1. rafaelfajardo:

    My graduate student, André Blyth (tumblr andreblyth, twitter @andre_blyth)  has a nice article featuring his games on Kill Screen today!!!!!!

    (via The experimental narrative vignettes of André Blyth - Kill Screen - Videogame Arts & Culture.)


  2. "Sometimes when game designers want to get something across to players, but aren’t sure that we’ll really "get" it, they use props or other visual cues – a bit like writing: “THIS IS A SATIRE LOL” on the front of Jonathan Swift’s "A Modest Proposal"." - Cara Ellison

    Spot on.


  3. tadhgkelly:

    At last.

    At last the Twitter universe has been moved to action (through the #StopGamerGate2014 hashtag and associated) and shown just how in the minority Gamergate has always been. It’s terrible that it had to come to a threat of a mass shooting to get there, but the shameful, mealy-mouthed,…


  4. "while most media tends to flatten and flop on the ground upon further analysis, films like Videodrome or The Shining continue to just unfold like an infinitely-layered flower and have a life far after their making. and that’s because The Shining or Videodrome embrace their form. they embrace the plasticity of it. they love their images, and their symbols. they love every detail and shot composition."


  5. Research Abstract

    This paper explores how the rapid production of games can function as both a method of research and as method of creating experimental narratives in videogames. The paper examines methods of rapid prototyping and contextualizes them as a form of game development, and illustrates how this method constitues research. This cyclical process of design is then put into practice as a means of experimenting with narrative in videogames, appropriating the literary term “vignette.” These videogame vignettes are parsed within the broader culture of experimental and avant-garde videogames.

    This is a start to my abstract, it needs to be fleshed out more in certain cases and different threads of research may need to be somehow combined into a more cohesive statement.


  6. My research into the rapid production of games currently has two threads, with an auxiliary third thread currently important, but as of now detached from my main practice. The first thread is the aforementioned approach of rapid game design. Second, I am exploring experimental forms of narrative within videogames. The third research thread I’m currently engaged in concerns alternative inputs for gaming, using prosthetics and electronics to create untraditional controllers. For now, I am focusing my research on the first two ideas, which when combined form the concept of rapid production of experimental narrative games.

    During my visit to Indiecade 2014, I was able to cement more of the ideas of what I am doing for my thesis. Beforehand I was only set on the idea of rapid production, but was unsure of what that production was going towards and whether the resulting games were a means to an end or if the works consisted of “ends” in and of themselves. I’ve come up with a hybrid of sorts. Each game I create is its own piece, containing a small, poetic (hopefully) narrative - I’m appropriating the literary term “vignette” to describe them. A vignette, as far as the dictionary definition goes, is a brief evocative description, account, or episode. Perhaps contradictory, I aim for these individual works to also function as a whole. The pieces are videogame vignettes, small pieces of poetic narrative, but when viewed and examined together, they form a larger, not necessarily cohesive, narrative. To provide a similar reference point from literature, I use Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles as an example. It is a collection of short stories that are loosely related to weave a larger story of Martian colonization. Bradbury himself describes it as “a book of stories pretending to be a novel.” I do have a loose storyboard I’m following as I produce these vignettes, but that structure is intentionally unclear and even seemingly contradictory. I’m trying to relate this method of narrative to the archetype of the storyteller, simultaneously revealing much and little at the same time, telling tales that may not be clear until other tales are told.

    In introducing my research topics with a couple of texts concerning rapid prototyping - in this case, the research concerning the “how”, followed by my research into experimental videogame topics - the research informing the content.

    Story Games Research Focus

    In my practice, I am exploring creating short games on a short, regular timetable, and exploring how this practice is a form of research. Practicing rapid game design as a research model has led me to a number of texts concerning prototyping as research as well as a few important texts detailing artistic practice as a form of research on its own. Three major texts in my research are Eric Zimmerman’s Iterative Design, Cynthia Lawson’s Practice Led Research, and Daniel Pinchbeck (of the game studio thechineseroom) presentation on Development Led Research in Design.

    Zimmerman’s essay Iterative Design, he develops a cyclical method of production and research into design. The steps are: design, test, analyze; repeat. Zimmerman stresses the importance of this process as a way to experiment with technique and mechanics in small projects rather than develop as a risky part of a larger project. He uses the rest of his essay on how this process led to final versions of three larger games he created.

