One of my students forwarded a link to this episode of Strongbad answering his email, in which he humorously riffs on classic games. His treatment of text adventures is particularly relevant given the historical context of the “this is not a game” comment that Noah describes below; one can imagine that this is pretty much what the hypertext folks thought interactive fiction was like. Make sure your sound is on.
February 6, 2004
“This is not a game” is what some hypertext fiction authors began to say of their work in the late 1980s. As Stuart Moulthrop notes in our interview at The Iowa Review Web, they said this to differentiate themselves from the work coming out of the interactive fiction community, and the comparison wasn’t meant to be neutral.
“This is not a game” is a slogan of alternate reality gaming. As Jane McGonigal tells us in her “‘This Is Not a Game’: Immersive Aesthetics and Collective Play” (pdf, html) gameness is denied in these experiences that are made up of elements found on far-flung web servers, on voicemail systems, and even on bathroom walls. For the Cloudmakers — formed to solve the mysteries of The Beast, the promotional game for the movie A.I. — this denial may have been a vital ingredient in the belief of some players that their group was also suited to solving the mysteries of the September 11th attacks.
February 5, 2004
Charles Herold of the NYTimes gives an unusually positive review of the recently released Deus Ex sequel, an action/role-playing hybrid science fiction game, which “wants every player to have a unique experience.”
Invisible War is a wildly ambitious game, a serious attempt to shape the video game into something far grander and more complex than it has been until now. It is largely successful. The story, which is filled with compelling details and takes several ingenious twists, has many clever ideas.
He goes on to describe some its flaws, such as occasionally low-believablity AI, but overall the review is glowing. (Positive but more tempered reviews from gamer-oriented sites can be found here and here, for example.)
The International Digital Media and Arts Association is holding their conference March 12 – 14 in Orlando. The iDMAa conference explores issues relevent for faculty and administrators of digital media and digital arts programs, particularly focusing on curriculum development, directions for research and creative work, resources (e.g. laboratories, external sponsors), and faculty development.
February 4, 2004
A reminder of Friday’s symposium at Stanford (which we originally posted about last October): Story Engines: A Public Program on Storytelling and Computer Games. Includes a panel “The Big Picture: Do Games Need Stories?” with Haden Blackman of LucasArts, Sheldon Pacotti of Ion Storm, and Will Wright of Maxis/EA.
The symposium is part of the larger Fictional Worlds, Virtual Experiences: Storytelling and Computer Games project at the Stanford Humanities Lab, and in conjuction with the “Bang the Machine” exhibit at Yerba Buena in San Francisco.
February 3, 2004
The Moves Institute of the Naval Postgraduate School has created a booklet describing the philosophy, history and implementation of their army recruitment game America’s Army, (mentioned here previously 1 2 3 4) for the Bang the Machine exhibit at the Yerba Buena Arts center in San Francisco. The booklet is available online.
In December, while visiting family in Nevada, I went to the Nevada Art Museum in Reno. My favorite piece was East of Fallon, Highway 50, Nevada by Joseph DeLappe, a new media artist at University of Nevada, Reno.
February 2, 2004
Today being Groundhog Day in U.S. (and elsewhere?) reminds me how the movie Groundhog Day suggests a model for how interactive stories could work. Rather than write up my own essay on the topic however, I’ll link to others who have already discussed this, found via Google:
A discussion on rec.arts.int-fiction, found in Stephen van Egmond’s / Magnus Olsson’s archive
Discussed in Janet Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodeck
An essay from the website TransparencyNow
“The Five Stages of Writing for Interactive” by game designer Noah Fahlstein
A mention by Dennis Jerz in “IF, literature and…”
Our Let’s do it again discussion last August
This just happened, but it seems worth mentioning anyway: Digital Independence 2004 “is a conference that unites innovators in film, video, games, music, technology, media policy and the arts… How have affordable technologies leveled the playing field and empowered independents? What new visions and voices are emerging? How will the conflicts over open source, copyright, mass media rulings, and digital standards impact independent work? How are indies changing technology—and how is technology changing indies?”
Here’s a new article highlighting some of the issues involved with creating virtual humans, including a mention of the “Uncanny Valley” phenomenon.
This is an issue for robotic and on-screen animated characters alike. We were faced with avoiding the creepiness factor when making Babyz; we did so by keeping the characters cartoony enough. But it was an issue during the design, that we focus tested. Similarly, Facade is rendered in an illustrative style. Of course more abstract faces and bodies have the advantage of being easier to implement — a double-win.