A trip through a maze...

True story: I once created a maze with a hundred other people.

In a fully 3D digital world, the maze was a series of rooms or “levels” where the player would often reach one of several different doors/portals/secret passages. These paths all led to other levels. Sometimes they’d take you closer to the end, sometimes they’d take you backward.

I know there was at least one drop from way high in the sky that took you near the beginning. The maze had a hundred different levels. Each level usually contained a theme or challenge. Sometimes you can to successfully jump to the top of a mountain, over a series of platforms. A fall could mean a hot lava bath (or accidentally stumbling upon the next door).

I was just out of college when I started on making this maze. Gradually, I opened it up for people to create their own levels, which were carefully woven into the rest of the maze. Hundreds of people contributed. Some just worked with others. Some decorated. Some spend hours building their own level by themselves.

When I reflect on that time, I think about the artistry involved.

Each of those levels was beautiful, really. The decoration, mood lighting, etc.. It was all there. Most levels were pretty creepy, mysterious (as a maze should be!). Some levels were entirely based on chickens—literally the platforms would only move if a chicken would randomly step on a button or not. There was a giant chicken at the end of that level to reward you and tell you that you are, in fact, worthy.

We had creepy forest levels, dark dungeon—fight the monsters—levels, underwater glass tube levels, steel cage rooms, extremely long hallways filled with empty treasure chests, floating orbs of water in a black void that you had to swim up, a bookcase library maze, an entire level dedicated to Waluigi where you had to ride a train through a giant replica of his nose, a bamboo jungle, a level where you had to solve a mystery of a nuclear reactor in a small town, a level where you had to take a boat off a fully circular waterfall (falling toward the center of the circle), a trivia challenge level, and I know I’m forgetting a lot of it.

I think what made it special was that throughout the maze, there were signs to read. Each sign said something different. Like a poltergeist, trying a bunch of different tactics to get in your head. But the signs had personality. Going through the maze was like having a conversation with this poltergeist, but the poltergeist made you question yourself. Sometimes the signs had jack-o’-lanterns pinned to the tops, as if the pumpkin were the one speaking.

To reach the end, you had to hit the Door Level. Literally, hundreds of doors. Pick the right one, and you’d make it to the final level. The final level was a battle against monsters, of course. There was an automated final boss, too. You had to shoot arrows at particular spots of a giant Pumpkin King Monster, then run through the door to win.

I’m not sure anyone ever legit won. The maze was severely hard and confusing. Even I, the curator, easily got lost in it. The files for the maze were lost for years, but I recently managed to get it working. Still, it’s pretty glitched and non-functional. The code I used to create the portals is dead, for one thing. So, to explore you have to cheat by breaking open the walls. Some of the walls won’t even load at all, leaving empty space.

The artistry behind it. The scope. Some rooms were legit as tall as skyscrapers or as wide as entire cities, some levels CONTAINED entire cities. The people behind it. The hours spent. So many levels, all together. I think it may be one of the best art projects I ever did. I certainly put my passion into it. 

And now the maze is lost, mostly unplayable. Nobody has accessed it in years (except me). I don't have the time to fix it up. I have bigger art projects going on. I teach a creative writing class, and next semester my students will be creating a choose-your-own adventure together, building a maze with levels and rooms, leading all over. So, the maze from long ago still inspires me. I still think about who I became after I reached the end. 

1 comment:

  1. Images are DALL-E generated, btw. Fed the AI my descriptions of the maze memories.