Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Project Proposal

Since playing Zork for the first time I have felt like there is a great potential to expand upon the medium of interactive fiction. Zork does a fantastic job of introducing a player into a new world and allowing them to interact with that world in a unique way but the game seems to end there. I feel that Zork could be further expanded by creating a world that goes beyond dark dungeons. In particular, I imagine a Zork-esque game that is based on the player exploring the Internet. While studying computer science and, in particular, networking I have been immensely interested in the fact that nearly everyone uses the Internet every day yet most users have no idea how it works in the most basic ways. The Internet is a complex web of hierarchical service providers, routers, hosts, and more yet most people just type "" and expect it to work. The complexity and intricacy of the Internet creates a perfect realm for exploration and discovery in an interactive fiction game. A simple query that we would typically enter into Google could become the basis for an adventure through the web. Maybe visiting "The Google" is the only way to get particular answers or discover secret information about others or traversing Facebook's networks is the only way to speak to a friend.

While not at all trivial, I think the implementation of such a game would be manageable. I have extensive experience building text based applications as well as web applications. My plan is to build a simple game engine that will parse a given map that I supply. The engine would parse certain keywords (very basic at first) and allow a player to move around the map while explaining each room. This allows the game and the map to be decoupled and be created relatively independently. Interactive fiction engines such as this already exist as open source projects and I may be able to reuse one of these projects for the mechanics of my game while creating the actual story myself. With that being said, I am somewhat worried about the amount of work that needs to be done and I am currently doing some preliminary work on a beta version of the game to get a better idea of the scope of the project ( My hope is not to work entirely on a programming project but rather tell a story of exploring the Internet. I feel that an interactive fiction game is the best way to accomplish this goal. However, if the scope of my project turns out to be unmanageable, I hope to reserve the right to write a more tradition essay with a similar goal.

My interest in creating this game is built upon an interest in the way people interact with technology and, in particular, the Internet. I find it astounding that we constantly use, take for granted, and rely on a technology that is as elegant and complex as the Internet while barely understanding it. People from across the world can immediately connect with one another and exchange ideas on a whim yet most people view this to be a trivial feat. Although an essay could be used to express my interests and concerns about the mass naivety towards technology, I don't feel it would be as effective as the game I'm imagining. Commentaries explaining the relevance of Internet technologies have already been made and most people still remain in the dark. My hope is that by immersing someone in this technology and presenting it as a world to be explored, players will be confronted directly with the reality that modern technologies are complex systems that have been built by real people. While this goal doesn't explicitly produce an argument I feel that implicit arguments and themes arise. Through this game, I'm hoping to explore the idea that we have moved away from technology as a medium of creation and exploration and have instead embraced technology as a "magic box." To many people this "magic box" represents the antithesis of creativity. Modern technology has turned from being akin to a painting and instead is a driver of apathy and consumerism. When we apply this idea then to the Internet, we see that when the Internet is not understood it can easily move away from its open and decentralized roots towards a medium of control. However, I hope that my game will oppose this centralization by encouraging exploration and discovery through the Internet with an emphasis on defeating the controlling entities.

1 comment:

Adam said...

The concept is excellent, and I can only hope to see some reasonable fraction of it executed. Your reasoning is clear and your goals are reasonably clear, although the details are still quite fuzzy, and in games as win fiction, the details really matter.

To make it technically easier for you, you should probably consider using Inform ( or some similar language for writing interactive fiction. Other students have done well with Inform - it will let you focus more on the game and less on the technical details of how to implement it.