Gareth's competition comments

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Gareth Rees

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Oct 11, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/11/95
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Gareth Rees <gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk> wrote:
> to orient his work towards string characters

For example,

A piece of string walks into a bar and orders a beer. "I'm sorry, we
don't serve strings," says the barman. The piece of string goes away,
unravels its ends, ties itself into a figure-eight, and returns. The
barman peers at it curiously. "Are you sure you're not a piece of
string?" he asks. "No," says the string, "I'm afraid not."

--
Gareth Rees

Magnus Olsson

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Oct 12, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/12/95
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In article <GDR11.95O...@stint.cl.cam.ac.uk>,
Gareth Rees <gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk> wrote:

(about "Zebulon")

> And the writing was very flat and
>lifeless, managing to be lengthy without being either vivid or
>humourous.


You know, sometimes life seems to be going along just fine - the sun is
shining, your game has just won $100, and so on, and then somebody
whom you respect says something that's just like a bucket of cold water
over your head.

The following is not a flame. I'm not questioning Gareth's opinions or
his right to express them - on the contrary. It's precisely because I
respect and trust his opinions that I'm writing this, because I can't
just shrug it off as yet another opinion.

I'll try not to whine too much. Let's just say that if this is the
general opinion (not just the effect of Gareth's having had a bad day
jsut when playing Zebulon or something like that), I'll have to do
some serious re-thinking of my life and my future.

Sure, "Zebulon" *is* a bitpedestrian. I deliberately aimed at doing something
not too outlandish, not too "literate".

However, I did put some effort into the writing, and if the best I can
achieve is so bad, I'd better give up writing altogether. Yes, I m
whining, but this is actually quite serious: I simply don't want to be
associated with very flat and lifeless writing, that's neither vivid
nor humorous. In that case, it's far better that my efforts so far be
qucikly forgotten. Above all, I can see no point in writing any more
dull, flat and lifeless prose - after all, one does put in quite a lot
of one's mental energy into this, and perhaps I could find more
fruitful ways of spending that.

Also, I get a strong feeling that I'm making a fool of myself by
criticizing other peoples' writing in my SPAG reviews if I can't write
myself. (Yes, I know, there are plenty of critics who can't write at
all, but they *are* a pathetic lot, and I don't wnat to be a memeber
of that pathetic lot myself, thankyou).


This is not a threat, nor a promise, just a statement of fact: I can
see no point in continuing writing if my writing is as bad as Gareth
says. Perhaps a collaboration would be more in order, where I provide
the mechanics of puzzles and porgramming, but some more talented
writer does the actual text?


Magnus

Joe Frank

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Oct 12, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/12/95
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In article <45ilbr$3...@nic.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson)
writes:

>I'll try not to whine too much. Let's just say that if this is the
>general opinion (not just the effect of Gareth's having had a bad day
>jsut when playing Zebulon or something like that), I'll have to do
>some serious re-thinking of my life and my future.
>
>Sure, "Zebulon" *is* a bitpedestrian. I deliberately aimed at doing
something
>not too outlandish, not too "literate".
>
>However, I did put some effort into the writing, and if the best I can
>achieve is so bad, I'd better give up writing altogether. Yes, I m
>whining, but this is actually quite serious: I simply don't want to be
>associated with very flat and lifeless writing, that's neither vivid
>nor humorous. In that case, it's far better that my efforts so far be
>qucikly forgotten. Above all, I can see no point in writing any more
>dull, flat and lifeless prose - after all, one does put in quite a lot
>of one's mental energy into this, and perhaps I could find more
>fruitful ways of spending that.
>
>

If it makes you any better, I enjoyed it, and thought it was quite
clever.
TTFN
Joe Frank
joef...@aol.com

Trevor Barrie

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Oct 12, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/12/95
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In article <45ilbr$3...@nic.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) says:

>I'll try not to whine too much. Let's just say that if this is the
>general opinion (not just the effect of Gareth's having had a bad day
>jsut when playing Zebulon or something like that), I'll have to do
>some serious re-thinking of my life and my future.

I don't think it's the general opinion. My evaluation of Zebulon's
prose seemed to match your own... not high art or anything, but certainly
entertaining enough. I'd put it at just a single notch below A Change
in the Weather.

**************************************************************************
Trevor Barrie tba...@upei.ca "It's a great big universe,
87 Kennedy Drive OR and we're all really puny;
West Royalty, PEI tba...@cycor.ca we're just tiny little specks
C1E 1X7 CANADA (902) 628-6845 about the size of Mickey Rooney."
**************************************************************************

London David

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Oct 13, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/13/95
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In article <45ilbr$3...@nic.lth.se> m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson)
writes:

>In article <GDR11.95O...@stint.cl.cam.ac.uk>,
>Gareth Rees <gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>
>(about "Zebulon")
>
>> And the writing was very flat and
>>lifeless, managing to be lengthy without being either vivid or
>>humourous.
>
>
>You know, sometimes life seems to be going along just fine - the sun is
>shining, your game has just won $100, and so on, and then somebody
>whom you respect says something that's just like a bucket of cold water
>over your head.

