For my Haunted Media Project I used a simple text adventure game engine called Quest, to emulate a sort of chatbot experience. I thought that creating a text adventure would be a unique way to fulfill the requirements for this project, while enjoying the process itself. Below, in my artist statement I will further explain the goal of my project and all of the necessary steps it took me to created the final version.
First I will start with explaining the main points of my game, and the steps it took to create what I did. I will also address my line of thinking during each of the steps and features included in the project. The goal of my text adventure was mystery – I wanted the audience and player to be immersed in the conversation, which was very limited in nature due to me not creating more options for the player. The idea was to leave players speechless with the shocking nature of the content, while slowly introducing them to the “plot” of the experience. In order to immerse the players, I had to find a way to engage with the player for the very start, a way to absorb the attention of the player. I decided to use some dark ambient music to create an atmosphere of dread and mystery. The music starts at the very beginning of the text adventure, and persists during the entire game. The name of the character used in the text adventure was Walter Sullivan, a character from the video game Silent Hill 4: The Room (2004) published by Konami. At first, I didn’t mean the characters to have parallels beyond the interesting name, but later I decided to include plot points from Sullivan’s life in order to give the player something more to think about if they were compelled to google the name out of curiosity. As a result, some points in the chat are inspired by events from Walter’s life in the video game Silent Hill, while others I created myself to pace the experience in a way that would be shocking to the audience, due to its starkly contrasting calm beginning, and a very dark and disturbing ending.Another method of building anticipation and helping the shocking nature of my text adventure was using the typewriter and decryption text effects, where text is revealed subtly or slowly, in an effort to build suspense. I hoped I would build anticipation in players, and a want to click further and see where the story would go. The effects, coupled with the persistent soundtrack should have left a strong impact on the player. As mentioned earlier, the start of the game is very introductory in nature, in that it is slow and deceivingly benign. This makes it hard for players to assume where this game was going, so when the action starts to unfold, the viewers find themselves in shock with every new message which bring the maximum entertainment value to the experience. Although, the game itself is pretty dark and dreary, viewers who enjoy a trill or anything horror related can find themselves an interesting experience in my short and crude text adventure.
Upon reading the guideline of the project I looked back at everything we had done in class so far. The most immediate reaction to the guidelines of the project was thinking of the episode of Black Mirror, “Be Right Back” which we watched at the beginning of the semester. The idea stuck with me and the entire episode was very impactful. I decided I wanted to make something similar, but different enough for the parallel to exist, but the unique nature of my project and plot to remain. In the “Be Right Back” a guy name Ashe dies in a car accident after which his fiance, Marta, is desperately trying to bring him back somehow. Once she found a program that allowed her to chat with artificial Ashe, she kind of lost her mind. The program collected data from a death person in order to create responses in the chat. After a while the program offered a series of upgrades which allowed her to bring artificial Ashe in existence. While my idea intersects with the chatting aspect of the Black Mirror episode, there are some major differences.The conversations between Ashe and Martha, and the player and Walter Sullivan are starkly different. Mine being much more overtly disturbing and shocking. While in the “Be Right Back” audience can witness texting between Marta and artificial Ashe that is like regular life texting and without the awkwardness, in my text adventure the tone is always cryptic and weird. From the very start, the audience is hinted on a weird plot – just how weird it is though, one has to find out by going through the whole experience.
Throughout the process of creating my project I looked into things that would be most wanted by the people if my project can come to existence. Since the origins of humankind, people grief their loved ones when they pass away. Often the death of the closely related person can cause people to lose their mind. Most people who lose their loved ones would do anything to bring them back. In the article Natalie Zarrelli’s “Dial-a Ghost on Thomas Edison’s Least Successful Invention: The Spirit Phone.” I was able to recognize that people were trying to find a way to connect with death people. In 1933, Thomas Edison and many other scientist gathered in the secret laboratory to conduct an invention called “spirit phone”. The spirit phone was suppose to connect with smallest particles that are floating in atmosphere (which would also give the proof of the afterlife) in order to connect live with death. Unfortunately, after many hours spent on this project Thomas Edison and other scientist realize that they were not able to get the results they were expecting. Edison’s idea was another stepping stone in creating my project as I used his idea in today’s world. With the improvement of technology we are closer than ever in connecting life with death. Not that long ago people had to write letters back and forth in order to stay connected despite the long distance. It would take weeks before one would receive a letter. However, nowadays we are not only able to speak to a person that is on a different part of the planet from us, but we are able to see them too.
In the article, Cyberspace When You’re Dead by Rob Walker, there was a line that really stuck with me. “‘So I’m still having this conversation’ with his friend Tonnies, he told me, ‘even though he’s been dead for more than a year.’” When I read this I felt really odd about the entire idea. I knew that my project could be related completely to this idea, and I knew I had found something worth exploring. I wanted to recreate the feeling I felt when I read that line, in whichever way I could. I expanded on it however by including the hints of an afterlife. The player isn’t offered much of a description, as Walter himself struggles to describe what exactly is going on, and how much he can be trusted is questionable as well. Regardless, the afterlife is a very interesting topic to me, so it felt natural to connect a line between all these points and create a text adventure for people to play and feel a certain way.
I also read a paper called, Death and the Internet: The implications of the digital afterlife by Nicola Wright. In it, the author addresses the cultural implications of death given the introduction of the digital age and all of its features. Despite the topic of the article being very similar to what we do in class, for some reason after reading it I thought of an idea – what if the digital afterlife was actually a place, and we just can’t communicate with it, until now.
I created a chatbot experience in which I tackle issues from our class, while introducing things that I have always thought of throughout my life. Ideas which I have questions about tend to leave a strong impact on the work I do, so I thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to create something which could encompass these different ideas and things that I find enjoyable to think about and explore. I believe the text adventure, if anything, is an interesting experience, and to some extent conveys what I attempted to convey, despite my lack of knowledge in coding and creating such things.
Zarrelli, Natalie. “Dial-a-Ghost on Thomas Edison’s Least Successful Invention: The Spirit Phone.” Atlas Obscura. Atlas Obscura, 18 Oct. 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.
Walker, Rob. “Cyberspace When You’re Dead.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 08 Jan. 2011. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.
Wright, Nicola. “Death and the Internet: The Implications of the Digital Afterlife.” First Monday. N.p., June-July 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.