(put: (prompt: "WHO ARE YOU?") into $yourname)<p>PLEASE NOTE THE PHASING OF UNIVERSES.</p><p> TIME AND SPACE ARE CONCEPTUALLY AND NARRATIVELY UNSTABLE.</p><p>THERE IS AN INNUMEROUS SUCCESSION OF FUTURE AND PAST YOUS THAT EXIST PARALLEL TO YOUR EXISTENCE</p><p>SUBJECT: ISABEL JIYOUNG KIM</p><p>OBJECT: $yourname</p><p>[[The room|the room]]</p>
<p>There is a red telephone and a chair.</p><p>[[Pick up phone|pick up phone]]</p> <p>[[Sit in chair|sit in chair]]</p> <p>[[Examine room|examine room]]</p>
<p> Picking up the phone, you press the CALL button and you hold it to your ear. </p> <p>[[Continue|continueA]]</p>
<p> You sit down. The chair is comfortable — it reminds you of the one you lounged in as a kid while reading books. It is curiously reminiscent of every other chair you've sat in over the years, simultaneously the perfect average chair. Completely unmemorable.</p><p>[[Pick up phone|pick up phone]]</p> <p>[[Examine room|examine room]]</p>
<p>The room is empty, aside from the chair and the old-fashioned red phone hanging on the wall. Both objects are pristine: the phone gleams, the leather shines. There are no windows.The walls are covered in a beautiful wallpaper and the floor is rich mahogany. Weirdly sumptuous. Weirdly empty.</p><p>The phone only has a single button: CALL.</p> <p>[[Pick up phone|pick up phone]]</p><p>[[Sit in chair|sit in chair]]</p><p>[[Examine wallpaper]]</p>
<p>Static bursts, fades into a low hum. The connection is made. </p><p>[[Speak|speak]]</p><p>[[Stay silent|stay silent]]</p> <p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>[[“Hello?”|“hello?”]]</p><p>[[“Just cut to the chase”|“just cut to the chase”]]<p><p>[[“Why are we doing this”|“why are we doing this”]]</p><p>[["I've got the numbers"|code passage]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>Your voice on the line. “Hello? $yourname?”</p> <p>[[Respond|speak]]</p><p>[[Keep silent|keep silent]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>"Hello?" you say, tentatively.</p> <p>"Hey," your voice across the phone says. "What's up?"</p><p>[["I just wanted to talk"]]</p><p>[["What is this?" |what is this]]</p> <p>[["I've got questions for you. |what do you want to know]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>Your future self laughs, on the other end of the line.</p> <p>“Well alright then, $yourname,” they say.</p><p>(either: "[[They speak|the lottery numbers]]", "[[They speak|your significant other]]", "[[They speak |the future]]", "[[They speak |the indelible future]]")</p> <p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>"Well you know, why does anyone do anything? Why'd you do that thing in seventh grade — oh crap, has that happened yet?"</p><p>"I'm not twelve."</p><p>"Thank God for that. But yeah. This is just a thing that's happening at this particular moment in time, to all the myriad versions of $yourname. Don't go looking for answers. Close examination will get you nowhere. So, what's up $yourname, [[what do you want to know]]?" </p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>A sigh. “Listen, I know you’re there. so I’m gonna just keep talking, alright?”</p> <p>[[Respond|respond]]</p> <p>(either: "[[Silence|silence]]", "[[Silence|speaking]]")</p> <p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>"Hey."</p><p>"Ah! They speak. What's up?"</p> <p>[["Why are we doing this?"|“why are we doing this”]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>PLEASE NOTE THE MULTIVERSE HAS SHIFTED</p><p>“Or not. I’m not. I can’t. because you didn’t tell me anything the first time. so I guess we’re just going to sit here. silently. forever. me and you. you and me. me and me.”</p> <p>[[Silence|continue b]]" </p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>Static through the telephone. </p>
<p>(either: "[[silence|continue b]]", "[[silence|speaking]]")</p> <p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>PLEASE NOTE THE MULTIVERSE HAS SHIFTED</p><p>“It’s weird being on this end of the conversation. I don’t know what you want to hear. Do you want me to tell you anything in particular?”</p><p>[[Yes|what do you want to know]]</p> <p>[[No|arbitrary]]</p> <p>[[Silence|arbitrary]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>"Fine then, I guess I'm just going to say (either: "[[Whatever I feel like saying|the lottery numbers]]", "[[Whatever I feel like saying|your significant other]]", "[[Whatever I feel like saying|the future]]", "[[Whatever I feel like saying|the indelible future]]")."</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>You put the phone down.</p><p>(either: "[[It clicks into the cradle|the room]]", "[[It clicks into the cradle|It rings]]")</p>
