All posts by Daniel Sebastian

Queerskins

The first thing I want to point out with this piece that weren’t talked much about in class is the fact that its sophisticated simplicity makes up what I believe to be the very essence of what “traditional literature-meets the digital” should be. The way the text is presented in a skewmorphic way, meaning it’s presented as “text on paper”, accompanied by audio and video, to me, is Electronic Literature in its purest and most undisputed form. The multimodality, which only can be achieved through digital platform enriches this text in a way no traditional literature would be able to. The navigation is also pleasant due to use of javascript instead of traditional HTML and CSS, which gives it a much smoother and non-website feel. Having said this, it’s definitely worth mentioning that this is a heartbreaking, yet beautifully told  story about how it is living with a terminal disease and asexual orientation in a time where neither is socially accepted. We sort of get the feeling of having discovered this persons inner most private thoughts and feelings through his diary and letters, which gives the reader insight into different, and more often than not, more or less incoherent bits and pieces of his life, which after just a little while makes up the story of a man living in a world that does not accept him, or people like him, for who he is, and if that weren’t enough his lifestyle is also indirectly what kills him. Even though we only see this from his perspective, the theme of this piece also paints a picture of how gay people were treated in this time in history, and the fact that AIDS spread like wildfire in the gay community added to the hate and stigmatization of these people. The multimodal elements sort of put an augmented reality layer to it, when a part of the text for instance could be accompanied by a a news report, either directly related to the content, or just touching upon the subject, but through the view of that point of times attitude toward the subject. Living in our modern time where these lifestyles are perfectly normal and accepted, at least by the norm, these elements of time-travelling REALLY helps us grasp the situation, something that would be much harder to do through conventional literature, then we would only have the author’s word for it, but here we can actually see it for ourselves. I love the way this story was told, even though it was a sad one, and to make a call-back to my blogpost on The Hunt For The Gay Planet, which i slaughtered for not giving justice to a really important cause, this one really, truly does.

For my own piece, I’m really thinking of shifting my focus due to the fact that what I want to do seems a bit harder than I first thought. I don’t just want to do it, I want it to have some quality to it as well. I still want to do something in 360, but I’m not sure the Blindfullness is going to happen. I have no idea of what theme to focus on yet, but know that when it’s decided that much of my time will be spent on it.

Until next time, Dannyboy out!


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!

 


Hunt for the gay planet…

First off, let me reflect a bit on something most of us probably has experienced dozens of times; being “victims” of political correctness. I’m not talking about that stupid nonsense political correctness Donald Trump is bitching about, but the one where you don’t feel you can critisize something because it “hides” behind a subject where critique is not publicly accepted , i.e. homosexuality, race etc. This is a sensitive  matter exactly because many people throughout history has expressed hate toward these type of subjects, and therefore the political correctness “movement” came in as a counter part to this unacceptable behavior. But there’s always the debate on where the line is drawn, and sometimes these lines are kind of blurry and we tend to go the direction of rather being a bit political correct than get our head chopped off, which I really, totally get. But is this ALWAYS the right way to go? I mean that in some cases it actually undermine the cause, and in this weeks’s blog post I’ll talk about this piece of edit that actually got me mad for exactly this reason!

