Tired: Not a new concept, but “The Year in Photos” from The New York Times offers some gripping images from Iraq, the campaign, and elsewhere in the world and nation. Wired: The year in search queries with Google’s “2004 Interactive Zeitgeist.” Expired: Wired News publishes “What Gamers Want: Year in Review.” Apparently the N-Gage was a flop. Wait, this article is from a year ago…
December 31, 2004
I spent most of the MLA convention in a hotel room with my colleagues interviewing candidates for Americanist and Creative Writing positions at Stockton. I could say a lot about this alternatively exhilarating and exhausting experience, but suffice it to say that I left the room having learned a great deal and feeling that the state of literary studies is strong. We talked with bunch of interesting and articulate people who care about teaching, who still like reading, who were able to position their work theoretically but who were not so caught up in subspecialized jargon as to have lost their sense of why they were professing English to begin with. Both in the interviews and in the process of reviewing some 400 plus applications that preceded the interviews, I felt that there was less canned identification with well-established theoretical niche markets, e.g. “Defamiliarizing the Subaltern Otherness of Embodiment in Whiteness Studies,” and real sense of that people are branching off into comparatively new territories. My overall sense is that people are writing dissertations that live less exclusively in theoryland, and spend more time closely reading works of literature in the context of knowledge from other disciplines such as history, art, design, geography, science and yes, even new media.
December 30, 2004
William Gillespie arrives, is interviewed, and learns how to mourn Derrida at the Slought Foundation, where we meet the unfractioned Christian Bök. Back at the Convention Center, in a panel on Wallace Stevens, Charles Bernstein describes Reading, PA as “a place aggressively without aesthetic decoration.” Poets manifest themselves: Joshua Corey, Jena Osman, and Bob Perelman among them. Author, artist, scholar, and publisher Johanna Drucker, who has the same effect on electronic literature scholar/authors as Indiana Jones did on his archeology class, describes an Ivanhoe game and then joins Christian Bök, Scott, and me back at Slought in a public discussion, opening the exhibit of Implementation there. Matt Kirschenbaum unfolds the NORA project’s plan for doing text mining on large corpora of literature. At the book exhibit, an intrepid loot collector scores a fountain pen as well as a shopping bag with an enlarged image of an Ayn Rand postage stamp. An editor who has flown The Chronicle of Higher Education for a new, web-based publication interviews a room full of so-called “bloggers.” Visiting humanists are lured to a German restaurant, an English pub, and a sushi bar. XML markup and a 1983 USENET posting appear on a screen thanks to transparencies and an overhead projector. The heavy security at the convention provides the only hint that the Culture War may still be going on.
December 27, 2004
Apple Computer got Graphing Calculator in its stocking at the end of 1993 (and early in 1994), thanks to Santas Ron Avitzur and Greg Robbins. After their contracts had ended, they covertly entered their old building and spent six months finishing the program, “sneaking into an eight-billion-dollar corporation to do volunteer work.” Read the story from Ron; there are comments on Slashdot about this tale, too. The article on design lessons from Graphing Calculator is a good one, too, with suggestions that may not be startling, but are still certainly valid.
December 23, 2004
An interesting place to wander for a while, 99 Rooms is a site of animated interactive photographs of rooms, most of which entice you to explore and find something, to flip a switch of some kind to cause a change in the environment. Each room consists of a photo painted over with an image or character. Outside of the organ music looping in the background, the designers have also done a good job of creating an aural environment to layer to match the photographic, art, and interactive layers. There are some very simple puzzles, and the art seems to have some kind of mythical structure I haven’t figured out yet, not quite a narrative but something near it.
December 22, 2004
Worcester Polytechnic Institute is joining the ranks of schools offering game-related degree programs with its new four-year undergraduate program in computer game design. Like Georgia Tech’s undergraduate program in Computational Media, Worcester’s program combines training in computer science and the humanities (though the article incorrectly says that Worcester program is “the first field of study of its kind” to do this – Tech’s program has already launched). Interestingly, the article quotes CMU ETC’s Jesse Shell as having reservations about such programs. The ETC’s approach is to bring in students with traditional undergraduate training in the arts, humanities or engineering/computing and train them to be interdisciplinary at the masters level (similar to the approach in Tech’s IDT masters program). Schell is concerned that students in an interdisciplinary undergraduate program will have breadth without depth. My response is that at the masters level it may be too late to create designer/programmers who truly have interdisciplinary skills, people who won’t just be prepared to work as anonymous specialists on large game design teams, butwill rather be the leaders who invent new genres of interactive entertainment.
December 20, 2004
Greg Cato, a friend of mine from my Carnegie Mellon days (we met in Simon Penny’s Agents and Embodiment seminar), has a new game blog up: overanalyzed.com. His most recent post describes his experience trading MMO currency in real-world markets from his perspective as a former day-trader. His frank discussion of the intersection of virtual and real marketplaces spawned a recent terra nova thread.
