EDDA by madameberry

Itch.io Spotlight: Try Your Hand at Ancient Nordic Slam Poetry in EDDA by Diane Mueller

“While it may be limiting in construction, EDDA is asking us to write poetry. I can count on one hand the number of games that ask that and still have fingers left over”

The mind is an interesting thing. Give it two random things and it will imagine, at will, various connections between them. It is the guiding principle behind all human art. Of course, nothing touched by human hand in the act of creation can truly be random. There is always the unconscious mind, the life influences and experiences leading the hand. In this case, a procedurally generated game creates some interesting opportunities to stretch the mind’s connection creating capabilities.

EDDA by madameberry1

EDDA is Viking Hall poetry slam simulator. Your character stands in a hall on one side of a long table and on the other stands your opponent preparing for their stanza slugfest. Your opponent will give off four randomly generated lines. Well, they aren’t completely random. Like your own lines that you give in response, they are produced from a set of phrases. Each phrase in turn has a word that itself is chosen at random from a secondary list. In your variation, you will choose from one of two lists of words to be the word that completes the line. You each give four lines and the beer drinking audience sitting at the long table between the two of you either grumble at your bumble or cheer at your cavalier. Win enough of these back and forths and the other poet submits to your greatness. Then the next one approaches.

Edda Norse Poetry

The goal is that you have to fight style with style. Each of the poets that come to challenge you in the violence of verse each has their own style — wise, humorous, sensitive or ancient — and you must match in kind. That’s the idea anyway. I’m not sure how the game actually evaluates this. Human have trouble parsing the meaning behind poetry, I’m not sure how a computer is supposed to do it. Once I got a hang of what I was actually supposed to do, I went on a long winning streak. Then I decided I wanted to lose to see how many poets I had bested. I think I spent a longer time trying to lose and failing than I did trying to win and succeeding.

Edda Norse Poetry

I don’t know how the game evaluates certain word choices. Maybe the AI is more inclined to grant me victory if I’m on a winning streak despite the quality of my present work (much like in real life). Yet, there goes that imaginative mind. Still when picking random words from a list to go into random phrases, my mind still drew connections and pulled meaning from the creations. Then the beer drinkers would huzzah and I would deflate having failed at failing. The invisible hand of the unconscious reveling the learned patterns of discovered meaning.

While it may be limiting in construction, EDDA is asking us to write poetry. I can count on one hand the number of games that ask that and still have fingers left over. Yet, it was in the effort of trying to fail that I fully appreciated what the game was asking of me. While it’s framed as a battle of bards, the important part is having the players’ mind activate in regards to its abstract pattern creating qualities. Even in the most nonsensical of word and line combinations, with the cheering table behind me, I immediately went to read what I had pulled out to see what I had said and invariably something behind the words emerged.

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Eric Swain

A graduate of Boston University, majoring in English and Creative Writing and has spent significant time studying story structure and theory in the mediums of books, film and video games. His articles offer unique perspective on deep game development and design through his eclectic prose. you can find his critical analysis on www.thegamecritique.com.