The Hunt for the Gay Planet

The Hunt for the Gay Planet is a classic interactive fiction made in Twine. It’s a reaction to the fact that EA, in their game Star Wars: The Old Republic, released a planet with gay people as an in-game purchase. The fact that this particular planet was released, but only  if you PAID for it got a reaction of disgust and hatred, which I really understand. This is also very good foundation for a reaction of any kind, also electronic literature… But have you ever read a book where you were left with the feeling “Damn, this book had a really good potential because the subject is so good, too bad it was THIS writer f****d it all up!”? Well, this was one of those for me… As I mentioned earlier, this is a great foundation, a really important subject to address, but without the Shield of Political Correctness this piece would never had the right of life in my opinion. Well, I may be a little harsh here, but let’s that it at least wouldn’t ever be included in the Electronic Literature Collection. As a piece of Elit in itself it is boring, shallow, linear and with an overly sexual undertone. It is one-dimensional, and portray gay people in a rather unflattering, stereotypical manner. I’ll add here that I have never been a very outspoken gay rights warrior, not that I’m against it either, I think all men and women should be treated equally no matter sexuality, beliefs or race. However, I don’t think it’s good for a cause to get special treatment either! I get that this piece is supposed to parody stereotypes, and that it is supposed to have the same sort of tasteless portrayal of gay people, but the narrative in this one was so horrible and one-dimensional that it only got tasteless. The over sexualization of all gay people in this story does not come through as parodic, but rather as “this is how gay people are”, it also enhances the stereotype of them not being as everybody else! But apart from a bad characters, the storyline itself  did NOT do justice to this cause. In another case, I wouldn’t have looked at this piece twice, but as a reaction to such an important subject, the only thing this piece has is just that, that, the subject! To me, subjects like these are important to elevate, but done poorly, I feel it damages more than it does good. This is a good example where political correctness don’t necessarily helps, but rather create a void – Why should’t gay people only get one planet (that costs money!), when all they “deserve” is this half-assed piece of electronic literature? You tell me…


Pentametron – A clever little bugger :)

We all have those quirks that makes us care seemingly a little too much about small details that ruins your whole experience, but no one else cares about. I, for instance, ABSOLUTELY !!HATE!! when developers of software choose to save money when developing the UI (user interface), it takes me as close to killing someone as I ever will come, but very few people share my view on this, at least not consciously. In Elit, this feeling also surfaces a little at times, especially in the generative genre, because to me it doesn’t hold up just putting in words and creating an algorithm  that regurgitate out bullish*t and then call it art! Not even if you afterward come up with some far-fetched “meaning” behind it that the artist force down your throat, and you should just accept it. And no, it’s NOT art just because it  provokes the viewer who gets mad because someone takes a stick and tie a rope to it and saying “This is a sarcasting comment to the society wanting to get as much as possible with as little effort as possible”… Sorry for the long rambling, but this shit really annoys me in the world of creativity. Hey, I’m not saying people can’t do what they want, make whatever they want, but then I also get to mean what I want about it ;P HOWEVER, Pentametron is NOT one of these “Let’s make it say random, weird stuff, it’ll be fun haha “, although it DOES say random and weird stu, and it IS funny. But the reason, at least in my opinion, that the random  and weird stuff this bot tweets is because of a few small features in it’s algorithm, it has a kind of consistency in it’s content, it rhymes, and the sentences always has the same rythm, which are basic trades for classic poetry. Even though you know it’s a bot, it sort of still make sense… …in a way… …even though it doesn’t… You know what I mean ;P But no matter what you might think of the tweets in themselves, or if you find some kind of meaning in them, to me the true artistic work lies in the performance, namely how and, well how… With the first “how” I mean the algorithm/code that’s in the back-end. I have enough knowledge to know that seemingly the simplest task demands an enormous load of coding and thought. With the second “how” I mean how the artist chose to restrain the bot’s tweets to make them follow the the simple rules that it does, and giving the reader the feeling of this making some kind of sense 🙂 We can debate content and meaning forever until the end of the universe, but I mean that the main difference in where we should put value when it comes to human-generated content and computer-generated content is that we know that a computer will always do what it’s told and never anything else, and we will never get any TRUE emotion from it, so the value lies in the creation of the AI (artificial intelligence) and wether, or not it is done in such a way that you for a second actually can let yourself be persuaeded to think there is something more than just 1’s and O0’s there. And I think Pentametron did a good job on this 🙂

So until next time, Dannyboy out


Queens Quest 7

This one spoke to me on so many levels!

Being of the generation before gaming was what it has become today, my love for computer games lay in the realms of the classic adventure game genre. I actually learned English by myself playing Sierra On-Line titles like Space Quest, Police Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, and of course the King’s Quest series, which the title of today’s Edit piece plays on.

