It is pitch black. You're unlikely to be eaten by a grue. Meet Mayday! Deep Space.

Without getting too philosophical. There are times. (NOTE: This is getting too philosophical, already.) There are times when you’re kind of there in a moment. And you realize that your perception has been nudged. Maybe tweaked. Maybe changed. But definitely nudged. And it’s some crazy work of art that has managed to do it. And I’ll be damned if Mayday! Deep Space hasn’t managed to do that to me.

I can still remember the amazement and frustration of interactive fiction. I hadn’t even begun studying—or completely slaughtering—the English language, yet. I was just a kid with a computer.

And then I found games like Infidel. On my crappy little TRS-80. Games that would be eventually fall under the title of “interactive fiction.”

And it wasn’t just a bunch of words. It was me interacting with a story in a way I hadn’t had the chance to experience before. Not just flipping pages. I was interacting. Guiding. Deciding. Participating. Text and choose your own adventure and video games and all of this stuff coming together. And I was smitten.

And then I found Zork (which inspired the headline for those of you scratching your heads) and then I found MUDs. And I found all of these ways to interact with text. And story. In a way that still let my imagination work—without it being spoonfed graphics or concepts.

There was something magical in that simplicity.

And I’ve got to be honest. That as things progressed—and as download speeds and graphics chips improved—that we had lost some of that magical simplicity. Sure. For new generations of gamers headsets and motion sensors and Rifts have provided that same sense of wonder. But often with an underlying complexity. And it’s the simplicity that’s been absent.

Until now.

A new game called Mayday! Deep Space brings all of that interactive fiction magic back. Except this time, instead of typing frenetically, I’m screaming at my phone to get it to do what I want.

Mayday, from Portland author Daniel H. Wilson and Portland game studio Mountain Machine Studios, creates that same sort of environment for interactive fiction. But it allows me to guide the character with a set of spoken commands—instead of keystrokes.

But it still sparks the same curiosity, tension, imagination, and frustration as text-based interactive fiction. And that’s why it’s so awesome.

The game launched today for iOS. It costs $2.99. Less than you’d pay for a book. And more interactive. I’d highly recommend you check it out.

For more information, listen to the creators on OPB State of Wonder, read what The Verge has to say, or see what folks are saying about it on Product Hunt.

And if you’d like to learn more about Mountain Machine Studios, you should attend the Oregon Story Board Demo Day, this Friday. They’re part of the inaugural class.

[Full disclosure: I am a cofounder and advisor for Oregon Story Board.]

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