December 18, 2004
Once again, there’s a new section of First Person live at electronic book review. The essays in this section (The Pixel / The Line) are all by artists who create texts for computational media that behave radically differently from texts on the printed page. They explore the relationship between text and image, the meaning of the “digital,” and the new bodily relationships with text that can be created with new media. The section includes:
December 15, 2004
Our interactive drama Façade is almost done — except we don’t have a completed music/sound score. Michael and I are very interested to find one or more talented composers or sound designers, to collaborate with us on creating a soundtrack for this dynamic, one-act interactive drama.
If you’re interested, please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com (removing no-spam-), including a link to some samples of your sound/music work.
If you’re not a music/sound person, please forward this announcement to any musician friends who may be interested in this opportunity to collaborate on Façade. If you’ve got a blog, feel free to re-post this open call.
A few notes on what we’re looking for:
The SIGGRAPH Panels program is up. They’re accepting panels in a two-phase process this year. First, panel proposals were submitted Nov. 3 and a selection of panel topics was accepted. Now everyone can submit position papers to the accepted panels; panels will be dynamically composed out of the best submissions. Most of the panel topics are of interest to GTxA readers including:
- Rethinking The Narrative Thread: Where Do Movies End And Videogames Begin? Discussing The New Storytelling Paradigm
- Believable Characters: Are AI-Driven Characters Possible, and Where Will They Take Us?
- State Of The Art In Game Research: Games on the Horizon and Beyond
It seems that blog readers and commenters can serve as focus testers for book authors — at least this happened in the case of Marrit Ingman, who convinced Seal Press to publish her memoir about depression, based on the feedback and encouragement from frequenters of her blog. In fact, as this NYTimes article describes, several books have been born from blogs.
But a word of caution is contributed by a certain assistant professor of new media studies at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey — that blogs aren’t quite the same as books. Where’d he get that idea? ;-)
Remember how the Fight Club game was in development and how all these, you know, gamers suggested that a Fight Club game should have a point to it, you know, like the book and the movie did, and how they bemoaned that the game concept was lame and missed out on the main thing the movie was about?
Well, the game’s out. I saw it proffered for sale in a store the other day. It seems that not only does it miss the point, it totally sucks in just about every other way. Fortunately, a Slaughterhouse Five game is in the works and will allow you to kick German ass escaping from a prisoner of war camp – in the end you’ll be rewarded by getting out only to be spectacularly killed in the bombing of Dresden.
December 14, 2004
A review of Half-Life 2 on the new Game Brains website praises the game’s design for making its linear plot feel intuitive and uncontrived. Meanwhile, the newly-formed under-the-radar studio Telltale Games is interested in creating “television adventure games”, according to a new Adventure Gamers article. For more, read an interview on Gamespot with Telltale CEO Dan Connors.
“They Come in a Steady Stream Now” is a new electronic literature piece by Richard Powers, author of the novels Prisoner’s Dilemma, The Gold Bug Variations, Galatea 2.2, and Plowing the Dark, among others. It’s told (basically) in seven emails, which are delivered in a Flash faux-email-reader frame.
I learned about the piece from Jill, who learned about it from Eric, and, reading the comments that these two made about the story, I see that they didn’t like it very much. I liked it a lot, as it happens, and I’ll try to explain why.
The New York Times reports that Google has forged an agreement with Oxford, Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford and the New York Public Library to digitize and add to its database all of the out of copyright holdings of each library. The Library of Congress and a group of international libraries from the United States, Canada, Egypt, China and the Netherlands have also announced a plan to create a publicly available digital archive of one million books on the Internet. Pretty exciting news for public knowledge.
December 13, 2004
Mark Marino (Barthes’ Bachelorettes, Grand Thieves Audio) has stopped fiddling with his radio dial long enough to blow the horn of summoning. There’s a graduate conference coming up at UCR, and he’s pointed out six special session CFPs – a full cylinder of ’em? – that will be of interest to Grand Text Auto-readin’ grad students:
(dis)junctions: theory reloaded (april 8-9, 2005)
The University of California Riverside’s 12th Annual Humanities Graduate Conference
CFP: (dis)junctions: Multiple-Media Panels (grad) (1/7/05; 4/8/05-4/9/05)
- Media Crossings: Intersections of Film, Television, and Digital Culture
- Online Gaming and Society
- Original Hypermedia, Net.Art, Mods, Flash
December 12, 2004
The gang’s all here. For the first time since our group blog began over a year and half ago, the five of us got together in the same physical place.
Noah, Scott, Andrew, Michael, and Nick
December 10, 2004
We’re gutted, and we may never again check the price tag on a GameCube. Jeff Minter’s spectacular and innovative project Unity, which promised (some thought) to make Rez look like Qix, has been shelved. Check out the demo screens that Games Asylum has lined up, and share your sympathy and your support for Jeff (a.k.a. the Yak) on his warm and sometimes fuzzy blog, where the Yak posted the official announcement and commented on it. Thanks a lot to Intelligent Artifice, bearer of the bad news.
December 9, 2004
A Novel Approach to Games — an interview with D. B. Weiss, author of Lucky Wander Boy, a story of childhood, obsession and videogames — is the featured article this week at The Cultural Gutter.
