December 31, 2003

New Issue of Game Studies

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:12 pm

Hey everybody, a new issue of Game Studies is out, squeezed in under the wire as their second issue for 2003. The articles include:

“On Virtual Economies”, by Edward Castronova
“Sim Sin City – Some thoughts about Grand Theft Auto 3”, by Gonzalo Frasca
“‘I Lose, Therefore I Think’ – A Search for Contemplation amid Wars of Push-Button Glare”, by Shuen-shing Lee
“When Seams Fall Apart- Video Game Space and the Player”, by Laurie Taylor
“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown – Interactivity and signification in Head Over Heels”, by Jan Van Looy


Linky lucre

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:16 am

Jill’s recent post on “linktheft” and the fact that I’ve recently read one of the PageRank papers got me thinking about links. Blog spam by those seeking more PageRank has become a real annoyance. We’ve be slogged by spam as well; some other bloggers have taken rather extreme measures in response. I re-read Jill’s paper Links and Power and also looked at some of the descriptions of PageRank online to make sure I understood the article by Larry Page et al. Here are a few observations…

December 30, 2003

Meetings, Journals, Deadlines

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:58 am

Every year the American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) holds a big yearly conference, this year in San Jose from July 25-29. One of the workshops this time around is “Challenges in Game AI“. Submissions are due March 12 for short papers in areas including AI methodologies, AI and game design, or case studies, including topics such as architectures, action planning, decision-making, multiple agent coordination, dynamic gameplay generation, learning, natural language interaction, characters, emotion, interface standards, and tools.

AAAI also holds symposia in the spring and sometimes in the fall; this spring, March 22-24 at Stanford, includes “Exploring Attitude and Affect in Text“.

December 28, 2003

And Flights of Monkeys Sing Thee to Thy Rest

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:57 pm

Adam Cadre’s new interactive fiction, Narcolepsy, (top item on the page) is just out and seems at first taste to be curiously strong, magically delicious, etc. Although also named after an affliction, this piece isn’t as intricately puzzling as Adam’s Varicella. Exploration and alternate (and ontologically inconsistent) plot progression is more the idea in Narcolepsy.

While continuing the tradition of car accidents in ergodic literature and computer games, Cadre’s latest is, among other things, a rollicking and wacky conflation of aspects of Galatea, Patchwork Girl, The Manchurian Candidate, etc. I won’t give away which aspects.

December 24, 2003

Expressive Characters Symposium

At NYU I worked with the Improv folks, and I’ve remained interested in responsive animated characters. (After all, we couldn’t have projects like Facade without them.) This year’s meeting of the UK’s Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour (SSAISB) is themed Motion, Emotion and Cognition. Included within it is a symposium on “Language Speech and Gesture for Expressive Characters.” The abstract submission deadline is nearly upon us — 9 January, 2004. I haven’t found a copy of the CFP online, so I’ll post a copy of the email CFP here.

December 23, 2003

Dean Gaming

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:03 pm

This just in — Ian Bogost and Gonzalo Frasca have just released a new political game commissioned by the Howard Dean for America presidential campaign!

In “The Howard Dean for Iowa Game“, you try your best to help Dean win the Iowa Caucus. You run around trying to get as many people as possible to notice your “Howard Dean” sign, and to knock as many doors as you can. I especially enjoyed trying to hand out as many leaflets as I could to harried passers-by. Made me feel for the people who try to do this out in the cold in real life.

Articles Aplenty

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:26 pm

Today has been some kind of day for new articles…

The future of adventure games is the topic of a series of smart essays by Marek Bronstring of Adventure Gamers (now added to our resources links list). Looks like a really interesting and informative read.

And Gamespot interviews Will Wright about The Sims 2. Advances from The Sims 1 include giving the player control over the camera, and greatly increasing the fidelity of the graphics, animation and probably behavior. I must say the screenshots look *amazing*. It looks scarily good to me. (Start here and keep clicking “previous”) For some perspective on gamers’ dissatisfaction with The Sims 1, read the comments on Slashdot Games.


from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:35 am

Further reinforcing the point about the need for new kinds of content in interactive entertainment is a new article by gamegirladvance‘s Jane Pinckard, “Video gaming and its discontents“. (Click on “free day pass” to read the article for free.)

