Place and Space in 'Device 6'

Device 6 does a wonderful job conveying the physical layout of an environment, but does a relatively poor job conveying the unique characteristics of a location.

Device 6 is a puzzle game wrapped in a text adventure. Most of the story is expressed through text, while sound and an occasional picture are used to facilitate interactivity and add flavor to the environment.

The excellent sense of space comes entirely from the presentation of the text. Chapters begin like a normal book, in which the story is split into paragraphs meant to be read from left to right and top to bottom. Soon the text changes, and it’s no longer organized into paragraphs, it’s organized into shapes that correspond to the layout of the environment. If you’re moving through a hallway, the text is displayed as a single long line, if you’re going up stairs, the text is cut into steps and the screen automatically pans up, or if you reach an intersection, then the text splits off in multiple directions. It’s a clever trick that makes the act of reading unusually physical. The end result is that we have a stronger sense of space than text can usually convey by itself.

Unfortunately, that trick that gives us a strong sense of space is also why Device 6 can’t convey a strong sense of place. Since the text is an environment that we physically move through, it can’t be very long. The puzzles require us to constantly backtrack through the world, so the bigger that world is, the more space we have to backtrack through. In order to prevent this from being a problem, the descriptive text of Device 6 is kept to a minimum. You’ll get a lot of practical descriptions of space in order to justify the unique presentation and more practical descriptions of puzzles or clues, but very few descriptions exist for the sole purpose of conveying the feel of a place -- how it looks, how it sounds, or how it smells. Device 6 boxes itself into an interesting corner. How do you convey “place” when the text itself is all about “space?”

The game tries to resolve this through a smattering of sounds and pictures. It’s another clever idea from Simogo, using the multimedia capabilities of the medium (iOS) to offset the limitations of the text. That would be enough for any other story, but the places depicted by pictures and sound in Device 6 are so bizarre that the depictions feel inadequate. Throughout the game, you’ll explore an empty hotel, an old missile silo, a garden with invisible pathways, and more. These places beg for a detailed description, but again the game is so focused on its gameplay -- the puzzles -- that it misses the opportunity to add texture to its weird world.

The pictures do convey some sense of place, though. We get to see the talking bear statues in the abandoned silo, which highlights how out-of-place they are, and we get to see the old computers everywhere that further the retro-futuristic vibe of this world. But when the pictures effectively highlight the weirdness of the world, it’s only because the world is built around weird puzzles. Every photo is a hint: both the bears and the computers, also the paintings, the flowers, the graffiti, and the statues. It’s all purely practical. Once again the “place-building” comes second to the puzzles.

The sound design of Device 6 is its best tool for establishing place because it’s not always related to puzzles. Most of the time the sound is specifically meant to convey “place." The sound of our footsteps change when we move across carpet or grass or wood, the whirr of computers and machinery echo through empty buildings, and recorded messages play on a loop that we’re unable to stop. It’s all very effective, but it’s just not enough. The weird world of Device 6 can’t be brought to life through sound effects alone.

Each component, the text, the pictures, and the sound, does its bit to convey a sense of place. Some are more effective than others, but they all ultimately fall short of their goal. Maybe that’s part of the point, that the island of Device 6 is meant to be vague and dreamy, but that doesn’t make for a very interesting setting.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.