Grand Text Auto

October 30, 2003

Everyday Ordinary Strange: An Interview with Jason Nelson

by scott @ 11:29 pm

Poet Jason Nelson visited Stockton last week to give a reading and to visit with my New Media Studies students. Nelson is the hyperkinetic wizard behind and a future project that hovers around technology culture called Secret Technology. His work has appeared in a variety of print and online journals including Beehive (Brown University), Boomerang (UK), Epitome (Madrid), 3rdbed (NYC), Nowculture, Blue Moon Review and others. In addition his work has been featured in art galleries worldwide.

October 29, 2003

“Agitating for Dramatic Change”

by andrew @ 9:22 pm

There’s an extensive new article about interactive drama on Gamasutra called Agitating for Dramatic Change, by a game designer named Randy Littlejohn. It looks like a really great read — addressing in detail many of the issues we talk about here on grandtextauto. In fact he goes into detail about our interactive drama project, Facade, more so than any other paper to date not written by us.

If you haven’t registered with Gamasutra yet (for free), this article is surely worth the effort!

I will definitely be posting a response to this article asap (update: here is the response) — but I’m about to hop on a plane to Chicago to do 3 days of voice recording for Facade, immediately followed by a week in the Netherlands for the LevelUp conference, so it’ll be a few days!

New to grandtextauto? If you’ve just found this blog by way of links from the Gamasutra article, you might be interested in perusing some of the archived discussions we’ve had over the past few months about interactive story and drama, including: How to Destroy Possibilities, Chopped Fresh, not Canned, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, The Space of Interactive Narrative, Narrative as Virtual Reality, Artist Programmers, (Sharing) Control, Meaning machines, …Behavior, Interaction and Agency, The Rettberg Files, AI and Narrative, Machine Learning and Literary Work, Fiction and Recombinant Text, Taking Bernstein’s Bait, That Darn Conundrum

October 28, 2003

Narrative Intelligence at Last

by nick @ 4:11 pm

Narrative Intelligence book cover from publisher's siteI somehow managed to pause halfway through Narrative Intelligence, edited by Grand Text Auto’s own Michael Mateas and Phoebe Sengers, and mentioned on here before. After losing track of the book for a while, I’ve finally finished reading it. Even knowing something of the breadth of inquiry undertaken by those in narrative intelligence, it’s a rich and surprisingly diverse collection. Papers from the AAAI Fall Symposium 1999 are supplemented with other selections important to narrative intelligence research. One effect of the collection is to make me sorry that I missed the NI symposia and the active days of the NI group at MIT. But I’m glad this book is still around as a contribution to the academic discourse, and I hope future work will build on the insights in it.

NI researchers all share a concern with intelligence (human and computer) and with the use of narrative to organize events, but the field (if “field” is the best word for it) encompasses many different concepts and approaches, as Michael and Pheobe explain in their introduction. This means that people are more likely than usual to find a few essays to be gems and to find that others are of no use. In my case - as my interests seem to be pretty in keeping with the “typical” set of NI interests, assuming there is such a thing - I found something to redeem each of the articles, although it wasn’t always what I expected. For instance, an essay that didn’t provide me with any insight into the expected topics of computing and narrative (one about the design of a documentary about a band) offered helpful discussion on topics I didn’t expect to read about, such as the consistent ways that youth culture expresses itself within a mainstream culture.

October 27, 2003

Star Woes?

by andrew @ 9:53 am

Four months ago I expressed interest in trying the new Star Wars Galaxies mmorpg. Although I’m not a fan of rpg’s, the idea of an online Star Wars universe has so much appeal that even a cynical non-gamer like me was ready to give it a try. I’ve been so busy lately that I hadn’t had a chance to try it yet — and now, unfortunately, it seems my delay may have been for the best. As of late there have been a few writeups about SWG’s many problems, echoing what seem to be design problems with today’s mmorpgs in general. I think these critiques are very instructive not just for mmorpg design but as case studies of the challenges of interactive-experience genre innovation.

October 26, 2003

Yet Another Story and Games Symposium

by andrew @ 7:11 pm

They seem to be coming fast and furious… this one in Sydney in February: IE2004: Australian Workshop on Interactive Entertainment. Most appealing is that the first eight topics of interest in the call for papers are AI & narrative / interactive drama / believable agent -oriented topics. (via Game-Culture)

Also, there will be a mini-symposium in the afternoon just after the Level Up conference ends, called FLUX: Game Industry in Transition; reserve your seat. Sadly my flight home leaves a few hours beforehand, so I’ll miss out.

October 24, 2003

Storytelling and Games Exhibition and Symposium

by andrew @ 8:46 pm

From November 12 through March 28, Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center will have an exhibition called Fictional Worlds, Virtual Experiences: Storytelling and Computer Games. “The exhibition derives from research of the How They Got Game Project at the Stanford Humanities Laboratory, a project seeking a path-finding narrative for the historical and critical appreciation of computer and video games. … A free conference on Friday, February 6, entitled ‘Story Engines: A Public Program on Storytelling and Computer Games,’ presents speakers from the industry and academia, addressing aspects of the role of narrative in computer games,” including Warren Spector, and Haden Blackman of LucasArts. (via GamesNetwork)

The exhibition overlaps in time with both the Game Developers Conference in San Jose and the Game Scenes exhibit at Yerba Buena in San Francisco, making a trip to the Bay Area in late March a 3-for-1 extravaganza.

