Hunt for the Gay Planet

I’ve choose to write about “Hunt for the Gay Planet. I’ll start off clarifying that everyone and their grandmother have made the comparison between this piece and Quing’s Quest—but I’ll do it one more time just for good measures.

Both pieces have the same—either horrible or comforting depending on how you think of it—design to their format. There’s a dark background, giving the allusion to the vast universe and space travel, and then there’s the colorful text on top of it. Nothing too revolutionary here in that sense, but at the same time it is a nice throwback to how a huge chunk of early internet web-design looked. This was in the time period that we like to call “the wild west” of the internet, for good reasons.

The design is either really off-putting, or nostalgic—in my opinion it is both, but it still comes off as very hard to look at. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing since I’m thinking that the callback is intentional and a part of the overarching theme of the piece. Both pieces use the color pink to in their text, it works better in Quing’s Quest as the text is actually (in my personal opinion) easier on the eyes compared to the white text on black background design choice of Hunt for the Gay Planet.

As far as the content goes however, Quing’s Quest comes out on top against Hunt for the Gay again. A few of us spoke up during the last class presentation on Hunt for the Gay Planet, and for the most part people thought the content was lacking, the writing was off, and the representation was weak. My overall impression of the piece was that it wanted to dive into an issue regarding representation of LGBTQ in video games (Star Wars: The Old Republic to be specific), but in its attempt, it barely even reached far enough to scratch it. Someone said in class that they missed the variety and options that Quing’s Quest offered compared to Hunt for the Gay Planet, and honesty, I didn’t even think about that during our presentation—but I wholeheartedly agree. The “hypertext” format itself is rather limiting when it comes to any kind of extravaganza—so the only real strength of the format, besides the writing and story, is the option to add multiple choices of how to venture through and discover the piece, and Quing’s Quest did this right. Even if some of the choices were limited to options like “change outfit”, or “use the toilet”, or even “take a selfie”—it’s still something, and it’s appreciated.

I remember hearing about the “controversy” of the “gay planet” and thinking that this is A. a cash grab, and B. this is pretty weak bait if they intentionally wanted to start a discussion or outrage for some publicity, which is wholly possible, but a risky move on their part.

We’ve spent some time discussing whether or not some of the pieces we’ve gone through can be categorized as either games, or pieces of literature, or both—and I think both Hunt for the Gay Planet and Quing’s Quest can be viewed as games. Visual novels are interactive games popularized in Japan during the early 90’s and still going strong to this day. The design is rather simplistic as it features a subtitle bar at the bottom for text and interactive options, while most of the screen that’s left is dedicated to presenting a static graphics of characters that interact as slideshows going

It’s not a far cry to suggest that he hypertext format as a whole and both of the pieces I’ve discussed here are rather similar in their representation. The goal is to create a game that is simplistic in design, yet full in content and replayability. Quing’s Quest falls more neatly under this category than Hunt for the Gay Planet, however, but the idea is the same and it is disappointing to see the inherent lackluster content of the latter.

It’s an understatement to say that Hunt for the Gay Planet didn’t hit its mark with the majority of our class, but I think a lot (or all) of the worthwhile discussion surrounding the piece reverts back to how it left the majority wanting more than it delivered.

Alright, that’s all for now. (I feel like this developed into more of a blog on comparing Quing’s Quest and Hunt for the Gay Planet, than purely a blog on the issue of the Hunt for the Gay Planet itself, but oh well)


Hunt for the gay planet…

First off, let me reflect a bit on something most of us probably has experienced dozens of times; being “victims” of political correctness. I’m not talking about that stupid nonsense political correctness Donald Trump is bitching about, but the one where you don’t feel you can critisize something because it “hides” behind a subject where critique is not publicly accepted , i.e. homosexuality, race etc. This is a sensitive  matter exactly because many people throughout history has expressed hate toward these type of subjects, and therefore the political correctness “movement” came in as a counter part to this unacceptable behavior. But there’s always the debate on where the line is drawn, and sometimes these lines are kind of blurry and we tend to go the direction of rather being a bit political correct than get our head chopped off, which I really, totally get. But is this ALWAYS the right way to go? I mean that in some cases it actually undermine the cause, and in this weeks’s blog post I’ll talk about this piece of edit that actually got me mad for exactly this reason!

