Grand Text Auto

September 30, 2005

CFP: Grand Theft Auto Essay Collection

by nick @ 2:17 pm

A Strategy Guide for Studying the Grand Theft Auto Series: An Edited Collection of Essays

Abstract Submission Deadline: October 15, 2005

The present call for papers is for chapter length essays (5,000-7,500 words) that address one or more games in the Grand Theft Auto series…

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September 29, 2005

Sticks-and-Rubber-Band Story

by andrew @ 2:57 pm

1up has posted an extensive post-mortem about the recently-released, cinematic Indigo Prophecy, aka Fahrenheit. The post-mortem is written by the game’s writer/director David Cage. I haven’t played Indigo Prophecy yet, but definitely plan to.

Clearly Cage and his Quantic Dream team have design goals in line with what some of us at GTxA proselytize and develop, as several people at various conferences who were following Quantic Dream had hinted to us over the past couple of years. Cage writes:

I like to call this game an “Interactive Drama”, which in my mind suggests the fact that the player acts and interacts in a narrative and emotional experience.

Cool, good to see that descriptor being used more, and it seems appropriate for this piece. That said, while they had the people-power of a team of 80 in production for 2 years on it, I see the project’s biggest obstacle as interface: their design was constrained by needing to run on console machines, where the controller is only a few buttons and two analog sticks. I.e., interactive drama with an action title’s interface mechanics. The post-mortem vaguely describes how Cage came to some sort of Dance-Dance-Revolution-like interface design, which to me seems like an odd match for interactive drama, but was perhaps the best one could come up with under those constraints. (Never mind the CPU constraints of console machines, for AI purposes.) I’ll have to play it to understand the interface better; I assume for dialog they necessarily went for menu-based dialogs, which while almost universal in games is also quite limited, of course.

About narrative structure, Cage describes his concept of “rubber band stories”: (more…)

September 28, 2005

An Egg for Indie Games’ Chicken (Costikyan)

by andrew @ 1:42 pm

This morning I was just hopping over to Greg Costikyan’s site to grab a link from a recent post of his about game industry revenues, to bolster a comment I was making here about Chris Crawford, and to my surprise found that Greg’s friendly blue palette was replaced by a revolutionary red! (Well, hot pink.) The reason?

Game industry veterans Greg Costikyan and Johnny Wilson announced today that they are joining forces to launch Manifesto Games, a new venture to build a strong and viable independent game industry. Its site will offer independently-developed games for sale via direct download–a single place where fans of offbeat and niche games can find “the best of the rest,” the games that the retail channel doesn’t think worth carrying. Three types of games will be offered: truly independent, original content from creators without publisher funding; the best PC games from smaller PC game publishers, including games in existing genres like wargames, flight sims, and graphic adventures; and niche MMOs. … Manifesto expects to begin carrying original content by early 2006.

The above is from Manifesto’s press release. And, Greg is sort of “open sourcing” the process of running the startup. (more…)

Homosexuality, Chocolate, and Underpants Hot-Button Issues in ‘04

by scott @ 11:06 am

It’s Banned Books Week, and the American Library Association released the annual most challenged books list for last year. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict library materials on the basis of the objections of a person or group. The most challenged books of 2004 were:

  1. “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier for sexual content, offensive language, religious viewpoint, being unsuited to age group and violence
  2. “Fallen Angels” by Walter Dean Myers, for racism, offensive language and violence
  3. “Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture” by Michael A. Bellesiles, for inaccuracy and political viewpoint
  4. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, for offensive language and modeling bad behavior
  5. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, for homosexuality, sexual content and offensive language
  6. “What My Mother Doesn’t Know” by Sonya Sones, for sexual content and offensive language
  7. “In the Night Kitchen” by Maurice Sendak, for nudity and offensive language
  8. “King & King” by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland, for homosexuality
  9. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou, for racism, homosexuality, sexual content, offensive language and unsuited to age group
  10. “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, for racism, offensive language and violence

September 27, 2005

Get Your GameGame

by andrew @ 5:08 pm

As reported and described by The Ludologist, Aki Järvinen’s card game about making games, called GameGame, is now available! He had hinted about this at last June’s DiGRA, and now it’s ready to play.