    Lawson’s essay, Practice Led Research, is another important text in my research, especially for its approach on artistic practice as research. From the abstract, “This paper explores how approaching technology from an artistic lens can result in unexpected and innovative applications, and how this process towards innovation constitutes “research”.” She further posits that many artists and designers practice research in the making of their work, though few classify it as research due to the academic context of the word.

    And finally, Pinchbeck’s presentation on Development Led Research contends that an effective form of research into games is in the creation of games themselves. In order to explore and research concepts in game design, an effective and viable method is to create games with said concepts in mind. For example, as lead of the game studio, thechineseroom, in order to research the effects of an unreliable narrator (common in film, literature, but seldom present in games) they created Korsakovia, in which the player experiences conflicting instructions through two narrators.

    There are a few other texts I am reading on rapid development, and an interesting commanality I’ve found is that is is usually for the purpose of prototyping larger ideas, and where I depart from these forms of rapid prototyping is in how I approach the small creations made this way. In Zimmerman’s essay on iterative design, the intent of the iterative process is to refine techniques and processes so that a later, usually larger, project may benefit from the experiments. Most forms of rapid prototyping take this form - experiment with small piece, then use results to inform the larger work in progress. For myself, the short games I am creating are designed to be finalized creations. I may learn things in the process of making them, but work is made to be the final work. For me, rapid design is not a means to an end, but a series of ends.

    The next set of research texts focuses exclusively on videogames as a cultural medium. They are important both as reference material as well as providing an cultural and historic, as well as academic, framing in which my work, both written and artistic may reside in. Starting with a more academic lens, three important texts to this research are Brian Schrank’s Avant-Garde Videogames, Astrid Ensslin’s Literary Gaming, and Ian Bogost’s How To Do Things With Videogames. Not included here are other texts dealing with the role of videogames as cultural artifacts such as Anna Anthropy’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, as well as further writing concerned primarily as games criticism.

    Avant-Garde Videogames
    Brian Schrank situates a subsection of videogames within the history of the avant-garde movements within 20th century art, from the Italian Futurists to Fluxus and Situationist groups of the 1960’s. Belonging to a majority of these groups is an ideology concerned with dismantling the capital A in art. Schrank, rightly so, distinguishes between many forms of avant-garde videogames, and for my research I am particularly invested on his sections on narrative formalism and narrative politics.

    Literary Gaming
    Astrid Ensslin develops a spectrum in which to analyze the literary and ludic properties of literary games across form and genre. On one end of the spectrum are hypertext games using the formal structure of words as a playful environment, and on the other side of the spectrum are 3D immersive environments, providing literature through visual metaphor and gameplay. Her book allows me to use an existing framework to analyze my own work and place it within an existing academic thread on narrative in games.

    How To Do Things With Videogames
    Ian Bogost surveys different forms of gaming, and what those specific forms mean for the greater cultural game studies. Bogost examines broad ideas within gaming, in the context that games have become enmeshed in contemporary life, and its potential as an art form was limited until that was a reality.

    Story Games Prehistories

    When I think about the prehistories of my work, I approach it from the lens of games as narrative and less on the history of games themselves. The history of games and play is vast and it may be more productive for me to examine certain elements that I find particularly relevant to my praxis. Being interested in storytelling and narrative in games, the start of my prehistory research begins with oral tradition, through the archetype of the storyteller and through storytelling as a playful action. This is a new vein I found myself researching, so as of now my knowledge of the subject is limited, but I am exploring the act of storytelling as a game-like activity on its own. I am interested in the techniques of storytelling both in method and in performance, forwarding an idea I am playing with in videogames: the player as witness.

    Moving forward in history, the Tarot is a particularly important prehistory that is informing my work, though in the execution of my work it may not have direct connections. The history of the Tarot and how it developed is interesting in how it took a device intending for gaming and turns into a system of interpretation. The Tarot evolved from the standard deck of cards first seen around Europe in the 14th century. In 1440, the Duke of Milan commissioned a special set of cards for a game that later became known as Triumph. It comprised of a standard set of cards (four suits, labeled 1-10 with a queen, king, knight, and page) but included a set of 22 illustrated cards, of which 21 were ‘trump cards.’ It was not until the latter part of the 1700’s that the occult in England and France assigned more importance to the 22 symbolic cards, and began to use them for interpretive purposes, mainly divination.

