With Those We Love Alive

‘With Those We Love Alive’ is a hypertext piece by Porpentine. I would describe it as a dream/nightmare-like interactive fiction as it relies on hyperlinks to move the story forward and is filled with descriptions that boggle the mind. It starts off innocently enough with some vague text that draws you into the piece followed by some multiple-choice options to “customize” you character—options like “what’s your eye color”, “what’s you month of birth”, etc.

The real fun with this piece starts when you’re introduced to the matriarch of the story, the “skull empress”, despite the very descriptive title of the empress you’re allowed to customize her too. You’re given a couple of choices whenever the option of picking out your “choice” for a descriptive feature is opened to the reader. This comes up again multiple times throughout the piece but most notably whenever you’re tasked with creating something. The reader is handpicked by the agents that serve the skull empress to come and live in the palace and craft weapon, armor, and artifacts for the skull empress.

As far as the story goes it’s a choose your own adventure that seems to be limited to how much variety the reader wishes to experience throughout their playthrough. I explored this piece from the beginning to the end once, and got a semi-satisfying conclusion by the end. My character seemed to do okay, until the meeting of an old acquaintance. There seemed to be an underlying romantic plot to the piece but to be honest with you it was all terribly vague and suggestive so I might’ve just imagined the entire romance part on my own.

Design-wise, the electronic literature is created through Twine, which I’ve had my own short run-in with myself but I dropped it after I couldn’t seem to string together more than 4-5 sections of my work. This, however, seems to work flawlessly. The design is simplistic, the backgrounds used are basic melting between various colors that work to set a general mood atmosphere, and the music—which changes alongside the backgrounds for emotional or thrilling scenes—does a serviceable job.

The piece does a good job at immersing the reader into a dream-like world that is made up with both the horror and marvel that dreams/nightmares can offer. The language used is often both eerie and rich, making the painting that the author is offering us frightening, while it keeps a certain amount of suspense throughout.

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‘With Those We Love Alive’ asks the reader in the start to participate with the piece in a rather refreshing way. The reader is asked to go and find a pen before they start the piece and as the character throughout the piece draws down markings on their body—or “sigils”—the reader is asked to imagine and create their own interpretations of said markings. The author even dedicated a webpage on Tumblr for people to post and share their own interpretations of the different markings that comes up in the story. For those who want to check out the various interpretations, you can click this link: http://porpentine.tumblr.com/tagged/glory-2-with-those-we-love-alive

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Bodies

For my second electronic literature blog I chose to take a closer look at one of the pieces that Mia mentioned in our first orientation class regarding electronic literature. “My Body – A Wunderkammer” by Shelley Jackson.

Right of the bat I wondered if this piece had any relation to “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus” by Mary Shelley, but dismissed this as a coincident that happened to be just a little bit too on the nose to be considered a factor. It’s just happens to be a name that shows up twice, and I guess a reference to the human ‘body’ as well, which is arguably the star of the Frankenstein show, but still.

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However, the more and more I looked through ‘My Body’ it felt like there was supposed to be an ever so thin red line referring to Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein. It was only later while I read the ‘shoulder’ part of the piece and saw an explicit reference to the name “Frankenstein” that I realized there had at least been a modicum of interplay between the worlds. First and foremost, the first imagery we’re introduced to at the ‘main window’ of the piece. The body is, in my opinion, displayed to us in a way that points the reader towards ‘dissection’ and, or, ‘mutilation’ as we’re invited to examine and explore every individual part of the body.

She talks about how she thinks her body is “hulking”, “musclebound”, and describes how she thought of herself as “looming” over he friends—clear similarities with the monster of ‘Frankstein’.

Throughout the rest of the piece the author goes on to describe numerous parts of her body that she usually both scary and delightful. She talks about how she appreciates the aesthetic looks to certain body parts, but not her own. She talks about how she likes butts and hips on girls, but doesn’t want them for herself as she would rather have the straight and narrow look and feel of a boy’s body—wishing to be as “aerodynamic” as possible. (which made me chuckle as I’ve never thought of human body’s having the potential for being aerodynamic, but with the way she put it I understand exactly what she means.)

The majority of the text in the piece itself is made up of small stories where the author reminisces about certain parts of her childhood that relate to her body parts (and tattoos). These stories usually follow the same pattern as the rest of the story—there are bad/scary parts and there are good/delightful parts. The stories usually talk about how foreign the authors thinks of her own body, or either about how the public thinks her body is foreign, or how she is afraid of how other people perceive her changing body.

The story talks for the most part about scary and daunting puberty can be, and how children don’t consider each other too different until the arrival of the changes that come about as a result of puberty.

 

Inanimate Alice

We’ve now made the full transition into the electronic literature part of our lectures. For my first post regarding this topic I will be writing about the electronic literature piece that I did a presentation on last semester, Inanimate Alice.

Inanimate Alice is an electronic literature concerning the life and development of the main character of the piece named Alice. The first episode starts off in China, where 8 years-old Alice describes her life and living situation which includes her father working for some undisclosed company and unknown work activities—while Alice and her mother stay in the “base camp” waiting for his return.

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As I described in my presentation of Inanimate Alice last semester, I was immediately put on edge when I looked through this electronic literature—this is due to the imagery and audio that accompanies the piece.

