Friday, April 18, 2008

Inanimate Alice - game and narrative

One of my (more enjoyable) tasks this week has been to write the draft of a review of Inanimate Alice for the Magazine du CIAC. Here's a brief excerpt of my thoughts so far on the relationship between game and narrative in Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph's text:

...Inanimate Alice’s multiplicity extends beyond its use of semiotic resources, also exploiting the creative synergies between narratives in new media and computer gaming. Ludology-narratology debates are well-rehearsed and it is not my intention to reiterate them here. Instead, Inanimate Alice blends together concepts from both genres. Clearly, the text itself is primarily a digital fiction, and the actual games are embedded in each episode. However, as the narrative unfolds, the points of difference between games and storytelling become less clear. Both the narrative episodes and the games have similar underlying quest-like structures, with puzzles to be completed in order to reach closure. Narrative and gaming segments are interdependent insofar as both must be negotiated successfully in order to progress through the text (the games cannot be played without reading the story and the narrative cannot proceed unless the games are won).

Thematically, narrative and game are intertwined for the central character is also a game animator. Likewise, the audience are both readers (of narrative segments) and players (of the games). The figure Brad is both avatar and character. However, the audience’s interaction with the games and narrative is not identical. Avatars can be manipulated (for example, Brad’s icon can be slid across the screen to catch the falling Russian dolls) whereas although the reader experiences Alice’s focalized perspective, they cannot change the actions that Alice takes. Alongside this, there are subtle differences in the navigation of narrative and game segments. The reader is explicitly told how to move from one narrative segment to the next on the opening screen of the text. In contrast, there is no instruction on how the games are to be played. Instead the viewer has to work out for the rules for interacting with each game by hovering, clicking and dragging the cursor variously, nor do these rules transfer from one game to another or into the narrative segments. Perhaps familiarity with gaming literacy is assumed to be greater than that of digital fiction. Or perhaps the puzzle of how to interact with the game is part of the game, and assumed to be too frustrating for successful narrative processing. Either way, the progressive complexity of the gaming interaction in future Alice episodes will no doubt be fruitful grounds for further hybrid cross-overs between story and game in online texts.

For the full review, we'll have to wait for editorial approval. But if you've thoughts or comments about Inanimate Alice, gaming and narrative, please do add them.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Stories of the Self

Kate Hayles has published a new book - Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. The book is being supported by web resources, including some essays. Mine is Stories of the Self on and off the Screen. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


I'm pondering on the next project that I'm hoping to work on. I feel it's time for me to get immersed in a larger scale project (which will hopefully turn into a book or something similar), but given the way my research leave has worked out (hurrah I am so glad that the research leave is happening), I'm only going to have 13 weeks to accomplish that, or at least get it underway. Not that I'm complaining.

So my options are:
Do I go down the narrative/health/new media route, and expand the work I've done on cancer blogs to look at other kinds of illnesses in the online and offline world?
Do I pursue a linguistically oriented study of online interactions (for example a study of communities of practice in Facebook, differentiated according to sociolinguistic variables?)
Do I try and blend the literary and linguistic background I have with new media studies?
Where does my interest in 'gender' fit with this?

The literary/linguistic blend is what I really wanted to do, focusing on how online interaction varies in web 2.0 and similar phenomenon, and how this results (or not) in new narratives genres, even tests what we understand 'narrative' to be at all. This would range from 'writerly' interaction on wiki novels through to the more conversational interchanges on blogs. But I'm worried that ultimately this will end up too inconsistent and methodologically variable to reach the audiences I want it to, or at least wouldn't be plausible for a funding bid, or end up as monograph.

Still mulling.


Project Narrative Blog

The Project Narrative team over at OSU have just launched a blog. I am all in favour of this, as I'm sure it will help open out their work to others of us here in the blogosphere. I wonder which literary narratology folks will dip their toes in the water?