Dejobaan Games' Elegy for a Dead World is a beautiful game—as you navigate endless, lonesome interstellar landscapes, you fill in writing prompts. It's flexible and gentle, a good tool for getting your creativity flowing. And it's lots of fun to sabotage.
It all began with my own bad day; I decided to play with Elegy and choose a writing prompt about "The Worst Vacation." No matter how old you get, there is something soothing about incredibly childish rebellion, filling in the prompts with things like "garbage rain" and "jerk basement club." I am a mature adult writer:
Like a sullen brat trying to ruin Mad Libs for everyone else, I went on in this way, and I actually started to amuse myself, or at least to ventilate some steam:
When I was done drifting through lonesome space and typing 'stupid' and 'jerks' a lot, I did something I don't normally do: I chose the option to play a user-generated story. Writing you do in the Elegy world can be uploaded to the Steam Workshop, so you can explore the worlds others have written in.
It all sounds great for classroom use, doesn't it? Why, games are great for classroom use, we are always saying. If I were a teacher I would definitely get my class set up with Elegy for a Dead World in order to nurture their creativity in the fun, exciting video game format they prefer. They can even learn about the world of Byron, Keats and Shelley! Everyone wins. Elegy is being used in over 200 schools for creative writing and English as a second language (thanks, Andy!)
But today I played through "WHY", a story by user Ipric002, who resentfully saw through this attempt to make their group learn. Despite mastering a rather clever literary device—counting down (seven times, six times, five times, and so forth) from the number of offered prompts—Ipric002 did not find the exercise purposeful, did not like the "heavy breathing" sound effects of the game and was scolded by the teacher: ("Five times, we were met with nothing but criticism of our dedication to the class")
Despite apparently finding Elegy frustrating and its educational value elusive, Ipric002 came up with the ultimate triumph: Using the game itself to subvert the game. "And finally, we made this game into a joke by critiquing it from within." I dunno, I'd give them an A.
Also, this subversion is still a lot more clever than mine.