Façade – just a facade?

I remeber, a couple of semesters ago, going through this piece in a course I had with Scott Rettberg, so when I went through the collections to pick out a piece for my presentation, this one sort of triggered me. Back then I got, after lots of trial and errors, it to work on my Mac, unfortunately this wasn’t the case now. However, there’s a lot of videos on YouTube going through this game for a variety of reason, because due to the artificial intelligence and random generated both conversational topics and plot twists, the narrative can go in so many directions. But let’s start from the beginning…

It’s been a long time old friend…

The game starts with a black screen and you hear an incoming phone call from an old friend, inviting you over for dinner at his and his wife’s place at 8pm. In the next scene you are standing in a hallway outside of what appears to be the door to their apartment. You can hear someone argue inside, it’s obvious that Trip and his wife Grace has trouble in their paradise…

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You can choose to wait, or you can go right ahead and knock on the door, either way, your old friend from college, Trip, will come and greet you and invites you in.
You very quickly realize you have been placed in the middle of a rather uncomfortable marital struggle that clearly isn’t just a rough patch. We’ve probably all witnessed couples like this, or even been in one ourself? Either way it’s a pretty uncomfortable situation, and like in real life you have the choice to either try to intervene to smooth things over, help them, make things worse or just ignore them.
However you choose to play a role in this stage play the scenario will evolve differently based on your involvement, their moods, or through random events.

Gameplay

You move in a simplistic 3d spaces with your arrow keys, using your mouse to interact with items, or Trip and Grace, and writing commands with your keyboard. The game understands a impressive amount of commands, and even though correct parsing is somewhat critical, and your commands not always contribute to the flow of the story, it still gives a good sense of being able to change the direction of the narrative. You are pulled back and forth by the couple, who clearly do not get along pretty well, putting you on the spot on several uncomfortable topics, more, or less asking you to pick a side. Based on the conversations and their directions you’ll almost always get a different ending, most often some sort of reconciliation, or one of them (or both) admitting to having an affair. But if you act to rude, or decide to be a little too “friendly” to either one of them, Trip might get angry, or uncomfortable and kick you out. There are rumors that you can get one of them to kill the other, that you can seduce one of them, or even that the player is invited to partake in a threesome, however none of these seems to turn out  to be true.

Impression

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The game, after it was released on Windows in 2005, received a lot of praise for it’s AI (artificial intelligence) throughout the tech industry, and is said to have been way ahead of it’s time in this field. It even got the Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Slamdance Independent Games Festival, in addition to have been featured in a variety of magazines.       In 2010 it even made it into the book “1001 games you have to play before you die”. But when the impression it made in the tech industry is unanimous, the impression among the players of the game were more divided, and with the theme being what it is many felt it hit to close to a painful experience. But many also found it too one-dimensional, due to the “no-matter-what-you-do” downward spiral of depression and marital struggle.

MY impression

I found this piece rather interesting. In these kind of “closed-room” scenarios the impression of “world outside” it’s usually pretty obvious where the limitations are, nut this game covers most “leaks” in a rather satisfying way. This might just simply because of the simple graphics and that you just don’t expect too much from it. But the narration, and nit to mention the massive amount of voice acting creates a very good impression of infinite outcomes. But if you play the game enough times, you start to see patterns reappear i.e. Grace’s obsession of redecorating the apartment and Trip’s “Europe fetish”. This peice intrigued me enough to play through it enough times to “learn” how to respond to them to get a desired outcome, but even then it turns out slightly different on every playthrough, and to me, this does exactly what this game was made to do. It sort of gives me the feeling that I can go back in time and revisit the moment, and that what I say or do, and other random events will affect the outcome even though the “stage” is already set before you arrive. Thumbs up for this one 🙂

 

Blindfullness

In this course we are also required to create our own elit piece, and I wanted to do something that would feel personal and draw on my own experience. And since I’m kind of fascinated by the big trends in the tech industry right now, namely AR and VR, I wanted to do something in this space. And the fact that I have suffered from Stargart’s Disease, a vision impairment causing severe focal vision loss at a very young age inspired me to wanting to show people the world from my view instead of just telling them. Putting the user in my position in situations that are more difficult to me than people might think, but still showing that my life is just as full and functioning, because if you think of it, no one’s life is without obstacles, and we all have to find our way to maneuver through them – this is just one of mine. The name of my project so far is “Blindfullness”, playing off the words mindfulness, blind and fullness. So Far I’ve bought a 360 degree 4K camera and found a platform for it using Google’s Cardboard concept, now it remains only to find a way to execute this without too much of a hassle ;P

 

But until next time; Dannyboy out!

