Dive into a world shrouded in hues of arctic blue or explore a realm grounded in soft orange, dipped into red. In Elegy of a Dead World you are an explorer sent out into space to explore and discover three post-apocalyptic visual interpretations of poems by three Romantic poets: Byron, Shelley, and Keats. While crossing these landscapes and digital scenic vistas, players are tasked with ad-libbing prompts or the players are able to freely write in an effort to create a story for their surrounding adventure. I wrote an article about this game once before that explains the general outline of the game. In this particular article I plan to delve deeper and talk about important game mechanics that can help describe this game in detail and extend its general description of, a writing based game, and hit on some detailed components providing insight about not only how the representation in the game works—but why the representation works.
For this game analysis I will be using borrowed ideas from Clara Fernández-vara’s book, Introduction to Game Analysis. In Fernández-vara’s book she mentions how “The representation of the game helps in creating a mood, expressing themes, as well as contributing to the narrative of the game.”
- Creating a Mood:
I think the best way to describe the set mood for this game, is to first explore the trailer.
“Dear traveler, we have received your message that your vessel has been destroyed and your colleagues have been lost. Your mission is unchanged; explore the three lost civilizations and record your findings.” The scene set up through a short narrative is that you are alone, isolated, but your mission to explore these other post-apocalyptic worlds stands as is. This isolation could also be to represent you self-discovery as a diegetic component as the in game character, or as a non-diegetic out of world character as you discover your own writing techniques. This mood of solidarity continues as you explore the worlds. There is no other person on these worlds, every now and again you will see an odd antelope or deer styled creature and sometimes other alien styled creatures roam the planets you explore but there is no one to communicate with, and thus, you write. “We know you are lost, but we will find a way to bring you home.”
- Expressing themes:
The theme of a literary/film/or even game piece is often thought of as the main idea of the piece or even the underlining meaning. A theme can be stated or even implied but if implied the work can be open to a wide range of opinions and subjective ideologies. The subject for this game is most certainly about discovering these dead worlds, but the theme is to try and improve a person’s writing or at least stir an interest in writing. The themes are translated visually in the game by user interface (UI) design. For example when you are given the ability to write, a non-diegetic white quill appears to announce to the player that in this location, there is a prompt to write about. By having this marker it’s expressing the importance of writing, for that is what the game is based around, and thus is working towards expressing the importance of the theme of improving a persons writing or at least siting an interest.
- Contributing (or providing) the narrative:
The player of the game provides the narrative in Elegy of a Dead World, but the visual landscapes present itself in a way to guide the writer if writers block ensues. For instance,
The colors persuade the player to think of this particular world as cold. The white on the ground seems to represent snow and the jarring pieces protruding form the left of the screen could be seen as pieces of ice. Then you are given the prompt of, “I felt the frigid air and realized,” so even if the visual aspects of the game weren’t enough, the prompt continues to nudge you in a particular direction. The beauty of this creative based game is that despite the nudging and persuasion of text prompts and the visual world, you can write whatever you want. You could delete the bit about it being frigid and type out, “I felt the blazing hot, blue sun of this world and realized…” Or anything you want, because that of the developers and the player, or that of just the player can make the narrative.