Games as Joint Attentional Scenes

With DiGRA ’13 coming up in 2 weeks, I went searching for an accessible version ringroundrosey from diglib fsu eduof my keynote at DiGRA ’05, for which the short piece “The Last Word on Ludology/Narratology,” which I posted a few weeks ago in text and slides,  was just the preface.  The text of the keynote itself, “Games as Joint Attentional Scenes”  can be found on the Google Books site, since it was published as a chapter in Words in Play edited by Suzanne De Castell and Jennifer Jenson.  Continue reading

The Last Word on Ludology v Narratology (2005) the slides

Here are the slides from the oral version of the DiGRA 2005 Preface to my keynote talk, which was introduced  by Espen which made it more fun for both of us. Continue reading

The Last Word on Ludology v Narratology (2005)

ludologyfightnight

Ian Bogost’s rendering of the great critical struggle.

Recently this image has resurfaced in a talk by Espen Aarseth. I believe that the Ludology/Narratology discussion has moved on.  My favorite sign of the discussion changing occurred   a few years back when Espen announced that he was studying narrative elements in games.  But only last month I had a request for the content of my “preamble” to my DIGRA 2005 talk which I think was published in the Proceedings but may be hard to track down. So I am posting it here, along with a movie version of the slides. Espen introduced me for a keynote speech, and the body of my talk focused on other issues. But I felt a need to begin  by offering the “Last Word on Ludology v Narratology”.

The slides are here and  the essay is below:

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Molyneux’s Curiosity Game: why did anyone play?

Now that game auteur Peter Molyneux‘s massively mobile cube clicking game, Robot playing CuriosityCuriosity -What’s Inside the Cube?, is over we are left to puzzle over its odd success.  The gameplay was so mindlessly repetitive that it could be performed by a simple robotAnd yet millions of people downloaded it to their iPhones and iPads and clicked away at billions of pixelated squares, and 30,000  of them were still at it almost six months after the release date when the game came to an end last Sunday.  What would make a human do it?  I think there were 4 main motivators. Continue reading

Arrested Development’s Major Meet-Ups

Serial TV dramas (daytime soap operas, prime time drama) have long used the convention of the Major Meet-Up — a party,  holiday gathering, public announcement, wedding, funeral, or  some other staged event with a set time and place — to bring together multiple characters and multiple story threads for some heightened dramatic encounters.

The Netflix-based Season 4 of  the dysfunctional family sitcom Arrested Development, which I have already described as an example of a Multiple Point of View Replay Story makes significant use of this technique  with such classic dramatic Meet-Up situations such as Continue reading

Arrested Development as Multiple POV Replay Story

I have the same blouse

I have the same blouse! (It is her blouse on that gay activist protestor, and it is also her husband wearing it, thinking he is going to a pirate-themed party.)

After a seven year absence, the cult comedy hit Arrested Development released a 4th season this week, not as a network TV show like the first 3, but as a Netflix series. The first three seasons inspired obsessive fan attention  in part because of many subtle sight gags and references to minutiae of earlier episodes.  It was a good match for the switch from the time-shifting of the analog VCR era to the freeze-frame,  instant replay, and season-binging of the digital era of DVRs and DVDs, as  the creator Mitchell Hurwitz commented on at the time: “In a funny way we feel like we’re making a show for the new technology” of TiVO and DVDs  (from Fresh Air  2005 interview as quoted  by Farhad Manjoo in Slate).

The new season  is equally influenced by its new Netflix platform which differs from broadcast/cable models in offering simultaneous release of all 15 episodes.  This platform constraint was reinforced by the very different production environment which brought the full cast  together for only a few days. Hurwitz responded by experimenting with the episodic narrative structure, focusing each installment around a single character, while creating many intersecting scenes that occur in multiple instantiations, changing their meaning when seen from different points of view.  

In other words, he saw the new season as a potential  Replay Story, of the Multiple Points of View variety. Although he did not use those terms to describe it, he did underline the special potential of the digital platform for a different kind of narrative structure. From the Slate article:

Because the entire season would be going up at the same time, he [Hurwitz] toyed with making the episodes unordered, letting audiences choose how to watch. But he eventually went back on that plan. Instead, all the events in the season are occurring concurrently, and you’ll sometimes see the same scene in different episodes from different perspectives.

In the conference call, he explained that ideally viewers would be able to jump from one episode to another at the push of a button when that happens. But once again, he’s ahead of his time: “We have things in the show that the technology isn’t quite able to handle, just like we did in the first show,” he said during the press call.

Although I tend to agree with the reviewers who find this new season less focused and satisfying than the best of the original episodes, I also think that Hurwitz’s inventiveness in structuring these interconnected stories makes it a milestone in the evolution of  digital narrative formats, building on but going well beyond the easter egg pleasures of the original series. I will be offering some examples in later posts.

Replay Story Structure: Life After Life (2)

Following on previous posts on the replay structure of Kate Atkinson’s 2013 novel Life After Life  and on Design Strategies  for Replay Stories,  here is a closer look at how Atkinson  presents the many alternate versions of the life of her protagonist, Ursula Todd (note that her last name is a pun on tod,  the German word for dead — appropriately for a character who dies repeatedly throughout the book).

LAL Partial Contents 1910 to 1926

Part of the Table of Contents , taken from the Kindle edition as displayed on an iPad.

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