Immersive Theatre and Games

For years, I’ve been thinking about a form of theatre we explored while at uni, but I couldn’t remember the name of it. Every time I tried to find it, I’d fail.  Finally, I have found some amazing videos of the company that we must have been told about, PunchDrunk, working with MIT Media Lab to create a digital/real crossover version of their “Macbeth” inspired immersive theatre production, “Sleep No More.”

Some of the tech they’ve come up with is amazing! So, SO clever. Make sure you watch BOTH videos, as they contain very different content, and explain both about immersive theatre as well as their transmedia integration techniques.

Immersive theatre, as a concept, fascinated me from the moment I heard about it. I started thinking of it in terms of games, where most often you get a set of scripted events that are triggered when you get to a certain point in the game. It can be as heavy-handed as a separate cutscene, or better integrated into the game itself. I thought about games where it feels like the world exists without you, because the scripted events happen so seamlessly that they appear unrelated, and its up to you to actually make meaning. It made me really want to somehow design a game that works like one of these immersive theatre pieces, and use as much of the technique and theories developed through plays to build a new type of gameplay experience. So far, it looks like our world design project might end up snowballing into my opportunity to explore these ideas!

Setbacks

I’ve noticed I’ve been a bit afraid to work on my game… stalling a bit. I mean, I’m always juggling my health, as well as changing jobs and moving house over the last few months, but I’ve been distracted from working on it like I wish I was driven to do.

So I’ve been trying to really understand myself, really get a feel of what I want to be doing (and whether it fits) and figure out why it might not be on the top of my list.

Georgia&Dragon-smaller.jpgThe conclusion that I’ve reached is that I really want to play to my strengths, I really want to do a good job, and I’m scared that either I won’t be proud of this, or I will be making something of a cop-out. In other words, the idea is there, but the vision isn’t. I want to make something “me,” but of course the self is an always-changing concept, especially when going through life changes such as illness (or healing), job search/changes, or moving house. So now, I’m fairly settled, I feel well, and happier that I have been for a long time. I’ve had some moments of clarity, and I’m hoping to get a lot of work done. Hopefully you can all see something very soon!

Georgia and the Dragon

For a few weeks now, I’ve been working on the design of an Adventure Game. I can’t remember exactly when I started thinking about it, but I DO know I created a game file for it on Feb 20, 2012. So I guess that counts as good a date as any.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in terms of plot or anything, but I knew I wanted to make a light-hearted adventure game about a girl and a dragon. I wanted a dragon because I have very, very vague memories of some sort of probably-educational game I played in year 3 or 4, where the end part was something to do with a dragon. That seemed a good enough reason as any. Also I’m pretty practiced at drawing dragons. I called it “Georgia and the Dragon” because of St George and the Dragon. I thought it was clever terrible AWESOME.

Georgia... and the Dragon

I started working on a hand-written design doc (somehow, writing by hand seemed like a good idea, as I can’t press “backspace” or just forget to save it), and over a couple of weeks, I started fleshing out the intro and the preliminary puzzles. Then I got stuck, so I left it for a bit. And then I wrote some more, and came up with some silly ideas and themes that I could commit to. I decided I would have a “demo” that was a standalone series of nested puzzles, and then I’d work on the main game while that was out there getting some attention (and funds, hopefully!) Yes! Awesome. And then, the worst. I was stuck. Absolutely, completely, stuck. I had this one puzzle that I just couldn’t make WORK.

And then, a friend linked another friend to Jordan Mercher’s journal entries of The Making of Prince of Persia. I don’t know what it was-maybe it was his own struggle with whether what he was doing was worthwhile-but suddenly I KNEW what to do with that puzzle. Pop! It unblocked. It all made sense. And I was so excited.

And I thought about how, if I was writing a journal, I would have written an entry last Friday: “Saw Liza for coffee, wonderful to hear her GDC stories. Afterwards had dinner with Baz, Shem, and his friend. Complained that I was completely stuck on this puzzle. Discussed a few things, but nothing seemed right.”

Then, less than a week later: “I have it! It’s so right. It makes sense, it does so many good things. I can make a joke, I can foreshadow, I can tell the player what to do without treating them like an idiot! I AM A GOD.”

And then people would think I’m arrogant and it would be awesome, because I’m so afraid of being arrogant that I’ll err on the side of “being terrible.” So I’m forcing myself to do this, I’m forcing myself to be accountable, I’m forcing myself to talk myself up. Because if there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I have high standards. And if I have high standards, I’ll either let things fall by the wayside (too embarrassing/not good enough!) or make them awesome. So if I can’t let them fall by the wayside, I’ll be forced to make them awesome. So that’s what I’m doing.

It’s two weeks since I had that puzzle come unblocked, and I’ve made Georgia and the Dragon a Facebook page. I’m making art assets now, which includes character design, items, and world design. I really need a logo. I really need two logos!

But more importantly, I need to keep blogging, both for myself and for others.

PoMo Academic Writing = No Blogging for Me

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I find it so hard to blog. I mean, plenty of other people do it. They get out a useful, interesting article every day, every few days, every week. They are semi-regular. Why can’t I do it? Is it because I lack accountability, because I don’t have visible constant readers who are actually interested in what I’m saying?

