Being There

by Jordan Magnuson profile


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Ode to Joy, September 25, 2010
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

Being There sounds like it will be an interactive adaptation of a Jerzy Kosinski novel; failing that, an exploration of Martin Heidegger's concept of Dasein. It is neither. This piece is an Ode to Joy.

Joy, the joy of living, the joy of experiencing and acting -- that is what this game is about. It takes you through a series of tranquil scenes accompanied by beautiful photographs, and then it lets you play in them. You can look and touch and taste; you can dance and jump and sing; you can climb and swim and in fact fly into the air whenever you wish. You can lie down and sleep. No duties, no responsibilities, no cares -- enjoyment is everything.

This is a game where when you see a soccer goal, you can type "play soccer" and the game responds with: "You play soccer with an invisible ball... you score!" How cool is that?

I hope it is clear from the previous paragraphs that I absolutely disagree with previous reviewers and commentators about the need to add a story, or puzzles, or a statement about Korea, to this game. Doing any of those things would destroy that which makes Being There special and strangely exhilarating: its celebration of free play. (Which is also why I do call the piece a game, even though the author does not.)

The length of the game is excellent, giving you enough time to explore and then, when tedium threatens to set in, rapidly moving things towards a close -- a close which also serves as an antidote to what might otherwise have been an over-abundance of carefreeness, without falling into the opposite trap of falsifying the game's positive message.

Are there no complaints? Well, certainly: even though there are many things you can do, you will still encounter standard library messages and actions that are refused. While this doesn't matter in a traditional game, a piece that celebrates freedom and experience is hampered by it. I hope that the author will continue to update the game as people keep sending in requests for more actions and responses -- I know that I have just sent in mine.

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Jordan Magnuson, September 27, 2010 - Reply
Thank you for your incredibly kind and encouraging review Victor! Your response to the game makes me think that my original vision may not have been a total failure after all.

I completely agree with you about the problematic nature of "standard library messages and actions that are refused," especially in a piece like this. Because of the focus on being and "joy" as you put it, any refused actions or cryptic responses cut deeply into experience that Being There is trying to evoke. Towards the end of working on it, I started to feel like the project was hopeless, because of the necessary limitations of the form, and my inability to implement every conceivable action... your review gives me some hope that that is not the case, perhaps enough hope to go back and work on it further.
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