… I just want what every gamer wants — smarter games. More meaningful games. Games that relate to other people. That relate to other things. Games that push me off the screen and off the couch. …

December 22, 2003

If Monks Had Macs

I remember this from when I moved to New York in 1994. One of the first new media people I met, I think it was Adrianne Wortzel, introduced me to If Monks Had Macs — a wild collection of HyperCard experiments and more. Now I see Matt Neuburg’s note in TidBits that If Monks is back:

December 21, 2003


from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:57 am

I recently downloaded the demo of ToySight, software that uses the mac’s iSight camera to integrate object and motion control into a variety of videogames and “toys.” The demo includes “Freefall,” a game in which you stand in front of the camera with arms extended as your avatar falls through the clouds, trying to collect balloons and land on target, and “Laser Harp,” a toy harp in which you pluck strings that appear in front of your image. It might just be the gee-whiz factor, but I see a lot of potential for this kind of cam-based interaction (admittedly not enough to buy the package, but I looking forward to playing more of the games with my friend’s daughter when she gets it). I wonder what kind of electronic literature we might dream up for this form of interaction? Maybe something like Noah et al’s Talking Cure could soon be coming to a laptop near you.

Form Ahead of Content

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:43 am

A NYTimes magazine cover story about the interactive entertainment industry, profiling the CEO of Atari, ends with the author’s account of reluctantly picking up the gamepad and giving Max Payne a try.

The whole scenario strikes me (especially after he dies a few more times) as silly and ponderous and overly bloodthirsty, and yet there’s something there — a curious tension between control and no-control — that seems worth feeling solely on the grounds that, over a lifetime of novels and plays and movies and songs and paintings, I’ve never felt it before. The form is miles ahead of the content, and as long as the gold rush is on, it’ll probably stay that way. But, as in the first days of television or radio or the movies, the form is the whole thrill, and it’s more than thrill enough.

December 20, 2003

Model railroads and interactive fiction, please

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:54 pm

Here’s one for the Cybertext Yearbook 2004 – IF author and novelist Adam Cadre has taken up a somewhat offhand comment that Espen Aarseth made in his chapter on Deadine, which he dubbed the “Autistic Detective Agency.” He writes that not only does the player character in IF have to behave like an autist, but that IF itself “is geared towards the preferences of the autist.”

Adam’s bloglike Calendar features more interesting fare, often essay-length.

December 19, 2003

Toward a Theory of Interactive Fiction

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:50 pm

I’ve completed my article “Toward a Theory of Interactive Fiction” after about two years of having drafts of the article available online. (The last round of changes was rather minor.) It is a more thorough look at a topic covered briefly in chapter one of Twisty Little Passages – how narratology can inform a formal theory of interactive fiction, one that isn’t restricted to the narrative aspect of the form. Thanks to the many who commented on and criticized the piece, helping me to revise it.

ph33r my 1337 artw0rkz

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:44 am

Hanna made the mistake of mentioning the Killer Instinct exhibition to me before she blogged about it herself. It’s at the New Museum, and features pieces created by these artists who work with computer games, including 8-bit modder Cory Arcangel (mentioned before on here) and first-person appropriationist Eddo Stern (also mentioned). Perhaps in January I’ll get to see the exhibit.

December 18, 2003

Close Readings

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:57 pm

Word Circuits (now added to our resource links list) has published a collection of seven short papers that “eschew general musings on the nature of electronic literature and instead dive right into a detailed close reading, filled with examples and quotations, perhaps even screen shots, of the text at hand.” The readings are polished versions of student papers from Matthew Kirschenbaum’s Digital Studies graduate course at the University of Maryland. The works dissected include ones by mez, geniwate, Diane Greco and GTxA’s own Scott Rettberg (who has his own blog by the way, with extra goodies he doesn’t post on this group blog).

December 15, 2003

Interactive Storytelling Exam

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 1:35 pm

Although I should have been studying for my preliminary exam on Wednesday, today in the department I heard an unusual WPE-II presentation: “Interactive Storytelling: Coupling the Emotional Range of Drama with the Engagement of Interactivity.” (The WPE-II is the paper-and-talk that is the last of the preliminary exams here in the Department of Computer and Information Science at Penn, and will hopefully be my next stop after Wednesday.) The topic of Michael Johns’s talk (which was possibly closer to interactive drama than interactive storytelling) was hardly alien to me, but it was a bit different from the graph-theoretic or expectation-maximizing algorithmic goodness that we usually get around here.

G.O.P. A.I., or Being Karl Rove

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:04 am

I’ve always thought that good conversational virtual characters would require the skills of a politician, to respond to the player’s “off-topic” or “uncooperative” dialog by cleverly and believably turning the conversation back to topics that the virtual character knows or wants to talk about. We certainly do a lot of this in Facade, as needed.

Loebner contest (“The First Turing Test”) winners Kevin Copple and Robby Garner have teamed up with some Chinese researchers to create “AI Bush“:

Play the strategy game “Reelect Bush?” and see if GWB gets reelected, or not. You are a close advisor, whispering into George’s ear. He needs your help making decisions and answering pesky trivia questions that affect his chances of reelection, not to mention the effects various decisions can have on his conscience. GWB’s expressions, voice clips, and tracking polls tell you how things are going.

