Grand Text Auto

August 31, 2006


by nick @ 2:05 pm

Ginsberg exhorted you to taste his mouth with your ear; Humor magazine Bunk’s new issue, iBunk, asks you to taste its i with your clicky-finger. The issue includes Mark C. Marino’s story “Encrypted Lovers,” ready for reading on iPod.

August 30, 2006

Cruel Playtesters Needed

by noah @ 10:27 pm

As Ian notes at Water Cooler Games, on Sunday September 3 and Sunday September 10 there’s a need for playtesters in the San Francisco area. The game to be tested is one of “benevolent assassination,” which Ian designed with Jane McGonigal. It’s called Cruel 2 B Kind.

August 28, 2006

Shelfless Dishes

by nick @ 2:47 am

Spineless Books index of publications William Gillespie is not only a more productive writer than you are - if you throw away all the writing he does except for when he’s making up pseudonyms under which to publish his writing, he’s still a more productive writer than you are. William can write half of one novel and finish proofreading another in the time it takes a police officer to write him a ticket for writing while driving.

In fact, the sheer amount of writing that William has published via his Spineless Books - which does, admittedly, include some texts that were written by others, such as Joshua Corey, Mike Maguire, Dirk Stratton, Ingrid Ankerson, Raymond Federman, Larry McCaffrey, and Harry Stephen Keeler - has now exceeded the total quantity of Web content hosted by France.

Recent additions include the very lively, funny, and short Mars Needs Lunch by “Jimmy Crater,” available as a well-designed a codex and in an absurd Flash file. There’s a 1990 collage novel, The Assassination of Roy’s Suspended Disbelief, also online, written by a “Q. Synopsis.” An excerpt is up from Gillespie’s book Letter to Lamont, not to be confused with his hypercube, Letter to Linus. No word yet on whether a Letter to Lieberman will be forthcoming. There is a selection of classics, too, including Gadsby: A Story of over 50,000 Words without Using the Letter “E,” by Ernest Vincent Wright.

William also has a most fascinating conversation with Gene Dillon in a recent issue of Mental Contagion.

Situated Technologies, Interactive Cities, and War

by mary @ 12:56 am

There is a great set of posts readers may wish to check out at the IDC list about situated technologies, ubiquity, games, war, and the ISEA interactive city project. Insightful stuff & worth the read.

August 25, 2006


by andrew @ 2:19 pm

About me:
Through constraint and other formal methods, Oumypo (Ouvroir de MySpace Potentielle) seeks to uncover new MySpace structures, patterns and behaviors, which may then be used by MySpacers in any way they please. For example, we have contructed the “F+7″ method: Replace every friend in your top 8 with the friend seven entries after that person in your “My Friends” list. Also, try the “Pimp My MySpace HTML Lipogram” in which you remove the letters H, T, M, L from all HTML codes used in your profile.

Who I’d like to meet:
Noël Arnaud, Valérie Beaudouin, Marcel Bénabou, Jacques Bens, Claude Berge, André Blavier, Paul Braffort, Italo Calvino,


Horse Less Carriage Returns

by nick @ 12:57 pm

horse less review 4

horse less review 4, an online collection of poetry and prose, is up. This is the serial edited by Erika Howsare and Jen Tynes, who also have been writing the traveling essay “Don’t You Have a Map?, part 10 of which stopped by Grand Text Auto to be published here this month.

Am I imagining the emphasis on food and science in this issue, which offers “An Essay on Milk,” “Reveal 54: Nutrition,” and “tomaquet cherry“? Good places to start reading this one include “Recycling” and “Changsha” by Jim Goar and the distant excerpt from Drive by Sarah Lang. My own contribution to this issue is “Count on It,” a poem in four parts, each of which has an answer.

I’m curious about two things: First, of course, whether anyone is going to solve any of my poem. Beyond that, are there are other interesting online “little magazines” worth reading, along the lines of CrossConnect and this one? Which ones do you read or at least look at once in a while?

August 22, 2006

Wu Wei Redux

by nick @ 5:33 pm

Or predated, actually. The principle of non-action, so brilliantly used in the game Don’t Shoot the Puppy, also animated (or made static) a much earlier game for the Amiga Joyboard. Guru Meditation, later made famous by an Amiga error message, was an in-house game at Amiga that required the user to sit perfectly still on a Joyboard and remain sitting that way for as long as possible.

