Monday, May 23, 2011

Virtual Art Presentation

Hope your summer is going well so far, despite the rain. And cold. It will be summer weather soon! Last weekend was the 7th Media in Transition conference at MIT, a biannual event that I look forward to every time. It's always interesting to see how people are defining and redefining the field of "media." The topic was "Unstable Platforms: The Promise and Peril of Transition," an intriguing concept to think about in all kinds of ways. My abstract grew into a huge paper (some links don't seem to work on every computer). I'll put the slides for the presentation I gave on virtual art in this post. And the part of the paper on virtual art is here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Queen of Tarts Game

Hi! Here is my Final Project for the class if anyone would like to try playing it! Just click to begin your  Wonderland Adventure :)

Have fun and good luck!


Waiting for Control: A Machinima Project

Jessica Huber's Final Project
Machinima using Nintendo 64

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Paidia and Ludus Revisited

Let's think about paidia and ludus again, and how they might relate to narrative, in games and in digital media broadly. When we consider "narrative" as telling, not necessarily as plot, what does that reveal? Is telling always antithetical to doing? Do we not tell as we do? The answer may be in the difference between Red vs. Blue and Halo gameplay.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

PROJECT PLANNING WORKSHEET (“It furthers to have somewhere to go.”)

The projects you've done so far have been terrific--the digital retellings of fairy tales, and the blue sky projects. Now we move towards the final project. Here is the worksheet we'll use as the basis for some of today's class. You have storyboard templates and game design tools for more specific preproduction planning.

PROJECT PLANNING WORKSHEET (“It furthers to have somewhere to go.”)

With a partner, work through the steps on this sheet. You can interview or guide your partner through the parts, then switch.

1) Project idea:

2) Title:

3) Break it down into pieces.


4) What new skills do you need to learn? How will you learn them?

Is this a reasonable project that you can complete given the time constraints and other limitations of the pesky thing we call reality? If yes, hooray! If no, then how can you readjust the scope to make it something you can finish and do well?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cinematography and Machinima

We've spent some time thinking about game aesthetics and structure, and let's now turn to the moving image outside its interactive role, whether it be in cut scenes in a game, or a film/movie/animation. We'll use the example of machinima as one form of moving image creation and capture. After we get past the setup, many of the principles of cinematography and editing are the same as for any moving image, and you can follow or break the rules as you wish. Here are the notes for today's class, so you can concentrate on the ideas and the activities.

MISE-EN-SCENE: What's in the shot




Figure Expression and Movement

LIGHTING: 3 POINT LIGHTING: key, fill, back

MACHINIMA: Environment lighting, and also lighting kits, or lights you make


Look of an image

balance of dark and light

depth of space in focus

relation of background and foreground

use of color, saturation, tone


lenses to change depth in a shot (either fixed with a telephoto or fish eye, or rack or zoom shots)



Height of the camera

Canted angles

Following shot (moving camera):PANNING, TRACKING, TILTING, CRANING

Point of view shot


ELS: landscape, crowd, building--establishing shot

LS: Standing human figure is height of screen (roughly)--character and surroundings

MLS: knees/mid-thigh up (shot Americain bc of its use in cowboy pictures)

MCU: chest up--get to see the face, gestures

CU: head

ECU: small object, part of the body



handheld, steadycam



tracking shot

whip pan

For Machinima: Space Navigator 3-d mouse

What to do with those shots!


Editing can be based on rhythm, time, space, tone, theme

"The Kuleshov Effect" With his experiment, Kuleshov learned 3 things:

1) a cut could serve a narrative function (eyeline match, flashback, what a character is thinking)

2) also it could generate an intellectual response—(metaphor, contrast, parallel)

3) emotional cut: rhythmic, tonal (increasingly dark or light0, form cut (match cut), directional cut

a single cut can function on all three levels: narrative, intellectual, emotional

Straight cut

Jump cut

Cross cut (or parallel cut)

Contrast cut

Form cut (match cut)





Synecdoche (part for a whole)

Form dissolve



Monday, March 21, 2011

Ambiguity! (Is that clear?)

Brian Sutton-Smith's chapter "Play and Ambiguity" brings a lot of things together, and raises even more questions for our exploration of play and games. As we move towards the proposal for your project, and the class bifurcates (I just love working that word in whenever I can) into clusters around games or films, we will have different interests in play and ambiguity. But before that, we'll create some of our own games together as a group in the next couple of weeks.

So, back to some key concepts. Here are William Empson's seven kinds of ambiguity, ripped from p. 298 of Sutton-Smith's chapter.

Sutton-Smith outlines seven rhetorics, seeming to want to contribute seven of something of his own (and making me anxious that my virtual subjectivity definition only has five aspects, clearly lacking a couple):

The Rhetoric of play as . . .