No, I think it’s because of Postmodernism’s influence on the discipline of Academic writing. Just humour me for a second, okay? Continue reading

My own Hamartia

I realise now one improvement or change I could have made to my thesis.

It isn’t actually important that the player character can’t speak, so much as it is important that the tragic hero doesn’t listen. That is hubris- pride that they know what is right, that they will ignore any warning that anyone will give them. They believe they are above fate (or karma, or whatever law of balance etc you want to think about).

Whoops, I could have ended up with a Creative Component I actually thought was any good, and recieved better marks overall 😉

Honours Thesis: Complete!

So I handed in my Honours Thesis yesterday: I am now totally the expert on how to make games that are tragedies… in the genre sense, not talking about its success/failure. And yes, I got that joke often. Thanks guys.

I’ll be trying to make a new website for myself soon, and will upload a pdf of the written component, as well as revised versions of whatever else I may have written that seem like they might be interesting or relevent.

Right now I’m finishing my PhD application, which I propose shall be entitiled, “Suitable for Mature Audiences, Too: Electronic Games as an Avenue for Adult Play.”

So don’t be surprised if this blog suddenly stops talking about tragedy and starts talking about education. Not that there was much talking happening in this blog anyway…

inversion

I feel too used to criticising the society and not the individual. I want to make my tragic hero properly heroic, and martyr him or her to reveal the flaw of the society.

I am far too used to plays that say, “So this is your society: a little fucked, isn’t it?”

Instead I need to think in terms of catutionary tales. I need to think in terms of an external society that is okay, and an individual who represents a seemingly alright deviation within society, or a sub-group of society.

Preventing social and personal change

I’ve been doing more creative research lately, starting to read up on Atlantis and the Knights Templar. The current edition of Hyper magazine is exploring moral choice in games. Very heartening, but also interesting because it isn’t exactly what I’m looking into.

I also gathered together my two essays and put them together to the best of my ability to begin my exegesis. I’m formatting it with topics and conclusions which then become my design constraints. In doing this, it has more brought to my attention where I’m going wrong with my thought process on Tragedy. Until now, I’ve kindof been seeing it as a way of changing society or personal thought. But I’ve since realised that this is backwards:

Tragedy is not about changing society, but preventing change and maintaining what else exists.

Thus, I need to ensure that the theme of my game isn’t about something I dislike about society, but something I do like that is being challenged. I’m supposed to be reinforcing behaviour and thought, while warning against incorrect choices. So, I need to ensure that the first part of my game design is aimed towards building up the relationship between the player-character and the tragic hero. I can’t have him/her be too deviant from the start, or else the deviancy must be understandable/interesting/tempting for the player as well.

It’s difficult, because my instinct is to show a “normal” hero or underdog- someone who goes against the corrupt society and is revered for it. Instead, I need to make sure that whatever I am depicting in the society in which this is set is what I want to reinforce, or otherwise the tragic hero needs to take their society to excess, and make sure that the law of their city is what they follow, instead of the law of the Gods of their time.

Surprise!

So this is what happens when you go deep into research mode. Everything, all communication with the outside world fails. Or at least, all communication with the virtual world fails.

So what have I been up to?

Well, I gave my presentation/pitch for my research project, and did pretty darn well. I have come to the realisation that I don’t feel I have a department. Well, I guess I have “Media, Culture and Creative Arts,” but here I am, with a Performance Major, an Internet Studies supervisor, as well as the interest/understanding of Literary and Cultural Studies and Film. I feel very supported yet slightly lost.

I wrote my second essay, this time using Foucault’s concept of Panopticism to explain the discipline function of Tragedy in theatre. That was fun, I think I linked things together, but the marker felt there was a lot more I could have looked at. So I got a good mark, but not a great mark. Whatever. Next semester and The Final Thing are far more important.

Right now, I’m writing my “Literature Review,” which, for me, is essentially a big first draft of my exegesis, sans-introduction or conclusion. It’s currently sitting at around 3k words, which means I’ll have another 2-3k to play with in the future.

In a day and a half, I’ll be flying across to the other side of the world to be with my boyfriend for maybe a month. This is after an absence of about four. It’s surprising and very nice that we managed to stay together. Don’t ask me how we did. I’ll also be seeing Tim and Jess, as well as Ian (if things go to plan!) Huzzah for seeing people I haven’t seen in a while!

Game-wise, I’ve been obliterating Plants vs Zombies (PopCap) and trawling through The Path (Tale of Tales). I’ll review them soon. Not that there’s much to say about PvZ except it’s great. Also had a brief (ie, maybe four hours!) play with The Sims 3. There’s a reason I’m not buying until post-October 30th. Honours will suddenly disappear!

I’ll try be better soon, I promise!

Until then~~

signifiers

I have a problem.

Words are slippery and messy.

  • Computer or Video Game?
  • Player or Gamer?
  • Theatre or Drama?

I have to make these decisions, and others about other words, soon.