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.

Roadside Bear Statue in Wales is So Lifelike That Safety Officials Want It Removed

Wooden bear statue.

There are no real bears in the British Isles for residents to worry about, but a statue of one in the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells has become a cause of concern. As The Telegraph reports, the statue is so convincing that it's scaring drivers, causing at least one motorist to crash her car. Now road safety officials are demanding it be removed.

The 10-foot wooden statue has been a fixture on the roadside for at least 15 years. It made headlines in May of 2018 when a woman driving her car saw the landmark and took it to be the real thing. She was so startled that she veered off the road and into a street sign.

After the incident, she complained about the bear to highways officials who agreed that it poses a safety threat and should be removed. But the small town isn't giving in to the Welsh government's demands so quickly.

The bear statue was originally erected on the site of a now-defunct wool mill. Even though the mill has since closed, locals still see the statue as an important landmark. Llanwrtyd Wells councilor Peter James called it an "iconic gateway of the town," according to The Telegraph.

Another town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph that the woman who crashed her car had been a tourist from Canada where bears are common. Bear were hunted to extinction in Britain about 1000 years ago, so local drivers have no reason to look out for the real animals on the side of the road.

The statue remains in its old spot, but Welsh government officials plan to remove it themselves if the town doesn't cooperate. For now, temporary traffic lights have been set up around the site of the accident to prevent any similar incidents.

[h/t The Telegraph]

The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.


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