1. progress
2. fate
3. power
4. identity
5. imaginary
6. self
7. frivolous

We shall discuss.

And to test our ambiguity levels, here are the instructions for the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse:

Write an article and an adjective on a piece of paper, then fold it over before passing it to your neighbor. Next, write a noun, then fold and pass. Now a verb, then fold and pass. Back to the article and adjective, then do the hokey pokey. No, really fold and pass, just checking to see if you are paying attention. Finish up with a noun. Unfold the papers and read aloud.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

This is really cool

Awesome TED talk on educational systems using digital media.


Of course there is much more to the two chapters "The Definition of Play" and "The Classification of Games" from Roger Caillois's Man, Play, and Games than only what is represented by the chart (with or without banjo music!)

Paidia: "uncontrolled fantasy," "frolicsome and impulsive exuberance," "anarchic and capricious"
Ludus: "arbitrary, imperative, and purposely tedious conentions," "completely impractical," "requires an ever greater amount of effort, patience, skill, or ingenuity."


Recall our Play! workshop (see cut scenes again here)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Games and Film: Where Aesthetics Meet and Diverge

Games and Film: Where Aesthetics Meet and Diverge

From film techniques in games, as so eloquently illustrated by Chris Solis in his analysis of Super Mario 64 to the very different kinds of camera angles and spectatorship that can occur in games, it is instructive to explore these two cultural forms in relationship to each other, and to consider how they have been mutually informing, first with film's influence on games, and now with games' influence on film. We also can include the human-computer interface.

Opening shot of Welles's Touch of Evil that Solis discusses in his blog post:

Solis writes, "So why do we introduce the camera before we introduce the main character? Simply the camera is more important then Mario in this title." Does Welles's film also introduce the camera before the character?

How has this evolved in games? In film? Why?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Jessica Huber's Fairy Tale Assignment

Here is my completed Fairy Tale assignment. I explored the story of Cinderella as if the characters had Facebook pages. I found this to be quite enjoyable to put together.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Building & Machinima Workshop

There is an essential skill that is key for both building and machinima--moving the "camera" in the virtual world. We'll experiment with that, and I'll also show you some tools people have made to help streamline camera positioning. Then you'll try out your cam skills as you create a virtual sculpture and then pop some scripts into it, because that is how the real magic happens. Then we'll break into teams and shoot a little footage.

First, as an example of engaging use of machinima and also an edifiying and entertaining tutorial on the camera:

Slurl to AngryBeth's machinima tv studio with camera switcher (25 L$). You'll need basic prim movement and cam skills to use this.

Building tools on the SL wiki

Script Me, please! autoscript generator. But if you plan on doing any real building or using scripts, you are going to have to learn the basics of lsl, Linden Scripting Language, and how scripts work, so you can figure out what is going wrong when it does, or how to tweak a script you get from a generator, from the wiki, or another source. Simon Kline runs terrific classes in Second Life (see: Kline Labs), and there are other ways to learn as well.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Reactive Music, and Some Questions

I've been experimenting with rjdj's Reactive Music app for iPhone. I used it for the sound for the machinima I made to document a virtual art installation, "IceOpal" and also to augment the thrilling experience of waiting for the T in the subway station. I particularly like how you can hear the bell of the train at the end of that recording/piece. That bell is on the old trains, and I don't think it's changed since I was a kid growing up in Boston.

So here are my questions: What is the visual equivalent of reactive music/sound? The Ascend scene I used for both pieces here doesn't only overlay your recorded sound, but uses it to generate music based on a composition by composer Dizzy Banjo.

And what is the narrative, or storytelling, equivalent????? Can we think about augmented storytelling? What would that be?

You need to have Flash installed to listen directly on the site. Install Flash or you can download the recording instead

"Waiting Feb 24, 2011 5:00 PM in Hynes T station" by L1

Ascend Recorded from Ascend. Check out more recordings from Ascend...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kino Eye, Cultural Interfaces,Agency, Storytelling: Synthesis

Today we review Manovich's most pertinent concepts, discuss game design & digital filmmaking/ macinima-making, and think about how it all applies to storytelling.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cultural Interfaces & Machinima

Today we'll connect the reading you've been doing in Manovich's book with the Unity 3D workshop we did last week and the machinima workshop we'll do this week. As we learn new software programs and become more aware of how cultural forms like games or movies are constructed, we learn new aspects of their interfaces, and I'll keep drawing your attention to that, asking you to reflect upon your experiences as both a maker and a player/spectator/reader of digital narrative. So we need to think a little about subjectivity, and how narrative, and particularly digital narrative can construct it.

