Paradise has actually been withdrawn from the competition because it turns out it had been publicly released before the comp. I didn’t find out about this until I’d been playing it for a while, though, so I’m writing about it anyway.
Paradise was created by Devine Lu Linvega and is online here. It is unlike any IF I’ve experienced before – a sandbox fiction, like Wikipedia meets Twine, all wrapped up in a dreamlike aesthetic. I found it bewildering and beautiful at first, then enthralling.
I don’t think there’s really such a thing as a spoiler for Paradise, but I’m putting the rest of this behind a cut simply for length.
In Paradise, the player/visitor/explorer/creator navigates nested universes of text. Movement is carried out simply by typing commands such as “enter watchmaker boutique” or “leave”. Each location also has an identification number, which, if known, allows the player to warp straight to that location from anywhere else. You can also use the “become” command to take on an item (referred to as a “vessel”) as your form.
One could spend hours simply exploring the spaces that already exist, climbing up and down branches of the trees. The metaphors of entering and vessels had a powerful effect on me, and I felt like the world was some kind of infinite accordion, folding and unfolding around me. I found many evocatively-written locations and enjoyed simply wandering, just …being there.
However, that’s far from the extent of Paradise. What makes it really different from any other dreamlike hypertext world is that anyone can create more of it. The basics of creation are, well, basic:
create a burrow
enter a burrow
note A narrow passage, twisting through the earth. It smells dark and alive. Tendrils of roots protrude from all sides, hair thin and soft.
paint 75 50 25
create deeper into the earth
…and suddenly, this exists:
This is part of what is fascinating about this place. While there are parts that I’m pretty sure were created by the official author of Paradise, those boundaries are blurry to say the least. Wandering through the world is walking through a shared creative space, with no defining lines where one creator’s creations stop and another’s begin. I love it for the same reason I love playing Minecraft on a shared server… or, for that matter, for the same reason I love walking through a real city or town and thinking about how all the pieces I’m seeing were dreamed up and implemented by different people, without one single overarching controller organizing it all.
I wandered through some of the other tutorial-vessels, too, and read about how to program universes, but I can tell there are things I still don’t understand about how this works. I want to spend more time here. I’m making myself stop, for now, so I can go play and judge other games, but I’m leaving a tab in my browser open so I can drop back by Paradise again.