Borges ‘Em Up: Intimate, Infinite

By Alice O'Connor on August 20th, 2014 at 4:00 pm.

If I were to recommend one author to people wot like games, it’d be Argentine short story writer Jorges Luis Borges. Oh sure, video games crib from loads of fantasy and sci-fi authors, but that’s all set dressing. Borges is closer to what games are. His stories are often systems–rules, puzzles, and riddles–and concepts as much as they are narratives, all supporting each other. And, like the best games, his stories end once they’ve satisfactorily explored their ideas. Many devs I know dig him.

Intimate, Infinite might be a mite puzzling if you don’t know Borges, but I liked it. Released this week by Robert Yang (who did splendid interview-o-game-make series Level With Me for us), it’s an experimental collection of games adapting a Borges story or trying to capture some part of it.

Intimate, Infinite is based on The Garden of Forking Paths, a story about a WW1 spy that’s also about an “infinite” novel where histories and timelines overlap and fork and converge and loop. Yang’s adaptation is a series of three main parts which are repeated, revisited, and changed–a linear walking bit, an idle game of nonsense chess, and a garden labyrinth puzzle. And some bits with a gun. This was possibly the first time that firing a gun in a game made me jump, startled.

As Yang himself says, “it is somewhat experimental in nature, so I’d advise players to be, um… patient.” It is. You already know whether that’d interest you or not. He made it for a long ‘pageant’ game jam on the theme “series” through the makega.me forums.

If you do dig Borges, keep an eye on Somewhere too. It’s a first-person stealth sort of thing inspired by writers including Borges and Italo Calvino, and is flipping gorgeous t’boot.

Intimate, Infinite is pay-what-you-want on Itch.io. Labyrinths, a collection of Borges’ short stories and essays, is £7 on Amazon, about that much in a bookshop, or less second-hand (DRM-free).

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22 Comments »

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    tikey says:

    This is most interesting. Borges’ work is amazing and unique. I’ll certainly be checking this one.
    I recommend The Aleph if you want some his best stories. The one Alice posted, Labyrinths has almost every story you’d want to read though, but his essays can be a bit hard to follow.
    My favourites: The house of Asterion, The Zhair, The Aleph, Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, funes the memorious… there are so many, I just can’t list them all. Surely a must read.

    • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

      Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius and Funes the Memorious are often cited amongst his best, but I find them to be somewhat… plain. Funes is, I think, the best possible development of the concept, but I still found it lacking. My favourites are The Libary of Babel (obv obv obv), The House of Asterion, The Garden of Forking Paths and Death and the Compass, which shouldn’t be on Fictions but fortunately was on the edition I bought because otherwise I wouldn’t even know about it.

  2. Papageno says:

    Borges was an amazing author (although I’ve never read him in translation). I highly recommend his story Ein Deutsches Requiem, and there’s another one whose title I forget that’s all about an infinitely large library.

  3. sicanshu says:

    Welp, time to go re-read Dreamtigers.

  4. MichaelGC says:

    Blimey. Sounds like Borges games are in danger of becoming the next zombie games!

    If anyone is interested in checking Borges out, I’d highly recommend Collected Fictions translated by Andrew Hurley. (It contains the stuff in Labyrinths plus basically everything else – not counting the non-fictional stuff.) I usually don’t bother with introductions and notes and whatnot, but I found the ones in that version (ISBN 0140286802) really did add a lot to the already-quite-exceptional reading experience.

  5. cannonballsimp says:

    And here’s an article from Killscreen about Borges and Skyrim: http://killscreendaily.com/articles/borges-skyrim/

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      strangeloup says:

      Honestly, Morrowind is a lot closer to Borges’ work, if we’re talking Elder Scrolls, a comparison that lore wunderkind Michael Kirkbride has made himself.

  6. Frank says:

    Sold:

    that pic, Borges’ name, Yang’s history of writing on RPS.

  7. tasteful says:

    another author worth checking out for game inspiration is jose saramago: very inspired by borges and similarly system – oriented

  8. PopeRatzo says:

    I would have picked Nabokov.

    “Pale Fire” the RPG would be friggin’ amazing.

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    yhancik says:

    Ultima Ratio Regum also mentions Borges as a main inspiration ;)

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    psepho says:

    This sound fantastic! Robert Yang is such a thoughtful analyst of games, he is the perfect match for Adapting Borges stories.

  11. Urthman says:

    The video game adaptation of the Borges short story “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” is to play the original lo-fi version of Spelunky and try to imagine how much it would have blown your mind if it had been released for the SNES in 1994.

    • Urthman says:

      No, I’ve got that backwards. You would play Shovel Knight and imagine that it was first released this year (in 2014) rather than 20 years ago on the NES

    • adonf says:

      I’ve been meaning to make Pierre Menard’s Pac Man for years but never got around to it.

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    Jackablade says:

    Borges sounds intriguing, but I’m not entirely sure whether it’d be my kind of “thing” or not based on the description in the article. Can you compare his work to any other writer or give a bit more of an idea what he’s all about or some such?

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    tikey says:

    I played this yesterday. It has some great ideas and a lovely presentation. There is a Borges “feel” to it. I love that there are small variations between retellings. The garden puzzle is great and I love how it’s reintroduced in the main branch. Now there are a few issues, the chess section doesn’t seem to serve any purpose rather than being a toy that’s there, it’d be nice if it could be integrated into the main narrative a bit more in order to make it meaningful. Also it’s a bit of a disappointment that the game forces you to take the train at the start. It feels at odds with a game that’s based on the premise of multiple timelines.

    • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

      Perhaps it’s a reference to the ficticious novel April March, created by Borges on Examination of the Work of Herbert Quaine, that always starts (or rather ends) with the main characters waiting for a train?

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