The Hunt for the Gay Planet

The Hunt for the Gay Planet is a classic interactive fiction made in Twine. It’s a reaction to the fact that EA, in their game Star Wars: The Old Republic, released a planet with gay people as an in-game purchase. The fact that this particular planet was released, but only  if you PAID for it got a reaction of disgust and hatred, which I really understand. This is also very good foundation for a reaction of any kind, also electronic literature… But have you ever read a book where you were left with the feeling “Damn, this book had a really good potential because the subject is so good, too bad it was THIS writer f****d it all up!”? Well, this was one of those for me… As I mentioned earlier, this is a great foundation, a really important subject to address, but without the Shield of Political Correctness this piece would never had the right of life in my opinion. Well, I may be a little harsh here, but let’s that it at least wouldn’t ever be included in the Electronic Literature Collection. As a piece of Elit in itself it is boring, shallow, linear and with an overly sexual undertone. It is one-dimensional, and portray gay people in a rather unflattering, stereotypical manner. I’ll add here that I have never been a very outspoken gay rights warrior, not that I’m against it either, I think all men and women should be treated equally no matter sexuality, beliefs or race. However, I don’t think it’s good for a cause to get special treatment either! I get that this piece is supposed to parody stereotypes, and that it is supposed to have the same sort of tasteless portrayal of gay people, but the narrative in this one was so horrible and one-dimensional that it only got tasteless. The over sexualization of all gay people in this story does not come through as parodic, but rather as “this is how gay people are”, it also enhances the stereotype of them not being as everybody else! But apart from a bad characters, the storyline itself  did NOT do justice to this cause. In another case, I wouldn’t have looked at this piece twice, but as a reaction to such an important subject, the only thing this piece has is just that, that, the subject! To me, subjects like these are important to elevate, but done poorly, I feel it damages more than it does good. This is a good example where political correctness don’t necessarily helps, but rather create a void – Why should’t gay people only get one planet (that costs money!), when all they “deserve” is this half-assed piece of electronic literature? You tell me…


Kuryokhin: Second Life

Why Kuryokhin: Second Life
At the beginning of the semester we were told that all of us were to have a presentation in front of class. My presentation is coming up this Wednesday and for a long time I did not know which elit piece I wanted to do a presentation on. I made a shortlist in early September or so but soon figured out these were either too short or too complicated. By complicated I mean that some pieces of (important) information were hard to discover which made it hard to interpret. And then I was back at the beginning.

After much consideration, I ended up with Kuryokhin: Second Life (hereafter known as Second Life). A piece of elit where one always has several choices and depending on what you choose your stats will change. For example if you end up in the bar you might lose a health point.

When I first discovered this piece I went through it either two or three times – my mission quickly became all about keeping the guy alive. Long story short he died every time. I found it difficult to see how I was going to keep him from dying as it seemed whatever I did would make his stats worse. Honestly I am still not sure if it is possible to keep him alive.

 

About Second Life
Second Life is created by Michael Kurtov, a philosopher and writer, with a Ph.D. in Philosophy. This elit is a simulator of the afterlife of a man called Sergey Kuryokhin and is loosely based on his bio. Kuryokhin was an avantgarde composer (which is why you can choose to create music in the elit) and apparently also the legendary leader of cultural life in Leningrad in the 1980s. According to the authors’ statement, this elit «allows you to earn scores in health, knowledge and madness, while giving you opportunities to rethink the paths of the post-Soviet culture and politics». It sound interesting, right?

http://collection.eliterature.org/3/works/kuryokhin/kuryokhin-english.html

 

Class presentation
I am thinking that during my presentation of the piece, keeping him alive will be the goal. I will let the other students decide what we are going to do when, and see how many tries it takes them. Within reasonable limits of course, especially since I am not sure myself whether it is actually possible to save his life. I still look forward to it, though. Going through the piece itself does not necessarily take too much time, but to discover everything can take time – which is yet another reason to have a goal of saving the man’s life (even if it might not be possible) – because to do this we might have to go through the piece several times (at least I had to go through it more than once – or twice for that matter).

After saving the guy (or giving up on it) there is the discussion part.
Topics I find interesting are:

  • What do others think of Second Life?
  • How can one compare Second Life to for example Quings Quest?
  • Can Second Life be considered a game more than Quings Quest (for example due to the stats)?
  • Steam has several games in the genre «visual novel», where several of these include choices which influence stats – can these be considered games within for example time management?
  • If the visual novels on Steam are games, does that mean Second Life must be a game too?
  • Can Second Life be considered a game?

 

My thoughts on the topics of discussion
When I was younger, flash games existed online where you were a kid trying to gain stats such knowledge and strength. These stats the character would gain in the form of for example private classes that cost money. To gain money you had to work. There were other stats and other things to do as well, but I can not remember much of it anymore. In other words, these are time management games.

