A Mind Forever Voyaging
|A Mind Forever Voyaging|
|Publisher(s)||Infocom, Activision (Commodore 128 version)|
Release 77: August 14, 1985Release 79: November 22, 1985
A Mind Forever Voyaging (AMFV) is a 1985 interactive fiction game designed and implemented by Steve Meretzky and published by Infocom. The name is taken from book three of The Prelude by William Wordsworth:
The antechapel where the statue stood
Of Newton with his prism and silent face,Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.
The marble index of a mind for ever
AMFV was not a conventional Infocom adventure, having only a single puzzle near the end of the game. Unlike most other Infocom titles, particularly those written by Steve Meretzky, the game had a serious tone and a political theme, attributes which the company would revisit with the following year's Trinity. The game is among Infocom's most respected titles, although it was not a commercial success. It was also the first of the "Interactive Fiction Plus" line, meaning that AMFV had greater memory requirements, unlike earlier Infocom games that used a less advanced version of the company's Z-machine interpreter. It is Infocom's seventeenth game. The game was explicitly intended as a polemical critique of Ronald Reagan's political policies.
The player controls PRISM, the world's first sentient computer, in the year 2031. The economy of the United States of North America (USNA) is failing. Great numbers of youths are turning to "Joybooths" (a device which directly stimulates the sensory input of the brain) and committing suicide by overstimulation. A new arms race involving nuclear weapons no larger than the size of a common pack of cigarettes threatens to turn the USNA into a police state. Unaware that it is a sophisticated computer, PRISM has been living for 11 years (in real-world time; 20 years have passed within the simulation) as an ordinary human, "Perry Simm." Dr. Abraham Perelman, PRISM's "father", informs Perry of his true nature and gently brings him from simulation mode into reality. Perelman explains that he has awakened PRISM so a vital mission can be performed: running a simulation of a revitalization plan (dubbed the Plan for Renewed National Purpose), sponsored by Senator Richard Ryder. The plan calls for "renewed national purpose" through de-regulation of government and industry, military conscription, a unilateral approach to diplomatic relations, trade protectionism, and a return to traditional and fundamental values. While in simulation mode, Perry is able to record experiences in a buffer which will be analyzed to evaluate the success of the plan. If Perry "dies" in the simulation, it is not catastrophic; the simulation can simply be reset and reentered.
Note: The following description is based on the player making the correct choices and successfully completing the game.
The simulation initially focuses on the fictional small town of Rockvil, South Dakota, 10 years after the plan has been implemented. Given a list of public, civil, and private areas to record for evaluation, Perry enters the simulation to find a revitalized Rockvil in 2041. The government is more efficient, the economy has improved, food is plentiful, and his simulated wife (Jill) and son (Mitchell) are hopeful for the future. When the recordings are brought back and evaluated, the plan is deemed viable and preparations to implement it are begun.
Perelman, however, feels uneasy recommending such a sweeping plan based on relatively little data. He is also distrustful of the plan. (When PRISM asks Perelman about himself, Perelman mentions that politically, he has "always been pretty liberal...." Conservative elements are considered to be the plan's strongest supporters based on statistical sampling, although the plan has the support of a majority of both liberals and conservatives.) In a passing comment to PRISM, Perelman notes that further simulation might allow more in-depth evaluation of the long-term effects of the plan. With nothing further to do, PRISM enters sleep mode; he has no physical body that requires rest, but since his mind is based on that of a human, sleep is necessary for his mental well-being.
After waking, PRISM finds that the Simulation Controller has correlated enough data from the initial test period to provide a further projection of 20 years into the future. With Dr. Perelman occupied with other concerns, PRISM begins the new simulation. By 2051, Rockvil has begun to decline, as the optimism granted by the plan wanes. Pollution has increased as woodlands are stripped and converted into filthy industrial districts, the trees that aren't cut down are damaged by acid rain. The Border Security Force, created to defend the nation against Soviet nuclear terrorism, conducts warrantless raids on people seemingly at random, including Perry's family. Capital punishment has been expanded; two defendants are seen facing the death penalty for attempted rape. Due to rising crime, a government-initiated curfew is now in effect. A new cult, The Church of God's Word, arises and finds many supporters within the increasingly discontented public. Perry quietly records all this and presents it to Perelman for evaluation.
Examining PRISM's recordings, Perelman expresses concern and cautiously suggests further investigation. Once again, the Simulation Controller has gathered enough information to create another new simulation era, this one 30 years after the plan's implementation. Perry enters to find matters even worse. By 2061 water pollution is nearing catastrophic levels. The BSF and local police treat the public savagely. Public executions of criminals are televised and are extremely popular. Vandalism and cruelty to people and animals alike are rampant; children can be seen at the zoo torturing a defenseless animal, and Church of God's Word youths are seen harassing an old Jew. Public services are in disarray. The quality and supply of food dwindles. The Church has grown to gain a stranglehold on the nation, establishing a caste-like system of social classes and seducing Perry's son Mitchell to abandon his family. Once again, Perry discreetly records onerous events.
