Published On: Wed, Apr 23rd, 2014 on 4:05 pm

Games: Elegy For A Dead World is the most creative title you didn’t hear about at PAX East

Elegy For A Dead World

PAX East is a loud, busy and frantic gaming convention. There are a lot of titles on show and you could easily be forgiven for having missed Elegy for a Dead World.

A title currently in development as a collaboration between Boston-based developers Dejobaan Games and Popcannibal the game lay nestled between louder and flashier titles and may have been overshadowed somewhat. It is however, a title I feel worthy of further attention.

The mechanics are minimal, such that it wouldn’t be farfetched to decry it as ‘not a real game’, which is certainly an issue that arises in this day and age when dealing with more experimental works. Such titles are often the ones that pique my interest the most, though, lending credence to the idea that games are a legitimate art form.

In this instance you take up the role of an explorer on worlds based on the works of British Romance-era poems about the end of the world. No written records exist regarding this world, it’s people and its fate and it falls to you to create the record and prevent the memory of the civilisation from being lost forever.

You must walk the surface of the planet, see the ruins of the cities and wonders of the people before you – all rendered in a beautiful art style – and at predefined locations you will be prompted with a text box to fill in. What you enter is entirely at your own discretion. Before you begin you are offered one of three options: to be assisted in writing a story, a poem, or to be given a blank slate. If you opt for one of the first two you will be presented with much of the text box already complete, albeit with blanks for you to fill in, Mad Libs style. The blank slate fairly obviously gives you free reign over your creation. Once you have seen all there is to see and written something in all the text boxes, you will be presented with your complete work and given the option to share it online, as well as to view other works that previous writers have created.

That’s all there is to it, and yet for its simplicity it manages to demand a much higher level of creativity from the player than almost any other game you’d care to mention. I enjoy writing, else I would not be here writing this now, but I am not what I would consider to be exceptionally creative. There is no shame in telling you I opted for assistance in writing a story; I enjoy science fiction literature greatly and it was the option I could most easily relate to. To be given a blank slate entirely and told “write!” was a thoroughly intimidating concept. In the end I’m quite certain I created a short piece of entirely mediocre work. I could blame it on the pressures of the expo floor, but ultimately it left me feeling that I needed to do better. To go back and try again and do this strange yet imposing title justice. That one day I may be indeed be worthy of stepping up to that blank slate and creating a work that others would read. To say my short time with this title left an impact on me would be an understatement.

One of my immediate concerns was that the game, with its sharing of user-created content online would become diluted with the works of those who might take the title less seriously. Especially in an age where PC titles frequently see deep discounts and everyone has that list. You know, the one that’s dozens if not hundreds of titles long of games you bought and never played. It’s not hard to see this title ending up sooner or later in the hands of people who might be entertained by the idea of creating at least puerile if not downright offensive content, getting their kicks from knowing their work will be shown unknowingly to others on the internet.

The game’s designer, Ziba Scott allayed my concerns, noting that he planned to implement a system whereby users can vote on content, allowing the best works to be shared more frequently than the less savoury ones. “And”, he adds, “If the game becomes notable for being a hotbed of pornographic writing, then at least it’s notable for something”.

Personally, I feel Elegy For A Dead World should have no issues being notable. It’s already looking to be one of the most interesting titles in a while and should be something anyone with any creative spark – or indeed anyone like myself lacking one but seeking to push their boundaries – should be looking to check out when it launches later this year.

About the Author

Jon Biggin

- Founder and Co-ordinator of Bradford-based video gaming collective, Button Mash.

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