Enlightening Interactive Fiction: Andrew Plotkin's <em>Shade</em>

Enlightening Interactive Fiction: Andrew Plotkin's Shade

2008-02-26

Jeremy Douglass evaluates Shade within the history of interactive fiction, and considers how light is represented in the code structure of scene descriptions, arguing that “[w]ithout vision there is no agency.”

In Andrew Plotkin’s interactive fiction Shade (Plotkin 2000), you are sitting up late on the night before a trip to a desert rave. At first you are preoccupied by the tedium of travel preparations and the stress of misplaced plane tickets. However, a growing unease sets in as the familiar landscape of your apartment begins to change - objects morph, break, and dissolve, while sand appears everywhere in patches, then piles, then avalanches. The arriving headlights of your airport taxi wash away the walls of your apartment and reveal the truth: you have already gone to your rave and wandered into the desert. Dying of exposure there in the harsh noon sun, you hallucinate your dim apartment, reliving the small choices leading up to the end.

A Brief History of IF

Shade is an interactive fiction (IF, or “text adventure game”) - an object-oriented story simulation in which a command line is used to interact with a text parser. The parser prints text describing the situation to the player (“You are sprawled on the futon”) and the player responds by typing (“> EXAMINE FUTON”) to receive a response (“The futon is definitely on the downhill side of life’s rolling knolls.”). By convention, IF descriptions are generally written in the second person, while player responses are imperative statements.

Interactive Fiction computer games began with Adventure, a spelunking simulation written by Will Crowther in 1975, and later expanded by Don Woods into a Tolkien-esque fantasy in 1976. It inspired many variations, adaptations, and homages, including the first commercial computer game (Adventure) sold by Scott Adams in 1978, as well as the first personal computer game blockbuster when MIT startup Infocom published Zork in 1980, helping to establish the first commercial PC games era (Nelson 2001; Montfort 2003).

While the second-person mode was present in IF from its first days as a simulated environment and through its period as Tolkien fan art on the mainframes of American campuses, it is Infocom whose marketing made the second-person mode synonymous with embodiment and immersion: “Interactive fiction is a story in which YOU are the main character.” While it sounds as if the player was invited to step into the world of the story, it was just as often an invitation to step into a role on a stage. Rather than YOU being the main character, you had the opportunity to role-play the main character, exploring “your” personality as a detective, a spy, an AI, etc., even while exploring the environment … and there were many “you” roles to explore.

Infocom’s catalog eventually encompassed a wide variety of genres, including detective fiction, espionage, fantasy, romance, science fiction, and space opera, often with corresponding characters to become. However, this genre explosion in IF coincided with the rise of the graphics card and a massive shift in the computer games marketplace. In advertisements, Infocom responded to the market threat of graphics by lauding the rich complexity of prose (“We draw our graphics from the limitless imagery of your imagination”) and deploring the mindlessness of arcade shooters (“I was a Teenage Zombie!”). The company also experimented with multiple hybrid text-graphic forms; yet, like all text game companies of that era, Infocom eventually went out of business.

Yet the downfall of commercial IF in the late 1980s crystallized a grassroots art and design community around the emerging Usenet. In the 1990s, as graphical desktop computing entered the landmark era of Windows 3.0, Mosaic, and Myst, IF experienced a quiet renaissance, with languages, libraries, toolkits, and game files circulating freely among individual artist-practitioners on a growing number of groups, web sites, and forums, including rec.arts.int-fiction, the if-archive, and ifMUD. The strong retro aesthetic of the community was tempered by an interest in further developing the form, shaped by the practical necessities of doing independent, and often single-person, development on no budget. This led many new artists to turn away from sprawling mazes filled with puzzles, and reconceptualize IF design in contrast to the computer game industry as a craft of interactive dramatic short fiction.
In design and content, Shade is indebted to the original era, yet quintessentially a product of the later indie scene.

Light and Dark

Odd, how the light just makes your apartment gloomier. Pre-dawn darkness pools in the corners and around the tops of walls. Your desk lamp glares yellow, but the shadows only draw your eyes and deepen. (Plotkin 2000)

Throughout Shade, you inhabit two worlds. In the first world, a vision of the apartment invites you to reflect on choices in your former life that lead to the second world, the reality of the desert and of the player’s death. Although your apartment is brightly lit by a bulb, it is also a shadow world, the hallucination of a dead or dying shade. The question is not whether this death will happen, but when and how bad news will arrive.

One window, whose shade is down, and the front door firmly shut.

