MacBook Pro Cancels Benchmark: Interrupted by Flaming Hot Magma

Posted in Art, Buckeye, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena, Eschatology, Fiction, Games on October 7th, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

Dammit, I just lost a piece of my life on MS Paint Adventures…  And for this?

Of course, I’m still not sure, but I think this method of storyteller as parser, whether community-oriented or feigned, is somewhere near Sword and Sworcery’s faux authentick.

Learning Incorrect Schema

Posted in Academia, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena, Fiction, Games on February 17th, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

Just finished watching Will Wright’s presentation for the Games for Learning Institute.  It’s cleansing, I think, to move from some of the raw intuition that open source types present as social commentary and listen to someone like Will Wright, who’s actually considering the difference between “the social landscape and the material landscape” and has been doing so for years.  The talk itself focused on the concept of games and stories as schema, fostering understanding of our world through lessons and cause-effect chains.

Wright obviously has been engrossed in story for his entire career, and during the unplanned delay before the talk engaged with an audience and pointed out that games do not supplant the linear narratives of books, but rather modify and complement them.  This comes up at the end of the talk, where he discusses Fractal Entertainment– How modern “properties” or “worlds” are not a single piece of media, but rather multiple expressions (some cinematic, some interactive, some linear, some board game, some RPG).  This includes not only top-down licensed expressions but also crowd-driven epiphenomena such as machinima and graphic novels based on Sims gameplay.

Also interesting is the concept of emergence not only within a game but also around a game, where the activity that surrounds, say, Wii Bowling, is as important to the enjoyment and definition of the game as the hardware and software.  As Wright puts it, the absurd gesticulations one makes while trying to bowl with a plastic stick.  But emergence plays a role outside the story proper, and becomes part of the meta-story, where the story is dissected and used as lesson (Wright notes that Blade Runner is the inspiration for city planners for The Dystopian Future to Avoid) and also as Story deconstructed into components to create what the designer calls “possibility space”.  And once that space is created, story emerges from it, to start the dialectical chain all over again.

Of course, story is too narrow, and Wright deals with this by settling on describing movies and books as linear narratives, which is broad enough not only to cover romance novels but also monographs and encyclopedias.  The convergence presented by Wright is mirrored by the convergence of high end research, focusing on model building and schema pattern strategies.  And while these schemas and models are arbitrary, they allow, as Wright points out, the ability to map the patterns that emerge within possibility space.

So many years of so many toys has left the theorists of the world in flux.  That’s why we have so many would-be philosophers with no background in the matter and so many academics struggling to understand their place in  society cut loose from the linear narrative.  It’s good to see someone like Will Wright, who is knowledgeable and systematic in his understanding of how the digital world and the social world mesh and the new subtleties available as a result of that meshing.  And on top of all that, there’s a great story about the Soviet space program accidentally crash-landing in China.

“Dinner for wolves”

A Clockwork Canary

Posted in Art, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena, Fiction, Games on January 15th, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

There’s such an insidious breakdown in the quality of a story after you write it down. It’s not even the writing, it’s that people read it and they just accept. Like they’re listening to old-time mystics, like these things happen because they were meant to happen, no matter how terrible the fight or touching the makeup. In reality, they’re so much more emotional. You lose that in writing because you can’t express to the reader the uncertainty. To them, we make up because it says, on page thirty-three, ‘They make up’.

But there are forms of storytelling that have been able to avoid that.

There was this old computer game, Zork. You run around solving puzzles and fighting, but you could mix something up, do the wrong thing at the wrong time, and it didn’t let you know. You keep playing, oblivious to the fact that you can’t win.

It’s simple, really. You run around collecting treasure—platinum and jewels and… stuff. Well, one of the treasures is this Faberge egg, all covered with jewels and gilt. But the egg isn’t the treasure, it’s what’s inside: this little bird, made of gold. No matter what you do to open it, the bird always gets broken and ruined. Like in life, there’s no warning and, just like in life, there’s nothing you could do to fix it. Video games nowadays, they’re determinist, derivative or just plain porn. But those old games, they were like life.

Life, not random but not determinist, not like a book. Why does every linear work need conflict, suffering and pain, why can’t it just be a happy story about love? Because it follows a pattern, it has to: because linear narratives can only do so much.

In Zork, there’s this thief, he prowls around while you’re playing, and if you’ve got something valuable he takes it, that’s why when you find the treasure, you have to lock it up. If you let him have the egg, he’ll open it. Turns out you can get the egg back, later, and next to it is this beautiful clockwork canary.

But I don’t know if it sang, because I always broke it.

The Underculture

Posted in Academia, Art, Buckeye, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena, Fiction, Games on October 9th, 2009 by admin – Comments Off

Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and the Unknown Troper?  Yeah, maybe.

Because while you’ve been desperately trying to keep up with the mind-shattering connectedness of Facebook and Twitter, an entire culture based on shows, books and, well, tropes you’ve probably never heard of has sprung up, organized itself and managed to co-opt the very classics you’ve neglected to read.  Didn’t realize the Epic of Gilgamesh has elements of a Zombie Apocalypse in it or that the Anenid has anything in common with The Blues Brothers?  That’s because you don’t get it.  Somehow, while we weren’t looking, the Internet soup finally managed to get that Cthulhu, Dungeons and Dragons and All Purpose Cat Girl Nuku Nuku really do make up a common culture with Daoism, Lando Calrissian, 西游记, Final Fantasy, hip hop, the Lolrus and, well, everything.

It’s all tied together with a common understanding of comic book superhero powers, video game mechanics and memetic mashups.  Even the academics recognize that there’s something that ties together all these strange, seemingly dissimilar cultural artifacts.  Don’t know what a critical existence failure is or the tripartite model of videogame space?  Would you be able to recognize a 30 Xanatos Pile-Up?  If you’re sure by now that I’m making this up, put yourself in my shoes, I have to live here.