    This shift from game mechanic to method of interpretation is large influence in how I think about games, and I often wonder how it could apply to videogames. Writer and game critic Mattie Brice has a series of essays in which she modifies the card game Netrunner (containing many rules and systems) with Tarot cards in an attempt to shift the play experience from that of systems to one of story. Due to the complexities of the Netrunner card game, this is the main lens in which I am thinking about interpretive play in videogames through.

    Story Games and Imaginary Media.

    Where I think about my work in the context of imaginary media, a couple things come to mind. The first is my desire to create alternative controllers for games, and thinking of methods of input that have not been explored yet. And through this new approach to input, I imagine that the contexts of the narratives and experiences I am developing will change greatly.

  7. aintgotnoladytronblues:



    After threats against her life, Anita Sarkeesian canceled an upcoming talk at Utah State University. Gamergate trolls are celebrating on Twitter while simultaneously dismissing the threats as nothing. Does this read like nothing to you?

    “I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.”

    The email’s author threatened to murder feminist women indiscriminately in a mass shooting. And because carrying guns on campus outweigh the right of students and guests to be safe, Anita Sarkeesian canceled her talk.



    The bullies won this time. And if you think this shit isn’t dangerous, I’m fresh out of fucks to give and I’m not restocking any time soon. It’s goddamn wrong to to dismiss this by claiming the author isn’t serious. Elliot Rodger’s rantings were dismissed until it was too late.

    This. Is. Not. OK.

    guns… literally more important than the lives of women in the state of loveable mormons

    welcome to the usa, where you can’t stop anyone from bringing guns to a place they’ve threatened to shoot someone in because who cares if someone would die, white men would get mad.

    (via likeapairofbottlerockets)

  9. Mind Maps For Research Methods. The second map, of process, resides within the blue coded area of the top map.


  10. Interpretive Play


  11. andreblyth:


    This is part 3 of my biweekly game series (first one was LD30, and second one is…somewhere). 

    Though I’m reconsidering having this as biweekly and upping the schedule to once a week. My ideas for these is that they are vignettes and as such they are brief and so far the time investment is as follows:

    • Art
    • Detail Programming (timing text appearance, small details, etc)
    • Basic Game Design

    There’s really no reason I can’t do these in a week, only my first one for Ludum Dare 30 probably went over 12 hours of investment, which was mostly due to writing.

    Postmortem Brain Dump for A Journey,

    A Journey is number three in my biweekly game series (number two is got “completed”, but I want to add sound before I post it), and the basis of this project was a focus on two specific keys on the keyboard: escape and return. In computer literacy these two keys represent very specific functions but I was interested in these words as actions: to escape and to return. 

    Escape - break free from confinement or control.

    Return - come or go back to a place or person.

    These are strict definitions from the dictionary but already they illustrate far more power than their programmatic functions. I began to look at these words as from the perspective of someone making a choice, and in that regard they are treated in an either/or context. Will I, or in final presentation - will the character, choose to escape or to return? So as I developed this dichotomy, I began asking questions as to what the greater context of the decision was; is this a grand pivotal moment or does it carry the same banality of choosing what cereal to eat for breakfast? Eventually I arrived at the decision that the pretext was of little importance and that the weight of the decision would be illustrated by the effect rather than the cause.

    From here, I developed A Journey from an aesthetic viewpoint. I recalled being (rather boring) experience of being on the train lately, watching the (admittedly gorgeous) view of the Colorado Front Range. The mental image of being on a train watching the mountains conjured up a readily available Wild West theme, and I began to imagine my character (who, it could be argued has been the same character in all three games, something to be explored later) riding a train West, watching nameless peaks in the distance. 

    Spoilers Below (the game takes 15 seconds)

    So here I have my character, who hasn’t received a name or story yet, standing on the back of a train, staring into a vast mountain range. And what are they thinking about? What, at this time, does it mean for them to escape, or to return? I’m not sure I actually have to authority (right?) to make that decision for them, so I settled on an aftermath with elements of magical realism, which some may see it as symbolic but I don’t want to say this did not happen. When, as a player, a person* tells the character to return, they simply walk back inside the train car. If the players tells the character to escape, they suddenly leap into the sky and fly away. There is no further explanation for these actions so how do we (as audience or players) interpret this? Do we apply a viel of realism to the pixels and call their flight symbolic or did they really fly away? By returning to the train, are they defeated, or is it acceptance? Though the escape ending seems better, it was not my intent to make a good ending and a bad ending. They are open to interpretation but I’m not sure one decision is better than the other.

