April 29, 2009

Under the Big Black Sun

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:30 pm

Under the Big Black SunIn case you were wondering where the hypertext novel has gone – it’s right here, and still being updated by the enigmatic Daniel W. from a secret location on the Lower East Texas. Paperback also available.

Six Days in Fallujah: Over

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:05 pm

Konami just canceled their game Six Days in Fallujah due to public outcry. (Critical outcry couldn’t have helped.) There’s also been some outcry in favor of the game, along with a declaration that video games should be acknowledged as having the power of art and as being able to take on difficult contemporary subject matter. For instance, in this IGN editorial by Michael Thomsen.

Pong Resonant

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:29 am
Discussed in this post:

  • Pong, Al Alcorn, Atari, Arcade coin-op, 1972.
  • Pong, Harold Lee, Alan Alcorn and Bob Brown, Atari, dedicated home TV game, 1975.
  • Video Olympics, Joe Decuir, Atari, Atari VCS, 1977.
  • Pong: The Next Level, Supersonic Software Ltd., Sony PlayStation, 1999.
  • Boundish, Nintendo, Nintendo Game Boy Advance, 2006.

It wasn’t the first video game, or even the first arcade game, but that’s like sort of like saying the Model T wasn’t the first car. Pong looms large in both arcade and home video game history. The cabinet and the home unit helped pave the way for economically successful video games, the basic game form was changed and reinvented in numerous ways, and Pong became part of the zeitgeist. Recently, the movie rights to Pong have even been optioned by Uwe Boll.

Pong‘s design and engineering, its relationship to earlier games, and its launch can be discussed in very great detail, and they have been in many books and various digital forms, from FAQ to page to site. In our book Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System, Ian Bogost and I briefly describe how Pong blasted into the arcade video game space that Bushnell’s Computer Space had attempted to open up:

The first Pong unit was installed in Andy Capp’s Tavern, a bar in Sunnyvale, California. Increasingly apocryphal stories of the game’s installation report lines out the door but almost never mention the precedent for coin-operated video games in Andy Capp’s. When Alcorn installed Pong in the summer of 1972, Computer Space was sitting there in the bar already.

Pong solved the problem that plagued Computer Space—ease of use—partly by being based on the familiar game table tennis and partly thanks to the simplicity of its gameplay instructions. “Avoid missing ball for high score” was a single sentence clear enough to encourage pick-up play, but vague enough to create the partial reinforcement of the slot machine and the midway; after failing, players wanted to try again. One other important sentence appeared on the machine: “Insert coin.”

In this post, I’ll mention a few things that I think made Pong appealing to tavern game players in the early 1970s. Then, I’ll look to how a handful of the many Pong remakes over the years have tried to refashion the game for new settings.

April 28, 2009


from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:10 pm

perl -le 'sub p{(unpack"(A3)*",pop)[rand 18]}sub w{p("apebotboyelfgodmannunorcgunhateel"x2)}sub n{p("theone"x8)._.p("bigdimdunfathiplitredwanwax")._.w.w."\n"}{print"\n".n."and\n".n.p("cutgothitjammetputransettop"x2)._.p("herhimin it offon outup us "x2);sleep 4;redo}'

April 23, 2009

Sierra Truly Online

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:00 pm

A new site, Sarien.net, provides something both convenient and uncanny: The ability to play several of Sierra’s graphical adventures as you watch other players’ avatars move through the world and act – without affecting the space you’re in. Thanks to GameSetWatch for this one.

Inform 7 Unleashed

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:26 pm

Inform 7 has a new website with explanatory screencasts, a new version of the development system (build 5Z71), many parts of the toolchain now being offered as free/open-source software, and physics!

April 22, 2009

We used to get the colored lights going

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:03 pm
A CRT Emulator for the Atari VCS/Atari 2600

Ian Bogost, co-author with me of Racing the Beam, has just announced a CRT television emulator – a project to make an emulator’s display look more like that of a circa 1980 television. The code is to be integrated into the full-featured Atari 2600 emulator Stella.

April 21, 2009

Krannert Art Museum Grand Text Auto Exhibit

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:48 am

Yesterday a group of us from the HASTAC III conference toured the Grand Text Auto exhibit here at UIUC’s Krannert Art Museum, which was curated by Damon Baker. The exhibit is great! Although many of the same pieces appear from the UCI Grand Text Auto exhibit, it’s different in several ways and has several new pieces. Update: Thanks to HASTAC scholar Veronica Paredes, there’s now a video and text about the exhibit up on the HASTAC blog. Check it out!