<snip>

>I'll try not to whine too much. Let's just say that if this is the
>general opinion (not just the effect of Gareth's having had a bad day

>just when playing Zebulon or something like that), I'll have to do


>some serious re-thinking of my life and my future.
>

<snip>

Ahhh, Magnus, don't bother whining at all. Frankly, I found Gareth's
comments about the writing in Zebulon and the other games to be pretentious
claptrap. It's not exactly clear what he considers good writing, but, from
what he wrote, I suspect that I would be bored to tears. For example, many
people consider Steinbeck to be a great writer. Sorry, but a 25-page
description of a wheat field just puts me to sleep, no matter how vivid.

Everybody has different ideas about what makes a good IF game. For me, it's
the combination of puzzles + plot. If either one is missing, then I lose
interest. But good puzzles can make up for a weak plot, and vice versa. For
example, the plot of John's Firewitch is weak. But the puzzles are fabulous.
They're logical, and the combination of puzzles and rooms fits together in
a tight, crisp way. All in all, a terrific IF game. Both Theatre and
Christminster have great plots. I love the way things are revealed little
by little. And they both have good puzzles, making them really memorable
games.

Note that I haven't mentioned the writing. I don't play IF games for the
writing. Mind you, the writing is not unimportant. In some cases, it's
absolutely crucial, like when you want to create a certain mood (e.g.
Toonesia and Weather). And if there's no writing at all (like Scott Adams'
Adventureland or Magic Toyshop), it's just boring. On the other hand, many
IF authors tend to get carried away with screenfuls and screenfuls of
flowery prose ... <yawn>.

Of course, it's not black and white. For example, it's difficult to separate
the plot from the writing. And the writing is important if you want to flesh
out NPC's, or indeed the main character. But those games which concentrate
more on writing than anything else (e.g. The One) leave me cold. That's not
why I play IF games.

For the record, I thought Zebulon was a lovely little game. The writing was
just fine.

David London

Gareth Rees

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Oct 14, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/14/95
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Magnus Olsson <m...@marvin.df.lth.se> wrote:
> I'll try not to whine too much. Let's just say that if this is the
> general opinion (not just the effect of Gareth's having had a bad day
> just when playing Zebulon or something like that), I'll have to do
> some serious re-thinking of my life and my future.

Uh oh. I hope this is at least half in jest. My notes on UZW were
written in haste, and don't really convey what I thought about the game.
UZW was my third favourite game in the competition, after "The One that
Got Away" and "The Change in the Weather", and it was a more solid piece
of work than either. It drew me in successfully and kept me playing
through to the end, and I enjoyed all of it.

I'm sorry if I upset you. It's much too easy to be critical, and not
easy at all to give praise where it is due.

London David <lon...@ERE.UMontreal.CA> wrote:
> Frankly, I found Gareth's comments about the writing in Zebulon and
> the other games to be pretentious claptrap. It's not exactly clear
> what he considers good writing, but, from what he wrote, I suspect
> that I would be bored to tears.

Well, it's clear that I consider the writing in "The One that Got Away"
and "A Change in the Weather" to be good. My favourite novelist is
Russell Hoban. Perhaps you could say a bit more (by e-mail, if you
prefer) about what aspects of my comments were "pretentious claptrap,"
so that I can improve in future.

Magnus Olsson said himself in r.a.i-f, "I tried not to be too literary;
the more flowery the prose, the more time one has to spend polishing
it." It might just be that I appreciate so-called "literary" writing.

I think that it's very hard to strike the right balance in IF between
the four P's (puzzles, plot, people and prose). Some games in the
competition were very strong on one aspect to the exclusion of the
others, such as the puzzles in "The Mind Electric", or the prose in "The
One that Got Away". "Uncle Zebulon's Will" was the game in the
competition that had the best balance between all the aspects.

--
Gareth Rees

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Oct 14, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/14/95
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lon...@ERE.UMontreal.CA (London David) writes:
> Note that I haven't mentioned the writing. I don't play IF games for the
> writing. Mind you, the writing is not unimportant. In some cases, it's
> absolutely crucial, like when you want to create a certain mood (e.g.
> Toonesia and Weather). And if there's no writing at all (like Scott Adams'
> Adventureland or Magic Toyshop), it's just boring. On the other hand, many
> IF authors tend to get carried away with screenfuls and screenfuls of
> flowery prose ... <yawn>.

But I *liked* the writing in "Magic Toyshop". Now you tell me it
wasn't there? That's fairly confusing...

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."

London David

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Oct 15, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/15/95
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In article <GDR11.95O...@stint.cl.cam.ac.uk> gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk
(Gareth Rees) writes:

>London David <lon...@ERE.UMontreal.CA> wrote:
>> Frankly, I found Gareth's comments about the writing in Zebulon and
>> the other games to be pretentious claptrap. It's not exactly clear
>> what he considers good writing, but, from what he wrote, I suspect
>> that I would be bored to tears.
>
>Well, it's clear that I consider the writing in "The One that Got Away"
>and "A Change in the Weather" to be good. My favourite novelist is
>Russell Hoban. Perhaps you could say a bit more (by e-mail, if you
>prefer) about what aspects of my comments were "pretentious claptrap,"
>so that I can improve in future.
>

First off, I want to offer a public apology to Gareth for my comments.
Although what he wrote rubbed me the wrong way (more below), I should
have shown more restraint in my post. Sorry, Gareth. (Still, I think
that Gareth could also have been more prudent - calling someone's
writing "lifeless and humourless" can hardly be construed as constructive
criticism, and is unlikely to lead to a balanced discussion.)

