Like A Dark Labyrinth

I think I can officially say that Inanimate Alice was one of the easiest stories I could navigate AND the first I completed from start to finish, although I was considering giving up at one point. It was complete in itself. It had all elements: it moved like a movie, it was told like a story and it was navigated like a game. I really enjoyed reading it in the sense that not only was it titled as “Episode 4” but it represented the ideas of identity and peer pressure, in a subtle yet thrilling way. It started off with the famous black screen, providing directions on how to move through the story. I was presented with tense but exciting music in the background and a picture of building that looked something like an apartment building, small and intimate. As each page “flipped,” there was the sound of a camera clicking. Using the index finger point, as Alice of course, I headed up. The movements provided a perspective of how Alice must feel, walking up the iron stairs surprised that iron would collapse beneath the feet. Once the stairs fell, I was given the choice to click the finger pointing in four different directions, like a compass. When I clicked right, Alice said her friends got out of the way. When I clicked up, Alice managed to haul herself on the stairs. When I clicked down, the bottom 1/2 of the stairs sheared off. When I clicked left, Alice’s friends ran off leaving her dangling but in the end, came back. As the story kept progressing, icons kept being added as if becoming “chapters” in the story.

Photo by Soulful Pizza on

Then the background of Alice’s life was depicted. She and her family left for Moscow, which they showed through the outline of a Russian doll. And finally, they ended up in a town in the middle of England. Throughout the story, each singular line was presented with a lot of static in the background, which became very disturbing and irritating forcing me to mute the story at times. Later, the map of where she lived with multiple aspects of her life to “visit” including her friends, school, house, the city and her project. Alice finally met kids of her own age, “not just animated characters [she’s] created [her]self.” She could feel 14 years old, act like her and was surrounded by diversity in her neighborhood. She could “go to school, like a normal kid.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t read everything around the yield sign but I let it go. In her house, I was given a walkthrough of her place with images to allow me to visualize how skinny the stairs were, or how the bathroom could only be reached by passing through her bedroom. Alice confessed it was “kind of horrible,” but she liked it and that she “won’t be leaving anytime soon.” Her project was displayed on a table-like device, explaining to her friends about iStories and the creativity that goes along with it. She toured the city and I felt like I was travelling through England. Forget about her feeling the history, I could feel the cultural context behind the buildings she was seeing. This was accompanied with sweet flute music playing in the background. I really got the vibe of getting accustomed to the English views, as Alice was learning about where she lived. Just like her, I could see the “weeds grow in the cracks of the pavement.” Later on, the device was the main image and from what it seemed like to me, there was music playing in the background like sitar or tanpura, both of which are Indian Classical instruments.

But then just as I was getting used to the England atmosphere, I was taken back to her having to figure out how to get to the top of the building. “And now I’m going to die,” and the words shrank and faded out. I chose to play the game and I led myself into an abandoned, wrecked, scary, terrifying building that seemed ghostly at every turn. The music was filled with fear, horror and mystery with phrases such as “Why do I feel like someone is watching me?” I kept getting more and more nervous, that someone would jump in the screen. I turned in different directions but I kept getting lost, travelling in circles with rats and water trickling down. At last after feeling frustrated and worried that I was never going to get out, I asked Brad to help me out. And after following his direction at every step of the way, I (or Alice) finally reached to the top of the building and my friends cheered me on from the lot. Alice was happy, but I didn’t know how to feel. I experience all that fear for a view on the building? Just for that? Just to become part of the crowd, to carry on tradition? At the end of it all, yes I was relieved that I got out of that dark labyrinth but just for a view? Not so sure…

OuR dreamlives…

Another great week “in the can”! Thank you all for some collective exploration and close reading in #elitclass. Here are our agenda slides from this week:

Icarus Needs

Thanks, Hugo for the visual logic and analytical eye you applied to our next #elit walkthrough review from the ELC Vol. 3 –  Icarus Needs – by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey.  This digital comic adventure-quest had us all thinking about the fine line between waking life and the dream world.  (….Because as your mother might have warned you, you never know when you might fall asleep playing a video game.)  The questions you asked us all at the close of your presentation (about the fine line between reality, perception and our dream life) was much food for thought. I think it is safe to say that we were all sincerely reflective about the role our dreams have played in our waking life.

And isn’t it true?  Life is like a dream…or some kind of adventure-quest game? I guess you could say that Icarus Needs is video game mechanic-come-quirky philosophical inquiry.  We collect magical objects, hit many dead ends, jump over chasms, solve mini-puzzles, and wake up by falling, falling, falling.  With metaphorical/symbolic language laced throughout and a digital interface that renders a kinetic-comic-strip experience, Icarus Needs is a text that certainly challenges our traditional sense of the “literary” as it makes us think further about what literature can be.  The beginnings of an answer may be found in several of the astute close reading observations made about this unique text during Hugo’s class walkthrough.

With Those We Love Alive

Thank you Jessie for choosing this special piece of #elit.  I am sorry we ran out of time, and thanks to your peers for staying as long as they could. I know how hard you prepared and your research was thorough and brought vast insight into this beautiful and yet disturbing work. Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive is a Twine game that invites the reader to become physically involved through marking up their own body with symbols throughout “game play”.   With Those We Love Alive makes use of text and audio and simple backgrounds of shifting colors to draw the player into a disturbing science fiction landscape. This interactive game-story is also a nightmarish experience in an unknown world full of self-harm, visceral disgust, and violence. Jessie’s thoughtful analysis revealed the complexity of the work, and I especially enjoyed her consideration of the title extracted from the Bhagavad Ghita or “The Song of God” (a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the epic Mahabharata, commonly dated to the second century BC):

“Better to live on beggar’s bread with those we love alive, than taste their blood in rich feasts spread, and guiltily survive.”

If this is an interactive fiction about trauma and survival, it is also a looping experience of false starts and roads that keep leading us to dead-end traps.  To read the story is to experience the thematics which mirror our “relationship with the chasm”.

If you are curious about the creator who made such a compelling piece, this link is very interesting:

National Day on Writing!

As we all know, writing is an important part of life. It helps us communicate and work with each other, supports our learning, and helps us remember.  The National Day on Writing® celebrates writing—and the many places, reasons, and ways we write each day—as an essential component of literacy.   Since 2009, #WhyIWrite has encouraged thousands of people to lift their voices to the things that matter most to them.  NCTE invites you to join our 2019 National Day on Writing on October 20 and tell us about what compels you to pick up a pen, sharpen a few pencils, dust off the chalk, find a marker that works, or tap your keyboard.  Here’s how!

It is celebrated for about a week or so, and I hope each of you will take a creative moment to share why you write (#whyiwrite), and also to share a little bit of who you are  (#iamfrom #whyiwrite).   

Your to-do List:

Read: Digital, A Love Story (Ryan’s selection)

Read: Inanimate Alice (Kaitlyn’s selection)

Participate in the #NDoW by using the #whyiwrite #NDoW and/or #NDoW hashtags on twitter, and dropping an image of your work into our shared google slides: #WhyIWrite slides #iamfrom slides

Your eighth blog post is due.  Blog about your reading experience and understanding of Digital, A Love Story and/or Inanimate Alice.

Have a restful weekend!

Dr. Zamora