Monthly Archives: January 2010

PAX East -- the IF suite!

Further PAX excitement: I have reserved a large suite on the top floor of the Back Bay Hilton. (Room number TBA.) When PAX begins, this will become the People's Republic of Interactive Fiction Hospitality Suite.

The People's Republic of Interactive Fiction is the label we've adopted at the Boston IF meetups. We intend to make games and such under this label, someday; but our first offering will be this room, where we will welcome all PAX attendees on behalf of Boston and its rich IF history.

(Hopefully, not all PAX attendees at the same time...)

If you know the IF community online, come by and meet us in real life. (See the PAX page on IFWiki for the list of familiar names who will be at PAX -- it's a long list, and I promise several of us will be hanging out in the room at any given time.) If you're curious about IF, come by and ask us about it. If you want to play some IF, or learn about how to write it, come by and see the software demos we'll have running. If you want to eat potato chips, we can provide those.

(Really, you don't need to be a PAX attendee to visit the room. If you're in Boston and you missed getting a ticket -- we hear they're selling out fast -- you can still come hang out. But you're going to be sad on Friday night when we all leave to do the IF panel, and then watch Get Lamp.)

The current plan is for the doors to be open noon to midnight Friday, noon to midnight Saturday, and maybe noon to 3pm on Sunday. (Excepting those two IF event times on Friday.)

Further details will be organized on the wiki page. We'll probably have a SpeedIF event (write a complete IF game in two hours -- bring your own laptop), maybe some less-formal panel discussions, maybe show clips from Get Lamp that didn't make it into the Friday evening showing.

One other event I forgot mention in the last post: Emily Short and Jeremy Freese will be speaking at MIT on Monday, the day after PAX. This is for Nick Montfort's Purple Blurb series, and the details aren't officially out yet, but recent Purple Blurb events have been 6pm in MIT room 14E-310.

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IF activity at PAX East -- schedule!

We now have confirmation of two IF events at PAX:

Storytelling in the world of interactive fiction

(Friday, March 26th, 5:30pm-6:30pm, Wyvern Theatre)

Text adventures have been quietly experimenting with narrative gaming for thirty years. Five authors from the amateur interactive fiction community discuss the design ideas in their games -- reordered storylines, unreliable narrators, deeply responsive NPCs -- and how they apply to other kinds of games. (Rob Wheeler (mod.), Robb Sherwin, Aaron Reed, Emily Short, Andrew Plotkin)

GET LAMP Panel/Screening

(Friday, March 26th, 9:30pm, Naga Theatre)

The premiere of Jason Scott's three-hour documentary on IF history and culture. Will he show all three hours? Who knows? (Noted via twitter.) (By the way, check out his awesome cover art for the DVD set.)

Purple Blurb

(Monday, March 29th, details TBA but I believe 5:30pm at MIT 14E-310)

This is not a PAX event, but it's happening in town the day after PAX. Emily Short and Jeremy Freese speak at MIT on the subject of interactive fiction and electronic literature. Hosted by Nick Montfort for his Purple Blurb lecture series.

We also have confirmation that PAX East will be sold out and no badges will be available at the door. Preregister or stay home. (By which I mean, "preregister"!) If the cost is a problem for you, they're looking for volunteers, who will get free admission.

EDIT-ADD: I forgot to mention the Purple Blurb presentation on Monday! See above.

EDIT-ADD again: We are going to be hosting an open IF hospitality suite where you can come see IF people and talk and try our games and stuff. See this post!

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Follow the MIT Mystery Hunt on Twitter

I am once again participating in the MIT Mystery Hunt this year, playing on the team "Immoral, Illegal & Fattening", a group of 40 or so solvers out of the many hundreds of hardcore puzzle fans in attendance. This will be my seventh Hunt, but my first since I starting getting into the ol' Twitter, and as such I quickly became consumed by that question that held no meaning before 2007, but now occurs to me with curious regularity: What is the hashtag for this?

For lack of a more obviously correct solution, I decided last week to get all Wikipedia on the problem and boldly declare that the tag would be #mysteryhunt. And so, apparently, it is. Anyone - Twitter-using and otherwise - should feel free to follow that tag to see the latest chatter about this most unusual annual event. As I write this, the tag exists in that pre-event state where its tweets are mainly involved with complaints of air travel while all the players gather, so it remains to be seen how it goes from here.