Here's what I reacted to:

To me, IF is a diversion. Nothing more, nothing less. At its best
(e.g. Theatre, Christminster), it can be totally engaging and
captivating. At its worst (fill in your least favourite IF game), it
is uninspired and pedestrian -- in short, boring.

What IF is *not* is highbrow art. I do not expect to gain any insights
into the human condition through IF. It is therefore inappropriate to
analyse IF in the same terms that one would use to analyse serious
fiction, films, etc. This is what annoyed me about Gareth's comments.
I felt that he was criticizing the games (Zebulon in particular) using
criteria (i.e. the quality of the prose) which is of minor importance
to IF.

As I said in my previous post, I don't think one has to be a good
writer to "write" a good IF game. Indeed, a number of IF authors have
said that they don't consider themselves good prose writers. It doesn't
detract one whit from their games.

>Magnus Olsson said himself in r.a.i-f, "I tried not to be too literary;
>the more flowery the prose, the more time one has to spend polishing
>it." It might just be that I appreciate so-called "literary" writing.
>
>I think that it's very hard to strike the right balance in IF between
>the four P's (puzzles, plot, people and prose). Some games in the
>competition were very strong on one aspect to the exclusion of the
>others, such as the puzzles in "The Mind Electric", or the prose in "The
>One that Got Away". "Uncle Zebulon's Will" was the game in the
>competition that had the best balance between all the aspects.
>

I agree with you here. I just want to add that, because I don't play
IF games for the prose, "The One that Got Away" didn't grab me much.
Still, it's interesting that a number of people were quite taken with
the fishing world in this game, even though the puzzles were quite
straightforward and there wasn't much of a plot. It just goes to show
that people enjoy IF in a myriad of different ways. And that's as it
should be.

David London

David Baggett

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Oct 15, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/15/95
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In article <45r962$m...@epervier.CC.UMontreal.CA>,
London David <lon...@ERE.UMontreal.CA> wrote:

>To me, IF is a diversion. Nothing more, nothing less.

>...


>What IF is *not* is highbrow art. I do not expect to gain any insights into
>the human condition through IF.

I assume you are dropping the "to me" qualification here intentionally. If
it is the case that IF gives us no insights into the human condition, an
obvious question to ask is why this is so.

If it is a fundamental limitation of the medium, then perhaps you're right
when you say that IF shouldn't be analyzed from a "highbrow," literary
standpoint.

On the other hand, if it's just that no IF authors have done a very good
job illuminating aspects of the human condition in their works, then this
is a medium that begs for reasoned criticism. It is certainly a fact that
some IF authors are trying to develop the medium into something artful;
slowly and clumisly perhaps, but still trying.

>It is therefore inappropriate to analyse IF in the same terms that one
>would use to analyse serious fiction, films, etc.

I would agree with this statement if it were qualified with "some IF". But
it is certainly not true of *all* IF. I can tell you specifically that my
most recent release, _The Legend Lives!_ was an entirely serious endeavor;
as "serious" as any "serious" film or novel. If it is a piece of shit, then
it is a glaring statement that I can think long and hard about something,
work for two years crafting it as carefully as possible, and still produce
only garbage.

That's not to say that I'd compare _Legend_ to any work of art. But this
is a matter of quality, not intent. I guess that's my main objection to
your views: that they are rooted in the incorrect assumption that no IF
authors view their work as an artistic endeavor.

>I felt that he was criticizing the games (Zebulon in particular) using
>criteria (i.e. the quality of the prose) which is of minor importance to
>IF.

Again, fine, as long as you qualify that with "some IF"; in particular, IF
whose author says it wasn't an attempt at "serious IF"; that it was simply
a diversion --- like a gadget or crossword puzzle.

Dave Baggett
__
d...@ai.mit.edu ADVENTIONS: Kuul text adventures! Email for a catalog.
"Mr. Price: Please don't try to make things nice! The wrong notes are *right*."
--- Charles Ives (note to copyist on the autograph score of The Fourth of July)

Jacob Solomon Weinstein

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Oct 15, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/15/95
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lon...@ERE.UMontreal.CA (London David) writes:

>What IF is *not* is highbrow art. I do not expect to gain any insights

>into the human condition through IF. It is therefore inappropriate to


>analyse IF in the same terms that one would use to analyse serious

>fiction, films, etc. This is what annoyed me about Gareth's comments.

>I felt that he was criticizing the games (Zebulon in particular) using
>criteria (i.e. the quality of the prose) which is of minor importance
>to IF.

It seems to me that this is like a movie-goer of the late 19th century
walking out of one of the first films and deciding, on the basis of what
he's seen, that movies aren't higbrow art. He'd probably be right about
the movie he actually saw--early motion pictures were often about such
exciting things as waves lapping against the shore--but he'd have
absolutely no basis on which to draw conclusions about what movies could be.

Somebody (Neil Gaiman? Alan Moore?) responded to the claim that comic
books can't be art by saying, "Comic books are just combinations of words
and pictures. There's no limit to how good those words can be, and no
limit to how good the pictures can be. If words and pictures can be art
seperately, why can't they be art together?" (I'm paraphrasing rather
poorly, by the way.) IF is either just words or a combination of words
and pictures. Is there any particular reason that you feel IF can't be
"highbrow art," or is it just that you've never seen IF that is?

I want to stress that I'm not saying all IF should be highbrow, anymore
than all movies and books ought to be highbrow. There's a place in IF for
the equivalents of Die Hard and Sleepless in Seattle, just as there's a
place for the equivalents of Citizen Kane and Howard's End.

