Abstract This essay examines the adaptation of Victorian literary works into neo-Victorian hidden object games, in order to demonstrate how characteristics such as interaction, immersion, and the simulation of sensory perception inform neo-Victorianism’s return to and engagement with the past. Emerging, by means of their medium-specific attributes, as examples of participatory culture, neo-Victorian hidden object games problematize traditional notions about the clear-cut roles of producers and consumers, highlighting neo-Victorianism’s involvement in the process of adaptation, and complicating the genre’s understanding of the dynamic between past and present; though making a case both for the present’s capability as opposed to the past’s helplessness, and for the present’s procedural role in manifesting the past’s authority, the complex structures of interaction between the Victorian gameworld and the twenty-first-century player ultimately establish the relationship between past and present as one of collaboration. hidden object games, neo-Victorianism, participatory culture, interaction, immersion, sensory perception Examining the approach that neo-Victorian fiction adopts towards the past, and thus comprehensively defining the genre, Ann Heilmann and Mark Llewellyn remark that the neo-Victorian is ‘self-consciously engaged with the act of (re)interpretation, (re)discovery, and (re)vision concerning the Victorians’ (4 original emphasis). By definition then, neo-Victorian fiction qualifies as an instance of adaptation of the Victorian era and/or its literature; even in the absence of ‘a single Urtext,’ neo-Victorian fictions ‘remain compatible with contemporary definitions of adaptation and appropriation’ (Whelehan 272). Within this framework, this essay examines hidden object games that rework Victorian literary works, seeking to explore the ramifications that the games’ interactive environment has for neo-Victorianism’s understanding of the dynamic between past and present. In principle, neo-Victorian texts return to the past with a view to ‘rectify certain historical wrongs, to fight against specific prejudice and to subvert ideological and aesthetic commonplaces’ (Gutleben 7). Exemplifying this return in the interaction between their Victorian gameworld and the twenty-first-century player, however, neo-Victorian hidden object games propose a codependent and cooperative relationship between past and present; namely between the historical nineteenth century and our contemporary reality. Indeed, to account for neo-Victorianism’s current popularity and relevance, critics often remark that the genre utilizes its reworking of the nineteenth century in order to examine, often adopting a self-critical attitude, the contemporary present as well (Carroll 180, Rousselot 108).1 Yet, if neo-Victorianism generally precludes a hierarchical connection between past and present, refusing to exonerate or exclude the present from the deficiencies of the past, how exactly does interaction in neo-Victorian hidden object games inform the genre? Examining how, by means of their medium-specific characteristics, neo-Victorian hidden object games perceive the Victorian era and allow players to experience it, this essay attempts to illustrate the logistics of neo-Victorianism’s engagement with the past. To begin with, in order to argue that hidden object games such as Christmas Stories: A Christmas Carol (2013) and Dracula: Love Kills (2011) constitute neo-Victorian adaptations, it is important to acknowledge that games are indeed capable of telling stories, but ‘are unlikely to tell them in the same way that other media’ do (Jenkins 120). This idea anticipates the implication of hidden object games in “the ludology versus narrativism (or narratology) controversy” (Ryan 181), pointing to the fact that—in their neo-Victorian manifestations—hidden object games borrow elements from both ends of the debate, and hence demonstrate how they transform their Victorian bases. Ludologists object to the narrative value of games, arguing that the interactive consumption of games entails participation in events as they are actually happening, unlike recounting them ‘after they have happened’ as in traditional narratives (Tosca original emphasis). Christmas Stories: A Christmas Carol and Dracula: Love Kills verify this point, as the events that take place within the gameworld and the very act of playing the game unfold concurrently. Conversely, in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843) the narration of the novel’s main events commences with the phrase ‘Once upon a time’ which situates the story in the past and distances its time of narration from its narrative time (Dickens 13); similarly, Bram Stoker’s epistolary novel, Dracula (1897), narrates its story in retrospect, recounting namely occurrences after they have taken place and can, therefore, be recorded in the characters’ letters and/or journals. In this sense, although the novels’ narrative mode shifts the story further back in the past, implying that the events precede the act of reading, the games’ merging of narrative and narration attributes the communication of events not to a narrator’s and/or character’s recollection, but to the player’s exploration of the gameworld. Characterizing the games’ consumption, this temporal merging brings the Victorian era closer to the contemporary present, constituting an act of approximation rather than of alienation. Though seemingly favouring the argument for the incompatibility between games and narratives, this approximation is paradoxically enhanced precisely because hidden object games in general, and neo-Victorian ones in particular, include storytelling elements. Tosca notes that when games incorporate such elements they do so by employing ‘[t]he quest or mission format’ which ensures that ‘the gameplay is entwined with a story that has the player as protagonist’, and hence achieves the ‘contextualization of the game’s actions in a more or less meaningful story.’ Christmas Stories: A Christmas Carol, for instance, opens with Scrooge’s letter to his nephew—the character whose role is assumed by the player—in which he asks for the latter’s visit on Christmas day; Scrooge’s unprecedented request expresses his recent restlessness concerning his fear of old age and death which urges him to ask for help. Similarly, in Dracula: Love Kills the player plays as the Count himself, who awakes from unconsciousness only to discover that the Queen of Vampires threatens to usurp his supremacy, presenting him with the mission to reinstate himself as the single ruler of darkness.2 These introductions provide a framework within which the games revisit their Victorian sources, transforming Scrooge’s rejection of his nephew’s invitation to Christmas dinner at the beginning of Dickens’s novel into a plea for help, and the threat that other characters experience because of Dracula in Stoker’s novel into a threat imposed on the Count himself. Orienting, however, their stories towards ‘a concrete and attainable goal’, the games encourage players to focus on the new approach and experience they offer, rather than engage in counterproductive comparisons; presenting clear objectives, the games indicate the rationale behind the players’ actions, and justify why players are asked to perform a series of interconnected tasks to complete the quest (Aarseth 497 original emphasis). When roles and objectives are assigned, players acquire a nineteenth-century standpoint, and find a place within the gameworld. Their familiarization with the first scene of the games’ Victorian setting initiates the players’ ‘immersion’ within the gameworld, namely ‘[t]he experience of being transported to an elaborately simulated place’ (Murray 98). Opening outside Scrooge’s house and in Dracula’s Transylvanian castle respectively, Christmas Stories: A Christmas Carol and Dracula: Love Kills confirm their immersive potential precisely because they present spaces that are relatable to the players’ in-game Victorian identities, and hence become ‘the setting for a potential narrative action’ (Ryan 14–15). Central to this process of plot weaving is of course the players’ agency which defines their engagement with the ‘participatory environment’ of the game, and is manifested in the ‘tangible results’ that their actions bring about in the gameworld (Murray 112, 126). Expanding this idea, Ryan pointedly summarizes the properties of the players’ involvement with the game: hidden object games exhibit what she calls ‘internal-ontological interactivity’ since players become characters within the game, are entrusted with the fulfilment of the quest, and are hence responsible for ‘the fate of the virtual world’; constituted by the player/character’s actions, the games’ narrative is, therefore, ‘created dramatically, by being enacted, rather than diegetically, by being narrated’ (2006: 116, 117). Achieved by means of the different tasks that need completion, this enactment of plot developments enhances the players’ immersion, as their actions manifest their presence within the gameworld, and encourage them to ‘do more’ (Murray 110). In this respect, hidden object games—as computer games in general—effect a ‘reconciliation of interactivity and immersion’ which is impossible in literature because to interact with a reader a text must be self-conscious, and thus disrupt the reader’s immersion within the fictional world (Ryan 307, 284). Effected by means of the games’ clear-cut and feasible objectives, immersion and interactivity lead players to ‘a state of flow,’ of absolute concentration and intense engagement with the gameworld and its tasks; players lose track of time focusing on the experience of the game, which sustains these ‘heightened levels of engagement’ by offering ‘clear and timely feedback on performance and goal accomplishment’ (Baron), as players are actually able to see if, and how, their actions impact on the gameworld. Players perceive, thus, the game and its tasks as worthy of their attention, while this focused participation reveals how hidden object games actually tell their stories, and, in this case, how they (re)introduce the Victorian era to a twenty-first-century audience. In fact, as Ryan remarks, ‘[w]hereas merely immersive art [such as literature or film] is a representation of a fictional world, the reconciliation of immersion and interactivity will propose a genuine simulation’ (2001: 286 original emphasis). The juxtaposition between representation and simulation constitutes another facet in the argument against games as narrative on the ground that ‘unlike novels and movies, [games] are different every time they are played’, and hence, while a representation ‘presents only one image […], a simulation will model multiple instantiations of the same process’ (2006: 187–188). This applies to interactive fiction’s ‘dendritic or tree-shaped’ structure which gives players different options and enables various outcomes (Niesz and Holland 120). The quest structure of hidden object games defies, however, this idea of simulation, because it precludes variations between the first and every subsequent time the game is played, and even more so in neo-Victorian adaptations which resemble, in this respect, their Victorian predecessors; hidden object games always tell the same story, and always present their players with the same mission, shifting thus attention to the idea of simulation as it applies to the reconstitution, and, more importantly, to the experience of the game’s Victorian setting. The immersive environment of hidden object games reconfigures the Victorian era, namely past historical time, as a ‘different type of world, between fiction and our world: the virtual’ (Aarseth 39). The exploration of the games’ virtual Victorian world envelops the past in an aura of familiarity, allowing it to be approached in the same way as the lived present: namely, by means of sensory perception, either direct or simulated. Hidden object games visualize the past, presenting a concrete spatial setting, such as the different rooms in and locations around Scrooge’s house in Christmas Stories: A Christmas Carol, or the cities to which Dracula travels in Dracula: Love Kills, which ‘immerses [players] physically and kinesthetically’ (Hutcheon 22), as they move from place to place. Each of these places is then closely observed, with visual perception leading to players simulating haptic exploration, with touch being actually the moving force behind interaction. To successfully complete the game, players essentially need to look for, touch, and thus collect the objects they need, putting their findings on display in the inventory at the bottom of the screen. Being responsive to intervention, the Victorian gameworld effects a screen-mediated ‘expansion of [the players’] physical and sensory powers’ which allows them to ‘apprehend immaterial objects through many senses,’ rather than having to imaginatively simulate sensory input as they do in literature (Ryan 1, 11). Apart from adapting Victorian literature then, neo-Victorian hidden object games also appropriate their Victorian subject matter, rendering it tangible, and hence physically comprehensible, for the present.3 In this way, hidden object games provide the present with an entry point into the past, but they do not only expand neo-Victorianism’s understanding of the past beyond imagination and the ‘direct perception’ effected by the audio-visual experience of film (Hutcheon 23); they also reconfigure the balance between past and present, suggesting how interaction informs the present’s perception of the past. At this point, it is important to note how interaction situates neo-Victorian hidden object games within the practices of neo-Victorianism. The players’ engagement with the gameworld suggests that they interact with the game’s ‘producers,’ but do so on equal terms, namely as ‘participants’ in, rather than mere ‘consumers’ of, the game, which is thus revealed as an instance of ‘participatory culture’ (Jenkins 3). The games exemplify actually the affiliation of neo-Victorianism to participatory culture, which is strongly implied in the genre’s investment in the processes of adaptation and appropriation. In fact, the reader of a neo-Victorian text necessarily participates in its production, precisely because the process of consumption in a genre fittingly named to indicate the junction between past and present ‘involves a re-reading and potential re-interpretation” of ‘[t]he intertextual resonances, perceived within and between texts’ (Bowler and Cox 4). This mode of appreciation points, in turn, to the inter-temporal concerns that consumers—be they readers, spectators, or players—of neo-Victorian texts trace, transforming their engagement with the text into an interactive, and hence productive, experience: into a hunt, in other words, for “the parallels but also the significant differences between the rendition of the nineteenth century achieved in the [texts] and their current context’ that involves the decoding of ‘a whole set of codes and clues into the process’ (Sanders 128). For hidden object games as neo-Victorian adaptations and/or appropriations, this deciphering entails the mapping of interaction onto the (re)production and (re)imagining of Victorian literary works. The act of playing becomes then a self-reflexive comment on how neo-Victorian hidden object games approach and reintroduce the past, as the interdependent tasks that players are asked to complete become an exercise in ‘the possibility of knowing the past, but also [in] the responsibility that the present owns to the past (Hadley 59), both of which are of paramount importance in the neo-Victorian agenda. Turning now to the power dynamic between past and present, it is important to examine, first of all, how the players’ engagement with the Victorian gameworld is initiated. Like interactive fiction, ‘which explicitly [calls] upon the reader […] to take an active role in the story’ (Niesz and Holland 111 original emphasis), hidden object games introduce their story as an imperative call for help; exposing, respectively, Scrooge’s and Dracula’s predicament, for example, Christmas Stories: A Christmas Carol and Dracula: Love Kills foreground the urgency of the situation, making players responsible for its resolution. Exercising their senses to perceive the gameworld, and moving within it, players manifest their agency (Murray 129), which aims at the pursuit of tasks and the collection of objects/tools to complete them; subsequently, players connect tools to their tasks, and thus decipher the order in which they must perform different actions. Players gain access to various locations in the gameworld in exchange for their problem- and puzzle-solving skills, or their attentiveness and observation. For example, to open a door, and thus unlock a new scene in the Victorian setting, players may have to look for the key elsewhere; keys may also be obtained as rewards for the completion of a hidden object scene, namely a scene that focuses on a specific aspect of a given location, such as a drawer, or cupboard, which is overcrowded with heterogeneous objects, and requires the retrieval of several items, some of which are then added to the player’s inventory. Locks may also feature complex mechanisms, usually broken or incomplete, for which the player must assemble the missing parts, restore their function, and thus gain access to the puzzle whose completion opens the door. Other tasks usually involve the repair of artefacts, the opening of sealed compartments, the restoration of torn documents, and the retrieval of stolen personal belongings, all of which involve the collection and utilization of hidden objects. If in neo-Victorian hidden object games the interaction between the Victorian gameworld and the twenty-first-century player reflects the interrelation between past and present, then the preceding discussion of the games’ features implies the subjection of the past to the present. The starting point of this interaction, namely the visual perception of the Victorian setting, situates the logistics of gameplay within assumptions about the power dynamic of the gaze. According to the power structures that underlie the act of looking, ‘[p]ower lies in the all-seeing eye, so that such a constitution of the visual implies a hierarchical dichotomy between the dominant [eye] and the subservient […] object observed’ (Rodaway 123). As observation is a prerequisite for task completion and, hence, for the progression of the game, players cast an energetic gaze on the Victorian gameworld from their present-day standpoint; this idea contradicts the fact that players assume the identity of a Victorian character when playing the game, and causes a rupture to their immersion, precisely because it is caused by the perception of the difference between the game’s ‘old-fashioned’ setting and the reality players experience in their everyday life (Rosenstone 53). Nevertheless, as the significance of the player for the game remains intact, another dimension is added to interaction which views the relation between past and present through the conflicting associations traditionally attributed to space and time. Ηidden object games indicate how the player’s actions, manifested in the removal of an object or the completion of a task, prompt changes and alter the gameworld which is unchanging of its own accord, yet responsive to external intervention. The distinction between the active player and the passive gameworld echoes the distinction between time and space, between meaningful progression and powerless stagnation: the physical properties of the disorganized setting of hidden object games expand this contrast to the assumption that space, the disempowered Victorian past in this case, represents ‘chaos’; this contests, of course, stasis, but strongly juxtaposes, and ultimately also requires the imposition of ‘Order’, as it is entailed in the notion of time (Massey 258), and represented by the player’s, the present’s, confident grip on the gameworld. Put this way, cluttered with misplaced and/or broken items, the setting of neo-Victorian hidden object games reflects the unfavourable circumstances that call players into the gameworld. The threat that Dracula is facing, for example, materializes in his ransacked castle at the beginning of Dracula: Love Kills, while the missing door handle that blocks access to Scrooge’s house at the beginning of Christmas Stories: A Christmas Carol similarly suggests the seriousness and difficulty of the situation. In neo-Victorian hidden object games the dysfunctional settings and tasks of a mainly reparative nature suggest, then, that the past is confused, disarrayed, and helpless. Manifested in the player’s skills, on the other hand, the present emerges as calm, sober, and capable of restoring order. The collection of objects, in particular, underlines this power dynamic, as it further illustrates the importance of sensory perception, and infuses new meaning to the assumption that in visual media such as film seeing is ‘a consumer activity’ and hence passive (Rodaway 161). Looking at the setting, players are indeed able to consume it, but, as interaction allows them to modify it as well, consumption is informed with the notion of exhaustion, rather than with passivity: players look for what they need, locate it, touch it, dislodge it from its surroundings, and transfer it to their inventory to literally consume it when they will use it for a specific purpose. Even instances of ambiguity which can hinder or delay the successful completion of a hidden object scene confirm the player’s dominance over the gameworld. Hidden object scenes require that players retrieve several objects by matching verbal representations to visual ones. This is a task that involves confusion and highlights the importance of contextualization; for example, players may assume that the word ‘king’ denotes a crowned figurine, and orient their search accordingly, while in fact they should be looking for a chess piece, or playing card. Disambiguation, namely the accurate interpretation of each word within the context of a given scene, ultimately manifests player aptitude as it leads to players gaining control over the scene and solving its riddle. Consequently, as hidden object scenes and gradually also all other interactive features of the setting become impervious to player intervention once the task they assign is completed, it can be argued that players do indeed succeed in restoring order to the disorganized and chaotic past.4 Moreover, making disambiguation a prerequisite for success, neo-Victorian hidden object games expose the mechanism of adaptation, as well as the players’ participation in it. Hidden object scenes point players to a specific visual representation, excluding any other possibility they might have thought of, however pertinent it may seem. Similarly, being the end products of adaptation, namely of “an interpretation or re-reading of a canonical precursor” (Sanders 2), neo-Victorian hidden object games constitute very specific, yet not exhaustive, materializations of the reworking of their Victorian counterparts; the games prove actually that ‘the same “story” could give rise to many different narratives [or adaptations], each of which would accentuate, exclude or emphasize different things’ (Carr ‘Games and Narrative’). In this sense then, disambiguation highlights both the medium- and genre-specific characteristics of neo-Victorian hidden object games, as it, respectively, accentuates the significance of the player, and subsequently illustrates the relationship between past and present, while also revealing how the games interpret their Victorian sources. Christmas Stories: A Christmas Carol lucidly exhibits both functions of disambiguation. The game explores the conflict between past and present in its storyline, juxtaposing Scrooge to his nephew (the player), who belongs to a younger generation. Scrooge is the game’s focal point and present, though non-interactive, in the gameworld, with his posture manifesting his incapacitation and resignation: he is sleeping in his armchair in the game’s first chapter, and about to fall over in the third. This helplessness is countered by the players, whose involvement in the game is grounded on their (the nephew’s) ability to help, and who explore the gameworld as agents. Moreover, except for his introductory letter, Scrooge’s predicament is not communicated by him, but by the three spirits who speak on his behalf. In contrast to Dickens’s novel where Scrooge is the active recipient of the ghosts’ message, directly perceiving what they show him, in the game this role is transferred to the player, whose role contrasts that of the novel’s unacknowledged reader. This reversal also expands to the fact that in the game the misanthropic Scrooge consciously asks for help, but does not participate in his own transformation, whereas in the novel the turn is initiated by the unrequested visit of the spirits, yet experienced by Scrooge himself, and, therefore, appreciated both for offering Scrooge an enlightening retrospection, and for its actual result. Interacting with the spirits, who assume the role of the narrator in the game, players become conscientious agents because they assume responsibility for Scrooge’s actions, and are asked to reverse them; starting from Scrooge’s marriage proposal to Belle and the prospect of a happy family life, moving on to Scrooge helping Tiny Tim, and closing with the attempt to postpone Scrooge’s imminent death, as foreshadowed by the third spirit, which will allow Scrooge to enjoy his newly assured happiness. Throughout the game, players encounter Scrooge’s split conscience, schematically depicted as the angelic ‘good Scrooge’, a helper, and the mischievous ‘evil Scrooge’, the main adversary, who maintains that it is impossible to change the past, and hence tries to obstruct any attempt in this direction. The successful completion of the game confirms, of course, the malleability of the past, echoing the tagline that advertises the game on Big Fish’s, the distributor’s, website: ‘Everyone deserves a second chance—even the stingiest of them all’. In other words, though the novel revisits, but does not alter, Scrooge’s past, the game departs from its source, and entrusts the player with the task of rewriting Scrooge’s story, revealing, thus, that neo-Victorianism interferes with the past in order to reconfigure the present. Furthermore, this example shows how neo-Victorian hidden object games question the terms on which the present can retrospectively engage in the retrieval of the past. As in interactive fiction it is impossible to know the outcome of the story without the reader (Niesz and Holland 120), in hidden object games the past unfolds because a third-party, the present-day player, is willing to reinstate harmony in the gameworld. Familiarizing themselves with the gameworld by means of various objects, players negate, nevertheless, the assumption that the Victorian era ‘is equated […] with superficial detail […] that produces the past in terms of its objects’ (Mitchell 3). The way that players are required to handle these objects entails the idea of interpretation, paralleling neo-Victorianism to detective fiction’s investment in ‘gathering […] evidence and […] searching for the new (and hopefully correct) interpretation of that material’ (Heilmann and Llewellyn 16). The significance of interpretation and the games’ narrative specificity emphasize actually neo-Victorianism’s conviction ‘that history is constructed rather than simply told’ makes the genre’s return to the past possible in the first place, and consequently also invites ‘our engagement with and participation in the process’ (Mitchell 33). Neo-Victorian hidden object games reveal, thus, how the adaptation of a Victorian source into a game is necessarily marked by the limitations that make a given game what it is. In fact, as instances of participatory culture, the games involve players in their construction, yet closely monitor their freedom. Though empowering for the player, the quest, which structurally manifests the process of interpretation, essentially emerges as ‘a set of specific instructions for action’; these are comprised by the game designer who imposes ‘a set of parameters in the gameworld’ (Tosca), and thus gains ‘control of the players’ agenda, forcing them to perform certain actions that might otherwise not have been chosen’ (Aarseth 504). Interestingly, this authority becomes obvious in instances that disrupt the player’s immersion within the gameworld. For instance, ‘[i]f players come to a puzzle, figure out a perfectly reasonable solution to it, and that solution does not work, players will again be reminded that they are “only” playing a game’ (Rouse 13). Although hidden object games provide explicit instructions for solving puzzles, this observation applies to the association between tasks and tools, which precludes interchangeability. Instead, it encourages ‘a MacGuyver-esque logic’ which both enhances and limits the player’s inventiveness; players are actually urged to ‘[use] things in other than their originally intended purpose’, but are, surprisingly, restricted to ‘specific solutions’ namely the ones encoded in and hence permitted by the game (Chess). Immersion is further disturbed by the intersection of ‘out-of-the-game, non-interactive cut-scenes’, which ‘help convey the story line to the player’ (Rouse 207, 553), but compromise the game’s participatory environment. This becomes particularly evident when such scenes feature the character supposedly incarnated by the player, because they remind players that despite performing actions ‘in a narrative guise’, they receive instructions in their capacity as players (Carr ‘Games and Narrative’). Still, instead of compromising identification, this process of immersion and deimmersion allows players to ‘fulfill, and fully appreciate [their] dual role as members of the [gameworld] and players of the […] game’ (Ryan 199). This is actually the case in Dracula: Love Kills, where the Count frequently talks to other characters in such cut-scenes that summarize plot developments, and determine the objectives that players need to pursue once their participation in the gameworld resumes. On the one hand, this break of immersion opposes the game’s interactive features, as, for example, the decision-making instance where the player/Count is asked whether to bite and turn the Queen’s deputies into vampires, and warned that, either way, there will be repercussions. These will inevitably impact on the progression of the game, since blood allows players to exercise special skills which are necessary for the recovery of certain items. Acknowledging the player’s decision by delaying or facilitating progress, the game implies that the players’ control over the decision is rather illusory; though not stated as such, there is a right choice to make if players wish to proceed. Yet, on the other hand, Dracula’s appearance on screen grants him a voice in the game, asserting his agency and active pursuit of his goal. These features are of course shared with the players, and contextualized within the Count’s motivation. In contrast to Stoker’s novel, then, where the reader’s perception of Dracula is exclusively formed by the other characters’ accounts of the malevolent Count, Dracula: Love Kills renders Dracula an autonomous character, involves players in his incentives, and thus safeguards their involvement in the game; even when Dracula becomes the narrator and comments on the game’s progression the cooperation between the player and the gameworld is enhanced, because storytelling in the game emerges as a collective act, shared between the character’s words and the player’s performance. The limits of game design reconfigure the balance between past and present, suggesting that the latter is a mere helper, an executioner of the past’s commands. Inviting players to the gameworld, and gradually revealing the solution to the problem, the game regulates interaction providing specific instructions as to how players must act; areas of interest are marked by sparkles, there is a hint feature to indicate the next step, and the map documenting the available locations indicates which have been completed and which still need attention. Increasing difficulty, the game’s hard mode eliminates some of these features, and temporarily enhances the illusion of the all-controlling player; the result is ultimately the same, since game design precludes player-initiated alternatives. Still, this predetermined structure of interaction is ultimately beneficial for the players’ pleasurable engagement with the game, because the contemporaneous availability of many different options may lead to confusion (Carson). Though unable to resolve the matter on its own, the past emerges, thus, as knowing, namely as able to acknowledge the problem, and devise a course of action to solve it. Combined with the games’ narratives of calamity and despair, this assumption turns player performance into ‘emotional labor’, aiming ‘to induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others’ (Hochschild 7), and eventually resulting in ‘fixing problems of those who cannot help themselves’ (Chess). Chess views emotional labour as the definining quality of a player’s involvement in a hidden object game, noting, however, that the lack of an avatar and the player’s post hoc arrival in the problematic gameworld render such labour futile; they intensify the players’ invisibility, and hence preclude appreciation, making the player the ‘most hidden thing’ in the game. The counterargument maintains that ‘traditional’, namely non-interactive, fictions leave the ‘appreciator unacknowledged’, except for an ‘anomalous situation’, the ‘breaking of the fourth wall’ which attests to the existence of readers or spectators, but still deters interaction (Tavinor 57 original emphasis). In contrast, interactive fictions like videogames, where the player’s work is constitutive of the narrative, view such self-conscious instances as the gameworld’s acknowledgement of the player’s