Claire Savannah has arrived! Several events, including power and Internet outages, have precluded an earlier online announcement. Of course, I understand you care less about the announcement per se, and more about pictures. All in due time, all in due time. Now that our Internet is working (and hopefully continues to do so), we’ll try to share our little Claire (aka, “Baby Bean,” as she’s been called by Evie for the past 9 months) with the rest of you.
Details: Claire was born at 11:36 pm on August 29th. We arrived at the hospital at around 7:30 pm, and after being told the nurses were “not terribly impressed” by Lisa’s contractions, we suspected that they might send us home. Lisa, never one to turn down a challenge, impressed the nurses forthwith, and the phase known as “active labor” (an oddly redundant term) began. Within a few short hours (short, says the man whose primary task was to say “breathe honey; remember to breathe”), our wonderful doctor announced that the stage was set. And within minutes, Claire arrived and introduced herself with a steady wail. She was 7 lbs, 15oz and 20 and 3/4 inches at birth.
Both baby and Mommy are doing quite well, and Big Sister Evie has welcomed Claire with open arms (we’ll see how long this lasts when they want to borrow each others’ sweaters). More – including pictures – to come (our Internet connection comes and goes lately, so online access has been quite limited). This posting and more will be available at the family website: therhodys.net.
Computers & Composition: An International Journal invites contributions
for a special issue, Reading Games: Composition, Literacy, and Video Gaming
Entire call below the fold:
Continue reading »
Kathleen Fitzpatrick has offered a lengthy post about MediaCommons (cross-posted also on her own blog), in which she – in collaboration with many scholars and The Institute for the Future of the Book – introduces preliminary suggestions for a model of scholarly publishing that moves beyond what for many appears to be an unsustainable and slowly declining print model. Rather than attempt to summarize, I offer the above link (which also includes a number of insightful comments) as well as if.book’s post containing a round-up of initial reactions.
I suspect this is a project that must be led primarily by senior scholars (read: tenured), for no other reason than to protect the untenured from investing too heavily in something that may not be valued (enough) come time for review. Notwithstanding, there are a number of good ideas at work here – I’m excited about MediaCommons’ prospects and look forward to watching the discussion unfold.
May 7. There hath been a sad case. A woman and man hath been fined for playing cards. They lived very near the meeting house. The fine was five pounds, but Uncle John says it should be more for so grave a matter.
The following post is in response to Francois’ excellent points and questions in the previous post on game fiction. To begin with his first comment: the unfolding of a game event is only *sometimes* driven by narrativity, and oftentimes only in collaboration with the ludic drive. In other words, the narrative drive is not always primary (or even present – Poker has plenty of ludic and absolutely no inherent narrative drive). The trick, of course, is to understand how they do co-exist when both are present. To take an example, the playing of a chess piece is not driven by narrative design (an already-in-place narrative design), but by ludic imperatives – the needs presented by the arrangement of pieces on the board at that play moment. We can discard chess as a possible candidate for game fiction.
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If you are looking for some money to pursue a digital humanities project, check out NEH’s recently announced Digital Humanities Initiative.
CC: It’s interactive storytelling.
GS: And what does that mean to the common person?
CC: It’s a story you get to participate in as the protagonist. You’re the hero…and you let the story go. It’s not at all like a regular story. It’s not as if you’re just following the footsteps of the hero in a standard movie. Interactive storytelling has a more meandering feel to it. You don’t charge down a plot line towards the end, you meander through a social environment.
What is the value of an ending? How does the concept of an ‘end’ – and the constitution of those steps required to achieve that end – change how we view the design, and the narrativity, of a game? All game rule sets are systems of control, and most contain some sense of an ending (checkmate, Uno!, or even, “and they lived happily ever after”), but most games lean more towards one of two overall types: progressive or emergent. With the potential for vast narrative landscapes in virtual environments, bound by the limits of hardware and broadband connections rather than those of paper and ink, emergent and progressive design are two key strategies for containing space, story, and time. And yet these two genres hold radically different approaches to the alchemy of interaction and narrative.
Progressive games are arguably a narrative, adhering to many of the conventions of the word except for the (rather significant) departure from a fluid narrative communication strategy (outlined years ago by Chatman as flowing unidirectional from “Real Author” to “Real Reader” – see an example of this diagramed here). Emergent games, however, arguably are not – they may create narratives through their play, just as we might create a narrative about our walk to the park, our conversation with the homeless man we met there, or how we tripped and fell into a puddle on the way home. Those are experiences and only become narratives when they are retold. A retelling may happen almost immediately, such as a transcript generated as you play through a game of Facade, but the transcript – not the play – is the narrative.
