Elegy for a Dead World: space exploration

Today, Elegy for a Dead World had me writing a eulogy for a rotting machine civilisation. Yesterday, I authored a rhyming love letter from an old man to his planet goddess. Sumptuous yet sparse, this strange, melancholic almost-game is startlingly good at what it sets out to do: inspire fiction.

There’s no action here, no high stakes adventure, nothing but vast landscapes to slowly explore and meditate upon. In the future, creators Popcannibal and Dejobaan Games may eventually introduce puzzle like elements that require you to reconsider your narrative slant, but that’s about as gamey as it is going to get.  Elegy for a Dead World  is all about surrendering to your inner muse and writing beautiful art. Or, at least, semi interesting bits of science fiction prose.


Intimidating as all of this might sound, the game does come equipped with an abundance of writing prompts and visual cues to help you along. Even its premise seems devised to cultivate wonder. You’re the sole survivor from a cabal of explorers, sent from Earth to study and document three alien planets. How does anyone go about undertaking such a desolate labour?
The game is all about surrendering to your inner muse and writing beautiful art
Elegy for a Dead World’s true genius lies in how easily it guides you along the creative process, supplying sentence fragments and vivid imagery like breadcrumbs on a clockwork regime. It’s excellent at making you think, and making you rethink your thought process with every playthrough. To date, the single world available in the preview has given me three short story ideas, and the beginning of a Lovecraftian utopian novella.

The controls for  Elegy for a Dead World  are as minimalistic as its overall design.  You use either the WASD keys or the directional arrows to navigate through the gorgeous watercolour environments, and the Tab key to swap to writing mode. The audio is equally sparse. Much of it is composed of your breathing and footsteps, with a whispery female voice to punctuate your actions.

While largely a solitary endeavour,  Elegy for a Dead World  allows players to connect through their writing. Once you’ve finished wandering through one of the game’s three worlds, you can publish your musings for others to find. From there, members can peruse your experience,  then commend your work if they judge it entertaining or profound enough.

Elegy for a Dead World  is an intriguing piece of work, more a bold experiment than any attempt to profit from mainstream audiences. It’s hard to say if the completed game will remain compelling in the long term, especially since there are only so many things you can say about the same places. At worst, however, it may become the coolest tool in creative-writing class ever.

Elegy will Launch by March 31st 2015

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