Struggling to Archive Lost Game Content using the Wayback Machine

I have always really liked archiving things, either formally or informally, on the web. Whenever there is a wikia in a group that I am interested in, I often contribute content that is missing, or holes in the collective community memory. When The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim was first released, I was one of the people adding to the content on the Wiki page as I was experiencing it, screenshotting things so that pictures could be added. The Wayback Machine has been an excellent resource for me in a lot of my digital archiving endeavors, but in my most recent efforts to preserve history on a community Wiki page, the Wayback Machine struggled with the site it had documented.

The community is 4thewords, a Costa Rican writing role playing game that has been around for quite a while, from 2014 to the present. Its concept is what they call a "gym membership for writers" in which writers defeat monsters, level up, and gather resources by writing words within a time limit (difficulty higher or lower depending on the monster challenged). Though it is a very niche game, it has gathered quite a few loyal members that it serves well, and whom happyily pay the low monthly subscription fee. Those who cannot afford to pay, such as young writers or struggling adults, are often given memberships for free by the developers. 

4thewords has grown and changed drastically, and yet, a good amount of the early days of the site are documented. However there is a large and noticable gap in the documentation that I myself happened to be a part of, and remember quite vividly--National Novel Writing Month, November 2017, the "Uurwall's Haunted Mansion" event. The reason this is so undocumented is not only because the site was a lot smaller then and has only exploded in growth more recently, but also because the site itself was experimenting with a new model that I believe used Adobe Flash. In this experimental period of the game, players could actually scroll around the background like a point-and-click adventure, or classic RPG. The haunted mansion itself was illustrated lovingly, and the monsters either crouched, waiting in the corners to attack, or defended other passages that led deeper into the castle. Players would battle these monsters and try to find keys and create candles from the resources of their fallen bodies in order to explore the creepy recesses of the castle. It was epic--a classic fantasy game feel mixed with the best haunted-house horror tropes, and the only way you could hope to explore it all or have your character survive was by writing your story for National Novel Writing Month every day, passionately and studiously, as you battled the monsters.

I had just joined the site, and I remember crafting my first great weapon in the game in that event; a sword created from the magical Dark Wood I'd collected in a secret forest clearing by making my way through the entire haunted mansion.

Unfortunately, this game design didn't last. Apparently, I was one of the few people in 2017 that had a gaming computer capable of running the new site smoothly. Others had to switch back to "simple mode" where they couldn't explore the mansion, and could only click and battle monsters in a list. There were a lot of complaints, and 4thewords ended up reworking the site and creating a new model that relied and stunning art and written storylines alone, rather than animations and traditional game design exploration.

I wished to catalogue this special event that was unlike anything else I'd seen before on the site or off it. However, though the Wayback Machine indeed took a screenshot of the site during that month of November:

though it was able to bring me to what the homepage looked like then, I was unable to see anything further. The links worked, but perhaps it was the site's use of flash and other more complex programming that made it difficult to archive. All that can be seen when it is clicked through are blank pages:

I'm still trying to figure out ways that I can retrieve and archive this special, brief time in the site's history for those who experienced it, and those who didn't, but would like to learn about it. It is possible that the best that can be created is a written account from those who experienced it, no data and images were archived. This experience really brought home for me in a tangible way how difficult and challenging archiving websites and games can be, because even if the game still exists, many games now are constnatly being edited, changed, and revised, and the older game versions can be so different that they are almost unrecognizable to the newer game versions. Many grow nostalgic for the older versions of the game, which were actually different games altogether than the new game. This is even more dramatic than the textual, visual, and physical differences of reading a text published in different places, at different times--it is closer to reading an entirely new, changed version of a book by the same author, which may be totally different from the original work in significant ways. Yet, in this case, the original work is wiped from existence by the new version, and is often irretrevable to its users even in their efforts to archive it's existence.

My current avatar in 4thewords, with all the weaponry, clothing, and pets I've earned from defeating monsters and completing quests through the years.


