When you step into the world, you are a tiny man in a brown shirt with red overalls, but who you are isn’t really important. What’s important is that the there’s an orange and white mushroom with angry looking eyes slowly walking toward you. This is important because the mushroom is teaching you something. In this world, you have to move. Jog or sprint, jump or punch, to stand still is to die, even if in this world to die is simply to start again.
The first thing every story must do is to teach you how to read it. When story is simply a story — if a story is ever simply a story — then certain questions are usually answered as quickly as possible. Who is the story about? Does it take place in the past, the present, or the future? Is it a comedy or a tragedy, a mystery or a romance? When you step into the world, there are ways for the story to signal exactly where you are, but there are things you are already expected to know. You start at the top and move to the bottom, left to right, left to right. When you are finished you turn the page. Who you are isn’t supposed to be important, but it always somehow is.
This is a story with a purpose.
When you step into the world, you are a woman in an orange jumpsuit and no shoes, but who you are isn’t really important. What’s important is that you are trapped in a space, and that to get out of that space you have to bend the laws of physics. This is important because bending the laws of physics is teaching you something. The world is not an intuitive place. Things that are not connected can be connected. You can fall so far that it becomes flying. In absolute terms, there’s no such thing as down.
When a story is not simply a story but also a game, the story not only must teach you how to read it, it must teach you how to read. Not every game moves from top to bottom, left to right. When you have finished, you have only begun. The world is always unfamiliar, even sometimes after it has been exhausted. Because, like in a story, the world you are seeing is never actually the world. You are always being asked to make a connection between yourself and the world that has been constructed. Like a story that is simply a story, a story that is also a game is built on a series of codes, in which certain actions, certain choices are rewarded. In a story that is also a game, the codes shape the possible outcomes. Who you are isn’t important. There are rules to tell you who you can be.
This is a story about becoming invested in the world.
When you step into the world, you are asked to choose a face, because who you are isn’t important. What’s important is the world and the time you spend in it. You may be a man or a woman. You may act with urgency, or you may explore every corner, open every door. Whatever you do, you will wait, and the waiting is teaching you something. The places in the world are not connected. You are not standing in an elevator. You have stepped out of the old world and you are waiting for the new world to be built.
The world is always being built.
When a story teaches you how to read, it is an initiation, a rite of passage. You are instructed in the rules and rituals required to participate in the world. When a story is not simply a story but also a game, there is often a certain flexibility to those rules. You may choose how much time you wish to spend in the world. You can play for speed, collection, achievements, or score. You may play as a performance, assume an identity, shape your actions to fit (or resist) the character you have been given. You may even decline to play at all. There is always another story. There is always another game.
No story is ever simply a story. Every story is also a game.
In this world, you have to move.
The laws of physics can be bent.
You have stepped out of the old world, even if the new one isn’t quite done yet.
This is a story about a world that is never finished, but where connections are always being built. This is a world where who you are does not have to be the most important thing.
This is not a story about growing up. This is a story about how there is always another world.
About the Author:
Gavin Craig is a freelance writer and critic. His work has appeared in The Idler, Kill Screen, Snarkmarket, and Comicosity.
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