this is my review of the hobo lobo of hamelin, and then some rambling about dwarf fortress:
What got my attention.
What first attracted me to the hobo lobo, was the aesthetic, the way the style blended 2D and 3D like effects without using 3D reminded me of Darkest Dungeon. (DD is a 2D game with this action shot like animation, where the animation is only a few frames, the way its drawn and animated makes it feel very alive and engaging.)
And it almost had the look of a digital incarnation of a popup book. But as I got further into the hobo lobo I found the story engaging and the imagery very much to my liking, and the use of sound later in the pages works really well.
The hobo lobo is inspired by the story of pied piper, if you’re not familiar with the story, pied piper is a story about a rat catcher named pied piper, who was hired to remove the rats from a town called Hamelin. He was offered 1000guilders for the job, then the mayor stiffed him om the reward money, the pied piper then uses his magic pipe to lure all the children away, here some versions diverge. In some versions, the pied piper kills the children (either drowning or luring them into a cave), and in others he leads them away to a better land. This is clearly the basis of the hobo lobo. But the hobo lobo is not simply a retelling of the pied piper, even with some of the same elements, the narrative has changed.
What is the hobo lobo like, and what the navigation is like.
The hobo lobo is a side-scrolling visual novel. That’s not entirely descriptive enough, when you enter the hobo lobo, there is a field in the middle of the screen, about 1 third of the screen, with the visuals, the bottom half of the screen is reserved for the text, or lexias.
You can navigate on the top, by pressing the numbers, and that gives a floating navigation, that passes where you are going and then goes a bit back, a very nice effect that brings out the 2D depth of the visual aspect. If the numbers navigation not had this effect, you could have missed the very nice animation effects of the piece. The other way of navigation is simply using the arrow keys, you can go back and forwards as you wish.
Leonardo Flores noted that the use of the infinite canvas in the visual style to create the depth, and using the depth to create new things to find at every angle. And I think that’s the reason I like to use the arrow keys, to be able to look back at the scene, see what I missed.
In the comic podcast, “the comics alternative podcast”, they mention that the hobo lobo is not really accessible on other devices than desktop, I mean you can see it on mobile or a pad device, but it’s not recommended or any good. The scrolling effects and the depth of the piece is lost on a mobile device, and you have to scroll down to read all the time. This was something I had not considered, when reading it on desktop, they also point out that the hobo lobo is not something that would work printed out, the depth and the scrolling effect would be lost on paper. The consideration of where, how and what devices a piece works on is something to consider when looking deeper into a piece.
Hashtagoctothorpe is a blog on WordPress, its written by a creative writing student at the University of North Florida, and they had some sharp observations on the literary references in the hobo lobo.
The homages to different literary works was not as obvious to me, but after reading the blogpost I had (yet) another look at the hobo lobo, and I discovered, if not new meaning, then a new angle to view the hobo lobo. I especially like the line “This was noticed” now, after Hashtagoctothorpe pointed out its pointient placement. I did pause at the image of the boy kicking a ball against a wall, but it was only after a second look at the hobo lobo, and the line “This was noticed”, did I catch the meaning.
As far as genre is concerned, the hobo lobo can be different things, it’s kind of a interactive fiction. And there is no real choices in the piece, but you have the control of the pacing (except the last page). And you are left up to yourself to discover the secrets of the story, but as there is no choices, it’s not a full-fledged interactive fiction piece, in my opinion. It’s also much like a digitized poetry, as many of the lines are poetic, and many of them are stabs, or references to other texts and poetry. And it is more like epoetry than anything else, but I have to mention that many people talking about the hobo lobo, mentioned that it was like a digital comic, where the style and the imagery is something out of a comic, but the way it uses digital tools, i.e. the depth and the sound, is wholly digital and unlike comics. Still I think there is something to consider, would electronic comics be a good genre to include in the electronic literature world? could electronic comics be something that we see more of? Even in the mainstream pop culture world? I would read them, that I know.
Damn I like this piece, what first attracted me to the hobo lobo was the aesthetic, and after looking at the hobo lobo several times it’s still the best thing about it for me. Now the political overtones of the piece are really noticeable, and I like the way it is done, the boy not finding someone to play ball with, the streets being quiet, the mood changing. This reflects on the meaning of the original pied piper, where evil deeds are seldom rewarding, but further than that, problems in the world seldom have an easy solution.
i would wholeheartedly encourage you to check it out.
Dwarf fortress and games as elit.
Now I am not going to go on and on about what should be the definition of games and electronic literature, even though it’s a good debate. There is something else I would like to bring up for discussion, if dwarf fortress is electronic literature (and I think it is) then what other games are as well, and is the player the writer of these works?
What is dwarf fortress?
Dwarf fortress is a game created by Tarn Adams and Zach Adams, the work began in 2002, and the first alfa of the game released in 2006, the game is completely free. Dwarf fortress is a simulation game, and it utilizes ascii art as the graphics, ascii code represent text in computers, but is used as the graphics for the game. Here are two pictures, the first the original, second, the game with a graphics pack (aka a mod)
Now it’s not 100% clear to me from reading the description in the elit collection, why dwarf fortress is in the collection. The possible reasons are not mutually exclusive.
One, when you create a world in dwarf fortress the game simulates a legend of the world, who exists, what they do, who is going to war, who won. It does this year by year, until the year you specified. Now this creates a story which is random, and reacting to other random things that happen, and you can read what happened in what is called a legends reader, or discover it by meeting races and people in game. This in itself can be electronic literature, the number of different things that can happen is huge, and you can simulate a thousand years, and then read about all the individual people that lived for those thousand years.
Two, it can be all that, and what you as a player ends up changing as you play, when you play you influence the story of the world, and you can change what could have happened.
Three, it’s the story’s that you as a player experience in this world that has been randomly generated, and the ways you deal with challenges and the random things that happen.
Now the interesting question here, is does the player create the story? We have discussed the part of the user in class before, when someone reads electronic literature, do you create when you interact with it or is it the work that is. Does my reading of a work that has choices change the story, or is it the work that does the work?
Does this change in a game like dwarf fortress? Does all the random generation, and player agency change that to be a player writing a story, not necessary for anyone else, but for himself.
If you would agree with me that the third option here is not that farfetched, could other simulation games, where the player changes so much that two games are never the same, and the worlds cannot be recreated, could this also be electronic literature?
I know that this is further into the realm of speculation, and I don’t want to press an argument based on too many what ifs, but I challenge you to play a game of civilization, dwarf fortress or rimworld, see what stories you can create.