The presentation of pieces is very nice; Damon has put up helpful curatorial texts and presented both interactive and non-interactive pieces very thoughtfully. Mary’s [giantJoystick] hasn’t made it to campus yet, although there’s a 16′ tall space here right at the center of the NSCA building waiting for it. The elaborate augmented reality incarnation of Façade couldn’t be mounted again. However, the desktop Façade is exhibited very nicely; it shares center stage with Noah et al.’s Screen on the CANVAS in the Krannert Art Museum’s Intermedia Gallery. Scott et al.’s The Unknown is presented as a browsable hypertext, an open book, photos and texts, audio that plays continually, and a hotel bell. Scott’s Frequency appears on a computer and his and my collaboration, Implementation, is on display in manuscript and photographs. And, I have many small pieces throughout the exhibit: ppg256-1 and ppg256-2, Winchester’s Nightmare, and Taroko Gorge.

A nice thing about the exhibit is that the underlying works are almost all available for free online; in every case, there’s documentation of them. Here are the links:

Tiltfactor’s in the art world too

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:12 am

While many GTxA works are exhibited in Illinois, USA right now, if you happen to be in Germany,Tiltfactor‘s LAYOFF game has been included in an interesting new exhibition, “Let’s restart!!!” at D21 Leipzig, Germany. Other artists include Jim Andrews, Parangari Cutiri, monochrom, and Joan Leandre.

lets restart signage 2009

lets restart signage 2009

April 20, 2009

Jessica to offer a youth view

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:55 pm

I’ve been too busy parenting to blog, but have no fear. After months of debating whether or not prelinguistic children should have their own avenues of online expression, Jill and I gave in and let Jessica get her own laptop. Here she is writing her first blog post, as mother and grandmother look on expectantly. Coming soon, posts on the importance of board books in the new media landscape. Also, musing on the nature of remote controls (colored buttons more fun than grey). And. . . why adult food is always better than baby food unless too spicy. Plus. . . liquids are fun to blow bubbles in and dump.


from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:54 am

I’m here in Urbana, Illinois at the third and biggest annual HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) conference. We’re being hosted by the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Science (I-CHASS) at UIUC.

There are actually official, HASTAC-appointed bloggers for each of the events, so I’m not planning to step on their virtual toes by doing summary blogging of every panel. But I’ll mention some things about the first panel, to try to get off to a good start and give a sense of the conference. Later, I’ll hope to reflect on the Grand Text Auto exhibit a bit, too.

April 19, 2009

Meretzky on Infocom

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:04 pm

In Steve Meretzky’s interview with Technology Review, he talks about how he got started at the company, the z-machine, how technologically advanced Infocom’s software was, and how important it was that games there were individual efforts.

Eight pounds, four ounces

Zoe smiles

Following Grand Text Auto tradition (Eva and Nataly and Jessica) Jen and are happy to welcome a daughter into our lives.

Zoe’s a couple months old now, and already stunning us with the pace at which she’s growing and changing. Meanwhile, I’m hoping for a slow return from my total blogging hiatus. I wish I could blog from the new GTxA show at the Krannert Art Museum, but I’m going to have to leave that role to Nick. (Thanks Nick!)

April 18, 2009

Grand Text Auto Exhibit at the Krannert

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:23 pm

There’s a new Grand Text Auto exhibit, following up on the one we had at UCI. This one has just opened at the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and will be up through July 26. Come and check it out, if that’s at all feasible. I’ll be there on Monday at or around 4pm for a tour of the exhibit given by curator Damon Loren Baker, part of the HASTAC III conference program.

April 16, 2009


from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:20 pm

The second issue of UpRightDown has just begun. What exactly has begun is a year-long storytelling exercise. “Every two weeks we will post a new episode of the plot (left column), which can then be performed (right column) in words, image, video, sound, et cetera.”

The magazine is also giving away prizes: $1000 to the best performance, $300 to the best plot.

