Drew and Callie return to Plundered Hearts to discuss Anastasia Salter’s 2020 article, “Infocom, Romance, and the History of Feminist Game Design,” published in Feminist Media Histories 6.1.
In this follow-up conversation, Drew and Callie revisit the critical narrative surrounding Amy Briggs’s classic Plundered Hearts, celebrating the ways in which Salter synthesizes a variety of critical tactics in her productive and innovative reading.
As always, you can find the podcast on your platform of choice or listen on the web here:
Plundered Hearts: Follow Up by Gold Microphone: The Interactive Fiction of Infocom (anchor.fm)
Plundered Hearts | Feminist Media Histories | University of California Press (ucpress.edu)
Drew Cook: Gold Machine (@GolmacB) / Twitter
2 thoughts on “Gold Microphone: Return to Plundered Hearts”
I share Amy Briggs’s preference for relationship-oriented gameplay over the object-oriented variety, and while “Plundered Hearts” represents a towering achievement in this regard, it was not Infocom’s only title I would categorize as such. I also consider “A Mind Forever Voyaging,” “Border Zone,” “The Lurking Horror,” and Douglas Adams’s “Bureaucracy” more character-oriented offerings. (Perhaps not coincidentally, all were released during Amy’s time at the company.)
The character vs. object dichotomy also exists within conventional (i.e., non-interactive) fiction. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, in its Turkey City lexicon for new writers, derides the latter device as “plot coupons.” SFWA’s Nick Lowe defines these as the “basic building blocks of the quest-type fantasy plot. The ‘hero’ collects sufficient plot coupons (magic sword, magic book, magic cat) to send off to the author for the ending. Note that ‘the author’ can be substituted for ‘the Gods’ in such a work: ‘The Gods decreed he would pursue this quest.’ Right, mate. The author decreed he would pursue this quest until sufficient pages were filled to procure an advance.”
Relationships in AMFV affords an interesting point of comparison!
Warning I spoil a bit of AMFV in this reply.
I do agree that both games are the better for their emphasis on relationships. It seems that in PH the protagonist’s agency is reflected in the shifting nature of her relationships with other characters. In AMFV, the opposite is true. The deterioration of Percy’s family, which he must watch helplessly, is very affecting–especially the way Jill’s art changes over time.
I do think object-centered storytelling suffers in settings that involve social forces and interpersonal dynamics. Such games feel transactional at their worst. Games that work well as object-centered stories tend to be archaeological in nature–humanity and society are things in the world, but not in the game world. The Zork and Enchanter trilogies are mostly good in this way.
Seastalker is bad for many reasons, but one reason that it is bad is that the characters are largely dispensers of merits or demerits with few opportunities for meaningful interaction.