<p>Just as you put down the phone, it rings.</p><p>[[Pick it up|pick it up]]</p> <p>[[Let it ring|let it ring]]</p>
<p>Static bursts, fades into a low hum. The connection is made. </p><p>[[speak]]</p><p>[[stay silent]]</p> <p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>The ring is shrill and insistent.</p> <p>(either: "[[Let it ring|let it ring]]", "[[Let it ring|it stops]]") <p>[[pick it up]]</p>
<p>"Remember these numbers," they say, "I can't tell you what they mean yet but they're important. You need them. They change your life."</p><p>"Alright, I'm ready," you say.</p><p>They take a deep breath.</p><p>"Okay. ''413612''. You got that?"</p><p>[["Yeah."]]</p><p>[["Why do I need them?"]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>"Okay so I'm gonna tell you about your love life, because when I was in your shoes — well I guess I'm still in your shoes, assuming you didn't buy new shoes — that's what I got told about. It's only fair." They sound amused "So do you want me to give you the protips? Or do you just want reassurance that you don't end up sad and alone? I can give you either."</p><p>They laugh</p><p>[[Reassurance|reassurance]]</p><p>[[Tell me what to do|tell me what to do]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>It stops. Silence.</p><p>(either: "[[The silence continues.|the room]]", "[[It begins to ring again.|It rings]]")</p>
<p>PLEASE NOTE THE MULTIVERSE HAS SHIFTED</p><p>"You should do that thing, you know, the one you've been thinking about doing?"</p><p>"That's so vague. What the hell are you talking about?"</p><p>"Moving. Getting the hell out of dodge."</p><p>"What?"</p><p>"You know what I'm talking about, you've been thinking about it forever, every once in a while, you'll be watering your plants or cooking an egg or some shit like that, or maybe walking to work or running on a treadmill and you'll be like 'Man I should get the fuck out of here, I should just get the hell out!' But you never do. You just, you just stay, even though we both know you kind of hate your job and your apartment and the only thing keeping you there is your like, four friends, a lot the time? And spend way too much of your life thinking about what else you could do. That."</p><p>"Oh."</p><p>"Yeah. So you should maybe stop thinking and start doing."</p><p>You're not really sure what to say to that.</p><p>They speak, undeterred by your silence.</p><p>"Hello? I'm sorry if this is blunt, but it doesn't end well, when we don't leave. I don't know, that's just my two cents."</p><p>[[Ask another question |what do you want to know]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>"Great. Is there anything else you want to know?"</p><p>[["Yeah."|what do you want to know]]</p><p>[["No."]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>"Don't worry about it yet."</p><p>"No, seriously. What do I need them for?"</p><p>"Dude. Don't worry about it. Either you'll need them or you won't, I don't know which universe you're in."</p><p>"What?</p><p>Their voice grows muffled, as if they're talking away from the phone.</p><p>"Aw, damn, I guess I wasn't supp-"</p><p>A click.</p><p>[[Put the phone down|hang up]]</p>
<p>"Right then. Uncurious this time around, aren't you. Catch you on the flip side."</p><p>A click. They've hung up.</p><p>[[Put the phone down |hang up]]</p>
<p>[["What's my love life like?"|your significant other ask]]</p><p>"(either: "[[Am I happy?|happy]]", "[[Am I happy?|Sad]]", "[[Am I happy?|It's complicated]]")"</p><p>[["Why is this happening?"|“why are we doing this”]]</p><p>[["So, how's life?"|how is life]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
(put: (prompt: "What's the code?") into $name)
<p>"$name" you say.</p>
(if: $name is '413612')[
<p> Through the phone, you hear a sharp inhale. "Damn," they say. "Alright then. Guess I should tell you about the stuff."</p><p>[["What stuff?"|what stuff?]]</p>
<p>They laugh, a tinny sound reverbating through the phone.</p><p>"Looks like you're a past me. Right then, what do you wanna know?"</p><p>[[Ask a question |what do you want to know]]</p><p>[[keep silent]]</p>
