March 8, 2004

Some Early Constructive Criticism

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:00 am

Robin Hunicke and Rob Zubek, friends of ours and both currently PhD candidates in Northwestern’s Interactive Entertainment Group, recently got a sneak peek at the current build of Facade (which is still a few months away from completion). On her blog, Robin wrote up her reaction and discussions she had with Rob, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the project as they perceived them.

Since virtually no one has gotten a chance to play Facade yet, I’m not sure how much the specific points about the project will make sense to readers; but certainly valuable to readers, Robin poses several good and interesting general questions about IF, player feedback, natural language processing, etc.

March 7, 2004

History-Enriched criticalartware

The new version of criticalartware brings something like the “history-enriched digital objects” approach to the pathways connecting the site’s contents. Then the contents and relationships are made available for others to visualize in new ways. It’s like a wiki about interesting tech/art stuff with connections that strengthen and fade through reading (and the possibility for terms to link in more than one direction). Unfortunately, it appears one has to go through a registration process just to start reading. I did, and it’s an interesting site, but the high barrier to initial perusal seems misguided.

From a message about criticalartware:

In the ever present techno-social fabric of operating systems, desktops and software, criticalartware seeks to examine the pre-internet era of early phase “Video Art” and the growth of software art in the channels of contemporary “New Media” theorypractices. We are interested in “software” as a construct and context during these two art historical moments and the ways in which software functions as art and art functions as software. These two moments function as brackets in frames of reference that will form the basis of our activities.

Notes from Form, Culture, and Video Game Criticism

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:07 am

Form, Culture, and Video Game Criticism

Princeton University
6 March 2004

“We are not here to condemn games or to defend them, but to interpret them,” Roger Bellin, of Princeton’s PhD program in English, said in introducing the conference, as he cautioned against seeking a single, hegemonic approach to games and pointed out the diversity of approaches that are represented here. This excellent conference was co-organized by Dexter Palmer; it ran quite smoothly after the one audiovisual hitch (which involved my Atari 2600 Jr.).

About 45 people were there at the very beginning of the day; the number quickly swelled to about 75. I was slated to speak first, but was shuffled into the last spot of the panel as Roger went to chase down a coaxial cable. What follows are just my notes on the conference, posted after my late-night train trip back, pretty lacking in analysis, but perhaps of some use to those who want to know what the conference was like:

March 4, 2004

Turkle on Emotional Agents

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:07 am

The Boston Globe ran an article last Sunday about Sherry Turkle, who is hosting an “Evocative Objects” symposium held tomorrow, Friday March 5, at MIT.

The article touches on emotional robotic and virtual characters, including robots in nursing homes.

What has become increasingly clear to her is that, counterintuitively, we become attached to sophisticated machines not for their smarts but their emotional reach. “They seduce us by asking for human nurturance, not intelligence,” she says. “We’re suckers not for realism but for relationships.” … “We need a national conversation on this whole area of machines like the one we’re having on cloning,” Turkle says. “It shouldn’t be just at AI conventions and among AI developers selling to nursing homes.”

March 3, 2004

GameSpot on the IGF

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:25 pm

GameSpot has an article previewing the upcoming Independent Games Festival at GDC, including a blurb about Michael’s and my project, Facade. Judging by the accurate details in our blurb, they’ve actually played the projects they’re writing about.

Update: GameTunnel has started a series of articles on the IGF.

Silverman on Evaluating Interactive Fiction/Drama/Games

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 4:13 pm

University of Pennsylvania Professor Barry Silverman has contributed a note on a very important topic for those doing engineering or science work on Grand Text Auto-style systems: how can you evaluate your development effort so that a granting agency (or thesis committee, or journal) can see if you made some measurable improvements?

Not too long ago, I became interested in the topic of how to evaluate an interactive fiction or drama-based game that might also have training value. This came about because I was applying to NIH for a grant to create a game and they wanted any game to prove it had value. My own thesis was that the training value would be enhanced to the extent that it was stealth learning, that the users were engaged/transported, and to the extent they were entertained. We compromised and the sponsors had me place a psychometrician and a narratologist on the team. It is now three years later, we completed the game (see here or here on this site), a clinical trial with 200 subjects is currently underway, and to conduct the trial the team had to produce a number of instruments by which to evaluate the game.

In particular, we developed various new survey instruments to capture user reactions to the game and shifts in their knowhow and behavioral intent. By comparing across various experimental arms (ie, game, movie version, pamphlet, etc.) we hope to capture the impact of the game relative to other mediums. Overall, in addition to a demographics instrument we have developed instruments for metrics in both training dimensions (Knowledge, Stated Intent, Willingness to Pay) as well as in aesthetic dimensions (Narrative Engagement, Game Entertainment, Usefulness, and Usability). We also make use of two previously developed instruments on decisional conflict and need for cognition. The nine draft instruments are provided in a recent report I have posted to my website – select “Evaluation” tab under

The New Obscenity

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:11 am

Used to be, one good way to artistic notoriety was to be put on trial for obscenity. Sure, it wasn’t an easy experience, but it catapulted debate about the quality of your work into the top ranks of artistic discussion. And, as an added bonus, it created a certain illicit thrill around the consumption of your product. Obscenity trials did wonders for the careers of James Joyce, Henry Miller, and of course “Madame Bovary c’est moi.”

Now, of course, you’d have to get as desperate a publicity hound as the pre-September 11th Rudy Giuliani on your side to get anyone worked up about the offensiveness of your art. And even then your chances of getting into any real legal trouble would be just about nil. But a new path has opened — copyright violation.

That’s right, copyright violation is the new obscenity. Create a piece of illegal art and the chances aren’t bad that a giant apparatus of authority will come crashing down on you and drag you on a long, painful tour through the legal system. And drag your work into the public spotlight at the same time.

Hacker Art

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:06 am

Following on our discussion of code as art (Fear of Code), I came across an annoucment for the show Hackers: The Art of Abstraction currently on display at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, Spain. The show emphasizes the connection between hacking and creative activity in any medium. The Wired News article links to an interesting Marxist description of hacking, A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark.

March 1, 2004


from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:24 am

When I was up at Brown I ran into Michelle Higa, one of the four editors of Chaise Magazine. She gave me a copy of the first issue of this free DVD magazine (which has some associated Web selections.) Having now watched the videos (one of them is documentation Michelle did of the project Screen, a project of GTxA’s Noah Wardrip-Fruin and others), seen the stills, and listened to the audio, and poked at the interactive goodies, I am quite impressed and amused. This isn’t an upgrade of your cheesy mid-1990s CD magazine, but a collection of several great projects from digital media workers at Brown and RISD.

Adventures Underground

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:01 am

Adventure Gamers is a site that reviews and discusses commercial adventure games, as well as independent / amateur productions:

Although the days of classic adventures may have passed, the heart of adventure gaming lives on through the work of amateur designers who create adventure games in the true spirit of the classics, and make them free for all to play. This site is dedicated to throwing a spotlight on those independent, free adventures.

They report that “the amateur adventure community spirit is alive and well”, and that “2003 saw some of the greatest Underground releases that we’ve ever seen.” To honor them, the site has just held its first annual Underground Awards; the winners were announced last week. (via Slashdot Games)

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