About the Game


"The End of the White Subway" is a strange little text-game that bears some resemblance to a text adventure or interactive fiction... more or less the way a toadstool resembles a geranium.

Is this a game? If being a game requires consequential decisions, controllable actions, differential outcomes, and quantification (score), then it's a game.
If your definition includes fun, well...

This project is really more like a time simulator -- though in some ways every game is that. It invites you to think about the passing of time (all those moments you'll never get back), the way things change even as they stay the same, what you think you are doing when you can't do much of anything, and how you know when it's time to leave the train.

What You Can Do

Ride the train from station to station: either click Continue or simply press any key while you are in Train mode. Each station of your passage comprises a screenful of text. The text is always different, or perhaps always the same.

Look at things: The Earth is full of them. Examinable objects show in red when under the cursor. Click to inspect. Some objects are described in text, some with images.

Collect things: You may add objects to your Inventory after you inspect them. Clicking the Inventory link at left shows you what you have. You are only allowed to hold seven things. The system will automatically delete the oldest item if you exceed the limit.

Delete or Expend things: Every item in your inventory is preceded by an X. Click here to remove the item. Some items go quietly. Others perform certain actions before they disappear.

Read (or not) a story: Occasionally the view will change from Train mode to something more coherently narrative. Read (or not) and then follow the link to return. This story has a beginning and an end, and a beginning and no end.

Ask for help: Use the Help link at left. Ask for as much help as you can stand.

Exit: Use the Exit link whenever you feel you are ready. Leaving the train ends the game.

Technical Notes

The game is built entirely in Javascript and plain-vanilla HTML/CSS. This means it is stateless, so remember that leaving the page means wiping out your game.

Recommended browser is the current build of Firefox (Mozilla). The game will run in Safari with minor visual glitches. Internet Explorer doesn't recognize keystrokes to advance the game, but seems to handle all other aspects.

I haven't even started debugging this thing, so expect trouble.

Debts and Inspirations

John McDaid, from whom I stole the name "White Subway" after he stole it from William S. Burroughs, who used it as the title of a story collection. I've also quoted liberally -- okay, borrowed many sentences -- from that collection.

Ian Bogost, who may not appreciate the credit, but whose idea of "philosophical carpentry" gave me an excuse to make sawdust. A special huzzah for the Latour Litanizer, which here has become something even less holy. If it helps, the current project may be considered scrimshaw. Or maybe woodworking.

Dene Grigar and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the former for doing all the hard work on our Pathfinders project, in which among other things we saved several early hypertexts for posterity, and the latter for taking the idea seriously.

Richard Grusin, the Center for 21st Century Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and my colleagues in the 2014-15 Fellowship, who (a) enabled this work and (b) made the Year of the Humanities memorable indeed. The search for truth continues, despite current evidence, or what some people say.

take the train