Perelman is deeply disturbed by the recordings, but is acutely aware of the powerful people behind the plan. Exhaustive evidence will be needed to discredit the plan, so he asks PRISM to enter a simulation set 40 years in the future. By 2071, the future is grim indeed. The Church has installed itself as a new totalitarian government. A Church newsletter reveals that higher-echelon Church members are allowed to own slaves. Mitchell, now an official in the Church, leads a raid on his parents' home and has Jill arrested for heresy. ("She spake against the Church," Mitchell charges, "[and] tried to poison the mind of a child too young to know the Truth.") The zoo now holds regular torture sessions against its starved and neglected animal population, a banner is seen proclaiming this fact. Thuggish security guards assault any unauthorized persons entering the buildings they guard. Strict rationing is in effect for the miserable food available; if Perry attempts to use his ration card twice within one day, he is arrested, and quickly tried and executed. Attempting to enter one of the few food establishments leads to rough dismissal, since patronage is reserved for Church members. The public executions of the past have given way to bloody gladiatorial matches between condemned criminals. Sudden and random death is frequent: Perry is shot by a drunken officer after curfew, and he is stoned to death in a schoolyard by Church youths, who view the sickly, malnourished Perry as little more than an animal. Perry yet again is recording the near-chaos.
These recordings still aren't quite enough to satisfy Perelman. The doctor feels that there might yet be some small hope for revival, and sends PRISM to the final projection of 2081, 50 years after the implementation of the plan promised to save the nation.
There is no salvation. The environment has been devastated. The small area of Rockvil that can be survived is a wasteland, and society has collapsed into complete chaos. Telephone poles have been chopped down for firewood. Buildings collapse into rubble. Defenseless people are ripped to shreds both by packs of wild dogs and barbaric humans. No edible food is available to Perry, who eventually dies of hunger should he survive until then. Perry makes recordings of several brief moments of life cut violently short, and then leaves the hellish projection for good.
At last Perelman feels that enough evidence exists to declare the plan a complete disaster. As he prepares to leave and present PRISM's findings to the government, he thanks the computer for its efforts; without them, the nation, and perhaps even the entire world, would have been doomed. Left once again with nothing else to do, PRISM enters Sleep Mode.
The computer "wakes" again hours later to find that the facility where it is housed is under lockdown by the Dakota-Manitoba National Guard. Senator Ryder sees the discrediting of "his" plan as a personal insult. Incensed, he ignores the evidence of its disastrous consequences and decides to make Perelman pay. Ryder bursts into Perelman's office and proceeds to berate him until his implied threats escalate to explicit ones. PRISM surreptitiously begins recording the senator's abuse via an audio/video link. Delivering a final spate of insults and promises of violence, Ryder leaves. PRISM waits for an interface to a global newsfeed to become active so the recorded incident can be transmitted.
Shortly after Ryder storms off, a small craft lands on the building's roof and four men dressed as maintenance workers make their way towards PRISM's maintenance core. They seem suspiciously out of place, especially when they start tinkering with the cooling systems. Realizing that the men are goons of Ryder's, PRISM closes ventilation to the area via the HVAC controller; fumes accumulate quickly and render the assailants unconscious. They are soon discovered by the National Guard and medically evacuated. When the global newsfeed interface becomes available, PRISM broadcasts Ryder's attempts at intimidation around the world.
The plan is thoroughly discredited and Senator Ryder is publicly disgraced. Perelman lauds PRISM for the initiative it has shown in recording the incident and in protecting itself from harm. As a reward for the outstanding service it has performed for the nation, PRISM – or rather, Perry – is allowed to "retire" into a final simulation—a USNA in which a "new" plan based on pacifism and social welfare-statism has been implemented. Perry is reunited with his family in the year 2091; he, his wife and son are happy and prosperous, and Perry looks towards his golden years with joy and anticipation.
AMFV was unusual among Infocom titles (with the possible exception of Trinity) in that it addressed political and, according to Meretzky, socially relevant issues. The adventure takes place in the United States of North America, a country that embraces all of the present-day United States of America and Canada and whose laws and customs are strongly modeled on the United States. Washington, DC, remains the capital city. The climax of the adventure takes place after PRISM determines that the Plan for Renewed National Purpose is deeply flawed, and will send the nation into chaos.
