I love ergodic literature. The responsibility that comes with having to make sense of a text, put effort in to find the story, weave through the narrative, interrogate characters, question your role as reader. From my very first choose your own adventure to the frighteningly captivating House of Leaves, they’ve always sparked my imagination. Whether it’s tales that live in the footnotes or sentences you have to trace page after page to find your way, all sorts of writers are getting all sorts of clever with how they draw you in.
So when I heard about Device 6, a mobile-based ergodic story game that puts the player at the heart of the narrative I had to give it a try. I am fascinated by gaming and game culture, but mobile gaming has definitely passed me by. I hate the idea of mindless pinging, tapping gemstones into boxes or making furry animals dance around. Playing while watching TV, while down the pub with mates, while supposedly having a conversation. That’s all I thought mobile gaming was. Wrong doesn’t even come close.
Device 6 simply tells a story that you follow across levels, each sentence winding up, down, out, back and forth. Striking graphics and atmospheric sound set the scene and clues are planted that you have to read deep to find.
It’s clever and witty and engrossing. I sat still for the best part of a morning and played the whole thing. I wasn’t very good to start with, my detective brain took a while to kick in. I found myself scribbling in my note pad like a luddite, collecting numbers, writing down phrases and sequences – surely no real gamer would attack the challenge like this? – but it didn’t matter. I was playing and I was enjoying it.
OK, so the story wasn’t exactly Dostoevsky and sometimes it felt a bit heavy handed, but it was compelling. It caught me and drew me in on its own merit, but also because of what it represented – a glimpse of how mobile gaming could be in the future. Not something to be done while you’re doing something else, or a 20 second distraction while you’re in the self check-out queue at Tesco. Gaming that’s creative and immersive and challenging.
And not a bug-eyed pet or a jangly jewel in sight.