September 30, 2003

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 1:20 pm

Gonzalo Frasca and a bunch of fellow ludatics have just launched! Yes, they just launched it, although the announcement on Gonzalo’s has already been followed by blog posts at game girl advance and from Jill. Well, at least we beat Slashdot to this story – as wasn’t the case with the IF Comp news!

More on this after I kill a few more terrorists and/or civilians and play a few more IF Comp games.

Interactive Fiction Competition

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 1:11 pm

The games are out for IF Comp 2003, as of yesterday. Download, enjoy, vote.

September 28, 2003

Eddo Stern’s exhibit GodsEye

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:46 pm

person's-eye view of four sculptures in Eddo Stern's exhibit GodsEye; photo included from the Postmasters website I went to Postmasters in New York yesterday with Rachel and saw a very nice exhibit of new media art. The pieces were by Eddo Stern, an artist who was born in Tel Aviv and now lives and works in Los Angeles. He’s the founder of c-level and seems to be rather steeped in hacker and gaming culture.

War, religion, and the American military were themes that ran through the five pieces on exhibit. Formally and in terms of genre and technique, there were two sorts of pieces. The first sort, pictured above (full size image) were large objects that integrated desktop computers, flat panel screens, moving parts, and hexagonal tiling to make computer hardware itself into a video game structure. The second sort was represented by Vietnam Romance, a piece of video art created entirely from recordings of video games (often first-person shooters), with a soundtrack made from MIDI files that people have offered online.

Which is to say, the artworks consisted of case mods and machinima!

September 27, 2003

Charles Bernstein and PENNsound

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:02 pm

On Thursday I went to a great poetry reading at the Kelly Writers House, an event that also served as a welcome. Charles Bernstein was reading; he has recently joined the faculty here at Penn. He is undertaking a project, PENNsound, to create a large, free archive of digital recordings of poets reading poetry. He’s working with Al Filreis and others here at Penn on this venture. Bernstein has written a very nice manifesto for the project, which requires that the per-poem recordings be available in a format that is as useful and non-proprietary as possible, that they be of high enough quality, and that they be indexed and carry bibliographic information with them. The manifesto auspiciously begins “It must be free.”

September 26, 2003

Cat Mother Grab Bag

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:29 pm

I’m always interested in cheap and easy (well, at a minimum, cheap) ways to develop your own graphical stories / games / worlds. We need to see more do-it-yourself independent game development — a lot more!

Now available on SourceForge: “Game development company Cat Mother Ltd. ( has now closed its offices, but in their last meeting the company board decided to publish all company source code as open source. Also large part of the content is published. Published material includes fully playable prototype of a 3rd person action/adventure game and commercial quality in-house 3D-engine (C++/DirectX9). The source code is published under BSD license and the content is published under GPL license. All material can be downloaded from” (via Flipcode and Slashdot)

September 23, 2003

Bibliographic Brouhaha

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:04 pm

Scott and I almost got into a bar fight Sunday when discussing the MLA and Chicago Manual of Style bibliographic format for electronic resources.

I find it absolutely silly to require that every electronic resource bear a publication and access date in its bibliographic entry. If I cite an article from an online magazine that was published in May 1998, and I know quite well that the article hasn’t changed since then, there is no reason I should include the date that I looked at it. Doing so adds unnecessary clutter, blurring and obfuscating the publication date of the resource, and simply provides a form of surveillance of scholars and their Web-reading habits. (Do you mostly read on the weekends? Right before your article is due?) Yes, in some cases (malleable blog entries, works like The Unknown) it does make sense to note both when you think something was published and when you accesses it, but that shouldn’t apply to everything on the Web. If someone cites my undergraduate thesis or a dated item on my Web site, they know perfectly well when it was published, as much as they know when the usual book was published by looking at the copyright page.

September 22, 2003

Game Art Outlets

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:16 am

Call for entries for art and performance “which blurs the boundaries between online game space [The Sims Online] and the real world galleries of the Yerba Buena Center” in San Francisco. “What art can be within the constraints and rules of an online game?” Due Oct 31.

Also, a call for submissions for a book addressing the questions, “Can videogame art play with ideas or is it just meant to be played? Can a commercial computer game be art? Can art be playable? These issues and others are to be explored in a special edition of Anomalie: Computer Games and Art: Intersections and Interactions.” Due Nov 21.

