Thursday, September 24, 2009


So, I think you should probably play this game:

It's a really tiny file, literally lasts five minutes, and is easy to play. All you do is move. You really get the full message if you play through it a few times.

The rest of the post is going to be spoilers about it, so don't read unless you've played the game, or you're being a spoilsport and not playing the game at all.


The author of the game has basically come out and said that this is meant as a Memento Mori, but that the symbolism is largely up to the player to decide. You begin at what represents the beginning of your life, and the point is to travel through a maze that is very difficult to see, while accumulating points. You do this by walking and opening chests to find stars. Some chests contain stars, some don't. At the beginning you also have the option to play the game with a female companion (your wife). What will happen then is that if you travel with a spouse, your points for walking will increase, but parts of the maze will now be cut off to you.

Another thing to notice is that at the beginning of the game, your avatar is at the left of the window. As you progress, he moves closer and closer to the right edge, inevitably, the end of life. Also, notice that when you start, you see layers of most of the rooms you will explore throughout the game in front of you, and at the end, those layers are behind you.

Yes, you can play as a true gamer and try to accumulate as many points as possible, but the point here, I think, is does it matter? Not that I'm saying it doesn't, but in a normal video game, you're accumulating items, points, levels because you know at the end there will almost always be some huge payoff. In Passage, there is no payoff. You have your points, but you're dead, and it's up to you to decide whether you made the right decision, or whether you would have rather explored, taken the spouse along, gone a different way. There's no right or wrong way to play Passage, and yes it's almost always depressing, but I think it's a really good example of how to tell a story in a way that uses no words and involves complete interactivity.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Barthelme and Your Brain

If you're like me, reading Barthelme is an experience that is equal parts daunting, disconcerting, with little bursts of pleasure and sense that spring forth like found money (in the currency of a Paraguay that is not the Paraguay of maps, of course). One effect is also that of having a greater than average number of Barthelmesque thoughts, the sorts of things that might ordinarily pass through the brain unattended, dismissed as sheer nonsense, the proverbial pinwheel hat guys of thinking. My Facebook status updates start looking a lot weirder, because as one gets acclimated to Barthelme one simply starts thinking in very odd ways. I wonder if you have had a similar experience, and if so, it would be cool if you actually posted some of those thoughts in the comment section here.

One example: There must be some optimal method for brushing one's teeth according to the laws of physics. Ideally, one would be able to get it down to one single stroke, and that was the struggle to which ______ devoted his life.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Surrealism, Not Mozart?

Just caught wind of this press release, the upshot of which is that surrealism makes you learn better in some fundamental way.

The actual claims made, that surrealism helps you with a particular kind of pattern detection, are a bit humbler. I'm glad that someone is studying this type of thing, though.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ander Monson on Writing as Hacking

He's writing about the essay, but it might as well be fiction--a lot of what he says applies. Ander Monson edits DIAGRAM, an online journal which continuously (cliche warning, sorry) pushes the envelope. They love schematics, which is related to typology, I think. Anyway, Ander Monson's a really intriguing guy and some of you'll find some stuff to chew over here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This is big...

If anyone can make it to Portsmouth on Monday night to check out Samuel Ligon, Robert Lopez, and Blake Butler, you'll catch three established or rising figures in experimental and independent literature. I'm rereading Butler's Scorch Atlas tonight and swathes of it are really amazing. My notebook is starting to look like some kid's cast with quotes scrawled in a multi-directional frenzy...

Here's the link:

And if you do make it there, make sure you introduce yourself and/or blog about it for those of us that can't make it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pie charts!

I think there's a story here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Another intriguing blog

See the fearsome fiction-beast in its wild natural state before it is domesticated and neutered by Microsoft Word:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Discussion Lighting up the Blogosphere

Always provocative (and usually literary-themed), the blog HTMLGiant is one you should be familiar with in order to keep up with what's happening in the independent literary universe. Today's thread, about experimental fiction and whether it has a future (and a present) in our culture, was off the charts in terms of responsiveness. As in a bombardment. Check it out at