Tuesday, March 30, 2010

PAX Takeaways

I returned from PAX already one day behind in my spring quarter, so while I expect and hope to see some more detailed write-ups of these points from others, I wanted to very quickly post some of my broad takeaways from the weekend in Boston while they're fresh in my mind.

Get Lamp was pretty great. The 70 minute cut we got to see was by turns informative, funny, touching, and energizing. A lot of people are pining for a longer, deeper cut, but in some ways I wouldn't be surprised if this remains the most popular version of the film, or at least the only one you can get your friends and family to sit still for. Any documentary can only get across a certain number of points, and while this cut certainly doesn't say everything I'd like it to (what about "Modern IF is acclaimed for its experimental storytelling?") it does hit very hard on "IF is a unique art form worthy of attention," which is perhaps the best message to broadcast to the larger world. Kudos to Jason Scott for nearing the end of his epic quest to tell this story.

IF folk are amazing. Seriously, what a fantastic group of friendly, brilliant people. I perused treasured artifacts, was gifted a feelie (a purple data cube from Piracy 2.0), had a blast writing my first Speed IF along with Alexei and Duncan, chatted theory with the people who invented the theory, and generally enjoyed the hell out of myself. It was especially satisfying to meet Don Woods and Brian Moriarty and know that our community comes from a long line of friendliness and brilliance.

We are no longer alone. Something that came up again and again in discussions is that the IF community is no longer the sole audience for IF: whether it's middle schoolers playing TextFyre games, casual gamers experimenting with Hoosegow, academics writing theses or the wider gaming community taking notice, we actually have an audience now. The amateur IF development cycle has traditionally been to disappear for 3-36 months and come back to the community with a completed game, but maybe we need to do less impressing each other individually and more impressing the world collectively. IF outreach is as important as ever: it took over portions of nearly every IF-related PAX event. I talked to a number of gamer geeks at PAX who were fascinated by what we were doing but had never actually played (or sometimes even heard of) IF. I believe continuing to find new ways to help outsiders discover our fascinating medium remains a vital mission.

Let's find ways to collaborate. Emily's Alabaster experiment seems to have been a great success; Rover's Day Out and Shadow in the Cathedral were both collaborations. Making use of the increasingly comprehensive Inform 7 extensions page is a more subtle form of collaboration (and TADS 3 has extensions too). Finding more ways to get each other commenting, contributing, and collectively improving our work from the design phase onward is a worthwhile goal, and something that will be on my mind from here on out.

Oh, and I'm writing a book. I can now officially announce that I'm writing a tutorial book on Inform 7, to be published later this summer by Cengage Learning under their Course Technology line. The book will work a little like the classic Inform Beginner's Guide for I6, acting as a companion to the official documentation that takes you through the process of developing a full example game, Sand-dancer, from first line through beta testing. The book is designed for writers who want to tell interactive stories, and presupposes no knowledge of either programming or IF conventions. I'm hoping the book will be a great gateway drug for students and authors into the pleasure of building story worlds with Inform 7, and will have more to say on it in the months ahead as I get it finished up and submitted.


Rubes said...

Thanks for the writeup -- since I couldn't be there I've been eager to see some detailed summaries. Sounds like a great time, would've been a nice chance to catch up with you.

Awesome to hear about the book, too. If this damn Vespers project wasn't consuming me, I'm sure I'd be trying to write some IF on the side. The time will come, eventually...the book will surely help.

婉婷婉婷 said...
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