Search Results for: poetry

On how IF resembles poetry, and how that kind of sucks

I encountered this conversation a couple of months ago while idly thumbing through my list of saved Twitter searches, of which “warbler’s nest” is one. The first poster is Mark Sample, a humanities professor at George Mason University.

I found myself struck and unsettled by Mark’s qualified agreement with the “tech without a readership” comment, mainly because I recognized immediately that I had no ground to disagree with it myself. What an elegant way to praise a medium’s beauty and potential while condemning its prospects for widespread appeal: It’s like poetry.

Ever since the 2010 IF revival I’ve been among those insisting that parser-based IF deserves a wider audience in an increasingly game-centric world, and should strive to find novel ways to overcome its main obstacle to help newcomers jump its first, steep hurdle: the text prompt itself, with all its hidden expectations and assumptions. I still stand behind this notion.

However, between Mark’s observations and Emily Short’s thoughts from earlier this year, I sway also towards embracing the bittersweet truth that, even allowing that it has room to grow, IF might simply be unable to support an audience past a certain size — a vanishingly small size, if we wish to compare its audience to those of all other sorts of digital games. The medium must remain obscure by the very attributes that define it. Take the parser away, and you can make a much more immediately accessible work of digital writing that probably isn’t the kind of game I am thinking about.

But I write no eulogies here! I see a future where authors, including first-timers, will continue taking parser-driven IF in startling and wonderful new directions, even more than we see today. The world will not rush to play these works, but they’ll still find their way into the machines and minds of players who know how to appreciate them — many of whom make games themselves, and who will allow these works to influence their own.

This small audience shall remain just large and chatty enough to sustain a halo of new players — even if that means that a significant number of these newcomers will discover these works via university courses and other forms of formalized learning, instead of the day-to-day cultural-transmission channels that more accessible videogames get to ride. Just like poetry.

If most of the game-playing world forever assumes that IF is a long-dead form, suitable only for nostalgic pining for green-on-black, you-have-died maze crawls, then it brings its own silver lining: over and over, another influential member of that world will delightedly discover that this is not the case, and rush to spread the message. Those of us in the know will roll our eyes at the headlines but grin anyway and carry on, and so will be medium.

Parser-based IF will continue to revolutionize, astound, and inspire. Quietly.

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Calligraphic poetry

Today I went to a presentation by Amaranth Borsuk, a poet who plays with "textual materiality" -- meaning, if I can give a biased summary, the study of the user interface of text.

One of her projects is Between Page and Screen, a hand-bound book of poetry. The book is not for sale; only twelve copies have been printed. However, I was able to jot down several of the poems during the presentation -- in shorthand, as it were.

1111   0010
0001   0001
1001   0001
1110   0110

I went home and inscribed two of them by hand, drawing on all my (occasional) training in calligraphy:

Of the two I drew, only one worked. Apparently my artwork is imperfect, and all the meaning ran out at the seams of their boots.

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Villanelle d'Pomme

The golden halo of Steve the Saint
Makes the iPad the only toy worth your time
And developers take it with righteous complaint

An increasingly ironic iron-fisted taint
To those of us who won't give Gates a dime
Dims the golden halo of Steve the Saint

He wagers we'll put up with any restraint
For a shot at the app that's a hit pastime
And developers take it with righteous complaint

By developers' lights, the logic is faint
But a Flash in the pan can never outshine
The golden halo of Steve the Saint

The most Apple-happy pundit cannot paint
This as treating developers any better than slime
And we bend and take it with righteous complaint

The alternatives bog down in Steve's churned ruts
As we all drool at the sound of his chime
And the golden halo of Steve the Putz
And developers take it right in the nuts.

Thanks to Patrick Nielsen-Hayden for the footnote that inspired this little effort.

Just to be clear about this: I have ordered my iPad 3G. I agree with both Siracusa and Datskovskiy: Apple has declared that it doesn't have to care what developers think, and it is right. Because Apple has the device that I want to use. Ultimately, it's about the users, and the users are at Apple's stores, online and off.

For ten years now, the best computer environment available (for me) has boasted the best development and hacking environment available. It's been awesome, but it's been Apple's decision to do it that way; it's not a civil right. Their new computer environment won't work the same way. Too bad. Bad for Apple, in the long term, I believe -- but I can't change their mind.

Will I use my iPhone and iPad? Yes. Will I create iPhone/iPad apps? I haven't decided yet. If I do, it will be in full awareness that Apple can jerk my chain at any time, for any reason, or for no reason. It's not personal, it's not political; it's just a risk of the market.

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