Wordplay: Ergon/Logos

By Alec Meer on September 1st, 2009 at 11:41 pm.

From one-button action games to one-button mind games. Ergon/Logos is a surrealist text adventure in which you dictate your character’s fate by clicking on sentence fragments as the on-screen words shuffle rapidly across the screen. Each click leads you down a different path, one you’ll rarely be able to predict because it all happens so quickly. Read faster! Click faster! Otherwise you’ll find yourself lost to despair….

Italian dev Paolo Pedercini describes this submission to the Experimental Gameplay Project’s Bare Minimum competition as an ‘unidentified game object’, which sounds about right. It was made in just eight days, but seems far slicker and more confident than such a thin sliver of development time would suggest.

Some will think the theme of maudlin philosophising about existence and faith to be Ergon’s strength, and other its weakness. A bit of both for me. While I appreciate some of the bon mots, and the vigour with which they’re presented, I can certainly imagine a Dragon’s Lairesque adventure in which you click on looming words based on gut instinct and educated guessing would be more, well, fun. Like Canabalt, this is a game in which forward momentum happens regardless of your input, and the idea of a text-based dungeon crawl that requires seat-of-the-pants reading is an appealing one.

Nonetheless, it is a highly stylish affair, most especially in its multiple conclusions, and stoic proof that artful typography can be as evocative as flashy-pants graphics when done right.

Oh, and speaking of Canabalt, there’s a high-resolution version of it (for monitors with a width of at least 1440 pixels) here, which I found really ups the adrenaline rush of the thing.

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43 Comments »

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  1. A-Scale says:

    I was fucked by a giant monster and was literally left mouth agape. That was a stupendous experience. That was poetry (literally).

    Also I like that the game could be used as a tool to teach people to read more rapidly. If only there was a game like Professor Layton or Myst that required me to answer law exam questions I would be far more studied in the matter than I currently am.

  2. Kast says:

    I was overwhelmed by dyslexia? :S Weirdness

    I was expecting it to be some kind of shooting-from-the-hip choose your own adventure. Interesting, in any case. Would like to see more like this.

  3. Pags says:

    A disconcerting experience.

  4. McNostril says:

    I found it somewhat frustrating how unresponsive it could be. It’s an interesting experience, but ultimately frustrating when you watch the damn thing take off in the direction opposite to what I’m clicking on.

  5. Railick says:

    O.o

  6. LewieP says:

    I am not entirely sure I ‘like’ not having enough time, but it’s certainly very classily presented.

    The screenshot reminded me a little of Silent Conversation

    http://armorgames.com/play/4287/silent-conversation

    Which is certainly worth a play too (although very different to Ergon/Logos

  7. Vinraith says:

    An interesting idea, but the technical implementation seems flawed. Many times it simply mid-detected my mouse, indicating I’d rolled over something different than what I had (or even could have, we’re talking about a significant distance here).

    Still, certainly novel. If they worked the kinks out, I’d give it another go.

  8. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    It’s difficult to control what path you take, and it’s not obvious when (and between what forks) you can choose. It probably wasn’t made clearer because it’d lessen the experience. It also really creates a sense of tension and pace, which I like.

    But, especially when I repeat the thing, the whole experience seems bordering on the nonsensical to me. Bemused, somewhat intrigued, but not that entertained/amused.

  9. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Oh, yes, Silent Conversation was much more to my liking.

  10. Doyle says:

    I’m stunned by this. It’s completely brilliant…

  11. Railick says:

    I’ve played it a few times now and i have to say at first I didn’t like it but after going through it several times I’m very interested by all the possible out comes. Complaints about the difficult controls seem to be missing the point .

    Some of the phrases make sense only if you read them in the broader context of the mesh and reference itself (The game you’re playing ) As being on a rail and make a direct compare/contrast to life itself. Very deep :)

  12. matte_k says:

    Wow. Just…wow. That is one bizarre choose-you-own-adventure simulator…I like it.

  13. Mike says:

    I feel that was a bit overpushed. Wasn’t a fan of it – I did try a few times, but I found the combination of overpowering music and… well… a knowing design made it not so much fun.

  14. Julian Murdoch says:

    Thank you for pointing me to this. Excellent.

  15. Legionary says:

    Wasn’t a game. Interactive art is well and good, but there has to be something more for it to qualify as being a game, and Ergon/Logos didn’t have that something.

  16. PleasingFungus says:

    That was… really weird. Really interesting, too.

    Went through it a number of times – found what looked like a victory condition. (It didn’t lead to my death or insanity, so…) It came almost as a surprise.

    Anyway: A++ would play again (except for occasional rollover-detection issues, mentioned above, but that’s minor).

  17. coupsan says:

    Best aneurysm I’ve ever had.

  18. Jae Armstrong says:

    REJECT WHAT MAKES SENSE FREEDOM FROM CODE IS FREEDOM FROM A MALEVOLENT GOD.

    Yeah. That was awesome. But I suspect 70% of the awesomeness was due to the music dictating my emotional responses. I’m left with the uncomfortable feeling that I’ve been tricked into liking something more than it deserves.

