001. Caleb's Favorite Posts 002. Final Projects 800. Thesis

Thesis Project – North Central Positronics

North Central Positroinics (NCP) is a sprawling online text-adventure game. Link not working? This may be why.

This game is set an post-apocalyptic world dominated by an authoritarian collective called North Central Positronics.

What is it?

NCP is a free online text adventure / choose your own adventure style game with a modern twist.

link to full video

So what’s the modern twist?

NCP is unique because it is a player-owned game. While an overbearing collective demands the player follow certain instructions, the game allows players to break away from protocol and…

Here’s a two minute summary of how that works:

link to full video

What does the game universe look like?

The universe is ever-changing and rhizomatic. The best way to see what it’s like now is to play the game yourself here.

Since releasing the game about two months ago, many people have played and added to it:

…and while it’s more fun to play the game yourself, here are some examples of what that new content looks like:

UPDATE (October 2019): THE BOTS FOUND US! 😱

Welp! It happened! While it’s not dicks or swastikas, it is bot-driven link building. NCP has become a hub for world’s most random content in a sad effort to increase the page rank of certain content.

Sample random content:

SMH! Stupid internet bots! 😡

I contacted an expert at Authority Hacker about this, here’s what he had to say:

It looks as if someone may have scraped and possibly spun content from several sites, including ours...

Tbh, I'm not quite sure what the person doing this is trying to achieve. I suspect some kind of software has picked up the fact your site can be edited to include links. There are tools out there than are constantly looking for such sites. The world of SEO is a bit murky sometimes and, unfortunately, some people choose to find vulnerabilities for link building. Can you turn off the ability for outside parties to create external links from your site? I feel like that would probably stop most of it.

Vbulletin forums used to have this issue a long time ago. They implemented a policy where new users couldn't post links until they had a certain number of posts/been a member for a certain length of time. Such tactics might be worth exploring.

While this sucks for the long-term prospects of the project, the game actually still works fine.

If you are experiencing issues accessing the site, it is likely because bots have already surpassed the hourly service quota of the site’s database. Sorry about that – but hey, it’s thats showbiz, baby! (right?!)

If this ends up choking my database too often or creating large hosting costs, I’ll have no choice but to shut it down…but for now, the project will remain up & running! Make your own adventure while you still can!

UPDATE (January 2020): THE BOTS WIN 😞

Double-welp! On Christmas day 2019 I received some bad news from the DB provider:

The unrelenting bots have managed to fill up my entire database, making the site inaccessible.

Actual screenshot from my clearDB dashboard.

Unfortunately I can’t continue to pay hosting costs for a growing army of robots. I will be taking down NCP today – January 3rd, 2020!

So long and thanks for all the fish! I hope someday I’ll be rich enough to open this back up again.

Why did you make this?

Prior to ITP I was member of one of the largest results-based cultures in the world – the financial institution system.

My overall experience and practice within “the machine” (and with machines) gave me the opportunity to examine and re-examine both the benefits and drawbacks of the mindset.

link to full video

I find the benefits of such a mindset are already well-represented – justifying their existence like an anti-rational meme – but the drawbacks are often ignored. With this project I hope to create one more “thing” helps expose them to others.

How does it work?

This project is secretly a wiki, just like Wikipedia! You can read more technical details here or check out the GitHub repo here.

Additional Context & Inspiration

While my personal history was a direct influence on the project, North Central Positronics is also created as commentary on technology’s role in the concentration of power and authority.

Modern technologies like cloud computing, media streaming, blockchain, and the internet itself promised decentralization and democratization; but have also created mega-tech giants, overnight millionaires, and crises about surveillance and personal data.

Alexander Galloway details this era of containment and control in Protocol: How control exists after decentralizationIt is an era of fidelity, pattern and algorithms where information is a life-force and randomness is the enemy.

Companies in this era grapple for complete control of our wallets and eyeballs by creating behavioral funnels that provide the ‘illusion of choice’ in the content we see and the actions we take.

Netflix’s interactive Bandersnatch is a paragon of this illusion. While viewers feel they’re making personalized choices, they are really operating within a gated, highly monitored world designed to retain their attention.

North Central Positronics attempts to go a step beyond the gated worlds of choose-your-own-adventure games and rigid text adventure games like Zork and of Homestar Runner.

File:Origin of ye flask.PNG

The project is also influenced by The Stanley Parable, which pokes fun at the illusion of choice in games and in life; and Dungeons & Dragons, which encourages creativity and spontaneity in lieu of optimal path-finding.

the first ‘choice’ presented in The Stanley Parable

The game’s content is inspired by works of sci-fi including The Matrix and Animatrix series, The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, and the CW’s The 100 series; which call these themes into question by transporting the viewer to a world just far enough from our own.

Adventure game critiques by designers including Ron Gilbert, Henry Jenkins, James Hay and Nick Couldry inspired the design of the game overall.

Tell me more!

Crazy that you’re still reading this! Thank you. You can read more about the project creation process and game analysis here.

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