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February 24, 2005

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Gardner Campbell

OK, this is deeply cool to think about. Great evocation of a lot of what I too feel in the experience of the game. Rush of thoughts follows.

Flyguy does subtly encourage upward motion, but there are other interesting subtle encouragements at work as well, some in the early stages of encountering repetitions, and some more persistent. (Some of this derives not only from my own experience but also from watching my wife and my 10-year-old girl navigate the game, but I'll focus on my experience.) For example, I love the pirouette at take-off. The animation is extremely compelling for me, and conceptually rich in that it's gratuitous. It's unnecessary to the surface narrative of the dream. Yet it's crucial in that it conveys a certain joy, a certain beautiful excess of motion that is heartfelt and winsome and whimsical (esp. the latter given that the hero appears to be that middle-aged Walter Mitty) that I find I want to experience again and again. But the only way to experience it is to make him fly (or be cast) down so he can take off again. So there's a subtle encouragement downward for me, and a subtle encouragement in each delightful moment in each level (tea-drinking, nearly killing the balloon-boy who turns out to be able to fly and seems delighted and perhaps surprised to learn this, dancing and dipping with the lady and then granting her quasi-Mary-Poppins status, etc.) toward repetition, that childish cry of "again!" Flyguy elicits "again!" The Xerox station is cool because it's variation-in-repetition: a copy of the previous world indistinguishable from it, except for the process of demonstrating the meta-instant of replication as an act of thought that mirrors/parodies/plays with the very experience of this dream-game. Of course, it's always the same variation-in-repetition, but it expresses a certain uncanny meta-ness so well that for me it's entertainingly symbolic far out of proportion to its content.

And the side-to-side stuff is encouraged because that's how you encounter stuff more deliberately--but I can't wring as much joy out of the side-to-side when I think about it or do it. Or have as much joy wrung within me. More to think about there.

Oh, and the sound: last night I had the sound off, and today for the first time (on my second time through the dream-game) I heard the sound. Repetitive but beautiful (and simple) score, along with foley (post-production sound effects, as all are in animation) and environment sound: there's something to be worked through here in the way these support each other.

All this stuff enters into my play experience, even though I didn't articulate it all until now. Maybe I'm just trying to figure out why this trance jazzes me so.

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