    And now I think I’m over analysing things. That is one hell of a mechanic for narrative driven games, though.

  19. Weylund says:

    I wrote a comment earlier, but the commenting was broken. Why am I getting weird IE errors, I wonder?

    Anyhow, I played it. Liked the first bit, where I fell in love with a monster. Great fun. Hated the second bit. I’m the sort of fellow who’d smack James Joyce upside the head were I ever to meet him, though, so poetical bullshit isn’t my love dolphin.

    At the end I thought my browser was literally expanding and contracting before my eyes. It kept doing it for a moment after the game ended.

    I didn’t like it.

  20. Geoffrey says:

    I don’t know if I’m making this up, but I don’t think you need to click. You just need to be highlighting/hovering the one you want when the intersection reaches the middle of the screen. And you can see what the choices are by rolling across the various bits of the interchange (if it goes red, it’s a choice.)

    Then again, maybe I’m insane. That would explain a lot about the endings…

  21. army of none says:

    Wow, that was pretty interesting. Very different! I liked it, just because it’s so different than most gaming-fare

  22. Kunal says:

    Pretty cool. Did any one else get a “House of Leaves” vibe from the game ?

  23. Bret says:

    Huh.

    Feels like it’s referencing Mario mechanics in the first half. And the experience of being gamed in the second.

  24. Jayt says:

    Bizarre but it actually got me pumped with the pacing and music. Executed very well.

  25. Wooly says:

    Anyone else find it odd that there are Gears of War 2 ads running on this PC gaming website? :/

  26. Diji says:

    I too got the “sexed by a demon/monster” and the “overwhelmed by dyslexia” things. I also got an ending where it said DIE and then lagged firefox for a minute. I liked it though, especially the music.

  27. Moogsi says:

    It makes sense that you leave the black on white portion of the game (thought) and are propelled back into blackness again by dyslexia, as ‘logos’ in the philosophical sense is often translated as ‘word’, and if you can’t see the word any more…

    ‘Logos’ is the antithesis of ‘ergon’. The black bit is ergon (the action of a character in a (platform) game), the white part (reached by death or revelation) is logos, hypothesis or thought – the inner mind. Or more specifically, the torturted inner mind of someone whose actions are completely controlled by an outside force (the player).

    I think it’s cleverer than a lot of people will give it credit for. Of course there’ll be people trying to criticize it for being ‘too clever’ or whatever but it’s just a bit of fun anyway :)

  28. Naurgul says:

    I loved this when I first played it a few days ago!

  29. morte says:

    That would’ve been so much better had I not been distracted from reading it by trying to actually make my selection. Half of the choices were not my own! Do you hover, click, or use mind magic??

  30. Ian says:

    Hmm.

  31. Andy`` says:

    You hover. Says in the instructions at the start (let the title screen cycle round before clicking). Rollover detection seemed fine to me, of course that might just be me, but you do need to have your desired option highlighted before it gets to the middle of the screen. You can change your mind before you get there, but you’ve got to be quick.

  32. MartinE says:

    This is crap.

    Did nothing at all for me and as other have pointed out 50% of the times it took the exact opposite route of the one that I wanted.

  33. soylent robot says:

    I would have enjoyed it more if it didn’t break my internets when I hit a big DIE.

  34. Pijama says:

    @Jae Armstrong – got the same. Pretty nice.

    HOWEVAH

    Even if it is a “game object” and thus may be allowed to be excused from concepts such as gameplay (:p), implementation does feel a tad flawed, if not outright bad. Can’t explain precisely why, but has to do with the combination of unresponsiveness and difficulty of choosing the paths (though that can be an analogy for real life as well, but I would have to read the “Coder’s Manifesto” or something to see his intent) together with the sheer pace of the damn thing.

    Or maybe my artsy-game tolerance is a bit low in this morning.

    Anyway – I liked it. It reminded me of Planescape and it’s sheer literary power instead of today’s fancyness. :)

  35. mrrobsa says:

    I liked it but I wish the pace was a bit slower to match the ponderous tone. Nothing sank in because I had to keep making arbitrary choices before I’d digested the previous sentence. Still, props for creating something different.

  36. Pijama says:

    @mrrobsa – indeed! For the philosophical tone of it, it doesn’t match… Like listening to Beethoven’s Pastoral while in a destruction derby. xD

  37. Lambchops says:

    For me that was the gaming equivalent of modern art . . . I hate modern art!

  38. parm says:

    I especially liked the part where I died and then Flash decided to rape my CPU and make so I couldn’t close the browser tab without force-quitting the entire browser and killing my in-progress downloads. That part was my favourite.

  39. Deg says:

    I couldn’t stand the music.

  40. FunkyLlama says:

    DAMN YOU DYSLEXIA
    DAMN YOU AND ALL YOU STAND FOR

  41. fearian says:

    I laughed out loud when the game railed on me for being some kind of perverse manipulator, stuck the word DIE in my face and then crashed firefox while blaring distressing, clanging, music.

    hehehe

  42. demonarm says:

    I disagree.

  43. David says:

    Holy crap the screen looks like its moving after playing that so many times.