I’ve spent a couple of hours playing Nick Montfort’s Book and Volume, and this work/game/poem/script whatever you want to call it, is nothing like I’ve played with before. There are no visuals besides the words on the screen that describe the world around you. As the protagonist in this story, you are a newly-hired IT drone who one night gets paged to reset five servers located throughout the city, nTopia. As you wander from site to site, grabbing pizza and checking out the arcades, strange illusions appear and disappear seemingly at random.
- Book and Volume Gameplay / The illusion of living in a different dimension.
The interactive element to the work is the user typing in the action of the user. it is a similar experience to writing code for a program, in that it is important that you choose the correct command to complete the task, and ultimately complete the game. It exercises your mind to visualize what you just read as if you were in the world.
The game has stripped-down prose that only contains essentials. The interiors of buildings are in a few sentences at most. For example, your apartment consists of a couch and some clothes and no other rooms. You are forced to focus on what needs to be done, and you don’t spend time needlessly performing useless actions. By restricting visuals, Nick Montfort spent a significant amount of time describing the world’s contents in text script. This leaves the user to interpret the world as the game progresses.
- nTopia / This is a user’s map of Nick Montfort’s world, for reference when playing the game.
The game is tedious, and requires plenty of attention and note taking in order to navigate and progress. It is a different way of thinking and interacting with a poem, and is similar to the language of an engineer that is task-focused. Montfort makes us think about our behaviors in the physical world - as if our actions can be quantified and mapped out like how we use the command line and typing in human based actions as code to progress in the game.