You’ll need to print out and cut up the cards, and read the rules, before you can game your own game. The website describes it as “Ludology meets Understanding Comics”.

Good deal! I haven’t meta game this cool in a while. ha ha. what a card.

Have You Seen This Man?

by andrew @ 4:06 pm

Neuvo-games journalism siteThe Escapist (now with beer ads!) has posted a fresh interview with Chris Crawford.

The man known as the Dean of American Game Design toils alone, unfunded and underappreciated, in a forest in Oregon. He has renounced games; or perhaps, one might say, games have renounced him.

Who is Chris Crawford, and why does he toil alone?

(Readers of GTxA will recall that Chris has told us why, which spawned further discussion (1 2). Also read about our visit last June to Chris’ annual gathering.)

Relax, open a cold one (or a carton of milk), and enjoy the article.

September 24, 2005

Elective Affinities is Underway

by nick @ 4:14 pm

I just heard a very interesting panel at the Elective Affinities conference that is going on here at Penn. Benjamin Harvey from Mississippi State University spoke first about Virgina Woolf and her relationship to the British Library reading room, which was renovated early in the 20th century so that it was lined with famous authors’ names - a register that was lacking in novelists and was also all male, although many users of the reading room were female, and a majority were by the 1930s. After that, Penn’s own Fernando Pereira - he’s the head of the computer and information science department - spoke about using statistical natural language processing to identify topics. It was quite a voyage out from the material nature of the library to its abstract existence as a document collection, and provocative.

Coming up soon at Elective Affinities: On Monday in the Class of ‘47 Room, Houston Hall, 4pm, I’ll give a talk on “How Stella Got Her Text Back: Trajectories of Word and Image in Creative Computing.” This is part of the Words on Screen panel, which also includes presentations from Nathan Ensmenger (”Wizards, Hackers, and Poets: The Power of Computer Codes and Other Incantations”) and Zach Whalen (”Reading as Cryptography: The Role of Encoding/Decoding in Digital and Print Culture”). And on Tuesday, there are three panels in the series V-V-V on-line: Verbal-Visual-Vocal Poetries in Hyperspace, chaired by Charles Bernstein, at 9am, 2pm, and 4pm. The panelists include Johanna Drucker, Steve Clay, Kari Kraus, Al Filreis, Sue Sallinger, Kenny Goldsmith, and Matt Kirchenbaum - details are on the Kelly Writers House calendar.

September 23, 2005

Games for Health 2

by michael @ 9:54 am

I’m continuing my live blogging of Games For Health.

Chris Foster
Baltimore Business and Economic Development

Invests in life science industry. Spends most of the talk on the wellness crises facing the nation and the world.
Mentions that there would be a $165 billion a year savings from moving to an electronic, unified health care record; “how can we not afford to do that, given that we have a crisis of cost in health care?”

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Reduction to SAT

by nick @ 1:01 am

I made that fortuitous discovery that Busted, a novel by Emma Harrison - surely not this Emma Harrison? - is now online. And it’s a hypertext, because the definitions of the SAT words that appear in the novel - one of the SAT Vocabulary Novel Series - are all linked. Yes, you no longer have to use readymade books to study for the SAT.

While I haven’t yet had time to study up, I can tell at a glance that the series really manages to flout the English language with its fulsome prose. While some despair about high school students’ abilities these days, the authors appear to hold a rather sanguinary view of the possibilities of the written word. Can you imagine how reading a few of the books in this series will contribute to the enormity of your vocabulary?

September 22, 2005

Games For Health 1

by michael @ 9:55 am

Thought I’d do some live blogging from Games for Health in Baltimore.

Steven Downs
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Talked about why the foundation is interested in funding games for Health. They fund it under their “emerging health care applications” umbrella – he noted that the irony is that games are not “emerging”, they’re already here.

