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:

  • After the End: The 2081 simulation. All governmental authority has collapsed, buildings are decaying with no one to fix them, violent gangs rule the streets, and dogs have gone feral and prey on humans.
  • Apocalypse How: Starting with the 2061 sim, Rockvil is in Societal Disruption or Collapse because of the Plan taking effect. By 2071, the Apocalypse Class has grown to Planetary Societal Disruption (with hint of Planetary Multiple-Species Extinction); and by 2081, the class is now Planetary Societal Collapse bordering on Planetary Cause-Engineered Human Species Extinction, and quite possibly Planetary Multi-Cellular Species Extinction. Thank goodness PRISM undergoes many deaths in order to show the Apocalypse Class sim recordings to Perelman so he can prevent this and the Plan from happening.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Roy talks like this if you speak to him at his Pagoda, especially while he's cleaning up his slanderous graffiti in 2071.
  • Astral Finale
  • Author Tract: The Plan the game focuses on is (largely) a deconstruction of Reagan-era policies.
  • Bad Future: Pretty much all the later simulations are this to one degree or another, especially the 2081 simulation.
  • Benevolent A.I.: PRISM takes finding out that he's actually an AI and his whole life is a lie fairly well, and he willingly goes into simulations where his world gets progressively worse and he can get easily killed over and over again so that reality can avoid that fate.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The later sims.
  • Bound and Gagged: In the 2081 simulation, you end up like this if you go south from Main & Wicker to a group of cannibalistic savages preparing you for some Human Sacrifice on a bonfire.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: In the 2071 sim, as the older schoolchildren of the Church of God's Word are about to throw stones at you, the younger ones can be heard chanting a familiar rhyme in the background: "Pick an apple, bake a pie, animals deserve to die."
  • Break Them by Talking: Senator Ryder shows his True Colors to Perelman with this lecture when the latter tries to call him out for trying to make the Evil Plan become "the law of this land".
  • Cassandra Truth: In Part III, when Perelman shows PRISM's recordings of the growing apocalypse class taking a toll on Rockvil through the coming decades, Senator Ryder's subjects ignore the scientist and dismiss the recordings as "fakes". Then, when Ryder shows up at Perelman's office, things start heating up, until Ryder says "Screw you, Perelman!" and attempts to go for full-blown Apocalypse Class Total Planetary Extinction (with Rockvil, Perelman and PRISM included) by putting the Plan into law. Only PRISM and his recordings, including one of Ryder's political rants and threats, can save the day themselves... if Ryder's men don't shut the supercomputer down first.
  • 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.
  • Creepy Cemetery: In later sims, the cemetery can get so crowded that, as the decades pass, it becomes neglected, overgrown with weeds and vandalized by graffiti. By 2081, most of the gravestones are toppled over by vandals that are hiding in sight to attack you.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: In the simulations. In fact, you have to record some of your deaths to show how badly the plan is floundering.
  • Death World: The 2081 simulation. It's nearly impossible to survive more than a few turns.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In the later sims, it's possible that even innocent people can face the death penalty for minor crimes like Attempted Rape! If that wasn't enough, as the decades pass, instead of being put in jail as a sentence, they immediately get sent to execution matches in Rockvil Stadium! Heck, you can even get arrested and sent to jail, tried by a Kangaroo Court, and sent to a quick execution for cheating on your food rations!
  • Doomed Hometown: Your town of Rockvil starts off as normal, at first; but as the decades go by in simulations, society is crumbling along with jobs and buildings because of the Plan. Before you know it, your town will turn into a Death World wasteland by 2081 unless you stop the Plan first.
  • Dying Town: What the later simulations show as Rockvil is being polluted and crumbling, turning into a wasteland of cannibalistic savages as a result of the Plan taking effect.
  • Elder Abuse: Played briefly in the 2061 simulation, when children make fun of you for being around fifty years old; but as the decades pass in the later simulations, the town is suffering many of these a lot (via violence and name-calling)! And it doesn't help if you are around sixty years old in the 2071 simulation or, God help you, seventy in the 2081 sim-wreck!
  • 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.
  • Feelies
  • Forbidden Chekhov's Gun: The Interface Mode and its controls are usually the ones not to be tampered with in the game, since doing so can lead to a "What the Hell, Hero?" from Perelman, who will shut you down until it gets fixed, leading to a Non-Standard Game Over. The only thing that can be tampered with in Interface Mode is the HVAC Controller, and that's toward the end of the game, where you have to shut off the ventilation in the Delta Sector of the Maintenance Core to save yourself from getting dismantled (i.e., killed) by Senator Ryder's mooks.
  • Fun with Acronyms: If you ask Dr. Perelman about your name, he'll tell you that the name "PRISM" officially stands for "the Perelman-Randu Introductory Soliptic Machine", which he and Dr. Aseejh Randu came up with only after he had named you "PRISM". But it actually comes from a couple of different poems, which you'll find in Library Mode.
  • 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.
