October 1, 2003

Poems that Go: Literary Games

by Nick Montfort · , 1:33 pm

Poems that Go made the move to Wisconsin successfully; the new issue on literary games has just been published. Congrats to Ingrid and Megan on finishing up this intriguing Fall 2003 issue. It has some recent pieces that are already often discussed along with what are probably the first Poems that Go publications involving Java (used to interpet a work written in TADS, actually) and CGI scripts. More important than the technological diversity is the wide range of approaches to literature and game that are represented.

I wrote the introduction for this issue, so rather than ramble any further about the contents, I’ll just invite your comments on the works featured there, and mention that the issue offers:

3 Responses to “Poems that Go: Literary Games”

  1. Marie-Laure Ryan Says:

    Some random thoughts on the game thread (I’m posting these on the Poems-that-go thread too, not (I hope you will believe) because I am hungry for publicity, but because this post is relevant to both.

    1. Why did Mark ask the question of serious human interest about computer games? It would never cross our mind to ask if chess, monopoly, soccer, roulette, or cops and robbers are able to evoke themes of deep human significance. I take this as meaning that computer games are perceived as being closer to literature, film, and drama than these other games because of their frequent narrative content. (I can hear the collective scream of the ludologists on the other side of the Atlantic.)

    2. My answer to Marks’s question: why should games cater to “serious human interests” to be valuable? Don’t we deserve an occasional break form the concerns of the real world? Don’t fantasy, make-believe and pure play for its own sake have value as a way to relieve the stress of being citizens of an imperfect, often cruel world?

    3. To many people computer games have something to say about sexuality: witness the recent avalanche of essays that present Lacanian interpretations of the player’s relation to her avatar, or of the general cultural obsession with Lara Croft’s anatomy. Of course, there are just as many people who don’t care about these issues. (And by the way, nowadays there are just as many academic essays about Doom, Half-life and their consorts as about Afternoon.)

    4. There HAVE been attempts to make serious statements by means of games: for instance Gonzalo Frasca’s Kabul Kaboom. But if Kabul Kaboom makes a forceful statement in an original (that is, artistic) way, it is not very much fun to play, and I doubt that anybody would want to play the game again after getting the point. The game-dimension is clearly subordinated to the message, as in an advertisement, narrative is subordinated to the promotion of the product. I would therefore say that games that make serious statements tend to be pseudo-games.

    5. Can literature or word-based texts be playful: certainly, as Nick’s lovely preface to the current issue of Poems that Go demonstrate. Can they be playful and serious at the same time? I wonder. If Oulipo—the literary movement that promoted the use of ludic strategies in texts—evokes any human emotions, these are comic rather than tragic. Jacque Roubaut, Raymond Queneau, Georges Perec, Italo Calvino have a wonderful sense of humor. But “serious existential concerns” are not the forte of these authors. None of them ever got me depressed ! There are admittedly some moving stories in George Perec’s La Vie Mode d’Emploi (Life as a User’s Manual), but only when one forgets that he is playing word games.

    6. Is seriousness reconcilable with playfulness? Let’s hope the current issue of Poems that go will suggest an answer.

  2. sabrina Says:

    do you have anythinf on the adventure of a reader? by Itlao Calvino

  3. Melanie Wellstone Says:

    I don’t really know if anybody likes playing games on a literary-level but I for one like reading. For those of you who also enjoy reading, how many times have you been amidst an exciting part of a novel only wishing you could jump in?

    Well I think I found that game and frankly I’m unsuspectingly hooked. The works by placing you into the form of a character who moves along their journey occaisional bumping into other characters. The game is filled with evocative descriptions and thought-out parsing which enables the game to read and understand english grammar. Essentially by playing, you’ve become apart of the story. There are elements which are distinct and unique and makes most fiction take a back seat, so I thought I’d offer it to everyone in case they too, have a love for literature at its finest.


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