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Ian Bogost’s Talk “Designing for Reproach”

by nick @ 12:08 am

Wednesday, I decided to take advantage of the non-devastated condition of the mid-Atlantic. I hopped on a train and took a spur-of-the-moment trip down to Baltimore to hear Ian Bogost (of Water Cooler Games and Georgia Tech) give a talk at the University of Baltimore, a talk that was hosted by Stuart Moulthrop and Nancy Kaplan’s Information Arts and Technology program. The full title of Ian’s talk was “Designing for Reproach: Videogames and Consumer Advocacy.”

I want to mention first off that Ian busted out demos of two new games, premiering Disaffected! — a slick, isomorphic anti-Kinkos game in which you have to drive disgruntled employees, service obedient and exasperated customers, and sort through all sorts of stacks of papers — and Airport Insecurity, a game for mobile phones. Ian talked about some ideas that are discussed in his book Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism, which is coming in the spring from MIT Press; he has another book in the works about rhetoric and gaming.

Some notes on the talk follow.

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September 21, 2005

Watz Doing

by andrew @ 1:23 pm

On artificial.dk you’ll find an excellent interview with artist and curator Marius Watz about the current state of generative art, and an upcoming show Watz is organizing called Generator.x.

Generator.x is a framework for thinking about generative practices and creative uses of code, whether applied to art or design. We have identified some key subjects: Generative aesthetics, process-based design, performative software and tools by artists for artists. By inviting leading practitioners in the field I hope to introduce the field to newcomers, as well as provide a platform for new discourse. … The Generator.x exhibition is divided into two sections: ‘Code as Material’ and ‘Code as Method’. …

The interview talks at length about a tension between the software art and generative art scenes, and a bit of musing about future possibilities for the field — “Generative art describes a strategy for artistic practice, not a style or genre of work”.

About his own work, an example pictured at left, Watz says, (more…)

September 20, 2005

Game Lit Links

by andrew @ 8:24 pm

Some game / literature links I’ve been collecting over the past few weeks have reached enough critical mass to warrant a post.

Aleks Krotoski, contributer to the Guardian games blog, imagines games that “take their inspiration from novels, pulp fiction, high-brow literature and other variations of the written word”. She muses about several books she’d love to see turned into games, ranging from Jane Austen to Philip K. Dick.

Speaking of which, what would your grandmother like to play? Robin Hunicke moderated a panel on this topic at the recent GDC Europe, in the same format as Eric Zimmerman’s Game Design Challenge at GDC North America, including (who else?) the game designer of Katamari Damacy. Not your grandmother’s game, indeed.

At last week’s Tokyo Game Show, echoing his remarks from last March’s GDC, Neil Young of EA again suggests the game industry is pre-Citizen Kane, and wonders can a computer game make you cry? “Rather than thinking empathy VERSUS activity, we need to think of empathy THROUGH activity.”

The Orange County Museum of Art just completed an exhibition of Yucef Merhi’s Poetic Engineering. “An artist, poet, and programmer, Merhi engages electronic devices-computers, video games systems, and other machines-in the presentation of his written words. The resulting artworks expand the limitations of language and the traditional context of poetry, proposing a bold new role for the poet in our culture.” Works included Super Atari Poetry (pictured above, looks cool!), Poetic Dialogues, Telepoesis and more.

Finally, the Guardian game blog again, raves about Quantic Dream’s new release, Fahrenheit (aka The Indigo Prophecy, in the US, minus sex scenes). However commenters have a lot of trouble with the bizarre Dance-Dance-Revolution / Dragons-Lair-esque interface. I haven’t played it yet, so can’t comment on it, but I want to try it.

September 19, 2005

Newsweek Int’l on the Future of Entertainment

by andrew @ 4:21 pm

Speaking of women and games — we can’t get a hold of it here in the US, but Newsweek International (Europe, Asia, the Middle East) has a new issue on the Future of Entertainment. The issue includes an article called “Videogames for Girls” that may discuss Façade, we’re not sure.

If any non-Americans out there have a copy, please let us know what the article says, thanks! We’ll try to get a hold of a couple of copies this week somehow.

Hopefully this means they’re going crazy over Façade is Riyadh right now.

Update: Ah, I found it online — the article is called “A Female Sensibility“. The print edition is the October 3, 2005 international issue.

