Device 6

This App Will Change Books Forever

When opening the iTunes app/interactive adventure game Device 6, users emerge into a moody and bizarre world. The story is told in an unconventional way. The words on the page reorient themselves into unusual positions, while the colors of the font and page change. Images seem to follow the reader’s motions, and almost work like state of the art pop-up books.

 

Everything produced by the company is currently on sale for a dollar. It will last seven days to celebrate the seven year anniversary of the business. You can check out a playthrough of Device 6 here:

 

 

The strange setup and coded messages give a Nancy-Drew-meets-House-of-Leaves vibe. The unsettling “tings” and “beeps” give dimension to the world. The sounds scrolling by are reminiscent of the sci-fi future imagined in technicolor movies.

 

Device 6 poster

Image Courtesy of Simogo

 

What Device 6 provides with its puzzles formed around the narrative may indicate where the literary e-reading world is headed. Though the game was released in 2013, it remains one of the most forward-thinking e-books.

 

Device 6 is often referenced as an example of “ergodic literature.” In the book Cybertext, Espen J. Aarseth describes the experience of ergodic literature, saying, “nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text.”

 

Device 6

Image Courtesy of Simogo

 

Though Pottermore provides a huge outlet to the evergreen fan base of Harry Potter, it’s not quite on the same level. Members complete tests to see what houses they belong to, which wand they’d get, and are able to walk step-by-step through the books as if they are a student at Hogwarts.

 

What Pottermore often forgets is the element of reading. George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books were re-released as enhanced e-books a year ago, which provided readers with maps, family trees, and other features to clarify the reading experience.

 

"discover your patronus"

Image Courtesy of Pottermore

 

What those enhanced e-books don’t offer that Device 6 has is a high level of involvement. With puzzles, layout changes, and toggle tools required to get along in the story, the readers are actively engaged with the narrative. The experience is often more like playing a game than reading a story.

 

With a growing number of virtual and augmented reality games, we’re starting to see what how the reading experience might evolve. We can hold up our phones and see through our Snapchat filter a 3D hotdog interacting with the real world. We can strap on lenses and go to a 4D world separate from ours.

 

E-readers are not as widely used as they once were, even with the growing technology changes, number of devices, and publications available. Apps like Device 6 show the kind of experience we can have with e-books that’s different from a physical book.

 

device 6

 

The app was made by Swedish developers Simon Flesser and Magnus Gardebäck through their company Simogo. They have also made a game called Year Walk for Wii U. It was released under the same brand of a previous project called Year Walk Bedtime Stories for Awful Children.

 

On their company website, they say “We simply create the things that feel exciting, interesting, surprising, or fun to us.” So while they don’t concentrate on just making games, they seem to have specialized in forming new ways to discuss a narrative in video games.

 

Sensational December Machine

Images Courtesy of Simogo

 

In their application the Sensational December Machine, they provide a blurb, saying “The Sensational December Machine is an interactive short story with hand-drawn art and text. It was created over three weeks as a Christmas present for our dear fans.”

 

Many of their projects have a retro-sensationalist vibe. In Year Walk they say “In the old days man tried to catch a glimpse of the future in the strangest of ways.” Many other games also feature old-timey radios and graphics that suggest design hasn’t aged past the 60s.

 

device 6

Image Courtesy of Simogo

 

“Year Walk stretches over two different entities: A game and a free companion app. Both are enjoyable in their own right, but together they create an experience that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

 

This crossover that works between two platforms and stands alone is something that could greatly enhance books, physical and digital. These are some of the first steps that show how someone could give classic literature a makeover, turning flat plain text into coded and colorful new stories to experience.

 

device 6

Image Courtesy of Simogo

 

In an interview with Videogame Tourism, the developers said:

 

We were indeed aware of the culture of ergodic literature, but are not very traversed in it at all. And I didn’t want to start to get into it during the development of DEVICE 6, either. I wanted to us to create the game with a clean slate, without drawing any direct inspiration from for example House of Leaves. I love the concept of that type of thing and have always been curious about it, though.

 

The benefit of doing this with e-books is that it will be available across several platforms. With modern e-readers becoming more and more like tablets, the devices can multitask and perform in a way similar to phones. Tablets might have opened a completely new horizon in how ergodic literature is executed in the future.

 

device 6

image courtesy of Simogo

 

In the same interview with VT, the developers say:

 

It makes me really happy if a thing we made can make people more interested in reading. Especially if they haven’t been into reading books. There really is nothing like reading a good book. I think the way the written word stimulates the imagination and creative thinking is unique.

 

Device 6 has features e-books already have, but adds a tasteful palate and engrosses readers more by involving them in the actual development of the story. Apart from text, they accompany the story with other things often found in enhanced books like maps, charts, and other graphics.

 

Device 6

Image Courtesy of Simogo

Some ways other antiquated mediums of entertainment have been enhanced with video games is shown in the game Sound Shapes in which users unlock more of a song as they advance levels. The beats and the environment sync up and are involved in the actual gameplay.

 

Sound Shapes

Sound Shapes / Image courtesy of Youtube

 

It’s clear that a broad-spectrum change can occur with VR becoming more involved in entertainment. Personally, I can wait to see the ways VR and AR (augmented reality) enhance classic forms of entertainment, from movies to plays to, of course, books.

 

Feature Image Courtesy of Youtube