I talked to Jenna yesterday broadly about the transition between the introduction video and gameplay. There was a suggestion that the player start in Bob’s cenotaph, where they must figure out how to light (and maybe even place) a candle to proceed. I’m onboard with this. Jenna also suggested the idea of having bob’s actual note and blood in the cenotaph which I went with for a second but really don’t like. At first I thought I didn’t like how explicit it was, but gradually I realized that what I didn’t like was that it didn’t make sense in the game context. When I initially thought there would be a note in the room I was thinking of like, an obituary or something because these are constructed gravesites, not like…. a place where a death happened. These are crude pages in some forgotten and repurposed game, like a facebook page after the end of facebook used to memorialize someone. They’re data with a strange but appropriate new topology overlaid on it that suggests actions over time. Someone barging through would just see the game, and just see me carrying out tasks in a room in this maze as an npc, but I have motivations because this is a new landscape that was shaped by historical data. What the game isn’t is a polemical story about family suicide by way of environmental storytelling. Those deaths happened outside the game world. It’s true that they created this place, but it’s not that direct and stagey. It did seem convenient to leave clues like a conventional videogame to lead people through onboarding, but I think cleaning in the cenotaphs is just cleaning “something”… digital entropy and neglect. If there’s a note it would be a note from me that I leave as part of my work that is candid about what happened. Maybe you could have the best of both worlds if the appearance of blood was a sort of phantasm- you think you are cleaning up blood initially but its just the dirt of time. Or wumpus blood that you make a mental connection to real death with before learning it’s just another peice of rotting videogame mechanics.
I worry going forward that what I am making, if it feels good to me- if it has that sort of starkness that feels right, that lets you fill in the blanks yourself, that it is going to feel wrong to everyone else. That people will want a highly mediated videogame experience rather than what gets a response from me, because I am carrying a moribund experience that works in the past and maybe works in the future, but is totally alien to the moment we are in. The only thing that gives me hope is rare instances of believable creepypasta? Is there a way I can make something that feels mysterious and real in an evocative way to both me and someone else out there? That is real to me? I would rather that nothing be communicated effectively about the reasons the game exists but that players feel that it is being shaped by some internally consistent but unknowable phenomena than for them to feel they’ve experienced a well made fiction.