personal and social inscription paired with the work’s re-imagining of abuse, loss, and trauma is meant to provide readers with new insight into the complex and often complicated and conflicting mechanics behind both. More, readers are able to make these experiences their own and engage in a kind of self-reclamation and renewal through in-scripting their lived experiences themselves on their person. In many ways, this work seems to encourage and be designed to help readers navigate the recursive nature of abuse and trauma and realize it is not something to overcome and defeat so much as cope with and manage day-by-day (a very difficult lesson to learn through any other way than experience).

 

This work, like Juliet Davis’ Pieces of Herself, affected me deeply ad personally. I found the recursive/looping interface Twine affords to provide an apt representation of the cyclical nature of trauma and abuse. It never really ends so much as loops back on itself, moving from good to bad and back again. Balance is found within making piece with the loop and learning to navigate those forward and backwards motions (“Every day is damage”). Moving forward can mean going backwards (returning to your “chambers” every night or checking on the “statues in the garden”, peeking through the telescope on the balcony to the “wastes”) and vice-versa because progress has no set direction. Progress is a process.

 

Click to view slideshow.

Narratively and word-choice-wise, I found this work also to be dead-on. Throughout the piece, our narrator (who is also you as indicated by the use of the second-person POV–“you make a diadem out of heretic bone and fleshsilk”, “you drag the glass across your skin”, “you no longer dream”, you receive a letter from the people “whose blood is your blood”, etc.) mentions losing the ability to dream as well as mentions seeing dead people wherever they go. “A dead person stares at you from beneath the lake.” “A dead person stares at you from the trees”, “a dead person stares at you from behind the hamper.” This loss of dreams seems to communicate the lasting trauma of abuse on the subconscious while seeing dead people everywhere seems meant to illustrate how trauma and abuse colour how you see the world. It’s a kind of living death, every memory another murder. You cannot forget but you also cannot move forward unless you forget. The evil, larval queen is representative of the power an abuser has over the abused, even long after the experience. That power never fades, merely manifests in different ways, requiring different things from you along the way. Accomplishing those things brings “little pride”.

When our friend, Sedina, appears, so does hope, though. Sedina’s presence seems to represent the importance of having a way to discuss or illustrate or otherwise work through/have an outlet for your trauma. There is no escape without that. Also, though, there is no escape without reclamation and reconciliation. “i’msorryforeverything”–It’s important to apologize to yourself, to be able to forgive yourself, even if it’s the last thing you want to do. You need to be able to own what happened to you in order to learn how to live through it. While “there are many ways to destroy someone”, it is important to learn that “power is wounded by anything that refuses to be destroyed by it”. Experiencing trauma, being abused–it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. The only way to beat it, though, is to live through it.

 

Click to view slideshow.

Perhaps, again, I am imposing too much of my own lived experience on a work. But, given the the invitation of this work to write how I feel all over my skin, I would say my reaction to its content is not only welcome but desired. By drawing my experience of this work out on my skin, I am connecting the content directly to myself. “What they did to me on the outside, they did to you on the inside”–this story is not mean to occur purely within a screen. At least half of it must occur inside of me. On me. I become a canvas, the art a record of my navigation through this piece, yes, but also a record of everything I have survived.

 

Click to view slideshow.

Overall, I find the design and content of Porpentine’s work to create a compelling narrative and illustration of how trauma and abuse are cyclical experiences that can have lasting and haunting effects. Through this work, we can gain new insight into our own traumas as well as insight into the varied nature of trauma itself. We can understand we have been traumatized and still hurt and long for the people we trusted and who betrayed that trust. We can understand holding onto letters from those who have hurt us because we used to loved them. We can understand that trauma is like being a “chasm person”, separated from everyone, a feeling of being bottomless and empty, of being good for nothing better than swallowing everything you come in contact with. Hope can feel like a shameful thing, when you exist as a chasm. With Those You Love Alive captures all of this nuance and asks you to remember it as an experience–so you won’t forget it. So you won’t forget you lived through it.

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I know I won’t forget.

