October 8, 2010

UCSC Hosts Symposium on Narrative Intelligence: AI Approaches for Games and Fiction

Narrative Intelligence: AI Approaches for Games and Fiction

DATE: October 14th, 2010 — 9:30am to 5:30pm
LOCATION: UCSC Campus, Engineering 2, Room 599
PRICE: Free (though UCSC parking pass required)
HOSTED BY: The UCSC Center for Games and Playable Media. Co-sponsored by the Digital Arts and New Media program and Institute for Humanities Research.

September 11, 2010

Making Sense with Answer Set Programming: “I’m into nuggets ya’ll”

I’m currently working on modeling stories through Answer Set Programming. My last research post was about using retroactive continuity in storytelling as rationalization mechanisms (defined by Abelson’s Goldwater Machine or my adviser’s Terminal Time) for story explanation. As more work goes into using logic programming in representing stories and characters, there are snags along with moments of small novel discoveries. Yesterday, Adam Smith was helping me work out a few snags in the event calculus for this story system. Overall, I want to anecdotally describe what working with believability in technology and expressive intelligence is like, along with giving some insights on formal models of story.

July 2, 2010

Recaps from FDG 2010

About 2 weeks ago, at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, CA for Foundations of Digital Games Conference, professionals gathered to present academic efforts in “all areas of research and education involving games, game technologies, gameplay and game design. The goal of the conference is the advancement of the study of digital games, including new game technologies, capabilities, designs, applications, educational uses, and modes of play.”

In case you missed it (and other than what you’d find in the conference proceedings), we shared every meal, played several games of poker, and sang show tunes as Jesper Juul played the piano (for not one but) two nights in a row. I have to admit that I’m lucky enough to both love what I do and all those in my professional family.

April 21, 2010

Retroactive Continuity and ‘South Park’

Radical Islamic website warns 'South Park' creators that they may end up dead for allegedly depicting Muhammad in a bear suit

I was shocked to see on CNN that a radical Islamic website had issued this message to ‘South Park’ creators:

“We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show,” the group said. “This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality that will likely happen to them.”

April 14, 2010

Dan Kline from Crystal Dynamics Visits UCSC

Thursday, April 15, 2010
11 am -12 pm
Hosted by Associate Professor Michael Mateas

Speaker: Daniel Kline from Crystal Dynamics

Title: How You Can Make A Great Game

In this talk, we’ll explore how anyone can make a great game.  We’ll
investigate what separates a good game from a great game, delving into
the presenter’s personal history for rich examples.  We’ll dig into
how to find the game that you want to make, and avoid common new idea
pitfalls.  And we’ll share game development best practices to help get
it done, with plenty of time to ask questions and share ideas.

March 4, 2010

Game Developers Conference: Current TV Features EIS Podcast

Intro: "When I was 5 years old, I had a crush on Super Mario"

EIS was featured on current.com

Game Developers Conference: Current TV Features EIS Podcast

Intro: "When I was 5 years old, I had a crush on Super Mario"

EIS was featured on current.com

February 5, 2010

Interactive Storytelling of the Less-Virtual Variety

What do American Idol, lonelygirl15, and Invisible Children have in common?

They were all instituted to function based off of mass audience interactions and they all deliver strong and dramatically-compelling narratives.  The idea of interactive preexists video games and virtual worlds, and it’s alway refreshing to go back and examine new ways that interactivity plays out in our world today.

December 2, 2009

Time Travel: What Google Wave and Braid have in Common


At this point, most people should know of Google Wave.  Fewer have had an opportunity to start “waving,” as Google Wave is still in a “limited preview” stage.  Usually, I’m not the first in line to adopt a new technology, because I always need substantial convincing for why I should bother.  In the case of waving, I had a realization that many of my current communicative frustrations may be alleviated with a reorganization of how I understood conversations.  Immediately, I got on Facebook and announced that I’d really really want an invite to Google Wave– I was waving in matter of minutes (Thanks Kyle!).

November 8, 2009

Procedural Literacy is the New Black

Hulu: Simpsons, Season 21 : Ep. 2, from 7:44 to 9:26.
Teacher uses technology to engage students.

It has to have been 4 or 5 years since I’ve seen a recent Simpsons episode.  After catching up on the last few episodes, I can really appreciate how “with it” the Simpsons have been.  After all, it’s gotta be relevant if being parodied by the Simpsons.    Particularly relevant is episode 21, where Bart’s teacher is replaced with a younger, hipper instructor.

Bart: “Then Zack skyped us, live blogged our spelling bee, and friended us on facebook!”

September 17, 2009

Reverse Engineering the Brain and the ELIZA Effect: Is Believability Ethical?


Pet Society, Tamagotchi, Milo

Over winter break this past year, I went to a conference in Chicago for Graduate and Faculty Christians. I found myself having to choose between the Engineering track and the Math track (I went with Engineering). At the conference were some well known researchers, such as Fred Brooks and Francis Collins.  It seemed, to me (at least), that this conference would be quite the unique experience (…and I can now say that I’ve sung hymns with a room full of engineers). I mean, how often do we encounter a large gathering of the intersection between Christians and Professors? … I digress; however, within the community of Christian “intellectuals,” there were some interesting presentations on non-religious research. In particular, was a talk titled, “Discerning Technology or Hippocratic Engineering.”

