As Giovanna di Rosario proclaims in her essay, the medium is the message. Andy Campell and Judi Alston’s “Nightingale’s Playground” captures the intrigue of born online literary fiction while using digital media to tell a story. “Nightingale’s Playground” follows the protagonist Carl Robertson into a nightmarish situation: what do you do when the people around you tell you someone you knew never existed? For Carl, the existence of Alex Nightingale, his grammar school friend, is a certainty. Campell and Alston give us four modes of exploring Carl’s childhood and psychological state. In Consensus Trance I, we meet Carl and discover the major conflicts of the narrative: Alex’s existence and The Sentinel, the 10,000 level video game Alex developed from a childhood game Carl and Alex played. In Consensus Trance II, the reader walks through Carl’s grandmother’s house in an animated sequence. In The Fieldwork Book, we get a closer look into Alex’s development of The Sentinel and Carl and Alex’s relationship through (literally) movable text. Finally, in “The Nightingale’s Playground” which can be downloaded as a .pdf file, we get a linear text which becomes a frame for Consensus Trance I as we are transported back into Carl’s childhood.
Readers can choose how they want to read “Nightingale’s Playground”. Reading from the pdf. file to Consensus Trance I makes the experience more impactful. Ultimately, we are left with one crucial decision – trust Carl’s memory or deny Alex’s existence. As an ergodic piece, the paths that lead to our conclusion are not whole but fragmented by the author’s choice of presenting multiple pathways to view the text. Like House of Leaves, there is no one right answer. There are only pieces of the larger puzzle. Unlike House of Leaves, this text makes full use of the media it is allowed as an online piece of literature. Flash generated animation reminds one of a video game which turns the reader into a player and alters the traditional and almost stagnant modes of storytelling.