William Gibson’s Neuromancer is a sci-fi novel where the characters enter virtual cyberspace called the “Matrix”, hence creating a digital world very similar to that of videogames. Thus, this is a perfect opportunity to play the 1980 text adventure video game Zork, whose world shares many similarities with that of Neuromancer. By reading Gibson’s novel and playing Zork simultaneously, I was able to better understand Neuromancer, specifically due to their similar adventurous and sarcastic tones.
First, there is an adventurous tone found within both the realm of Zork and the realm of Neuromancer. For instance, almost immediately when you start the game you encounter a leaflet, and reading it reveals the proclamation: “Zork is a game of adventure, danger, and low cunning. In it you will explore some of the most amazing territory ever seen by mortals” (Zork). It is clear that the author of the text is making a point to make Zork sound exciting, especially through words such as “adventure”, “danger” and “amazing”, which all have strong connotations attached to them. The narrator embellishes so much on the excitement of the game that it turns into a strong hyperbole. This, of course, instantly urges the player to play on, creating excitement towards the vast digital world that lies before them and the endless possibilities that lie within it. Also, the word-choice of “mortals” here makes Zork sound like a science fiction game, tying it further into the realm of Neuromancer, a science fiction book. Likewise, Neuromancer has a similar adventurous tone. While at the Hilton, Case picks up a brochure that reads, “FREESIDE – WHY WAIT?” (Gibson 97). Freeside is a city much like Las Vegas that is located inside the Matrix. Instantly, when Freeside is compared to Las Vegas, one would think of not just any adventure, but a wild and crazy one. Since the adventurous Freeside can correlate with the kingdom of Zork, the digital world is much more fast-paced and exciting than our typical reality. The rhetorical question of “why wait?” is a call to action for the character of Case. Being adventurous means taking chances and putting yourself out there. Thus, by going to Freeside, Case is an adventurer. Further, the name “Freeside” itself encourages adventure because the word free makes the subject seem limitless, like anything can happen. At the end of the day, that’s the true essence of adventure.
In addition to the adventurous tone, there is also a similar underlying sarcastic tone in both Zork and Neuromancer that lightens up the serious mood. For example, when presented with a pile of leaves in Zork, I type in “jump in leaves” and the narrator writes, “Very good. Now you can go to the second grade” (Zork). The sarcastic, biting tone comes off as playful. The responses that the player usually receives are serious ones informing them of their surroundings or how their action affects the gameplay. This sharp contrast embedded with bitter humor will almost surely make the player laugh. After all, it is a game, and a game’s number one purpose is to entertain the player. Similarly, that same desire to lighten the mood and remind you that the digital realm is to be enjoyed is present in Neuromancer when Deane is explaining to Case how the virtual arcade that Case has just escaped was his creation. Deane tells Case, “Oh, and I’m sorry about Linda, in the arcade. I was hoping to speak through her, but I’m generating all this out of your memories, and the emotional charge…Well its very tricky. I slipped. Sorry” (Gibson 119). Once again, the bitingly sarcastic jab at Case lightens up the mood, which was previously serious since Deane was explaining who he was and Case is carrying a loaded weapon. The sarcastic tone is achieved through the ellipses in the beginning of the quotation and the short sentences at the end. When read this way, each word packs an extra punch, making the sarcasm mock Case just as the sarcasm mocks the player in Zork.
Conclusively, Zork and Neuromancer have adventurous and sarcastic tones that help to make the plot of Neuromancer more clear in relation to Zork. Tone makes a huge difference in a form of entertainment. The tones in Zork and Neuromancer make you want to keep playing and reading, respectively. The tones also relate well to the digital world, which was made for adventure, surprise, suspense, and humor, making players desire to fully immerse themselves into the unknown world.
Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.
"Play Zork at Iron Realms." The Best MUDs. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.