Your luggage is piled untidily by the door. A potted hyacinth sits beneath the window.

You are sprawled on the futon, staring up into that gloom. Your eyes feel gritty. But it’s too late - early - no time left for sleep, anyway. In a few hours your ride will arrive.

On the desk are your to-do list and a travel book.

The drawn shade and the front door of the apartment are always there, and beyond them lie the desert of the real and the realization of death that end the story. Yet this realization must come slowly - the process cannot be short-circuited by opening the door early, as Plotkin’s character is constitutionally unwilling to even look outside until the taxi arrives. The “firmly shut” door, the lamp bulb that “glares,” and even the drawn shade hint at a fierce immutability.

>OPEN DOOR

The sun hasn’t risen; what light you have would just leak out into the night. Anyway, the taxi hasn’t arrived, so there’s nowhere to go.

>OPEN SHADE

Darkness is already crawling around the edges of the windowshade. You have no desire to look night in the face.

>TURN OFF LAMP

You do not want the dark.

These responses are essentially error messages - no matter how many times you turn off the lamp, the requested interaction is politely refused, and the underlying world model is not changed. However, understanding of the work is advanced by reading these messages; indeed, trying to interact and failing is necessary, as their poetic menace puts much of the coming experience in context.

The style of these messages is particular to whoever “you” are supposed to be (“You have no desire,” “You do not want”). They represent the normal constraints of the simulation on the player (“You can’t do that”) in terms of psychological characterization (“You won’t do that”). Player input serves as id, parser response as superego, and the emerging character is a negotiation between play and design. For the player, the psychological error messages naturalize the limits of the simulation as merely the limits of a personality. Rather than being disciplined for attempting to explore the unimplemented reaches of the world, the player is invited to discover the inhibitions (and thus definitions) of a persona. Play is exploration - but it is also autobiographical archeology, holding bits of “yourself” up to the light.

Shade is a work of light, as a narrative and as a game. As a narrative, it tells a story of enlightenment - in this case, realizing your own death and understanding your complicity in causing it. As a game, it is a simulation almost totally defined by vision and perception - in IF, scope of interaction is largely determined by what you can and cannot “see.” We can understand how Plotkin innovates and responds to the traditional use of light in IF by considering that the ur-text, Crowther’s Adventure, was originally a spelunking simulation.

In Adventure, the presence of a light source was necessary for almost any activity - navigation, manipulation of objects, etc. Given the original context, this makes sense, as it is highly dangerous to wander around cave systems in the dark. The introduction of fantasy elements only increased the importance of using light to model glowing objects, fire, etc. Widespread reimplementation and later commoditization as the Zork series left the primacy of light firmly embedded in both the games and the development languages and tools. (“It is dark. You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.”) Today, explicit illumination remains integral even to contemporary IF authoring systems like TADS (“lightsource”) and Inform (“has light”), with light as a core attribute of every object.

Indeed, an examination of the source code of much contemporary IF can reveal odd vestigial light codes. According to the Inform Beginner’s Guide, “There must be at least one light source in every room (unless you want the player to be told that ‘It’s pitch dark and you can’t see a thing’); most commonly, that light source is the room itself” (Firth 2002, 32). For example:

Object hallway “Hallway”

with

description “A twisty little passage runs north

to the bedroom and east to the bathroom.”,

n_to bedroom,

e_to bathroom,

has light;

Here, the hallway object itself emanates light. If it didn’t, by default most IF player characters could not find their way from bedroom to bathroom with the lights out. “This illustrates one of the terrible things about darkness in a game. You can’t see anything; you can do very little indeed. All objects except those in your inventory are out of scope, unreachable, as if non-existent. Worse, if you DROP one of the objects you are carrying, it will be swallowed by the dark, never to be found until there is light to see by” (Ibid, 142).

Without vision, there is no agency. This may not seem so strange unless you consider interacting with such work from a radically different perspective. For example, because serially displayed text is highly accessible, the blind gaming community has long turned to interactive fiction as a mainstay of computer entertainment. The irony of designing such a medium around the indispensability of lamps is hard to miss.

In Adventure, Zork, and many more classic IF works, darkness kills (or at least incapacitates). In Shade, this situation is ironically reversed. You fear the darkness “crawling around the edges of the windowshade,” and fear that precious light will “leak out into the night.” Yet death has already arrived in the form of a light that cannot be escaped.

