Archive for March, 2007

[This post comes several months late. Richard Gray, aka Knyte Trypper, passed away last November. His legacy lives on in his contributions to chatbots.]

Our worlds of fan-author-reader texts are lead by the dedicated workers who host our forums, feature our galleries, or post on particularities. The late Richard Gray was a dedicated member of the chatbot community, among others. He was particularly helpful to me when I was conducting my survey of botmasters and bot users. May this post celebrate his memory.

According to his online obituary in the Encyclopedia of Speculative Fiction:

Richard Gray, a.k.a. Knyte Trypper, passed away Saturday evening, November 25, 2006 at home, in his sleep. Born on July 10, 1950, he was just 56 years old and lived in Sheffield, Alabama. A friend to many, he will be missed by us all.

He was perhaps most notable for his AI Nexus Forum site, but he he was also an active member of many creative community bulletin boards. Here’s his AOL members page. Gray’s handle, Knyte Trypper, references not from his late night botmaking but rather alludes to his love fore the Grateful Dead. Perhaps that music link gives us a glimpse at the idealism of this generous botmaster.

As a practice, we don’t announce talks at WRT, but this one presents an interesting convergence, a kind of crossover episode where the IF League meets the X-Bots meets the Game Squad in one of those moments of academic alliance: But who are we fighting against?

Second Person: An evening on writing and gameplay

6-8pm, April 4, 2007,
as part of Scott Fisher’s CTIN 511
USC’s Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts (RZC),
Room 201 Zemeckis Media Lab (ZML)

[This talk is not open to the public, but we will blog about it afterwards. The hosts can answer inquiries about access.]

As part of the LA book launch for Second Person, Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media (MIT Press 2007) several of the contributors and one of the editors will be speaking at USC to one of the Masters classes in interactive media. Editor, artist, and scholar Noah Wardrip-Fruin will present the collection joined by WRT’s Jeremy Douglass and Mark Marino and renown video-game creator Jordan Mechner.

The talk marks one of the first public launch stops for Second Person on the West Coast but more importantly marks an important presentation of a few of the many topics in the collection, namely mainstream video games, interactive fiction, and conversational agents. Of course, these topics leave out the table top games, the interactive dramas, et cetera. What you realize from considering this list is just how varied the objects of study in Second Person are, though the menagerie does make a coherent zoological exhibition.

[This post relates to a thread of posts about interactive exhibits for children, children’s museums, and child-like theory.]

Electronic interactive drama should be like live interactive theater, right? But exactly how much interaction is in children’s theater?

When critics, artists, and others discuss interactive drama (experienced via computers), they often make allusions to interactive theater from “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” to long-form improv. [see this 1986 article from LucasFilm’s Doug Crockford]. At times, they also allude to theater for children. This follows allusions to interactive theater in Marie Laure-Ryan among others, particularly with regard to child’splay. In her dichtung-digital article, Marie-Laure Ryan differentiates seems to champion paidia–the free and open play of children, which is both mimetic and participatory. Ryan notes children’s mimetic play and improv theater as share these attributes. No doubt we would find such play in improvisational theater for children.

However, I’ve recently had first hand experience with the amount of play in children’s theater and I’ve begun to rethink the amount of agency and interaction (locally and globally) in these pieces.

Let me relate one audience-member parent’s experience:

PowerPoint has been an artistic medium perhaps since David Byrne’s IEEE, but as more students grow up on PowerPoint, its place in our culture is becoming more and more dubious. Recently, several artists used PowerPoint to create PowerPoint Valentines, which parody the pervasive medium, by imagining lovers whispering sweet nothings with fly-on effects or delivering dear john letters on custom “bad news” templates. These stand-alone pieces raise the question: what is a slideshow without a presenter?