September 16, 2005

It’s That Time of Year Again

by andrew @ 5:10 pm

Time to award another Loebner prize — an annual formal instantiation of the Turing Test, now in its 15th year. This year’s final four contestants are:
ALICE Silver Edition, botmaster Richard Wallace et al (previous winner in 2004, 2001, 2000)
Eugene Goostman, botmaster Vladimir Veselov
Jabberwacky, botmaster Rollo Carpenter
Toni, botmaster Steven Watkins

The contest will be held this Sunday from 10am to 4pm, at 220 W. 98th St #2B, New York, NY (is that someone’s apartment?). Assuming no contestant makes it beyond the Bronze medal stage (none have in the past, I believe), $3000 will be awarded; however the $25,000 Silver Medal “will be at risk” this year, according to the rules explaining the scoring system.

Good luck to all the bots and their botmasters!

(If it seems like I’m teasing this contest, it’s a little bit true, but I think it’s cool and good to have around as a carrot to build better bots. :-)

The prize is sponsored by Crown Industries of New Jersey, makers of aluminum and solid brass display easels, pipes, drapes, brass fittings and more.

September 15, 2005

Out From Boneville is Out

by andrew @ 4:39 pm

Telltale Games‘ first installment of their 3D adventure game adaptation of the comic Bone is now available for Windows, as a free demo and $20 full game. I just played the free demo — it’s pretty cool, and well produced. The menu-based conversational interface (one of several modes of interface in the game) was well done, considering the constraints of that format. Worth checking out, even if you’re not an adventure game aficionado.

September 14, 2005

Elective Affinities at Penn

by nick @ 3:31 pm

IAWIS/AIERTI 7th International Conference on Word & Image Studies:
Elective Affinities
Philadelphia, 23-27 September, 2005

Those within range of Philly might particularly want to look into attending Words on Screen: Hierarchies of Text and Picture in Cyberculture (I’ll be presenting “How Stella Got Her Text Back” in that session) and and VVV-on-line: Verbal-Visual-Vocal Poetries in Hyperspace I, II, and III, a series of sessions put together by Charles Bernstein. The full announcement is below…

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Stunts! Danger! Jack-assery!

by andrew @ 2:17 pm

The Chicago-based experimental theater group The Neo-Futurists just opened a new show called Daredevils! The company’s “first-ever live stunt show” explores “the seemingly ever-present male desire to engage in feats of physical risk” using “a combination of task-based performance and individual narratives on the themes of personal decision-making, the nature of risk, and what it means to be a daredevil.”

Andy Bayiates, the voice of Trip in Façade, is one of the Daredevil team, sporting a black jumpsuit adorned with patches from his stuntman sponsors, NASCAR-style, including a big blue one with white lettering from InteractiveStory.net. Andy’s physical stunts in the show include eating the hottest curry in Chicago every performance.

See below for a close-up of the patch. (more…)

September 11, 2005

Milwaukee is wired.

by mary @ 9:58 pm

Did you know that Milwaukee was an early adopter in the free wifi movement, wiring downtown parks as public hotspots (modeled after the Long Beach free zone)? During my recent trip to the city known historically for beer and brats, the Violent Femmes, Liberace, MacArthur, and yours truly, I was surprised about the current urban-tech makeover the place is undergoing. Its almost a little Seattle. I had no problems finding free wifi in cafes, my hotel, and even the classic old school diners had wifi in their gardens. A healthy independent music scene, a plethora of used bookstores, great second hand shopping, and several local coffee roasters have turned my seventies rustbelt childhood home into a hip, albeit short on pretention, kind of town.

I was visiting to help inaugurate UW-Milwaukee’s innovative new conceptual studies program in the Film department, Peck school of the Arts, founded on a commitment to theory-practice integration and new media.

The film program is highly regarded: U.S. News and World Report ranked the UWM Department of Film in the top 7 graduate film programs at public universities. The Independent Film & Video Monthly rates UWM Film as one of the top 3 “non-Hollywood” film schools.

The program has a new series of colloquia in Conceptual Studies, “Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition.” Other speakers Fall 2005 include Victor Burgin, Greg Ulmer, Johanna Drucker, William Greaves, and Norman Klein.

