I’ve written before about GET LAMP, the text adventure documentary. Back in March, I got to watch an hour-long mix of it at PAX East. Now, the full film is available on DVD, so I get to write about it again. Let me get right to the point: if you love text games, or you want to know more about them, you should watch this movie. Stephen Granade called it “funny, affecting, and informative, which isn’t a bad trifecta to hit.” I can’t think of a better description, though of course that won’t stop me from spending the next few paragraphs trying.
True, it’s pricey ($40 plus $5 shipping domestically, $9 internationally.) Director Jason Scott released the movie under a Creative Commons license, so it’s not illegal to torrent it, but of course, buying it is the more right thing to do. There’s no studio backing Jason — he produced this movie as a labor of love, and both the labor and the love shine through luminously. More about that in a bit. In order to make the DVD package attractive, he’s packed it with all sorts of fun goodies: nifty art, tons of featurettes, a DVD-ROM full of text games, three different commentary tracks, and a gorgeous individually numbered collectible coin. It’s a remarkably well-wrought product, especially considering that, again, this is the output of one guy. Plus, I’m in it, so, y’know, what’s not to love? 🙂
GET LAMP is very clearly a loving tribute to text games. Because I am passionate about the form myself, and because of my personal involvement with the film, I cannot judge it objectively. In any case, I’ve already written about what makes the movie good according to me, and all that still holds true. In fact, it’s better than the movie I saw at PAX — not only is it fuller, but the pieces I didn’t like in the hour-long mix have either been excised or fixed.
So this isn’t a review, but rather an appreciation, a recommendation, and a gleeful celebration of this cool thing that now exists in the world. There are a lot of fun layers to the whole thing. For instance, in the spirit of the “Have you tried…?” section that often appears at the end of text game hint manuals, there’s a whole game to be played with the movie itself: almost every shot has a lamp in it; collect them all like trophies. Even cooler, the movie itself is interactive. After the initial 25 minutes or so, you are presented with a menu of options for what piece of the movie you want to view next. Fair warning, though: if your DVD player is sorta lame like mine, you may be better served by just watching the non-interactive version. In fact, even in that one I keep getting kicked out to the top menu, and have to make my way through the film via clever use of the chapter forward button on my DVD remote. Hey, it’s a movie that’s also a puzzle!
I’m surprised how little that glitch bothers me. I think I know the reason why: every time I see this movie, or any piece of it, I come away feeling energized and inspired. That’s a big payoff, well worth a little remote-fiddling. I love GET LAMP, and I’m proud to have been a part of it. In fact, Laura and I have a date to watch it this weekend, so she can learn more about this crazy text adventure thing that has taken so much of her husband’s time over the last 15 years. That alone is a wonderful gift. The obsessive viewing of each commentary track, though — that’s just for me.