Why not get involved in a literary game jam #AliceJam150

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In my recent blog post focusing on computer games and interactive fiction for storytelling I mentioned Alice Jam 150, which is an online game development competition open for anyone to enter.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland, so with my part time game-maker and full-time librarian hats on I thought it would be a fun idea to set up this computer/video-game jam based around an Alice in Wonderland theme.

It has it’s own page on the Game Jolt site, called Alice Jam 150, and runs from 11.59pm, 26th June 2015 for a week until midnight on 3rd July.

The rules of the game jam are:

  1. Base your game on the Alice in Wonderland book or characters
  2. Include the mystery theme (this will be announced at the beginning of the jam)
  3. Create the game within the jam period, including any graphics and audio
  4. Entries can be from individuals or teams
  5. Upload your game to Game Jolt and tag it with #alicejam150

I wanted to keep the rules simple and open to encourage as many entries as possible, and it’s open to anyone at all who wants to create a game. Your Alice Jam 150 game can be created using any software and if you’re on Game Jolt you can link to it using the hashtag #alicejam150 when you upload your game to the site.

Even if you’re not on Game Jolt and want to get involved, you can by adding a link to any game you create in the comments section of this blog post, and/or tweet it with the hashtag #AliceJam150.

Even if you’ve never made a game before and aren’t a programmer there are a few free tools here that you can use that don’t require you to be a programmer.

I’m also very pleased that the creators of Pocket Code are getting behind this game jam, especially as I’m a big fan of Pocket Code. Pocket Code users can now turn their programs into Android apps, making it easier for them to get involved.

There aren’t any prizes for entering the game jam, but hopefully people will like the idea of taking the original Alice in Wonderland story/characters and turning them into something new, engaging, original and fun.

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Setting Up An Online Literary Audio Walk

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As a tie-in with the Guildford Book Festival last year my library service created a literary walk of Guildford using an online service, Woices. This service is free to use and with it you can add markers to a map containing audio, tags, images and text containing web links. You can link a series of markers together into a contained walk and you can make it available for people to access via the full Woices website, the mobile website and an app. Users can also download the audio files to any device capable of playing mp3 files.

One of the reasons for creating this tour was to try to creatively promote library resources beyond the limits of our library catalogue, but pulling users back to our library services. So, for example, on location markers focusing on Lewis Carroll we linked back to Alice in Wonderland / Through The Looking Glass and Lewis Carroll biographies on our library catalogue.

It was straightforward to set-up:

  • Create an account on Woices.
  • Take photos of relevant locations.
  • Record some audio about why each location is significant (most of our audio markers were less than 1 minute long).
  • Use that audio as a transcript for the text description.
  • Create markers (known as Echoes) on the in-service map and add the photo, audio file and text to them.
  • Add a link back to the library catalogue search results. eg. P.G. Wodehouse link.
  • Add keyword tags for each marker. eg Alice Wonderland Lewis Carroll
  • Create a Walk and add your Echoes to it. Rearrange them into a logical order to follow.

The walk can be found on the Woices main website; the mobile site; and the app (you’ll need to search for “Guildford literary walk” on the app to find it).

Literary Twist Update

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I mentioned in my Tinkering Day post that I’d made some progress on the Literary Twist project. I thought it might be interesting for others to see what I’d done/how I’d done it.

Well, I’ve sort of done what I wanted on tweaking the words, but at the same time it’s obvious that what I wanted to do wasn’t enough to make it as entertaining as I wanted. 😦

I basically got a list of commonly used words – I looked for a few sites that covered this to get an aggregated group of words… just to make sure I was replacing the best set of words. Then, using Google docs I pulled data from tables in websites into a spreadsheet, rather than retyping the info (Tony Hirst wrote a blog post about doing this). Sometimes, because the words weren’t in a table, I had to copy/paste the data into the spreadsheet. The data was a bit scrappy, as it came through to the spreadsheet in a variety of formats. Google spreadsheets doesn’t have a regex function and I didn’t want to do hundreds of manual find/replace, so I fed into Yahoo pipe to clean it up, using regex.

I output the clean file as csv and imported it into Excel, so I could get a count on the number of times specific words appeared. This helped me decide which words I’d do the find/replace on later on. I also needed to look at a few dictionary sites to make sure I replaced words that could only be used as one class of word, rather than more than one (ie adjective, noun, verb) – more than one messes up the syntax/form of the sentence.

Then I created a new Yahoo pipe, which had 2 text input boxes for title & synopsis. I added find/replace modules & manually entered words that needed to be replaced, along with text that replaced it.

Werewolf by Schnaars (Flickr)

Werewolf by Schnaars (Flickr)

Still, at this stage, some words didn’t work. Some of the replacement words didn’t work either. This is partly because I hadn’t thought too much about the type of text that would work with the replacement. For example, synopsis seem to talk more about ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, rather than ‘I’, ‘me’ and this affects the way that you need to deal with the whole word replacement style.

I also worked out that, even though it’s a good idea to replace common words, because you’ve got a better chance of hitting words that can be replaced out of the 171,476 words in common use in the English language (according to the Oxford English Dictionary), more synopsis actually try to avoid the cliche/common words.

It still needs tweaking and it’s presentation still needs prettifying (or horrifying ;-)), but here’s the pipe for people to have a look at. All you need to do is enter a book title and synopsis into the boxes. I’d be interested in the output from anything you paste into the pipe, as I’d like to see how the pipe works on a wide variety of synopsis. Maybe anyone who uses it could cut/paste the output of the pipe as a comment to this post. I know it needs work on.

Literary Twist Project

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A couple of months ago I came up with a daft idea based on reading ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ (a novel that has since spawned a new genre of classic/horror crossovers). I was really disappointed by the book and smugly thought ‘I could do that!’

It just seemed like the author had chucked in a few ‘unmentionables’ and a bit of martial arts and released the literary monster onto the world. So, in a poor attempt to take the mickey, I set up a Yahoo pipe that would allow people to paste in a title and description and the pipe would do a simple find/replace action and turn the text into a cheesy piece of Hammer horror.

Zombie Librarian, courtesy 'wvs' on Flickr.

It worked on a simple level, but I thought I must be able to improve on it. I haven’t really tinkered with the idea since then, but have felt it’s probably worth pursuing just for fun & as a personal learning exercise.

I’ve decided to call the project ‘Literary Twist’.

There’s a number of stages I’ll need to go through to get something decent up and running.

(1) Work out a set of words used frequently enough in the English language that would appear a high percentage of the time in any text a user entered into the description, or use term extraction to pull out enough relevant terms in the description that could be replaced.
(2) Decide on appropriate words that could be used to replace the original words and feed them into the replace procedure.
(3) Possibly if someone entered an ISBN, author / title I’d be able to pull in a synopsis from a book catalogue instead of using manual text entry?
(4) Do the process of find/replace
(5) Output the result as a decent looking web page (all nice and purdy)
(6) I’d like to have a nice user-friendly interface (a form) to the pipe as well, which I know I can do via html and javascript, but I’ve never tried.
(7) I’d also like to go beyond the horror genre and allow users to select the genre they want it twisted into (eg romance, western) and I’d want to do it all in the same form/screen.

So, I think I’ll give it a go. I’m not sure how long it’ll take, but I’ll be keeping track of it here.