Some more speculative garbage ;)

One of the Internet phenomenons I never understood, though I tried at least a few times already, is MS Paint Adventures. Especially its last, epic and mythical, incarnation, Homestuck (somewhere around 5200 “pages” right now), that can reach a rather impressive depth in its mythology. It is easier to grasp how it started since Jail Break was modeled after a classic point&click adventure game. You can call it a typical post-modernist “deconstruction” of the medium. The guy posted an illustration on a forum, and then prompted people to suggest an action. So it was something like interactive writing, where the original author still had control over it, as he still picked one suggestion among many and showed its outcome.

Today I was going through the first “pages” of Homestuck and noticed something else instead. The story is again presented as if a “game”, complete with a parody of a rudimentary interface. The protagonist of the story is a not-so-good programmer who happens to be working on a game, called SBURB. You can play the beta. And you can see that it’s exactly the beginning of Homestuck, with very minimal differences. A game within a game. A world within a world. The protagonist of the story, putting himself into the story. All of this being the exquisite post-modernist quality: playing with frames.

“Sometimes you feel like you are trapped in this room. Stuck, if you will, in a sense which possibly borders on the titular.”

So this time my interest was tickled by this different perspective. Think of a programmer, putting himself in the game he’s making. Is it possible, from within the boundaries of the game, to reconstruct the world outside? How do you think out of the frame? How do you punch holes through it?

It becomes a parody on reality, metaphorically strong. See my analogy with dreams and reality. The creator and his creation. The dreamer and the dreamee, trapped into the dream, unconscious about the dream. And here in this case, the protagonist of a game, unconscious of himself in a game, but playing within the rules. This blinkered look at reality that makes you take everything for granted, because the brain is hardwired to make sense of what is fed to it. WYSIATI, What You See Is All There Is. Sufficiency. The brain projects a world using a severely limited set of features. An abstract.

This is exactly like in a game, where you program and defines just a few features of the world. Is it a limited top-down 2D view? So what would the characters see if they were to look up, out of the “frame”? You don’t know. You can’t know. And, more precisely, you don’t ask questions. Because the question itself is out of the frame. Not only it can’t be answered from within, but it also cannot exist. Because it’s outside the bounding rules. Out of the physics that regulate and frame your world.

Take the idea of “time” into this frame. The character of a game experiences time. The game story has a natural flow. It starts and then goes on. The character may have a sense of previous history even at that starting point, so “misperceiving” it. But is the game a “beta”, or a final version? How many iterations that world has gone through? What was written “before”, and what “after”? The timeline experienced in the game is not the timeline that exists in the world that built that game. You could perceive an embryonic state where instead there’s a final one. So it gets to the point where time collapses, like in the other example I was making.

Once again, this is all the result of reflexive properties. Things that self-describe through recursive processes. And, in these endless loops, the impossibility to escape.

I’ve seen a similar concept mentioned here. Though I’d stay more with the world itself, “closure”, describing precisely the “binding” of these worlds. As I think the property of doing without the details, erasing them, is more meaningful than the property of “filling in”.

One Comment

  1. Here’s a good interview with the creator of MSPA. Also seems to be the only good interview of him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *