It was 8am on a warm Saturday morning and in true Bilbo Baggins style I was quite ready for an adventure. Although I wouldn’t be travelling to the Misty Mountains and beyond, there was still a great chance that many elements from the fantasy genre could reveal themselves throughout the course of the day.
My journey was to take me to the symmetrical side of the country from Liverpool, to Hull where I was to participate and learn about a new arts project entitled Text Adventure Time. Only knowing what I had read online, I was keen to channel my inner Louis Theroux and explore what sounded like an extremely challenging yet exciting idea.
I discovered that the task was the brainchild of north-west based arts company Re-Dock and their plan is to create an adventure game with the aid of the libraries situated in the communities of Hull, Wigan & Burnley. Text adventure games were some of the earliest forms of computer games and they tend to focus on puzzle solving in order for the player to complete their mission. It is an immersive form of interactive fiction, almost similar to a non-linear book which you (the player) control and it is suitable for any genre. In order for a game of this variety to be a success, the world it takes place in must be believable to those playing, so I immediately recognised the importance of creating this world for the gamer and was looking forward to seeing how those contributing would work together to establish original and exciting locations.
Once I had arrived in the city, I immediately descended upon Hull Central Library which is where the meeting was to take place. I meandered through the building, which had quite a modern feel until suddenly I stumbled upon the James Reckitt Reading Room. It was as if I had taken a wrong turn and somehow ended up in the most gloriously ornate, Victorian room imaginable. It was laden with books which all looked very impressive upon the shelves and it made me think that this was the sort of library Indiana Jones would have felt very at home in. It was certainly a fitting setting for all of the creativity which would soon be flowing throughout.
Once I had been introduced to the team running the event and also those participating, it was time create our world. Before we could begin, we each discussed our interests and then used this information to aid us in our decision as to which genre would be most suitable. Looking at already established and successful models, we quickly realised that fantasy appeared to be at the forefront of these, so we decided to set this as our base and then looked at making it a hybrid with a sub-genre. Horror, Sci-Fi, Romance and Comedy were all mentioned, yet a decision was still to be made before we proceeded to our next task.
Knowing the general theme, the group then had an open discussion where various potential plot lines were mooted. This would help with character development as well as the local areas they inhabit throughout. Great excitement arose with the idea of a dystopian land in the near future, as Orwell’s 1984 featured prominently in the earlier discussion of our inspirations. This setting would allow new technologies to be crafted as well as many of the luxury items we use today being widely unavailable and this would create a curious contrast and peril for the eventual players of the game upon completion.
Once we had penciled in the world and some potential characters, we swapped our pads for computers and had a lesson on the creating of a ‘Wiki’. A wiki is a form of computer file which is stored online and contains large amounts of information that can then be edited by users. The most popular ‘Wiki’ throughout the world is ‘Wikipedia’ and once we had this in mind as our blueprint we were shown the ropes of how the group could create the vision in the times between the meetings. Being able to update, amend and add to other group members’ ideas via an online account would undoubtedly be a key feature in the success of the project.
With our newly sourced computer skills we returned for a final discussion about how we could move the process forward until the next meeting, which would involve the creation of maps, scenery and also the folklore of each area. The personalities of each group member began to shine through as the day progressed and it was clear that the project was going to be a real labour of love for all involved. The opportunities are endless as the canvas is almost ready to be painted on; I just know that I won’t be able to take my eyes away from this fascinating concept and I’m already eager to witness the progression of the new world at hand.
Find out more about our Networked Narrative project here.
Text Adventure Time First Summit, Hull Central Library, HU1 3TF. Images © Verity Adriana
The workshop was led by Hwa Young Jung (Re-Dock) and artist Dave Mee.