IF in the ACM literature, Part Four

I’ve been saving these for last, because they’re really the juiciest: a couple of articles authored or co-authored by Mark Bernstein.

Bernstein is the founder of Eastgate Systems, a company promoting serious hypertext. They sell a small but — within the hypertext community — highly respected collection of hypertext fiction and nonfiction, at serious book prices: much of it runs from $25 to $45. And they produce and sell Storyspace, a tool for hypertext creation. This is a niche market: the major works are self-consciously literary or pedagogical, and I think it would be fair to say that IF in general is a more populist form. At the same time, hypertext is a more successful niche market than IF: how many of us are selling IF game files at $45 a pop? how many would feel ballsy enough to try? And, leaving aside the commercial, hypertext also gets studied more extensively by academia, taught in more new media courses, and generally considered more serious.

Some of this has to do with accidents of community — with the sorts of people who happened to be drawn into creating each kind of thing, and with the ways in which they framed and presented their finished products. But I also think the media favor different kinds of content, and it’s interesting to look at why.

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IF in the ACM literature, Part Two

More from the ACM archives I have been looking at.

Grant Tavinor, “Video Games, Fiction, and Emotion,” ACM Conference Proceedings, Vol. 123, 2005. 201-207.

Mr. Tavinor’s work is focused on how we feel about the games we play, and how games evoke those feelings; he talks a bit about interactive fiction (though, I think, defining it a bit more broadly than as the text-based form I tend to mean on this site). But his conclusions leave out a lot of possibility. Here’s a sample of what I mean:

Emotions are involved in the affective framing of fictional worlds, making salient the goals and needs of those fictional worlds, so that our interaction in them is motivated and enhanced. The player of a video game feels angry at their inability to overcome the massive fiery lobster monster, frustrated by the difficulty of completing the platform-jumping task, fearful of possible loss, or elated at defeating the hordes of mutants or crazed chimpanzees. Consequently, the emotions seem to guide participation in the fictional world of the video game by boosting attention and concentration to deal with these challenges. The emotions we have for video games are framing devices that channel our interaction with these fictions.

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Two readings of possible interest

The last couple of days have brought some interesting reads that weren’t announced on RAIF, so I’ll mention them here:

Trotting Krips’ review of Planetfall. I’ve never gotten around to playing this one myself.

Nick Montfort’s dissertation on nn, an IF development system he designed in the course of getting his doctorate at Penn. The dissertation runs to several hundred pages, so it’s not a light read, but I’d recommend a look to those interested in IF theory. Some of what he writes is fairly technical discussion of how his system works, and it’s difficult to judge its merits given that there aren’t any actual games written in it (as he admits himself); on the other hand, he also does a lot of theoretical definition of the different aspects of IF games.

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Whoa! or: Original research on the Crowther and Woods Adventure

Dennis Jerz has just released an article, set for Digital Humanities Quarterly, on the time-line of the original Adventure, together with an analysis of Crowther’s source code and how Woods changed it. There are also photographs of the actual cave rooms that correspond with the game, which are amazing. This is great stuff.

IF in the ACM literature

Recently I’ve been looking at academic papers available at the Association of Computer Machinery portal, checking out what various scholars and conference-attenders have recently had to say about interactive fiction. (Note that while you can register with the site for limited free service, full access is by subscription, so your best bet is to access it through a registered library.)

It turns out that what these papers have to say is often some variation on “here is why conventional interactive fiction doesn’t live up to its promise: …”. They have different ideas of what that promise is.

One take on this:

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