Seeing what we sometimes can’t

There’s tons of bad news out in the ether. I can’t deal with it now, I don’t have the wherewithal, but I wanted to do something constructive. So I wanetd to talk about looking at the things you do and letting yourself see the good in it. Western society — or at least this corner of Western society that I live in — thrives on hypercriticality. Things aren’t quite good enough. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and I will never be attractive enough or thin enough or charming enough on my own, so I really really need to buy a panoply of things to cover my hopeless flaws. Maybe it’s not. Anyway. I was sitting around with friends yesterday and recounted a summary of a story I’d submitted in the hopes of getting it published and I thought at first I wouldn’t remember it properly. (Memory and I don’t … Read on!

Leave it to Zombies: Aberford

So anyone who knows me knows I have Opinions about Representation. Representation in anything — games, movies, books, the gamut of communicative arts. So let me tell you about this thing that I just found because YES. It’s a game called Aberford in development by an outfit called Sketchy Panda Games. Here are their four primary protagonists: Yeah. That totally got my attention. In a sentence, Aberford follows four women in post-WWII America faced with a zombie apocalypse. There’s a single-player story mode and a multiplayer zombie-smash mode, too. But if you worry that this is being handled poorly, that the characters are cardboard cutouts and the story will be a thin veneer of zombie bashing dressed in June Cleaver’s best, let me point you to this excerpt from their tumblr, which they update quite frequently: Besides being a game about 50’s housewives and zombies, Aberford is about people finding their voices … Read on!

Ambient noise generator

This is the most fantastic thing I’ve seen in a while: A Soft Murmur, which lets you mix your own background ambient noise loop.

Mix your own background ambient loop. BRILLIANT.

Mix your own background ambient loop. BRILLIANT.

I don’t know how long it’s been out, but it’s fantastic. There’s no hiccup where a track loops back on itself, and you can have all of the sliders up and running if you like and it doesn’t slow anything down, nor does the sound stutter. And you can set it up with timers — a timer to start, a timer to end, and a timer to just gently fade out. They’ve got an Android app, but no iPhone yet.

You can even share your own mix. Mine is rain, thunder, and waves, with a little wind and a hint of singing bowl thrown in. I’m absolutely in love.

 

Get to the point

You know the person who, when telling you about some achingly mundane event in their lives, turns it into a sort of narrative epic of questionable insight and imagined valor? That’s me. And I know it’s me, when I’m in the middle of explaining the emotional context of a 3 AM subway ride and I can hear the rusty creaking strain of patience from my friends, and I can’t stop myself. I just can’t. So thank you, friends, and family, for your patience. It’s times like those that make me wonder if my lack of self-esteem isn’t some foreign overlay, because when I’m telling you about the joyous schadenfreude of watching the jerk who cut me off halfway to my destination get pulled over by the cops for speeding, I am certain that you are feeling the righteousness just as much as I am, even though I’m only a third of the way through … Read on!

Evolution of research

powered by Fotopedia   So before the middle of the year hit, I was in the middle of refocusing my research from the application of polyphony to transmedia storytelling, to examining polyphony and its role in shared emergent narrative in tabletop role playing games. A friend of mine calls this a “PhD&D.” There are studies on the culture and anthropology of gamers and gaming (and when I say gaming here, I mean tabletop RPGs); there are studies on performativity in gaming, the potential of gaming in therapy, and in education. There are evaluations of gaming materials as literature. But so far, there are no examinations of narrative processes happening in a game in progress. Because polyphony posits that every voice influences the collaborative results of the interaction of those voices in a given work, and because an RPG setting constitutes a voice contributing to a game even partly based in … Read on!

Academic writing

Is it me, or is it like some perverse wrestling sculpture event? It’s like cooking, or carpentry. There’s heavy lifting and assembly and then disassembly when you inevitably get a joist wrong. And there’s a lot of staring. And pressure. And waiting. Scripts for me can grind, sure, but the grind is different, spooling too far too fast in a direction that I later realize doesn’t work. Lots of spooling. Tire smoke. But this theory thinky stuff is a different thing, like trying to walk through gel. Pushing through. Stopping for a breather. Is it always like this? Does it loosen up the more you get used to it? Or is it easier for some people? I can completely understand if it’s not the kind of thing I’ve got a knack for. I dunno. Like this:Like Loading…

Meanwhile, back in academia

One 24 hour plane trip and my white blood cells are all offended. I have come and gone to a fantastic conference (Rethinking Intermediality in the Digital Age), left with my head bursting with ideas and a notebook full of unbelievably smart and astonishing new contacts, and after landing in Brisbane one evening, heading to work the following morning, and then attending fellow DCI cohort presentations the day after that, I am fallen. Stupid cold. It’s not as bad as the lurgi before, but not for lack of trying. On the plus side, reading. On the minus side, poor reading comprehension. In early December I present a progress report of sorts for my research. There’s even a panel evaluation, so, like, no pressure or nothing. Really, I’m not terribly worried about talking. I can talk. Talking is fine. It’s putting this stuff down on paper that feels intimidating. That’s a funny … Read on!

GenreCon, or the smartest impulse buy I ever made

Okay, so, I’ve been gaming since, like, forever. And my family wasn’t the kind to get an Atari or a Nintendo or whatever. No, my gaming was pen and paper and the kinds of stigma you expect when not being whatever’s popular that week in high school (I actually started earlier, but hey). I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to talk about why I made my impulse buy. Which was a weekend pass to GenreCon here in Brisbane. I’ve know about Chuck Wendig since my White Wolf days, and then somehow, years ago, I stumbled onto his blog. If you haven’t read it, you should quit my site right now and go do so. I even linked for you just above. There’s a bit of a naughty word warning, but whatever, he’s a George Carlin variety of profanity-slinger. Trust me on this. Anyway. He was coming to … Read on!

Spoiled for choice

It’s funny, seeing as how the work I’m doing is all about choice, that I’m critical of it. I just saw an ad for RSVP, an online dating service, and the theme of the ad was winnowing down preferences. “Must like dogs. Loves to cook.” Blah blah blah. We’re spoiled for choice, and by choice. Before we could move across great distances at will or chat with strangers on the other side of the world, we had who we had, and that was about it. You grew up in your family, your town, your neighborhood, and you took the things you disliked with the things you liked. And because you didn’t have an option to get away, surround yourself with the safe and adored things of your heart’s desires — physical, political, imaginary, whatever — you had to learn how to cope. I am forgetting how to cope. I am … Read on!

Progress! Though it might not look like it.

I’ve managed a bit of a breakthrough, tightening the pacing on the story (improving the first episode significantly) and getting a much livelier sense of the characters, which is immeasurably valuable. I did it by eliminating/consolidating three characters. Reminds me of a phrase used when it comes to modern media technology: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Polyphonic stories require ensemble casts: it is the nature of the tale. But too many characters and you muddy and confuse everything, and no one remembers who anyone else is. Too few, and you have no tension at all. I’ve had to be mercenary about this story, looking at every scene from a screenwriting perspective: no wasted airtime. No wasted words, no wasted sound, no pointless scenes. But the difference here is that in a three-act film, every scene pushes the story forward on the shoulders of the main character (even though … Read on!