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by groggydog profile

Science Fiction

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About the Story

You are a corporate drone tasked with purging poetry from CORPOTECH's Database of Subsumed Cultures. But when a mysterious interloper hacks into your console, you're faced with an escalating series of requests which put you in direct opposition to your corporate overlords and on a collision course with the sublime.

Play through the game's events in STORY MODE
Create poetry at your own leisure in FREE PLAY MODE
Push your creativity to its limits in CHALLENGE MODE

It is highly recommended to play this game on a screen sized at least 1024x768px.

Game Details


Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2024


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Member Reviews

Number of Reviews: 2
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Spring Thing 2024: PROSPER.0, April 6, 2024
by kaemi
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2024

The setting, in which you are a number-named drone for CORPOTech “requested to identify and fully purge any instance of poetry from the system. / This has come as a mandate from the Board Room. There is unfortunately no room for art of any kind in the Database of Subsumed Cultures”, lays it on so thick that I was buried for weeks, forced to learn the languages of the dark, burgeoning my pupils to cope until they covered each skullhalf and electrified my brain with every glint of silica or silver, crawling with the olm into underglows where the depths deepened into new understandings of themselves…

So though I did blinkrecoil reemerging into hypersurface aesthetics of “you are an efficient cog in the machinery of CORPO blight” versus a Shakespeare-quoting rogue AI promising to “bring the color back” through revolution, the allure here lies in the central mechanic of how you save the poetry from deletion. You’re given a chance to read a poem, peruse some data that thinly contextualizes the culture, then race to preserve individual words by clicking on them as the text is backspaced into oblivion. Holding the tatters, you’re given the chance to reweave the original meaning through remembrance of its impact upon you, painting with echoes to reimagine the song. These poems, themselves historical artworks which been crunchgrungled through several rounds of autotranslate, leave you grasping at their pixellated je ne sais quoi for almost the accident of meaning, syrupy saliences where “If the items don't match, search To destroy what God in his mercy saves, The struggle is equally futile and weak Rather than receding waves.” In that struggle between destroying and saving, your click click curations of buried empires capture epicene crepuscula, scintillas of the loss of the whole: “moon climate eternal beauty feel the deception rapture stylized reality”.

Although the game gives you the opportunity to reconstruct entire poems from the salvaged words, I actually rather preferred the fragmentary ellipsicals that form as you tear out the words you could not live without, a la the complete works of a Greek, some Sappho voice choppy through the void: “Sometimes I can not say. / immortal / Sometimes lilies / All Peaceful”. Prosper.0 shrugs the same conclusion, this mixture of reverence and resignation, when the narrator complains about the difficulty of the task of encapsulating everything that is being lost in just a few words felt together: “Do you think that, if you had an unlimited amount of time and skill, you could truly write a poem that faithfully captured the spirit of an entire race? / Do you think that these poems, created by the races themselves, truly encapsulate the entirety of the spirit of their own people? / We're all simply doing our best to reflect back the most miniscule portion of existence in a way that rings true, aren't we?” In this tender tension, making patchworks of works you don’t understand to enshrine something, anything, against the nothing, “a complex and twisting horror” elegances the interplay of reading and forgetting, ghost whispers which will one day no longer haunt us is the sleeplessing fear.

The game forces you to confront how little of a text you can preserve in just the words, each poem you create a testament to the ones you could not, so naturally there’s an arcade mode. If poetry tetris feels a little flippant, then it harmonizes with the whole, the game gesturing at a frustration but delighting in the pure freeplay of its kintsugi.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Spring Thing 2024: PROSPER.0, April 5, 2024
by Kastel
Related reviews: st2024

You have recently been hired by a generic dystopian science fiction corporation to filter poetry from an accidental merger of the Database of Subsumed Cultures. By filtering, they mean deleting these cultural artifacts from the database because they're unnecessary and pointless.

At first, you're preserving factoids and deleting poetry, but someone named PROSPER.0 comes into your interface, quotes some Shakespeare, and lets you "reclaim" words from the poetry you're about to delete. And now you're tasked with creating a poem based on the words you've recovered. You could create a poem commemorating the highs and lows of the ancient civilization you deleted, or you could create a poem expressing your desires -- whatever you want.

The concept is quite interesting, but I found it awkward at best. I found myself hovering over a sentence and clicking endlessly to grab as many words as I could. The game does throw in a few curveballs like limiting the words you can grab as a creative challenge, but that's about it. The game doesn't test you in any way, and the individual words are so divorced from the specific cultural meanings of the alien civilization that they don't really carry any weight for me when I write my found poetry.

(As an aside, the game reminds me of 18 Cadence by Aaron Reed where you reorganize sentences and paragraphs from an already constructed story to make something creative and personal. I wonder if PROSPER.0 would have benefited from preserving sentences instead of single words.)

As for the in-game poems written by the aliens, they were generated through a telephone game of public domain poetry and several rounds of Google Translate. I've seen reviewers say that this made the poetry sufficiently alien to them, but I was already familiar with some of the poems, and the experience was like reading a recitation by someone who had just forgotten how the lines went. I would prefer original poetry, but I also recognize that writing different poems in different voices is rather impractical. Still, it diminished the credibility of the alien poetry for me.

Now, I have to take off my reviewer's hat for a bit and admit that artistic works that advocate the power of art and culture in a world that rejects them are becoming too superficial for me. Many works in this vein, including this game, advocate for artistic and cultural expression, but they don't really have anything more to say after that. Works like this require you to believe that the plot, that art must be defended once again against the tyranny of dystopias, is enough. No critical interrogation of art or culture -- just the notion of (poetic) injustice.

The game does lampshade this tension: the player character asks PROSPER.0 if their poetry will even memorialize these alien civilizations since the game doesn't check if you do. It responds with a non-sequitur gotcha: you wouldn't be able to summarize the civilization with all the words you have, so make do with what you have. Point taken, but it makes me wonder what the player character is supposed to be: a savior, an egotistical artist, or all of the above? We also don't get much of a sense of PROSPER.0, even with the lategame reveals. I just view them as someone who's way into Shakespeare sonnets and nothing else; their interest in poetry is intentionally superficial, but it's not really explored or acknowledged beyond a few lines.

I'm partly sure that the intention of the game is to open up discussion, especially about the symbolic meaning of the player character and PROSPER.0. However, I found the oblique direction this game takes to be underwhelming: it doesn't explore anything but the surface of the relationships between capitalism, art, and technology. I almost feel like I have to read more of my own theory and philosophizing into the game in order to make sense of the themes in the story because the game lacks any of that exploration.

Which is a shame because I think found poetry is one of the more unique genres that interactive fiction is predisposed to. It would be fascinating to play found poetry that follows the beats of narrative games in the same way that some photography games (like Umurangi Generation) have a narrative for players to engage with. That would make the poetry we make and share more meaningful. I didn't feel like I was part of a movement that the game wanted me to be a part of, but I liked the idea of a movement.

I just wish it was a real movement.

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