****

~Till next time~

References

“With Those We Love Alive” – ELMCIP

“Between Screen and Skin: “Touchy” Subjects, Precarious Identities, and Electronic Literature as Haptic Media” – ELMCIP

Fun Fact

*For this piece, too, I wrote another post about it a while back. This post goes a lot more in-depth about the narrative aspects of the work and its symbolism. At the time, I was working on a project meant to explore the cyclical nature of abuse and so I was very taken with this work. Really, this post is an in-depth look at this piece. I could go on and on about everything I loved about this work and what it represents. Like, reading it was a turning point in my life. I still think about aspects of this work from time to time in my on life. It left a lasting impression on me and I highly recommend reading my other post on it. This post is more of a continuation to my first.

*I also wrote a prior post on this week’s other work we’re reviewing High Muck A Muck if you’d like to check it out. That’s another very profound and compelling work that explores the complexity of navigating a multi-faceted identity in our increasingly global community.

Porpentine’s Twitter

Porpentine’s Blog

From classic IF to hypertexted embodiment

I am enjoying each and every discussion of electronic literature we engage in!  Your selections so far have been diverse in terms of genre and form, but also in terms of theme and symbolic import.

Façade

Thank you Priscilla for bringing us into the world of Façade!  Priscilla’s blog post on the work is here, where she provides some interesting material from the authors about their composition process for interactive drama.   Façade is an artificial-intelligence-based interactive animated story that won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Slamdance Independent Games Festival.  The piece has been exhibited at several international art shows.  “The reader” assumes the role/perspective of a close friend of Trip and Grace – a couple who recently invited the player to their home for cocktails.  You enter their apartment where you can move, explore, and discover the space, and you can interact with some objects.  From the onset of the experience there seems to be significant marital difficulty between Trip & Grace.  The tension is palpable and the bickering is unrelenting.

The reader/player is able to interact by “speaking” to the troubled couple, and soon there is a complex triangulation of dynamics between the reader/player and Tip & Grace.  The player can attempt a reconciliation, or push them to further discord.  This is an open-ended design with many possible outcomes.  In some versions of play, one might be  “kicked out”.  In other playthroughs, certain affairs can be revealed.  The piece prompts a reflection on the difficulty of understanding between people (even those who are supposedly close in an intimate sense), and of the perils of human listening/not listening.  To wax philosophical, each human being is a complex universe.  So perhaps a human relationship is the collision crash of two separate universes?  This piece certainly draws out the collision quality of profound resent between two people, drawing the viewer into certain third party anxiety.

Pieces of Herself

Our discussion of Pieces of Herself by Juliet Davis was truly insightful, and it was a joy to read some many smart thoughtful blog posts about this reading.  Thank you to Nikki for your excellent walkthrough – I enjoyed the consideration of hear room or space we entered by engaging with this piece.  This interactive digital art text makes use of much less lexia than we have seen in the previous e-lit pieces we have explored together.  Instead, this work makes great use of a drag and drop interface – viewers can scroll through familiar environments (i.e. bathroom, living room, outside, the office) to collect metaphorical “pieces” of the self and arrange them in compositions inside the body by dropping them down in a dress-up doll.   The reader/navigator can customize their exploration of the work by filling in the dress-up “paper” doll (or woman’s silhouette).  As each “trace” is dragged into the paper doll silhouette, it triggers animations along with audio clips from interviews with women, music loops, and sound effects, resulting in a layered narrative effect.

We discussed the traces and marks (read “scars) left behind as a woman lives her life.  The marks left by private and public aspiration, desire, hopes and dreams, and violation too.  There is much challenge and pressure in becoming a woman.  The colorful accumulations on the silhouette emphasize the theme that some many competing ideologies leave lasting marks, imprinting a woman permanently.  Davis’ work emphasizes the irrevocable layering of all the experiences that shape and mark a young woman, highlighting the social inscription of the feminized body.

For next week:

1. Please read  With Those We Love Alive.  Rene will present a walkthrough and lead our discussion on this twine game creation.

2. Please read  High Muck A Muck.  Emily will present a walkthrough of this beautiful hypertext composition & collaboration between eleven writers, artists, and programmers.

3.  Please write your sixth #elitclass blog post:  you can write on one of the above two selections or both texts.  I still encourage you all to tweet your blog post using the #elitclass hashtag.  Check out your classmate’s blogs as well since there is a wealth of insight generated there.

Remember you are also encouraged to keep up the backchannel conversation on our #elitclass hashtag during class and even when we are not in class.  I happy to see more and more of you joining in the tweeting.

Enjoy the weekend.  See you soon!

