A literature movement that is inspired by the notion of zero-player gamebooks and the amusement and experience of lo-fi computer mazes.
What is Labyrinthcore?
Inspired by isometric ZX Spectrum games and text adventures, Labyrinthcore is a new style of writing second-person literature.
Taking cues from Oulipo and Fantasy Flight Gamesbooks, Labyrinthcore is a straightforward amusement park where the reader finds himself inside a narrative maze. The reader, who is also known as “the player,” reads Labyrinthcore in sections, otherwise known as nodes. These nodes connect in a singular line, starting at node 1 and usually ending at node 130. Each section is no more than 100 words long and describes the room, its environment, its senses, and anything plausible if the actual reader was there.
Labyrinthcore is a style of constrained writing, with its characteristics being nostalgic about old isomeric computer games and the virtual spaces the player inhabits. Each section, or one node connecting to another node, is considered to be a Drabble, or a quick and brief 100-word or less, exploration of the room.
Unlike Gamebooks, Labyrinthcore follows each section to the next one. There is no player choice, hence Labyrinthcore could be called a zero-player game. The main difference between Labyrinthcore and the Gamebook is that Labyrinthcore has no player choice in the narrative, while the Gamebook offers multiple choices, expanding to different nodes.
Often Labyrinthcore is written in the second person. The reader and player are interchangeable titles. However, Labyrinthcore could also be written in both the first and third person, so as long as each section is describing a maze, or an amusement ride, which the narrative is going towards. The Labyrinthcore narrative emulates the likeness of a single-player video game in which the player reaches the inevitable goal at the end of the maze.
Sometimes, the reader will be told to read a previous section, only then to get back on track to a new room. The only random event in Labyrinthcore is dealt with a dice roll. A new passage could open because of a lucky dice roll or through a certain item obtained through that randomness. This provides a new reading experience that is generated in the flow of the maze.
A great example of Labyrinthcore is through the Filmation game engine. The Formation engine used an isometric technique to create 3d-faux rooms with lo-res graphics. Rooms, in aesthetic appearance and the narrative imagination, are exactly 7 by 8 in grid length and contain squares both player and non-player characters occupy. The core design of Filmation games, like Knight Lore, Alien8, Pentagram, and Head Over Heels revolves around the player escaping a perplexing labyrinth. Labyrinthcore tries to emulate these titles by novelizing the experience as a room-by-room narrative from the player’s perspective. The Filmation aesthetics is also celebrated through the Filmationcore genre.
Labyrinthcore follows first with an introduction of the text, and then to section 1. Readers of Labyrinthcore often compared the experience to that of watching a video game long play on YouTube. Here is the following example of how Labyrinthcore is written,
Welcome To Book World!
The room is tinted yellow. You are inside a prison cage.
To the northeast corner of the room is a teleport platform, and to the southeast is a magical rabbit on top of floating concrete blocks.
Roll a die. If you roll a 4 or higher, you obtain the magical rabbit. Write this in your inventory.
If not, move along to the teleport platform.
You are teleported to the next room.
You are still in Book World.
To the west of the room, you see four standing knights in armor.
Passing along them, you reach the door.
This room has no floor.
You fall into the black void below you.
You safely land down into a new room.
Still, there are knights in armor around you.
There is a spring behind you to get back up to the previous room.
The next door is in front of you.
The hallway is tinted purple.
There are two doors in front of you.
Up ahead is a door guarded by heating toasters.
To the west is another door.
You decide to go to the west side door.
If you have the donuts, jump over the toasters and go to room 7.
This room is tinted teal.
There is no floor here, but razor-sharp blades beneath you.
Luckily, you are standing on a floating platform.
There is a hostile robot patrolling the room.
You see a switch up ahead to the southwest side.
Jumping over each floating platform, and as well dodging the robot, you hit the switch.
The switch stops the room.
You jump over the other floating platforms on the northeast side of the room to get the box of donuts on the northwest side of the room.
You obtain the donuts.
You exit the room and go back to room 5.
The hallway is tinted white.
There are two doors. One is on the west side, the other down south where you are walking.
You walk down south to that door.
This room is tinted blue.
You fall don into a room with a deep gap. A hostile robot is in front of you.
You see a spring up ahead near a pillar holding a magical fish.
By going on top of the spring, you jump on it and reach the magical fish.
You obtain the magical fish.
You exit the room to the west, dodging the robot.
…As this example continues, the narrative will eventually end at node 130.
In essence, the enjoyment of Labyrinthcore comes through the deep appreciation of the player’s perspective escaping the Labyrinth. Imagine taking a boat trip inside It's a Small World, but it’s an old computer video game being played in front of you.
There are many more things to say about the popularity of Labyrinthcore.
Until then, I will let everyone know what kind of Labyrinthcore literature is out there when I find it!