This Space Exploration Video Game Might Cure Writer’s Block

No matter how prolific, even the most talented writers occasionally face writer’s block, when coming up with the next word is the hardest thing in the world. The usual solution is to walk away from the page or screen for a while, hoping that inspiration will strike in the shower, at the grocery store, or while otherwise distracted from the responsibility to create. However, one Boston-based indie game developer has another solution in mind: a video game called Elegy for a Dead World, a space exploration adventure in which the player writes their own fate.

The mechanics of Dejobaan Games’ Elegy for a Dead World are similar to those of a classic role-playing game crossed with Mad Libs. The player moves through the game as the only survivor of a wrecked space vessel who must carry on without their companions on a mission to document the existence of three “lost” planets. As the helmeted figure moves through richly illustrated scenes of these futuristic worlds, the player receives writing prompts that, along with their input, comprise the traveler’s analysis of the dead worlds: commentary on the landscape, mysterious artifacts, the likely habits and livelihoods of the world’s extinct inhabitants. These archaeological, anthropological, and entirely self-generated observations are compiled into a master narrative, a detailed, multi-dimensional sci-fi story pieced together by someone who may not have thought they had it in them.

There’s a consciously literary flavor to the whole experience, as Dejobaan President Ichiro Lambe explained in an interview at the 2014 E3 gaming convention. The three worlds are based on the works of British Romantic poets John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Alfred Lord Byron—favorites of co-developer Scott Ziba. Before embarking upon their odyssey, the player also gets a choice of framing device for their story: “A Scientific Journal,” “Their Story,” or “My Story," none of which impact the game itself, but instead help the writer-to-be establish a sense of the story they’re telling. It’s all part of the game’s underlying philosophy, in which the dead worlds are merely a catalyst for whatever narrative a player wants to shape them into. According to Scott, “What we're trying to do is motivate people so they get into a mindset where they have something they want to put out and write. We found just dropping them into a blank slate is too much. It's intimidating. The roles are about giving them something to play as; to set the stage for their writing.” In some ways, the “game” is secondary.

Dejobaan’s website addresses a likely concern for many would-be space adventurers: “But I’m not a writer…” They’re quick to debunk this assumption that the game is only for “writers,” insisting, “We created Elegy so that everyone can write.” There are no standards for success or failure within the game, simply the requirement that the player record something—anything—before moving on from one scene to the next. In this way, the desire to know what comes next in the game drives the impulse to fill in the blanks, creating a narrative where once there was none.

Though the traveler in the story has to go it alone, the writer behind the keyboard doesn’t necessarily have to. De Jobaan’s interface allows for completed Elegy narratives to be saved and shared, both in digital and physical forms. Players are given the option to share their stories and read others’, with the option to browse most recent, best loved, and recently trending variations on the adventure. Players are also encouraged to consider taking screenshots of their otherworldly journey and have them printed on demand into a full-color hard copy book (in a sense, self-publishing). The worlds may be dead, but the elegies can live on.

[h/t FastcoCreate]

All images via YouTube.

© 2017 USPS
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Speedy Delivery: Mister Rogers Will Get His Own Stamp in 2018
© 2017 USPS
© 2017 USPS

USPS 2018 Mister Rogers stamp
© 2017 USPS

After weeks of mailing out this year’s holiday cards, postage might be the last thing you want to think about. But the U.S. Postal Service has just given us a sneak peek at the many iconic people, places, and things that will be commemorated with their own stamps in 2018, and one in particular has us excited to send out a few birthday cards: Mister Rogers.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers’s groundbreaking PBS series that the USPS says “inspired and educated young viewers with warmth, sensitivity, and honesty,” the mail service shared a mockup of what the final stamp may look like. On it, Rogers—decked out in one of his trademark colorful cardigans (all of which were hand-knitted by his mom, by the way)—smiles for the camera alongside King Friday XIII, ruler of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Though no official release date for Fred’s forever stamp has been given, Mister Rogers is just one of many legendary figures whose visages will grace a piece of postage in 2018. Singer/activist Lena Horne will be the 41st figure to appear as part of the USPS’s Black Heritage series, while former Beatle John Lennon will be the face of the newest Music Icons collection. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, will also be honored.

Can You Spot the Christmas Pudding?

Whether it’s a sheep hanging out with Santa Claus or a panda bear hiding among some snowmen, regular Mental Floss readers know that hidden picture brainteasers are one of our favorite things. And the optical experts at have released a delicious one, just in time for Christmas. Somewhere in the midst of all these holiday-themed goodies above, there’s a holiday pudding just waiting to be discovered. Can you spot it? Your time starts … now.

If you give up, or are the kind of person who reads the last page of a book before the first one and just wants to know the answer, scroll down to see where it’s hiding.



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