I wrote a structure a couple years ago, called Foursquare, after the playground game, in which the page is divided into quadrants and the reader can begin in any square and move to any other square on the page (or any on the next page). The last page wraps around to the first page (or one can backtrack through the pages). This, as well as other structured works (some more successfully attempted than others) can be found here in .pdf format: http://www.timramick.net
Not one of them, I confess, is quite as provocative as Coover’s, and it is unlikely any of them could be made into games (or at least games that would be fun to play).]]>
Yes, I wonder if Mark Bernstein and Diane Greco’s proposals for Card Sharks and Thespis don’t better fit what I’m discussing. They even mention the possibility of assigning cards point values.
I guess this comes to a question of combinatorics in random-access hypertexts: at what point is the user negated by the system’s structural fungibility, where choice is replaced by chance and where the some of the pieces is always the same.]]>
I’ve only played Once Upon a Time a few times, but I enjoyed it.
It seems to me that what you are getting it is that fine line between top down and bottom up story generation - inductive and deductive plot, if you will. Once Upon a Time is very much inductive, allowing for a kind of freeform Russian Formalist Mad Libs. If the process fails, incoherency results. By contrast, much of hypertext / IF / etc. is deductive - if the process fails, progress stops.
If we agree with the formalist proposition that there are kinds of moves (say the Fall or the Ascension) which are abstractly significant apart from their implementation in a concrete example (ending a relationship, being crowned king) then much of our back-and-forth over interactivity has to do with which half of the equation is being provided by the interactor - the kind of move, or the way the move is done?
Do you get to CYOA, in which Hamlet rises or falls, but not the specifics? Or do you rather choose the precise way in which he falls, within a predefined structure of failure?
In Once Upon a Time, you get to do both. In Coover’s cards, it seems a bit of both and a bit of neither - every sequencing action is a choice from a limited set of choices, but because identities shift across the gap, resequencing is less a question of what story happens, or how, and more a question of “to whom?”]]>
Those are interesting connections, Nick. I also felt a little pull towards Invisible Cities with its interchangeable or variously re-imagined cities.
It’s funny because I realize now that I was inspired by:
Once Upon a Time
This page also links to some notes on improvisational story telling, an oral interactive art form that seems to contradict Chris Crawford’s assertion that never before computers did “interactivity” play such a vital role in storytelling.
Part of the insanity of my proposed games comes from the fact that I wanted to be able to play Coover’s story in addition to being played by it. There’s something about the fact that it always ends with the same card that seems to leave all my ergodic movements on the “trivial” side of meaning making.]]>
Mark, Excellent! Something has finally lured me to go buy another McSweeney’s.
I greatly appreciate the link and would be glad to deal you a hand of stickers in return for it, but, without having seen Coover’s story, I wanted to mention two books that seem quite clearly connected to it thematically, perhaps moreso than Implementation or Composition No. 1: One of these is Italo Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Destinies, in which silent travelers staying at an inn deal cards to mutely tell their stories; the other is Coover’s ludic-narrative The Universal Baseball Association, Inc.: J. Henry Waugh, Prop., which is based on tabletop baseball. Formally, of course, the connection to shufflable or adhesive literature is much stronger, but the link between cards and literature, and between gaming and literature, is explored pretty richly in those two books.
The Authors Card Game comes to mind, too…]]>