daddylabyrinth is an interactive memoir that showed in the Singapore ArtScience Museum exhibit of interactive stories (alongside Troy Chin’s Forgetting and Nick Montfort’s From the Tables of My Memorie). It explores the author’s relationship to his long-dead father, and it’s constructed of short writing passages, photographs, scanned documents, and speak-to-camera video bits. It’s a big piece of work, much bigger than you can explore fully in a setting like a museum exhibit, but because it is made up of many small accessible anecdotes, I nonetheless felt like it worked pretty well in that space.
Like several of the interactive documentaries profiled at ICIDS, daddylabyrinth offers multiple curated paths through its assorted reflections. But it also tempts the reader with many diversions, many opportunities to go off and look at a document or a fuller explanation of a particular experience. Individual documents stand at the crossroads of different interpretive paths: dad’s army records can be part of an initial character sketch of Wingate’s father, or an element in a more thorough history of his army career, or part of a story about Wingate’s mother’s campaign to get those records altered. Many times a fresh path opens out of the middle of another, with the tempting “begin this path…” button offering a way in. Sometimes following links takes you through an unexpected loop, and over time certain pages repeat. Likewise, when you reach the end of a path, clicking the “end of path – continue” link lands you somewhere entirely unexpected and new (but thematically linked).
You may think you’re going to be able to go back to the path you first selected, but for me that didn’t happen: my curiosity always, always won out over my self-discipline and sense of order.
The effect is of course intentionally disorienting. The more information you amass about Wingate and his father, the less you have a sense of stability and direction. If you’re the kind of person who gets a little anxious about the prospect of being lost in an interactive story — if you dislike not knowing where the end is and how to get there and how far you’ve come already — then this is likely to awaken those discomforts.