Grand Text Auto

June 30, 2004

Opinions Coming, Says the NY Times

by andrew @ 8:46 pm

Glancing at the home page of the NYTimes, I spied a new article about election-year political videogames — featuring Ian Bogost and his till-now-under-wraps, about-to-be-released game, Opinions! The article reports that Ian, who as GTxA readers know was co-developer of the Howard Dean campaign game, was hired two months ago by the Democratic National Convention to create a game “for the Democratic convention committee. … In Opinions, the player performs an action in each of six minigames simultaneously, seeking to achieve a balance among them. Actions in the minigames, each corresponding to a domestic or international policy topic, affect the ease of playing in the other minigames.” Sounds cool!

The article is by Michael Erard, who has written several articles recently about games and game research.

Once again (I can’t keep track anymore!), congrats to Ian on the new game and its publicity, and to Gonzalo too, who gets a quote. The two are pictured in the article lovingly teleconferencing each other. ;-)

E-Ennui, Interactive Fiction, and More

by nick @ 7:55 pm

There’s an email interview with me just up at E-Boredom, a low-gloss site covering movies, comics, and the Nintendo Entertainment System, none of which I discuss in my interview. I hope they still liked talking to me.

I think I look kinda fetching right under that cheap Web hosting ad banner.

trAce Call for Abstracts

by scott @ 7:16 pm

trAce Online Writing Centre, which has served as one of the most important organizations in new media writing since 1996, has put forth a call for abstracts for a planned book, intended to complement the trAce website. Essays are invited both about the evolution of the trAce community and about the individual and collaborative creative projects published by trAce. Abstracts are due in October and the volume is planned for publication in 2007.

Three AI-centric interactive narrative and character conferences

by michael @ 10:43 am

Three upcoming conferences explore interactive narrative and characters from an AI perspective.

Update 7/7/04 (Andrew): A fourth has been added at the end of this message.

A special track on artificial intelligence in music and art will be part of the 18th international FLAIRS conference in Clearwater Beach, Florida, May 16-18, 2005. They invite original and unpublished contributions on AI applications in the analysis, composition, generation, interpretation, performance, evaluation, classification, and data mining of artifacts from various creative endeavors and fields, such as visual art, graphics, video, music, sounds, architecture, design of physical artifacts, sculpture, literature, poetry, etc. Besides being published in the FLAIRS proceedings, a selection of papers from this track will appear in a special issue on “AI Tools in Music and Art” to appear in the International Journal on Artificial Intelligence Tools (IJAIT). The submission deadline is October 15th, 2004.

A EUSAI2004 Workshop on Life-Like Robots in Ambient Intelligent Environments will be held November 8th, 2004, in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Whereas previous work focussed on the social aspect of robots and life-like virtual characters, this workshop wants to explore the field of interactive life-like robots that are situated in an ambient intelligent environment. Questions to be investigated includ:

  • How is life-likeness created?
  • What software architecture is needed?
  • Will the user feel more comfortable in the presence of a life-like robot, than in the situation of a machine-like robot?
  • In what ways does a life-like robot interact with its Ambient Intelligent environment?

Marc Boehlen and I explored some of these issues with Office Plant #1. It’s nice to see a whole workshop organized around this theme. Submissions are due September 10th, 2004.

June 28, 2004

TIDSE 2004 (Part 1)

by michael @ 4:50 pm

I recently returned from TIDSE 2004 (Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment). Here’s the first part of my trip report from this conference.

Norman Badler (keynote)
Norman Badler opened the conference with a keynote titled Embodied Agents and Meaningful Motion. He began by describing the gulf between the world of computer graphics and the world of artificial intelligence, noting that virtual humans must integrate techniques from both fields in order to support compelling interactions between real and virtual people. He described his own work on the EMOTE motion quality model, based on Laban motion analysis, that provides a parameterized model that procedurally modifies the affective quality of humanoid motion, given 8 high-level parameters. The best part of the talk was his list of the myths that many virtual humans researchers are guilty of believing (he noted that he didn�t mean to single out any one researcher, and that he himself has been guilty of believing many of these).

June 26, 2004

Screen online

by noah @ 3:11 pm

New media artworks that aren’t digitally distributable are near-invisible until they have good, accessible documentation. Screen — a collaborative project I helped create in Brown’s virtual reality “Cave” — just became visible today.