Honestly, I don't know how well this will work, compared to, say, a hashtag attached to a conference. Because the Hunt is a competitive event, with teams generally not wishing to provide information that might accidentally help their opponents, it wouldn't surprise me if things clam up tight once the solving gets underway, and then burst out with a flood of mingled celebration and disbelief as soon as one of the teams wins. Then again... yeah, I have no idea.

Anyway, there it is. Enjoy!

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Pointing at "point and click"

In my last post I made sneery gestures at the term "point-and-click game". It is, of course, a meaningless term when applied to computer games, and has been since the mouse was popularized: nearly every game since 1990 has involved pointing and clicking. (I guess the ones before that were "hunt-and-peck games"?)

But, equally of course, genre terms have never made any sense on the literal level. "Science fiction" is broader than fiction about science; "fantasy" is more specific than made-up stories; and, closer to home, "adventure game" does not denote every game about people having adventures.

No, my real beef with "point and click" is that I have no clear idea what it means. What games are point-and-clicks? I have theories. Guesses. I don't know if they match up with anybody else's theories. When someone says "point and click" I have to go look at screenshots to figure out what kind of game it really is.

I never hesitate to blather about genre definitions but in this case it will be more fun to run a poll. Yes, one of those ridiculous Internet polls. Only The Gameshelf doesn't have a poll widget and I'm not energized enough to... well, to ask Jmac to install one... so I'll just post a list and you-all can comment. Comment! I know you're out there. I can hear you breathing.

Which of the following games are "point and click"?

Note that the question is not "which of these are good games?" or "which games did I enjoy?". This is pinning down the boundaries of a category.

If you want to say why a given game is or is not in the category, that's cool too.


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Games I played this holiday season

I spent two weeks sitting around playing games, because it was time to do that. Or, possibly, not yet time... because Bioshock 2 is February, Heavy Rain (from the Fahrenheit guy) is February, that Inferno game is February, God of War 3 is March, Prince of Persia the Movie the Game is May... Yes, I know, those are mostly the brand-name cranking for the year, and I am Part Of The Problem. There are other games that I'm looking forward to.

The point is, it's WinterStuffFair, and what is there out on the shelves that looks cool? Assassin's Creed 2, and a Silent Hill Wii game that they swear isn't another pointless sequel, but a (pointless?) remake.

I didn't play any of those. Instead, I played the original Assassin's Creed, and took breaks in Machinarium.

Continue reading Games I played this holiday season.
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Nick Montfort introduces IF

Today in Youtube... oh, I'll just quote Nick:

An short introduction to interactive fiction (text adventures, such as Adventure and Infocom's games), the history of the form, how they are played, and a little about what's involved in writing them. With Nick Montfort, Video by Talieh Rohani for the 2009 Jornada Nacional de Literatura in Passo Fundo, Brazil.

Nothing you or I don't know, but good for the general audience. Plus, you can see some of Nick's hardware collection.

Also: Nick's gameplay teaser video for his game Book and Volume.

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Harvard Beats Yale 29-29

Last night I watched Harvard Beats Yale 29-29, a documentary by Kevin Rafferty, about a single extraordinary college football game that occurred in 1968. I highly recommend this movie to anyone interested in the art of documenting the play of games, of any sort.

The film interweaves footage of the game - which exists as a single, no-frills, televised tape - with interviews of its players, who have been living with its memory for 40 years. The subtext is how profoundly a single game affected them that they could remember it so vividly; Rafferty frequently juxtaposes their memories with the filmed footage of the events they describe to prove this (as well as to display a couple of notable exceptions).

Structurally, it inevitably reminded me of our own Diplomacy episode, with the notable absence of any hovering narrator explaining the game's rules. The voice of the 1968's game's TV announcer is preserved, though, and becomes invested with an unusual poignancy when put into this film's context.

I assert that this picture is worth watching even if you don't care about - or don't know anything about - American football, but feel free to read Zarf's Guide to Watching the Football first if you wish (noting that it's optimized for professional playoff games happening four decades apart from this one).

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