Sorcery: Reading Games; or how I read something other than a novel

inkle-sets-sorcery-3-walkthrough-ios-android

Thanks to another GPW reader request, I found myself “reading” in an entirely “novel” way (haha – reading? novel? hilarious). The suggestion was for me to invest in a $5.99 tablet-based game “Sorcery!” and “read”/”play” the game. the book. the gook. the bame.

Before I tell you about my reading experience and my impressions of the text let me tell you about the text itself (already realizing how reading a non-traditional text is prompting me to right a non-traditional blog post. Normally I’d dive into telling you my impressions of the merits of the work, but somehow in this instance I feel like I need to give you a version of a plot summary.

So what’s “Sorcery!”? My impression (caveatcaveatcaveat about this being my first book/game): It’s Choose Your Own Adventure, meets RPG, meets fantasy. The game begins with character selection (but mercifully free of the tedious selection of hair colour or wardrobe). Once selected the text appears describing the character’s circumstance (aka: the conflict) in which the character (now *me*) must journey across the land to warn some people about an impending attack. To get there my character has to also battle some dragons (which can only be killed after collecting clues and objects-of-dragon-slaying). This little plot summary would be entirely different – or perhaps incrementally different – depending on the choices you might make playing the game. The real delight for this chronic-second-guesser and terrible-decision-maker is that you can ‘rewind’ the game at any and all points to go back and make different decisions to see how the narrative changes. It takes the impulse of childhood Choose Your Own Adventure flipping-back-and-forth and brings it to the digital space with slightly less ease and slightly more satisfaction (there isn’t the instant and you died that so dominated the CYOA of the past).

You might be wondering how does this game differ from other digital efforts at narrative/game hybrids. And in this respect I have very little to offer. I recall reading Patchwork Girl in a MA course in visual culture (think graphic novels) and this game reminded me of that experience – the sort of confab of visual/text/reading/viewing. I would say in this game there’s more reading than viewing, more decision making than passivity. Less empathy for a character’s circumstances than desire to beat dragons (which suggests the game has, after all, achieved its aims in that I am embodying my character rather than vicariously observing and empathizing).

I do look forward to an experience of reading/playing such a game that isn’t set in the fantastical realm. I suspect the power of identifying with a character through RPG and coupling this with the intensity offered by narrative would – in a narrative set in the realist realm – offer a different (if not more vibrant) empathetic experience.

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