Sunday, December 01, 2002

VN Collation/ Gamelab/ Loop/ Nabakov

The 2000/2001 edition of VNCollation happened to be a collection of Nabokov related items. Happily they published this interview with Eric Zimmerman of gameLab regarding a new game his company had developed for Shockwave, Loop. Gamelab, in turn, had retained Blister Media to produce an interactive audio track for the game.

Briefly, Loop is based upon the character Aida, a little girl obsessed with catching butterflies.

Game players actually catch the butterflies by using their computer mouse to draw a ‘loop’ around several of the same type. The actual cursor had been designed to resemble a pencil. Butterflies once caught, were dramatically mounted and framed to indicate scores.

Eric being a magnanimous director, had graciously invited Michael Sweet and I to participate in discussions regarding character development and marketing concepts for the game. Our official task was to create interactive audio, not provide marketing concepts, so I was rather grateful –and appreciably surprised– when I discovered quite by chance (googling myself, I admit) Eric had so selflessly and publicly given me credit for first submitting the Nabokovian reference, which meeting final approval launched as an integral contextual element for the game–


Q. My 13 year old son discovered "Loop" on and said "Look Mom, a game about Nabokov." Most computer/video games are not so literary. How did you come to create a game based on Nabokovian themes?

ERIC: At gameLab, we usually begin with an idea for a game's interactivity and let the narrative content grow out of our experience of playing the game. In the case of LOOP, we began with the looping interactivity first. We tried a few kinds of objects in the game, including wandering stars and floating abstract shapes, but when we hit on catching butterflies, it made such perfect sense that we stayed with it.

The addition of Nabokov to the game came about halfway through development. We felt that the game was feeling too kidlike and we wanted to make it clear that this was a game for adults as well as children. During a design meeting, Terry O'Gara (who works for Blister Media, the company that created the sound for the game) mentioned using Nabokov to help frame the game. We batted several great Nabokov quotes around over email before settling on the one we have in the game.

Although it was not part of the original game concept, we like the way that the single quote from Nabokov reframes the game. It and calls attention to the intertextual quality of the game as "writing" - since the player is drawing lines to capture the butterflies. And since games are so much about "pleasure," it is a nice way to start the game experience.

Q. Is Terry O'Gara a Nabokov fan? Were any of you Nabokov readers before creating LOOP?

ERIC: It turns out that most of the LOOP team were Nabokov readers. We pride ourselves on being more cultured than the average computer game developers.

Q. How was LOOP received on How did it compare with other more traditional games?

ERIC: LOOP has done very well on It was launched at the end of February and more than 1.1 million games have been played. Shockwave has received a huge amount of fan email about the game.

* * *

In addition to the Nabakovian reference, I submitted several other original tags. Here are a select few that I presented to the electronic game developer:

Scribble This
Match and Catch
Net ‘em & Set ‘em
Backyard String Theory
Get. Net. Set.
No one’s looking. Play the game!
Can a Mouse Catch a Butterfly?
Butterflies are free. –Not!
No Small Thing Shall Go Untouched
A Girl Amok

But in the end, the famous lepidopterist simply had stronger ideas than I regarding butterfly collecting, and the game launched with this rich, memorable quote-

"My pleasures are the most intense known to man; writing and butterfly hunting."

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