Ludonarrative Spectres: On Rachel Lilim’s GLITTR RUIN I by Mike Corrao

Often digital media is haunted by the projections of its print counterparts / there is often this sense / that a work was originally constructed with a physical release in mind / it was meant for a magazine / a journal / for the book that it will eventually become a part of / even if the author was aware of the likelihood that it would first be published online / the format often betrays this end destination / the text still confining itself to the constraints of the page //

Groups such as Hysterically Real have attempted to combat this / with the explicit goal of exploring the potentials of the pdf / or in Dead Alive’s many flexible, interactive releases / building off a foundation of web and UI design / other self-published works have shown the viability of tools like Twine and Bitsy / all utilizing the mutative and interactive potentials of the medium / drawing from hyperlinks / gifs / embedded videos / widgets / to skew the reader’s engagement with the work //

In this exploratory scene / works like Rachel Lilim’s GLITTR RUIN I have begun to take on more ludological qualities / pulling inspiration as much from videogames as from literature / looking towards these interactive [or pseudo-interactive] methods / & deconstructing them into a set of tools for creating digitally distinct works //

GLITTR RUIN I itself was published on the always unconventional as a full release / given the same promotional introduction that the press typically reserves for its physical chapbooks / framing the work as an equally self-sustaining work / autonomous and complete / Lilim’s text takes the form of five 1-bit tableaus / collaging semi-legible writing / moving images / corrupted 3D models / distorted faces / obtuse design elements / all fitting well within the dimensions of a phone screen //

The content itself is chaotic / all of the structures within any given tableau colliding violently into one another / vying for attention / hiding behind a cloak of suspicion / operating under the guise of a rotting mouth or thriving bacterial colony //

A vampiric desire infects the speaker(s) / as if we are standing under them / curled on the ground after the bite / dripping blood / looking up at this strange entity as it tries to explain our change of circumstances / “It’s a quick come up so don’t freak out, okay?” / the cadence of their voice / the way it appears on our screen one word at a time / is reminiscent of PS1 and MS-DOS era videogames and their use of dialogue boxes / we are locked in a conversation or a cutscene / I can imagine a purgatory where this text /as it does here / plays on repeat / never really granting us access to the full game / forcing our body into stillness as we eternally read the language forming over our heads //

The world of GLITTR RUIN is swallowed by a voidal blackness / everything has long died or it is yet to be formed / memories are stored on a half-functional hard drive / bacteria is crawling along the emerald surface of the CPU / it feels as if we are in an alternate universe of abrahamically influenced technology / with demons spreading their influence over DMs / and 3D models attempting to arrange themselves into ritualized patterns / the text wants to infect you / in the same way that the vampire’s teeth have infected your nape / our contact with GLITTR RUIN is the bite / it is the point of contact that will allow for the spreading of further and more sinister influences / “You get used to so many things.” //

Reading through Lilim’s project / I was never reminded of other literary works / it was always of videogames / the aesthetics of World of Horror or Critters for Sale / the petty charisma of Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines /  the web 2.0 temporality of Hypno Space Outlaw / it’s rare that these works are mined for their undeniable quality / their eccentric prose and dialogue / even in the campiness of older games / there is a certain alluring strangeness to the text of prose geared towards interactivity / balancing instruction and exposition / typically avoiding dramatic character development / & instead prioritizing lore / world-building / atmosphere //

GLITTR RUIN is taking influence from these unobserved locales / finding the horror and seduction of inhuman communications / the erotics of the low-poly avatar / and their simultaneously fragile & invulnerable bodies / more apparently than in our own reality / these virtual spaces display a lack of control / the game operates autonomously / guiding the player through set paths / even when appearing open to emergent forms of gameplay / there are always constraints / and these constraints always become immediately & unbearably visible / the game world holds its subject on a tight leash / only revealing its facade / never the scaffolding beneath / obfuscating the sloppy & chaotic underbelly //

“You can feel each word uncoil from your lungs…” / flashing imagery strains your eyes as you try to sift through what little information you have access to / piecing together what’s happened / what’s going to happen / the second person perspective dragging you into events you aren’t fully aware of / you are to blame / you are the victim / it is unclear what for and what of / but you get used to so many things / Lilim creates an environment of supreme ambiguity / that you must embrace / letting an invisible hand guide you through this purgatorial plane //

In the space of digitally-oriented writing / Lilim is approaching something distinct / undermining the minimalism of isolated language [paragraphs and stanzas] / instead constructing meticulous assemblages of text and visual design / there seems to be a self-inflicted constraint amongst many writers / trying to find a boundary between what is writing with design elements / & what is design with written elements / as if a clean line separates one medium from the other / but it seems more applicable to me / to ask what kind of work the digital medium engenders / GLITTR RUIN seems to be the answer / dragging the corpse of a strange creature uphill and segmenting it into grotesque tableaus / we are standing over the body / the work of art / its straining brightness / and nodding as the coroner prods at every suspicious contusion //







Mike Corrao is the author of three novels, Man, Oh Man (Orson’s Publishing); Gut Text (11:11 Press) and Rituals Performed in the Absence of Ganymede (11:11 Press); one book of poetry, Two Novels (Orson’s Publishing); two plays, Smut-Maker (Inside the Castle) and Andromedusa (Forthcoming – Plays Inverse); and three chapbooks, Avian Funeral March (Self-Fuck); Material Catalogue (Alienist) and Spelunker (Schism – Neuronics). Along with earning multiple Best of the Net nominations, Mike’s work has been featured in publications such as 3:AMCollagistAlways Crashing, and Denver Quarterly. His work often explores the haptic, architectural, and organismal qualities of the text-object. He lives in Minneapolis. @ShmikeShmorrao

July 5th, 2021|
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