Grand Text Auto

November 29, 2006

Book and Volume Joins Slamdance Finalists

by nick @ 6:32 pm

The interactive fiction Book and Volume is now headed to the finals of the 2007 Guerilla Games Competition at Slamdance. The Slamdance Film Festival will take place January 17-28 in Park City, Utah, with the games competition running from January 18-23. Book and Volume, by Nick Montfort, joins thirteen other very original independent games in the finals - see the Slamdance press release or the Slamdance games page for the full list.

Slamdance finalist “We are very excited about the finalists for this year’s GGC, ” said Sam Roberts, Slamdance’s Games Competition Manager. “This year’s entrants range from biting indictments of modern corporate culture to fantastical adventures crashing castles. We have interactive fiction, beat-em-ups, non-traditional puzzle games, and experiments in flow theory. These games push the edges of what games can be and can try to be, experimenting in art style, gameplay, metaphor, story, concept and time. They provide challenges and inspiration for game designers working the traditional space, and game designers who will work in the future. While each of these games forces you to examine something you thought you already knew, or experiment in life and evolution, they also all entertain - they strive to be fun, and to be true play experiences.” (more…)

The Periodic Table Reassembled

by nick @ 9:47 am

Jena Osman’s 2002-2003 digital poem “The Periodic Table as Assembled by Dr. Zhivago, Oculist” has been offline for a while, but thanks to David Ayre’s application of galvanic force and use of leet skillz, it is back online. Do take a look at it and enjoy working the now-working piece.

SPAC is back in HTML

by nick @ 1:51 am

¿Habla usted español? The November issue of SPAC (Sociedad para la Preservación de las Aventuras Conversacionales) is now out - this is the Spanish online magazine covering interactive fiction. SPAC is back in HTML (not PDF) this month, and full of articles and reviews.

Digital Writing Fellowship Deadline

by noah @ 12:06 am

If you want an MFA in writing for digital media, Brown’s Literary Arts department has the program for you. And, as it happens, Brown offers a generous fellowship specifically in this area, which provides two years of support to do your own work, participate in three writing workshops, and take four other Brown courses of your choice. Deadline this year: December 15th postmark.

November 28, 2006

full tilt

by mary @ 5:05 pm

Tiltfactor, the first academic center to focus on social activist games, celebrated its annual fabulous open house! Started in 2005, our mission is to research and develop software and art that creates rewarding, compelling, and socially responsible interactions, with a focus on inventive game design for social change.


“Touching” Games

by mary @ 8:33 am

There is a call for particpants out there for a workshop on Tangible Play: Research and Design for Tangible and Tabletop Games for the 2007 Intelligent User Interfaces Conference 2007. Submissions may address any “topic related to tangible or digital tabletop gaming, from game case studies, to research on sensing technologies, theoretical overviews, or the design of tangible objects for game interaction.”

A Wiider Audience

by andrew @ 12:21 am

Raph Koster links to an NPR “Talk of the Nation” segment about widening the market for videogames. Much of the discussion focuses on moving beyond the buttons-and-thumbpad controller interface, e.g. to the gestural interface of the newly-released Wii. (No mention of natural language interfaces for games, though. :-)

Anyhow, it’s a good overview of the issues involved, discussed in layperson’s terms.

November 21, 2006

Video Game Rictuses

by nick @ 1:20 am

Portrait of a video gamer

Portraits of people playing video games, from New York photographer Phillip Toledano. Which is your grimace? (Thanks to inky for the link.)

November 20, 2006

Calling all game AI researchers and developers

by michael @ 3:47 am

As the program chair for this year’s AIIDE conference (Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment), I’ve been horribly remiss in not blogging this CFP earlier. AIIDE 2007 will happen June 6-8, 2007, at Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, USA. Papers are due January 22, 2007. New to AIIDE this year, we have two paper tracks: the research track, focusing on core AI research results that make advances towards solving a known game AI problem or enabling a new form of interactive digital entertainment, and the published games track, focusing on AI techniques developed and fielded in commercial games. AIIDE is the conference for enabling conversations between academic and industry game AI researchers and developers. With the two, distinct types of papers this year, we’re hoping to encourage even more fruitful interactions between academia and industry. The full CFP is available here. Please check the AIIDE web page for future updates.

