This post establishes the first vector added to our document, a simple — and perhaps isolated — group of nodes comprising a textual field for “Orpheus and Eurydice.” On the one hand, we have an ancient version of the story, in this case the one collected and published by Ovid right around the first decade of the Common Era. (Certainly, the story is older than that, but this is just the earliest record of it that I could think of.) And on the other hand, we have a contemporary Flash videogame by Terry Cavanagh, “Don’t Look Back,” that seems to be about the same story. There are significant differences, of course, but it occurs to me that both of these versions have something in common in that they each are situated on the cusp of a broader medial transition. Ovid’s contribution is to take a story from an oral tradition and insert it into a print tradition. Cavanagh, on the other hand, takes the story from both oral and print and transfers is into the new, electronic medium of videogames.
It’s interesting as well how “Don’t look back” is constrained by its medium, and it’s clear that Cavanagh is doing some of this intentionally. At a minimum, the low-resolution, “pixelated” imagery of the game suggests a generic association with games for older consoles (many of which were, like “Don’t Look Back”, surprisingly difficult), but it also strikes an interesting balance. The figure we play as must have enough detail that we can tell which way his head is facing. The gameplay and level design also create some interesting puzzles that work with and against the eponymous prohibition on “looking back.” I wonder, since “looking back” can also simply mean to recall or remember, I wonder if the title here could be figurative in some other way?