Response 2 – English is for Squares: Thomas Was Alone as a Classroom Text (5.2)

By Scott Nelson

[6/-\`][‘§β’/ was Not Alone – SWF PROJECT

Descriptions & Transcripts
[Edited by Rachel Mazique]

Title Screen:

The title screen is of a door made of what looks like wrought gold. The styling is art deco, and it reads “[6/-\`][‘§β’/ was not alone.”

Directions at the bottom of the screen read “Left and Right Arrows to Move, Spacebar for Action.”

Jazz music plays in the background. When the player presses the spacebar, we’re taken to the next scene as an audio track of different voices saying “Gatsby” plays.

Screen 2:

This page reads “A video game by Scott Nelson in response to Anne Meuser’s video about video games.” In place of the names for Scott Nelson and Anne Meuser are images of photographic portraits and cartoon avatars that flash in rapid succession. The background is abstract shapes in blue, green, and red, intended to be reminiscent of 1980s video games.

Screen 3:

The word “Gatsby” appears in black text on a white background. It is the player piece that moves throughout the game. It falls through open whitespace until it lands on the words “was not alone.” Jazz music plays in the background.
As the player moves through the scene, she dodges red enemies that flash different keyboard characters/punctuation marks, while jumping between platforms made of phrases. The following is a transcript of the words “Gatsby” must move, jump, and navigate across. “Gatsby” falls into the blanks in the transcript below–in order to complete the sentence. The transcript of the audio is in brackets and appears in the transcript below to represent when the player hears these sounds as “Gatsby” successfully jumps, moves throught the screen, and avoids the “red enemies”:

Anne Meuser’s argument begins from a rhetorical situation where teachers have already placed video games in a hierarchy below text, where characters like Jay _______ are already mistaken for the archetype.

That is, ______ [Toby Maguire’s voice: you can’t repeat the past] expressed in text [voice of William Burroughs: Writers, uh, sometimes write to make it happen] is thought to be the original, and by being the original, makes Fitzgerald the creator [voice of William Burroughs: There are a few freaks that can, uh, make that, uh, knowledge consciously available] and relegate other media expressions to companion works.

The aura of text, of the word, of ink on paper–of squiggly lines to represent phonemes to represent concepts—remains in the English classroom.

But it is not the specific man [Unknown male voice: its presence in time and space, its unique existence of where it happens to be] of _______ [Toby Maguire’s voice: you can’t repeat the past] inside that book that makes him a part of Literature; he is trapped in print, [voice of William Burroughs: Gatsby only exists in the prose of the writer] bound by the whitespace surrounding those characters. Instead, there is a concept [voice of Richard Dawkins: “genes are just an example of coded–digital actually–information”] that lives beyond the pages, [voice of Richard Dawkins: “Memes. Cultural replicators, the cultural equivalent of a gene, the cultural equivalent of DNA”] the mediated transfer of an aspect of the human condition [voice of Richard Dawkins: “anything that’s copied, anything that’s imitated, anything that spreads around like a virus”]

The player “Gatsby” changes into the player [6/-\`][‘§β’/. The platform disappears, and [6/-\`][‘§β’/ falls as the scene changes.

Screen 4:

[Voice of Anne Meuser, digitally enhanced: “moving through an uncontrollable, digital space”]

[Soft orchestral music from the 2013 The Great Gatsby movie plays]

The player can now move in 8 directions, rather than just back and forth and jumping, and there is no gravity in this level. The background is a dark green, and the foreground is covered in silhouettes of neurons branching across the screen. The player moves around the screen, collecting words and phrases. Once all words have been touched by the player, the screen fades out and back in to the following paragraph:

[6/-\`][‘§β’/ is the marker for a concept, the thing we ask students to find beyond plot. It’s what transfers from medium to medium, from carrier to carrier [electronic voice of old man: “language is a virus”] because it refers to something [voice of Anne Meuser”to push students further in making connections to texts and ideas”] other humans can relate to in different times and different circumstances. It is Ezra Pound’s “news that stays news.” It is larger than Gatsby [voice of an unknown male: “today we reppin’ the one percent with The Great Gatsby”] himself, stretching [voice of Anne Meuser: “for desire of a far-off future, Thomas and Gatsby run and stretch, and lose themselves for a dream they never experience”] before his creation and after. [6/-\`][‘§β’/ is the meme [voice of Richard Dawkins: “catchy like a virus–catching–um, it spreads around the culture”] that “Gatsby” is but one instantiation of.


[Music: “Gatsby” by The Gray in Between]

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