Saturday, April 28, 2007


This morning I poked around Amnesty International's House of Horror, an interactive Flash site designed to raise awareness about human rights abuses by taking the viewer through two spaces: one, a well-lit and coherent view of what appears to be a decaying torture facility, and a second viewer-driven experience of a dark room lit by a match, where one is encouraged to use the computer's arrow keys to find the source of a given sound.

It's an interesting premise for a number of reasons. At the Philosophy of Computer Games conference, which was held earlier this academic year in Italy, there was considerable talk about how papers were privileging sight and weren't giving enough consideration to games of darkness, blindness, or text-driven games. In connection with the publication of Second Person, there was also an interesting panel that discussed the differences between text-based and more "intuitive" arrow-key interfaces in the similarly claustrophobic text-based experience, "Shade."

Unfortunately, the actual site reminds me more of a right-wing Christian "Hell House" in which socio-political spectacles of horror pop up unexpectedly. It even included a stock character in such haunted houses, the drug addict. Both times, when trying to follow the sounds of moans and groans in the blacked room, I got to "Lizzie, a 28-year old prostitute lost in her addiction to drugs."

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