launched 14.04.2017 on
Cosmos Carl – Platform Parasite
pontypool-txt-advntr-sim unfolds as a simulation of a text-adventure computer game from the late 1970s/early 1980s.
The text is adapted from the novel/play Pontypool (1998/2015) by Tony Burgess,with elements from text-adventure game Zork (1977/1980) by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, Dave Lebling, and proto-chat bot Eliza (1966) developed by Joseph Weizenbaum.
In Pontypool, a sleepy small town radio host and his production crew helplessly report on a rapidly emerging epidemic. From the safety of their sound booth they broadcast eyewitness accounts, coming to realize their involvement in re-transmission is spreading the linguistically based virus, making word eating zombies (climbing into the mouths of others). When the infected words are understood, the broadcasters’ relative safety inside the station disappears.
This adaptation draws on one eyewitness account from the narrative of Pontypool and places it within a ghostwritten user’s experience.
As a text-adventure game, Zork has rules and parameters defined by text and user/player input. The world encountered is both made from and encountered through words. Zork has a list of ‘complaints’ for users who ask questions it can’t understand. This echoes the relentlessly incessant question-as-answer modus operandi of proto-chat bot Eliza. Eliza’s ‘effect’ is to foster a sense of listening and emotional response by engaging back with questions—often rephrasing and regurgitating user input—a mirror to talk to.