In addition to the two paper tracks this year, we have an amazing invited speaker lineup:

  • Bruce Blumberg, Blue Fang Games
  • Wolff Dobson, AiLive
  • Quinn Dunki, Pandemic Studios
  • Richard Evans, Electronic Arts
  • John Funge, AiLive
  • Chris Hecker, Maxis
  • Soren Johnson, Firaxis Games
  • Peter Molyneux, Lionhead Studios
  • Ken Perlin, New York University
  • Neil Young, Electronic Arts

November 19, 2006

Un nouveau jeu: Ekphrasis

by nick @ 10:00 pm


From JB, author of several interactive fictions (Echappée Belle Dans les Contrées du Rêve, La Mort Pour Seul Destin, and Filaments) comes a new and very substantial work, offering virtual European travels as well as graphics and sound: Ekphrasis: Les aventures de Gilbert Fontenelle. The game weighs in at 65 MB, and, as you might expect at this point, is in French.

The opening of Ekphrasis

Americans in Paris in ebr

by nick @ 4:10 pm

The new electronic book review, “Fictions Present,” features an interview with Harry Mathews and a new story by Rob Swigart - among other delights.

November 17, 2006

Spot at Santa Cruz

by michael @ 8:56 pm

Scott Draves (aka Spot) gave a great talk on the Electric Sheep project yesterday to the Digital Arts and New Media program at UC Santa Cruz. Spot is well known for his algorithmic artwork based on cellular automata (CA) and fractals. When I knew him at CMU in 1996-1997, he had been working for several years on a CA-based screen saver called Bomb.

What I like about Scott’s work is the rich, organic feel of his mathematically-based generated images. I find that much CA and fractal art has a cold, clinical flavor that makes it feel like an illustration for a math text. Scott has found ways to twist and tweak such systems so that the images they produce escape out of “math space” and become interesting in their own right.

Electric Sheep combines the concepts of screensaver-based massively parallel supercomputers (ala SETI@Home), genetic algorithms, and fractal generated art (using recursive set functions that employ non-linear rather than the standard linear transfer functions) to generate morphing fractal animations that breed and reproduce. Scott’s server now contains thousands of these sheep, both the ones that were popular (received many votes while running on screensavers, and thus reproduced) and ones that weren’t. He has recently teamed up with the famous UCSC chaos theoretician Ralph Abraham to statistically analyze the properties of the sheep stored on his server, looking for correlations between formal properties of the sheep and aesthetic judgments (based on the popularity votes that drive the evolution of the sheep). They are currently focusing on fractal dimension as the correlate.

Jesper Juul at Penn Today

by nick @ 1:33 am

(I should have thought to mention this earlier on here, but maybe at least one person will see this, happen to be in Philadelphia, and manage to come to the talk…)

Jesper Juul Special Lecture
Friday, Nov. 17, 2006
2:00 p.m.
IRCS Large Conference Room
3401 Walnut - Suite 400A
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Jesper Juul, Center for Game Research in Copenhagen
Video game theorist and assistant professor in video game theory and design at the Center for Game Research in Copenhagen

Without a Goal
Games have had goals for millennia, and for good reason: Goals provide players with a clear sense of direction as well as a clear sense of accomplishment. In this talk, I will nevertheless argue that there is a problem with game goals: Goals often force players to focus on optimizing a strategy, at the expense of personal preferences such as issues of style or at the expense of social considerations in multi player games. This may not be an issue with the current generation of dedicated gamers, but it poses a problem if games want to reach a broader public that does not necessarily play video games on a daily basis.

A number of recent hit games have demonstrated that a game can be interesting because it has weak or non-existing goals. Hits such as the *Grand Theft Auto* series, *World of Warcraft*, and *The Sims* may be very different games, but they all share the fact that the player is free to perform actions that do not simply work towards a single game goal. In the presentation, I will focus on how video games seem to be moving away from the traditional “hardcore” model of punishing the player for every single mistake, and on how removing or weakening the goals of a game may expand the potential audience for a game. (more…)

November 16, 2006

IF Comp 2006 Winners

by nick @ 1:38 am

The results are in, and Emily Short’s Floatpoint takes top honors at the 2006 Interactive Fiction Competition. The Primrose Path by Nolan Bonvouloir and The Elysium Enigma by Eric Eve placed second and third. Congratulations to these authors and to the others who finished games, entered them, and placed in the Comp. Another person who deserves thanks and congratulations is Stephen Granade, who has been running the Comp since 1999. All the games are still available for download, of course.