Now, in addition to the interview mentioned by Nick, the feature at The Iowa Review Web includes both a Screen overview video and a document of the entire piece. Michelle Higa’s work on the second of these is so artful that I think of it as a single-channel video artwork in its own right, rather than simply documentation.

I believe Screen also has the distinction of being the first work of electronic writing to contain text from novelist (and long-time elit supporter) Robert Coover. It was an honor to collaborate with him.

June 25, 2004

World’s Longest Palindrome

by nick @ 1:02 pm

It’s been making the rounds after an upgrade: Dennis Jerz blogged about the program written, and text produced, by Peter Norvig at Google. (Norvig is co-author of the excellent textbook Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach.) Norvig claims that his generated text, currently 17,259 words in length, is “the longest palindromic sentence ever created.”

Well … 0wn3d. Here is a palindromic sentence that is 40,000 words long.

To my knowledge, Norvig’s text — which is impressive in some ways — is the longest palindromic list of unique English words including proper nouns. (There are articles, “a” and “an,” in front of the nouns that aren’t proper nouns, too.) If “unique” is removed from this description, the 40,000-word palindrome above would also be included in the category. If Norvig’s word list counts as a sentence, the 40,000-word palindrome should, too.

More interesting to me than Norvig’s length assertions are his attempts to (at least is some ways) read or gloss his palindrome, found in the “commentary” section. Reading 2002: A Palindrome Story suddenly may not look so hard.

June 23, 2004

Ludology @ ebr

by noah @ 11:22 am

I’m happy to say that the Ludology section of First Person is now live at electronic book review. What is ludology? That question is part of what this section aims to address.

The term was brought into computer game studies by Gonzalo Frasca, who is well known for his thinking about connecting games with politics and the wider culture. But the term is now used, at least by some, to identify a type of game studies that emphasizes formal aspects of games — at times seeming to bracket off nearly all concern with anything beyond the mechanisms of gameplay.

In this section, essays by Markku Eskelinen, Espen Aarseth, and Stuart Moulthrop present three different, while still related, conceptions of ludology. Responses come from a range that includes Chris Crawford, John Cayley, and Diane Gromala. This section has also already elicited some extended responses online, including at Julian Kücklich’s Particle Stream.

June 21, 2004

Get Your Text On

by nick @ 3:05 pm

And get your script on, too. You could call it version 2.0, or you might think of it as Grand Text Auto: Advice City, or you might just say “ooo - shiny!” Whatever the case, there have been some changes. It’s been slightly more than a year since we’ve been online, and now we’ve driven Movable Type off into the ocean and are riding in a tripped-out 2004 WordPress, complete with redesign. Sure, the radio stations are the same, but now, all of our templates are compliant, even if our thinking about digital media isn’t.

Recent comments are now shown more prominently, since we think highly of all of you who take the time to discuss various issues with us here. We also have added easily-accessed biographies of the five of us (roll over our names in the brown bar), because, hey, we think pretty highly of ourselves, too - and it’s only fair that readers be able to learn something about who we are without needing to crawl through our websites. Another discussion-friendly change: The names of commenters now appear right up at the beginning of the comment, as Sean suggested.

Thanks to Hanna for not only writing up a clear, detailed document about how to do the conversion but also actually sitting down with me and helping move the blog over to WordPress.

Acid-Free Bits

by noah @ 10:27 am

Nick and I are pleased to announce the publication of a new pamphlet we’ve written, Acid-Free Bits: Recommendations for Long-Lasting Electronic Literature. AFB is the first publication of the Electronic Literature Organization’s Preservation, Archiving, and Dissemination (PAD) project. While we wrote most of the text of the pamphlet, Nick and I are very much building on the work of the last couple of years by the participants in PAD.

PAD got its start at the 2002 Electronic Literature Organization Symposium at UCLA, where a concern of the gathering was identified — that much writing for electronic media is evanescent. The PAD project was formed to address this problem from a number of angles. The first year’s efforts culminated in the 2003 e(X)literature Conference sponsored by the Digital Cultures Project at UCSB. Now AFB launches the next stage of the PAD effort, which will also include a forthcoming white paper by Alan Liu and other members of the ELO board.

Acid-Free Bits is aimed at authors of electronic literary works. As its subtitle indicates, it identifies a set of practical steps that authors can take now to make it more likely that their work can be made available to readers in the future, even as the technological environment continues to shift under our feet. It’s also an in-process document. This is version 1.0. We’re looking forward to hearing feedback — perhaps starting with the comments field on this entry.