<p>"So, the code means that you talked to the right "$yourname" and that you're from the type of universe that has the thing, and that you're far enough in the timeline."</p><p>"Sure, but what are you talking about?</p><p>"I'm sure you've noticed that these conversations are spectacularly unhelpful.</p><p>"Well, they've been interesting so far.</p><p>"Interesting doesn't mean helpful. This might clear up some questions, if you're in the right universe. Check the wallpaper again, if you want some extra info. Anyway, check the ''middle left hand side''."</p><p>"What?"</p><p>[[You hear a click. Your future self has hung up. |hang up]]</p>
<p>PLEASE NOTE THE MULTIVERSE HAS SHIFTED</p><p>"Am I happy?" you ask.</p><p>"Wow. you sure go for the big questions, my guy."</p><p>They pause.</p><p>"You know? I don't know. I'm not sure."</p><p>They laugh.</p><p>"Isn't that fucked up? To not know if you' even like your life or not? Jeez. I haven't really thought about that before? What about you, are you happy?</p><p>[["Yeah, I guess."|happy yes]]</p><p>[["Not really."|happy no]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>"Life's okay, I guess, overall. How's things when you're from?"</p><p>"Eh."</p><p>"Yeah? When you from? No, wait, don't tell me. Let me think... I'm guessing.... April 2012?"</p><p>[["Yup, how'd you know?]]</p><p>[["Not even close."]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>"Things work out great. It's fuckballs amazing. God. I didn't know relationships could be like this, you know?"</p><p>"I really don't."</p><p>"Trust me. It works out fine. You'll see. I promise. Look, I'm not saying you end up happy, but you know, you don't lack for companionship."</p><p>A beat of silence.</p><p>"(either: "[[Do I end up happy, though?|happy]]", "[[Do I end up happy, though?|Sad]]", "[[Do I end up happy, though?|It's complicated]]")"</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>PLEASE NOTE THE MULTIVERSE HAS SHIFTED</p><p>"I'm not gonna say this is a bed of roses for you, it's gonna be some real shit you gotta go through before you get your happy ending."</p><p>"Well let me know what that shit is, uh, please.</p><p>"On the 18th of December, you're gonna go get the mail. It'll be 8:00 in th morning, I think, you're gonna be tired. It's going to be raining — not snowing, because December that year is going to be awfully hot, global warming and whatever — and you're going to want to go inside. Don't do that. Stay outside. Pick up your mail and start walking. Take a left at the red car."</p> <p>"And?"</p><p>"Enjoy the ride."</p><p>"Is that all you're gonna tell me?"</p><p>"It's all I can, that's all I got told. It works out.</p><p>"Yeah?"</p><p>"Yeah. Ok, [[what else ya wanna know?|what do you want to know]]"</p> <p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>"Well of course you'd ask about that, knowing what things are like for you right now," they say. You can just imagine the way you'd be rolling your eyes — exasperation, but an understanding sort. "So do you want me to tell you what to do? Or do you just want reassurance? I can give you either."</p><p>[[reassurance]]</p><p>"(either: "[[Tell me what to do.|tell me what to do]]", "[[Tell me what to do.|themultiversaltellingromance]]")"</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
(put: (prompt: "You looking for something?") into $name)
(if: $name is 'middle left hand side')[
<p>You peer toward the $name of each of the walls. The one that the phone is mounted on on has a slight tear on the left, right next to the phone.</p><p>You hesitantly peel the tear back. A piece of paper falls out. Neat.</p><p>(either: "[[Read paper]]", "[[Read paper|drawing]]", "[[Read paper|writing2]]","[[Read paper|writing3]]")</p> <p>[[Go back|examine room]]</p>
<p>Because you are the type of person who goes on all the irrelevant sidequests in video games, the type of person who searches all the trash cans in pokemon games in vain hopes of finding a second great ball, because this is the type of person you are, you examine the wallpaper.</p><p>It is green.</p> <p>It is beautiful.</p> <p>It tells you nothing.</p><p>[[Go back|examine room]]</p>