In the beginning, these games purely relied on text commands like “Open door”, “Pick up gem”, “Look around” combined with the arrow keys to move around and interact with the surroundings. After each iteration the graphics improved, and from the third, or fourth iteration in all the series they became pure point-and-click games instead, which was one of the most popular game genres at the time. Game series like Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, Simon The Sorcerer, Gobliins, Broken Sword and so many more in addition to the Sierra On-Line ones, are to me what the word computer game really means. Although, when the technology evolved and the demand for 3d games became the norm, these games slowly disappeared as the masses no longer wanted the old fashioned, no-skills-needed, two dimensional adventures, but craved the Warcrafts and Starcrafts of this world, and their evolvements. Today, gaming is a multi-billion industry – even turned sports! And these old classics no longer qualifies as games in some communities…

Queens Quest 7

…is a reaction to this. It borrows so many elements from the old classics, that it warmed my nostalgic heart. Although this is a hyperfiction story, it still captures the atmosphere of the old Sierra and Lucasart games with its absurd and ridiculous humour. But the main story is the one taking a stance against the new generation of gamers not aknowledging the classics as real games.

WhenI started Queens Quest 7 I sort of expected it to be like the old King’s Quest series, with the 8bit graphics and text commands, although realizing quickly this was a hyperfiction piece I didn’t mind it at all. First off it seemed like any other King’s Quest story, waking up in your chambers and getting a description of what you surroundings are, but then, when you move outside of the chambers and explore further, you realize you are not in a medieval narrative, but rather in a post modern environment aboard a space ship orbiting a planet called Video Games. When exploring the ship and talking to others aboard, you get, in addition to a lot of references to old adventures in both King’s Quest and Monkey Island, enough information to realize that the planet Video Games is really a reference to video games as a phenomenon and a concept, and that they, as old games,  are no longer welcome back there even though they were there first. This is obviously a direct play on gamer-gate that occurred a couple of years ago where gaming communities all over the world started to negate these type of game genres as not games. It got kind of out of control with a lot of harassment and even death threats, when trying to rid their communities of the non-worthy.

This piece of elit looks at this situation from the view of the classical games itself, and portrays it as an actual character in an environment close to the classic genre. On the planet Video Games the Masaganerds (gamers) rule, and there is no longer a place for the classics. However, as you proceed in the story you go through a narrative where you kind of fight for your place in the universe, not really fitting in in any other genres, and ultimately are faced with the options of “Destroying Video Games, and rebuilding it from the ground”, or “Inevitably let it destroy itself”.

Elit, or game?

The eternal question within the realm of electronic literature seems to be “where is the line between it being electronic literature or a game” to me, lies around these old classics. But to me, like the masaganerds of this piece, why can’t it sometimes be both? It seems to me that both media have many of the same goals, and neither of them are games nor literature in the conventional way anyway… But I’d have a good story told to me through a screen any day, wether it be electronic literature or a video game 🙂

This was AWESOME

As I opened with, this one really hit home on so many levels. It made me long for the time I spent hours upon hours on these games, woke up the joy of playing a video game, which has been dormant for years, and urged me to download several of the old titles. I don’t know about you others, but me being of that generation really hope this type of game will re-emerge, and maybe more iterations of the old series will come? I see that many of these have been revamped and republished on platforms like iOS and Wii, and the Broken Sword series even got a fifth iteration with the good old fashioned 2D graphics after one incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign. That is proof that there are more out there like me, and thank you for writing this awesome piece of elit!

Here are some old titles you should check out:

Space Quest I-VI
King’s Quest I-VII
Police Quest I-IV
Leisure suit Larry I-VII
The Secret ofMonkey Island
Monkey Island 2: LeChucks Revenge
The Curse of Monkey Island
Escape from Monkey Island
Tales from Monkey Island
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
Gobliins 1-4
Simon the Sorcerer 1 &2
Touche: Adventure of the 5th Musketeer
Broken Sword 1-5
Beneath a Steel Sky
Lure of the Temptress

…and so many more…

Dannyboy out