Sunday, 6 September 2009

You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike

The Great Maze at Blake End is an annual event - a labyrinth grown in a 10-acre maizefield, one of the many maize mazes that springs up around the UK at this time of year. Exploring it brought back a lot of memories, such as playing text adventures on a BBC Micro as a child. Mazes were a common element of Sphinx Adventure, Philosopher's Quest and similar games: usually the various parts of the maze were joined non-logically (if you go north from point A and reach point B, going south won't necessarily bring you back to A) so you either had to come up with a way to map the locations or some other out-of-the-box solution.
I later graduated to PC games such as the original Colossal Cave or Zork. The genre has continued to grow and develop and there are scores of indie games on the net. However while mazes are still found in more recent interactive fiction, they often take fourth place to characters, atmospheric settings and other kinds of puzzles.
Running through maizefields is almost a cinematic subgenre of it's own - Children of the Corn and the more recent Signs being obvious examples.

I was also reminded of two of my favourite cinematic mazes, Labyrinth and Cube. Both films are structured around the maze, with it's hazards and puzzles - they're basically non-linear road movies. The Cube is a little more deadly but sadly lacks a Bowie soundtrack or any Jim Henson inhabitants. Being a good logician would help you survive the Cube but might actually endanger you in the Labyrinth which is all about subverting your assumptions and preconceptions.


pickle said...

Thinking of a cinematic element as a inspiration for a sub genre is an interesting idea. And I have to agree about labyrinth, One of my favorite movies as a kid. It definitely cemented bowie as the starchild.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

After posting this I went back to the IMDb and wikipedia pages for Labyrinth and re-lived all the quotes.

Worm: No! Don't go that way! Never go that way!
Sarah: Oh... thank you!
(Sarah goes in opposite direction):
Worm: If she had kept going down that way, she would've gone straight to that castle!