<p>PLEASE NOTE THE MULTIVERSE HAS SHIFTED</p><p>"Honestly? Not really. Like, life's okay, but it's not all that great. I don't know. Maybe it's just me realizing that everything I wanted in life isn't really what it seemed. Does that make sense?"</p><p>"Not really."</p><p>"That's fair. We're not great at explaining things. All I'm saying is that maybe happiness isn't tied to the physical reality of situations, you know? Sometimes I wonder if any us are happy, do you know what I mean? Maybe across time and universes none of us really know how to deal with our lives."</p><p>"Well, I'm not looking forward to this, then.</p><p>"Well I guess it could be nice to know what's coming. Knowledge is good. Or it could be completely awful. But hey, are things good when you're from, $yourname?"</p><p>[["I'm pretty happy, actually."|happy yes]]</p><p>[["Not really."|happy no]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>PLEASE NOTE THE MULTIVERSE HAS SHIFTED</p><p>"I don't know if you can call anyone happy, you know? Happiness is a weird concept. Like, are we happy all the time?"</p><p>"I guess what I'm saying is that, I'm pretty okay with how things turned out. I mean, I'm not happy, but you know, I'm not sad either. Life's alright, you know? I can live with this."</p><p>"Yeah."</p><p>"How about you, $yourname, how're you doing?"</p><p>[["I'm pretty happy, actually, I think."|happy yes]]</p><p>[["Actually, things aren't great."|happy no]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>"I mean, you're kind of wasting your call here. But sure. How's things?"</p><p>"They're pretty good, actually."</p><p>"Yeah? When you from? No, wait, don't tell me. Let me think... I'm guessing.... April 2012?"</p><p>[["Yup, how'd you know?]]</p><p>[["Not even close."]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>"Oh, the ordinary run-of-the-mill futurepastself experience. Same sort of shit everyone goes through. Totally normal, don't worry about it."</p><p>"What?"</p><p>"C'mon. You know the drill. Pick up the phone and talk to yourself, $yourname. I'm right here."</p><p>[["But why are we doing this?" |“why are we doing this”]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>PLEASE NOTE THE MULTIVERSE HAS SHIFTED</p><p>"Cause I remember this from the other side. C'mon dude, keep up."</p><p>"Right.</p><p>"Yeah. April 2012, that's a good year. Okay, I'm gonna give you the lottery numbers for the next couple of Powerballs. You ready?"</p><p>"Yeah."</p><p>"Cool. Ok listen up: 03, 14, 1, 82, 54, 50, 7. 23, 12, 67, 81, 09, 03. 72, 23, 06, 43, 87, 02. And ... that's all I remember. Sorry."</p><p>"No, that's more than enough. Anything else I should know?</p><p>"Yeah, there's a bit of an accident in a couple months, but don't worry about it, everything turns out ok and insurance covers it. And study for your finals, you asshole! Alright, that's all I remember hearing, so I'm going to hang up now."</p><p>"Okay, thanks. Bye.</p><p>"Catch ya later.</p><p>You [[hang up]] before your future self can.</p>
<p>PLEASE NOTE THE MULTIVERSE HAS SHIFTED</p><p>"Damn. Well, I tried. Universe must have shifted. How's things for you, then? Guess they could be like anything. You happy, whenever — and whereever— you are?"</p><p>[["Yeah, I guess."|happy yes]]</p><p>[["Not really."|happy no]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>PLEASE NOTE THE MULTIVERSE HAS SHIFTED</p><p>"So things turn out pretty alright, I guess. You finish school, and no I'm not going to give you specifics about that because it's gonna happen the same way no matter what I tell you."</p><p>"Yeah, but tell me anyway, because you're going to do that."</p><p>"What?"</p>"The indelible future. You've got have told me, right?"</p><p>"That only works from my end, dude. Luckily, you're right. I had this conversation before and yeah. I tell you everything."</p><p>They take a deep breath.</p><p>"Okay. Listen up. September 27th, 2034. Best day of your life, don't fuck it up, you'll know what I mean when you get there — remember your coat. January 21, 2024, go see "Breakdown" at the world premiere, yes I know it's expensive but trust me. And remember these lottery numbers, because that's the only way you're going to pay off your debt, 23, 45, 22, 87, 01, 87. These are for uh, next month. And, uhh, what else, fuck, I can't remember, oh yeah, you're going to get uh ... You got that?"</p><p>"Nope, can you repeat uh, the last bit?"</p><p>"Can't do, my friend, I don't remember ever hearing it."</p> <p>[[Ask another question |what do you want to know]]</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>PLEASE NOTE THE MULTIVERSE HAS SHIFTED</p><p>"Well I can only give you a guideline, I guess, cause you know, you don't have to do what I'm telling you. But hey, it worked out pretty well for me."