“Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw” by Donna Leishman

“Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw” by Donna Leishman
“Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw” by Donna Leishman

In “Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw,” Donna Leishman uses a series of animated images to tell the story of Christian Shaw, an almost eleven year old girl who lives in Balgarran. This is an exploratory piece that allows the user to experience Christian’s world.

Although there is some text, the piece is mostly non-verbal. The images change when the user chooses to hover over them and they show strange things happening. The world inhabited by Christian is filled both with terrible creatures that observe her from behind the barren trees or marvellous flora that changes in unexpected ways. Her experiences affect her perception.

“Deviant” uses Flash to create its animations. The images themselves are minimalist, clean and highly original. The narrative works in a bifurcating manner: each choice both limits and affects the next possible alternatives. Eventually, all users reach the end, which doesn’t vary, but they might have gotten there through very different paths, learning only about some aspects of the story. Each user’s experiences affect his or her perception of this piece and of what happens to and around Christian.

It is easy to fall into the fallacy of describing “Deviant” as a game. But after exploring a world that simultaneously poses no threat while harbouring grotesque creatures that pray on Christian, one is reminded of the Reagan Library by Stuart Moulthrop with his double statement “This is not a game… This is not not a game.” Because despite the creatures and the disturbing images of Christian’s bent body, Deviant is quietly peaceful and meditative.

It is impossible no to see the retelling of the story of Christian Shaw as a modern, feminist interpretation of the original events. We are presented with a series of inexplicable incidents that are both terrifying and beautiful, and when we journey with Christian, we cannot help but to feel lonely, scared and impotent, perhaps as she might have felt herself.

If “Deviant” was a text-based print text, I would call it poetic prose.

Featured in The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1.