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Workshop on Game Poetry (Utrecht Summer School '14)

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The workshop explored the concept of Game Poetry hinted at by Ian Bogost, both in terms of its conceptual implications and from a practical, analytical game design perspective.

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Workshop on Game Poetry (Utrecht Summer School '14)

  1. 1. Slide No. 1 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 Workshop: Reading and Writing Game Poetry: Day I Dr. Stefan Werning (University of Utrecht)
  2. 2. Slide No. 2 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 Connection to the keynote lecture: „Analytical Game Design. Digital Game Studies between theory and practice.“ • Functions of design practice in digital game studies • Using prototypes to address ongoing research questions • Creating ‚Kuleshov experiments‘ for digital games – Kuleshov already indicates the difference of working within the medium rather than using proxy materials
  3. 3. Slide No. 3 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 „poetry (po-'i_-tre-) [NOUN] A prehensile form of ostentation that erects turbulence, without remuneration, in the pursuit of yearning. Replete with symbols, it is an ewer of extreme ecstasy; to enter it is to turn riot, rupturing each maxim with its antithesis: hope. Containing exuberance and emptiness, it burns under reality, its ecumenical name a cordon to arrange the unclean into number, neatly. Now called truth, it provides tumult as law to every imagination.“ (Nick Montfort) [http://nickm.com/poems/] „[...] traditional poetry feels game-like to me not because it is procedural, but because it is highly condensed—the encapsulation of symbols and ideas is strong in both forms. I’m a comparatist by training and all my literary background is in poetry.“ (Ian Bogost) [http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jep/3336451.0014.205?view=text;rgn=main] ‚Defining‘ Poetry • Short form – High semantic ‚density‘ – Sometimes organized in collections • Highly symbolic • Playing with language • Rhythmicized • Subjective/idiosyncratic • Perfomativity of reciting
  4. 4. Slide No. 4 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 Computational poems (Nick Montfort) • Exhibit the implicit playfulness of digital media technologies • Hybrid form between textual and procedural rhetoric
  5. 5. Slide No. 5 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 Using (primarily) literary genres to categorize games • Interactive fiction – Wonderland • Drama – Façade • Scrap book – The Sims, Wario Ware • Autobiography – Papo y yo, To leave
  6. 6. Slide No. 6 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 Game Poetry (Ian Bogost) • A Slow Year (2012) – Won the Vanguard and Virtuoso awards at Indiecade 2010. – Described by Bogost as „one of his most important works“ • General poem-like aspects – Short form  ‚condensation‘ – Metaphor and symbolic communication – Single designer/programmer as ‚author‘ – Internally consistent pattern – ‚Collection‘ aspect „Game poetry (or game-like poetry, or playable poetry, or whatever you’d like to call such things) exhibit process insofar as they embrace some behavior as their mode of expression, and insofar as they can be operated by a reader/player in order to explore that procedural expression.“ (Bogost)
  7. 7. Slide No. 7 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 Game Poetry II • Four games, each for one season – Spring: Watching a thunderstorm – Summer: Falling asleep at a river – Fall: Collecting leaves / letting go – Winter: Drinking coffee slowly during sunrise • Hardware limitations of the Atari VCS used for numerical symbology – Standard cartridges store only 4 kilobytes of data – Each game, representing one season, is 1 kilobyte (1024 bytes) – Following a similar logic, there are 256 algorithmically generated haiku for each season, for a total of 1,024 poems. • CRT (emulation) for ‚fuzzy look‘ – Comparable to handwriting? • Potential contingent design decisions or: interpretations?
  8. 8. Slide No. 8 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 A critical perspective on A Slow Year • Limitations of A Slow Year as poetry? • Implications of the product form • Packaged and sold • Aspect of performativity • Writing (poetry) as a cultural technique • E.g. reusing quotes from poems in other contexts
  9. 9. Slide No. 9 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 Passage (Jason Rohrer, 2007): An alternative ‚game poem‘ • What makes Passage describable as a game poem? • Part of the first collection of video games at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York • ‚Playable metaphor‘ on life and the transitoriness of personal values • Autobiographical undertones • References and subverts the traditional genre of labyrinth games • Condensed gameplay and semantics
  10. 10. Slide No. 10 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 Variations on Passage: An Example • Increasing sensibility towards potentially meaning-making design elements – Boundaries of the playing field? – Omission of the fish-eye visual effect – The heart appears between the characters • During the first experiment, I instinctively placed the heart on the woman • Prototyping fosters quantification – Similar to Kuleshov (cf. keynote) – Design elements need to be translated into code and at least tentatively quantified • Screen resolution (100x16) • Success rate and frequency of chests
  11. 11. Slide No. 11 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 The limits of non-digital prototyping • Why use software instead of pen & paper? • Paper prototyping: advantages and downsides • Advantages of digital prototyping – Growing sensibility towards the ‚design bias‘ built in the tool and scripting language – Metrics – Reusability of components – Contingencies of the interface – Pacing
  12. 12. Slide No. 12 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 Examples/Inspiration • Gravitation (Jason Rohrer) • Marriage (Rod Humble) • The End of Us (Chelsea Howe, Michael Molinari) • Madrid (newsgaming.com) Recreating existing games can serve as a useful starting point! • For further playing – http://www.casualgirlgamer.com/articles/entry/1/Five-games-that-make-you-think-about-life/ – http://www.casualgirlgamer.com/articles/entry/22/Ten-games-that-make-you-think-about-life/ – http://www.casualgirlgamer.com/articles/entry/87/ten-more-games-that-make-you-think-about-life/ – http://www.casualgirlgamer.com/articles/entry/48/Another-20-games-that-make-you-think-about-life/
  13. 13. Slide No. 13 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 Practice session Today 1. Create one or more concepts in small groups (2-4 people) – Define a complex sentiment or perception  Break it down into procedural elements  Create connections between these elements  Eliminate ‚dirt‘ 2. Briefly present and discuss concepts 3. Begin to implement concepts (together or in groups) Tomorrow 1. Introduce physics and its metaphorical potential 2. Refine the existing prototypes 3. Reflect on observations from the practical experiment 4. Discuss methodological issues of integrating prototyping into games research
  14. 14. Slide No. 14 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 Workshop: Reading and Writing Game Poetry: Day II Dr. Stefan Werning (University of Utrecht)
  15. 15. Slide No. 15 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 OUTLOOK: Game poems as an example of deep remixing • Practical application of deep remixing, i.e. remixing methods rather than content (Manovich) • EXAMPLE: Everyday shooter – Video game music album • Other examples – Video game music video – Video game photograph
  16. 16. Slide No. 16 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 Remixing A Slow Year • Remixing and deep remixing (Manovich) as a form of knowledge production • How could A Slow Year be (feasibly) varied or remixed?
  17. 17. Slide No. 17 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 Introduction to Game Maker: Studio physics • Elements: – Properties (mass, ‚elasticity‘, gravity) – Linear and angular forces – Joints • What can be done with physics? – How can physics systems be used metaphorically? • EXAMPLE: The Cat and the Coup – Semanticization of physics as a normally standardized and naturalized element of the game engine
  18. 18. Slide No. 18 of 18GAP Summer School – Utrecht – August 19/20, 2014 OUTLOOK: Methodological issues of using game poems for analytical purposes • What kind of questions can these prototypes ‚answer‘? • How can and should the answers be used and elaborated upon? • Example: Github and wonderfl.net – Both use ‚game mechanics‘ to encourage user participation

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