</p><p>"Think I should go for it?"</p><p>"I mean, the relationship is really great. They're amazing. That might just be bias talking though, so honestly, there's a lot of people out there. You should do what you want, you know?"</p><p>"Got any general advice, then?"</p><p>"Eh...Sure. Just be a real person, you know? I know that we're gonna want to freak out about asking them out or getting asked out or whatever, but they're just a person! Just talk to them. When you start doing that, things get easier. Just, uhh, I dunno, think about them in their underwear."</p><p>"I think that would make me more nervous."</p><p>"Fair. Think about how nervous they are, then. And seriously. Stop self-sabotaging. Just go for shit. Sometimes things won't work out, and that's fine. Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is, I don't know the future for you. Do what you want, life mostly works out. This was probably spectacularly unhelpful, wasn't it?"</p><p>"How else would it be? We're the same person.</p><p>"And the future isn't set in stone, either. ... Man, we're just going in circles now. [[Anything else you want to know?|what do you want to know]]"</p><p>[[hang up]]</p>
<p>"Yeah, I'm pretty happy."</p><p>"You sound sort of surprised about that."</p><p>"I just don't think about it that much."</p><p>"Mm. Reasonable. Anyway, got anything else you want to ask me?</p><p>[["Yeah."|what do you want to know]]</p><p>[["No thanks, I'm good."|hang up]]</p>
<p>"I'm not happy, I don't think. Although, I wouldn't be telling you this unless we were, well, the same person."</p><p>"That sucks. Things not going well, then?"</p><p>"Things are okay. I just don't really like it? I don't know. It's sort of a first world problem, I suppose — general dissatisfaction and ennui."</p><p>"Yeah. I mean, your feelings are valid. It sucks. Do you want some advice or something?"</p><p>[["Yeah."|what do you want to know]]</p><p>[["No thanks."|hang up]]</p>
TIPS & TRICKS: GUIDE TO REPEATACYCLE MASTERY
1. A CONVERSATION WITH YOURSELF IS ULTIMATELY FRUITLESS.
2. THE MULTIVERSE IS VAST AND FULL OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF TIMELINES, THIS IS DEFINITELY HOW TIME WORKS.
3. THE ADVICE YOU GIVE AND RECEIVE WILL BE VARYING DEGREES OF ACCURATE BASED ON TIMELINE.
4. THE TIMELINE CAN SHIFT AT ANY MOMENT.
5. WINNING IS AN ILLUSION, AS IS LIFE.
6. MASTERY IS AN ILLUSION, AS IS WINNING.
7. LIFE IS AN ILLUSION, AS IS MASTERY.
[[Go back|Examine wallpaper]]
My creative project, titled REPEATACYCLE, was structured around investigating the thesis that interactivity is ultimately almost completely decided by the creator of a work, and that free will and agency cannot exist in a interactive narrative, even in mediums that simulate free will. The argument I proposed is that ultimately, the only decision that the player or reader has is whether to interface with the work or not, and that while the experience of the work changes, this experience is different from the work itself. Thesis being stated, I will admit that I was fundamentally more interested in critically examining the differences rather than coming to a conclusive answer. In creating REPEATACYCLE, I explore the idea of control and interaction within a text, and who is essentially the “creator” of the experience.
In making this work, however, I realized that I must ask a more fundamental question instead: does it matter whether a player has free will or agency? In the end, I think my project ultimately proves that perhaps it does not matter whether free will — or the agency to make decisions without strong outside influence — exists when interfacing with media, and that free will is perhaps not a “valuable” concept with regards to an experience. This work also subverts the notion that something outwardly coded as a “game” needs necessarily to be enjoyable, as opposed to interesting, or that narrative need be linear to be understood — or perhaps brings up the question of what “enjoyable” means in context of electronic literature. In the end, I realized that REPEATACYCLE highlights the contained nature of games, the limited actions and answers even as it offers the hope of a change. While creating REPEATACYCLE was inconclusive to the question of whether interactivity is completely author-generated, I believe the text itself draws attention to the constraints of the player and the relationship between author, machine, and text.
