Talk at Jornada Nacional de Literatura

View of the technical check, with Alabaster on screen
The Jornada Nacional de Literatura is a big festival/conference with a lot of different aspects: aside from the workshops, there’s a children’s program with multiple activities going on at any given time during the day, and kids are bussed in from the schools; there are academic conferences and summits for local Brazilian writers; there are displays by local artists, sculptors, and photographers; a big area devoted to shops by different publishers; and a sequence of afternoon and evening panels aimed at adults, including scholars, writers, and members of the general public. It’s a hugely energetic and fascinating environment.

In addition to the workshop on interactive fiction, I was asked to participate in a panel on art and media convergence. At the beginning of this panel they played a video on interactive fiction created by Nick Montfort, which discussed the history of the medium and some recent directions in it. For my own talk, I aimed for something that would be accessible to a broad audience and would address some of the themes that had already come up during the other panels and talks — especially the generational shift towards interactive learning discussed by Wim Veen the first night, and discussions (and doubts) about the aesthetic potential of art created via computer or in collaboration.

So I talked about interactive storytelling in general: my argument that it’s a medium still very much in development, that it will one day be a high art form, but that to do this it will need to mature in its own directions rather than taking existing literature or game forms as a strict template. To illustrate the possibilities, I briefly discussed Photopia and Fate, making the case that each provided a meaningful and human experience that would be impossible in the same form without the interactive element. I also mentioned (though briefly, because pressed for time) some other projects in interactive storytelling that suggest a wide-spread interest in the possibilities from academics, gamers, and writers: Façade, Fatale, We Tell Stories.

It was, necessarily, a very general overview of why interactive storytelling is interesting, with an emphasis on contributions from IF specifically, but it seemed to go over well, and I got some very positive feedback afterward.

I don’t know exactly how many people attended: the tent in which it occurred can seat 5000, but was certainly not full. Still, a considerably bigger audience than I’ve spoken to before.

Workshop experience: Day 1

One of my tasks at the 13ª Jornada Nacional de Literatura was to give a workshop (three hours a day, four days) on interactive fiction, touching on history, how to play, some background on why the form is interesting in general, and then how to create one’s own.

I was blessed with not one but several excellent translators, and also some technical help. We were working in a standard computer classroom, which is to say that there was a place to plug the demo computer into a projector, and then networked individual workstations for all the participants.

Continue reading “Workshop experience: Day 1”

Apropos of the hardcasual discussion

I just stumbled across an interesting recent post by Zachary Reese, which includes the following observation:

I play a fair amount of interactive fiction, if only because each piece is an extension loaded by a single client of your choice (an interpreter). These are unintrusive entities that can coexist with the important functions of the computer. I can have an indie game minimized with the sound off, then play a few rounds while I’m waiting for an audio mixdown or a video render. Doing such a thing with a traditional PC game would likely result in a massive CPU fire.

People make a big stink about casual games, but I don’t think that label is appropriate. It’s more like transparent games. Games that don’t interfere. The reason games like Rocket Mania and Bejeweled took off isn’t because of some gameplay mechanic that reach a previously untapped market; they became successful because the games became accessible with minimal effort. That audience has always wanted to play games, they just didn’t have the means. They weren’t going to go out and buy a console and they didn’t want to dedicate hard drive space and system resources to the big boxed titles. These are the same people who played the shit out of Minesweeper in Windows 3.1 while on a conference call at work.

Casual games and marketing

Gamasutra has an article on Big Fish Games’ CSO explaining that the “hardcore” and “casual” aren’t sufficient categories to divide the market up, and arguing that we need more categories with more kinds of game. Which is true, but I can’t help finding it a little ironic considering the source.

Meanwhile, I’ve been playing some of Chocolatier’s The Great Chocolate Chase, which is a time-management variation on their usual theme. It’s almost entirely a replay of Diner Dash, Cake Mania, Vogue Tales, etc., which is disappointing. It’s also not as well tuned as it could be: at least, I got relatively smoothly through quite a few levels and then have completely bombed out at level 40, which I can’t pass despite many replays: even if I manage to serve every customer without turning any of them away (quite a feat at this level), I’m not making my target for the day.

I’m very slightly curious about the (slender, minimal) threads of story built into the game, but that may not be enough to propel me past this plateau.

More IF publicity

At 1UP, thanks to Lara Crigger. There appears to be a main article (following the usual scheme of such articles, it starts by referring to the good old days of Infocom, but it does branch out to some history of modern IF) and a feature recommending some IF for beginners — Lost Pig, Ecdysis, Tales of the Traveling Swordsman, Galatea, and Photopia, this time around.