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.