September 21, 2003

Encouraging the WIPO to Consider Open Source

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:54 am

Just to followup on my earlier post on intellectual property: The EFF has launched a campaign to encourage the WIPO to reconsider its opposition to open source and collaborative approaches (actually, even worse, its US Patent and Trade Office-led refusal to even discuss open source and collaborative models). If you disagree with this decision, you can express your opinion by sending a letter to the USPTO through the EFF.

September 18, 2003

Girlfriends, Keyboards, Literacy

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:38 am

Back home in Chicago a few weeks ago, I played Girlfriends with my niece Kayley. Maybe Disney isn’t all bad. Kayley’s four and half years old. The experience of playing this game, designed for girls six years old and up (sure she’s an overacheiver) was interesting for several reasons — not just because my goddaughter is always a pleasure, a giggling joke-telling, nonstop kinetic force of nature. It got me thinking about literacy, and about how computers are influencing the way that the current generation of post-toddlers are learning to read and write. Kayley, for instance, can’t yet read. They’ll cover that next year, probably. But she can install a Windows program (in this case the Girlfriends CD-ROM), can distinguish the Next button from the Previous button, and can agree to an End-User License. With no coaching at all, she was able to install the program, and to complain about the fact that she’d already installed it, but that the Windows box was buggy, and that the password interface was a big pain.

Terra Nova

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:41 am

Check out a new group blog that discusses “the rapidly emerging synthetic worlds of cyberspace” — MMORPGs, toy worlds, social worlds, and other realms of emergent collective reality. Today’s post, “Golems and Community,” raises the question, “do smarter bots make for better virtual communities?”

I’ve added Terra Nova to our list of links — it looks to be a blog worth regular visits. (via The Ludologist)

September 15, 2003

Fiction and Recombinant Text

Marie-Laure Ryan and I recently began an email discussion about The Impermanence Agent. As our conversation turned toward the impact of the Agent’s textual alterations, and the relationship of such techniques to story, Marie-Laure suggested that we open our dialogue into a conversation on GTxA. As happened with our previous, impromptu exchange (in the comments on my review of her Narrative as Virtual Reality) we’re hoping for contributions from this site’s drivers and visitors. Our plan is for things to kick off tomorrow, with Marie-Laure posting an initial message as a comment on this entry. We’ll see where things go from there…

Two new conferences

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:29 pm

I’m back from a week in England where I attended Cosign 2003. I’ll post a trip report in the near future. In the meantime, here are two new conference annoucements.

Ernest Adams, freelance game designer, writer and lecturer (formerly at Electronic Arts) gave a keynote address at Cosign. He is also one of the organizers of ACE2004 (Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology). “The purpose of this conference is to bring together academic and industry researchers, as well as computer entertainment developers and practitioners, to address and advance the research and development issues related to computer entertainment.” ACE2004 is happening June 3-5, 2004, in Singapore.

September 10, 2003

A Spectrum of Influence

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:43 pm

About a year ago, Janet Murray and grad student Chaim Gingold initiated a “game morphology” project at Georgia Tech. They asked several game designers and researchers, What ten games have been most important to you as a designer/reseracher, and/or most important to the development of electronic gaming in general?

Some initial results of the project are now tabulated and made public on their website. It’s pretty interesting to see how each designer/researcher’s influences are similar and different to one another.

There’s a Good Deal

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:11 pm has announced a special limited-time offer, where if you become a beta-tester in the very near future, for $30 you can become a lifetime member with no monthly fees.

I recently downloaded the installer for There, but it required me to upgrade my video drivers, which I was reluctant to do on my machine, on which I’m currently developing Facade. So I still haven’t tried There yet (or Second Life for that matter). But I will soon find some other machine to install There, and sign up for this $30 lifetime thing.

September 9, 2003

Machine Learning and Literary Work

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 4:33 pm

I’ve been thinking about machine learning more acutely than usual recently, since I’m part of a seminar on the topic this semester. And I’ve been wondering about literary applications of support vector machines and kernel methods and so on. (Sounds fun, doesn’t it?)

September 7, 2003

I want a holodeck now!

