Video Game: A Mind Forever Voyaging
The antechapel where the statue stood of Newton with his prism and silent face, the marble index of a mind for ever Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.
— The Prelude, William Wordsworth
A political text-adventure game designed and implemented by Steve Meretzky
and published by Infocom
in 1985. Really, though, it doesn't really fit the usual preconceptions of the genre... after all, there's only one puzzle and it takes place near the end. The term Interactive Fiction
has seldom applied this well to a commercially published game. AMFV is among Infocom's most respected titles, although it was not a commercial success
It is the year 2031, and the player controls PRISM, the world's first sentient computer. The economy of the United States Of North America
(USNA) is failing. Great numbers of youths are turning to "Joybooths" (a device which directly stimulates the sensory input of the brain) and committing suicide by over-stimulation. A new arms race involving nuclear weapons no larger than the size of a common pack of cigarettes threatens to turn the USNA into a police state. Unaware that it is a sophisticated computer, PRISM has been living for 11 years (in real-time, 20 years within the simulation) as an ordinary human, "Perry Simm." Dr. Abraham Perelman, PRISM's "father", informs Perry of his true nature and gently brings him from simulation mode into reality. Perelman explains that he has awakened PRISM so a vital mission can be performed: running a simulation of a revitalization plan (dubbed the Plan for Renewed National Purpose), sponsored by Senator Richard Ryder. The plan calls for "renewed national purpose" through de-regulation of government and industry, military conscription, a unilateral approach to diplomatic relations, and a return to traditional and fundamental values. PRISM will enter a simulation of a typical American town at 10 year intervals following the plan's enacting, and observe... for good or for bad.
One of the most blatantly liberal games of all time, and, depending on your personal politics, you'll probably find either it a sustained headache or one of the most effective uses of Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped
ever... it especially comes out against hyper-patriotism and the harmful effects of religious fanaticism. The political 'solution' offered at the end appears to be one of pacifism and social-welfare statism. However, the fact that its dystopian worlds are ones that you get to explore yourself makes up for a lot. In any case, it is one of the IF game most frequently cited as an inspiration by the current generation of interactive fiction authors, and worth checking out.
As a side note, author Steve Meretzky said he was directly courting controversy with the political content of AMFV. When the game generated nearly no uproar at all, he "decided to write something with a little bit of sex in it, because nothing generates controversy like sex". The resulting game was Leather Goddesses Of Phobos
, which was no more controversial but did sell a lot better
Provides Examples of:
- Astral Finale
- Author Tract: The Plan the game focuses on is (largely) a deconstruction of Reagan-era policies.
- Big Brother Is Watching: The later sims.
- Controllable Helplessness: In the less grim simulations, breaking the law results in spending several turns in jail until you're released. In a later, extremely bleak, simulation, you're stuck there until executed. Fortunately, since it's a simulation, getting killed merely returns you to the non-simulation world.
- Corrupt Church: The Church of God's Word
- Death World: The 2081 simulation. It's nearly impossible to survive more than a few turns.
- Engineered Public Confession: In the endgame, Senator Ryder is all too happy to show his True Colors to Dr. Perelman. Your job is to let the world see them as well.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: The 2081 simulation. Described in the official hints as "very deadly", you almost always get killed in within a few turns. It doesn't help that by this point in the simulation's timeline PRISM's analogue is elderly.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: The USSR is not only still in existence in 2031, it appears to have enjoyed a renaissance. The Soviet Bloc has expanded to include countries such as Greece and Guatemala. Also, South Africa is run by a black-dominated government that oppresses white people.
- Inside a Computer System
- Interactive Fiction
- Playable Epilogue: One of the greats.
- Raising Sim: Not in-game, but as a plot-element.
- Society Marches On: As a politically-oriented game, several elements seem quaint or out-of-place now.
- If you look at the polling data in Library Mode, you find The Plan (a generally traditionalist-conservative oriented political plan that would represent one of the most dramatic changes to the country in its history) enjoys only 5% less support among liberals than conservatives — finding such a close split on such a major piece of legislation in the more sharply-divided modern America (where far more minor changes have dramatic 20% splits by political affiliation) is unthinkable.
- The game treats several of the anti-terror measures Senator Ryder implements as horrifying, or at least worrying, to the scientists back in 2031. Some of them (like random mandatory door-to-door searches) would still be treated that way, but others (like random strip searches at airports) are now commonplace. The constant terror warnings scattered over the cities of 2051 and 2061 are also unlikely to strike most modern players as quite as dystopian as they were originally intended to be.
- Strawman Political: Senator Ryder.
- Suicide Is Painless: The ultimate effect of Joy Booths.
- Twisted Echo Cut: Prism wakes up this way after the intro to the game. Someone says his "in simulation" name, Perry Simm which, over the course of several slight modifications in text, turns into Prism, said by Dr. Perelman.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: In the end, Prism chooses to live out a simulated normal human life, including an eventual death.