Transforming Theoretical Textual Analysis into an Interactive Digital Game

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This paper will outline the material process and theoretical underpinnings whereby I turned a critical practice of reading a philosophical text, in this case Plato’s Phaedrus, into an electronic, interactive, Twine game. The game, called “Plato’s Phaedrus: a Memory Pharmacy,” is a rhizomatic dialogical game whereby players engage in a procedure of enacting verbal dialectics upon an interactive text that is interspliced with both Platonic passages and transcriptions of contemporary interlocutor's dialectical analysis upon the Phaedrus. The game is played on Twine, an open-source tool for non-linear storytelling. Players choose a character, either Socrates or Phaedrus, and begin by reading aloud scripted lines of the Platonic text. As the dialogue continues, it becomes unclear if the text has departed from the original Platonic dialogue as the content mixes in anachronisms and the style vears upon the colloquial. Soon conversation choices are introduced as players can choose which line to speak aloud, and thereby steer the dialogue in different conversational directions. The game itself guides players down conversation pathways that discuss the philosophical foundations of writing and textuality, literature and electronic literature, and ends by forcing players to make a choice asked of Socrates in the text – to choose between writing on a soul (a virtual, non-inscribed, potentially eternal form of writing) vs writing on an inscriptive platform (a potentially decaying yet sensible material) 

The procedure I following to construct this game are as follows: 1) Find passages in the text where it implicitly asks a reader to act alongside or outside of the activity of reading. 2) Expand upon these passages via textual alteration or configuring certain external (spatial or behavior) factors around the reading of the text such that the text more radically directs a reader. 3) Repeat and mould these acts of expansion into a coherent set of rules or structures, thereby creating a game. Note: At any point in this process, find a suitable electronic medium for your textual expansion or game. 

I believe this procedure is important as it outlines a method of textual analysis that doesn’t only focus on semantic content but also on place, time, duration, voice, style, repetition, and modes of generating response. By sharing this procedure with others I am hopeful that others can create their own interactive platforms that attend to the demands of other text and multiply the variety of pedagogies of textual encounters and reading methodologies that a given text can proliferate. 

In addition this paper will share certain theoretical underpinnings of this process related to textual interactivity. The choice of textual passage for this project was quite deliberate as Plato’s Phaedrus is one of the foundational texts in the Western tradition which takes up the question of writing’s status as dead and inert. The questioning of aliveness within the written medium will be explored not only via the project itself, but through various key thinkers such as Derrida (the concept of Pharmakon as explored in text Plato’s Pharmacy), Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy, and Anne Carson’s Eros.

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June Hovdenakk