Close Reading Sign-up

Here are all the works you can select for your close reading assignment, along with links to more information. Please sign up for a work to close read by Friday, 8/3 (the end of the first week of class). To sign up, add a comment to this page claiming a work. Please review the comments to make sure you’re not claiming something already claimed.

Your presentation should be a rehearsed 7-10 minutes, presenting a clear summary and analysis of the work in question. You may demo the work for part of your presentation if this helps us understand the piece, although make sure your total presentation including demo stays under 10 minutes. You may also use other presentation techniques such as slides, whiteboard, handouts, etc. The goal is to use your knowledge of the piece, gained from your close reading and research, to give the rest of us some idea, in a short time, of its unique qualities– not a plot summary or review, so much as an analysis of how, whether, and why the piece is interesting as a literary game. (And you may not think it is, which is fine— but tell us why.)

Specifically, your presentation should answer the following questions:

  • How does this work “function” as an interactive story? I.e. is it linear or non-linear, how and in what way does the player interact with it, is it text-only or are there multimedia components, etc.
  • How does the content (plot, setting, style etc) of the work relate to its interactivity? Would it have been equally effective as narrative in a non-interactive medium? If not, why not?
  • What is the relationship of this piece to the author’s other work (if any)?
  • Some of these works stretch the boundaries or definitions of what we might usefully call a literary game. How relevant is this piece to the other content of this class?

Week 1: Hypertext

  • Calligraphy (claimed by Stacey) (2010, Christine Love; HTML5; modern web browsers). Navigate the story by learning calligraphic brush strokes.
  • Blueberries (2009, Susan Gibb; Tinderbox; web browser). “a brutal evocation of the significance of trust… it is wry and explores the link as a means of augmenting the element of surprise and coherence in fiction.”
  • The Unknown (2002, Scott Rettberg, William Gillespie, Dirk Stratton, Frank Marquardt; HTML) “[T]he playful exuberance of this satire of the creative writing industry is there to be read in the novel itself, a sprawling, self- referential, and fictional discourse network… a light-hearted but critical parody of the culture of literary celebrity.”
  • Choice of Romance (2010, Heather Albano & Adam Strong-Morse; HTML/Javascript). “Puts the hero or heroine in an alternate version of Spain, one preoccupied with wealth, borders, and court politics as well as affairs of the heart. It also adds magic…”
  • Nightingale’s Playground (claimed by Sara) (2010, Andy Campbell and Judi Alston; various media including Flash, ebook, PC/Mac game). Creepy sci-fi/horror about the mystery surrounding a childhood friend.
  • Life Flashes By (2010, Deirdra Kiai; Mac/PC game). “…a video game about success and failure in following one’s dreams, about finding love and losing it, and about feeling isolated and out of step with the rest of the world.”
  • Marble Springs (Version 3.0, 2011, Deena Larsen; HTML/wikidot). “Come explore the lives of women in a small Colorado mining town from the mid 1800s when white men first swooped to the gold fields to the mid 1900s when wars took the final breath from the town.”
  • The Night Circus (claimed by Susan) (2011, FailBetter Games; HTML/Javascript/custom code). “Out in the Gulf of Finland, the circus rests on the ice, dwarfed by the vast night. The Milky Way swirls across the sky above you, a crust of icy dust smeared over glassy obsidian.”
  • The Matter of the Monster (claimed by Nick) (2011, Andrew Plotkin; HTML/Javascript/UnDum). A short piece that plays with order and sequence in interactive narrative.
  • Bee (2012, Emily Short; Varytale). “Sooner or later, you’re going to lose. Only one person wins the National Spelling Bee each year, so an elementary understanding of the odds means it almost certainly won’t be you.”
Week 2: Interactive Fiction
  • De Baron (claimed by Gina) (2006, Victor Gijsbers; Z). “Ostensibly… [a] story of a father who sets out to rescue his kidnapped daughter… [In] a fairytale land of dark woods and crumbling castles, he is forced to make difficult choices until he finally stands before the evil baron himself. But all is not as it seems.” Warning: mature themes.
  • Shade (claimed by Daniel) (2000, Andrew Plotkin; Z). Reality crumbles around you on the night before a desert rave.
  • Rameses (claimed by Morgan) (2000, Stephen Bond; Z). “…part of the mastery has to do with the ruthless way it imprisons the player in its protagonist. Alex Moran is one of the most nuanced viewpoint characters in my experience of narrative games, but he’s not fun to be.” Warning: mature themes.
  • Violet (claimed by Ryan) (2008, Jeremy Freese; Z). “What makes this game a stand-out is the way it uses the parser as the voice of a whole other person. …everything you do or think of doing is narrated in Violet’s voice: not because she’s actually present, but because the player character can’t help imagining what she would say at every moment.”
  • Bellclap (claimed by Meghana) (2004, Tommy Herbert; Z). “The PC is a combination of three characters: the god, the go-between voice, and the human Bellclap. The player’s commands are taken as instructions from the god for Bellclap, with the voice as the intermediary.”
  • All Things Devours (claimed by Kevin) (2004, half sick of shadows; Z). Time travel in a well-crafted puzzle game.
  • Six (claimed by Tim) (2011, Wade Clark; Glulx). A children’s story about a game of hide and seek: “there are six NPCs to catch, a good number of others who can be interacted with, and two different PCs with different viewpoints and abilities.”
  • Floatpoint (claimed by Ian) (2006, Emily Short; Glulx). “Floatpoint is a science fiction story in which the player must decide the best diplomatic outcome for Earth and its lost colony.”
Week 3: Computational/Simulationist
  • Façade (claimed by Edward) (2006, Michael Mateas & Andrew Stern; Mac or PC). An “interactive drama” where you try to save a friend’s marriage; uses freeform text input and procedural animation.
  • Kerkerkruip (claimed by Santiago) (2011, Victor Gijsbers; Glulx). An implementation in narrative text form of a “Roguelike” dungeon crawl adventure.
  • Lock & Key (claimed by Anders) (2002, Adam Cadre; Z). “A neat one-big-puzzle game about dungeon design. Basically, the player lays out doors and deathtraps according to various constraints and then watches an Adventurer try to escape.”
  • Savoir-Faire (claimed by Ranveer) (2002, Emily Short). “An old-school puzzle game set on a French estate in the 18th century, but using simulationist techniques to provide a complicated game world.”
  • Game Developers Conference 2009 (claimed by Zane) (2009, Jim Munroe; Z). “Jim Munroe went to GDC 2009 and then wrote his experiences into a ‘social interaction simulator.’ The goal is to get together a development team for a new game, after encountering and making friends with artists, coders, designers and promoters. Each playthrough is partially randomized and outcomes vary.”
  • Cart Life (claimed by Stewart) (2012, Richard Hoffmeier; Windows application). A black-and-white indie game about the harsh economic realities of surviving with a crap job.
  • The Play (claimed by Jessica) (2011, Deirdra Kiai; Javascript/UnDum). “…Three indifferent actors, a stage manager and [a] languishing director… make their painful way through a dress rehearsal with a godawful script. … Playthroughs are fairly short; this is a game intended to be played through several times in order to get a feel for its possibility-space.”
Week 4: Spatial/Collaborative
(Note: because of the more experimental and/or newer nature of the works in this section, special equipment, preparation, or other prep work might be required, which means you might need to get started earlier to make sure you can acquire/play the work in question. See instructions under each title and ask instructor if you have any questions.)
  • Dogs in the Vineyard (claimed by William) (2004, D. Vincent Baker; tabletop RPG). Indie tabletop roleplaying game set in the old west with unique mechanics for resolving and advancing story conflicts. (Note: will require a group of at least 4 players & purchase of book, or borrow from instructor.)
  • Once Upon a Time (1993, Richard Lambert, Andrew Rilstone and James Wallis; card game). Card game about collaboratively telling a story. (Note: requires 3-6 players and purchase of game or borrow from instructor.)
  • Improviso (claimed by Scott) (2010, Jeff Orkin, Elson Soh, Andrew Grant et al; Mac or Windows application). A collaborative game where each player is given a role in a sci-fi B movie and the means to act it out. Requires a pair of players.
  • Inanimate Alice (claimed by Cassidy) (2005–present, Kate Pullinger & Chris Joseph; Flash/multimedia). Tells the story of Alice and her imaginary digital friend Brad as she grows from a girl in a remote region of Northern China to a talented games designer.
  • Dear Esther (claimed by Ian) (2008, Dan Pinchbeck; Half-Life 2 mod / 2012, Robert Briscoe, Dan Pinchbeck; Windows/Mac application). A wanderer on an abandoned island; narratives of its past and his own tied to the spaces he moves through. (Note: you can close read either the original mod, which requires Half-Life 2, or the 2012 remake, a standalone application, or both; either HL2 or a purchase on Steam is required.)
  • The Stanley Parable (claimed by Dan) (2011, Cakebread; Half-Life 2 mod). A branching story about branching stories, with game choices about the nature of game choices. (Note: the Windows version requires the free Source SDK; the Mac version requires Half-Life 2.)