Reviews of games will be flowing freely soon, and I’ll try to add links to these in comments below. I certainly encourage you, if you are posting reviews yourself and are reading this, to add a comment with a link.

November 11, 2006

When Deterministic Web Pages Flop

by nick @ 2:51 pm

Allow me to interject that Random Yahoo Link is still available. Also, Superbad is still there. I now return you to your regularly scheduled 2006.

November 9, 2006

E-Lit Collection Volume One Q&A

by nick @ 1:57 pm

Among other questions and conversation about the Electronic Literature Collection, I was pleased to get an email from Katherine Parrish (creator of MOOlipo, educational co-ordinator on Project Achieve, poetry generator generator) with a series of questions about volume one - questions that we probably deserve. One of these (about our selection criteria) was already asked by Jim Carpenter on his blog, where Scott and I left replies. I assume a few other people may be interested in this discussion. Katherine agreed to let me share her questions here along with my answers, so, they appear below… (more…)

Montreal Game Summit: Day 2

by michael @ 11:45 am

Continuing notes from the Montreal Game Summit. The conference opened today with a keynote from NOA President Reggie Fils-Aime. While a pretty standard business talk about how Nintendo is innovating (”The Wii Proposition” etc.) I was impressed with the numbers he had to back this up. My favorite statistic: in September sales data, 20% of Nintendo DS purchasers reported they “have never played a videogame before,” and this number is growing. So they really do seem to be growing markets.

November 8, 2006

Jason Nelson Speaks from the Machine

by nick @ 7:25 pm

Jason NelsonThe MACHINE team here at Penn just watched Jason Nelson’s video presentation - a bit later than would have been ideal, but as Autostart was packed with presentations and Jason’s video was sharing a computer with Scott’s head, there wasn’t a chance to see it earlier. Jason cruised through several of his pieces and encouraged us to develop projects that help technical and creative collaborators work together.

Here are some comments from the rest of the peanut gallery…

Jim: Go Jason! I agree completely that if e-writing is to mature, there need to be stronger collaborations between technicians and poets, collaborations that bring to bear deep understanding of the possibilities of large-scale databases, of reusable software components, and new, to-be-developed development tools along with the equally deep and orthogonally distant understandings of the artists of poetry, poetics, and literary theory - just too much to expect from a single mind.

Steve: Too much to expect from an individual mind indeed. If this tiny and marginal e-writing community is to maintain its forward trajectory, we need more and better-connected bridge builders like Jason. It’s a perplexing problem: to encourage aesthetes to nurture their inner technicians, or to actively usher technicians into this aesthetic project? We need well-rounded young go-getters, and we need them now.

Montreal Game Summit: Day 1

by michael @ 5:55 pm

Notes from the first day of the Montreal Game Summit (excluding final keynote of the first day, which starts in a few minutes). Arrived at 1:00am this morning; feeling some serious jet lag starting in…

November 7, 2006

Penn Undergrads Probe the Digital

by nick @ 6:15 pm

Penn has a journal of undergraduate research writing, now in its third issue. The journal is called Res, and the current issue (available in print and linked as a PDF from the main page) is about digital culture. Jordan Straff’s “Facebook: Revolutionizing the College Experience” provides the perspective of a student at the institution where Facebook originated. In medias Res you’ll also find an article on the digital archiving of concrete poetry, one on the copyright-inflicted woes suffered by documentary filmmakers, and two about podcasting. Hopefully the authors will continue their searching out and writing about digital media, and we’ll have more to read from them in years to come.

November 6, 2006

O Hypermedia

by nick @ 12:07 am

nt2 A new research laboratory on hypermedia art and literature, nt2: New Technologies, New Textualities, has recently started up in Montreal, “to promote the study, reading, writing, and archiving of new textualities, of hypermedia and cyberart.” Bertrand Gervais at the Université du Québec à Montréal is director of nt2, which draws together researchers from Concordia, Université de Montréal, Université de Laval, and Université de Ottawa. We were fortunate to have coordinator Anick Bergeron and Alice van der Klei join us at Autostart and provide a pamphet - both slick and well-thought-out - explaining the lab’s goals and research directions and laying out the main questions it seeks to address.

There’s a precis online in English; the rest of nt2’s site gives those with a smattering of French a further idea of what the lab is and where it is heading. In a new world gesture, nt2 seems to eschew the traditional Zope and SPIP for Movable Type. The site features a massive bibliography and a wiki with definitions of key terms.

