Rooms 59-60 - These rooms comprise the interior of the temple proper. Its vast space is dominated by a stepped dais at the west end on which stands a golden statue of a two-headed serpent, the ancient god Sin.
the above is an excerpt from the computer game HELLFIRE WARRIOR. or, rather, it’s an excerpt from the book that comes with the game. if your digital avatar is standing in room 59 or 60, you might decide to look up the room’s description in the book. the “paragraph book” represents a strategy in digital game storytelling that rose out of the dungeons & dragons pen & paper role-playing tradition: when you set your playing pieces on the square on the map that represents the next room in the dungeon, the dungeon master – a live human emcee – will tell you what your characters see in that room. computers have always been good at displaying squares – when their graphic economy didn’t leave much room for visually describing the contents of one of those squares, game authors like jon freeman, joyce lane and jeff johnson – the writers of hellfire warrior’s “book of lore” – borrowed an idea from the game experiences that inspired theirs.
the book of lore went away as the graphic economy of games grew richer and mainstream games’ focus subsequently shifted toward visual representations of worlds. but i think one of the things the current proliferation of twine games proves is that the economy of text is still wickedly valuable to digital world construction. and then there’s games like lillith’s dungeon lovers dx, which supplements an intentionally flat game world with pages of descriptive text. i recommend opening the game and the guide alongside each other in seperate browser tabs. and there’s thecatemites and j. chastain’s goblet grotto, which features whole branching “choose your own adventure” stories hidden in the paragraph book.
i like the idea of this kind of lore as an additional layer of texture to a game, one that the player navigates differently. the digital space of a game reveals information incrementally – only when i enter this room do i get to see what shape it is. but the “lore” of the game represents a big collection of text that’s all immediately available to the player, though the digital output of the game is required to help the player organize it. it also reminds us that the space for interpreting and internalizing a game is much, much bigger than the digital scope of that game.