Premature Pangs

Back in January 2008, I spent a few days trying to sketch out my ideas for a simple video game based on Knut Hamsun's novel Hunger and have now put what little progress I made here, with hopefully more to come some time in the future. Rather than try to recreate the narrative of the story, which would be rather tedious, I wanted to make a game based on the strange rules of interaction set forth in the novel. Hunger tells the semi-autobiographical tale of a young writer starving his way through late 19th century Christiania (now Oslo) — it is a novel of wandering and does not concern itself so much with the man's quest for food and money, which he often gives away as soon as he has gotten it, as much as it examines how he can sustain some sort of mental coherence despite encroaching madness. Language plays a huge part in the main character's strategy to keep himself straight: inventing words, putting on airs, arguing with policemen about the time, and it is his ability to continuously engage others in conversation without facing the reality of his situation, that simultaneously makes him most mad and most sane. The point of his rambling is not to communicate, it is merely to stave off the bleakness of his situation.

The simple premise for my game then would be to wander, your character slowly drifting into the coma of beggardom, and the only action you could take would be to talk with other characters, trying to keep them engaged in conversation by whatever means possible. The conversations would be driven statistically, using some simple Markov Chain algorithm, using the source text as well as inputted text, so that the conversational maneuvers could grow organically within each instance of the game. The point would not be for the other characters to understand your sentences, merely that they are able to react to them. Like the novel, it is not about communication, but merely staying in the game.

That said, there is nothing there yet. There are no conversations yet to be had, you can merely walk your little Pilate, using the arrow keys, past the same sketched house, and mutter little words by typing and pressing enter. I have done little testing outside of Firefox, so browsers beware. I am not sure if what is there now will be what eventually evolves into a game, it was done merely as a rough sketch of a possible visual aesthetic.