The Peculiar Maze of the Self
An interactive piece inspired by the book Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. The Game scrapes files from the player's computer and uses them as textures.
produced by: Alexandra Pfammatter
„It is a pretty cabinet of pictures, my dear friend; but it would be quite useless to go through it as you are. You would be checked and blinded by it at every turn by what you are pleased to call your personality.”
I decided to adapt the book Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. This work is mainly about the repressed subconscious of a person and the fragmentation of one‘s own personality. At the end of the text, this theme is dealt with in a very abstract way, which I would like to refer to in my work. The protagonist – Harry – wakes up in a kind of labyrinth, a curious hall of mirrors with countless doors. As he wanders through this environment, he is confronted with pictorial manifestations of his inner world of thoughts.
The thought of Harry wandering through his personality reminded me of the act of going through my own computer. I also visit different 'rooms' that represent fragments of myself. This parallel is what I am exploring in the Peculiar Maze of the Self. A short interactive pice that uses various existing files on the host computer as textures for the experience. At first, the files only appear in a very abstracted, unrecognisable form. Over time, the images become clearer.
Concept and Inspiration
Besides the book, my project is influenced by other games that work within the folder system of a computer. So have I looked to lose/lose by Zack Gage and Nathalie Lawhead’s A_DESKTOP_LOVE_STORY for inspiration. Unlike those pieces though, my game has a much more sombre tone that mirrors Steppenwolf. I want to show the intimacy of the (all too well) known through a disorientatinglens, creating a feeling that shifts between wonder and unease.
The game was composed by using only Openframeworks with no additional addons. The end product is a packaged app that can be downloaded by players. Due to the nature of the project, it obviously only works if it is played on one' s own computer. But also conceptually, this setup makes sense. as a story about privacy, I see the home as an ideal background for it.
As for controls, the maze is navigated trough touch. I was considering voice commands or camera input, but they seemed to be unnatural for this kind of experience. Moreover, I figured that a simple and apparent control scheme gives more space to the actual, secret input: the scraped files. It was also important that the game could be played without any additional tools. Therefore I decided to use a touchpad as the controller. The code stripes away the usual functionality of the pad as a mouse and leaves it as an sole input device for the player’s touch.
The most important aspect of the work that still needs refinement is the file system. I found a solution for the scraping that works for a variety of mac’s, but is far from universally applicable. And yet, Using Openframeworks to interact with a computer on this level was the most exciting part for me. This is most definitely something that will be used in many of my upcoming projects.
Before this game, I had no experience in any field 3D related, which can be seen in several parts of the game. As an example, I came up with a make-shift system that uses a drawing of the maze’s outlines as collision detection. However, this strategy proofed to be very inconvenient whenever I wanted to change the layout. This is the reason I definitely will look deeper into proper techniques for working with 3D environments in the future.
All in all I am still more or less satisfied with how everything turned out. I managed to imply all the features that I set as goals for myself. And even if there are still some technical kinks, I like the look and feel of the application a lot.