daddylabyrinth (Steven Wingate)

daddylabyrinth is an interactive memoir that showed in the Singapore ArtScience Museum exhibit of interactive stories (alongside Troy Chin’s Forgetting and Nick Montfort’s From the Tables of My Memorie). It explores the author’s relationship to his long-dead father, and it’s constructed of short writing passages, photographs, scanned documents, and speak-to-camera video bits. It’s a big piece of work, much bigger than you can explore fully in a setting like a museum exhibit, but because it is made up of many small accessible anecdotes, I nonetheless felt like it worked pretty well in that space.

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Like several of the interactive documentaries profiled at ICIDS, daddylabyrinth offers multiple curated paths through its assorted reflections. But it also tempts the reader with many diversions, many opportunities to go off and look at a document or a fuller explanation of a particular experience. Individual documents stand at the crossroads of different interpretive paths: dad’s army records can be part of an initial character sketch of Wingate’s father, or an element in a more thorough history of his army career, or part of a story about Wingate’s mother’s campaign to get those records altered. Many times a fresh path opens out of the middle of another, with the tempting “begin this path…” button offering a way in. Sometimes following links takes you through an unexpected loop, and over time certain pages repeat. Likewise, when you reach the end of a path, clicking the “end of path – continue” link lands you somewhere entirely unexpected and new (but thematically linked).

You may think you’re going to be able to go back to the path you first selected, but for me that didn’t happen: my curiosity always, always won out over my self-discipline and sense of order.

The effect is of course intentionally disorienting. The more information you amass about Wingate and his father, the less you have a sense of stability and direction. If you’re the kind of person who gets a little anxious about the prospect of being lost in an interactive story — if you dislike not knowing where the end is and how to get there and how far you’ve come already — then this is likely to awaken those discomforts.

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ICIDS: Interactive Documentary

I mentioned in my general ICIDS post that William Uricchio spoke about interactive documentaries: interactive story forms designed to convey information, sometimes by journalists to support news articles, sometimes as stand-alone long-form projects. He showed us his team’s project _docubase, a collection of (currently) 172 documentaries: these aren’t hosted at _docubase, but have catalog entries there, allowing the curious to link through and see the originals.

There was quite a lot in his keynote, and what follows isn’t so much a summary of that as a reflection on some of the specific tools and examples that he shared.

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Call for Papers: ICIDS 2014

From the call for papers from ICIDS 2014, held in Singapore in November this year:

The International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS) is the premier venue for researchers, practitioners and theorists to present recent results, share novel techniques and insights, and exchange ideas about this new storytelling medium…

The ICIDS conference series has a long-standing tradition of bringing together theoretical and practical approaches in an interdisciplinary dialogue. We encourage contributions from a range of fields related to interactive storytelling, including computer science, human-computer interaction, game design, media production, semiotics, game studies, narratology, media studies, digital humanities and interactive arts criticism.

ICIDS would welcome papers on many topics of interest to readers of this blog, including digital storytelling authoring tools, interactive narratives in digital games, interactive narratives used in education, close critical studies of interactive stories, and post-mortems of completed projects.

The submission deadline is June 16.

I will be participating in this conference as a keynote speaker.

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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