September 8, 2009

“The Most Important Video Game Yet Made” – The Beatles: Rock Band, Debated


First, if you haven’t heard about it, come tomorrow (9-9-09), The Beatles: Rock Band is released.  In preparation for its receptions, the game has instigated a lively inter-generational debate.  The lines are not so clearly drawn as to which communities or generations rest on which side, which makes it quite a unique situation.


August 27, 2009

Nonlinear Storytelling in Games: Deconstructing the Varieties of Nonlinear Experiences


What is “the mark of the narrative”? In chapter 1 of her book, Marie-Laure Ryan, discusses the transmedial nature of narrative and gives a broad definition provided by H. Porter Abbott:  Narrative is the combination of story and discourse.  I believe the distinction of story and discourse is quite novel and under-appreciated in the area of interactive storytelling.  For the purposes of this discussion, I’d like to deconstruct the nonlinear in narrative to give deeper insight into what this relationship between story and discourse actually entails.  The term nonlinear takes many meanings depending on context, which is a result of the complexity in the meaning of both story and discourse.

August 21, 2009

Girls Tend to Avoid First Person Shooters and Circular Saws

halo3 In my experiences, many girls don’t seem eager to try new things if they cannot predict the consequences and are without someone to explain how the new thing is done.  This is especially true of things that they don’t see other girls doing.  In particular, I rarely see girls playing games such as first person shooters and real time strategy, nor do I see them using circular saws and nail guns.  Now, I’m sure that studies show many reasons for this, but I’d like to speak of my own experiences with how little effort it takes to break the stereotype when the opportunity presents itself.  I just have a hard time believing that most girls would really rather watch their guy friends play Halo, than trying it out for themselves (if given the right circumstances).

July 29, 2009

Edutainment and Lessons “Learned” from Commercial Video Games: Jazz Band Revolution

rock-band“Jazz Band Revolution” …. Trust me, this is a great idea. A fellow EIS labmate recently gave a class presentation about the “Edutainment Fail.”  To its credit, edutainment is responsible for my first interactions with desktop computers.  Games such as Oregon Train, Logo Writer, some lemonade stand game, and that typing game were widely used in my early primary school years.  I suppose as games became more commercially available, the novelty of games in education were upstaged.  Still, it’s apparent that there is a great deal of learning that goes into playing some of the most popular games today, so it begs the question… Why aren’t games used for educational purposes more? Many bridges are in process being built to overcome the gap between the motivation to be entertained and the motivation to learn.  Similarly, there are many educational avenues from the experiencing to building of interactive experiences– whether it is to learn about the technology itself or to be engaged by the technology to learn.  Let’s be honest, everyone knows that games are more than just entertainment, yet why are they mostly seen as entertainment– If I am willing to learn for the sake of being entertained, surely, I am willing to learn USEFUL things for the sake of being entertained (if nothing else).  Being entertained should be assumed for all games; asking for a game that can entertain is like asking for a drink that will quench thirst.  Albeit, not all drinks will quench thirst, but we have more options than just water to quench our thirsts.  So listen up Activision, Harmonix, and Konami: Games are for more than just quenching my thirst for entertainment.

July 20, 2009

Distant Worlds: San Francisco Symphony Plays Celebrates Music from Final Fantasy


Sold out SF Symphony show

There are 3 takeaways I hope to convey in this post.  First, I’d like to share what it was like to be there Saturday night in the symphony hall.  Secondly, I want to describe what I thought about my second time at an FF concert (my first is described here).  Most importantly, I want to discuss a bit about the significance and meaning of such an event.  I believe that there is great meaning evident in the type of response that a video game event, such as this one, creates.  Unlike what is often described of video games in the media, this is not just an exploitation of fanaticism, rather, it is a celebration of the deeply meaningful presence Final Fantasy has had.  I cannot think of a better example to show that video games, rich and full of meaning, are about more than “just playing a game.”

July 17, 2009

Digital Humanities 2009: My First Humanities Conference

summer2009 199a

Trying to find traction in my pursuit of academic scholarship is quite daunting at times.  There are just so many people in the world doing so many interesting things, and it often feels like an endless catching up with the many experts of today.  What I do know is my childhood aspiration to tell stories through video games drives me on this adventure of discovery.  What I didn’t know was how many communities of thought there would be along the way: communities that care about stories, communities that care about games, communities that care about stories in games.  (It keeps me constantly feeling like the “the new kid” in school.)  And what I take away from this last conference is a new collaboration of interesting research questions that I could’ve very well been working on.  Not that I’m second guessing the path I’m currently on, but rather, I look forward to bringing my own discoveries to the intersection of all these communities.  So, let me share a little bit of what I learned about the Digital Humanities community.

July 11, 2009

What do Amnesia, Immortality, and Mind Control have to do with Game Design, Immersion, and Suspension of Disbelief?


What breaks your sense of presence in a story? The culture of video game playing has developed a tolerance for the common practices and limitations in designing and producing games.  We’ve stopped asking “why?” and have come to expect the typical input arrangements, the impermanence of death, and restrictions of our own free will.  Although much of the work in the EIS lab is focused on investigating new practices in creating and playing games, I’ve found, in my personal “research” of popular games, that despite the predictability, certain innovations in narrative are notably novel.

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