I chose to map the boy's route in "Araby." I was taken with this story and its foregrounding of preteen/teenage letdown. The boy dreams and acts with a kind of tunnelvision that I am also susceptible to, and mapping his route allowed me to even better understand his dedication. The journey to the bazaar seems daunting for a 12(ish)-year-old traveling alone, especially considering how localized the rest of his life is. I also came to see more clearly the prominence of the River Liffey in shaping the boy's route and Dublin in general. This might be a stretch, but I feel like a river running through a metropolis can lend that city some sense of peace, and perhaps it made the boy's route seem even more majestic and grave with purpose. The boy's disillusion struck me as distinctly urban (maybe I have read too many articles about New York bands and "urban ennui"), and the map made clear that he has grown up in the thick of the city. He's also close to Trinity, which I understand from Sally Rooney novels to have a high reputation and whose campus connotes knowledge and sophistication. I wonder if the boy is at once allured by the sights of the city on his journey and disturbed by them, or more accurately, disturbed by the constraints of time and money and familial problems that keep him from venturing out of his neighborhood. Also, to be too literal, the boy's (admittedly kind of maladaptive) dreams dissipate by the end of the story, and the map shows a north-south trajectory. "Araby" reminded me most of "Prufrock" despite the age and class differences between their protagonists because of this commonality of self-soothing through daydreaming. There's that switch in "Prufrock"--"And would it have been worth it, after all"--that signals his walking back from the intention to ask out this girl and cushioning that sense of paralysis with reasons why he's better off on his own. While the boy in "Araby" does make it to his destination, the bazaar is almost completely closed by the time of his arrival, and in the face of his grand ambition to buy his crush a gift being thwarted, he is left embarrassed by his vanity.

Changing the artistic landscape through the digital

While readng "Reading Exquisite Code" I kept thinking about how the artistic process is being changed by algorithmic processes beyond intentional projects like Exquisite Code. In particular, I was struck by how social media as a landscape has driven artist's styles to be more similar. In the animation world, there has been a crop of new tv shows with young showrunners who graduated from the notorious CalArts, that often get criticized for having a "CalArts style", and while I think the criticism is lazy—there is a bit of truth behind the notion, I just think it's misdirected at the school itself. 

Instagram as a site has become worse and worse for independent and freelance artists as a marketing tool because of the way the algorithm works. That is to say, I think there's a sort of cannon to online digital art. Scrolling though my own feed while intermittently reading "Reading Exquisite Code"  it really struck me how much influence the algorthim of social media sites influences trends in the art world. I don't' think writing is quite as susceptible to this, since it isn't distributed through such avenues, but for visual arts, your social media can make or break your career. In order to be successful on the machine, you must constantly post to your feed, and thus a lot of artist's spend time creating content simply to post it. The meaning behind the artistic practice has changed. Content is created for the sake of being consumed rather than for the sake of creation. I'm dealing in generalizations here, but the sliced and diced formatting of social media itself, in some ways, is hegemonizing the artist's eyes.

To the Continent

I often teach Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood to my students. I got my masters at O'Connor's alma mater, which was just about ten minutes away from her mother's ranch, Andalusia. Whenever we read the novel, or watch the movie, I try to assure my students: No, it's not as awful as it seems. This is funny. I promise it's funny. Flannery O'Connor was a very funny person. There is a moment in that novel where Hazel Moates, the approaches a landlord and announces his career as a fledling prophet. She responds by asking. "Is it protestant, or something foreign (European)." Hazel says, "No, ma'am, it's protestant," which reassures the landlord.  

The landlord echoes a sentiment in both Irish and American literature in the early twentieth century, the European continent was a waste of impossible evil and moral corruption, and therefore, well-adjusted citizens of other nations ought to stay away and tend to their own affairs.

Joyce believed the opposite. Dublin was paralyzed. Dublin was death. "The continent" as the Irish called it, was life. That's where things happened. The continent furnished the conditions by which an artist could create and could survive. To a certain degree, the boy in Araby's journey to the bazaar reflects Joyce's own escape from the "blind" corner of artless Dublin.