Dr. Zamora

Pieces of Herself / Blog 5

My first instinct in writing about my reflection of Pieces of Herself by Juliet Davis was to write about each item that I had chosen to include in my silhouette. However, upon second thought, I feel as if that is somehow too personal to share with the internet. I tried to choose items that I thought represented myself, like the eye in the bathroom (representing a scrutinizing eye at myself in a private setting), the baby spinning outside (representing my desire to have children someday), and the fire in the oven (representing my love of baking). However, I was disappointed when the items had their own sound files and ended up representing their own ideas, which I did not find until after I added them to my silhouette. Also, once these items had been added to my silhouette, they could not be removed individually. I had to delete everything in order to delete anything.

The eye in the bathroom, when placed on the silhouette, sings the chorus of the song “Naked Eye” by Lucious Jackson. This song seems to be about purifying your life by stripping down to the basics and removing the clutter from your life. The lyrics are, “With my naked eye / I saw all the falling rain / Coming down on me / With my naked eye / I saw all / If I said it all, I could see.” To me, these lines speak about stripping away the excess in life and being washed in clarity. This was not my purpose for originally adding this image to my silhouette. Truth be told, I also know that it is supposed to have something to do with feminism, and I am not sure what that purpose is. However, I enjoyed the message that I believe it is trying to convey.

The baby also plays a song when placed into the silhouette: “Que Sera” by Doris Day. The lyrics say, “When I was just a little girl / I asked my mother, what will I be? / Will I be pretty, will I be rich? / Here’s what she said to me: / Que Sera, Sera / Whatever will be, will be / The future’s not ours to see / Que Sera, Sera / What will be, will be.” I feel as if this song has a very loose connection to a baby, mainly being that a baby’s future is completely open to possibilities. Looking at this from a feminine perspective, it almost seems as if the author is saying that a female child has no control over what her future will be, and that she should simply wait and see what others decide for her. This is not a message that I would have chosen for my own silhouette, because it does not reflect my own personal life. Growing up, I was always told that I could do anything I wanted, as long as I worked my butt off to get there.

Thankfully, the fire in the oven represented exactly what I was expecting, except with a small twist. When the fire is placed into the silhouette, a woman’s voice chimes in, “Some of my favorite things, that I like to make and would probably want to be, would be a pastry from a recipe that my mother-in-law gave me. They’re called, uh, nut-filled butter horns, and it takes ALL DAY to makes these, and you have to do it just right, like Tender Loving Care. Then when you eat these, they just [whispers] melt in your mouth.” The twist was more involved with the fact that the woman seemed to be answering the question, “If you could be any sort of [food/dessert/pastry/etc], what would you be?” This part I could not reallt make sense of, and I would enjoy any discussion for the future.

Niki’s Post

For Juliet Davis’s “Pieces of Herself”, my attentions and interests were totally raised and drown during the process of exploring and playing the Elit work. Unlike other E-lit works that I have met and read now, “Pieces of Herself” is a drag-and-drop game that explores feminine embodiment and identity. To be more specific, it uses the dress-up doll motif to explore issues of gender or women identity in different contexts, which include with shower, bedroom, outside, kitchen, living room, office, and Main Street. When you drag and drop the colorful icons in the black and white settings onto the human figure on the left side of the screen, it triggers audio clips from interviews with women, music loops, and sound effects, resulting in a layered narrative. Maybe that is because I am one of those who are really care about and pay attentions to feminism and gender equality, I felt the piece was really relatable for me, personally.

Before I click on any of the icons, I want to mention one detail that I have noticed, the short explanation for each setting. For example, the explanation for the “shower room” is as below.

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Places like restroom, shower room, are always the most ideal places for women to have some private chats. In the shower room especially, “women slip behind curtains” and keep themselves “in perfect synchronicity, to remain invisible to each other”. We were educated to do so. We were educated that we need to hide our bodies and protect our bodies. Therefore, only in this way, can we feel safety and reassured. Meanwhile, because this is the place where we are naked, we tend to communicate something really private and honest.

