Thursday, January 30, 2014

Zork and Neuromancer Tone Similarities




            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.

Works Cited

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.
"Play Zork at Iron Realms." The Best MUDs. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.

3 comments:

Maggie Stankaitis said...

I like where you took the argument— choosing to focus on the way Gibson chose to write his novel using adventure and sarcasm. You could have taken an a more contextual angle on this prompt, but I am glad you focused more on language and style. In your first paragraph I think you need to emphasize adventure more toward the beginning, just to let the reader know what you are trying to get at. Your second body paragraph is good, and I really enjoy that you looked into the (minimal) language in the game.

Overall, I think this is a good short essay that would be great to revise and extend. I think to lengthen this more you could talk about how the use of adventure and sarcasm enhances the novel and game as a whole.

Good work here, I’d like to read more of it!

Adam said...

Your introduction is vague. The sarcasm is a fine similarity, but what does the similarity mean, or why does it matter?

The emphasis on the tone of adventure is interesting, although it also feels like a stretch. It's not like adventurous writing hasn't been around for a while (e.g.: The Odyssey or the Iliad). You might be able to say that there is something distinctly modern or contemporary about the sense of adventure *here*, but that would require being more specific.

Similarly, sarcasm is hardly uncommon. Is there something special about the sarcasm in these two works, or something special about how we can read or treat the sarcasm of them together? The fact that both are sarcastic is an ok initial observation - but why do we care?

I agree with Maggie that the focus on style is a good idea, and it *is* an excellent way to bring the two works together. But pointing out a set of similarities is not yet an argument *about* those similarities - that's where you fall short in this draft.

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