The Network Narrative team have come together to develop an old school format of computerised gameplay with a talented cohort of next generation storytellers. Text adventure gaming has been described by some of its biggest fans as more like playing a book than playing a game.
In its latest incarnation, we can see how its position within transmedia, and our familiarity with habitual messaging, provides this form of gaming with fresh relevance. We exist in a world that craves interactive textual experiences, and Northern Powerhouse 2065 gives it to us, complete with the literary consequences of causal decisions.
Will you slay the dragon, or kill the robots intent on threatening humanity? Your character’s one life is dependent on your best judgement in some of the most imaginative of circumstances as brought to you by the first person shooter generation – so what is the value of this form of gaming?
This successful collaboration and community project lives on many levels – from the geographical to the virtual. Based across Hull, Burnley and Wigan the code, and the accompanying stories for gameplay, have been written for English speaking players across the web to enjoy, while a touring exhibition is available for real within libraries situated within these starring towns (currently on display in Hull).
The nature of the project has enabled a wide variety of valuable skills building, and interaction; this is not just about solitary gaming – it is social, creative and it comes with an end product that provides young people with skills that an adult job market is currently in growing need of. In the great tradition of these games young people have been invited to map their local area (of Hull, Burnley and Wigan) in order to form a part of the storytelling process and the architecture of the game.
Geography and mapping is a huge part of the history of text adventure games, and it has been the subject of Google Tech Talks and the text adventure game documentary Get Lamp. In the first game of its kind Colossal Cave Adventure (1976) the seminal designer of the genre Will Crowther used his extensive knowledge as a caver of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky to create an imaginative space for game play.
In 2016 the gig economy redefines the primary materials, and the young people driving this project had the opportunity to consider pitches from arts collectives and studios. Re-Dock won the job as they not only promoted their own ideas to the group, but also the desire to be inclusive and to work with the young game designers as a community. Together with Re-Dock, the young participants took to balloon mapping of the local area (rather than caves) and the storytelling of local urban legends forms the end product of this collaboration.
The game will take you on a series of causal and reactive journeys through which you must navigate imaginative rabbit holes that come complete with a bit of Northern humour. You will find yourself in Wigan, Hull or Burnley depending on which path you choose to take your weary traveller. As with Will Crowther’s cave mapping you will be asked: North, South, East or West? The game will challenge you to make decisions that will decide the outcome of your character’s fate.
One of the main outcomes of this project has been to ‘empower young people with art and technology inside libraries and communities’. Likewise, when the original text adventure gamers of the 80s were asked what the appeal was in the documentary Get Lamp they said: ‘I think as a kid you don’t get to make a lot of choices in your life. For a kid it is appealing in this fantasy world to make your own choices in life’ The personal development this project has offered is huge – not only are young people engaging with their space, they are also learning essential skills in a future landscape that will not necessarily be defined by location – but by talent with technology.
You the player are invited to join in and experience this unique form of gamified agency, make decisions and influence the outcome. The game itself exists in interactive prose, and this form of literature take second person narration to a whole new level. Will Crowther has been described as the J.D Salinger of interactive fiction as he always allowed the text of the game to speak for itself. The local storytellers of the 2016 game are here to ask you: You hear a roar in the distance coming from the North. Will you play the game and follow the noise?
Aged 13 -25? Get involved with the next phase of the project!