Going through my Steam library I find visual novels that can also be considered to be within the genre of time management as you decide what the character should do at what time – which will influence the story and their stats. Except for the lack of visuals, I believe Second Life is very similar to these. You make your own choices which influence the stats which influences the story. Just as in the visual novels that are on Steam.

So in my opinion, Second Life is a time management novel? Or a visual novel lacking visuals? No. Second Life is a work of electronic literature. Though I honestly think it also could be considered a game. I am excited to see what my classmates has to say on the topic, as we agreed in class that Quings Quest in some ways could be seen as a game. As Second Life, at least in my opinion, takes the whole «game or just elit» a step further with the whole stats system, I think it will be an interesting discussion. I think it qualifies as a game just as much as any text-based game, and could fit in the time management category.

According to Second Life’s information page in the third elit collection, it is considered interactive fiction – but also a game! Therefore I think my description when comparing it to visual novels and games is pretty good. To quote something I found within the piece of elit, dated October 10th 2017 (yes, I know that is in the future!): «a metasimulator, both a game and not a game, simulation of the game and game simulation». Sounds like a good description of this elit.

 

Summary/what I think of Second Life
I like Second Life. It is literature and game blended together to something wonderful. It is nice to see how this combination can be taken further from pieces like Quings Quest (which I also enjoyed) by adding stats – something I think made the work even more interesting. The story itself is also interesting, and as you explores the story you will feel like you are getting to know someone – slowly. I feel like I want to learn more about this composer whom I have never heard of before. The elit even mentions Beethoven, my favorite classical composer of all time – bonus points given!

 

That is all for now…
Thanks for reading!
‘Till next time, go listen to some Beethoven.

 

 

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Oh, Gay Planet

I hated “The Hunt for the Gay Planet,” but before people started talking I was scared to say this in class. It’s nice to know that we’re allowed to hate stuff — this is important in any field of study, ESPECIALLY literature.

“The Hunt for the Gay Planet” was, to me, boring and tedious. It reminded me of one of those poorly written “choose your own adventure” books from my youth where I’d turn to both page options to see which was more exciting only to find out neither was.

I don’t want this blog post to go on like a negative literature review, but what can I say? There are many things I can think of that would really (maybe only in my opinion!) improve the piece (having the links/branches disappear after clicking them, different colors and fonts, less adjectives). Sometimes it sounded like a mad-lib, and “chubby girl with an eyepatch over one nipple” is a terribly clunky sentence.

Something that I dislike about the twine pieces is that they’re often written in second person. I can’t remember the last time I read an enjoyable piece of literature (in any form) written in second person. Again, I recall those “choose your own adventure books.” Its silly to use “you/your” adjectives because nothing that is done is something I would do; I’m lost right away. Maybe if the main character had a name and a deeper sense of identity I’d be eager to get to know them?

In class we talked about criteria for getting your piece in the electronic literature collection, and how oftentimes particularly good pieces are left out because they’re not fresh. Doesn’t putting a piece in a collection just because it adds some novelty hurt both author and reader? If I was given easy entrance because my piece was “different” I don’t think I’d really stretch myself to create at the height of my ability. I’m always always always excited about seeing new voices and fresh perspectives exhibited in the art world, but I don’t think we should sacrifice quality for it.

And the final quote: “I am the love that dare not squeak its name.” I like the allusion, but there’s nothing more here that really holds me. Why squeak instead of speak? I don’t care enough to figure it out, and that’s the problem.

 


High Muck a Muck

 

Skjermbilde 2017-10-01 kl. 18.54.37

At the first page you can get a brief explanation of how this piece works and how you can go thru it, as they explain it — you can “Click on images to reveal poems, oral histories and short videos…. explore in any order and for any length of time.”

…Sounds interesting, lets begin! 

The first thing that is illustrated is a map, but its not just any kind of map.. its looks like a male upper body. We can see some blue dots, some of them have a stronger color than the other ones — and these ones are links to a new page.

Skjermbilde 2017-10-01 kl. 17.45.52.png

So now you just have to choose which one you want to start exploring. What I notice is that on all the pages it is the same kind of drawings — its drawings of trees, people and houses:

The artist has used light colors, which makes the images comfortable to look at. And when you move the mouse around the screen, you can easily see which one of the houses and people that you can click on. You either get to another page, or a poem pops up. It lights a green light around the image.

