Our excellent blogging system here at Grand Text Auto is run on WordPress. We love this free and open-source software, but I am deeply disappointed (and I’m sure Michael, Andrew, Scott, and Noah are as well) that the main site for the project, WordPress.org, was recently unmasked as a search engine spamhaus – a huge number of hidden articles were placed there, courtesy of the founding developer, solely to distort or “game” Google for the profit of unscrupulous lawyers and merchants. As a result, Google has dropped the site from its index and – not that it matters, but it’s the thought that counts – we’ve de-linked the main WordPress site from here as well.
March 31, 2005
March 30, 2005
It’s been a while since we posted the news in January, so just a quick reminder that the deadline for Turbulence’s juried international net art competition is tomorrow.
This week in Lausanne, Switzerland is EvoMUSART, a workshop on Evolutionary Music and Art. Papers include “Genetic Paint: A Search for Salient Paintings”, “Artificial Life, Death and Epidemics in Evolutionary, Generative Electronic Art”, and “Extra-Music(ologic)al Models for Algorithmic Composition”. Here is the abstract of Jon McCormack’s “Open Problems in Evolutionary Music and Art”, that looks particularly interesting to me:
I’m pretty late in announcing this, but in a few hours (2pm UC Riverside time) there’s an interesting-sounding event featuring two professors: “Do Androids Dream? The Legacy of The Turing Test.” The cross-disciplinary influence of Turing is one topic for Saul Traiger, professor of cognitive science & philosophy, Occidental College, and Stephanie August, professor of computer science, Loyola Marymount University, who are speaking in the Global Interface workshop.
March 29, 2005
ATTENTION: all artists, drifters, architects, urban explorers, philosophers, dadaists, writers . . .
Psy-Geo Provflux 2005 is looking for people to propose, plan, and/or participate in a weekend of interventions, lectures, shows, and other events that encourages others to reinvent their social spaces May 27-29 in Providence, Rhode Island. Looks like it will be a weekend of happenings. Submissions are due April 15th.
March 28, 2005
Now the world has truly begun to conquer my and Scott’s sticker novel Implementation.
We are delighted to announce that Riccardo Boglione, a scholar of 20th century Italian literature and graduate student in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania, has translated the first installment of Implementation into Italian. His translation of installment 1 is now available for download and printout onto US Letter or A4 label paper. Riccardo plans to continue translating the novel, releasing one installment a month. (Implementation Italian home page.)
March 27, 2005
Posts from me will be few and far between for the next month or so, as they have been since GDC — we’re in the final stretch of debugging, audio editing and polishing Façade, and unfortunately I’ll have little mental space or energy left over for blogging until it’s done. (done… what a concept… unimaginable, really…)
I do promise to find the time to finish writing up my impressions of GDC, I just can’t predict when. I’ve made some notes, so I won’t forget it all.
For now, please direct your attention to a new well-written piece by Adam Cadre, who is enjoying the company of another conversational virtual character.
March 25, 2005
Gamespy reports that Warner Brothers has employed a full-time troupe of 20 actors who will interact live with players of Matrix Online. “These people will assume the roles of popular characters, interact with players, and generally move the stories in ways that only live “actors” can.”
Ken Kahn just spoke at Penn about his system ToonTalk, a Windows programming environment for children (and others) which provides facilities for developing graphical computer games. His talk was “Learning using concrete virtual analogs of powerful abstractions: Lessons from ToonTalk, Playground, and WebLabs” — slides are online in HTML. Khan distinguished the reasons that Seymour Papert, Alan Kay, and others might have for arguing for advocating what Michael calls procedural literacy, although he noted that all are clearly allies in looking beyond the current curriculum to try to allow students a better understanding of computational thinking.
March 23, 2005
Well, it’s been forever since I’ve blogged; the last couple of months have been truly brutal. With Spring “break” upon me (my break involves catching up on all the things I’m ludicrously far behind on), I thought I’d try to sneak in a blog post or two. The big recent events to report on are my trip to GDC and the Living Gameworlds Symposium we hosted at Tech last week.
I didn’t have nearly as good a time at GDC this year as last, mostly due to the horrible cold I came down with the day I flew out. I spent the majority of the conference in an addled daze, finally feeling human the day I flew back. So here follow my fever-crazed impressions of GDC. To cut to the chase:
- The industry is beginning a phase transition into procedurality (code as content). The transition will take a long time to complete, requiring, as it does, fundamental new skills (procedural literacy, anyone?).