Other contemporary IFs have played with reversing expectations about light as well. “Enlightenment: an interactive one-room absurdity,” by Taro Ogawa, uses the standard light model and turns the goal on its head. An adventurer of the classic Zork style is encumbered with an armload of glowing objects, yet is desperately trying to hide, lose, and break his plundered riches to gain a much-needed moment of darkness.

“Hunter in Darkness: A Cave Crawl,” also by Andrew Plotkin, pitches a hunter headlong into a cave only moments after the story begins. Lost and injured, the player must feel and smell the way to freedom.
In its code, Shade simply opts out of light simulation entirely, overriding it in a single expression:

! Simple light function which says everything is lit.

[ OffersLight i;

if (i == 0)

rfalse;

rtrue;

];

At the level of code, like the level of the story, everything is illuminated - although at neither level is this immediately apparent to the player.

The Source

Arguments for selecting Shade either as a case study or as a classroom example of IF might highlight its relatively short length, the high quality of the writing, and the availability of the code. The commented source code of Shade is, in fact, freely downloadable for noncommercial use, and is extremely edifying for anyone curious about (or confused by) the experience. The code is written in Inform, an object-oriented, C-like language, which can often be read like colloquial English even by non-programmers. However, in the case of Shade, the code is more intricately designed (and thus significantly less readable) than most IF. Yet even the complexities of Shade are often in pursuit of a simplified interface.

One example is the treatment of navigation. IFs are traditionally navigable by compass rose (N, S, E, W), with objects and events distributed in space as an exploration. Shade, by contrast, eschews navigation for a single location. Subtitled “a one-room game set in your apartment,” Shade is playfully referring to the phenomenon of apartment pieces in IF - generally learner works in which authors new to the medium begin by scrupulously implementing a detailed model of everything within sight of their desks. Such pieces usually lack setting, conflict, and/or plot, tending instead to concentrate on the detailed execution of conventionally modeled IF objects - an interactive lamp, cabinet, closet, and so on.

Just as Shade opted out of conventional light modeling, it dispenses with conventional spatial navigation. Instead, the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom of the apartment form one unified location - a contiguous “room” with several “nooks,” whose objects are always in scope. The player location is indicated through nuance and shifting emphasis. Interacting with something in the one area automatically shifts the player to that area, while the view is reorganized to describe nearer objects before those further away. The net effect is a feeling of differentiated space without rigid underlying zones.

You survey your one small room. The kitchen alcove has a refrigerator, a sink, a stove, and barely enough space to stand between them. One wall projects out to form a counter, with a cupboard beneath it. The rest of the place is mostly filled by your futon, and the computer desk in the corner. The bathroom alcove is across from you, and the closet next to it… .

> TURN OFF COMPUTER SCREEN

You step out of the kitchen nook, and sit down at the desk.

You hit the power key; the computer gives a tiny sigh and shuts down.

> LOOK

You survey your one small room. One desk, paper-piled, with a dusty computer shoved to the side. Your futon, upon which you sit. Second-hand stereo sitting on a cardboard crate. A kitchen nook one way and a bathroom nook the other, with a closet to the side….

Another way in which Shade simplifies through complicating is by providing stable references for series of objects - actually the same Platonic “object” in the code, changing names and representations gradually over time, as with the hyacinth that morphs into a cactus.

Object -> plant “plant”

with

name ‘pot’ ‘potted’ ‘plant’ ‘soil’,

short_name [;

switch (self.number) {

0: print “hyacinth”

1: print “spider plant”

2: print “palm plant”

3: print “cactus”

default: print “[BUG]”

}

rtrue;

],

While the hyacinth changes sequentially, another piece of code controlling the task list involves a group of selectively visible items that “jump out at you” only as they become pertinent or available in the loose progression of events. While this subtle effect naturalizes the progression through the IF, individual tasks disrupt and forestall progress - in particular, the bit of code behind the missing plane tickets.

Global ticket_counter = 0;

[ CheckTicket obj;

if (obj.ticket_search >= 2) {

if (obj.ticket_search == 3)

“No matter how often you look, the plane

tickets aren’t there.”

obj.ticket_search = 3;

“The plane tickets still aren’t there.”

}

obj.ticket_search = 2;

ticket_counter++;

if (ticket_counter < 3) {

“Nope. The tickets aren’t there.”

}

Goaled(tickets);

move tickets to Apartment;

print_ret “Nope. The tickets aren’t - “, (emph) “Aha.”,

“They are, after all. The tickets slide to the floor and

lie there, smirking at you.”

