Evolve (Caitlin Lill)

Evolve placed third in the StoryNexus World of the Season competition, after Samsara and Zero Summer. Unlike the other two pieces, it’s a work of educational non-fiction: you begin as a single-celled organism and make choices that allow your organism to evolve. The author has written about her inspiration: she works in a science museum, and saw the StoryNexus platform as a possible way to convey the educational content she’s interested in.

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Hap Aziz and Colonial Williamsburg

Hap Aziz, a doctoral researcher in the use of interactive fiction for education, is creating an educational game about Colonial Williamsburg. The Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative is currently gathering funding through Kickstarter.

Hap was good enough to talk to me about his approach to the educational aspects of the project: why he chose this particular period, the teaching aims of the game, how it relates to other IF he’s encountered, and his wishlist of IF tools for educational gaming.

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IF Demo Fair: “what if im the bad guy?”

Aaron Reed’s contribution to the IF Demo Fair was introduced with the following description:

Exploring a frozen battlefield moment from a half dozen violently conflicting perspectives, this prototype (part of the author’s work towards a digital arts MFA) merges traditional IF with video, sound, and web conventions. Inspired by the currently unfolding trials of six US Marines accused of committing war crimes in Afghanistan, the project asks what interactive stories can say about contemporary, real-world events, and wonders if there can be such a thing as an IF documentary.

This should warn the player that what they’re in for is not going to be a happy fun romp. The piece — game is certainly the wrong word — is a series of short vignettes involving an ambiguous wartime shooting. It uses the strength of text to shift viewpoints in a way that graphics alone couldn’t: the same objects are described in different ways each time.

“what if im the bad guy” makes some of the heaviest and most successful use of multimedia I’ve ever seen in IF. The image with this post isn’t cover art. It’s a screenshot. It really might be fairest to say that this is a piece for which the IF parser and text output are a component, rather than that it’s IF with add-ons. All of the elements of the experience are essential. (I don’t know exactly what underlies all this technically. It may well be that the project is too complicated to be distributed effectively online and can only really be run as an exhibition piece.)

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Interactive documentary

Just got a press release about a symposium in interactive documentaries, which sounds like it might be pretty cool, with overlaps to the kind of educational/gaming/interactive story/research work done by the people at PlayThePast, ARGs, and Failbetter’s historical, museum-situated project An Expedition with Mr Mirrors.

I can’t go myself, but maybe some here will be interested:

A lab/symposium dedicated to the rapidly evolving field of interactive documentary

Friday 25th of March 2011 at the Watershed Media Centre, Bristol, U.K.

i-Docs is a one day lab/symposium dedicated to the exploration of new forms such as web-documentaries, docu-games, mobile films and locative projects. During the day artists and producers will present their latest work to generate debate with academics and media researchers on what is currently being made. What can be learned by the first success stories of the genre? How to deal with user’s participation? Can a game logic be applied to a documentary? What are commissioning editors expecting from a cross-media documentary? These are a few of the topics that will be discussed on the day. i-Docs is bringing together some of the world’s most active and creative interactive documentary experts. Confirmed key speakers are:

• Nick Cohen – Multiplatform Commissioning Editor, BBC, UK
• Alexandre Brachet – Upian, FR
Upian is the company behind Prison Valley, Gaza/Sderot and Portraits d’un Nouveau Monde
• Matt Adams – Blast Theory, UK
Pervasive games specialists, Blast Theory is famous for Can you See me Now?, Rider Spoke, and their latest A Machine to See With
• Florian Thalhofer – New Media Artist, DE
The inventor of the Korsakow System, the non-linear authoring tool which made Forgotten Flags, the [LoveStoryProject] and Rehearsing Reality possible

For further information, and the full programme, see: http://i-docs.org/

i-Docs is convened by Judith Aston, Sandra Gaudenzi and Jonathan Dovey on behalf of the Digital Cultures Research Centre, University of the West of England, Bristol.

Interactive Dioramas

A couple of months ago this possible IF exchange popped into my head:

> EXAMINE CLOTHES
They’re… well, I suppose that depends. Are you male or female? >> F

You’re wearing …

The original context was that I was imagining a piece of historical IF with a meticulously-rendered environment; and part of the point would be to call the player’s attention to the ways in which, in that environment and culture, a person’s surroundings would be affected by gender, social status, and other features. So it would be better to collect protagonist data during the game (to highlight where and how it matters) rather than all at once at the beginning (leaving the effects obscure afterward).

It wouldn’t be too hard to code, I don’t think: you’d probably want to start with placeholder objects, like “generic clothing”, and then swap in the specific objects as soon as the player tried to interact with the placeholder.

I doubt I’ll have time or occasion to use this idea in the near future, so I just thought I’d throw it out there, along with a question: are there other interactive styles or approaches that would be especially useful for educational interactive non-fiction (as distinct from conventional IF)? (Another possibility that comes to mind would be footnoted IN-F, with source references appearing in a separate pane whenever the player encountered something.)