Saturday, July 01, 2006

Kafka - the computer game

I am reading Kafka's The Castle at the moment. The hero, K., is a land surveyor who, through bureaucratic error, has made the long and difficult journey to the Castle. He is marooned in the village, where he meets all kinds of bizarre people in his doomed attempt to either visit the officials in the Castle, or get any kind of sense out of them. As is usual in Kafka, there is a sense that the hero is living in a wakened dream.

Genre literature (thrillers, hard SF) is susceptible in a more or less crude way to computer gaming even today. If the focus is depiction of physical reality, plus crude behaviours of game-agents which speak to our primary impulses (kill it!) then the technology is good enough.

How would you 'do literature' as a computer game? The point of Kafka's work is the crazed environment combining local sense with systemic irrationality made manifest through K.'s conversations with everyone else. This is coupled with K.'s reactions, both his immediate mood swings and his cumulative reaction to events through the novel.

Kafka, being a genius, could script all this, but if the game player is to be K., then the game agents have to be human-level personalities with back stories, personalities and roles.

This is why there is a yawning gulf between computer games - interactive media - and literature.