- Next-gen consoles are going to be even more ludicrously expensive to develop games for (at least the old-fashioned content-shoveling way). AAA games will require teams of 300+ and commensurately large budgets. Therefore console games will be dominated by giant studios making risk-free titles. Maybe procedurality will save us (see point 1).
- Still lots of grumbling in the trenches about lack of innovation in the game industry and perma-crunch development schedules (see points 1 and 2).
- The “story” hype-wave is no longer peaking as it was a couple of years ago. Though there were a couple of events about the future of interactive story (including Andrew’s panel), they mostly had the flavor of “we’ll, we haven’t made much progress” or “we don’t know how to make progress”. Much of the “story” stuff at GDC has now been pushed into routine game design forums (writing dialog for characters, creating linear storylines for games, cut-scene design, etc.). The hunger for real interactive story seems to be on the wane.
- “Everybody’s upgrading, nobody’s downgrading”
Ok, I didn’t mishear the lyrics that severely, but I did want you new media/rock-n-roll scholars to know about Glory Days: A Bruce Springsteen Symposium, even if you aren’t going to write about the fine piece of electronic literature that features the Boss as one of its main characters. The list of session rubrics includes “Springsteen as Narrative Poet,” “Springsteen and Gender,” and “Springsteen and Critical Theory.” Deadline April 30.
March 22, 2005
The Interactive City seeks urban-scale projects for which the city is not merely a palimpsest of our desires but an active participant in their formation. From dynamic architectural skins to composite sky portraits to walking in someone else’s shoes to geocaches of urban lore to hybrid games with a global audience, projects for the Interactive City should transform the “new” technologies of mobile and pervasive computing, ubiquitous networks, and locative media into experiences that matter. … Interactive City proposals should embrace aspects of the city of San José and/or the surrounding metropolitan San Francisco Bay Area specifically. We are seeking projects that are large in scale, require advanced or special planning and/or permissions.
March 21, 2005
The feedback on my previous post about the show I’m curating at ACMI was a great help. So here’s another post, focusing on a different group of pieces.
Again, I’m framing my thoughts in terms of how pieces will be displayed. Recently I’ve been thinking about text-only work. It seems there are great opportunities here. For example, to show pieces like Eliza in their original context (as they are almost never presented now). As Nick has pointed out in his “Continuous Paper” essay, “Weizenbaum had an IBM 1050 in his office, a print terminal which featured a Selectric typewriter ball.” That’s to say, Eliza wasn’t originally presented on any sort of screen, but rather on a text-only display essentially like a souped-up typewriter. Through ACMI it seems possible that the use of a number of interesting text-only displays could be explored, showing pieces that originally were experienced via those interfaces along with anachronistic pieces.
March 19, 2005
The big event, interactive fiction’s Oscars, will be held tomorrow (Sunday March 20th) at 4pm EST (9pm GMT), on ifMUD.
March 18, 2005
I was just home in Chicago for a couple of days, and had a chance to visit the Museum of Science and Industry, which is currently host to Game On, an exhibition on the history, culture, and future of video games. We visited the Museum of Science and Industry quite often when I was a child, both as a family and on class field trips, so it was both gratifying and strange to see the games I played as an adolescent historicized in a museum context. This exhibition, which was previously shown in a slightly different arrangement at the Barbican Art Gallery in London, is the most extensive exhibition of its kind, certainly more comprehensive than the respectable Digital Play exhibit at the American Museum of the Moving Image in New York.
This exhbition was arranged, for the most part, very intelligently. For one thing, the majority of the exhibit is playable. More than 100 historically important video games are available for play, most in their original platforms, or in the best available emulator. This made me wonder about the curatorial problem of keeping multiple copies of the hardware available and running. I’d imagine that over the six month run of a popular exhibition, they will go through a lot of controllers, for instance, many of which might now be difficult to find. But an exhibition of video games that you could not play would be about as useful as exhibition of video art that you could not watch.