When I started exploring the Elit, the first thing I drag is the bacterias on the toilet bowl, and the corresponding sound says “don’t forget to wash your hands”, which sounds like the words mothers always tell their children. I am not sure whether Tracy, which is the name on the door of the toilet, is her name or not. I think it could be something she saw on the door just as us do, but draw by someone else. Or it could be draw by herself in the past. The sound makes me feels like Tracy was betrayed by John. The sound of finger print is “Oh my god, I’m not gonna let my kids see me naked”. Again, it demonstrates the fact that women always try to keep their bodies on the dark and private side, and usually they are kind of unconfident and ashamed about their own body. The blood icon triggers a music loop of “Blood Makes Noise”. You can find the dripping sound never ends after dragging the water in the vanity sink, which was really annoying.

Here, more than three other social characters are revealed in her life, her mother, her lover, and her kids.

Than, in another really private context, the bedroom, the explanation is as below.

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This explanation really confused me at first. Then, I felt related to it strongly. In my life, sometimes, I mean I am a person who tend to think and worry a lot, when I start thinking, concerning, even imaging about something, I felt I can never catch or stop the thoughts. They are just there, like a cloud, “floating to the ceiling”. Actually, when you enter the bedroom, before you can notice and think about the explanation, some sound messages would start playing immediately. The messages are left by her boyfriend, her mother, and her friend maybe. The messages are really disquieting, as they indicate the fact her might had not answering any phone calls from her most close ones for a few days. From my own experience, that is usually not a good signal for a person’s neither mental or physical situation. She probably had experienced something really bad and had a great influence , which might made her break down.

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In the trash bin, I found a piece really disquieting again. “In my dream, I’m home but it’s not really home” I feels that demonstrates that she lost her sense of belonging to her home, her city, and her close people. So, she felt unfamiliar with the surroundings. When you click on the purple cloud, the sound of thundering releases, which reminds me of all the thundering and raining nights I spent on my bed in my own bedroom when I felt afraid, small, and lonely. These bad weathers make it easy for me to think of bad and sad memories and have some negative and distressing thoughts. Another interesting thing I found is what is showing on the screen of her computer is also “Pieces of herself”. I felt, again, it really implies that every female who is reading the piece is actually “her”, the one who is finding the “pieces of herself” to some extent.

The explanation for “Outside” is really worth thinking.

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“As if she could ever really get ‘outside'”. If I put us here, in her position. “As if we could ever really get ‘outside'”. We are trapped. We are all trapped to some extent, as females. As it was showed in all the settings, females always have multiple characters and roles, for example, someone’s mother, someone’s daughter, someone’s lover or someone’s wife, someone’s employee, etc. Therefore, many different expectations, requirements, and responsibilities are thrown on females. During the process of exploring the pieces by dragging and dropping these colorful pieces, we are actually exploring how a woman is treated or required in her life as different social roles. There existed so many labels and stereotypes for being a woman in the society, in all the countries, for all the women. She may tried really hard to reach the “standard”, but she can never be perfect. However, she can never “get outside”. She were trapped. Just as we do. Maybe for her, the ending was really sad. In the “Main Street”, we can found that Tracy is missing, her photo is on the missing poster beside the policeman.

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Fortunately, we are Tracy, but we are not Tracy. Furthermore, the Elit piece provide us the opportunity to think about some things really of great importance. We are supposed to think about ourselves as female characters in the society and the stereotypes, labels, limitations, and requirements for female characters that our society has. Why do I have to? Why do I have to be the way others or the society want? I want to be the way I want. Why am I defined by others or the society? I can only defined by myself. The perfect me can only defined by myself, too.

Facade:Reader/ Player

Facade was created by Micheal Mateas and Andrew Stern and published in 2005.

“Facade is an attempt to create a real-time 3D animated experience akin to being on stage
with two live actors who are motivated to make a dramatic situation happen. Instead of
providing the player with 40 to 60 hours of episodic action and exploration in a huge world, we want to design an experience that provides the player with 20 minutes of emotionally-intense, unified, dramatic action. ” This is taken from the dissertation, Facade: An Experiment in Building a Fully-Realized Interactive Drama, written by both the authors of the electronic literature. The intention behind the piece was  ” an attempt to find a capable middle ground between structured narrative and
simulation. ” I felt like I was a playing a version of the sims where the characters spoke a real language which in this case is English. But I was a co-author of the piece even though it is already programmed that way. I was reminded of our class discussions and I remember one of my classmates saying that “Readers are co-authors of electronic literature.” I believe that sentiment relates to this piece of works because we as the readers/players are trying to help this couple have a positive outcome.