These two overall types, emergent and progressive, are loosely defined by both the end state for the completed game, and the process by which a player or players achieve that end state. Both may use fiction as a component of the game, but the former, I argue, is the only kind that would be considered “game fiction,” a phrase I use to describe a genre of game that draws upon and uses narrative strategies to create, maintain, and lead the user through a fictional environment. Game fiction’s two most immediate and obvious connotations are prose fiction and interactive fiction (IF), and it deliberately is suggestive of narrative forms – novels, films, and the like – and yet distinguished by the ludic quality implicit in the game.1
While emergent games provide a series of game states (a shuffled deck of cards, an arrangement on the board, a set of characters or pieces) and a set of rules, the play emerges from any myriad potential combinations. The standard set of chess moves and situations (many of which chess players will keep on note cards for reference and study) is one such example. The process is less “story-telling” and more “lived experience,” which distinguishes it from narrative, a form that at its base level is a retelling of events. To paraphrase the above comment by Crawford, in emergent games “you let the game go” – making choices along the way, influencing outcomes based on skill, knowledge, or luck. And yet the outcome – the end – is not designed (one might say, authored) as the completion of a series of staged, repeatable events.
Progressive games, on the other hand, often may adhere to what Aarseth calls the “pearl chain structure” (“Quest Games” 369), although with varying degrees of sophistication, and usually providing for at least some limited choice and configurability. They offer delineated paths, often a quest (either explicit or not) toward the completion of a goal: rescue a princess, defeat the invaders, escape from certain doom, or find the missing pages of a book. Computer games that involve platform jumping, adventure games, first-person shooter (or sneaking) games, and several styles of role-playing game involve predominantly progressive play. Significantly, in progressive games any emergent behavior generally is constrained to the supplementary events (satellites in Chatman’s terms) rather the constituent ones (kernels). 2 Rather than following the footsteps of the hero, as Crawford suggests above, the player activity is more akin to following the footprints laid out on the floor by a dance instructor. With emergent games, the design process is one of stimulating potential. With progressive games, the design process is one of encouraging actualization.
Game fictions, then, include a presupposed end-game (or end-games), engendering a process by which the player interacts with the ludic design in order to actualize an ideal completion of the game’s goals — to solve a mystery, to build towards a functional system, and/or to actualize a narrative sequence. If the rise of the novel in the 18th century reflected a growing “tendency for individual experience to replace collective tradition,” as Ian Watt argues (Rise of the Novel 14), then comparatively the rise of game fiction could be seen to reflect a tendency towards collective tradition under the guise of individual experience. The interactive and competitive nature of the game fiction requires an interface for interaction and a shift in point of view, a framework guiding the player toward goals, which is most often framed as a quest, and establishing the parameters of the player character’s abilities within the game and fictional space. Just as the shift from reader to player necessitates these control systems and feedback loops, so to does the shift bring with it thematic focus: encountering new worlds, managing conflict and goals, and bringing a character under player control and managing models of understanding his or her abilities, history, and story. The individual experience is in fact collective tradition, an echo perhaps of Marie-Laure Ryan’s musing that hypertextual “aesthetic pleasure, like political harmony, is a matter not of unbridled license but of controlled freedom” (Narrative as Virtual Reality 8-9).
1 “Interactive fiction” would presumably suffice, and yet this term is so closely aligned with text-based adventure games (and some text-based procedural works that aren’t necessarily games) that expanding the use of the phrase to encompass all types of game fictions seems unlikely to be adopted. Furthermore, the term “interactive” is limited in many ways as a descriptive term – as discussed in depth by Aarseth, Manovich, and others – so as to discourage my adoption of it over “game.”
2Importantly, games may contain both emergent and progressive qualities, but just as texts, as Chatman asserts, adhere to a predominant type — Narrative, Argument, or Description — (CTT 6) so too do games, and either type can function “in service to” the other . So the games that are often heralded as more sophisticated for their non-linearity, such as Grand Theft Auto 3, Morrowind, and so on, often have a broader dose of Emergent play in service to their predominant Progressive type. Also note that games can share many qualities but lean more heavily towards one side or the other on this spectrum, e.g. Half-Life and Counterstrike, or Starcraft (Single-player) and Starcraft (Multi-player).
Probably one of the more concise, understandable descriptions of a kind of “interactive narrative” I’ve seen:
The idea of Bending Stories consists in considering the story as a sort of elastic band that the player is free to stretch depending on his actions. The story retains its structure but the player can modify its length and form and thus participate in the narration. In reality the story does not change diametrically from one game to the next, all that changes is the way it is told. However, the player can see parts of scenes and obtain different information depending on the particular path he follows.
Gamasutra – Feature – “Postmortem: Indigo Prophecy” by designer David Cage.
Unfortunately, due to comment spam I’ve had to start relying on a CAPTCHA – one of those funny image/text verifcation systems (this plugin is SCode). I am well aware of the issues they cause, especially for those with vision problems. Currently, however, I’m just not sure any better way to stop the spam, which has shut our servers down several times in the past weeks. I welcome comments on the change, either through the normal comment feature or via email, which is always accessible: jcrhody AT umd DOT edu. Fellow herders – I sent email around detailing how to implement the plugin. I ask that you choose some effective way to moderate spam (TypeKey, SCode, etc.).
