Making ROUND / SQUARE

Well, I have covered myself in hundreds of index cards again! This time to make ROUND / SQUARE, a micro game I submitted to sub-Q Magazine’s #subQjam. The prompt was to tell an interactive story about love in fewer than 1,000 words–1,000 words across ALL paths. In the way it distills each choice into two words, ROUND / SQUARE a bit like Chandler Groover’s left/right, which I really enjoyed. But beyond that initial similarity, it operates differently.

My challenge was to build some sort of narrative arc in units of two words each–and to give the player the sense that their choices were meaningful without presenting all the choices as being binary or otherwise mutually exclusive. (Part of my day job has to do with describing and classifying things via taxonomies and hierarchies and thesauri and data dictionaries, some of which can be inadequate, or worse, damaging.) In other words, I wanted navigating the game to be a process, not of drilling down, but of branching and looping. Continue reading “Making ROUND / SQUARE”

Favorite necropastoral games

I have spent much of this October making a silverfish costume out of duct tape and re-reading Joyelle McSweeney’s The Necropastoral: Poetry, Media, Occults. In the book (and on the now-inactive blog Montevidayo), McSweeney explores a variety of texts that  employ necropastoral strategies: Sylvia Plath’s Ariel, CAConrad’s The Book of Frank, Jack Smith’s Normal Love, the work of Kim Hyesoon, and many others.

According to McSweeney, “the necropastoral” is not merely an aesthetic designation–that is, it’s not just about imagery of contamination and death; necropastoral works also enact a kind of wormy devouring, actively exposing and transgressing the (artificial) boundary between idealized Arcadia and blighted city.

I’ve also been playing a lot of games–mostly short, mostly Twine–and I think that games can be considered through this lens as well. Here are three of my favorite necropastoral games. Some spoilers ensue.

Continue reading “Favorite necropastoral games”

Afraid of money: 5 (mostly) procedurally generated poems

I’ve been curious about procedural content generation, so I spent the weekend experimenting with this Markov chain generator and tutorial. I have no Python experience, but it was easy for me to set up and use. I think you’ll recognize some of the source text, which I intentionally kept brief. I’m happy with the results, which I might describe as “flarfkov” :). (The results also reminded me of how much I enjoyed the 2009 hit “Team, meet girls.”)

I asked the program to generate output text that was 200 words long, beginning alternately with “I” and “You.” As you can probably tell, I lightly edited the output: I introduced line breaks, truncated some lines, deleted some lines, and changed the order of a couple of lines–though not the order of individual words.

I’m interested in texts that show their seams, and I’m interested in exploring “soft constraints”–i.e., texts that are produced by some sort of mechanical constraint in collaboration with human intervention. I’m also hoping to find ways to work with procedural methods whereby violence is not enacted on source texts the way that it is too often enacted on bodies.

Here are the poems: Continue reading “Afraid of money: 5 (mostly) procedurally generated poems”