I’ve just been shown two new approaches to collaborative networked writing. TurtlePox (on which Jill scooped me) makes a collaborative writing game out of social engineering email viruses, and pushes the virus metaphor. So, for example, last week I got an email with a story about a turtle that needed my help, with a link at the bottom to “participate.” I changed my strain to infect more people each round, and then passed it on to a few people, including “someone” @gmail.com. She changed the order of the initial email’s paragraphs, and then passed it on to folks, including someone @danah.org. That someone passed it on to people, including someone @mail.rit.edu, and lowered the number of infections per round. The someone @rit then rewrote the first paragraph to make it a proclamation of the iconic nature of the story in the following two paragraphs, then passed it on, including to someone @usc.edu. Each of us was making only the types of changes the system allowed us. On the site you can see the strand transformations (which are being reset, except for the strand sent to me) and also a map of its spread across the U.S.
The Quillion is a quite different type of collaborative networked writing. As the author puts it, “I took my favorite things about LiveJournal, Wikipedia, SorryEverybody.com, and Lowbrow.com, and smashed them together into a kind of Frankenstein’s Monster, except without the tragedy and death. Yet.”
December 8, 2004
Branching off our recent believable character discussion, I’d like to say something about writing, gameplay, and their interrelation. In that discussion, Ian W. suggested:
[Writers] are not likely to be engineers. Even if they are the roles are very different and their tools should reflect that.
I’d say, the roles aren’t very different actually. In fact, it will become necessary for writers to be engineers.
How are the roles not very different? Writers in any medium are creators of character behavior; they invent motivations for characters, and from that create what their characters do and say. In non-interactive media, such as books and plays, as a writer works, she plays these behaviors out in her mind and narrates them into pages of text. In interactive media, such as games, the behaviors themselves are written down, as procedures — pages of code annotated with surface text. The computer executes this program, animating the characters to speak and act. In each approach, the writer’s thought processes are very similar! Sure, it may be more work to write down the behaviors themselves, than to simulate them in your mind and narrate the results, but the creative thinking behind both is similar. It takes some training to learn how to write behaviors — that is, to program — but it’s do-able. If a writer for a game is only creating sentences of dialog, then she is only doing a subset of the actual task of writing; the engineer who coded the behaviors that play out the dialog has actually been a co-writer all along. And — all this answers why writers need to be engineers, or at least collaborate very closely together.
Ian W. also wrote,
would interactive writing really be procedural when the field is more mature?
I’ll flip this around — interactive writing will be more mature when it becomes procedural.
December 7, 2004
It’s very common these days for people to start their own bogs. Bogging is an interesting cultural phenomenon, and in fact, bogging has gone mainstream. Anyone can become a bogger, if they have something to bog, such as cranberries, pictured here. Bogging is inexpensive, and easy. Boggers often form communities, collectively referred to as the Bogosphere, and are known to regularly visit each other’s bogs. What boggers do is completely new — and cannot be replicated in any other medium.
December 6, 2004
The calamities (and triumphs) that can be reached from the beginning of Edward Packard’s 1979 Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book The Third Planet from Altair are fully mapped by Greg Lord, as his justifiably proud professor Matt Kirschenbaum points out. Just as Andrew found four main paths in Night of a Thousand Boyfriends, Lord tracked down the four principal paths of Altair. He also provided a short essay relating his CYOA analysis to the theories of Espen Aarseth and Marie-Laure Ryan, and considering aspects of the material nature of the book (e.g., the effect of different “decisions” leadings to texts on facing pages, so that one can’t help but glimpse the other result). There’s a glossary explaining the terminology Lord developed and used, too.
December 5, 2004
Millions of folded paper cranes fluttered down from warplanes in the skies over southern Thailand Sunday … Encouraged by the government, Thais across the country — Cabinet ministers, office workers, schoolchildren and even convicts — have been busily folding the Japanese-style origami birds for the past two weeks.
As the birds fell to their targets in the provinces of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani, school children rushed out to collect them and seek the notes inside.
Did they get the idea from William Gillespie’s electronic writing?
Although for the last month or so, I’ve been buried in a variety of teaching and administrative duties, I have found the odd moment here and there to get completely addicted to Flickr, the most compelling web-based application I’ve run across in a long time. Flickr is a photo sharing service. While the services it provides subscribers (unlimited storage, generous uploading allowance, the ability to easily integrate with blogs and RSS) are not in themselves revolutionary, two of the other features of Flickr are particularly intriguing in terms of artistic practice. The first is that Flickr has built their system with the Creative Commons in mind. As you upload your photos, it is simple to select and tick off a CC: license, making photos available in what is already for other use to use in what is already the most extensive Creative Commons photosharing database. The second is that the system allows for easy metatagging, and most flickr users take advantage of it. So you can imagesurf Flickr by keywords, and not only by more obvious criteria, such as color (red), style (blackandwhite) place (Chicago), or date (1969), but also by more conceptual tags (unhappy). Any picture can be tagged with multiple phrases. The result is both an exceptionally useful public resource for anyone interested in sharing and remixing image content, and a fascinating portrait of the zeitgeist. Although the full service costs about $5 a month, the free version is also fairly generous, allowing users to upload 100 photos.