Rememori is a flash based memory game, poem, and electronic literature piece made by Christine Wilks. Logistically, it is made up of six distinct levels, all of which consist in the player trying to match certain tiles. Each time one of these tiles is pressed, a question or statement whose theme is about memory loss appears. For example, some questions include, “Do you recognize me?”, “What city are we in?”, and “How much longer?”. The user can choose to play as different characters, where the options clearly correspond to the characters one finds at a hospital, e.g. a doctor, a carer, a nurse, etc. As the levels advance, the tiles move from being in an orderly grid to being in a randomly ordered mess. Furthermore, what is behind the tiles goes from being relatively concrete, for example a picture of a brain, to being quite bizarre, for example a deranged clock spinning out of control. Lastly, as one advances towards the end of the game, the brain in the background becomes more and more faded, until by the end of the last level, the whole screen slowly vanishes into pure whiteness. The game squarely belongs in the electronic literature genre because it is born digital, it is essentially digital, it includes literary elements that make it more than just a memory game, and it uses its medium well to provoke a particular feeling for which it is hard to provoke in any other way.
As a starting point in situating Rememori within the genre of electronic literature, the following conception of what it is to be a piece of electronic literature is helpful: “Electronic literature is born-digital literary art that exploits, as its muse and medium, the transmedia possibilities of the digital” (Gould). Rememori easily satisfies the first requirement in being born digital; it is also an example of an essentially digital piece since there could not be a print version of the game which included the sounds, the questions popping up, the timer and score counts, etc.
Does Rememori satisfy the second requirement of being an example of literary art? Here, one might imagine a critic who says that it is “merely” a memory game with little to no literary or artistic value. How are we to draw the line between computer games and electronic literature and which side of that line does Rememori fall? Katherine Hayles, in her work Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary has an excellent response to this question:
The demarcation between electronic literature and computer games is far from clear; many games have narrative components, while many works of electronic literature have game elements. Nevertheless, there is a general difference in emphasis between the two forms. Paraphrasing Markku Eskelinen’s elegant formulation, we may say that with games the user interprets in order to configure, whereas in works whose primary interest is narrative, the user configures in order to interpret. (18)
In other words, when playing Rememori, is it the case that the primary goal is to interpret the message, feeling, and motivation behind the project, or is the goal merely to get the highest score in the game of matching tiles? Whoever says the latter is missing out on really what Rememori is all about, and therefore, using this criterion for demarcation, Rememori clearly falls on the side of electronic literature. The primary literary elements of the game are not the matching tiles, but rather they are the often poetic phrases that appear once the tiles are clicked, the metaphorical significance of the degenerating of the organization of the tiles to the degenerating of a brain, the symbolic nature of the gradual whiting out of the screen at the end, and the coherence of the overall theme of mental degeneracy brought about by the characters, the background, the tiles, the music, and the phrases.
The final criterion left to address is whether Rememori exploits the “transmedia possibilities of the digital”. As a caveat, it should be acknowledged that Rememori does by no means use all the transmedia possibilities of the digital (really no electronic literature piece can) nor can it be said that its use of media is astonishingly comprehensive or “much better than” most other electronic literature pieces. For example, it does not at all use video and its degree of user interaction is pretty minimal (Rememori pretty much unfolds the same however one plays it). Regardless, Rememori does use its media element of being a flash game well. After all, what better medium is there to internalize the feelings of memory loss than an increasingly complicated and degenerating memory game!
Lastly, when one understands the context for why Christine Wilks made Rememori in the first place, much of its literary and artistic value is increased. In her own words,
I began creating Rememori about a year ago, when my father was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s Disease but still living at home, being cared for by my mother. . . my father had a third massive stroke and the prognosis didn’t look good. So for a while, I think I was reluctant to return to the piece. I’m glad I did. There can be no happy endings in situations like these but, now that we have him settled in our preferred Care Home, there’s a sense of respite. I think the work reflects that, certainly in the later stages of the game.”
The fact that the game was motivated not by some abstract thinking about the nature of mental decline in general, but rather by a particular tragic personal incident in the author’s life makes the project a more personable one. My own grandfather also exhibited a gradual mental decline due to Alzheimer’s which eventually resulted in his death. Since Alzheimer’s is such a widespread condition, in fact one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia (Alzheimer’s Association), this game can also play the sociological or political role of fostering awareness in all sorts of conditions which result in mental decline.
Gould, Amanda. “A Bibliographic Overview of Electronic Literature.” Electronic Literature Directory. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.
Hayles, Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame, IN: U of Notre Dame, 2008. Print.
“Latest Facts & Figures Report | Alzheimer’s Association.” Latest Facts & Figures Report | Alzheimer’s Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2014.
Wilks, Christine. “Rememori – a New Work.” Crissxross Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.
Wilks, Christine. “Rememori.” Rememori. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.