REVIEW: “Elegy for a Dead World”: a Novel Storytelling Digital Game

I’m home with some illness, weak but not incapacitated. So I’m in perfect shape for trying out new digital products.

Enter “Elegy for a Dead World,” a cross-platform digital game designed to inspire creative writing by the player. I came across “Elegy” in one of my feeds and decided to give it a go.  Here’s the trailer for the game.

“Elegy” looked intriguing. I like freeform exploration of fantastical worlds. I like writing. Seems perfect for me.

Getting the game running is easy-peasy.  You just send the developers $15 and you get a code that you use on the Steam cross-platform game system. After a few minutes, depending on your broadband speed, you should be up and playing.

Gameplay is elegant and simple. You are a solitary space explorer, flying around a solar system, where you encounter three planets with very literary names. You beam down to the planets, which are melancholy, fantastical and evocative.

You can choose to write a free-form narrative inspired by your visit, or select pre-populated sentences that you complete along the way, like a very somber Madlibs game.

At the end of your planetary exploration, you have a little story, or travelogue, or poem, or whatever you want really.

That’s really it.

You can choose to “publish” your story for others to read, and check out stories that other people have written.  If you REALLY love your story, you can apparently export and print it in booklet form using a digital printhouse like Blurb or Lulu.

I enjoyed playing and writing for about an hour.  I a chose to write a pretend message to my friend Spuds about this run-down amusement park called “T-Town.”

T-town story1

T-town story2

Twelve text prompts later, my story “Review of T-Town Amusement Park” was finished. Each text block is accompanied by a subtly animated screenshot of the area where you wrote that section.

Currently, there is no easy way to share this story with someone else, other than taking screenshots and sending them to the person.  But that removes the cool animations embedded in the story.

It was a pretty fun experience and I enjoyed having a product at the end that I made.

I do wonder about the replayability of the game. I don’t know if I would explore new worlds or revisit old ones again. It would be cool if there were areas that got unlocked after you published a story, or got it “liked” by others. Or some way to collaboratively write stories with others. I could see “Elegy” being a cool tool for a creative writing class or a writing group.

The overall tone of the game is somber and melancholic, which is not surprising given its name. That does make it a little one-sided in terms of the kinds of writing that it inspires. I wonder what a silly, violent or festive planet might engender in the writer-player?

“Elegy for a Dead World” is a genre-defying digital storytelling experience. Definitely worth checking out if you enjoy writing and want to support an indie game project. And a cool example of how digital games can foster traditional literacies.

“Elegy for a Dead World” can be purchased from the Dejobaan Games website. Runs on Mac, PC and Linux computers.

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