June 19, 2004

Shoot Now, But Ask Questions First

by andrew @ 8:09 am

“Ready or not games are in the gallery.” For a week starting today on the empyre listserv is ‘game to game’, a discussion of game art. Panelists include games and media theorist Melanie Swalwell; Rebecca Cannon, curator of; artists Anita Johnston and Troy Innocent; and moderated by Helen Stuckey.

June 18, 2004

Untie My Knowledge! Free My Digits! (2/2)

by nick @ 3:55 pm

My post-lunch stop by my office led me to miss one panel of Knowledge Held Hostage, but I returned for a discussion of some proposals for change. I’ll point out here, above the fold, that in questions a sinister piece of pending legislation was mentioned: The Induce Act. Now on to the panels…


Untie My Knowledge! Free My Digits! (1/2)

by nick @ 11:32 am

Today I’m at a conference at Penn called Knowledge Held Hostage: Scholarly versus Corporate Rights in the Digital Age. As you might guess, the conference was not about scholars hoarding rights from corporations. I found it interesting that the opposition between scholarly and corporate rights was encoded in the subtitle, as wasn’t the case in Copyright and the Networked Computer. On the one hand, that leaves out artistic, political, and other rights; on the other, it sets up an institutional opponent for corporations - one that has some societal power and is at least somewhat formidable, if the other opponents you’re contemplating are, for instance, Negativland and a Norwegian teenage hacker.


Neural Print

by nick @ 7:26 am

neural.jpg Sure, you can get Neural - an Italian magazine about “hacktivism, e-music, and new media art” - online, in English. (Or in Italian, of course. With appropriate illustrations and short bits of text laden with technical terms, the Italian stories end up being almost as comprehensible as menus - or more so, if you already know what the story is about.) But there’s something about the printed English magazine that evokes those enthusiastic publications of a decade ago: the early Wired and its predecessors, bOING bOING and Mondo 2000 (”The only magazine with an expiration date in its title.” -Bruce Sterling). This is a spread from the February issue, picturing a “flower installation” in Croatia. While it isn’t hot off the press, I keep finding things to like about it and the news on the Neural site.

June 16, 2004

Workshop on Evolutionary Music and Art

by michael @ 7:02 pm

The 3rd European Workshop on Evolutionary Music and Art, EvoMUSART 2005, will be held March 30 - April 1 2005, in Lausanne, Switzerland. EvoMUSART focuses on the use of evolutionary techniques (genetic algorithms, genetic programming) for generative music and art. Submissions are due November 5, 2004. Topics of interest include:


Happy Centennial Bloomsday

by nick @ 6:01 pm

bloom.gif Bloom and Daedalus wandered through Dublin 100 years ago today, albeit in a Dublin with ontological status different from the one some of us know. For those who haven’t read Joyce’s epic novel and won’t have time to read it all today, there’s always the online classic, Ulysses for Dummies.

Changing Views: Worlds in Play

by andrew @ 3:09 pm

The second DiGRA conference will be held at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver in one year’s time, from June 17 to 20, 2005. The conference is titled “Changing Views: Worlds in Play”. An excerpt from the press release:

The goal of this conference is to facilitate a richer and more comprehensive grasp of the present and future capabilities and applications of digital games by inviting and supporting work which demonstrates the values, means and ends of ‘changing views’ in and on digital games and games research. This work necessarily embraces interdisciplinarity and internationalism, and is, in sum, work which bridges between and across worlds in play.

We had a great time at the first DiGRA conference last November in Utrecht, called LevelUp, and expect Changing Views to be well worth the trip.

CFP and more info are to appear soon on the DiGRA site.

Update: Here’s the conference site.

June 15, 2004

Take Off Every Zag

by nick @ 1:51 pm

For great justice, a new version of the Zag Glulx interpreter is now available. Zag is written in Java and has done a lot to ease this Mac user’s Glulx woes. It’ll let you run large, multimedia IF pieces such as Narcolepsy and Lock & Key (found on Adam’s IF Page), City of Secrets, and El extraño caso de Randolph Dwight.

