Code at Work, Text at Play

Unlike the random links in Parker’s “Smile” and Rettberg’s “Passenger” which are placed outside the text space of the narrative proper, the random links in Teo Spiller’s “Esmeralda” (1999) are objects and texts incorporated in the detective adventure proper, aiming to provide a more powerful mechanism in diverging paths. The lexias that each of his random links can choose from are small in number. This fact, however, does not affect the ability of “Esmeralda” to attain a structure of complexity commensurate to that of a conventional hypertext, since all lexias are candidates for each “destination” position in a path.

Spiller’s random links do not have the intention to invoke the resonating effects embedded in sylleptic points. They serve to connect independent missions into a coherent adventure. The random links are designed as such to present an illusion to delude the user that he is playing the role of a detective in the quest of unfolding a mystery. Or, he is playing a competitive game. However,
after several trials, the user may come to realize that it is a game stripped of binary win-lose logic, or an un-winnable game that uniformly leads the player to the page of “BUM! BUM! BUM! ”, or occasionally the “game over” page, rewarding the user with symbolic death.

It is a pseudogame. Before the trick reveals itself, the random links fluctuate between the state of being key points and that of being non-key points. When the user realizes it is a pseudo-game, a literary paidia rather than ludus, these links turn into interactive points deprived of game-surprise, or blank points for the mere purpose of setting the navigation in motion.

From Shuen-shing Lee, Interactive Points in Literary Hypertexts: A Typology: Code at Work, Text at Play, Taipei: Bookman, 2004. Chapter 3