> I don't think one has to be a good
>writer to "write" a good IF game. Indeed, a number of IF authors have
>said that they don't consider themselves good prose writers.
> It doesn't detract one whit from their games.

I agree that one doesn't have to be a good prose writer to write good IF.
But what does that prove? You don't have to be a good prose
writer to write an entertaining book. John Grisham's prose is pretty
mediocre, but his books are hard to put down. That doesn't mean that
books aren't highbrow art--just that some of them aren't.

And I disagree with you when you say that it doesn't detract from their
games. "Theatre" was an entertaining and clever game, but the couple of
spots where the prose was rough prevented me from being fully drawn in.
To continue my early analogy: A Time To Kill is a gripping enough book
that I couldn't stop reading, even when the prose got on my nerves.
But when the writer is as good with prose as he is with plot--as in, say,
Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent--the prose and plot work together,
instead of working against each other. At the very least, when you have a
writer like Dick Clancy whose prose is good but nothing special, the
prose doesn't get in the way of the story.

To b ring my rather wandering discussion back to IF: I don't think the
puzzles or the plot in Curses were particularly better
than those in Theatre, but because the prose was better in the former
than in the latter, I enjoyed it quite a bit more.

It's interesting, by the way, that I have to rely on other kinds of
literature to make my point. That's symptomatic, I think, of the fact
that there just isn't that much IF in the world--which is why I think
it's far too early to decide that IF can't be highbrow art.

-Jacob


Neil Demause

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Oct 15, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/15/95
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Look, I think it's perfectly appropriate for there to be different
"genres" of i-f, some of them "serious" (or "artistic" or whatever you
want to call it), some not. And some people will only like games that
have elegant prose, others will only like games that have great puzzles,
others will only like games that make them laugh. And *that's okay*.

Two of my favorite authors are Marge Piercy and Douglas Adams. I don't
enjoy them for remotely similar reasons, but I consider both of their
writings to be great fiction -- and sometimes I'm in the mood for one,
sometimes for the other.

All this talk about what makes good i-f has been very interesting (and
helpful, as I work on my next project), but before we start getting all
absolutist in the search for the perfect i-f canon, I think we should
acknowledge that *most* of this comes down to a matter of taste.
("Detective" excepted, of course.)

For some reason, this competition has loosed a lot of tongues in this
newsgroup. Used to be, everyone bent over backwards to praise authors
just for having produced a game. Lately, though, there's been a lot more
sniping at games and less constructive criticism, and this latest trend
of arguing over what constitutes "real" i-f similarly seems more likely
to scare people off from writing games than to encourage them to do so.

(All IMHO, of course.)

Neil

Gareth Rees

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Oct 16, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/16/95
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Neil Demause <ne...@echonyc.com> wrote:
> For some reason, this competition has loosed a lot of tongues in this
> newsgroup. Used to be, everyone bent over backwards to praise authors
> just for having produced a game. Lately, though, there's been a lot
> more sniping at games and less constructive criticism, and this latest
> trend of arguing over what constitutes "real" i-f similarly seems more
> likely to scare people off from writing games than to encourage them
> to do so.

I seem to have upset a few people with my comments. I apologise to
anyone whom I have offended. I think it's extremely impressive for
anyone to master the intricacies of complicated and idiosyncratic
programming languages like TADS and Inform and produce a game with
coherent plot, writing and puzzles.

But I also think that the best compliment that can be paid to a game is
to treat it as though it were a serious piece of work rather than a few
minutes diversion of roughly comparable value to Space Invaders. If
anyone praised my work just because they wanted to make me happy I would
feel patronised. I'd much prefer something along these lines:


"Christminster": a review
-------------------------

This game is clearly a first attempt. The author clearly has some
understanding of what makes a game interesting and playable, but doesn't
have the skill to put these ideas into practice.

Take the characters, for example. Edward, supposedly the major
character in the game, is a wimp with no intelligence, barely more
sophisticated than the turtle in "Enchanter". Unless ordered about the
game like a mannequin, he wanders randomly and has no initiative at all.
He shows no evidence of any feelings or moods; his behaviour does not
change one whit if the player is kind to him or cruel. He does not get
bored or agitated when the player spends hundreds of turns playing with
the wires; he does not, in fact, make a single comment or suggestion.

The other characters are no better. Jarboe and Bungay are just
stereotyped villains with no personality. What motivation can they
possibly have for the ridiculous actions they undertake in the course of
the game?

The plot is extremely weak. No motivation is supplied for the actions
of Jarboe and Bungay, except for an exceedingly cryptic reference to
Templars in the last scene. None of the important questions are
answered, such as how Jarboe and Bungay found out about Malcolm's
researches, or how they knew about the secret passage when no-one else
in the college seemed to. Other aspects are poor: the opening sequence
has no connection at all to the rest of the game, and could have been
omitted without affecting the (admittedly low) quality of the work.

The author was clearly unable to think up any interesting puzzles,
because "Christminster" has no fewer than sixteen (count them, sixteen!)
locked door puzzles. The other puzzles are little better, varying too
much in difficulty from the opening sequence (which is too hard for many
players, preventing them from even starting the rest of the game) and
the wires (everyone knows that telephone lines are a single cable, with
the circuit completed through earth, not the paired cables that the
author has somehow decided to use) to the boring and much overused
puzzle of hiding an object under a table.