Navigation

When you open Facade, the red curtains welcomes you like there is going to be a big show and right away you’re greeted with a phone call from one half of the couple, Trip, inviting you to come over for dinner. Right from the get-go, we know that this will be very different because Trip’s voice sounds like he is in big trouble and he is asking for your help. That is the introduction that is offered to the reader/player

The call is over and then we move to the next screen which is where the reader/player gets to choose their name and gender. There are options for the names and they are gender-based. For example, when you click the letter A, click the right arrow and you will get multiple options beginning with that specific letter. Some letters like Q did not have any names that began with it. So you might try your luck with another letter.

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You can go in as a man or a woman using the names that are already programmed into the system. After getting your preferred name and gender, you press enter and then you are brought to the front door of the couple’s home.

The keyboard is the main tool we can use to navigate the story. The pointer also guides us as we navigate different parts of the electronic literature. The arrows aid the reader and the player to navigate the apartment and the pointer helps us open things like the door and picking up a wine bottle or a glass.

Player/Reader

The first time I read the story, I was very confused about how to navigate the story. I closed out the window since that is the only way to restart.

I tried again a week later and it worked out perfectly. Happy face.

 The “happy” couple welcomed “Jane” with an argument. I answered any questions they asked like “How are you doing.”I was able to answer whatever they asked “Jane.” However, I did not say anything for a while which prompted in me being kicked out of the apartment since did not offer any insights into their marriage. Capture

The tried multiple times to get a different outcome but to no avail. Sad face. 

So I went to youtube and searched for Facade. The first thing that actually pops up is “How to actually win Facade.”How delightful.

Virtual reality games

When I was searching for more information about the Facade, I saw a lot of people referring it to it as a game rather than electronic literature. It is conceived as a virtual reality game more than electronic literature. I am not sure if it is because Elit is not as known or if people are more comfortable with it being in the same category as virtual reality games like the SIMS. The authors described it as an “interactive drama or fiction.” which goes hand to hand with the type of the Elit this falls into. Is it a game or an electronic literature? Are you the player or the reader?

Conclusion

As I looked over the piece, the question, “What is Electronic Literature?” came to mind. Is this considered as one? I believe it is, but wished it was “advertised” as an Elit rather than a game. Electronic Literature is awesome!

 

 

Talkative Keyboard

Visual Novel has been a niche genre of video gaming for a long time. Its popularity has only increased mildly due to a few particular entries in recent years. It’s interesting to go back and discover examples of the genre from much earlier years when the term Visual Novel was not even a thing. I am a big fan myself and having experienced much superior examples made it quite difficult to judge this particular work fairly. Facade is an old flash player game, released in 2005. If I remember correctly, flash player games were getting extremely popular at the time. So, it makes sense for someone with an interesting idea to to take advantage of a trending medium.

The most impressive aspect of Facade is the amount of input that player is allowed to offer. Although some inconsistencies may be noticeable in certain exchanges, the discourse of conversation that the player can have is very practical and feels immersive. It is a feature that even some of the most modern Visual Novel games seem to lack. The player is actually a character inside that digital world, and everything is occurring from a first-person view. Depending on what type of input the player chooses to put into the game, by simply typing a response, the narration and the eventual outcome varies. Taking its release date into consideration, that is very impressive for the time. The game should be commended for that.

Some negative points of the game include glitches and other oddities inherit in its programming. Though, these problems could be contributed to the time when it was designed as I’d assume not a lot of information about troubleshooting was easily available then. Still, it is funny to observe those shortcomings through the lens of modern video game expectations. It is possible to walk through the wall of the room and see the outside space which looks like an early prototype of another 3D game. Speaking of 3D, the game has not aged all too well unfortunately. As it is a problem with a lot of other old games with 3D models, they began to show their age and become obsolete (on surface level) over a shorter period than one would expect because of faster advancement of technology. That is why, I personally prefer 2D. Hobo Lobo of Hamelin, another piece of electronic literature that we observed, is simply timeless. Anyone can enjoy the visuals in it at anytime, no matter how much time passes by. It may sound trivial but it is sometimes difficult to attract the attention of people if the presentation is imperfect. I do not think that I would necessarily examine this work solely based on its screenshots.

Overall, it was certainly an interesting experience. Despite its shortcomings, I would recommend other people to give it a chance. Stimulating interaction with the characters makes it well-worth of time.