Avatars of Story by Marie Laure Ryan introduces a media development tool that does not use language, but instead uses a series of animated images paired with sound effects to create an implied chronological story. When presented in this way, very few people would argue that this form of media is not a narrative. However, I doubt most people would accept the same argument for Merritt Kopa’s game LIM. Would you?
I decided to play LIM after watching Edmond Chang’s talk. He was going to give his audience a sampling of the game, but kept getting stuck. I decided to give it a try and honestly, it was one of the most frustrating and worst games I’ve ever played. Much like life, you aren’t given a purpose or an objective at the beginning of the game. You aren’t told anything about the other characters. The only instructions you are given are to press z to blend in and use the arrow keys to move. I’m going to describe the events of one of my run-throughs exactly as it happened and then I ask you- the reader – tell me whether or not you think it qualifies as a narrative, why/why not, and what would it take to change your mind?
I started as a brown block. As soon as I entered the transitional part of the maze I began to quickly blink through a series of colors. The first time I exited the transition into a new stage, I immediately reverted back to brown like all the other blocks. I made my way to the next transition. Two transitions later, I exited as a brown block but was surrounded by blue blocks. At first, they just shook. I assumed that meant I had to blend in, so I did. But then I vigorously shook and moved slower. Bothered, I stopped blending in and just let the blue blocks shake. About 1.5 seconds later, the blue blocks stopped shaking and started violently pushing my block EVERYWHERE. I tried to blend in, but I guess it was too late. Even though I reverted back to blending in with them, they kept attacking me, attempting to trap me in a corner. I made it out.
To my surprise, in the next stage there was a mix of blue blocks on the left and brown blocks on the right. I held the blend in button praying I’d make it out. As soon as I crossed the middle ground, I changed colors and the blues attacked. I made it to the next transition, but for the first time, the blue block followed me into the transitional part of the maze and pushed me into the next stage. Then in the next stage, it continued attacking and all the other blue blocks started attacking too. Suddenly, I just got pushed out of the maze’s boundaries… did I mess up?
I traveled to the end of the maze. Pretty easy without the craze of the other blocks. When I got to the end I saw a blue block in the last transitional part of the maze. I assumed that if I stayed within the confines of the maze, that just meant I couldn’t win because it was blocking the way. However, as I got closer it started blinking. Then I started blinking. 3 seconds later, the screen went black. Game over.
After about an hour of playing this game, I quit trying to find out what happened if I got to that block without getting pushed out of the maze and what would happen if I touched it. I’ve only ever gotten to encounter that block with the maze walls between us. But that’s besides the point. What do you think? Is it pure gameplay? Or is there a narrative? If so, do you think my telling is what made it a narrative or do you think it could be one all on it’s own?