Everybody Dies: A Nesting Doll Puzzle

I found a piece in the second Electronic Literature Collection with an interesting name: Everybody Dies.  It’s a rather short piece about a few workers at a store called Cost Cutters.  They die.  And then, fish happens.  ­

The game provides a bit of a puzzle along with people dying, and leaves some big questions unanswered at the end.  Why did Ranni and Graham die?  How did they “survive” in the void and continue to communicate beyond death, in the past?  I’m reminded of the Russian nesting dolls.  We begin with Graham, who dies, jumping back to Ranni, who dies, back to Ranni the day before, who dies, and back to Lisa the day before that.  Each death leads to the past, where our newly dead character can speak through the mind of our current character.  Our dead characters can also see and think on the world through the eyes of the current character, giving you multiple options when it comes to interacting with the world.

Really, the game is quite short.  You can finish it up in an hour or two.  I believe this game did right with the several-people-at-once interaction.  Instead of just examining something, you can look at it through the eyes of one of the other characters at the same time.  That character didn’t exist in the place or time as the current character does, but they do have a role to play in the world.  You could say the same thing for the reader, the interactor.  They see through the eyes of the reader, just as the other characters see through the eyes of the current character.  The characters all have independent thoughts, which can give you hints that lead on through the story.

But it should’ve been explored further.  The nesting doll-style story wouldn’t have been able to continue very far, but the problem that needs solving at the end doesn’t feel like justice or a solution.  SPOILERS AHEAD Patrick, our main antagonist, gets arrested through a very simple scenario of moving around some labels on lockers.  SPOILERS BEHIND I can’t say I felt like the problem had been solved within the story.  It felt more completed than solved; like the puzzle pieces I upended from the box were mostly connected to start, and I only had to fit a few together near the middle.  Or that the whole fitted puzzle didn’t look nearly as cool as the picture on the cover of the box.

There was good humor, though, and I wasn’t lacking drive to finish the game.  But there’s no sense of real discovery, no uncovering of the most important questions the reader has.  The writing itself can carry the piece a good ways, but it falls short by the end.  I want to read more of it, but there’s none left.  It ends up being a story with potential.  There are parts that work, that get your mind working on the meanings behind things.  And then it ends.

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3 Responses to Everybody Dies: A Nesting Doll Puzzle

  1. kalihira says:

    As I also did mine on Everybody Dies, the one part I was confused about was what exactly was the significance/symbolism involved with the fish inside another fish thing, aside from the nesting doll parallel that you made. Do you have any thoughts?


  2. rdlebby says:

    That’s a really interesting thought concerning the game being almost too easy. Reading some of these posts, a lot of them don’t sound very interactive but more like visual rides of a sort where you just have to click around every so often to remind the work you’re still paying attention. I feel weird being critical about this sort of thing because I suppose traditional literature, which I really do enjoy, is about focusing and moving forward on a predestined path instead of creating one (like so many of the texts we’ve read for class). I haven’t looked at this piece so I can’t offer any insight, but do you think the form is part of the reason you feel unsatisfied with the ending?


  3. leficorn93 says:

    Your comparison to the Russian nesting dolls is fascinating. It reminds me of the concept behind the movie, Inception (the characters enter dreams within dreams within dreams). Likewise, a reader sinks deeper and deeper into the multiple dimensions of texts. The benefit of having multiple points of view is that the reader is allowed to delve beyond the multiple dimensions of one character, and enter the minds of others characters who are witnessing the same story from different perspectives–the reader is allowed to see where all the dimensional planes interconnect. It sounds as though the frustration with this text came from the multiple planes of the story being underdeveloped, thus lacking in its power as a unified whole. Perhaps this aspect that makes the story seem “more completed than solved.”


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