 


Being Spencer Pratt

This week in class we learned about a networked improvisational narrative, or #netprov, called Being Spencer Pratt. In essence it was a 4-week long collaborative work involving Spencer Pratt, Heidi Montag, Mark C. Marino and Rob Wittig, where the latter two posted using Pratt’s twitter account under the guise of a British poet that had supposedly found Pratt’s lost cell phone. It also involved Spencer Pratt’s more than one million twitter followers as the “poet” invited them to play poetry games and interacting with them in general. It makes for an interesting piece of e-lit since I feel it kind of goes a bit beyond what you’d normally expect out of e-literature due to its unusual nature.

For one the experience is in part a temporary one, in that the #netprov only took place over a few weeks time, after which we can only look back at what happened to study how the event played out. This is unlike many other works of electronic literature as they often let you experience and interact with it your own leisure, without necessarily losing out on anything. Where #netprov differs, even from other performative pieces, is that through to its use of social media the audience becomes a part of the performance whether they realize it or not. When Marino and Wittig began posting on Twitter it was to pose as Spencer Pratt pretending that he’d somehow retrieved his lost phone, even as Pratt himself was stuck as a participant on the reality TV show Big Brother. While some of his twitter followers was questioning the truth of the situation, many others were simply excited at the prospect of being retweeted by Pratt’s account.

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Not suspicious at all

In a way, unveiling the truth can be seen as a negative for some, because part of the fun can lie in believing the lie or, in enjoying it even when you know it’s part of an act for one purpose or another. Other examples of #netprov could be the social media accounts that represent various companies, whether they present themselves as a personification of their mascot or by using jokes and pop culture references to pull in an audience. At its core it is just another means of drawing in consumers to make more money, but there is nevertheless something intriguing about how companies put themselves before an audience for their amusement.

#netprov is fascinating in how people are very clearly drawn towards the opportunity of being part of something bigger, as “Spencer Pratt” in part of their performance ended up retweeting a number of overly exited fans. Some followers were apparently upset however when they learned the truth of what had happened, so it kind of puts into question how we approach social media and where a performance begins and ends. For some people just getting a retweet from Pratt was more than enough, while many others gladly played along as they participated in poetry games and the like, despite likely understanding that they weren’t really talking to Spencer Pratt. One might question how this all fits as electronic literature, and for me it lies in how it is a performance where you don’t see the actor, yet you still interact with them all the same through an online network. It’s one thing to perform before an audience and to visibly interact with them, it’s quite another to play along with whatever game they are doing, all the while not really being quite sure who they really are behind the veil of a social media network.

 

My own piece of e-lit

As we gradually begin to near the end of the semester I have to think of ideas for a piece of e-lit that I would like to create myself. It’s easier said than done, as it can seem so daunting from at this point in time, but having any ideas is of course better than having none at all. What interests me is both narrative and the possibilities of interaction. Now usually when it comes to e-lit and interactivity it means clicking a link to read more text or maybe things fade in and out as you over over them. What I might like to do is a more literal sense of interaction, in that poking and prodding the text in some ways would make it move about the screen. What if pulling a word out caused a paragraph to collapse? What if you could flatten a word or turn it sideways? I think it could add some playfulness to how you approach a text, perhaps akin to tearing a page filled with words into pieces and rearranging them. Except here the page would remain whole, while the text is free to be played with. Usually when it comes to literature, whether it is electronic or not, the narrative is a key part of understanding a work, but this could in a way be deconstructed as as you pick apart the sentences. It would shift the focus from having to read the text in a certain way to instead trying to discover what you can do with the pieces it is made up of. I’ve no idea what the text would even be about, and perhaps it is too ambitious for a student project, but I still think it could be fun to plan out and try even if I couldn’t pull it off entirely.