];

The tickets are not merely hidden, nor hidden randomly. The code declares them to be hidden in “the third hiding spot searched.” Once the tickets turn up missing, Plotkin’s code keeps a global counter on the number of hiding places checked, with a further counter for each individual place, so that response messages vary. Only when two of the appropriate places have been checked will the tickets turn up in the third.

One of the consequences of this hiding method is that the hunt for the tickets tends to familiarize the player with the environment by producing a thorough ransacking of the house. It also produces a moderate amount of frustration. Finding the tickets on the third try is unlikely, as not all locations in the house are hiding spots, but finding them on the first or second try is, in fact, impossible. Lost items, as Shade describes them, simply take longer to find.

Of course, this shaping of experience is not evident to the first-time player. Only upon replaying Shade and going immediately to the previously discovered hiding place (e.g., the jacket in the closet) will the player find no tickets, and realize that the world model is not logical and deterministic in some straightforward way. This discovery on replay is virtually guaranteed, for unlike randomization, the tickets are defined such that they will not appear wherever the player knows them to be. Using outside knowledge from the last traversal, the re-player will go directly to the jacket or stack of papers where the tickets were last found, and in doing so change (but not shorten) the story of the search. The description approximates the real-world experience of a frustrating search, not through more detailed models of the hunting ground, but through a simulation that requires a similar process. When the sequence ends, picking up the tickets triggers another detail niggling towards revelation: “Taken. Something scrapes underfoot as you bend to pick the tickets up.”

Not coincidentally, the inability to trust one’s own eyes is the common thread in all the preceding examples. With the hyacinth/cactus, you learn that the connections between objects and their appearances are complex and mutable. With the task list, you learn that attention is fickle, and you will only perceive what “interests you.” With the tickets, you learn (if you replay, if you notice at all) that unseen processes manipulate your experience. All is not as it seems.

In Shade, the textual aesthetics of light, with “crawling shadows” and “burning glare,” are communicated directly to the player. The code aesthetics of light, however, occur at the disjunction between the player’s mental model of the code as it is expected to be (“If I LOOK in a place, an object is either there or not, and if it is there, a description of the object will be printed”) and the reality of the code as it actually functions. The implied code is wrong, and the virtual light entering the player’s imaginary eye is to be mistrusted, if for no other reason than that the actual code is unconventional: what is seen is not always what is modeled, and what is modeled is not always seen.

For this among other reasons, Shade can be a frustrating experience. Concealing or misrepresenting the simulated world state seems to break the fundamental contract between the parser and the player: the parser providing a description of the world, and the player providing descriptions of actions in that world. After evidence of such a breach of faith, some players may no longer be interested in interacting.

Yet these frustrations are to a certain extent naturalized if we choose to either side with the player character against the illusions of a deceptive world or side with the “real” world against the illusions of a self-deceptive player character. In either case, there is a gap between vision and the world, between the code as we assumed it was and the code as we discover it must be. That gap is defined by what innovative or unexpected quality we encounter in the code itself, and one reads/plays the work by closing the gap - by solving, by revealing, by coming to understand.

Second Person in Context

While Shade is technically innovative in a number of ways, it is utterly conventional in one very important way - the use of the second-person mode of address.

IF works are overwhelmingly written in the second person. Over 90% of the IF currently listed in Baf’s Guide are second-person works (2288/2510), with the remainder split between first person, third person, and various text-art experiments or “abuses.” By contrast to IF, a vanishingly small number of novels are written using second person as the dominant mode - and most that do feature intercepted communication (e.g., the epistolary novel) rather than continuous direct address. Yet there are two other forms of entertainment in which use of second person predominates: game books, aka Choose Your Own Adventure books, and role-playing games (RPGs), whose gamemaster creates the world by directly addressing the players.

The precursors to contemporary game books may have been the nonfiction instructional series TutorText, whose first volume, “The Arithmetic of Computers,” was printed in 1958. Fictional game books did not appear until 1967, when Raymond Queneau of the Oulipo published Un conte à votre façon. That same year saw the publication of E. W. Hildick and Peter Barrett’s Lucky Les, the first illustrated children’s game book, and the subsequent steady increase in game book publication until over a decade later when the first Choose Your Own Adventure appeared in 1979 and “almost single-handedly started the American game book boom of the eighties” (Katz 1998).

Just as TutorText predated game books, mass market wargaming of the kind popularized by Charles S. Roberts in his 1952 Tactics predated the ur-role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. In 1968, the year after the publication of Un conte à votre façon, wargamers began a series of experiments with fiction and fantasy to alleviate growing boredom with historical reenactments and straight scenarios. The official TSR publication did not arrive, however, until 1974.

