Videogames as Literature: Talk at Bangor University

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I’m going to Bangor today. Yes, loved it the first time and wouldn’t miss another chance to visit. In fact, I am admiring the lovely Welsh countryside even as I write. It’s raining and the bilingual signs and the unfamiliar names adding a quaintness that is unique to this place. On top of this, the train catering steward just brought his trolley announcing the delectable menu of ‘ice creams, albatrosses and ocelot spleens’!

I’m going to the University there to do a talk. On Videogames AS literature (note the ‘AS’ – I’m getting bolder with age). Yes, this is probably my last presentation in the UK so I might as well say my say. I'll be looking at comparisons between videogames and Deleuzoguattarian 'minor' literature.

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I am an Assassin and I fly on fire

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Safety and Peace, traveller. The story I tell today is not of Altair, my illustrious ancestor. Those whom he removed from this world by the will of God, ever so glorious, have returned to our story. Such is the cyclic fate of man.

I am Ezio of Florence of the House of Auditore born to the pleasures of the reborn Italian states and embroiled in the conspiracies that govern our troubled lives. I too am an assassin or rather, am training to be one. Training well I must say as the streets of Milan and Venice are abuzz with rumours about me. They paint portraits of me so that people can report me. The town-criers cry warnings. The guards are on high alert. There are rumours that I can fly. At other times I would have laughed but today I am dead serious about flying. I will fly into the Doge’s palace, otherwise impregnable and bristling with the spears of its thousand guards. Today my job is to save a life , not to take one. They say the Doge’s padre will poison him today. Like I saved Lorenzo de Medici, I must save this Doge. Else, the future of Venice lies with the Borgia scum.

Fly, I said and you did not take me seriously. After all, this is still the early Renaissance. I am sure your history books have recorded the story of my friend Leonardo, the artist and polymath, even though it has effaced mine. Leonardo has invented a flying machine. Yes, as stupendous as that. Our first test flight ended up as a major embarrassment and increased my resolve of not trusting men of learning. I landed amongst the rooftops and was very lucky not to have my bones turned into jelly. Leonardo has had a brainwave since then. We are going to use fires all over the city rooftops and heat the air. The heated air is going to lift up Leonardo’s contraption whenever it sinks down. Whenever it sinks , I have to steer it towards a fire and of course, steer clear of the archers or kick them off the roofs.

Meanwhile, back to my job of clearing the rooftops where I plan to have the fires. My hidden blade just slid smoothly into my palm as I wiped off the blood of the last dead guard. So back to Leonardo and then I will have more stories to tell.

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2nd CFP for PhD seminar: "Worlds, Stories, and Games"

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This one's a cfp from Sebastian Moering. The guys at ITU Copenhagen have decided to have yet another stab at the contested ideas of storytelling in videogames. I mean, come on, everyone knows videogames tell stories. Yes, they tell them differently and because they started as pure fun, academics in the Humanities avoid them. They also avoid pariah literary scholars like myself who try to say that some of their precious texts are actually like videogames. I'm used to that by now. I'm also used to people claiming that games are games and nought else. Instead of bothering overmuch, I've been investigating and building alternative mechanisms of critical analysis that literary criticism does not provide. I've also been arguing the case for introducing these mechanisms into literary analysis so that we learn more about how narrative, in general, works. Anyway, to return to the cfp from my manifesto. Take over, Sebastian. Ludus ex is at your service.

Just before handing over the mike, are people who have completed their PhDs allowed? I love Copenhagen and also the chance of the very lively debate that Espen Aarseth's presence manages to inspire. Better check my calendar just in case. If you are a PhD researcher working on videogame narratives, please pack your bags ... DON'T MISS THIS!

2nd CFP for PhD seminar***
"Worlds, Stories, and Games"

May 18-20, 2011 at IT University of Copenhagen

Speakers from the Center for Computer Games Research at the IT
University of Copenhagen:
Espen Aarseth (Ludo-Narratology)
Yun-Gyung Cheong (Story generation)
Mark Nelson (Drama management)
Julian Togelius (Procedural content generation)
Georgios N. Yannakakis (User/Player modeling)


This seminar invites PhD students to investigate theoretical and
practical problems of interactive storytelling and interactive
storytelling techniques in computer games or related media from the
perspectives of computer sciences (part I) as well as humanities based
research (part II) and tries to find interconnections between the two

Part I: Computational Models of Storytelling and Interactive Storytelling

Narrative generation by computers has been actively researched for the
last two decades. In particular, various artificial intelligence
techniques have been used to model story creation and comprehension
processes. However, generating interactive stories is still challenging
due to the dynamics of user interaction. The user in story-centered
games is like an actor who plays a role in a story without the script.
Therefore, creating a seamless story that continuously interacts with
the player requires numerous storylines and tremendous authoring
efforts. In narrative analysis theory, story consists of two layers:
story world and discourse. The story world includes all the events in
the story including the events hidden from the reader while the
discourse contains only the selected events to be presented to the story
consumer. The author constructs the discourse carefully for particular
impacts and emotional experiences for the reader.

