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Fahrenheit 451 [game]

Entry updated 9 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1984). Telarium. Designed by Len Neufeld. Platforms: AppleII, C64, DOS (1984); Mac (1985); AtariST, MSX (1986).

Fahrenheit 451 is an illustrated text Adventure which serves as a sequel to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (February 1951 Galaxy as "The Fireman"; exp 1953), and to which Bradbury made significant contributions. The game's protagonist is Guy Montag, once a book-burning "fireman" but now a member of the literary resistance to the ignorant bureaucracy which rules his television-obsessed future America. Despite the martial law which has been declared in the aftermath of the war which ends the original novel, Montag can eventually find the young woman who first led him to question his life as a paragon of the establishment. (As in both François Truffaut's film and Bradbury's own stage adaptation, this character's apparent death in the book is undone in the game.) With her assistance, the player can complete the generally linear storyline by recovering 34 microcassettes which preserve the contents of the New York Public Library and transmitting them to the underground, who will commit their contents to memory (see Interactive Narrative). While the books can be saved, there is no escape for Montag and his muse; by broadcasting the cassettes they trap themselves in a room where they will inevitably be discovered and killed by the firemen.

The prose can be vivid and poetic, especially in the sequences from Montag's past which are evoked using the unusual command "REMEMBER", while the gameplay is competently constructed, with entertaining puzzles. The design is, however, somewhat manipulative – the player is never forced to take the developers' preferred path through the narrative, but is sometimes firmly guided towards it. Much play is made of quotations from various literary works which are used as recognition phrases by the underground, and which can be obtained by asking appropriate questions of the character who is Bradbury's surrogate within the game. It is interesting that a Videogame should be the form chosen for the sequel to a novel so centrally concerned with the perceived evils of high technology mass media, though it is probably significant that Fahrenheit 451 is primarily a textual work, a piece of Interactive Fiction rather than an example of a more visual and immediate form such as the action Adventure or the First Person Shooter. Ultimately, however, while the game is an intriguing sequel to Bradbury's novel, it is unclear whether it is a necessary one. [NT]

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