I put the four places Joyce lived in his life in order to illustrate that his self-imposed exile is nearly a straight line away from Dublin, as if he was contradicting Bloom's won judgement that "The Longest Way Round is the Shortest Way Home."

For Joyce, the shortest way round is the longest way home.

Mapping Araby Post

I chose to map the areas in "Araby" that are vaguely mentioned in the short story and places that the boy may have gone to on a regular bases. It is interesting to note how small the boy's world is and how Joyce portrays his experiences to be that of a simple life that he lives. He spends a lot of time in his home and on Richmond Street playing with the other boys on the block. He goes to school, where he daydreams about his crush. The boy also travels to the marketplace, Buckningham street, where he takes the train to the Bazaar, and finally ends up at the Bazaar. These are places that I pinpointed on my map to convey the world in which the boy lives, moves, and interacts. Here is a link to the map that I created: 

Araby -

1. While working on the map, what did you notice or understand differently than when you read the story through the first time?

While working on the map, I was able to really visualize this place that the boy experiences in his everyday journey. When I researched the street that the boy lived on and explored different areas through images that I found, I was able to really place myself within this world, enhancing my reading of the short story.

2. What are the invisible barriers that shape space and movement in the story? How did making the map help you to understand that?

Some invisible barriers that I was able to pick up on were the vague descriptions of time and place and the hazy mood and tone that was established from the boy's perspective. I think that because the boy is young and does not necessarily find purpose in having a strong sense of place, this was displayed as we experience this lack of concrete imagery until we reach the Bazaar when the boy becomes especially focused on his surroundings because ther eis now significance.

3. What is a key narrative or poetic element of the story (i.e. imagery, sound, dialogue, or something else)? How does it pertain to the map you’ve made?

A key element that struck me was the hazy tone that made the experience moving throughout the story one that allowed for a cloudy perspective that didn't really provide concrete imagery. A big part of this is because it portrayed the boy as being completely enamored with his crush rather than being intuned with his surroundings. This perspective forced me to research on my own specific areas with concrete names that would help mark his journey.

Ireland and the World According to Joyce's Dubliner Characters

I decided to compare both "Araby" and "Eveline" on Google Maps because I knew that Eveline's world was far larger than Araby's, but the discrepancy was still breathtaking. Although I couldn't nail down the location of the actual bazaar itself, the boy's life is completely encompassed in an area barely one square mile. Eveline thought she was going to 'Buenos Ayres' (a whopping 6,839 miles!!), but even if she traveled with Frank to Liverpool (a mere 134 miles), she still would have traveled orders of magnitude farther than the boy in Araby.

The boy mentions in passing crossing the river during his chivalrous trip, and while Eveline knows that she will "be on the sea with Frank" she can't fathom it in any way other than drowning and it is ultimately what hems in her existence. Even though I really do want to take a cruise someday, when I play on Google Maps and inadvertently zoom too far in on the open ocean, I panic for a split second, so I can almost relate to her sheer terror.

I chose to make my base map the satellite view to try and bring Joyce's imagery closer to reality. It would only be better if the map could show the weather, I think; Joyce's descriptions of place and aura are intensely descriptive.

I think it would be fascinating to load the same data table into both Google Maps and Gephi. Gephi can't show us geographical relationships, but Google Maps can't show us thematic relationships, even though both types (and probably more) are all hidden right there in the data. For my final project, I've thought of doing just this to try and map out the locations and relationships of publishers and their books on my Goodreads lists. Why? Maybe because I feel certain that my books are likely exclusively American or Western European; maybe because it might be interesting to see what books are published where. Maybe it's just because playing with Google Maps is too much fun. 

Araby Street Walking Map

This map is supposed to represent a walking tour in Dublin starting from Araby house that passes famous landmarks that would have been there in the boy from the story's time. I also included the famous Brazen head, which may have been where the Uncle really was while the boy waited for him, and some famous places named after Joyce himself. I also incluced the Arab Irish Chamber of commerace, as the modern day true Araby House. To get a feel for this city you have to really travel around and away from the pinched streets where the boy lived.


