August 5, 2015 9:00 AM | John Bridgman
Silverstring Media has been instrumental in bringing out experimental games that challenge what games can be and how they can be used as tools of expression. Recently they have started another journey into experimental games, with Book of the Dead, billed as a digital triptych. Episode one, Viral Dusty Dead Identity Quiz, is available now on itch.io.
The title of the episode is definitely accurate. It is designed to be reminiscent of social media fandom quizzes we're all so familiar with and likely have taken a few of ourselves. You will be given questions regarding the Dusty Dead franchise, and choose from four answers. At the end of the quiz, you will be told which character in the franchise fits your answers.
Don't be alarmed if you have no connection to the franchise, or if you don't consider yourself part of the Dusty Dead fanbase. Dusty Dead doesn't exist. The game will introduce you to the nonexistent works through notes on some of the answers you choose, from the novels in the 70s nobody wrote, to the 90s cartoon that never aired, and the anime spinoff that was never made.
Instead, you're meant to just answer whichever one you like most, with questions and answers reminiscent of some of the more surreal social media feeds you can follow. In a rather interesting twist, despite the franchise not existing, if you let yourself be drawn in, you find that you spend some time choosing your answers appropriately, much the same as a member of a fandom certainly would. It speaks to the power of viral marketing that the questions still feel important regardless.
Aesthetically it's accurate to the viral quiz feel. Its visuals are somewhat unpolished, and the colours do not contrast nicely, in a very effective way. Of course, since it's just a quiz, there's not much need for visual polish, but it has some interesting use of subtle movement and imagery to keep things from getting too dull and also help the experience be more immersive. The music is very appealing, and the way it is used as the quiz progresses is clever, if not particularly complicated.
It is hard to talk too much about Viral Dusty Dead Identity Quiz without showing it off in its entirety. It is of course, extremely short, but it is free, with an option to purchase the theme song from the cartoon that doesn't exist for five dollars. I have no idea how the series will play out across the triptych, but I am intrigued to see what Silverstring is doing here - indeed, telling a surreal story about a franchise that doesn't exist is at the very least interesting. I think people who like experimental games should take a few minutes to try Viral Dusty Dead Identity Quiz, and keep an eye out for the rest of The Book of the Dead.