Like game books and RPGs, IF was arguably predated by simulation methods that emphasized fact over fantasy and system over story, one example being Terry Winograd’s 1972 object modeling program “SHRDLU.” In 1975, the year after D&D was released, IF first circulated in what rapidly became a fantastical form. IF was sold commercially as early as 1978; however, it did not reach a mass audience until 1981, when Infocom expanded on their initial PDP-11 release with new versions targeting the personal computer market.

Why did the 1970s see the rise of mass audiences for second-person simulations? RPG historians such as Gary Allan Fine lay credit for the flashpoint at the feet of Tolkien’s 1965 U.S. paperback release of The Lord of the Rings, which shifted the interest of tabletop wargaming communities to fantasy role-playing (Fine 1983). In Tolkien, Adventure and early RPGs have a common ancestor, and out of common communities came a history of cross-influences. Many of these influences weave through MUDs, MOOs, and present-day MMORPGs. Yet the proximity of second-person simulations to contemporary computer games creates the possibility of slippage or misunderstanding in using the term “person,” especially when shifting between discussion of language-based and visually-based simulations.

Strangely, the use of the term “person” in language studies does not correspond to its use in visual studies. Most games studies discussions use “person” in the visual style, corresponding to the viewpoint of the player. The first-person camera is the most immediate, providing a view from the eyes of the avatar with little more than a hand of the avatar-self encroaching on the image. The third person camera is more mediated and distancing, in that the separate self of Lara Croft or Master Chief is displayed on screen and followed through the game world by a cinematic crane shot. The function of this mediacy is complex (Bolter and Grusin 2000), but one effect is that greater immediacy imparts greater immersion.

In language simulations such as IF, game books, or RPGs, this process works differently. Rather than the process of simulation occurring as if from the player’s viewpoint, the simulation is addressed to the player from the simulator (“You are in a maze of twisty little passages”) creating complementary thoughts in the mind of the player (“I’m in a maze!”). Second-person narration (“You are”) evokes first-person participation (“I am!”). Like the visual form of a first-person shooter, second-person text is the most immediate, with most of the “you” (“I!”) being automatically cropped out of the mental image. Conversely, a 3D game with a first-person camera image of a field and a white house could be described as an assertion on the part of the simulator in the second-person mode of address: “You are standing in an open field west of a white house….”

In both the textual and visual case, the game system describes an inhabitable experience through assertion (second person) for the purpose of the player’s participation, identification, or immersion (first person). We can conclude that the “first-person camera” as it is discussed in games studies and the “second-person narration” of RPGs and IF are not, in fact, two categories, but rather two perspectives on the same category of simulated immediacy.

This immediacy is distinct from the more mediated “first-person narration,” which creates much the same distancing effect as a “third person camera.” It does this in much the same way, by introducing a separate self into the frame. Upon reading “I am sitting at my desk,” many IF players immediately think (and sometimes type) “> WHO ARE YOU?”

The odd category out in this typology of point-of-view is the “second-person camera,” a phrase that only makes sense in interactive media and then only in the rare cases when the player can intentionally switch the camera to the first-person perspective of a non-controllable character, as in Julian Oliver’s experimental game Adventures in the Second Person. As Oliver describes, “In this take on the 2nd Person Perspective, you control yourself through the eyes of the bot, but you do not control the bot; your eyes have effectively been switched. Naturally this makes action difficult when you aren’t within the bot’s field of view. So, both you and the bot (or other player) will need to work together, to combat each other.”

I know of no equivalent in IF, nor in game books, in which the descriptive text simulates one point of view while player input controls a different character. Hypothetically, such an IF might look like “Hunter, In Darkness,” still controlling the hunter, yet written from the point of view of the hunted Wumpus. How exactly might we implement such an external point of view in Shade, even if we chose to? Whose would it be? Our player character is the only “living” being in the story other than the hyacinth/cactus plant. And for good reason - Shade is a fundamentally introspective and contemplative work. There is only second-person address … at least, only up until the final moments of the text, when “you” are finally addressed by a third, a person who is also you.

Beyond Yourself

Although the interface and description of Shade are rigorously constructed from the second-person point of view, from the outset there another perspective present in the room, a kind of IF play-within-a-play.

Right now, however, there’s a game on the screen - one of the text adventures, or interactive fictions, or whatever they are this month - the only kind of game your beige antique can run, anyway.

