Human Errors (Katherine Morayati)

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Human Errors is a new piece on Sub-Q, by the author of (among other things) TAKE and laid off from the synesthesia Factory.

Human Errors describes a world in which human attention (and empathy, care, and understanding) are a severely limited resource. The player plays the role of a contractor brought in to triage support tickets on a product that (we quickly realize) has a rather alarming range of functionality. What you’re supposed to do is close as many tickets as possible, while prioritizing only the undeniably critical ones.

You also have the option — not preferred by the company — to follow up with particular users and try to get more of their stories. Here, you can engage either as a nameless QA figure or via personal email.

But engage too much, with too many people, and the company will start to view you as inefficient, or as going outside the proper parameters for engagement, and your access to the system will be cut off entirely. So you’ll have to budget your sympathy, dole it out cautiously, try not to get in trouble too quickly.

A single interaction node looks like this:

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There are, of course, other games out there working through the interface of simulated email or other computer-mediated messaging — I recently covered Grayscale, which puts you in the role of an HR employee resolving complaints, for instance. Several of Christine Love’s pieces act similarly.

But what I particularly like about the system in Human Errors is the way it combines the guided and the open-ended, the effective and the reflective choices. If you choose to close an issue, it goes away, is no longer your problem. If you write an email to a user, you get a brief time — enough to type a short sentence or two — to type whatever you want before the text box fades to “Sent.” It’s not expressive in the sense of a parser input, because you’re not constructing a complex command all of whose aspects will be understood by the game; but it does allow and indeed encourage the player to express something. Continue reading

Interactive Digital Narrative: Theory

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 1.12.24 PM.pngThis is part two of an overview of Interactive Digital Narrative: History, Theory, and Practice. See my earlier post for coverage of the book’s history section (and one practice chapter that I took out of order because it felt like it fit better that way).

This time we’re looking at the theory section, which addresses academic approaches to interactive narrative (including the question of what interactive narrative even is).

Again, the section begins with a brief overview from the volume editors, and this provides a fair sketch of the academic debates of the last couple of decades, together with a bibliography of a number of foundational pieces in this space. I might also have listed Jesper Juul’s half-real here, as it provides a readable and persuasive cap to the narratology vs ludology debate.

Continue reading