IF That Doesn’t Go with Your Couch

by nick @ 12:08 pm

The 2004 IF Art Show is now online, with several works, including pieces by Jacqueline A. Lott, Dave J. Malaguti, and Yoon Ha Lee. Marnie Parker’s IF Art Shows (this is the sixth) use something of a visual art or gallery metaphor, but they don’t feature visual art - at least not prominently. The usual text-based format for interactive fiction is the norm, with pieces that are less extensive and riddle-like than usual. As with the IF Competition, a contest, rather than a magazine issue or the like, is used as an organizing theme.

I haven’t gotten to do anything but fire up this year’s entries, as yet - and I should probably be proud of that rather than ashamed, given how much work I’ve been putting off - but there is likely some worthwhile IF in there. If you’d like a personal recommendation that runs on the Web, my favorite IF Art Show entry from years past is Emily Short’s Galatea. Emily was one the judges of the show this year; the judges’ reviews will be online with the “exhibits” sometime soon.

June 11, 2004

Adventures in Flash

by nick @ 11:05 am

qfr.png You called yourself “ESCAPER.” The oddly compelling miniature Flash adventure Crimson Room was mentioned on here back in February. Now Toshimitsu Takagi’s sequel, Viridian Room, is out. I haven’t done more than fiddle with it, as is the case with another game that Josh Kellar pointed me to, this one by Jan Albartus: The Mystery of Time and Space. Branko Collin on linked to what is certainly the most visually appealing and easily clicked through adventure of this sort, a promotional game for The Polyphonic Spree’s new album: Quest for the Rest. It’s by Amanita Design. (The image here is from Quest for the Rest.) It looks like adventure games and interactive fiction may have a rich life ahead of them in advertising, given this and Burger King’s IF-style online video puppet. But it’s certainly the case that Flash is being used for some interesting little online graphical adventures.

Update (6/12): A detailed review of The Mystery of Time and Space follows…

Update (6/12): There’s a more extensive Flash adventure by Amanita Design: Samorost.

June 10, 2004

Indie Games in NYTimes

by andrew @ 10:21 am

A NYTimes article appears today about “small, simple, fast and fun” games, many of them from independent developers. The games described include Grow, recently mentioned on GTxA, and IGF prize winner Oasis. Plus, a link to Little Fluffy, which I’ve added to our resources links list. Check out their “Top 20″ page.

June 9, 2004

Electronic Art in Brazil

by michael @ 10:22 am

FILE, Festival Internacional de Linguagem Eletrônica (Electronic Language International Festival), will be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from November 22nd to December 12th, 2004. Submissions are due June 15. FILE will consist of four simultaneous events:

  • FILE FESTIVAL - An electronic arts festival solicating works in areas such as web arts, net arts, artificial life, hypertext, robotics, software art, VR, and electronic installation.
  • FILE SYMPOSIUM - A symposium on digitial culture.
  • FILE HIPERSÔNICA - An exhibition of sound installations and real-time performance.
  • FILE GAMES - An exhibition of electronic games. A newly added event this year.

June 8, 2004

Hypertext Posters - Submit by Friday

by nick @ 3:45 pm

In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee and colleagues got to proclaim their new invention, the World Wide Web, with a poster at the ACM Hypertext conference. This year it could be you! The 2004 conference will be in sunny Santa Cruz; the poster and demo deadline is this Friday, June 11.


by nick @ 1:14 am

A new issue of The Iowa Review Web is just out, and this quarter’s featured artist section features our very own Noah Wardrip-Fruin, who is interviewed by Scott Rettberg and Jill Walker, with comments from Josh Carroll and Robert Coover.

Also in the new issue are interviews with Jay David Bolter and Amy Sara Carroll; a review of Windows and Mirrors: Interaction Design, Digital Art, and the Myth of Transparency, by Jay David Bolter and Diane Gromala; and poems by Denisa Comanescu, Rebecca Makkai, and Stephen Dunn.

Dunn and Rettberg both … if Grand Text Auto doesn’t carjack The Iowa Review Web, it looks like Stockton College will.

June 6, 2004

An Atari VCS Curriculum

by nick @ 3:19 pm

Prompted in part by the all-encompassing “game canon” lists that were provided a while ago (specifically, the ones by Greg Costikyan and by Jesper Juul and Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen), I’ve listed a dozen games for one specific early console - the Atari VCS (a.k.a. the Atari 2600) - which I think would be extremely useful for modern-day scholars of console games to play and study. Without giving anything like a full review of these cartridges, I’ve tried to briefly explain why each is worth considering.

About the List · The 12 Cartridges


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