January 23, 2005

Phrontisterion VI

by Andrew Stern · , 2:14 am

For the second year in a row, June appears to be an excellent month for conferences. In addition to AIIDE and DiGRA, add Chris Crawford‘s annual to your list. And this June they all share some common geography — the North American west coast, where I just moved to, coincidentally, so I hope make it to all three. :-)

Here is the CFP (Call For Phronts?), and registration information.

Phrontisterion VI, the sixth conference on interactive storytelling, will be held at my place in southern Oregon on Saturday and Sunday, June 25/26. As always, the theme of this year’s conference is interactive storytelling and the topics are open to nominations from the attendees. After five years, we are starting to see some interesting work appearing, and it is my expectation that some of people behind this work will come to show us their stuff.

In order to maintain the most intense level of discussion, attendance at the conference is limited to 30 people. Seats at the conference will be assigned based on the degree of contribution that a person can make to the discussion. Persons offering to present their own work in interactive storytelling will be given highest priority. I prize intellectual diversity at this conference; I aim for a good balance of games people, screenwriters, academics, novelists, multimedia people, students, and businesspeople. I attempt to balance visionaries with realists, techies with artsies, theoreticians with programmers, dogs with cats, and entrepreneurs with idealists.

The essence of Phrontisterion is the group discussion held in a circle of chairs under the fir trees. The fresh mountain air and idyllic setting provide an effective physic against blather. I moderate the discussion, and have learned a variety of techniques for keeping the discussion intense and fast-moving. Especially productive are the attempts to draw conclusions at the end of the second day; these efforts highlight the differences in opinion and force participants to nail down those differences with precision.

For a better idea of how Phrontisterion works, have a gander at:


a report on last year’s Phrontisterion. Be sure to examine some of the included reports of the attendees.

If you are interested in attending, please reply with a statement of the topics that most interest you, and any work that you would be able to present to the attendees. If you are unsure of your ability to attend, please do not hesitate to respond anyway but note that possibility.

RSVP by April 1; I will send out more detailed information shortly thereafter. And if you have any questions or suggestions that you’d like to discuss, by all means write me! One of the reasons I keep Phrontisterion small is that it preserves my flexibility.

Chris Crawford

10 Responses to “Phrontisterion VI”

  1. mark Says:

    Linguistic shift makes for some amusement here. Being a fluent Greek speaker, I’m familiar with the word phrontisterion—it’s the name given to the private evening tutoring schools that a large proportion of Greek high school students go to in order to prepare for their college entrance exams. It took me 3 or 4 minutes of staring at this, browsing through the webpage, and staring some more trying to figure out why in the world an interactive fiction conference was named after exam-prep schools, before I remembered that the word meant something else in Aristotle’s day…

  2. andrew Says:

    eh, I just Googled it

  3. mark Says:

    (Try the modern transliteration…) =]

  4. Chris Crawford Says:

    Actually, “phrontisterion” shows up in the OED, defined as “talking-shop” (although my memory is hazy here).

  5. Erik Says:

    from one of the blogs: “Chris brought up his thesis that space is of limited use in drama; all needed movement can be done on various stages with out any relationship between them in Cartesian coordinates. A few counter examples were offered but generally the group agreed with his point.”
    Not at all sure I can agree with this. Is the ‘thesis’ referred to in a specific available publication so I can change my mind?

  6. Dirk Scheuring Says:

    Interesting point. If you’re writing, say, a movie script, you invent locations that are related by dramatic rather than geographic causalities. Those get filmed at locations that are related by functional/professional rather than geographic causalities. The whole geography of the drama gets realized in the cutting room, where many AV-recordings get assembled to form a coherent virtual space, which has its own geography. The coordinates of a dramatic space are determined only by the drama.

  7. Dirk Scheuring Says:

    Second thoughts about the use of space in drama: Having lots of space is often un-dramatic. Conflict is best shown from close-up; the camera panning across the wide Arizona plains, or aiming at endless deep space, is best left for the quieter moments of a story. Sure, there are ways of dramatizing space – “Somewhere out there, there’s a Thrangor battle cruiser looking for us…” -, but you tend to get only short term effects from hooks like that.

    Lack of space, contrastingly, can make for good, sustainable drama. Dramatically, confined spaces – the spaceship, the hounted house, the submarine – are interesting because the characters can’t go anywhere but for their opponent’s throat.

  8. Chris Crawford Says:

    The thrust of my point is that we don’t need to keep track of the x, y, and z coordinates of the various stages on which the drama takes place. Computer people are obsessive about spatial coordinates; they insist that everything be mapped out properly. Drama just doesn’t need that kind of precision. I lay out the argument for this in my book on interactive storytelling, but the absolute, ironclad proof lies in the fact that the Star Trek universe has no map. ;-)

  9. Erik Says:

    I’ll read your book before I venture to reply, this is a humdinger!

  10. Grand Text Auto » Pictures from the Phront Says:

    […] 2005

    Pictures from the Phront
    by michael @ 1:16 am

    Andrew and I were at Phrontisterion VI this last weekend. The timing was perfect – we’d just finis […]

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