The imagery is blurry and faulty like a flickering light in a tense scene in a horror movie, and the music sounds like its straight up inspired from the theme music in the video game Silent Hill. At first, I thought Inanimate Alice was a horror story, because of its delivery and pacing—but I realized that it is only appropriate to lump Inanimate Alice in with the horror genre if one views the entirety of the several episodes from an overarching perspective. Episode One (and Episode Four to some degree as well) is only horror so far as the fact that Alice is a small child and we, the viewers, are asked to view everything from her eyes and position as a child with almost no say as to what happens to her.

Some of the pieces in the Inanimate Alice series is quite eerie in its presentation and atmosphere. This is most likely to emphasize the fear surrounding Alice’s lack of control of her own childhood and future.

The electronic literature itself is built like a “video game” straight from a webpage in the 90’s. The majority of the transitioning pages contain some sort of text that pushes the plot forward while the reader is given the option to click either an arrow (which functions and the progression key) or, in some cases, the reader is presented with one or multiple images to click. This offers, at minimum, some variety to your standard interactive fiction, and at best helps to set the mood of the piece with its multitude of images that directly relate back to the story. More often than not, the reader is allowed to play around with these “multiple choice” options—as they often work as puzzles that need to be solved before the story can progress. Most of the time these “puzzles” aren’t too demanding, but at the very least they are mendatory to push the plot forward.

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All in all, Inanimate Alice is a series of 7 episodes of following the nomadic life of Alice and learning what becomes of her from her highy unusual adolescence—and one of my favorite pieces of electronic literature from last semester.

Planetside 2

These last few weeks we’ve had a good couple of blogs cocerning videos games, which is completely in line with the our class schedule, but soon we will be moving into something that I’ve been looking forward to tackling—electronic literature. But before we get to that however, I will be doing at least a last blog on video games. This week I will be talking about the game that has officially taken up the most time on my Steam account; Planetside 2.

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Planetside 2 is somewhat unique in its approach. It breaks the traditional mold of a FPS (First Person Shooter) by dividing the teams in three instead of the classic setup of two teams facing off against each other.

A crucial part of the game is choice. Choice plays a great part in Planetside 2, arguably a greater role than in most FPS games. Technically, there is no wrong way to play Planetside 2, although one could say that there are multiple ways of playing the game the most efficiently—and efficiency usually comes with the teamwork and participation of group activities within the game. A unit of players, or a battalion of players, or even a lone player can fulfill different roles to maximize their team’s capabilities.

What I mean by focusing on ‘efficiency’ is that that every player spawns on the server of their choice and is immediately presented with the possibility to do whatever they want to engage in the coming battle depending on their choice of class, vehicle, approach, and synchronized effort.

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The classes (particularly designated roles for the players to choose between) is open to anyone, meaning that if someone wants to play from afar then there are several ways to do that—for instance there’s the infiltrator, the engineer, and the heavy assault.

  • Infiltrators function as snipers and use their rifles to shooter enemy players with great accuracy from a great distance.
  • Engineers can craft minefields, repair vehicles and place auto-turrets to create a safe defensive area in the rear of the battlefield.
  • Heavy assault is the only class that can use handheld cannons to take out all of the different group and air vehicles.

However, if someone wants to be the offensive forces that pushes in the front of the battle then one can choose several roles to fulfill that job, one can even choose an offensive role and based on your own playstyle one can tailor the class to fulfill the player’s personal needs—for instance, there’s the infiltrators, engineers, and heavy assault. See what I did there? The exact same classes can fulfill opposite roles in played correctly.

  • Infiltrators are the only ones who can use limited invisibility to infiltrate the enemy bases and destroy the defensive mechanisms from the inside.
  • Engineers can craft minefields, repair vehicles and place auto-turrets to create a no-go zone for the enemy forces in the front unless they want to be used as target practice dummies.
  • Heavy assault is the only class that can activate a limited defensive shield that drastically reduces the power and damage of the enemy projectiles.

Besides the classes that I’ve already mentioned I left out Light Assault, Combat Medic, and MAX—which all offer their own unique style of custimizable gameplay as the others. Depending on how you would like to engage the endless battlegrounds that Planetside 2 offers, you can change your playstyle to accommodate the situations.

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One of the biggest eye-catching features regarding Planetside 2 however, must be the number of players engaging in the game at the same time. The number of players per map is 1200 players. And another one of the most eye-catching features is the delegation of teams per map, which is three. So, you have three different groups split into three teams fighting for the dominion of the map. The different factions are; Terran Republic (red), New Conglomerate (blue), and Vanu Sovereignty (purple). In fairness, this recipe offers the potential for chaos. There is no mandatory teamwork, everyone can move around the map to exactly where they want, and there is no win-condition except for the complete control of the map by a single faction—meaning that battles can last for several hours, while in its earlier stages the battles could last for days.

These features, as I put them, are great mechanics that enhance the gaming experience of Planetside 2, but there are those who argue that instead of lending to the game they have the reverse effect and diminish the participation. The freedom to do whatever you want can impact the overall achievements of your team and offers your opponents to log into the server, take up a spot on your four-hundred-man team and sabotage your victories. Another complaint of the game is the sheer potential for chaos with such a large number of players that participates. Sometimes this impacts the overall understanding of the situation at hand in-game, while sometimes the number of players that participates results in player’s computers to have problems keeping up.

Personally, I have a computer that is able to keep up just enough to where my gaming experience is not reduced, so I am unable to directly comment on that problem myself. But another point in its defense is the number of hours I’ve put into this game, which is five hundred and five hours—which makes Planetside my number one most played game on Steam.

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I’m leaving the link to one of the trailers of the game for anyone who’s interested, the trailer really delivers the massive scope of the battles that take place in the game: