Computer Gaming and Protocols of Improvisation

Ergodic Texts

The Legend of Zelda

"After all, can a person who has never seen a movie be expected to understand the unique characteristics of that medium? A text such as the I Ching is not meant to be read from beginning to end but entails a very different and highly specialized ritual of perusal, and the text in a multi-user dungeon is without either beginning or end, an endless labyrinthine plateau of textual bliss for the community that builds it....A cybertext is a machine for the production of variety of expression." (Espen Aarseth, Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature:

Espen Aarseth's Cybertext explores the aesthetics and textual dynamics of digital literature in such diverse genres as hypertext fiction, computer games, computer generated poetry and prose, and collaborative internet texts such as MUDs. Aarseth situates these new literary forms within the broader and much older field of "ergodic" literature, from the ancient Chinese I Ching to the literary experiments of the OuLiPo. These are open, dynamic texts where the reader must perform specific actions to generate a sequence, which may vary for every reading. In many respects, ergodic refers to an improvisational text: open-ended guidelines give form to unstructured expression.