May 10, 2003

introductory post

by Andrew Stern · , 8:14 pm

Hi world. I’m Andrew Stern, happy to be making the first post on our new group blog, grandtextauto.org. Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Nick Montfort, Michael Mateas, Stuart Moulthrop and I have been meaning to get this blog started for some time now. We’ve got lots of stuff we need to discuss about digital narrative, poetry, games and art, with each other and anyone who wants to join in.

We’ve been greatly inspired by the other wonderful, thoughtful, substantive blogs out there on digital practice and theory, such as Gonzalo Frasca’s ludology.org, gamegirladvance from Jane Pinckard / Justin Hall / et al, Jill Walker’s blog, Greg Costikyan’s blog, etc., just to name a few.

For me this will be a chance to have a focused public discussion about where things are going with digital fiction, and some ways to get there. By digital fiction, I *don’t* necessarily mean what one might call stories, or games. More generally, I mean deeply interactive experiences involving characters, situations, and conflict, in whatever new forms these experiences may take.

For example, my current interactive drama project, Façade, a collaboration with Michael Mateas, is really more of a dramatic psychological situation than a tightly-plotted story. The characters, a young couple Grace and Trip whose marriage is falling apart, have the potential to go through major dramatic changes during the experience, driven by your interaction. You are the catalyst for their change, or lack thereof. The pleasure of the experience (we hope) is less about traditional “storytelling”, but more about the effects you have on them as you talk with them, provoke them, experiment, play. You matter.

Previous to Façade I spent over 7 years in the game industry building personality-rich, emotional virtual characters, Dogz, Catz and Babyz. In these works the player nurtures, plays with and can form long-term relationships with their adopted virtual pets and babies.

Not quite games, not quite stories… but, still, fiction.

Frankly I’m still waiting to see a digital fiction that satisfies me. My belief is that it will require greatly increasing player agency, and generativity, beyond what we see in today’s works. But more on this in future posts.

I’m more a practitioner than a theorist. I spend most of my waking hours building finished, polished work intended to get out into the world. I occasionally write about it. Once in a while I get paid for it. My business card calls me a designer and software engineer. If you asked me, I’d call myself an artist/researcher.

Here’s a partial list of burning issues that I hope we get to over time in the blog, in no particular order:
– finding a capable middle ground between structured narrative and simulation
– creating an independent games movement
– why artists need to program
– modeling of play, modeling of relationships
– issues in story generation, such as knowledge representation
– working in industry vs. academia vs. starving-artist mode

also, thanks to Georgia Tech for hosting this site on their servers! (hence the gatech.edu in the URL.) But you can just type www.grandtextauto.org to get this site.