The poems that we can find throughout the piece, has different ways of unfolding. Some of the text in the poem appears little by little — and stay there. But sometimes when it appears a text, it disappears after a few seconds – but usually you have just enough time to read what it says. This means that you have to keep your eyes on the screen at all times — because, if you look away, some of the poems may have already vanished.

Skjermbilde 2017-10-01 kl. 17.55.16.pngAs they explained on the first page you also have the option to listen to oral stories. These you can listen to by clicking on the ear symbol. This symbol pops up on some of the poems – and it is easy to understand that this ear means that sound is going to play. The stories sounds like people getting interviewed. Someone is talking about chinatown and immigration..

Skjermbilde 2017-10-01 kl. 19.44.14.pngThe navigation is easy to figure out. It is a arrow in each corner – which means its always easy and possible to get back to where you started. It is also a “map” in the corner of each page – so you can get links to all the main pages in the piece.

 

I really liked this story!! All the pictures where nice, it was easy to navigate, it was cool to see the text appear — and then sometimes disappear… The whole story had a chinese look to it… the chinese signs in the menu and the colors and some of the buildings.. it was cool and comfortable to read and experience 🙂


The Hunt for the Gay Planet

A piece of e-literature made in 2013 by Anna Anthropy, it first and foremost sought to address the issue of limiting the inclusion of homosexual characters to single planet in Knights of the Old Republic with a DLC paywall in front, but also the general frustration when it comes to finding queer representation in video games in general. It is a twine game that you navigate as you would in a piece of hypertext by clicking on one of the links on each page. It’s fairly similar in style to another twine game that I previously covered, Quings Quest VII, and as such I will be drawing some comparisons between them.

To me The Hunt for The Gay Planet falls short when it comes to its narrative, both due to its linearity and the message it tries to convey. While the overall story is linear in outcome there are sometimes multiple options to choose from, though almost all of them lead to a dead end with the game essentially telling you in a variety of ways “Wrong way, you have to go back”, and very few of these came across as funny to me. At one point you have as many as eight different options to choose from, yet every single one of them leads to the same outcome. This gives you the illusion of there being more choices than there really are, and if you replay the game it becomes more obvious how linear the narration is with few variations. Quings Quest too is fairly linear with its story-telling, but there was also some form for customization and freedom of movement, particularly early on in the piece that added to the piece. There was also two different endings, and a fair amount of additional backstory you could discover while exploring the game.

Skjermbilde 2017-10-01 kl. 20.14.32
Eight choices, yet only one outcome.

When it comes to its message the creator was but one of no doubt many who was disappointed by Bioware’s decision to include queer characters by limiting them to one area that you had to pay to access. The lack of representation for LGBT+ people is a very real issue, both in gaming and otherwise, so what could’ve been a great opportunity to make the fans happy to be included left them instead with a sour feeling that they are being regarded as consumers first rather than as regular people. In my opinion queer characters, if included at all, really should’ve been present throughout the game’s locations rather than only one, and people shouldn’t have to pay extra just to experience that. When it comes to other games it is rare to see any queer representation at all, or if there is any the characters are rarely treated with respect, instead reducing them to a joke that exaggerates gay stereotypes and the like. Of course there are exceptions, but as is the point of the game, it isn’t easy to find something that happens to fit you, let alone in a positive and meaningful way.

Therefore it is strange then that the game falls into some of those same stereotypical showcases of gay people. Overall the game has this particular humor to it that falls a bit short for the most part, and that I think could have done a better portrayal of queer characters rather than making them seem like yet another joke. It’s also odd that the game divides gay men to one planet and gay women to another, when dividing groups of people at all was part of the problem the creator supposedly had with Knights of the Old Republic. To me it comes across as a bit problematic, because even within the LGBT+ community, gatekeeping is a very real issue where some individuals refuse to consider some people as queer unless they fit with their own arbitrary list of criteria. To then not only divide between gay men and women strikes me as both making a similar mistake as Bioware and as ignorant of the many other groups of people that also belong to the queer community. I do not believe this was the intent at all, rather that the narrative doesn’t effectively challenge the issues and also falls for some of the same traps along the way which is unfortunate. It is nevertheless important to acknowledge this while thinking of how it could perhaps be done in a better manner. I found that Quings Quest did a better job here both when it came to sticking to its message and in portraying it in a meaningful and fairly amusing manner. While that game too had its flaws it felt like it had an actual background and some depth to it that The Hunt for the Gay Planet simply ended up lacking in the end.