The writing is extremely perfunctory; for example, some effort is made
to change the descriptions of the outdoor locations at night, but this
boils down to replacing "sun" by "moon" and "day" by "night". A writer
with more flair would have conveyed the different atmosphere of night
vividly. There's also an enormous amount of repetition, especially of
dull tag lines like "Wilderspin says".

Despite the game being up to Release 2, there are still lots of bugs:
for example, order Edward to the West Bank before he's seen the parrot.
You will get the message "** Error: Edward in location where he can't
move **". Try turning off the light when the cook is in the cellar.
Does he notice? Of course he doesn't. And try following Jarboe down
the stairs in the endgame...

In conclusion, the author is to be commended on having had the endurance
to write something as long as "Christminster", but this reviewer
suggests he stick to flower-arranging in future.

--
Gareth Rees

London David

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Oct 16, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/16/95
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In article <YkULXhu00...@andrew.cmu.edu> "Andrew C. Plotkin"
<erky...@CMU.EDU> writes:
>lon...@ERE.UMontreal.CA (London David) writes:
>> What IF is *not* is highbrow art. I do not expect to gain any insights
>> into the human condition through IF. It is therefore inappropriate to
>> analyse IF in the same terms that one would use to analyse serious
>> fiction, films, etc. This is what annoyed me about Gareth's comments.
>> I felt that he was criticizing the games (Zebulon in particular) using
>> criteria (i.e. the quality of the prose) which is of minor importance
>> to IF.
>
>Highbrow art is exactly what I was trying to create in _Weather_. If
>it didn't work, fine; I'm not going to stop trying. But if you start
>it up *expecting* to not see anything in it, you're not giving me
>a chance.

Good, a concrete example to discuss. Andrew, what *specifically* were you
trying to do with _Weather_? From previous posts, I seem to remember you
saying that you wanted to write a game in which the same scenery was looked
at in different settings (times of day, weather conditions, etc.). OK, that's
the 'F' part of IF. And I think it's virtually unanimous that you succeeded
on this count.

But what about the 'I' part of IF? How does the fact that the "reader" can
interact enhance your work? You see, this is where I get stuck with IF. If
the 'I' has no effect, or if it gets in the way, then you're better off
writing a short story (or a novel, or whatever). Part of what makes
literature/painting/movies/etc "art" is the fact that the reader/observer is
passive. The artist presents a point of view, and we are asked to absorb it,
mull it over, agree/disagree, etc. The fact that our interaction is passive
is crucial - it allows the artist to develop what he/she wants to say
without interruption or deviation.

It's not that I'm *expecting* to not see art in IF. It's that I simply do not
see how the 'I' helps the artist make his/her point, beyond providing amusing
puzzles to solve. What can you do with IF that you can't do with 'F'?

David London

London David

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Oct 16, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/16/95
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In article <45rouh$k...@phakt.usc.edu> jwei...@phakt.usc.edu
(Jacob Solomon Weinstein) writes:
>lon...@ERE.UMontreal.CA (London David) writes:
>
>>What IF is *not* is highbrow art. I do not expect to gain any insights
>>into the human condition through IF. It is therefore inappropriate to
>>analyse IF in the same terms that one would use to analyse serious
>>fiction, films, etc. This is what annoyed me about Gareth's comments.
>>I felt that he was criticizing the games (Zebulon in particular) using
>>criteria (i.e. the quality of the prose) which is of minor importance
>>to IF.
>
>It seems to me that this is like a movie-goer of the late 19th century
>walking out of one of the first films and deciding, on the basis of what
>he's seen, that movies aren't higbrow art. He'd probably be right about
>the movie he actually saw--early motion pictures were often about such
>exciting things as waves lapping against the shore--but he'd have
>absolutely no basis on which to draw conclusions about what movies could be.
>
>Somebody (Neil Gaiman? Alan Moore?) responded to the claim that comic
>books can't be art by saying, "Comic books are just combinations of words
>and pictures. There's no limit to how good those words can be, and no
>limit to how good the pictures can be. If words and pictures can be art
>separately, why can't they be art together?" (I'm paraphrasing rather
>poorly, by the way.) IF is either just words or a combination of words
>and pictures. Is there any particular reason that you feel IF can't be
>"highbrow art," or is it just that you've never seen IF that is?

As I said in another post, if the writer has a point he/she wants to make
(a la "art"), it seems to me that the fact that there is interaction between
writer and reader inevitably gets in the way of what the writer wants to say.
It interrupts the flow of thoughts and the development of ideas. It turns it
into a game. IF is *not* "either just words or a combination of words and
pictures" -- that's what 'F' is. You've overlooked the 'I'. As to your
question, I certainly have never seen IF that I would consider "art"
(although I now regret having introduced this term). But I simply don't see
how it could work. So I'll just repeat a question I asked elsewhere - what can

you do with IF that you can't do with 'F'?

BTW, I agree with your comic book analogy. Comic books will probably never
be considered art. But that's more a function of the "art establishment"
than of the medium itself. To be honest, there are some comic books that
are held in high regard - "Maus", "Mafalda", for example. (These are more
political comic books.) But that gets us way off topic...