August 21, 2006

Game Writers Conference 2006

by andrew @ 1:50 pm

The second annual Game Writers Conference is happening September 6-7 in Austin, co-located with the online game focused Austin Game Conference, and a Casual Games Conference.

A bunch of writer/designers will be presenting there, from a variety of successful games. The schedule is comprised primarily of presentations on the current approaches of writing for games.

I wrote the organizers a while ago about potentially presenting Façade there, but I think the conference is focused more on proven, existing techniques than experimental, bleeding-edge ones.

August 17, 2006

Homage to Harry

by nick @ 11:10 pm

Pitfall Harry

In order of increasing puerility and decreasing interactivity, some tributes to a great game by David Crane:

Nature’s 4-day poemcube creation

by nick @ 12:00 am

YOU are a Cubic Creature, Opposites create Opposites. Until cornered, word is fictitious.

Actually that isn’t what Jason Nelson claims in his The Poetry Cube; that’s from somewhere else. But it is the case that poem has four corners in The Poetry Cube, and poem can be loaded with sixteen newly-written or previously-saved lines, which are combinatorially reconfigured as one clicks to rotate or move to a different level. The lines and their framework really function as a machine, and they show off that function in a visually compelling way. The project was developed by Rory Hering and is now in beta. Jason welcomes feedback on it.

August 16, 2006

Two New Masterblogs

by nick @ 3:18 pm

It’s about time I noted on here that my mentor Henry Jenkins has started a blog. Henry writes about a variety of topics, digital and non-digital, and is particularly deft at figuring out how fans and commuinities of readers/viewers/players/etc. connect to and rework media. Jesper mentioned his new blog a while ago, but I’ve kept forgetting to post something about it here. I have finally been parted to do this by Ian Bogost’s review of Henry’s new book, Convergence Culture, and by the three-part reply Henry has posted to it (1 2 3) and the comments that have followed. Join the fracas, or just unfold your lawn chair on a nearby hill and watch the fun.

Also, Jason Scott clued me in to Brian Moriarty’s blog - Moriarty is the author of Wishbringer and Trinity. There’s only one post so far (and no fracas) but the subtitle of the blog is “Interactive fiction, then and now,” so I’ll eagerly await further posts.

August 15, 2006

Snakes on a Grid

by nick @ 11:53 pm

Grid Wars 2

Abstract shooter fans: Be sure to check out Grid Wars 2, programmed by Mark Incitti in Blitz Basic and available for Windows, OS X, and Linux.

The game seems to be the most famous in a series of Geometry Wars clones that use the dual-stick move-and-shoot control scheme of Eugene Jarvis’s Robotron 2084 and radiant vectorized graphics. Grid Wars 2 features a wide variety of geometric shapes along with some snakes. It’s been upgraded substantially since its first release. At World of Stuart you can read some about why the gameplay may exceed that of its visually very similar Xbox progenitor.

I wish I had experience with other indie, freeware abstract games that have been developed recently, such as Mono, but my Mac use tends to cut down on my gaming, which I guess they warned us about. Anyway, thanks go to Geoff and to the recent legal fracas for bringing this Mac-compatible game to my attention.

August 14, 2006

IF Thesis Writing Time

by nick @ 5:00 pm

I just passed my thesis proposal defense here at Penn, which means I get to research and write “Generating Narrative Variation in Interactive Fiction.”

August 13, 2006

Loaded Mazagines

by nick @ 5:11 pm
Curio Box

Curio Box 1, Spring 2006, edited by Phillip Dmochowski,
Steve McLaughlin, and Xiaowei Wang

I’m a sucker for issues of literary magazines that take the form of boxes filled with stuff. McSweeney’s 4 (Late Winter, 2000) may be the most well-known recent example. Other bundles in the fairly high production-value, wider-circulation category include McSweeney’s 16 (discussed on GTxA previously) and Wedge 3, 4, and 5 (Winter, Spring, and Summer 1983). I’m not sure who came up with this concept - Duchamp? - but it’s certainly a good one. The format seems to be used in even more interesting ways as one moves from (relatively) well-bankrolled publications to the fringes. The recent Curio Box 1 and Pandora’s Backpages, from a few years ago, offer a zany variety of art and writing in different material forms. These two also incorporate some digital work, and work that engages the digital, alongside print, something that codex-bound literary magazines have found difficult to accomplish. (more…)

August 11, 2006

Façade for Macintosh Now Available

by andrew @ 6:29 pm

Download Façade for Macintosh (131MB) via BitTorrent at, and spread the word! First time players, please post your feedback here, thanks!