25 Responses to “Close Reading Sign-up”

  1. Nick Patti says:

    I’d like to do a close reading of “The Matter of the Monster,” if that hasn’t already been taken yet.

  2. Ian Nei says:

    I’d like to do Dear Esther.

  3. Ian Dunbar says:


  4. Sara Valdez says:

    I would like to do Nightingale’s playground :D

  5. Daniel Cetina says:

    I’d like to do Shade please.

  6. Edward Boning says:

    I’d like to sign up for Facade.

  7. Gina DeMatteo says:

    Dibs on SHADE

  8. Gina DeMatteo says:

    Just kidding, saw Daniel’s comment. I guess I’ll do De Baron

  9. Dan Malear says:

    I would like to do The Stanley Parable.

  10. Tim Prado says:

    I would like to do SIX please.

  11. Anders Sajbel says:

    I will do Lock & Key.

  12. Santiago Selga-Eaton says:

    I’d like to do Kerkerkruip.

  13. Susan Sun says:

    I’d like to do the night circus please. under week one.

  14. Stacey Johnson says:

    I’d like to do Calligraphy please.

  15. Stewart Bracken says:

    I’ll do Cart Life

  16. Jessica Jones says:

    I can do The Play

  17. Kevin Cameron says:

    I’ll take All Things Devours if no one else has claimed it.

  18. cassidy fink says:

    I would like to do inanimate alice.

  19. Ryan Anderson says:

    I’ll take Violet if it’s available.

  20. Ranveer Dhaliwal says:

    Hi, I will take Savoir-Faire.

  21. William Pacini says:

    I would like Dogs in the Vineyard

  22. Scott Orzech says:

    I’ll take Improviso.

  23. Meghana Ginjpalli says:

    I would like to do Bellclap.

  24. Morgan Clark says:

    I would like to attempt Rameses.

  25. Zane Mariano says:

    I’ll do Game Developers Conference 2009.

    It’ll be interesting, since I’ve been!

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