The plan consisted of the following points:
- cut tax rates by fifty percent
- vigorous prosecution of tax evasion
- decentralization of federal responsibilities
- deregulation of all major industries
- reinstatement of the military draft
- emphasis on fundamentals and traditional values in education
- mandatory conscription for troublemakers and criminals
- a strict "USNA First" trade policy
- termination of aid to nations not pro-USNA
- cutbacks on all types of bureaucracy, e.g. registering cars, guns
- termination of government subsidies to outmoded industries
- increase the powers of the executive branch
- increase the presidential term of office to eight years
If the player reaches the optimum ending, he is placed in simulation mode and sent to live out the rest of his life in the year 2091. It is revealed that a different political "plan" was enacted after the defeat of the Plan for Renewed National Purpose.
Given that the Plan for Renewed National Purpose resulted in the collapse of civilization in the USNA, the author's intent was to warn against the possible consequences of some policy choices made during the Reagan administration: specifically, a more aggressive foreign/military policy, the cutting of social welfare benefits to permit tax cuts, and an emphasis on religious values.
Also, in the fictional year 2031, Greece and Guatemala are considered anti-American nations (along with North Korea and Albania) and the black-dominated South African government faces attacks from a radical white terrorist group called WIZO. Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi was killed during a nuclear accident in 1998. Significantly, the Soviet Union continues to exist, and presents security threats to the United States. Indeed, the Eastern bloc appears to have had something of a renaissance by the year 2031 in this fictional world.
Although AMFV was an atypical Infocom game, it nonetheless contained the extra package content known as feelies. The game package included:
- A printed copy of Dakota Online Magazine from April, 2031, featuring an article about "Perry Simm"/PRISM
- An advertisement presented by the "Joybooth Manufacturers of North America" arguing that "Joybooths are not the problem"
- A "PRISM Project Facility Class One Security Mode Access Decoder", a paper wheel device that provided access codes needed in-game
- A map of Rockvil, "Jewel of the Quad-State Area" (the quad-state area consisting of South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming)
- A ballpoint pen from QUAD Mutual Insurance. ("From seafarms to spacelabs, you're covered by QUAD.")
Author Steve Meretzky noted that he had hoped for some controversy with the political content of AMFV. When the game generated nearly no uproar at all, he "decided to write something with a little bit of sex in it, because nothing generates controversy like sex". The resulting game with "a little bit of sex" was Leather Goddesses of Phobos.
A Mind Forever Voyaging carried a difficulty rating of "Advanced".
The game has 178 locations.
AMFV is the first Infocom game with the "oops" command—in which a typing error in a previous command could be re-written without re-typing the entire command.
Gary Whitta, the screenwriter of, among other works, The Book of Eli, tried to start a movie project based on the game, but it never reached pre-production. His script has been made available on his blog as a download.
- Meretzky, Steve (2010). "GET LAMP filmed documentary" (Interview). Jason Scott.
So that was my mission with A Mind Forever Voyaging. I wanted to kind of to show people what a warmongering, Christian Right-pandering, environmental-trashing rights trampling asshole Reagan was. And of course the game was so successful we never had another President like that.
- "Steve Meretzky" (Interview). Adventure Classic Gaming. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
A Mind Forever Voyaging, because it was my largest, most serious, and most socially relevant work, and because I feel it showed that computer games could be more than an adolescent pastime, but could instead be used to explore Big Issues.
- "Final thoughts on A Mind Forever Voyaging". Retrieved 9 May 2012.
AMFV is a meditation on the dangers of paranoid nationalism and religious extremism. Written in the era of Reagan, AMFV asks the player to contemplate real contemporary social and political issues. Unlike games that only purport to do so, Meretzky's masterpiece stakes its claim on relevant issues like the expansion of presidential powers, the elimination of the social welfare system, the dangers of border militias, and the insidiousness of conservative religious fanaticism. Meretzky doesn't simply toss these issues around as in-game newspaper headlines. He advances a particular position on them, painting a dire picture of a future America that uncritically embraced Reagan's "new dawn."
- Meretzky, Steve (2010). "GET LAMP filmed documentary" (Interview). Jason Scott.
Y'know, Reagan had just been re-elected by a landslide despite, in my opinion, being the worst, or y'know perhaps behind Nixon the second worst President of my lifetime. And so those two y'know kind of brain threads converged on the idea of using an Infocom game to try to change peoples' minds about what was going on in the country.
- Ardai, Charles (Aug–Sep 1987). "Titans of the Computer Gaming World / Part IV of V: Ardai on Infocom". Computer Gaming World. p. 38.
- "The Status Line, Summer 1986". Csd.uwo.ca. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
- Infocom Fact Sheet, Section VI, Game Statistics
- A Mind Forever Voyaging script treatment by Gary Whitta
- A Mind Forever Voyaging at MobyGames
- Overview of A Mind Forever Voyaging
- Source text of The Prelude Book 3, Chapter Residence at Cambridge
- The Infocom Gallery entry for A Mind Forever Voyaging with photos of all feelies, manual and decoder table
- The Infocom Bugs List entry for A Mind Forever Voyaging