Why I’m Reading Winnie-the-Pooh

Now I could just ignore the fact that I haven’t updated this blog during the last two weeks and pretend it didn’t happen, but I’m not going to do that.  I mentioned in my previous post that I was going to write a blog about Ian Bogost’s Unit Operations, but the book resists my reading of it.  Alternately, I’m just a slow reader when it comes to reading about criticism.  So I won’t be talking about Unit Operations right now.  Instead I am going to talk about Winnie-the-Pooh.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  The juxtaposition of Winnie-the-Pooh to a book about critical discourse is a bit jarring.  I assure you that there is a good reason for my rummaging through the works of A. A. Milne.

For the first part, those who know me really well could attest that I have a great fondness for children’s books. I do, after all, own a leather-bound collected works of Lewis Carroll, and in fact, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of my favorite books (so much so that I get irked when people say their favorite book is Alice in Wonderland, the title of the horrible Disney filmic adaptation).

For the second part (because this has to be going somewhere), I’ve decided to make a (somewhat) small game based upon Winnie-the-Pooh, or Christopher Robin to be more precise.  Way back when I took English 101, the very first article we had to read for class was the following one entitled “Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood:” http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/163/12/1557.  A few days ago, I was talking to a friend and he randomly just said “Winnie the Pooh,” which led to a discussion of the neuroses of the various characters, and how they all related to Christopher Robin.  Eventually, I decided to make a game exploring what a grown-up Christopher Robin would be like.

So the concept for “Now We Are Twenty-Three” was born.  After the discussion, I realized that I hadn’t ever read the original stories, and so I went about to my local used bookstore and picked up Winnie-the-Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner and When We Were Very Young.  I found it to be disappointing that the bookstore did not have a copy of Now We Are Six, from which the project got its name, but I am less interested in the poems related to Winnie-the-Pooh.  When We Were Very Young was only two dollars, so I grabbed it, regardless.  I’ve since been reading these books and making notes in the margins related to the behaviors of the various characters.

The following may seem like I’m taking things a bit too far, but nonetheless, it is the concept in my brain.  If it helps, you can pretend that the whole thing is completely detached from anything called “Winnie-the-Pooh.”  It’s probably better that way.

“Now We Are Twenty-Three” will be a text adventure, written in Inform7.  The text adventure will follow the life of “Christopher” during eight days of his life as a serial killer.  Each day of his life Christopher heads out to satisfy his desire to kill.  This is a particularly bloody game concept, I realize (though it could be said that I am not averse to particularly bloody writing).  This game concept will allow for two things.

First, it allows me to make a game that exhibits attributive gameplay.  Attributive gameplay is a concept I’ll go over more fully later, but it facilitates player agency by letting the player have more control over how he or she accomplishes tasks in the game world.  In other words, it puts the player more in control of the game, and reduces negative frustration.  It pays more attention to potential actions, rather than prescribed actions.

Second, doing this game is easier than attempting another game concept I have that will require a lot more work.  This other concept is hard enough to get my head around that trying to execute it would probably make me break down and cry at the moment.  I say this because I haven’t yet worked with Inform7 to be able to do all the special cases this other concept will require.  Trying to learn Inform7 at the same time as trying to figure out just how the concept works would just be too much for me at this time.  “Now We Are Twenty-Three” is a great means to learn Inform7, without being so difficult to make that I won’t beat myself over the head asking why I ever attempted the project.

That having been said, expect to see more posts about “Now We Are Twenty-Three,” as well as posts about what I’m doing in the game.  And, someday, a post about Unit Operations.

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