Thursday, January 30, 2014

Seeing the World Behind the Words

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.


Becca Garges said...


Your essay reminds me of some of the ideas I explored in my own blog post. I like that you connect the game and the novel with the lack of ability to use all of our senses. However, you only begin to explore this in the last paragraph. The bulk of your essay is summarizing Zork and Neuromancer. If you choose to revise this essay, you could further explore how the lack of ability to use all of our senses gives us a different experience when playing Zork or reading Neuromancer. You mention how playing GTA is a different experience from playing Zork. How does this then relate to the experience of reading Neuromancer? Also, how do the similarities between the game and the novel help us better understand each of them? You don't really address this, which was a large part of the prompt. You could also expand on the significance of the nervous system and perhaps connect the "out of body experience" Case loves so much to the experience of playing Zork. I think you have some really great ideas about the uniqueness of playing/reading these narratives, but you need to expand on their relation to one another in order to address the questions in the prompt.


Adam said...

I don't understand the first couple paragraphs very well. I understand that you wan to say something about the senses and how they operate (or what they mean?) in these two works, but I can't follow it. I particularly can't follow the idea that Case has lost control of his nervous system (he hasn't - he's had it subtly but effectively damaged).

The third paragraph still doesn't have a terribly clear argument, but it does have a clear idea. You are trying to get specifically at the impact of limiting sensory input - the lack of sensation (in all senses) becomes a kind of sensation. I'm ok with this as a starting point, but we're three paragraphs in and still essentially in an introduction. This is a workable introduction about (my terminology coming) how alienation & identification work in video games - but it doesn't offer a specific analysis of the works in question.

Then you have a conclusion, although you never really formulated an argument.

Overall: You have some ideas which are worth developing, but you needed to be able to say something specific about the book and the text - here we have a set of incomplete and undeveloped generalizations. The devil is always in the details - you can't evade dealing with the specifics of your texts.