Hidden Gem: I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

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Hate? Let me tell you how much I’ve come to hate you since I began to live.

         I was never assigned to read the literary “classics” like Grapes of Wrath or The Great Gatsby going through high school. For some reason my English professors always decided to have slightly-off, unique twists to their curriculum, so we would end up reading and learning different things than the other students. I’m not saying this was bad, and yeah, I mean we still read Hamlet and MacBeth, but I feel Shakespeare just goes without saying. In fact if anything, I feel honored that my teachers had their own personal love for different works that wasn’t the standard. It just goes to show they had a lesson to really teach us.

         One of the books I remember reading most was Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. For those of you that don’t know, Brave New World is set in the far dystopian future, where humans have manufactured everything to be the most efficient and best it can be. Human reproduction is reduced to an automated system of test tubes and DNA splicing, and everyone is constantly popping future-antidepressants called Soma while partaking in massive public orgies. Some pretty brutal stuff, even for me being a senior at the time it’s a little dark in retrospect. Then again, so is Grand Theft Auto.

         While I never learned the hardships of the great depression, or the folly of pursuing lost love, I did learn that the future will probably be terrifyingly bleak.. but of course this was not the only moral of the story, and this is not the only piece ever written about the future either. War of the Worlds, iRobot, Alien, Back to the Future, the…. The Jetsons. It’s really just human nature to think about the future and what’s to come. It’s one of the largest differences between us and animals.

While the scenarios may seem limitless, there are those few time travelers who boldly go where everyone has gone before! Those who read through space and time at 88 pages per hour! We get wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey to to seek the greatest golden tales of tomorrow!

I too have gotten heavy and discovered this little gem.

         That angry voice belongs to AM, otherwise known as Allied Mastercomputer, and he is the wondrous villain of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison. Originally a short story, the video above was taken from the video game version, and was in fact the monologue that got me cast in the play Nanawatai in the Fall of 2013. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is set in the distant future, a time when computers become super intelligent. One computer named Allied Mastercomputer becomes self-aware, and ironically uses Descartes “I think therefore I am” as a means to call himself simply AM. He slowly begins killing the entire human race, leaving only five survivors. These five become AM’s playthings, and spend eternity being tortured and kept from death by the mastercomputer.IHNMAIMS

      That’s just the pretext of the story, the actual plot comes after that (I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone that may want to go read it). However, in this instance, and I think possibly the only instance I’ve ever recognized, the video-game version of the story is much, much better. And rightfully so.

        In the game version, which is your typical Sierra-styled point and click adventure, you get to choose between the five survivors and play out their individual “tortures” that AM is forcing them to go through. In order to progress and eventually escape his control (to finally die), you have to stealthily find ways to revive AM’s faith in humanity. There are a lot of really clever callbacks to the original written story, and it’s always fun to try to kill yourself in the game and see how AM stops you. There are a surprisingly wide assortment of locations to explore, from castles to pyramids, flesh prisons and concentration camps. The puzzles you have to solve are, I’ll admit, very difficult at times. Some characters like Ted are easier to solve, but the difficulty curve is really harsh. Which is a shame, but the payoff you get from furthering the story is so worth it, and one that I haven’t felt in quite some time.

       So, if you’re feeling adventurous you can buy it over at Good Old Games here:
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream – GOG

It’s playable on Windows and Mac, and I highly recommend searching for a walkthrough if you get stuck. Or, if you want to read the original story, you can read the entire thing here:
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream – Full

And as always, let me know what you think! I personally loved it, but I could see how it wouldn’t be for everyone. It’s a little graphic, and a little twisted, but I liked it nonetheless.
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Sean McGehee

CEO of the Department of Imagination.

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