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:33 pm

cries the interviewer of Chris Crawford in a new article, in which Chris discusses his long-time-in-development Erasmatron interactive storytelling technology. (via Torill) Also, here’s another recent interview with Chris on Gamasutra.

When I last talked to Chris at TIDSE, he said he hopes to use the Erasmatron in the near future as the foundation for a new version of his classic Balance of Power. That would be great. I truly hope Chris gets a chance to reap the rewards of all the hard work he’s put into his system.

September 6, 2003

Waiting for Spring?

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:19 am

Reading Nick’s summary of the history of AI and narrative he’s writing for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory, it stands out how few notable research milestones in AI and narrative have occurred over the last *40* years, since ELIZA first appeared…! We need to pick up the pace here, folks!

Is it because it’s difficult to get funding for this kind of research? Surely it can’t be for lack of interest on the part of researchers. Maybe narrative intelligence research has never quite recovered from the AI winter of the 1980’s? Or, probably more likely, “narrative” is such an huge, umbrella-like topic that actually all sorts of already-underway AI research projects, e.g., Cyc, the Shruti project (mentioned by William in an earlier comment), etc., are effectively laying the needed groundwork for more explicit narrative intelligence research in the future?

September 4, 2003

Cosign 2003

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 4:22 pm

Next week I’ll be in Middlesbrough UK for Cosign 2003: Computational Semiotics in Games and New Media. I’ll be presenting a structuralist semiotic treatment of architectural affordances, a way of understanding how AI architectures support meaning-making for both the authors and audiences of AI-based new media work. Hope to see some of you there!

Observation on Mass Observation

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 4:04 pm

Quick note from the Q∓A session of a talk on Mass Observation, a project in mass reportage/mass surveillance that began in 1937 in Britain and which gives its title to an exhibit opening today at the Philadelphia ICA. It was a sociological sort of project, involving artists (painters and photographers) at times and involving a lot of hanging around at pubs. It reminded me a bit of Invisible Seattle in the way it invovled others who submitted questionnaires.

AI and Narrative

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:26 pm

I just finished a draft of an encyclopedia entry about “artificial intelligence.” It’s for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory and so, of course, it deals with how AI relates to narrative. Following Jill’s example, I have posted this draft in case anyone has comments on who I might have slighted, how I might have misrepresented AI, etc. I’d be greatful for any comments. It is as long as it can be, though, so I will have to cut things out if anything else is to go in there!

Revised: Thanks for your comments! I have replaced the first draft with the copy that I just submitted. (nm, 7 Sep 2003)

September 3, 2003

The Future of Ideas (Belongs to Disney)

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:49 pm

I recently read Lawrence Lessig’s The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World, a properly alarmist text about the Internet, the law, copyright, and the slow steady creep towards a future in which every text, film, song, picture, and thought that runs across your consciousness is licensed property, in which the spectrum is owned by highest bidder, and in which innovation is patented to such an extent that new innovation becomes nearly impossible.

Lessig is a constitutional scholar, a Stanford law professor who is scared shitless about the poorly-thought controls currently and relentlessly being placed on our intellectual lives by “the extremists in power.” Lessig was the chief architect of Eldred v. Ashcroft, the legal action which attempted to overturn the Copyright Term Extension Act, and the chair of The Creative Commons Project. I won’t give Lessig’s book a proper review in this forum, but I would like to highlight a few points, and suggest that, as new media creators, many Grand Text Auto participants and readers might want to take some proactive steps contra the current intellectual property paradigm.

September 2, 2003

Choose One of Four Deep Paths

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:43 pm

Ever wondered what the underlying plot structure of a “choose your own adventure” book actually looks like? I recently bought Night of a Thousand Boyfriends, a kind of dating adventure book, by Miranda Clarke. It had been a long time since I’d read a “choose-your-own”-type book, and was now curious to better understand the exact nature of its plot branching — would branches multiply systematically, leading to dozens of distinct paths and endings, or would the branches tend to fold back on themselves? Would there be any of clever re-use of pages in different contexts?

Critical of Game Criticism

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:58 am

Check out these notes from a speech given by Matteo Bittanti last week at Europe’s Game Developers Conference, suggesting the future of game studies and game art “looks extremely promising”, but with a warning that they must avoid being perceived as “mental masturbation” by the game community at large. I agree. (via

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