A new group blog called Game Eaters kicks off by serving up writeups of day 1 and 2 of the Living Game Worlds symposium at Georgia Tech, including Ian Bogost comparing videogame communities to soup. Mmm.
p.s. those writeups of GDC will continue next week… still digesting it all… my plate is overflowing this week…
Recently I was asked if the US military funds commercial games (ie not America’s Army, but are there cases of contracting commercial games)? Does anyone know? Meanwhile, I have been visiting the darpa game development group http://www.dodgamecommunity.com/. Their “articles + research” page might be a helpful to some~.
March 17, 2005
Today, I will discuss two categories of digital writing that I know something about, and that I am an author of: electronic literature and blogs. My point in introducing two types of digital writing is to distinguish between them — and between these sorts of digital writing and other sorts entirely — to explain what is special about electronic literature and about blogs and blogging. Both of these rely on traditional notions of an author in some ways, yet challenge those notions in other ways. I believe that by creating electronic literature and by blogging, one can become not only an author but, for lack of a better term, a new media author, a digital author, or an electronic author.
I will address Atelier-Auteur (the Authorship Workshop) of RTP-DOC (“Documents and Content: Creating, Indexing, Browsing”) via videoconference today, at 11:05am EST (Philadelphia) / 5:05pm CET (Paris), on the topic of electronic literature, blogging, and their relationship to authorship. The talk (which, I assure you, will be in English) will be webcast live. You’re welcome to virtually attend, even if you prefer an ouvroir to an atelier. I will post the text of the talk on here as soon as possible afterwards. … Update: The text is now posted.
March 16, 2005
I spoke to Norm Badler and Stephen Lane’s Virtual Worlds class here at Penn on Monday about storytelling and games. I hope my talk wasn’t too theoretical for this class, which has been busying producing virtual worlds all semester, but I took the angle that it’s important to first distinguish how we want storytelling to serve game design. I did treat the class to the beginning of Shenmue, Crazy Taxi, Grand Theft Auto 2, and Soul Reaver, on Dreamcast and PSX. My notes are below…
March 15, 2005
The MHTO Occupation Force is pleased to announce the launch of Mystery House Taken Over.
The Mystery House Advance Team — Nick Montfort, Dan Shiovitz, and Emily Short — has reverse engineered Mystery House, the first text-and-graphics adventure game. Members of the Advance Team have reimplemented it in a modern, cross-platform, free language for interactive fiction development, and have fashioned a kit to allow others to easily modify this early game.
Modified versions of Mystery House have been created by the elite Mystery House Occupation Force, consisting of individuals from the interactive fiction, electronic literature, and net art communities:
- Adam Cadre (Varicella, Photopia)
- Daniel Garrido, a.k.a. dhan (Ocaso Mortal)
- Michael Gentry (Little Blue Men, Anchorhead)
- Yune Kyung Lee & Yoon Ha Lee (The Moonlit Tower, Swanglass)
- Nick Montfort (Ad Verbum, Implementation)
- Scott Rettberg (The Unknown, Implementation)
- Dan Shiovitz (Lethe Flow Phoenix, Bad Machine)
- Emily Short (Savoir-Faire, City of Secrets)
March 13, 2005
I’d like to write up my impressions of GDC this year in a series of smaller posts instead of a single huge one.
One of the comments that came out during the panel discussion Why Isn’t the Game Industry Making Interactive Stories is that the game industry has yet to reach its “Citizen Kane moment”. This is the idea or hope that at some point someone will finally create a game that uses the medium in such radically new ways that it uncovers a new grammar of expression, and in the process reaches new artistic heights.
Maybe it’s the lingering effects of GDC on my perception, and I’m really really not intending to make light of a tragedy, but aren’t parts of this horrific news report from Duluth, Georgia of a prisoner who overpowered a guard and killed several people perversely resonant with the simulated and networked age we live in?
In the course of Mr. Nichols’s escape, he hijacked at least three cars and a tow truck in quick succession, boarded the Atlanta commuter train and stole the agent’s truck, officials said. … Mr. Nichols, 33, surrendered after … apparently learned he was surrounded by watching television coverage of the operation.
I’m not suggesting any causal relationship between simulations of violence and real life violence, I’m just noticing how, for me, it’s becoming somehow easier and easier to compare features of the two, or at least to the media representations of the real life violence. It really bothers me that I’m compelled to make this (admittedly simplistic) observation at all.