    *So, that brings me to a discussion of the aspect of this vignette I, personally, found interesting: the identity and agency of the player. The character in A Journey might traditionally be called the player character because the player provides the input for the character’s actions. This is often, I think, a false equivalence as it implies the player and the character are either the same or at the very least, there is a strong connection. The character and the player are separate entities, but still - the player gives action to the character, so how are they related? Beginning in Greek mythology and philosophy is the idea of the daemon, a spirit existing as a link between gods and humans. In Plato’s Symposium, Diotima describes daemons as “interpreting and transporting human things to the gods and divine things to men,” as well as acknowledging the divine source may be benevolent or malevolent. Socrates, in Plato’s Apology of Socrates, has a daemon that provides him warnings, yet never provides direction. It is understood that a daemon is a metaphorical personification of the self-conscious, but the idea of a supernatural being acting as a link is a fascinating concept. So the research topic resulting from (as this series is a experiment of rapid game design as research) A Journey is to connect the daemon to the player - player as daemon. A super interesting question, for me at least, but one that brings up a complicated initial problem to solve. If a daemon is the connection between the divine and the human, and I substitute human as character and substitute player as daemon, what is the divine? 

    I’m going to leave that question open-ended and leave potential answers for another day, because well, its complicated and I don’t know how to approach answering yet.

    What I can do right now, however, is reflect on how I arrived at this question. From the creation of a game requiring less than 10 hours of development to a response quickly approaching 1000 words (which is another lesson learned - write about your work, often) trying to connect games and players to a 2000 year old philosophic device and mythological being. And I haven’t even gotten to evolution of the word daemon to demon yet, yikes. I’m aware that my experiment in rapid prototyping may not always lead to valuable thoughts such as this, but it seems common enough (though I am only at three games and really have only written one, this one, extensive postmortem) that rapid game design is hopefully a valid method of research into play and games (aka, like my whole thesis question). Design and practice as research. The other aspect of this though, is rapid game design a form of play - which I don’t have an answer to yet.

    Misc takeaways, mostly technical:

    1. Remember to tile backgrounds correctly. Would’ve saved me 30 minutes of adjustments on the background.

    2. Walking animations are difficult, but at this point I can start reusing sprites, as I’ve decided (have I?) to focus on this character.

    3. I didn’t scale the sprites this time in photoshop before hand. While in the final piece it makes no difference, Unity’s sprite preview does not upscale well, which made distinguishing different sprite frames difficult.

    4. The time to make text sprites in Photoshop is worth it, because Unity’s default UI is gross, next up: make Sprite buttons, etc.

    5. Like I mentioned above, due to the actual time spent creating these I may bump production from biweekly to weekly (goodbye sleep).


  12. andreblyth:

    This is part 3 of my biweekly game series (first one was LD30, and second one is…somewhere). 

    Though I’m reconsidering having this as biweekly and upping the schedule to once a week. My ideas for these is that they are vignettes and as such they are brief and so far the time investment is as follows:

    • Art
    • Detail Programming (timing text appearance, small details, etc)
    • Basic Game Design

    There’s really no reason I can’t do these in a week, only my first one for Ludum Dare 30 probably went over 12 hours of investment, which was mostly due to writing.


  13. This is part 3 of my biweekly game series (first one was LD30, and second one is…somewhere). 



  15. Rough Draft of Thesis Statements

    1. It is possible for art-games (notgames?) to be created on a rigorous, short timetable, and this rapid development of art-games provides insight into evocative, meaningful, poetic play.

    2. This investigation reveals that rapid game prototyping is a playful act in and of itself, and is integral to the research and development of playful systems.

    3. This body of work explores the philosophy of non-player centric design in games to allow for alternative narratives that traditional player agency limits.

    4. Play, and by extension games, can be an exploratory device, ranging from subjects such a physical space to the self, through introspection.

    5. By exploring inputs beyond traditional game design, alternative controllers allow for and encourage for more playful systems within games.