80 days: Breaking the Boundaries between Video Games and Literature

Critical Writing
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2017
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Abstract (in English): 

“Moveable books” predate the printing press. Such experiments, including popular pop-up books of the nineteenth century, pushed against the boundaries of two-dimensional storytelling by crafting ways paper can mechanically foster motion and depth. iPad artists and game designers experiment with device-specific expressive capacities. I call moveable books designed for iPad “playable books” to invoke their ergodic filiation with videogames. In this presentation, I analyze one playable book, 80 Days (2014) by Inkle Studios, which won Time Magazine’s best game of the year and was named by The Telegraph a best novel of the year. Crossing the “border” between literature and videogames, 80 Days invites us to consider how popular modes of human/computer interaction in games shape new forms of reading in device-specific ways. I discuss how 80 Days’ gameful attributes adapt and contest Jules Verne’s 1873 novella Around the World in Eighty Days. The game gives the reader a physical experience of the original story’s chief mechanic, racing to beat the clock. Interactions with NPCs [non-player characters] in 80 Days unlock information essential to win; respect and cultural sensitivity are procedurally rewarded. This resists the original novella’s racist depiction of nonwhite “others.” My paper suggests how 80 Days‘ emergent game attributes interrupt our readerly drive to “master” a text.

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80 Days 2014

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Hannah Ackermans