Experimental Game Turns Players into Poets and Writers

What do British Romantic Era poets and video games have in common? The answer is Elegy for a Dead World, an unlikely game that leaves the players with “no game to play,” but to explore three long-dead civilizations, observe, and make notes... or stories — or poems — or songs.


The three lost worlds feature beautiful scenery, moving music, and are inspired by Percy Shelley's Ozymandias, Lord Byron's Darkness, and John Keats' When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be. They create a strong, moody atmosphere that becomes the breeding ground for feelings and ideas.

The game began in 2013 as a collaboration between Dejobaan Games and Popcannibal. Ziba Scott, one of the creators says, “We have three great Romantic poets — Shelley, Byron, and Keats — and they each wrote these really moving poems about end times, the end of the world. So, we get this really good, brooding feel of where man’s place on Earth is, and it really sets the tone for writing.”

“The most important thing for us is that someone sits down and has a positive experience, doing something creative.”

The game eases you into the writing process with challenges, prompts, and fill-in-the-blank sentences. It has 27 writing challenges that might ask you to write a short story about an individual’s final days, a song about resignation, or a poem about war. In one challenge, you’re and archaeologist uncovering clues; in another, you’re a thief. In the more advanced levels, you’ll sometimes get new information halfway through the story, which casts a new light on things and forces you to explain or justify past actions. Once the game stirs your creativity, you can delete the prompts and use all the creative freedom in your writing you want.

“The most important thing for us is that someone sits down and has a positive experience, doing something creative. We avoid doing any kind of scoring, or handslapping, because writing can be personal and frightening enough, without attaching a score or anything negative to it,” says Ichiro Lambe, another of the game's developers. 

When you’re done with the game, you can share your story with other players, read their works, post comments, and participate in discussions. You can also reproduce your writings in digital and print media.

The game is perfect for overcoming writer’s block, engaging students with writing fiction, or just for motivating you to do something creative. You can play it now on Windows, Mac, and Linux on Steam.

Photos: Elegy

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