From a technical standpoint the game does deliver however, as twine is easier said than done to work with. The creator could’ve gone with just making it a piece of hypertext fiction, but instead she chose a more complex tool for creation which is commendable. While visually it only entails text on a black background, it is still impressive that it works well from a technical standpoint. Quings Quest does have some audio in the form of music and sound effects that adds to the piece, which this game does not, but the descriptions worked well enough for me as I went through it.

While it is a fairly flawed and flat piece of e-literature it is important to recognize that it at least tries to address what is a complex and deep-rooted issue in the form of queer representation. This is of course not limited to the games industry, but it is a very relevant one when it comes to electronic literature as video games can be considered pieces of e-literature themselves. One little twine game isn’t going to unravel or solve the problem, far from it in fact, but I also think that with some work the issue could have been presented in a better manner than this.


Kuryokhin: Second Life 

Kuryokhin: Second Life is as I understand an simulator of Sergey Kuryokhin’s afterlife, a choose your based on the bio of the avantgarde composer and the one of the leader of Leningrad’s cultural life in the 1980s

The piece is a e-lit that borrows some game elements to tell the stuy. The way you navigate is the yse of hypertext there you vlick on words that brings you to the next page and continui the story. Based on your what you picked the three different meters may inncrease or deacrease.

Health: 5/10
Knowledge: 5/10
Madness: 5/10

This is the game element in this e-lit. I will call this a game element because thecrwader have can pick diffenrent ways to read the e-lit and thst effekts how you can read it. If you want to go to record music you need enough gealt point. If you want to do politics your knowledge may go upp but your health goes down. This affect the “gameplay”. I did go trought this e-lit 3 times and two of the times I needed to go to the hospital ho recover health. The third time I got to mouch madbess and I straight upp killed my self and nedded to start over.

I liked how this machanic is used. You need to make difficult decisions and see whats best for you. If you have 7 health points but only 4 knowledges maybe you can risk going to the politxal meeting and get moore knowledge. I think many people in real life feel like this, like you can choose to hang out with friends, this holds you madness level in check, but maybe you are tired and your health takes a hit.

In this review/reaction I have focused on the “gameplay’ and how different accepect of life can take away something but give something new in return. This is because I dont know to much about Sergey Kuryokhin and how his life was.  But I have got the understanding from this e-lit that he was a troubled soul abd I would love to learn moore about him

 

See you next time


III. Kuryokhin: Second Life

This time, I have decided to write about possibly the strangest of the E-Lit-pieces I have encountered so far: “Kuryokhin: Second Life”.

When I started to read the text, I had only skimmed the description and thus did not really know what I should expect. However, even the first few words already cause an eerie feeling: “In 1996 you were diagnosed with a rare disease […] Now you need to take special care of your health”. This short introduction immediately sets the tone for the whole experience: the piece addresses “you” personally and is set at an unknown time (“now”). The very simple layout does not feature any illustrations except of a picture of Kuryokhin himself at the beginning, which also makes the game hard to place. Still, it makes you want to keep going.

I played the game three times in total. Once, I completed the game (I think?), once I committed suicide and once I died from the disease. The first time was the most interesting one: here, the text starts out the same as in the other versions, but because I handled the “health” better, I survived and the text began to change to different bits and pieces. The narrative now consisted of emails, diary entries, and even a footnote leading to an article about the same game I was playing at the moment. This métalepse narrative (I could not find the right English word for this term) is the most interesting part: it makes you question the legitimacy of the whole text and you start to wonder if you are really playing a completely different game, namely some kind of experimental simulator. This part reminded me a lot of the book “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski, where the same technique is used – different footnotes referring to fictional books or even to the book itself make you question the fictionality of the story. The fact that every research leads you to pages and videos in Russian does not really help the confusion – but I enjoyed the fact that I had to broaden my horizon for this; it makes you realize that there are more languages than English and script that you cannot even read.

Just when I almost thought that I could make some kind of sense of the game, I ended up at a Youtube video of a Russian song by Kuryokhin himself. That was maybe the peak of the confusion: a Russian band dressed in weird costumes playing pleasant music, the only comments being in Russian and translating to compliments about the beauty of the song. I could not figure out any way to continue – but is this really the end?

What is most interesting about the game to me is how the readers deal with this omnipresent confusion. I personally started researching the musician and the Russian music group he belonged to, the highlight of my google-search being a video in which he eloquently explains why Lenin was a mushroom. I still am not really sure if I understood the goal of the text, but I can say that I liked the excitement of the experience and am looking forward to hearing about different reading experiences – maybe someone “won the game”, after all!