  • Has Two Mommies: In the technical sense: when you ask Perelman about your parents, he tells you that they are just a part of your simulation life, while in real life you don't have any real parents, unless you count these "parents" to be himself and Dr. Randu (although, to be sure, Dr. Perelman himself was married to Leah, whose daughter Esther she gave birth to, a few years before Leah passed away).
  • He Knows Too Much: Ryder and his mooks make attempts to assassinate any "visitors" who stand in the way of writing his dangerous Plan into law and to put the entire laboratory into lockdown without any communications until the Plan is accomplished. They can even attempt to "pull the plug" on you for being a "troublemaker" unless you stop them first.
  • Hope Spot: In the first simulation, the Plan appears to be working pretty well, with high employment and people generally optimistic, although there's one or two cracks showing if you look carefully.
  • Human Sacrifice: In the 2081 simulation, this is the goal of the savage tribe by tying you up and offering you on a bonfire a la The Wicker Man (1973).
  • I'm a Humanitarian: In the 2081 sim, a tribe of mutant cannibalistic savages can toss surviving humans like you onto a bonfire in order to cook them and eat them. Rabid dogs can also pounce on other surviving humans and eat them alive.
  • Inkblot Test: At one time when you exit Simulation Mode, and Dr. Perelman asks you to come to his office for "one more quick series of psych tests we want to run", when you arrive, he'll be here with Dr. Ernest Grimwold for the psych tests cards with pictures on it that look like inkblot designs.
  • Inside a Computer System
  • Interactive Fiction
  • Jewish and Nerdy: Dr. Perelman can be this, since he's a working scientist after all. Near the end of the game, he gives out a "Yeehah!" that is "more suited to a Texas cattle rancher than a Jewish big-city scientist".
  • Kangaroo Court: Some of the later simulations can turn the courthouse into this, so that even innocent people can get executed for minor crimes.
  • Kids Are Cruel: In the 2061 simulation, you see children torturing animals, harassing a Jewish person, and making fun of you by laughing at you. This is taken Up to Eleven in the 2071 sim, where kids torturing and killing animals to extinction is glorified, and children straight up kill you by throwing stones at you.
  • Playable Epilogue: One of the greats.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Dog: You can't explore the 2081 simulation for very long without being torn apart by feral dogs, among other grim fates.
  • Public Execution: In the 2061 simulation, many of these public executions by lethal injection occur in Rockvil Stadium. By 2071, they turn into deadly, bloody Execution Matches.
  • Raising Sim: Not in-game, but as a plot-element.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Perelman delivers one to Ryder after the latter has launched a tirade and tried to Break Him by Talking with another "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    Ryder is getting really worked up; his normal, fatherly demeanor is completely gone. "Perelman, you're an even bigger idiot than I imagined if you think we'd let some two-bit egghead scientist and some high-tech whiz bang computer stand in our way! Remember this — if you were to have some unforeseen accident, you wouldn't be the first person who's gotten crushed by standing in the way of the Plan!" Perelman, with a quick glance in your direction, says, "Quite an oration, Senator. Vintage thug. I wish I could save it for posterity. Would you be willing to go on the record with that statement?" Ryder becomes even more livid. "A real jokester, huh? Lemme tell you this, Perelman -- you'd better stop joking and start listening to my advice, or you're not going to be around to care about posterity, understand?"
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: If you diagnose yourself in the 2081 sim, you'll find that you have gone a little insane, and that you can't remember when you last ate a squirrel, because you haven't eaten in days.
  • Referenced By: William Shakespeare: During the Playable Epilogue, Perelman quotes a line from Hamlet, whose title character spoke about the popularity of his murdered father Hamlet Sr., and Perelman says the same thing when PRISM is about to depart on his final mind journey: "He was a man, take him for all in all, / I shall not look upon his like again" (I, ii).
    • In the back of the box art for the game, there is a line taken from Shakespeare's Macbeth, in which Banquo addresses the Weird Sisters about what the future holds for him and the title character (in the full line, of course): "If you can look into the seeds of time, / And say which grain will grow, and which will not, / Speak, then, to me, who neither beg nor fear / Your favors nor your hate" (I, iii).
  • Shout-Out: At the beginning of Part II, there is a quote taken from the poem The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe ("Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, / Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before...").
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Senator Ryder delivers this one twice: one in response to Perelman's Deadpan Snarker sarcasm, and another in response to his "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • 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.
  • Straw Character: Senator Ryder.
  • Suicide Is Painless: The ultimate effect of Joy Booths.
  • Take That!: According to Word of God, the game is a response to then-President Ronald Reagan's reelection in order "to show people what a war-mongering, Christian-Right-pandering, environment-trashing, rights-trampling asshole Reagan was".
  • Tattooed Crook: In the 2071 simulation, there are many of these in the Kangaroo Courtroom, each being branded with their Mark of Shame in order to prepare them for their Execution Matches.
  • 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 Dares?: Done in Part III when Senator Ryder barges into Perelman's office:
    "How dare you come in here with all..." Perelman begins yelling, before Ryder cuts him off with a sharp "Shut up, Perelman! I'm doing the talking here, so get used to it! You're not in control here anymore, and I am!"
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: In the end, PRISM chooses to live out a simulated normal human life, including an eventual death.