Game Controllers Tabled

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:06 pm

The periodic table of game controllers is clever – and collapses the history of controllers in an interesting and probably typical way. For each system, only one controller is represented. Although both paddle controllers and joysticks shipped with the Atari VCS, only the joysticks (with their buttons in the wrong place) are represented. Certainly there is no hint that odd things like the Joyboard (ancestor of Wii Fit) or Kirby Tilt n’ Tumble (ancestor of the Wiimote) existed. On the other hand, the table does represent the way that many people think about game controllers, and it’s not uninteresting as a piece of graphic design.

The Philosophy of Computer Games

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:57 pm

If you are into computer games – and particularly if you are also into philosophy and/or already live in Norway (Scott? Scott?) – you should check out this third international conference in a series, “The Philosophy of Computer Games 2009.” It’s being held in Oslo August 12-15 2009.

New from Jon Ingold: Make It Good

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:47 pm

Make It GoodIn the tradition of The Witness (Stu Galley, Infocom, 1983) comes the hard-boiled interactive fiction Make It Good, by Jon Ingold. It was more than seven years in the making and features non-player characters directed by AI. Check out the description on IFDB and then download the (z-machine) game.

April 15, 2009

Flame War in 1k

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:50 pm

Flame WarFlame War: A Cyberthriller
By Joshua Quittner and Michelle Slatalla
William Morrow & Company
291 pp.

April 14, 2009

New Version of ppg256-1

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:52 am

I had long wanted to incorporate an extra revision step in ppg256-1, my first 256-character poetry generator, to make strings such as “maar” and “bued” into words (specifically, “mar” and “bad”). Also, it annoyed me that in ppg256-1, the code to delay the output is in a separate perl program; the generator must be piped to it. In ppg256-2 this delay is integrated into the generator. So, I revisited the first program and rewrote it so that it does the additional revision and now produces output at a human pace:

perl -le 'sub b{@_=unpack"(A2)*",pop;$_[rand@_]}sub w{" ".b("cococacamamadebapabohamolaburatamihopodito").b("estsnslldsckregspsstedbsnelengkemsattewsntarshnknd")}{$_="\n\nthe".w."\n";$_=w." ".b("attoonnoof").w if$l;s/[au][ae]/a/;print;$l=0if$l++>rand 9;sleep 1;redo}'

Wikipedia Votes on Going CC

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:30 am

Wikipedia may become available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. The site currently uses the GNU Free Documentation License, but the board has suggested a change. I find the GFDL cumbersome and not really appropriate for something that isn’t software documentation; the CC-BY-SA switch would facilitate sharing of material both into and out of Wikipedia. Whatever you think, if you edit (and aren’t a bot), go vote.

April 13, 2009

Submit to IndieCade This Month

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:30 pm

IndieCade (International Festival of Independent Games) invites submissions now for the 2009 festival. The deadline is April 30.

April 10, 2009

ICIDS 2009 Call for Papers

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:42 pm

The Second International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS 2009) is happening in Guimarães, Portugal on December 9-12 2009. This conference series continues to investigate the areas that were covered by TIDSE (Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling) and ICVS (Virtual Storytelling – Using Virtual Reality Technologies for Storytelling).

Interactive entertainment, including novel forms of edutainment, therapy, and serious games, promises to become an ever more important market. Interactive Digital Storytelling provides access to social and human themes through stories, and promises to foster considerably the possibilities of interactive entertainment, computer games, and other interactive digital applications. ICIDS also identifies opportunities and addreses challenges for redefining the experience of narrative through interactive simulations of computer-generated story worlds.

World in the Integrated Circuit

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:46 pm

The very clever School of Perpertual Training by Stephanie Rothenberg offers you a virtual trainer and four web-cam mini-games (based on Tapper, Dig Dug, Space Invaders, and Tetris) that model less glamorous processes involved in the gaming industry: mineral mining, PCB assembly, box building, and shipping. Authors and artists, from Donna Haraway to David Byrne, have long called attention to the less pleasant sorts of labor involved in computing, but in the era of EA Spouse, when many of the really unpleasant jobs have been shunted offshore, it’s useful to remember the global implications of the gaming industry. This piece operates on a lot of levels, deploying information about global labor practices deftly, through intro screens and spoof news articles, but also parodying animated characters and showing through its functioning how games make drudgery into fun.

April 5, 2009

Poems of Darkheartedness

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:00 pm

. . . .
This strange world. Not a blank
space of delightful mystery, a light
heart, its black thoughts, its body at rest.
Were we men enough to affirm
the whole universe? No one knew.

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