When the Best Books of 2013 are listed, the most important may not make the cut. That's because the most exciting literary innovation of the year is not a book at all, but a video game for iPad and iPhone.
Device 6 is a metaphysical thriller in which the world is made almost entirely from words. Playing it is like reading a book—except, in this book, the words veer off in unexpected directions, rather than progressing in orderly fashion down the page. When Anna, the game’s protagonist, turns a corner in the narrative, the text does too, swerving off to one side at a right angle, forcing the player to rotate the screen.
Our story begins when Anna awakes in an unfamiliar room. She is alone on an apparently deserted island, with no recollection of how she got there. The runaway words of Device 6 relate the story of Anna’s attempt to unravel the mystery and escape from the island, but as you swipe to follow them, you realize that they are simultaneously drawing a map. Long, trailing sentences make corridors; blocks of type form rooms. As you move forward in narrative time, you also advance in geographic space.
Sound, the reader's traditional enemy, proves essential to Device 6. Creaking doors and snatches of dialogue guide the player through the space and offer vital clues to the mystery. Rather than interfering with the reading experience, the soundscape enhances it, just as music does in a film. (One earworm song, written specially for the game, has been released as a single.) The whole thing is done in an impeccable 1960s style that draws on Hitchcock, Saul Bass, and Penguin classics covers. The interactivity is integral to the plot—but to say more would give it away.