September 9, 2005

Convergence To Reassess Claims for New Media Writing

by andrew @ 1:01 pm

The trAce Online Writing Centre has announced a call for papers for a new issue of Convergence called “An End to the New? Re-assessing the claims for New Media Writing(s)“.

This special edition will seek to re-assess the claims made for these forms over the last decade, to challenge the dominant ideologies and terminologies of this maturing field, and to provide a critical re-evaluation of new media writing(s) in all its forms. [This includes] re-assessments of the claims made for hypertext, new media or digital writing(s) over the past decade.

Sounds interesting! Submissions are due January 30.

Chuck E. Cheese on Fortune’s Wheel

by nick @ 12:31 am

Proud Americans will recall the other great corporate innovation of Atari founder Nolan Bushnell: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater, where one room featured a band of mechanical animal automata and others housed a resplendent array of video games, not to mention that great cash cow, skee ball. International readers and nostalgic Americans alike can find copious information online about the history of Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater and Showbiz Pizza Place. Curious readers can learn about the different stage configurations and the transition from a band of robot entertainers to a single animatronic rat/mouse supported by video screens; they can even read reviews of shows. Those who remain puzzled after reviewing these documents may need to study this nation’s cultural context further.

I still remember whining to be taken to Chuck E. Cheese’s the last time I spotted one, but no matter how much I pleaded, Scott wouldn’t stop the car. I guess that may be one of those rare occasions when he knew best. Franchises are now showing Department of Defense propaganda to pizza-eating children and calling in the police to taser a patron suspected of stealing from the salad bar. Despite nostalgia, I think I’ll be finding another outlet for my whack-a-mole urges.

September 8, 2005

Game Writers Converge on Austin

by andrew @ 5:18 pm

Via an IGDA newsletter I just discovered the website and schedule for the first annual Game Writers Conference — a two-day event dedicated to the art and craft of game writing, October 26-27, co-located with the annual Austin Games Conference focused on MMOGs and mobile games, and the Women’s Game Conference on women in the computer and video game industry.

Confirmed presentations for the Game Writers Conference include Mark Laidlaw of Valve presenting “Gaming the Narrative”, Clint Hocking giving a case study for writers about the production of Splinter Cell, and a talk called “The Writer/Designer Tag Team” from the developers of Gears of War.

I’ve written them to try to get Façade a seat on the “AI for Writers” panel, hopefully it’s not too late to squeeze Grace and Trip in there.

Apologies for not blogging much lately, I’m still recuperating from the Façade release, trying to enjoy the sun before rain starts up here in Portland, and playing catch-up with my day job. I still plan to reply to the latest comments on my post-release post from a few weeks ago.

September 7, 2005

Why Pound Hypertext?

by nick @ 3:58 pm

If you need a quick break from the onslaught of the new semester, or if you’re looking for an excuse to look at something besides the news, check out Kybernekyia: A Hypervortext of Ezra Pound’s Canto LXXXI. It’s interesting as “a pedantic experiment” and can teach most readers a bit about the Cantos and about their author, even if it may not directly show the way to new scholarly and creative possibilities. If you’re really looking for a way to pound the Cantos into shape and make it new, check out a different neo-vorticist offering, Young-Hae Chang’s already-classic Dakota.

September 5, 2005

immature, differently sized and positioned reptiles

by mary @ 3:51 pm

I’m investigating the work of poet Jackson Mac Low among others influenced by algorithmic and computational processes, and found his “Young Turtle Asymmetries” poems online; these are generated by chance operations and are “nonstanzaic” poems of which the printed formats are notations for solo or group performances. The scores are the best part! Mac Low’s son Mordecai has an interesting article looking at his father’s poetry, noting that Mac Low’s approach to poetry was related to scientific and technical problem solving methods.

Hurricane Tech Needed

by mary @ 12:47 pm

Hi all, its difficult to dwell on digital games and art in the middle of such an immense disaster. The part-15.org group is coordinating to get some communications infrastructure back to the region. This is one of several link to donate time, equipment, $ or supplies.

Second, here’s a short article about blogging through Katrina , and a damage blog including a site to track missing persons. Humid City is a network for survivors.

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