Yeah, darn those pesky trivia questions about weapons of mass destruction, global warming, etc.

December 14, 2003

Blog on Blogs

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:19 pm

The students in my New Media Studies course this term produced Blog on Blogs, a review of several different types of weblogs. This semester was the first time we dedicated significant class time to weblogs, along with electronic lit genres including hypertext, new media poetry, and interactive fiction. I think it worked out pretty well as a class assignment, in that it both required the students to put some critical thought into weblogs as a genre, and to regard their own web writing as public discourse.

December 12, 2003

Finalists Announced for the 2004 Independent Games Festival

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 1:33 pm

The 20 finalists for the 2004 Independent Games Festival, held as part of the Game Developers Conference in San Jose in March, have just been announced. 111 entries were submitted, and a committee of judges from the game industry picked 10 in the “Open” (i.e., cd-rom-based) category and 10 in the “Web/Downloadable” category to compete. GDC attendees get to play the games on the expo floor at the conference.

We’re thrilled to see that our interactive drama project, Facade, has made the cut!


from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:52 am

Surfing around, I came across freshmeat, which “maintains the Web’s largest index of Unix and cross-platform software… Thousands of applications, which are preferably released under an open source license, are meticulously cataloged in the freshmeat database, and links to new applications are added daily… offers a variety of original content on technical, political, and social aspects of software and programming.” Among many other things, the database includes almost 100 pieces of independent, free, open-source “artistic” software ranging from textual to graphical to aural in nature, many added within the last year, such as:

December 11, 2003

Reflective HCI Workshop

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:07 pm

A workshop at CHI2004, Reflective HCI: Towards Critical Technical Practice, promises to be an interesting venue. The phrase “Critical Technical Practice” (CTP) was coined by Phil Agre in Computation and Human Experience as a description for a technical practice that simultaneously questions its own philosophical and cultural foundations while using this questioning to open up new technical possibilities.

December 10, 2003

Malloy and Halpern at TIR Web

The new issue of The Iowa Review Web is out, and it includes a couple of nice things. First, there’s a new piece from hyperfiction pioneer Judy Malloy. Malloy’s “narrabase” work “Uncle Roger” was one of the first hyperfictions I heard about (in an old issue of Leonardo) and it’s now available on the web in an annotated 2003 edition. The TIR Web piece is a new one, titled “Afterwards.”

Also worth checking out is an Interview with Tal Halpern by Patrick F. Walter. In addition there’s a link provided to Halpern’s “Digital Nature: the Case Collection. version 2.0” — an artifactual hypertext commissioned by Turbulence that I’m just beginning to explore.

Darmstadt in June

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:13 am

The second Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment conference (TIDSE) will be held June 24-26 in Darmstadt, Germany, which is near Frankfurt, about a 5 hour train ride from Paris. Papers are due January 30 (ugh, that’s soon…)

I recommend this gathering, it’s a mixture of technical papers / system building and design-oriented approaches. We attended this last year, presenting Facade, and got good feedback and warm enthusiasm. Like the DiGRA LevelUp conference, the attendance was about mostly European, about a quarter North American. There’s a lot of interactive narrative activity going on in Europe, so it’s a great way to meet all those folks and hear about their work. And a big highlight was Chris Crawford’s rousing keynote presentation.

December 9, 2003

The Whoa Effect

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:49 am

Last Saturday, from the bedroom window of our third story apartment, as we were admiring the results of the previous night’s snowstorm, the doorbell rang. Our new couch was due to be delivered that morning, but we thought, surely they would cancel. It seems we underestimated Boston furniture delivery truck drivers; minutes later I was relaxing in the living room on the new sofa with the December 1 issue of The New Yorker. After a brief nap to recover from my interrupted sleep earlier that morning — I always wake up before sunrise when I have lots of new events to process — I came across two articles, different but connected, that made me sit up and think.

December 4, 2003

Utopian Gaming?

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:58 pm

A link off of Grimmelman’s article led me to the curious AgoraXchange project, which will launch in January. A team including net artist Natalie Bookchin and political theorist Jacqueline Stevens is behind the project, the goal of which is to create an MMG that poses an “alternative to the present world order” guided by four decrees that include the abolition of inherited property rights. The ambition of the project appears to be to create a game that will be instructive in reshaping global society. While such a simulation is unlikely to overthrow capitalism, the idea is a refreshing turn from many MMGs that seem hell-bent on promoting the acquisition of virtual wealth as the highest virtue to which gamers can aspire.

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