November 5, 2006

The Book of Tetris

by nick @ 3:37 pm

The Story of Tetris, a venerable BBC documentary now online, is certainly worth seeing, although, as is always the case when the story of video games is told in popular culture, it’s about money money money business and money. This time the story is told well, featuring thrills, blunders, and a plucky underdog negotiator who keeps a video diary. There are some politics thrown in, and no doubt played up, to make things interesting, and some nice video of a very early version of Tetris running on an old Russian computer - for the true fetishists.

Tetris bookshelf Since we always seek such connections here on Grand Text Auto: The link between Tetris and the literary is rather tenuous, but there is one, as le blogue tells us.


by scott @ 9:47 am

This week Ben Vershbow from the Institute for the Future of the Book passed along some news about the MediaCommons project. MediaCommons is a project in development for the past couple of years by Kathleen Fitzpatrick and others to start a born-digital scholarly press focused on media studies. At its core, MediaCommons will be a social networking site where academics, students, and other interested members of the public can write and critically converse about a mediated world, in a mediated environment. The site is intended to connect scholars, producers, lobbyists, activists, critics, fans, and consumers in a wide-ranging, critically engaged conversation that is highly visible to the public. At the same time, MediaCommons will be a full-fledged electronic press dedicated to the development of born-digital scholarship: multimedia “papers,” journals, Gamer Theory-style monographs, and many other forms yet to be invented.

The MediaCommons site launched this week has three parts:

1) A weblog where founding editors Avi Santo (Old Dominion U.) and Kathleen Fitzpatrick (Pomona College) will think out loud and work with the emerging community to develop the full MediaCommons vision.

2) A call for “papers” — scholarly projects that engagingly explore some aspect of media history, theory, or culture through an adventurous use of the broad palette of technologies provided by the digital network, to be the first projects published by the MediaCommons network.

3) “In Media Res” — an experimental feature where each week a different scholar will present a short contemporary media clip accompanied by a 100-150 word commentary, alongside which a community discussion can take place, a sort of a “YouTube” for scholars and a critically engaged public. The first guest critic is Henry Jenkins, analyzing a clip from the popular “Heroes” TV series.

Like the Electronic Literature Collection, Media Commons is an exciting and well-developed scholarly project that will make compelling new ideas available to the public in ways that they can be easily shared in the global network environment. The project is supported by the MacArthur Foundation and the Annenberg Center for Communication at USC.

November 2, 2006

Letter, I Hardly Met Her

by nick @ 5:41 pm

At Autostart I was given a wonderful gift, Craig Conley’s One Letter Words: A Dictionary. This is one of several strange and unusual dictionaries by Conley. I read about the online genesis of the book and was hoping to share the Web version with everyone here. Unfortunately, the free Web edition of the one-letter lexicon had to sacrifice itself for the good of its HarperCollinsPublished cousin, in a touching and grisly scene; it - alas - is now only available via the Internet Archive.

The dictionary is an eclectic one, but not as comprhensive and learned as one might like. Our langauge poet guests at Autostart would be startled to learn that A is identified as a 1965 short film by Jan Lenica but not as Louis Zukofsky’s long poem, published in complete form in 1978. Fortunately, Conley’s book isn’t the last word on letters. Collaborative list-makers online have continued to work in literal lexicography. The Wikipedia article on one-letter English words is a snoozer, but there’s interesting stuff to be found in the articles for A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z. I feel that I must note that Wikipedia doesn’t omit Zukofsky’s masterwork - and no, I didn’t rush to add it before writing this. As is practically always the case on the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit, the discussion pages (e.g, Talk:A) are more interesting than the articles themselves. Here was my favorite bit from the first one:

I started here on “A” hoping there was a next page button so I could (eventually) read through the entire Wikipedia. Any way of getting that functionality?

November 1, 2006

Seeking BizDev Director

by andrew @ 8:35 pm

We’re actively fundraising and team-building for our interactive comedy-melodrama in development, The Party. Getting this project off the ground is a big and challenging task, and we’re looking for collaborators and partners.

We’ve posted a job ad on Gamasutra, seeking a Business Development Director for Procedural Arts. If you, or someone you know fits the job description, please have them apply! Serious applicants only, please.

We’ll be traveling to the SF, LA, NYC and Seattle areas over the next month or two, available to meet potential candidates.

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