The you-have-died message is blinking morosely at you. You started up Ready, Okay! last night, trying to distract yourself until morning. But you can’t get even halfway through without running out of insulin.

The uncanny “you-have-died” foreshadows the end of Shade, and reads in retrospect like a message straight from the subconscious of the traveler. While Shade does not allow you to play “Ready, Okay!”, Emily Short argues convincingly that the description signals a tragedy foretold: “Ready, Okay!” is the conventional novel of noted IF author Adam Cadre, and announces from its introduction that most of the high school cast of characters will be dead by the end of the book. What’s more, Short points out that the insulin identifies which of Cadre’s characters is the protagonist of Plotkin’s imaginary IF - the spacey younger sister, a character coincidentally inclined towards events like the desert rave. The traveler may have been playing a game that can’t be won. Regardless, our story of the prelude to Shade is that the traveler sat down at an IF and tried to pretend to be someone else, eventually giving up. The problem of being someone else returns in the conclusion.

The final scenes of Shade are marked by a tiny scurrying figure hiding at the edge of your vision. In the penultimate sequence, you interact away the last illusory artifacts of your old life, revealing radio, futon, etc. as nothing but sand. Throughout, the tiny figure hides until there is nowhere left to hide, at last emerging to trudge lost across the desert sands.

Shade is not a story about what is, but about how you come to know what you know. It is almost certain that the tiny figure is “you” and that the illusion of the apartment must be stripped away in order to contemplate this self. That the apartment is an illusion is re-emphasized by the lingering mirror, which can be re-entered after most of the apartment has been reduced to sand, restoring you suddenly to sunlit apartment and creating a moment of hope that it was all just a bad dream. But no. The apartment remains a lie - and it is a lie that you have been telling yourself.

It is here in the psychological bifurcation of “lying to yourself” that the stability of the second-person character, the traveler, breaks down. If the traveler is this tiny figure desperately struggling to hide from the sand and the light and the truth, then who are “you” now, this new point of view in the featureless desert, towering over the traveler and providing a third-person perspective? Are “you” a ghost? Nature? Death?

There is nothing left of your old illusion but the travel book, now changed: “The Desert Elemental’s Handbook - you’ve been studying it for ages. Trace moisture segregation, arthropod ecocycles, sand/grit/fines sizing distributions. And, of course, the artistic aspects of heat, time, distance, and death.” In the beginning of the story the book is perhaps most indicative of the traveler’s failure to prepare properly for a desert trip - now it is a source of “tables of starvation,” “chapters on bones,” “a section on thirst,” and so on.

With everything fallen before your Midas touch and dissolved to sand, the only thing remaining to interact with is the tiny figure. The player can struggle against the inevitable logic of the text, but the only remaining choice is not to play. Playing on, each touch fells the wandering figure with fatigue and heatstroke. On the final touch, the figure finally lies still and is buried, only to return:

The tiny figure crawls out from under the sands. It’s dead.

“You win,” it says. “Okay, my turn again.”

>…

Nothing left to do. Time passes.

The sun crawls higher.

Interestingly, the prompt and ellipsis in the final quote is not player input - it is provided by the parser for you, and as such is the final replacement of you in your role as interactor. An ellipsis seems to be the only appropriate response to the dead figure’s statement. What could winning mean anymore, and what are turns? Shade first dispensed with light, and space, and gradually with all the objects throughout it. Finally, here, it dispenses (and so dispenses with) time. By retelling a cross-country trip without ever leaving a small patch of sand, Shade presents a portrait of a personality even as the traveler unravels into nothing. By the time the second person has arrived on the scene, the first is no person at all.

References: Literature

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin (2000). Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Fine, Gary Allan (1983). Shared Fantasy: Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Firth, Roger, and Sonja Kesserich (2002). The Inform Beginner’s Guide, 2nd edition. St. Charles, IL: The Interactive Fiction Library.

Katz, Demian (1998). “Gamebook Database.” Gamebooks.org (August 1998).

Nelson, Graham (2001). The Inform Designer’s Manual, 4th edition. St. Charles, Illinois: The Interactive Fiction Library.

Montfort, Nick (2003). Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Plotkin, Andrew (2000). Shade.

Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Roleplaying Games. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Schofield, Dennis (1998). “The Second Person: A Point of View? The Function of the Second-Person Pronoun in Narrative Prose Fiction.” Ph.D. Thesis. Deakin University, Geelong, Australia.

References: Games

Adventures in the Second Person. Julian Oliver; Selectparks. 2005.