Once again, I have brought myself to make revisions to the overall design of my Gawain-adaptation.
No, you will be pleased to know that the game is not undergoing another top to bottom revision. That would be absurd and likely cause a mental break; no, I am merely re-focusing the aesthetic and gaming poetics. Essentially, the game has remained the same—I am not subtracting anything from the game. All that I have published before—about the Nodes and game world—will remain in the final product. Instead, I am merely re-orienting the game toward an action focused lens.
Previously, you will remember that the game wasn’t so much a game as it was a piece of interactive literature. Though the adaptation has remained a piece of interactive literature, now the interactive part has been expanded to demand more of the player. Instead of the player passively wandering the world, absorbing the culture, story, and history before making their own reality altering interpretation, they will now be tested more astutely.
What I am thinking is this: combat and situational challenges. Both of which are encoded as threads of Critical Theory.
The idea is that the player will encounter certain foes and certain challenges which will require them to select certain “Manipulations”, spells or attacks, which instead of being displayed forthwith, are displayed as the actual processes to perform them. So, to illustrate, one manipulation could be composed of [Step Forward, Raise Left Hand, Shout ‘Zephyrus’] and that could unleash a specific spell/attack which is associated with some specific bit of critical theory, something which has a specific use in a specific situation, but is able to be used generally (in keeping with the inability of the player to die and there being no incorrect interpretations, other than literalism, of course). What underlies this idea is that there is an internal consistency behind each action; the ‘Raise Hand’, in other words, done in isolation, has a different effect/affect than if it were to be done in conjunction with the ‘Step Forward’ and the shouting of a word. Ultimately, though it would take a lot of experimentation to get it right, I would like each word—something which has its roots in either Middle or Old English—to correspond to a specific set and sub-set of critical theoretical ideas, while the physical gestures which accompany the words, act as a kind of interpretative fulcrum, like a specific effect of close reading or de-familiarization; theory which, in itself, does not act as critical theory, but which supports its interpretative process.
In effect, what I want to develop is a critical-theoretical economy which is semiotically encoded. Of course, this will be a laborious undertaking, but one which I feel would be well worth the effort. Penultimately, though, the question becomes ‘by what means is this theory encoded?’ Is the theory encoded by literal poetics? Is each critical-theoretical tradition encoded by a different Middle English dialect or poetic style? And so on.
What I hope to enact by focusing on this idea is simple: that the player learns to associate signs with theory—action and performance, since such have an actual theoretical result underpinning it. So though it is one which, superficially, only exists in the game, as long as they remember the theory behind the sign, then they will remember the theory itself and be able to combine their own pieces willy-nilly; if this is the case, then it serves to stand that they have learnt the theory itself. In which case, then my goal of teaching the player critical theory will have succeeded.
This is why I now want a heavier emphasis on combat and situational crisis. Because it is only with the player constantly kept on their feet that they will constantly feel the need to return to the Knightly Bootcamp and remember what every sign means; whether this memorization happens by brute force or natural inclination, matters little. What matters is that the player confronts the material with the idea that their participation within the game world is one which requires an engagement with the material.
Which, of course, brings me to my next point—how to encourage an engagement with the material?
I was thinking of a point system. Even with combat, as I said, there is no possibility of dying in this game—perhaps, if the player chooses literalist readings, they will be pushed back a degree in terms of progress, but since those places are fairly obvious, should a player decide just to power through the game without recourse to what the signs means—a course of action which will go against their Fidelity to the game—there is no overt penalty for doing so, they still finish the game (though, really, if such was the point for them, why even play the game when they could simply read the original poem instead?). So I feel that to nudge people in the right direction, some kind of point or ranking system be introduced.
Such a system is still a befuddlement to me, but my early ideas about it involve high points for interpretations/spells/Manipulations which directly confront the challenge or situation at a primal level—an epistemological standing. Of course, this runs the risk of issuing hermeneutic edicts, that one interpretation is more correct than another; this would, of course, go against the spirit of the adaptation, but considering the scenario, it may, perhaps, be warranted as a necessary evil, one which has some caveats attached to it.
Will have to think on it some more.