Also, if you are so inclined, feel free to watch the machinima movie I recently completed: on YouTube or Vimeo. It is entitled, "Open End: A Digital Silent Film Screwball Comedy about Irresolution," and is just the sort of thing someone who thinks a lot (too much?) about narrative might make.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Forking Paths

Many credit Jorge Luis Borges, and his story "The Garden of Forking Paths" (El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan) published in 1941, with creating hypertext. What could we possibly mean by that? Let's look to the story to see, and also to the useful and clever "Story Shapes for Digital Media" by Katherine Phelps. What does it mean for narrative, for a story, to bifurcate? What does Borges describe and dramatize, that later writers and media makers attempt to create?

And then we'll connect this to our first foray into Lev Manovich's book, The Language of New Media, and prepare ourselves for the Unity 3D workshop we'll have in our next class session. It is not too early to mull over whether you are more interested in making a game, or a cut scene, or something else for your course project, although you won't know for sure until you try a little of each. Forking paths, indeed!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Game Design Workshop Notes

Today, we cram our snowed-out 2-hour discussion of the first 4 chapters of Game Design Workshop into a 50-minute class, and try not to think of the snow piling up outside.

Game structure
Salen & Zimmerman's definition of play: "free movement within a more rigid structure"

Anaylzing & thinking through formal elements

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's theory of flow

CHARACTER (and avatar --character spectrum)
DRAMATIC ARC (imagine me yelling "conflict" in your ear!)

Jesse Schell's 2 myths of interactive storytelling:

Myth #1: Interactive storytelling has little to do with traditional storytelling
Myth #2: Interactive storytelling has little to do with traditional game design

FOR THURSDAY: exercises 4.9, 4.10, 4.11

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Transmedia, Shigeru Miyamoto: The Big Picture of Digital Narrative

To add to our discussion of Henry Jenkins's 2003 article summarizing transmedia storytelling in Technology Review (eek, so long ago!), here is Jenka Gurfinkel's slideshare presentation on Transmedia (which I serendipitously found today in my Twitter feed).

From Jenkins:

"In the ideal form of transmedia storytelling, each medium does what it does best-so that a story might be introduced in a film, expanded through television, novels, and comics, and its world might be explored and experienced through game play. Each franchise entry needs to be self-contained enough to enable autonomous consumption. That is, you don't need to have seen the film to enjoy the game and vice-versa. As Pokemon does so well, any given product is a point of entry into the franchise as a whole."

The example of Lost
The example of Star Wars
Your examples

Here is the link to the New Yorker profile of Nintendo game design genius Shigeru Miyamoto, and we'll discuss the attitude towards gaming presented in the article as well as the example of Miyamoto.

Miyamoto's caves
Huizinga and Callois
Influence of Miyamoto

Monday, January 17, 2011


This course blends theory and practice in an exploration of digital narrative: how stories can be told with digital and new media technologies, and how narrative can be experienced in games and immersive environments. We will work critically and creatively with linear and nonlinear narratives in a range of media: writing, graphics, animation, games, multimedia, virtual worlds, and interactive media.

The overall theme of the course will focus on moving image narratives--both linear and non-linear--that explore ideas about storytelling, time, and memory. In particular, we will consider how interactivity changes narrative, and whether there are new kinds of digital narratives and aesthetics emerging, especially in games, and in what games might become. Students will make movies, games, websites, DVDs, and online installations that illuminate ideas about story, plot, character, time, and narration, comment on their creative work using the critical concepts they learn, and experiment with word processing, graphics, machinima capture, video editing, game design, and web design software programs.

All students will analyze their own responses to the games, films, readings, and other media we encounter in terms of the key concepts from the course in order to deepen their understanding of how meaning is made in digital narrative and interactive media, to enhance the production of their own creative projects, and to explore the nature and complexity of the role of digital media in our society and culture. Students in the Video Game Scoring Minor will focus on deepening their understanding of the subjective experiences of game play and narrative in a range of interactive media in order to be better able to score video games effectively and creatively.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

1) Evaluate current theoretical and practical tendencies in the emerging field of Interactive Media.

2) Formulate a critical framework for analyzing traditional and new forms of narrative.

3) Develop narratives that employ the theoretical and critical concepts explored.

4) Apply new media tools and aesthetics to create digital narrative.

5) Analyze the subjectivity of a game, immersive, interactive, spectatorial, or narrative experience so that you are better able to compose music for that medium, and be better at communicating with the people who make the kind of media you will score.

6) Synthesize theory and practice in an interdisciplinary exploration of narrative and technology.

7) Connect academic studies and the changing world in which we live.

COURSE MATERIALS: Required Books, available at bookstore & online
The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich (LNM)
Game Design Workshop , Tracy Fullerton (GDW)
Recommended: Man, Play, and Games, Roger Callois

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Welcome to Digital Narrative Theory & Practice Spring 2011

This is the blog for our class at Berklee College of Music. We'll use it as a shared web resource to post ideas, comments, links, and material for the course.