October 22, 2003

That Darn Conundrum

by andrew @ 2:01 am

I find interactive drama to be a fascinating topic. It’s a fairly undefined and unproven thing, which makes it a lot of fun to think about, and attempt to build. Frustrating and humbling, too, of course.

Here’s a few rambling thoughts on the topic (many not new), partly motivated by a short essay about reality television that I recently came across while surfing.

While I’ve thought and read about interactive drama a lot (but am always finding more!), and with Michael have come up with an approach to it, a question I keep asking myself is: what exactly do you *do* in an interactive drama? What is it exactly? How does it operate, on a design / structural level?

October 18, 2003

Find a Way to San Jose

by andrew @ 1:39 am

The extensive list of presentations for March’s Game Developers Conference in San Jose is now online, and it looks as stimulating as ever! If you’ve never been to a GDC before, this looks like a great year to make the trip. There are a lot of talks to look through, so I took the time to pull out abstract excerpts of the ones I imagine would have particular interest to the GTxA crowd. Note there are a couple of presentations that specifically address issues of game research.

This conference has been getting better over time. It’s still definitely an industry conference (versus, say, the brand new Level Up, an academic one); GDC consistently and primarily offers hard-nosed, practical advice and information on building better games. But in recent years it seems to be trying to include more theoretical, experimental thinking and research. Cool.

October 17, 2003

Image & Narrative and Internationality

by noah @ 12:02 am

I just discovered the online journal Image and Narrative via Jan Baetens’s review of The New Media Reader. Image and Narrative is described as “a peer-reviewed e-journal on visual narratology in the broadest sense of the term” and its current issue includes essays with titles like “Comic strips and constrained writing” (which hits a couple of my interest buttons right there).

In the NMR review (which, despite what I’m about to say, made me quite pleased) Nick and I take some flack, and not for the first time, for putting together an English-language anthology entirely made up of texts well-known in English: “Although they include an important number of European texts and authors, the gathering is mared by the fact that only texts which are already available in English seem to have been chosen.” Which is seen to have some negative effects in the journal’s area of focus: “For the section on comics, for instance, this means that European, mostly francophone, scholarship has been completely ignored and that a (by European standards) second-rate theoretician like Scott McCloud is the only one to represent the field.”

Nick wrote to me in email saying, “I think he’s right to criticize the monolingual, American-centered nature of the NMR. On the other hand, how do we expect an anthology like this to emerge that isn’t rooted in a particular language and national culture?” It’s a good question. Nick, as one of the few people to translate a work of elit from another language into English, has also put personal effort into creating a more international, multi-lingual field. Personally, I probably haven’t done enough.

October 16, 2003

Ex Caverna

by nick @ 3:14 pm

Nick in Brown's TCASCV, looking at Hypertable. Photo by Rachel Stevens. I got to spend my long weekend up at Brown University, where I met up with numerous digital media folks in literature and the arts, including several of my collaborators: Rachel, Noah, and William. I also got to talk with Robert Coover and Talan Memmott and see some of the work they (and Noah, and William, and others at Brown) have been doing in the TCASCV, where they’ve been bringing literature into virtual reality in the Cave Writing project.

I saw Screen (by Noah and other collaborators) finally, which I’ve seen documentation of but hadn’t gotten to experience. I also saw a dynamic word lattice that was part of Talan’s in-progress project and heard about William’s in-progress museum of words to rotate and manipulate. An A.R. Ammons poem has been used as the framework and text for one complete, elaborate piece; a piece called Hypertable provided a setting for several shorter works that incorporated texts in different ways, one of which is pictured here.

October 14, 2003

Independent Game Happenings

by andrew @ 11:20 am

112 games have been entered in 2004’s Independent Games Festival. Some dozen or so finalists will be chosen by a jury to compete at the Game Developers Conference in March in San Jose. The games’ development times range from 3 days to 8 years. Most seem like smallish web-based games, and I don’t see as many genre-busting works as I’d like, but I’m excited by the ~50% increase in the number of entries from last year.

Also, last weekend was the 2nd annual Independent Games Conference, sponsored by GarageGames. Looking at the schedule, it appears to have been a low-budget version of the expensive Game Developers Conference, with a few independent-games-oriented sessions thrown in the mix.

While we’re on the topic, I’ll throw in a link to the annual Indie Game Jam, whose results get shown at GDC’s Experimental Gameplay Workshop. They say they’ll soon be posting a fresh call for participation for 2004’s event.

October 12, 2003

Terms to Game

by noah @ 3:14 pm

On nettime Mark Stahlman writes:

As the fellow who “coined” the term NEW MEDIA (circa 1990, in preparation for the America Online IPO, whereupon Steve Case awarded me this email address), I have often been asked — So what the HECK is (er, are) New Media, anyway?