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is we suspect some of you won’t be able to run it, as it requires at least a 2.0GHz G4 or G5. (Or 1.0GHz dual processors, or 1.8GHz Intel Core Solo.) Several beta-testers ran into this problem.

We’re also working to make it available via direct download at

Anyone have any recommendations of what Mac sites we should contact, to get the word out?

Again, many thanks to Ryan C. Gordon who ported Façade from Windows to the Mac on his own time as a volunteer, and did a fabulous job. He does this for a living, so hire him if you’re a business looking to port your software.

ISEA 06 Rocks, Mostly

by noah @ 5:43 pm

I’m the only GTxA representative at ISEA this year, and I’m sorry to report that my compatriots are missing a great event. At the Tuesday night kick-off I caught the PigeonBlog release and then saw a really solid show at the San Jose Museum of Art curated by Steve Dietz (Edge Conditions, running through November 26th). Since then I’ve started to see some of the massive collection of art in South Hall (a parking lot covered with a giant tent and filled with digital art), enjoyed a number of live/performative cinema events organized by Ana Serrano of the Canadian Film Centre, seen the “2.0″ version of Adriene Jenik’s fascinating SPECFLIC project, and attended the very impressive (if slightly problematic) “3 Data Bodies” by Super Vision. Tonight I’m seeing Mike Figgis do a “live mix” of Time Code and then watching Survival Research Labs bust out their amazing combination of robots, flame throwers, and sound. I really couldn’t be happier with the amount of stimulation I’m getting from the art and events.

Unfortunately, (more…)

Games on a Graph

by nick @ 1:16 pm

“An Experimental Study of the Coloring Problem on Human Subject Networks” by Michael Kearns, Siddharth Suri, and Nick Montfort was just published in Science. The full text of the article is friendslocked to members of the AAAS, but the abstract explains the basics and a Penn press release offers some further details. The study dealt with “games” in the economic decisionmaking sense, and actually used several different graphs, although “games on six graphs” isn’t as catchy. WoW raiders and others may still wish to take note: The study is meant to shed some light on how, in general, a distributed group of players can solve a common problem together with very limited communication and information, under different incentive schemes and with different network structures.

August 10, 2006

Don’t You Have a Map? Part 10

by nick @ 11:06 pm

A traveling essay stops at Grand Text Auto for a visit…

Don’t you have a map?
A collaborative, traveling essay in letters
‘twixt Erika Howsare & Jen Tynes.

Part 10, J to E—

A smelly flower grows in Brooklyn, I send you juttings in the mail. If a poem is going to
Be a thing you’ve got to keep on talking at it? If noticing is going to happen late I’ll see


August 9, 2006

Ill-Fitting Smarty Pants?

by andrew @ 4:41 pm

Steve Meretzky may see The Escapist as one of the few brights spots in gaming / game criticism these days, but frankly it sometimes misses the mark (1 2). Witness this week’s impressively unnecessary anti-academic tirade. Either the editors are desperate for material, or have a worrisome misunderstanding of how academic study operates. So much for the idea of well-informed journalism.

(Note, my primary gig is not as an academic, so this shouldn’t be interpreted as a defensive statement.)

I will say, way back when, before I educated myself and kept up with, and participated some in, academic research in games, AI, etc., I was wary of the value, or at least the stance, of academic research. After all, I am an industry person making games (well, fringe games); developers like me should know more about this than anyone. And while there’s some truth to that, there’s also some truth that 1) developers are rarely good at communicating or explaining in clear terms what they’re doing or what they’ve done, or 2) if they are, they rarely have time to communicate it, and 3) there are a lot of smart people in the world, and some decide to devote their energies to carefully understanding and analyzing something, rather than conceiving, designing or building it, and finally 4) some manage to find the time to do both practice and theory, including many in this corner of the blogosphere.

