#BardJam – a literary game jam writing challenge for April

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Following on from last year’s Alice Jam 150 (an Alice in Wonderland themed game jam) I was itching to run another online game jam. So, the Shakespeare themed Bard Jam has been set up and will run throughout April. As Read Watch Play online book discussion theme for April is #BardRead and because The British Library and Game City also have a theme of Shakespeare for their Off The Map competition I thought it would be a nice idea to tie a writing related jam into other related things running at the same time. The game jam this time is focused solely on text based games, and can include interactive fiction, text adventures and any other text based digital story. Full details of #BardJam can be found here.

Biographical Digital Storytelling

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Recently I’ve had a couple of opportunities to discuss ideas about digital storytelling in relation to libraries. I’m not thinking about stories in books or solely about stories as fiction, but other possibilities. I touched on part of it in a recent blog post about storytelling in games, but I’m thinking even broader than that.

Firstly, I attended an event at the British Library as part of meetup for people interested in interactive narratives tied in with Sherlock Holmes and the internet of things. This session divided those attending into small groups who had to build up a murder mystery using online media, linked to RFID tags and a hand drawn scene. Each team created clues from images/video/sound on the internet, gave them descriptions, drew a crime scene, added individual clues to each RFID tag, placed them at relevant points on the crime scene and then passed the crime scene to another team to figure out the crime based on the clues.
This was an interesting and fun idea in itself – the idea of being involved in creating, telling and discovering a story – all linked together in the process.

The discussion in the pub afterwards was interesting too. I met someone (a photographer and filmmaker) from my hometown and we got talking about various digital storytelling ideas we’d been involved in. I got thinking about a little digital project I’d put together a few years ago – a biographical map featuring key locations in my life and I wondered if there was any scope in developing this map and opening it up to others so they could add their own history to an area. A sort of very personal local and social history. Local history is often built on personal narratives and stories and it would be a way to build up a idea of the location, one that broader history resources don’t always cover. People could add their own text, videos, images, sound recordings and others would be able to access them too. Now I’ve managed to work with live data in Processing I’m thinking this might be possible.

Secondly I visited DOK Library in Delft. This made great use of 2 large touch screen digital tables. One focusing on local history maps and images and another focusing on multimedia stories created by library users – some of the stories created were fiction and some were focused on the importance of libraries in library users lives. These digital tables highlighted that some people want to and are willing to share their stories with people who have a shared connection, and that some people are interested in reading those stories. Using an interactive storytelling experience is also a fun way of drawing people’s attention to those stories.

Both of those sessions have given me an incentive to work at my original idea.

#CityMash 2 – My session on storytelling via interactive fiction & digital games

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At the #CityMash event yesterday I ran a session about storytelling through digital games and interactive fiction. I’ve written about some of this in the past on the Read Watch Play blog, and I’ve wanted to explore the idea of how libraries could play a role in digital storytelling in this way for some time. Specifically I’m thinking about how libraries could run sessions to create stories in this way – sessions that could bring writers and game makers together. This is the presentation I gave.

Transcript:

1. Storytelling / interactive fiction / games: Gary Green –Surrey Library Service Twitter: @ggnewed #CityMash, City University London (13th June 2015)

2. Aim – discuss & share ideas about: • Interactive fiction / using computer games for storytelling • Their value to libraries & library users • Games with storytelling as a core thread • Storytelling in games doesn’t necessarily have to be focused on text alone • Free tools for creating games with strong storytelling/narrative thread in them… without being a programmer • 3 game competitions with an Alice in Wonderland theme

3. I.F. & computer games used to tell a story: • Turns passive reading experience into an active one • Choose your own adventure… sort of • You direct the progress of the story • Can be focused just on text, but not only • I.F. aren’t necessarily games, but serve to tell a story

  • Screenshot: ‘Get Lamp’ Documentary

4. Screenshot taken from text adventure ‘Colour of Magic’ by Delta 4. The game is played by entering text to direct progress of the story. For example, in this section, the player might type in “Go Hubward” or “Go Turnwise” to move to a new location in the game world.

