Locating the Literary in Electronic Ludicity: Jason Nelson's Evidence of Everything Exploding

Abstract (in English): 

Literary gaming (Ensslin 2014) is situated at the interface between literary computer games and ludic digital literature. The conjunction of literary close-reading and gaming is inherently paradoxical because literature and computer games are two entirely different receptive, productive, aesthetic, phenomenological, social and discursive phenomena. Reading, according to Hayles (2007), requires deep attention, which allows subjects to focus on an artefact such as a print novel or digital fiction for an extended period of time without, however, losing a sense of the actual world surrounding them. Gameplay, on the other hand, typically involves hyperattention, which literally glues players to the screen, thereby creating "artificial" basic needs, such as the urge to finish a level or quest before being able to focus on any other activity. (Literary) art games tend to "d├ętourn" commercial game aesthetics (Dragona 2010, Vaneigem 1967) to evoke a critical meta-stance in players towards the ludic and textual expectations created by mainstream game culture. This meta-stance may relate to the ways in which players willingly succumb to teleological trajectories such as functional killing and saving damsels-in-distress (Ensslin and Bell 2012). By the same token, literary game designers and digital writers explore creatively the question of whether hyper and deep attention are indeed compatible, thereby producing a variety of artefacts that inhabit various loci on the spectrum between ludic digital literature and literary computer game (Ensslin 2012). Focusing on the ludic, fictional, medial and linguistic metazones (Jaworski et al. 2004), this chapter offers a close "playing" of Jason Nelson's poetic platform game, Evidence of Everything Exploding (2009). Nelson's work sits near the middle of the ludic-literary spectrum. It literally 'toys' with the explosive potential inherent in the fusion of reading and playing, specifically in the highly polysemic and metalinguistic realm of poetry. Methodologically, an extended notion of functional ludo-narrativism (Ryan 2006: 203) will be employed to the analysis, with a view to examining how elements of game design, gameplay, textuality and poetic style concur to evoke distinctive receptive and interactive experiences. (Source: Author's abstract, 2012 ELO Conference site)

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Eric Dean Rasmussen