I couldn’t help but answer:

“Simulations and games, in many forms and for many subjects, are among the most recent innovations in instructional technique. Some are hardly ‘new media,’ however, because they are as simple and familiar as card or board games.” (p.93)

- James A. Robinson, “Simulation and Games.” In _The New Media and Education_, edited by Peter H. Rossi and Bruce J. Biddle. Aldine Publishing, Chicago, 1966.

Then I realized that GTxA folks might be interested in the rest of this chapter’s introductory paragraph:

October 9, 2003

Simulation Aggravation

by andrew @ 10:04 am

Greg Costikyan posts a strong, unhappy reaction to’s Sept 12. I was glad to read’s balanced reaction to Greg’s post. (Mind you, Greg is someone who lives a block from Ground Zero in NYC, who saw the towers fall.)

Without getting into the politics (other than to say I find Sept 12 to be a useful, thought-provoking piece, and exciting new genre for games), I’m not sure why Greg and some of his commenters are so vitriolically opposed to calling Sept 12 a simulation. Greg writes, at the height of his vehemence,

But to call this a “simulation,” as the creators do, is fucking obscene. Simulation of what? Where’s the research? What systems are simulated?

October 8, 2003

Mak ing  Sce n e  s

by andrew @ 11:15 am

I just moved to Boston, and a few days ago happened to walk by Brookline Booksmith, noticing a sign that said Adrienne Eisen will be reading from her new book, called Making Scenes. I thought, huh, Adrienne Eisen, the hypertext writer, has a print book?

I’ve been a fan of Adrienne’s work since her first web-based hyperfiction, Six Sex Scenes, came out about 7 years ago now. We’d had some email discussions in the past — she’s a Petz fan — but we hadn’t met in person, so that was fun.

So much to read, so little time…

by andrew @ 10:39 am

Here’s a quick link to Noah’s blog where he mentions his newly received copy of Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman’s new book, Rules of Play. I’m very much looking forward to getting my hands on it, especially after seeing their presentation at GDC last March.

I must say, between Rules of Play, The New Media Reader, Narrative Intelligence, The Art of Interactive Design, and the upcoming First Person and Twisty Little Passages (and the others I’m surely forgetting), this has been quite a year for meaty new books.

October 7, 2003

License to Blog

by nick @ 5:12 pm

Recently, we drivers have been discussing how to make the things we write on Grand Text Auto available under a Creative Commons license. I believe we all agree that things we write for the blog (and photos we take and images we create for the blog) should be available under the Attribution-NonCommercial 1.0 license. However, checking the checkbox and putting that license statement on the main page would suggest that we’re licensing content to which we don’t own the rights. That’s why I chose to indicate individually that particular entries by me are licensed. It’s clunky, but a broader, incorrect offer of a license throws those legitimately licensed items into suspicion.

October 6, 2003

(Art)ificial Life

by andrew @ 11:47 am

The annual international Vida (Life) competition, now in its fifth year, seeks “electronic art projects employing techniques such as digital genetics, autonomous robotics, recursive chaotic algorithms, knowbots, computer viruses, embodied artificial intelligence, avatars, virtual ecosystems, and interfaces between software, hardware and biomass.” Entries due Oct 31.

On the site you can peruse the past four years of winners and honorable mentions — some very cool stuff. (I was happy when Scott Draves, recipient of Vida 2001’s first prize for his piece Electric Sheep, contributed his thoughts to our Artist Programmer discussion last June.)

October 3, 2003

Taking Bernstein’s Bait

by andrew @ 12:32 am

Mark Bernstein is asking (again), in the twenty-plus years that games have been around, what do they teach us about ourselves, e.g., about personal relationships, sexuality, the human condition?

The answer is: very little. But come on, this is obvious. (It’s true, some think we’re already there, but have thankfully come to their senses.) Over the years several have lamented publicly about this, e.g., Chris Crawford, Greg Costikyan, Brenda Laurel, Ernest Adams, and various articles; more recently Frasca, me, Michael, to name just a few. Michael and I use this as our motivation for developing Facade.

October 1, 2003

Poems that Go: Literary Games

by nick @ 1:33 pm

Poems that Go made the move to Wisconsin successfully; the new issue on literary games has just been published. Congrats to Ingrid and Megan on finishing up this intriguing Fall 2003 issue. It has some recent pieces that are already often discussed along with what are probably the first Poems that Go publications involving Java (used to interpet a work written in TADS, actually) and CGI scripts. More important than the technological diversity is the wide range of approaches to literature and game that are represented.

I wrote the introduction for this issue, so rather than ramble any further about the contents, I’ll just invite your comments on the works featured there, and mention that the issue offers:

  • Arteroids by Jim Andrews
  • The Intruder by Natalie Bookchin
  • Nine by Jason Lewis
  • Fields of Dream by Nick Montfort & Rachel Stevens
  • Bad Machine by Dan Shiovitz

Powered by WordPress