5. ‘Spent’ is an interesting example of a game using a storytelling method to highlight issues around poverty. This type of game could be regarded as similar to the Human Library concept. It appears on the Games for Change site, which features games containing social awareness themes.

6. This is an example of a free tool called Quest, that anyone can download and use to create their own interactive fiction or text adventure games. The screenshot is taken from the game ‘Whitefield Academy of Witchcraft’.

7. Value to libraries & library users: • Represent traditional stories & curate them in new ways • Encourage users to discover new ways of storytelling • Use storytelling to encourage development of IT skills • Use beyond fictional storytelling – human library concept

  • Screenshot: Empire Strikes Back themed Donkey Kong created with Donkey Me

8. This screenshot is taken from ‘Dys4ia’ and focuses on the real-life experiences of Anna Anthropy. It’s an interesting example of creating a narrative game with limited focus on text and also storytelling in games going beyond fiction. In Anna’s own words: “dys4ia is the story of the last six months of my life: when i made the decision to start hormone replacement therapy and began taking estrogen. i wanted to catalog all the frustrations of the experience and maybe create an ‘it gets better’ for other trans women. when i started working on the game, though, i didn’t know whether it did get better.”

9. ‘The Tell tale heartbeatz’ by Daniel Mullins won the 2015 Public domain game jam. It’s based on a section of text from an Edgar Allan Poe story. It highlights that text based stories can be interpreted in new ways, whilst still keeping to the original idea behind the story. In this case this is a rhythm based game focusing on the main character’s goal to “rid myself of the old man… but time was running out.”

10.  Interactive Fiction Database – directory of published I.F. works, inc some based on: • J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth • Other book characters, including Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, Spider-Man • Film, TV and Radio tie-ins, including Dallas, Rambo and The Archers BBC radio programme • Star Wars • Jaws!

11. Never Alone is an example of using storytelling in a visual form to share the experiences of a different culture in a game. The developers say: “We paired world class game makers with Alaska Native storytellers and elders to create a game which delves deeply into the traditional lore of the Iñupiat people to present an experience like no other.”

12. Free tools for creating interactive fiction & text based games/stories: Inform 7 • Twine • Quest • Choice of games • Inklewriter

  • Free tools for creating other games: GDevApp • Stencyl • Sploder • GameSalad • Construct 2

13. Fallen London http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com is set in a fictional London in what seems like a pseudo Victorian period. It combines text stories with visuals, interaction between players and users can also create their own stories using the StoryNexus software.

14. Alice in Wonderland 150th anniversary game competition/jams: • A jam is a game creation competition usually run over defined time period & with specific theme • Off The Map (open to higher education students) – organised by Game City/British Library • Alice game jam (for Pocket Code users) – December 2015 * • Alice Jam 150 #AliceJam150 (open to all) – End of June 2105 *

15. Links mentioned & other useful ones: http://bit.ly/citymashstory

16. Ideas raised in discussion during the session • Text based games encourages development of literacy, reading, creation and creative writing skills. • How does it impact on digital literacy skills? • Games with varied characters & story backgrounds encourages understanding of diverse cultures & people. • There could be a good opportunity to develop collaborative physical game- making communities in libraries, with a focus on storytelling & games. • Sometimes text in games is skipped to get to the ‘fun stuff’, but those coming to a text based game knowing that it’s text based are happy to read. • It enables knowledge sharing – through the subject of the game (e.g. human library, Never alone etc.) & also knowledge of how to create games. • How can digital storytelling be connected to physical activities too? Maybe via creative Makerspace sessions?

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It was extremely useful to discuss ideas with those who attended my session, and the feedback I received about it was really positive and encouraging – so I’m very keen to try some of these ideas out soon.

Edit: I’ve put together a Storify of the Twitter discussion about this #CityMash session.