In games, the story consumer takes a part in creating the story world,
and thus story events that are not worth to tell can be conveyed to her.
The user’s dual roles as story producer and consumer in the game
environment have complicated the direct application of narrative
theories into interactive story generation.

This seminar is looking for approaches to problems like: How can we
efficiently use the interaction of a user into storytelling? Is the
interactive storytelling more like a story or a game? Should the story
components be present in the story world that the user navigates through
or be present in a retrospective way when she recalls the game play? How
much does narratology come into play in interactive storytelling?

Part II: Ludo-Narratology and Beyond

If games and game technology can be used for storytelling, what is
storytelling, really? How much can the standard theories and models of
narratology help us understand game-story hybrids and new kinds of
ludo-mimetic entertainment, and how great is the need for new theories
and models? A critical understanding of "story-games" is useful both for
the development of experimental systems such as FAÇADE (2005), as well
as for the study of commercial productions such as FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS
(2010), DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS (2010), or HEAVY RAIN (2010).

For years, game studies have tried to come up with an answer to the
question: Are these "things" games or stories, or both? Unfortunately,
the discussion got side-tracked on a meta-level, misleadingly termed
"ludology vs. narratology," and became an unproductive no-man's land. It
is high time to reboot the empirical study of story-game hybrids and
move the field forward.

The seminar will explore the ludological limits of narratology and
present some new models from recent game research, and examine the
utility of classical narratology. Through lectures, close-playing
analysis and discussions, the goal is to attain a better grasp of the
aesthetic challenges and solutions involved in game-story production and
analysis, through new models and concepts developed specifically for
these new forms.

The seminar will furthermore give introductory talks on the state of the
art in interactive storytelling techniques such as story generation,
procedural content generation, and automated camera control. The seminar
also includes an interactive session to demonstrate the use of
interactive story authoring tools.


PhD students from the fields of game studies, narratology, interactive
storytelling techniques, computational story generation and related
fields are invited to submit papers which offer new insights or
solutions for the presented problems. For participation please send an
abstract of your paper (300-500 words) to smam(at)itu[dot]dk.
In order to get 5 ECTS you only have to submit a paper and present a
position, a problem, a solution etc. from the given fields.

As an orientation:
- a humanities based paper should have about 10 pages in Times New Roman
12pt, double line spacing or 4000-6000 words,

- a computer science based paper: about 4000 words or max 6 pages following
IEEE double column formatting style (e.g.

Knowledge in either computational interactive storytelling techniques or
narrative and computer game theory or both is preferable but not
obligatory. A refreshment of knowledge will be made possible with a
compendium of theoretical texts provided prior to the course.
Furthermore, it is advised to play at least three of the example games
AGE: ORIGINS (2010), THE MARRIAGE (2006)) prior to the course in order
to have a comparable frame of reference in terms of examples.

The seminar is free of charge; travel expenses and accommodation have to
be comprised by the participants.


Deadline for abstract submission: March 22, 2011
Notification of acceptance: March 29, 2011
Submission of paper: April 29, 2011

Further information will be available in the “events” section of If you have any questions please do not hesitate to
send an e-mail to Sebastian Möring, smam(at)itu(dot)dk, or Yun-Gyung
Cheong, yugc(at)itu(dot)dk.


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Games and Philosophy Conference, April 2011

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My abstract has been accepted  for the Games and Philosophy conference being held in April at Athens. Identity formation has always been a prime concern of mine and so has memory. Some games (and I'm thinking specifically of Assassin's Creed as the best example, here) engage deeply with memory as an entity that constructs the identity of the avatar. I consider this symptomatic of a quotidian phenomenon in videogames that is often overlooked. In the game that we play, we are what we are because of things we have remembered or others have remembered and retained for us (in some kind of collective memory storage or in simple words,  a wiki) and we are also the creatures of habit and reflexes - memories that we don't even realise that we remember. Hence, I've fallen back on Bergson and Deleuze's reading of Bergson, both of which I see as pathways into this analysis.  Writing the paper - well that will be a daunting experience if I know Bergson and Deleuze at all. As always in Ludus Ex, suggestions are welcome.

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