Key concepts that I am trying to engage with are nonlinearity, interfaces (especially with regards to commercial user interfaces and user experience), repetition, recursion, multiple worlds theory and agency/free will. It’s a substantial list, but I do think that all these concepts are key to understanding how REPEATACYCLE works from both the creator/user angles, and I draw upon prior scholarship to define many of my terms. With regards to nonlinearity, I use Espen Aareth’s definition of a nonlinear text as "an object of verbal communication that is not simply one fixed sequence of letters, words, and sentences but one in which the words or sequence of words may differ from reading to reading because of the shape, conventions, or mechanisms of the text” (Aereth). To define interfaces, I regard them as a sort of construct that arises from attempts at bridging the gap between computational thinking and human thinking, the “point of interaction between any combination of hardware/software components,” as Lori Emerson puts it, but expanded to define the point of interaction between the user and the media consumed. And since REPEATACYCLE is a work that aims to passively control the user, I’d argue that her clarification that “while interface does grant access, it also inevitably acts as a kind of magician’s cape, continually revealing … through concealing and concealing as it reveals,” is also relevant and part of the definition I am using. An interface is a point of access to the text, but also the regulator of behavior.
Repetition and recursion — which I am using as two separated but intrinsically linked terms — are highly important concepts in REPEATACYCLE because it must be repeated to be fully experienced. Understanding the first iteration of REPEATACYCLE relies on repeating the game (possibly multiple times), in the same way that “an original is only understood as such after it repeats in some way … the dependence of a copy on its original thus reciprocates,” according to Ciccoricco, who draws upon Derrida’s definitions of repetition. Recursiveness, however, I loosely define as repetition with purpose, in that repetition that works to advance a goal or cause some sort of change to happen, not just to provide the player with a greater understanding of previously seen text. I’m using the many possible worlds theory, defined as the possibility of infinite timelines and planes of existence parallel to our own, as a literary device to pique the player’s interest. The terms agency and free will are perhaps trickier to define, in that I am, to a large extent, relying on the player to decide whether they have “free will,” and to define what free will means for them. The working definition I am using for this investigation, however, is that free will is ability to make decision without excessive influence, and agency is the ability to choose independent of what the creator of a work decides, rather than follow a set mapped path. Using these definitions, it’s therefore not unreasonable to confirm the thesis that REPEATACYCLE has neither free will nor agency, although it provides a simulacrum of such.
“REPEATACYCLE,” simulates the experience of talking with the player’s future/past/alternate self. Also, to note: I use the term “player” to refer to the user/experiencer/reader/player for the sake of brevity, even if it is not the most accurate term. The premise behind the game is simple: the player stands in a room with a red telephone. When beginning, the player has no knowledge about what happens when the phone is picked up. The only options the user has is whether to engage with the phone or not, and after playing through multiple routes, eventually the user realizes that the type of timeline and universe that they are playing in shifts randomly. A basic “either: ‘x’;’y’;’z’” statement changes the conversation in this way, as do the player’s choices — it is quite possible that the player never explores certain branches of the conversation because of this randomizing element decided by the computer but added by the creator. Therefore, using that mechanism, at certain “nodes” of the conversation, there are randomly branching paths that decide whether the universe is in a fixed timeline or a branching timeline. Nodal points are determined by specific questions or random chance, after which the player receives the notification that “THE MULTIVERSE HAS SHIFTED.” Different branches of the conversation, when played in arbitrary succession leads the user to eventually realize that they’re contacting other versions of themself from the “multiverse,” although the nature of the multiverse is left deliberately ambiguous.
Further repetition leads the player into the same loops consecutively, and the player to realize that no advice is useful and nothing can be learned from the conversation. After playing through the narrative multiple times, the reader realizes that much of the game is simply repetitive and does not ever truly end, and they cannot leave the room. The only real choice given to the player is whether to hang up the phone, therefore exiting the conversation — but that choice is continually offered. The closest a player can come to completing the game is exhausting the conversational nodes, and finding the “hidden” explanation of the game, which relies on recursively playing the game at least three times consecutively.
