2012-01-20 19:44

Living in Zork

You are in an open field west of a big white house with a boarded
front door.

There is a small mailbox here.


We live in the golden age of text. People write more than ever before. People read more than ever before. Only a few short years ago, the preferred mechanism to contact other people was voice based "phone calls". How quaint that appears to the modern person, that types messages through any of today's jungle of mesaging systems.

Sure, we also take more pictures than ever before. And more video than ever before. Because we are, in general, in an information golden age. But people expected that.

Who expected, 20 years ago, that kids would prefer to type short messages to each other instead of having long phone calls? Who expected that people would want to read the messages they got, instead of listening to them? Or watching them?

Which is strange, since for as long as I have a memory, I have been reading that the younger folks can't read or write as well as the oldest generations (of which I am now part of). The dreaded lack of "written text comprehension", meaning kids simply did not understand what the heck they were reading. Sure, they could form the words in their minds, but the complex aspects (plot, etc) simply didn't catch.

But why are those kids who could not read writing and reading so much? Is that a paradox? Or is it just that they didn care about what they were reading, and when, later in life, they decided to pay attention, they did get it?

Or maybe it is that understanding long plots is not what reading is about nowadays. That reading is about getting many small nuggets of data, and the whole correlation is done in our heads, instead of having it spelled out in long, comprehensive texts.

> open mailbox

Opening the mailbox reveals:
A leaflet.

Maybe the problem with long texts and reading comprehension is that they are too specific. Once you explain everything, maybe it's boring, and people's mind wander off. Maybe you need to keep things short and open-ended. Maybe the reader wants to fill in the blanks.

> read leaflet

Welcome to Zork (originally Dungeon)!

Dungeon is a game of adventure, danger, and low cunning. In it
you will explore some of the most amazing territory ever seen by
mortal man. Hardened adventurers have run screaming from the
terrors contained within.

So, maybe the right way to write in the 21st century is short and evocative, instead of clever and wordy. Maybe the gaming component of reading needs to be amped up, and the user will win imaginary badges whenever he gets some insight from what he is reading, like one of those whatevervilles that give you meaningless awards for meaningless tasks accomplished with meaningless effort.

> go west

You are in a forest, with trees in all directions around you.

Or maybe it's the other way around. Maybe reading (or writing) is becoming split into two different things. Maybe we are developing a high and a low reading. A high reading that is what traditionally was called reading, and a low reading that is short and functional and not all that interesting.

> go west


And maybe this means we will get things like China Miéville's novels, full of weird for weird's sake, and fun, and things like twitter, snippets full of whimsy and connection and wit (hey, I follow interesting people), and blogs full of disjointed miscelanea, and 9gag full of things that should not, in all honesty, be funny.

> reset

Starting over.

PS: http://thcnet.net/zork/index.php


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