>
>I want to stress that I'm not saying all IF should be highbrow, anymore
>than all movies and books ought to be highbrow. There's a place in IF for
>the equivalents of Die Hard and Sleepless in Seattle, just as there's a
>place for the equivalents of Citizen Kane and Howard's End.
>
>> I don't think one has to be a good
>>writer to "write" a good IF game. Indeed, a number of IF authors have
>>said that they don't consider themselves good prose writers.
>> It doesn't detract one whit from their games.
>
>I agree that one doesn't have to be a good prose writer to write good IF.
>But what does that prove? You don't have to be a good prose
>writer to write an entertaining book. John Grisham's prose is pretty
>mediocre, but his books are hard to put down. That doesn't mean that
>books aren't highbrow art--just that some of them aren't.
>

Absolutely. But one doesn't read Grisham for the prose. And any critic who
judged Grisham on his prose rather than on the entertainment value would
be using the wrong criteria. That was my only point. I would apply the
same argument to critiques of IF games.

David London

>-Jacob
>

Paul O'Brian

unread,
Oct 16, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/16/95
to
cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu (Christopher E. Forman) writes:

>While it's good that you can recognize what you percieve as limitations in
>your own work, I wouldn't advise doing the same to another author for a
>simple reason -- the differences of opinions people have. Another author
On the contrary, I'd say this is the best reason for doing so. If a few
different reviewers give their ideas on a piece of IF, those consumers who
read the reviews are more likely to get a more complete picture of the work's
overall quality. Of course all opinions are subjective, but that doesn't mean
they aren't worth hearing. The idea of criticism of any literary form is, in
my view, a valuable one, and it's not new, even to IF, where whole web sites
are dedicated to archiving reviews.

>Everyone has differing opinions of the "ideal" game, and what a "real" I-F
>experience is like for them. Can't we just accept each quality game for
>what it is, rather than dwelling on petty issues?
It's interesting to me that you only want "quality" games to go uncriticized.
Who is the arbiter of "quality?" Personally, I'd like to see two things
happen, which I think would open up the dialogue and get rid of some of the
emotional tension which has collected around reactions to the games submitted
for the competition:

1) Reviewers should, as C.E. said, use the more positive technique of
constructive criticism instead of verbally napalming the quality of the work,
or (especially) levelling personal attacks against the ability of the author.
IF is a new field and, I think it's fair to say at this point in the evolution
of software, a struggling field. Most authors out there are probably fairly
new to the genre, and if a reviewer really wants to advance the cause of IF,
those authors should be guided in productive directions rather than shot down
because the reviewer didn't like their first works.

2) Creators of IF should be ready to see a little criticism come their way.
Rather than taking a review as a personal attack, either a) ignore it, or
b) use it to figure out ways you can improve your next game, or your next
release of the game being reviewed. Anyone in a creative field (including
writing interactive fiction) needs to steel themselves against bad reviews.
I know it's a hard case when the reviewer is part of our small community,
and you've come to feel that you know them personally, on a certain level.
However, instead of making this a reason to take their criticism totally to
heart and let it devastate you, instead use it as a reason to give that
reviewer the benefit of the doubt, and believe that the person writing the
review did it because that person wants to see your work improve, not because
he or she would like to see you disappear off the face of the earth.
Remember that, just as most IF writers are new to the field, so are most IF
reviewers. Both need time to hone their skills, and in the meantime it's a
good idea not to be too thin-skinned.


--
Paul O'Brian obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu
"No one knows how I feel or what I say unless you read between my lines"
-Stevie Nicks

ErsatzPogo

unread,
Oct 16, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/16/95
to
>It's not that I'm *expecting* to not see art in IF. It's that I simply do
not
>see how the 'I' helps the artist make his/her point, beyond providing
>amusing
>puzzles to solve. What can you do with IF that you can't do with 'F'?

Well, in theory at least, it can increase the reader's/player's
involvement in the story. Would Edward's dismay in "Christminster" be as
effective if it hadn't been *you* who lost his parrot?

I'm not sure I'm convinced of my own argument, though. If it were true,
wouldn't novels be written in the second person?

Neil

Jacob Solomon Weinstein

unread,
Oct 16, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/16/95
to
cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu (Christopher E. Forman) writes:

>While it's good that you can recognize what you percieve as limitations in
>your own work, I wouldn't advise doing the same to another author for a
>simple reason -- the differences of opinions people have. Another author

>might not see the points you make in reference to "Christminster" as
>flaws or limitations, particularly your criticisms of your NPC's, since
>virtually all text adventures to date have these same limitations.

I may have a slightly different perspective on this than a lot of the
other folks on r.a.if, so I wanted to chip my two cents in.

I got my undergraduate degree in English/Creative writing, and I'm now
getting a masters degree in the same subject. The most common question
people have when I tell them about my coursework is: "How can you teach
writing?"

To answer their question, I describe how the classes work. Each week,
several students distribute their work to their classmates before class
(usually a few days before, to give people time to read the work with
some care.) Then, during class, we sit around and pick apart the stories
we've read. Since everybody knows that their story is going to be
discussed in the same way, everybody makes an effort to offer thoughtful
and constructive criticism.

Usually, there's disagreement about any given story. But after listening
to people argue about your work for forty-five minutes, you get a sense
of which criticisms and compliments you agree with, and which ones you
don't.

I can say, without any doubt, that I've learned tremendously from this
process--not just by hearing my own work discussed, but by discussing my
classmates' work.

The relevance of all this is that, in my opinion, there's no substitute
for hearing other people who are serious about your medium discussing
your work. "How to" manuals, like Graham's or Whizzard's, are useful
starting places. But until you sit down and write something, and find out
whether people had the reaction to it that you intended them to have, you
will never grow as a writer.