I picked the structure of a “game” because I thought it would be most fitting to take a type of media most known for being user-interactive, and subvert it to prove that the player has no real choices. The resulting media is something less than a text and more than a game. If I were to classify REPEATACYCLE as anything specific, I would use Espen Aareth’s various classifications of cybertexts to define it as a work that straddles the boundary of intederminate and determinate cybertexts. For, like indeterminate cybertexts, REPEATACYCLE’s “textons are dynamic and unpredictable,” as the phone answers are often subject to arbitrary chance; yet, like determinate cybertexts, the “behaviors of the textons are predictable and conditional and with the element of roleplaying,” characterized by the user’s choice of hyperlinks which follow a relatively understandable pattern.
By having no real ending or conclusion, this game/text subverts the typical narrative of many computer games and traditional narrative works, but it also draws inspiration has contains parallels to “Choose Your Own Adventure” games, text adventure games such as Colossal Cave Adventure, and has concepts blatantly borrowed from Homestuck, as well as Borge’s Garden of Forking Paths, Babysitter, and The Library of Babel. I can divide influence into separate parts, with the concepts behind the loose narrative and the concepts behind the use of a twine game and the coded elements being somewhat separate.
To address the more prosaic elements first, the structural elements are easier to characterize. REPEATACYCLE is structurally similar to text adventure games in that the player has the option of exploring the room and going through various verbal locations. The visible interface, with black screen and white text is also reminiscent of early text adventure games. However, it differs from games such as “Colossal Cave Adventure” in that the player almost never can input text, and all answers are pre-written. In that sense, it more resembles “Choose Your Own Adventure” games, which have the answers pre-written, with the readers only choice being which page to flip to. Unlike these physical novels, though, REPEATACYCLE’s original structure cannot be bypassed, at least, not without having to manually inspect the HTML file, bypassing the interface completely. The last work that REPEATACYCLE is structurally derived from is Homestuck, a webcomic which is recursive in that the “alpha” timeline cannot be accessed without first playing through a “dead” timeline and receiving passcodes, after which certain panels must be re-read and the passcode entered. I borrowed this concept to hide the recursively found “guide” in REPEATACYCLE, and kept the concept in mind when creating its structure.
Narratively and conceptually, REPEATACYCLE follows works such as Borge’s Garden of Forking Paths, Babysitter, and The Library of Babel in that it is dealing with the idea of branching timelines and timelines in tandem. The Garden of Forking Paths talks about the infinite book as a series of events that interlock in differing combinations, the Babysitter writes a nearly completely nonlinear narrative that doesn’t take place in the same timeline, and the Library of Babel meditates on what it means to have a incredibly large number of interlocking combinations of letters. I drew upon these concepts when writing REPEATACYCLE and thinking about how a work with no central narrative arc (or multiple narrative arcs, all running in tandem) could function.
The last question I am left with, after creating REPEATACYCLE, is whether playing the game is objectively a “good” experience or not, whether it is enjoyable or not, and whether good and enjoyable are interchangeable concepts. Ironically, as the producer of the work, I am uniquely unqualified to answer this, because my experience of playing the game is overwhelmingly influenced by my experience of making it. Yet, I would suggest that enjoyable and good are not the same concept, and that REPEATACYCLE manages to be interesting and valuable without being fun. David Ciccorrico suggests with regards to narrative, that "instead of more and more determined attempts to locate closure, we might find the practice of exploring - of wandering - more satisfying in itself.” REPEATACYCLE, using that definition, is a wander through a labyrinth that forces the player to think about their decisions and lack of decisions, which is a valuable concept. I do think that REPEATACYCLE is successful in convincing the player and drawing attention to the fact that they have no free will in playing the game — a substantially different goal than many works of interactive fiction.
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A drawing of yourself, but older. Neat. Looks like you age well. This is spectacularly unhelpful.
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An object is a technical term in modern philosophy often used in contrast to the term subject. A subject is an observer and an object is a thing observed.
- WIKIPEDIA, THE FONT OF ALL INTERNET KNOWLEDGE
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