The world of Zork is much like “Choose Your Own Adventure”;you are given free will as to how you want the story/game progress. Except in Zork, you are stripped of visuals, given no sounds, but expected to guide a character; yourself or a pawn, however you see it, around a world completely blind. You do however choose, decide, and dictate what the character does inside this virtual world that you will never be lucky enough to see. It makes you value your five senses and how they communicate in real life more, at least it did for me. When reading Neuromancer my first thought was “why the nervous system?” but after continuing more while keeping Zork in mind, it made much more sense.
Having been one of the best ‘console cowboys’ in the world Case loses control of his nervous system after stealing from his employer. The nervous system plays a crucial role in our everyday lives. As a console cowboy, Case utilized the strength of his five senses working together in harmony to live in the virtual world he would surround himself in. Once he loses the power of his nervous system, Case loses control of his life; moves to Japan, takes drugs, gets in too deep, and contemplates suicide. If Case was such a skilled console cowboy, it’s hard to believe that losing his job brought him to such a low point. It is understood that after losing control of his nervous system, Case seemingly spirals out of control.
While playing Zork, you must use mental images to depict exactly what is going on and where you are heading. It’s almost as if you have no sense of direction, you’re severe lack of sight makes the game difficult but also painfully engaging. Growing up, my main game of choice was the glorious Grand Theft Auto. In GTA you’re given a story and control of a character, in my case it was always trusty CJ. Leading CJ through altercations with pimps and cops while stealing cars and bustling grandparents around, I would always get a sense of ‘being’ CJ. In playing Zork I felt more removed of the situation; more powerful as if I were directing a man into battle, blindly of course. The main difference between these two stellar games is the visual aids and the position the player takes. In GTA you see where you’re going and even given a map to follow where as Zork you are given no agenda, map, or incentive. Your senses are at a loss, yet there’s somehow a sixth sense, wonder, keeping you around.
The connection between Zork and Neuromancer is that of the relation of senses. Whether playing the game or reading the book, the player/reader is given no actual visuals and can only imagine what is being described. In both outlets we are lacking the ability to use our senses to fully understand and grasp the situation we are in or reading about. This compares to the life Case was living after he had his neural damage. Case cannot live in a world where he has no control; hence his reckless behavior. The strength the nervous system has over a person is painful, especially so when aspect of that system are lost. Once Case retrieves function of his nervous system again, he reenters the world he missed and fully utilizes the strength of his restored senses.