contribution. One such case in point is Christmas Stories: A Christmas Carol where the spirits address players directly to verify the successful completion of their objectives. Winning the game, then, manifests the efficacy of the players’ emotional labour which now becomes the connector between the two perspectives on the past/present dynamic examined here: players emerge as indispensable, and capable of restoring the past, but also as able to appreciate the instructions and clues provided by the Victorian gameworld. Thus, exposing the complexity of the interaction between past and present, neo-Victorian hidden object games transform a seemingly hierarchical relationship into a collaborative one. Its defining characteristic, which also expands the games’ participatory character to the neo-Victorian genre in general, is the mutual interest of the player/present and the game/past in putting the other to the test: to reinstate the past’s composure, the present needs to demonstrate its sympathetic devotion to the cause, namely embrace the gameworld’s problems and the characters’ motivation, and thus prove itself worthy of undertaking the task to revisit and/or reinvent the past; to prove the significance and legitimacy of its cause, the past needs, in turn, to welcome change, as manifested in external mediation, and thus prove its amenability. Demonstrating how sensory perception effects interaction, how, namely, the gameworld responds to the player, neo-Victorian hidden object games transform any unsolicited intrusion or intervention into an invitation which, if accepted, qualifies the present to consciously and constructively consume the past. In a sense then, the players’ immersion within the gameworld is both ‘perceptual’, namely achieved by means of the senses, and ‘psychological’, namely in terms of imaginatively or mentally comprehending the reasons for the players’ involvement with the game (Carr ‘Play and Pleasure’). Allowing the present to closely observe and empathetically understand the past, hidden object games reveal, then, the standpoint from which the neo-Victorian can review the past, and, subsequently employ this procedure to reflect on the present as well. REFERENCES Arias Rosario . “ Neo-Sensation Fiction or ‘Appealing to the Nerves’: Sensation and Perception in Neo-Victorian Fiction .”Neo-Victorian Deviance. Ed. Mariaconcetta Costantini and Saverio Tomaiuolo. Spec. issue of RSV-Rivista di Studi Vittoriani 40 (2015): 13 – 30 . Rosario Arias . “ Traces and Vestiges of the Victorian Past in Contemporary Fiction .” Neo-Victorian Literature and Culture: Immersions and Revisitations . Ed. 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Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Footnotes 1 In this respect, neo-Victorianism refuses to ‘[posit] the contemporary subject as superior to the past, as it is allegedly able to address and even to redeem socio-cultural exclusions of the Victorian era” (Boehm-Schnitker and Gruss 4). Rather, as it will become obvious below, the workings of interaction in hidden object games effect a collaborative dialogue between past and present. I also argue this point in an article entitled “Neo-Victorian Visions of the Future: Science, Crime and Moderinity,” where neo-Victorianism’s correlation between past and present emerges by means of shared concerns, such as the association of science and technology to crime and the notion of modernity. 2 Dracula: Love Kills succeeds Dracula: Origin (2008) which largely follows the novel’s plotlines, but employs, “conventional Point & Click gameplay” (Metacritic), rather than the complex interactive structures utilized in the sequel. 3 Although the literary medium cannot directly implicate the reader in the sensory perception of the past, Rosario Arias notes that, investing in ‘sense perceptions’, ‘the neo-sensation novel’, a subgenre of neo-Victorian fiction, ‘evokes the past and mobilizes our own sensory perceptions, thus inviting the contemporary reader to conjure up the past through bodily memory’; this effects ‘a contact zone between the Victorian and the contemporary period’ which is based on ‘interpenetration and interaction’, or even on ‘interdependence and mutual understanding’ (Arias 2015: 18, 30, 17). For further information on the workings of sensory perception in neo-Victorian fiction, see Arias 2014, Colella. 4 Chess notes that the removal of objects demonstrates ‘a cleaning mechanic’, which is potentially problematic for female players because it equates domestic labour with the leisure activity of playing, and ultimately pointless since the scene in hidden object games ‘can never be fully “cleaned”’, as players are allowed to handle only certain items (original emphasis). © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)
Adaptation – Oxford University Press
Published: Aug 1, 2018
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