This time, I have decided to write about possibly the strangest of the E-Lit-pieces I have encountered so far: “Kuryokhin: Second Life”.
When I started to read the text, I had only skimmed the description and thus did not really know what I should expect. However, even the first few words already cause an eerie feeling: “In 1996 you were diagnosed with a rare disease […] Now you need to take special care of your health”. This short introduction immediately sets the tone for the whole experience: the piece addresses “you” personally and is set at an unknown time (“now”). The very simple layout does not feature any illustrations except of a picture of Kuryokhin himself at the beginning, which also makes the game hard to place. Still, it makes you want to keep going.
I played the game three times in total. Once, I completed the game (I think?), once I committed suicide and once I died from the disease. The first time was the most interesting one: here, the text starts out the same as in the other versions, but because I handled the “health” better, I survived and the text began to change to different bits and pieces. The narrative now consisted of emails, diary entries, and even a footnote leading to an article about the same game I was playing at the moment. This métalepse narrative (I could not find the right English word for this term) is the most interesting part: it makes you question the legitimacy of the whole text and you start to wonder if you are really playing a completely different game, namely some kind of experimental simulator. This part reminded me a lot of the book “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski, where the same technique is used – different footnotes referring to fictional books or even to the book itself make you question the fictionality of the story. The fact that every research leads you to pages and videos in Russian does not really help the confusion – but I enjoyed the fact that I had to broaden my horizon for this; it makes you realize that there are more languages than English and script that you cannot even read.
Just when I almost thought that I could make some kind of sense of the game, I ended up at a Youtube video of a Russian song by Kuryokhin himself. That was maybe the peak of the confusion: a Russian band dressed in weird costumes playing pleasant music, the only comments being in Russian and translating to compliments about the beauty of the song. I could not figure out any way to continue – but is this really the end?
What is most interesting about the game to me is how the readers deal with this omnipresent confusion. I personally started researching the musician and the Russian music group he belonged to, the highlight of my google-search being a video in which he eloquently explains why Lenin was a mushroom. I still am not really sure if I understood the goal of the text, but I can say that I liked the excitement of the experience and am looking forward to hearing about different reading experiences – maybe someone “won the game”, after all!