Sorry, I am having trouble downloading the map but will share as I can through e-mail.


1.Yes, the distances between where the boy lived and Araby house were much shorter than in the story compared to real life. The boy could have walked there easily instead of taking a long trip.

2. There are rivers that wander down by the Bizarre and further south, making the characters more hemmed into their living spaces.

3. The distance between reality and truth are as far from one another as the lines on this map. The church is so close, but the effect on the characters is often time incogruent with the choices they make.

4. There are many things, but to me the most obvious is the coming of age factor that happens again and again when a character is disallusioned by the people around them. When they come to understand the flaws of others, and in themselves, a kind of contempt forms. Not only that this knowledge is paid for at a high price, much like when Adam and Eve ate the apple. These maps also show the reality to the reader and take away some of the glamour as well, as while beautiful, Araby house is now basically on top of an unemployment office and money is tight. The homes are mostly clean but are tightly stuck together with little space except in the parks. Graffitti is found in many places once you stray from the main streets. Looking and seeing are two very different things, and Joyce is a master at lifting the veil about what people finally see the reality of their situation as they mature. 


Mapping Araby

In trying to map out the route of the protagonist of "Araby" it becomes clear just how limited his world is. The train ride he takes in the story almost had me thinking the bazaar was miles and miles away from his house, but in reality, it's about a two mile train ride from the station to the bazaar. Not only that—but the boy's route to the subway station is a walk that's about mile and some change. That is to say, the boy walks about a third of his route to the bazaar. 

On this note, what also becomes clear in looking at the map, is the presence of bodies of water at both the boys house, and hemming in the bazaar. While none of the story takes place by the shoreline, the mere presence of water constantly suggests the island status of Ireland. The ocean is between the boy and the world he reads and dreams of, and the River Liffy is between him and the bazaar. 

Mapping Colonialist Control in Joyce's "Eveline"

I created this map to focus on trying to map the colonialist control over Dublin which has a hold on the main character Eveline's life in James Joyce's "Eveline." Because of this, almost all that she hears of the outside world is under colonialist control, and in an effort to escape from this fate, she wishes to flee to Buenos Aires, which is ironically yet another place that was under colonial control. However, despite all of his promises, Frank intends to take her to Liverpool instead, a place in the center of colonist England where she would be without recourse or help and could be easily sold into sex slavery either there, or transported to other ports through the shipping system. I include descriptions of each of the places that are mentioned in the story, and explore how their locations and associations are overt assertions of colonialist control over the people of Dublin and Ireland, and how this encroachment affects Eveline's life and view of the world. I also draw a line showing just how far a ship from Dublin would need to travel in order to reach Buenos Aires, which is in a different hemisphere of the globe altogether.

The star icon is used to indicate Eveline's dream for escape, the place she never gets to reach, Buenos Aires. Circle icons with a small dot in the middle are used to mark locations that represent colonialist control. The home icon is used to show Eveline's home, and where exactly she lived as detailed in the short story. Ordinary icons are used to indicate places that are noteworthy, yet unique in their connotations.

"She was about to explore another life with Frank."

The red icons on the map denote the exotic locales that Frank mentions during his pseudo-courtship of Eveline, while the green icon is placed at the North Wall of the river port in Dublin. Although she imagines exploring wildly distant places, she is ultimately paralysed on the North Wall while she watches Frank depart. 

While working on the map, it was notable that while each of the locations she imagines exploring with Frank involves increasingly significant distances, the actual location of Liverpool (where he is likely actually taking her) fits under the same large green icon as the North Wall when you are zoomed out far enough to see distant Buenos Aires. A key element of the story seems to be the ephemeral or imaginary status of these exotic locations that are associated with the ocean and Frank's occupation as a sailor. Eveline's dissociation at the end of the story leaves these imaginary places as unreal and unexplored, as intangible and fluctuating as the ocean and her theoretical future with Frank.