And, of course, there will be some academics who are mediocre at what they do, or act pompous. Same goes for game developers, and every other profession in the world that requires thinking. Journalists too, obviously.

August 8, 2006

Interactive Drama, a Private Affair?

by andrew @ 12:02 am

We received an interesting piece of feedback email the other day, and got permission from the sender to post it here:

I’d like to share a little bit about my experience playing Facade in a crowded, privacy-free, communal environment: the frat house. An avid reader of GTxA, I had been following the development and release of Facade closely, but that was most definitely not the case with my brothers. The week it was released, I downloaded it late on a wednesday night, installed it and played through it a couple of times while everyone was in bed. I was engrossed in the story and amazed at the emotional connection I actually felt to the virtual actors.

The next afternoon, I fired it up while my roommates were there and played through a little bit. They noticed and asked a lot of questions about the game. As I played, I noticed my interactions changing to demonstrate not how I would act or how I felt, but what I thought would elicit the most interest from my roommates. “Can I try it?” one asked. Of course.


August 7, 2006

DAC Deadline Extended to August 28th

by scott @ 3:49 am

Good news for would-be Digital Arts and Culture presenters who, like myself, are just starting to pull out of the warm crush of summer holiday activities:

Due to a large number of requests, the deadline for 500 word abstracts for
perthDAC 2007 has just been extended to the 28th August 2006.

Full details are at:

Please contact conference chair Andrew Hutchison with any questions
about DAC.

perthDAC 2007 - The Future of Digital Media Culture
7th International Digital Arts and Culture Conference
15-18th September 2007, Perth, Australia.

August 6, 2006

How ACM Sandbox Shaped Up

by nick @ 3:38 pm

Jeffrey Howard (whose dissertation on contemporary American fiction, with a chapter on IF, has been discussed on here) sends a report from the ACM Sandbox Symposium, which featured contrasting keynotes by Manifesto Games’s Greg Costikayan and EA’s Ian Shaw; Steve Meretzky’s less than cheerful take on gaming today; and the relevance of the gameplay mechanics of rock, paper, scissors to computer games:

I’ve been at the ACM Sandbox Symposium on Digital Games in Boston last weekend, listening to papers and panels as well as presenting my own paper (”Designing Interpretative Quests in the Literature Classroom.”)

Sandbox was a fun and interesting conference overall, consisting of a mixture of game designers and academicians (about 2/3 of developers to 1/3 academicians)


ZeroOne in the NY Times

by scott @ 2:00 pm

Today’s New York Times Art section has an article on locative media projects featured in the ISEA-linked ZeroOne exhibition going on next week in San Jose, California. Projects range from a pigeon blog to a “sci-fi erotic” narrative told over cellphones that unfolds in different paths depending what train route you follow.

August 4, 2006

Beta-Testers Sought for Façade for Macintosh

by andrew @ 10:05 pm

Mac users that have been patiently waiting for Façade need only wait a few more days — Ryan C. Gordon, our gracious volunteer Mac porting expert (he does this for a living), that we met at IGC05, has just completed a beta build! It took a while, since he only had time to work on it in his spare time, but we hope you’ll agree it’s been worth the wait.

Or, wait even less if you’re willing to beta-test! If you have OS X 10.4.7 or higher, and can download and give prompt feedback on this beta-test version of Façade, please send email to info at interactivestory dot net by end of day Monday, August 7.

Sadly I don’t own a Mac (though I got to know OS X well when I worked at Zoesis in 2004). But I did play with the build on my friend Corwin’s laptop, and it looks and plays exactly like the original Windows version, thanks to the original choice to render in OpenGL, and Ryan’s porting skills.

Contributions Sought for “Reading Games”

by nick @ 1:59 am

Dennis Jerz sent this CFP along to us - it certainly seems like it should interest a few of the Grand Text Auto crowd.

Computers & Composition: An International Journal invites contributions for a special issue, Reading Games: Composition, Literacy, and Video Gaming

While video gaming has been a strong cultural force since the advent of the popular coin-operated arcades of the 1970s, it is only within the last few years that video/computer gaming has been an academic focus: there is a lot of catch-up work to do. (more…)

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