It has fallen into my lap like a gift from the writing gods. Just in time for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), Elegy for a Dead World from Dejobaan Games and Popcanibal will actually propel you into a world that you never knew existed, and you help create it. With words. Is it a game? Is it a writing simulator? It is probably both, and more. It would most likely depend on one’s basic ability to fill in the blank. Though it may seem like an attempt at a pseudo-intellectual, esoteric version of Mad-Libs, it is actually accessible to anyone who has any aspiration to tell a story.
Elegy for a Dead World is first and foremost visually evocative. The movement of light and color of the world exemplifies the poem that frames the basic structure. Each world is based on a British poem from the Romantic period. In this case it would be Percy Bysshe Shelley’s (Mary Shelley’s husband) Ozymandias. Take a second to introduce (or reintroduce) yourself with Shelley’s classic poem…
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Not that you needed the poem for context. The painted world and text prompts induce the sentiments of the poet efficiently. As the traveler you can walk through the two dimensional world, fly with your jet pack or recline on the ground to ponder. To aid in editing there are quick keys that will automatically jump to the previous or next prompt.
Each world has several prompt scripts allowing for different tales to be told and reflections to be had. All the while your traveler’s breathe fills your ears, putting you into a meditative state as a melancholic sounds vibrate from the surface of the forgotten world. It sets mood. It sets theme. You get to set the how and why of the fate of this fallen civilization.
I spent a fair amount of time reflecting on things to write to complete the prompted thoughts. After my first few prompts I realized that I could add more text, or delete the pre existing bits to really begin to craft the tale of my choosing. I began to map out the story of these people, to hear their cries of anger or pain. It made me pretty damn contemplative. And that’s good. I was rushing to the next prompt not to finish the level, but to see what my next cue was. Several times I deleted and reworked the proffered text and went back to see how my story coalesced.
What was developed as a creative “palate cleanser” for both developers (Dejobaan and Popcanibal) had become a “psychic cleanser” as someone who plays games. A lot of games. I truly was moved by the power of silence and ambient sound and sight. I felt foolish for taking myself too seriously, but found solace in reading the writings of others who published their work to share. I wasn't alone in the serious end of the pool. I was also entertained by the humor that the stark landscape inspired. For every third brooding poet that Elegy for a Dead World will produce, there is sure to be at least one sardonic scribe.
I read much of the work posted by other travelers. It put me back into the writing seat and into Shelley’s world for another go in order to see what they might have seen, only to experience something else. New details began to come into view as layers of predictable words and concepts were lopped out of my mind. I was able to refocus and redirect. I saw light where there was once dark and explored new possibilities in the minuscule details of the painted landscapes.
Elegy for a Dead World is at once a very personal and communal experience. While you can decide whether or not to share your story there is no real reason not too. Put it in the pile, add that story to the stars and dust. At this point I am ready for explore the next planet (only Shelley’s world is available in this build), I am almost tempted to dust off my Norton Anthologies and spout off some serious verse. Almost.
I know the sky, I see the flames I thought, fate has forgotten them.
Once there was life. Though who could tell the difference. I guess the ancients hoped their relics would be unearthed. I wonder what they wanted us to think of them.
Maybe they still live but have moved on, leaving this planet as a reminder of their folly.
Remnants of their focused hope. Eons of weary hearts.
Me? I wanted to know what they placed in these vessels.
Vastness sprawls from the meager cityscape. Emptiness echoes from the shell of civilization.
An attempt to make sense of the emptiness.
I thought. To the monuments. I reached to their purpose with my logic.