Individual Work

Amnesia by Thomas M. Disch is an interactive fiction and text adventure game originally created in 1986 for the Apple IIe on 5.25” and 3.5” floppy disks. There was also a version of Amnesia published a year later in 1987 for the Commodore 64. The work is accompanied by a number of physical paper accessories within the folio, including a Street and Subway Map to Manhattan, a manual, a command summary, a warranty card from Electronic Arts, and ‘the x-street indexer’ to assist with navigation. The command summary provides a brief overview of the types of commands the player can use at any point. It emphasizes using “plain English instructions.” One example of this may include typing “Go right” to specify a direction the player wants the avatar to travel. It is also possible to type longer sentences so that they can do multiple actions. Additionally, there are times where the player can have their avatar talk to other characters. In this instance, it would be important to specify the name of the character they are addressing within the command.

As the title indicates, the work begins with the character or player having no memories of where they are or what may have happened to them. Waking up in an empty hotel room, the mystery of figuring out their identity begins. The player can move around the room and perform various actions such as turning on or off the computer, looking around or picking up objects nearby. There is a score tracker which keeps record of three separate factors: your scores as a detective, character, or survivor. It is important to note that this work, being a text adventure, is not linear and has numerous possible endings, either good or bad.

The work can perhaps be moderately deceiving at times, giving the illusion of choice in situations when there actually is none. One such example is the character’s appearance. The big question right from the beginning in this game is “who are you?” Therefore, when it comes to appearances, there comes a point when the player can enter in what color eyes and hair they think or want the character to have, but the program of the game turns around and tells them that they look completely different. The player has no control over the character’s appearance, which is made clear right from the start as they get out of the hotel bed and the dialog on the screen immediately informs the player that their character is “naked” in addition to being “white, male, and reasonably well-put-together.” After entering in what the player believes their character looks like, the dialog of the program blatantly tells them that they got it all wrong. It is as though the game is not only telling the player that they do not know anything about themselves regardless of whether it relates to who they are or what they might look like.

When Amnesia was released to the public, it was initially created for the Apple IIe. The interface is very simple due to the technologies available at the time – the player only sees automated green text appearing on a black screen. The commands they can enter are entirely based on the paper document entitled “command summary” that accompanied the game within its original folio and is therefore very limiting in what the player can do given what the game has been programmed to allow.