And this applies, I think, whether you're approaching IF as a kind of
entertainment or as an art formQor as both, for that matter.

I think, then, that the recent discussion on r.a.if has been extremely
valuable. I've learned from reading what people have to say about
Toonesia, and I've learned from debating the merits of other people's
games. As long as the discussion continues to be constructive and
intelligent, I think we'll all benefit from it.

-Jacob

ct

unread,
Oct 16, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/16/95
to
[Sorry, LD's article hasn't arrived yet, so I'll follow up from here...]
In article <YkULXhu00...@andrew.cmu.edu>,

Andrew C. Plotkin <erky...@CMU.EDU> wrote:
>lon...@ERE.UMontreal.CA (London David) writes:
>> What IF is *not* is highbrow art. I do not expect to gain any insights
>> into the human condition through IF.

I cannot but disagree; there seems little point in fiction _other_ than to
'gain insight into the human condition' (whether or not this is your defn
of highbrow art is another matter).

Whilst in IF we seldom understand sufficient about the NP-characters
to learn from them, the author generally comes across more than in
novels. (If anything, it seems an excellent medium for authors to
present what they wish of themselves whilst remaining in control)

This is meant of 'proper' IF games; there are, of course, those games
designed purely to illustrate puzzles or language features.

I, for one, would certainly not bother with anything which didn't allow
(even encourage) me to learn something of 'the human condition' (I've just
read what I wrote and it scares me...)

regards, ct

Jacob Solomon Weinstein

unread,
Oct 16, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/16/95
to
lon...@ERE.UMontreal.CA (London David) writes:

>As I said in another post, if the writer has a point he/she wants to make
>(a la "art"), it seems to me that the fact that there is interaction between
>writer and reader inevitably gets in the way of what the writer wants to say.
>It interrupts the flow of thoughts and the development of ideas. It turns it
>into a game. IF is *not* "either just words or a combination of words and
>pictures" -- that's what 'F' is. You've overlooked the 'I'. As to your
>question, I certainly have never seen IF that I would consider "art"
>(although I now regret having introduced this term). But I simply don't see

>how it could work. So I'll just repeat a question I asked elsewhere - what can

>you do with IF that you can't do with 'F'?


There are two easy answers to your question. One is: "I don't know, any
more than Thomas Edison would have known if you had asked him what
advantages his flickering, black-and-white, silent motion picture had
over solid, color, speaking live actors."

A slightly better answer is: you can't do anything with IF that you can't
do with F. All that any art form can do is draw you in, make you care,
and, possibly, change the way you view the world.

But your question is a thoughtful one, and it deserves more than an easy
response. So, let me say that, although I don't think that IF can do
anything that F can't do--just like fiction can't do anything that movies
can't do--I believe that every art form has its own advantages, and its
own ways of accomplishing the goals of all art. Here are a few of the
ways that IF can accomplish its goals in ways different than those of
traditional fiction:

1) Personalization. In fiction, the reader has only a few simple ways of
personalizing their experience. They can skip the parts they find boring.
They can write the publisher and demand to have offensive passages
removed. They can chose not to read it. (Unfortunately, more and more
readers seem to be opting for the last of these options. But that's
another story.) With interactive fiction, the focus of the story can be
determined in collaboration between the author and the reader. In The One
That Got Away, for example, a reader who wants a terse, linear story can
go fishing, catch a little fish, and retire with the maximum number of
points. Readers who want a more dramatic ending can perservere until they
find The One. And readers who like wandering storylines filled with
little details can show every object they find to the man behind the
counter.

Of course, there are limits to the degree to which an IF reader can
personalize the story--you can't go hunting for sea shells in The One, or
go snorkling, or do any one of a million other things you could do at a
lake in real lifeQ and that's as it should be. The IF author creates the
world and sets some limits on the storyline; the IF readers determines
where they'd like to go within those limits. (There are computer
programs that allow readers to personalize a story to their hearts' contents.
These programs are called "word processors," and are considered by many to be
the ultimate in Interactive Fiction. Look for them in your local computer
shop.)

2) Intimacy. When you are sitting in a room with a performing artist,
there is a bond between you and the performer that a non-live performance
cannot capture, and can replicate only rarely. Part of it has to do with
the interaction between performer and audience; the artist picks up on
the cues of the audience, and modifies his performance accordingly. In
turn, the audience reacts favorably or disfavorably. IF allows the
fiction writer to mimic this process. When I try to do something out of
the ordinary in an IF game, and get a clever response, I feel for a
moment as though the author has created something just for me. Rationally
speaking, I know that any other player would get the same response to the
same action; but the illusion of intimacy has nonetheless been created.


3) Internalization. You complained that having to stop the story and wait
for response breaks up the flow of the story. You're right, and this is
certainly a flaw of IF. But every medium has its flaws that break up the
flow; actors can forget their lines, movies can get scratched, and most
novels aren't read through in one sitting. Think for a moment about what
happens, though, when an IF story prompts you for a response. In that
moment, you must imagine yourself as the story's protagonist, and you
must imagine what you would do in that situation. You must place yourself
in the story, and you must place the story within you.

I think that, to some degree, the media that touch us most effectively
our the ones that make the most demands on our imagination. That's why,
for me, a book is far more likely to pull me in than a movie. IF makes
one more demand on the reader than normal F; it makes her take part in
the story, and it therefore draws her more into the world of the story.