Posting has – and will remain – relatively light for the next several weeks, for a variety of reasons. Once I give it a good spellcheck, I will probably post the talk I gave at Georgetown a few weeks ago. The talk, which I gave alongside Michelle Roper and Mark Sample, was well-attended and enjoyable. After about 50 minutes of presentations, the forty or so audience members, who hailed from GW, Georgetown, UMD, UVA, and George Mason, ran us through our paces with about 70 minutes of Q & A. All in all, a great conversation and enjoyable afternoon.
Taking Games Seriously: The Impact of Gaming Technology in the Humanities
Monday, May 15th from 4-6pm
McShain Lounge/McCarthy Hall, Georgetown University
NOTE: NEW LOCATION; SEE NEW DIRECTIONS BELOW (and no, I’m not sure what a “Car Barn” is either).
***New Location: Car Barn 316, 3520 Prospect St. NW, near Georgetown University***
Overview and Participants:
Please join Michelle Lucey-Roper (Federation for American Scientists) and Jason Rhody (National Endowment for the Humanities) for a discussion moderated by Mark Sample (George Mason University) on gaming and the humanities. Discussion will center on gaming and its implications for education; thinking about ways to exploit aspects of video game technology to create innovative learning spaces; and games as a possible conduit to online archives or museum collections.
Panelist: Michelle Lucey-Roper is the Learning Technologies Project Manager for the Discover Babylon Project and the Digital Promise Project at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) in Washington, DC. She has created and managed several technology projects and research initiatives that helped to improve public access to primary source materials. While working towards her doctorate on the interaction of word and image, Lucey-Roper researched and designed curricula for a wide range of subject areas and created new information resources. Before joining FAS, she worked as a librarian, teacher and most recently at the Library of Congress as a research associate. She earned her B.A. at Trinity College, Hartford, CT; her M.A at King’s College, London; and received a doctorate from Oxford University.
Panelist: Jason Rhody, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at the University of Maryland, is currently writing his dissertation, entitled Game Fiction. He has taught courses and given conference presentations on new media, electronic literature, and narrative. He currently works on a web-based education initiative, EDSITEment (http://edsitement.neh.gov), for the National Endowment for the Humanities. He previously worked for the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (http://www.mith.umd.edu), an institute dedicated to using technology to enable humanities research and teaching. Jason writes about games and literature on his blog, Miscellany is the Largest Category (http://misc.wordherders.net).
Moderator: Mark Sample teaches and researches both contemporary American literature and New Media/Digital Culture, and he is always exploring how literary texts interact with, critique, and rework visual and media texts. His current research projects include a book manuscript on the early fiction of Don DeLillo and Toni Morrison, exploring their engagement with consumer culture, particularly how they use what Walter Benjamin calls “dialectical images” to reveal the latent violence of everyday things. Another project concerns the interplay between video games, the War on Terror, and the production of knowledge. Professor Sample received an M.A. in Communication, Culture, and Technology from Georgetown University (1998) and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (2004).
The forum will be held on Monday, May 15th from 4pm to 6pm in McShain Lounge in McCarthy Hall on Georgetown’s campus. There will be an informal dinner after the forum, at a cost of $10 per person.
You must RSVP for dinner by May 8th: http://www.zoomerang.com/survey.zgi?p=WEB2258KRECKFV
1) Directions to campus: http://otm.georgetown.edu/index.cfm?fuse=directions
2) Parking options adjacent to the Car Barn: Parking options Street parking around campus is severely limited and strictly enforced by the DC police (MPD) and the DC Department of Public Works (DPW). Most streets require a Zone 2 residential permit issued by the District of Columbia for parking for longer than two hours. A limited number of metered spaces are available on Reservoir Road, 37th Street and Prospect Street. For those up for a short walk, the Southwest Garage is accessible from Canal Road or Prospect St.
3) Map to the Car Barn: http://explore.georgetown.edu/locations/index.cfm?Action=View&LocationID=76
4) The nearest metro station is Rosslyn, across Key Bridge.
About the Forum:
Co-sponsored by the Center for New Designs in Learning & Scholarship (CNDLS– http://cndls.georgetown.edu) at Georgetown University and George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media (CHNM — http://chnm.georgetown.edu), the DC Area Technology & Humanities Forum explores important issues in humanities computing and provides an opportunity for DC area scholars interested in the uses of new technology in the humanities to meet and get acquainted.
For more information, contact Susannah McGowan, CNDLS, sm256 AT georgetown DOT edu
Several of us met at the National Gallery of Art East Wing a few weekends ago to take in the Ballet Mechanique and the Dada exhibit. A few pictures are available on Flickr. Not pictured: me, MattK, Kari.
Overall, the performance was quite impressive – I wish I had recorded it. Much more … harmonious…than I expected.
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