For a concrete demonstration of this, print out a transcript of a
complete Planetfall game, print it out, and have a friend who didn't play
the game read the transcript. (Warning: Planetfall spoilers coming up.)

I think you'll find that they react to the death of Floyd with far less
emotion than those of us who actually played through the game. If you
were to transpose all the text you see about Floyd to a novel, you'd
find him a flat and unsatisfying character. But when you actually play
the game, you are forced to think of him as an actual being in order to
solve certain puzzles. It's the interaction that makes him come alive.


I want to stress that I don't think that interactive fiction is superior
to traditional fiction. I've dabbled in a number of different media, and
fiction is still my greatest love. But I don't think that IF is
inferior to fiction, either. IF and F are simply two different art forms.

Dan Shiovitz

unread,
Oct 17, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/17/95
to
In article <45u0gr$o...@epervier.CC.UMontreal.CA>,

London David <lon...@ERE.UMontreal.CA> wrote:
>In article <45rouh$k...@phakt.usc.edu> jwei...@phakt.usc.edu
>(Jacob Solomon Weinstein) writes:
>>lon...@ERE.UMontreal.CA (London David) writes:
>>
>>>What IF is *not* is highbrow art. I do not expect to gain any insights
>>>into the human condition through IF. It is therefore inappropriate to
>>>analyse IF in the same terms that one would use to analyse serious
>>>fiction, films, etc. This is what annoyed me about Gareth's comments.
>>>I felt that he was criticizing the games (Zebulon in particular) using
>>>criteria (i.e. the quality of the prose) which is of minor importance
>>>to IF.
>>
>>It seems to me that this is like a movie-goer of the late 19th century
>>walking out of one of the first films and deciding, on the basis of what
>>he's seen, that movies aren't higbrow art. He'd probably be right about
>>the movie he actually saw--early motion pictures were often about such
>>exciting things as waves lapping against the shore--but he'd have
>>absolutely no basis on which to draw conclusions about what movies could be.
>>
>>Somebody (Neil Gaiman? Alan Moore?) responded to the claim that comic
>>books can't be art by saying, "Comic books are just combinations of words
>>and pictures. There's no limit to how good those words can be, and no
>>limit to how good the pictures can be. If words and pictures can be art
>>separately, why can't they be art together?" (I'm paraphrasing rather
>>poorly, by the way.) IF is either just words or a combination of words
>>and pictures. Is there any particular reason that you feel IF can't be
>>"highbrow art," or is it just that you've never seen IF that is?
>
>As I said in another post, if the writer has a point he/she wants to make
>(a la "art"), it seems to me that the fact that there is interaction between
>writer and reader inevitably gets in the way of what the writer wants to say.
>It interrupts the flow of thoughts and the development of ideas. It turns it
>into a game. IF is *not* "either just words or a combination of words and
>pictures" -- that's what 'F' is. You've overlooked the 'I'. As to your
>question, I certainly have never seen IF that I would consider "art"
Have you played _Trinity_? Or _Shades of Gray_? Or hell, I'll even go so far
as to say my game, _Lethe Flow Phoenix_ was "art". Not great art, perhaps.
But it's certainly a step in the right direction. IMO, either your definition
of art is too narrow, or you aren't playing the right games.

>(although I now regret having introduced this term). But I simply don't see
>how it could work. So I'll just repeat a question I asked elsewhere - what can
>you do with IF that you can't do with 'F'?

I've talked about this a little elsewhere. The difference between IF and F is
the I, of course. Interactivity. The difference between passively reading a
book and actively exploring a world. The difference between watching Brutus
decide to betray Caesar and you deciding to betray Caesar. IF is a wonderful
thing. It gives us the chance to immerse ourselves in fiction in a way that
isn't possible with books. It lends three-dimensionality and centers the world
around us. It's a new medium, sure. There are bound to be errors, sure. The
technology is being formed as we speak, and there are going to be many missteps
along the way to something brilliant. But we are going in the right direction,
I think.

>BTW, I agree with your comic book analogy. Comic books will probably never
>be considered art. But that's more a function of the "art establishment"
>than of the medium itself. To be honest, there are some comic books that
>are held in high regard - "Maus", "Mafalda", for example. (These are more
>political comic books.) But that gets us way off topic...

I think it's right on topic, isn't it? Just like comic books span the spectrum
from trash to art (how could you not consider Maus art?), IF should be able
to eventually do the same. The medium doesn't matter unless you put your
blinders on.

[..]
>>-Jacob
>David London
--

-------------------------------------------------+
Dan Shiovitz /**/ scy...@u.washington.edu | "Thys ys a happi snakc.
The Grim Reaper /**/ sh...@cs.washington.edu | Happi snakc ys fun to eat.
-------------------------------------------------+ Uh-oh, yt's a ceiboard!"
http://weber.u.washington.edu/~scythe/ |
-------------------------------------------------+


Dan Shiovitz

unread,
Oct 17, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/17/95
to
In article <GDR11.95O...@stint.cl.cam.ac.uk>,
Gareth Rees <gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>Neil Demause <ne...@echonyc.com> wrote:
>> For some reason, this competition has loosed a lot of tongues in this
>> newsgroup. Used to be, everyone bent over backwards to praise authors
>> just for having produced a game. Lately, though, there's been a lot
>> more sniping at games and less constructive criticism, and this latest
>> trend of arguing over what constitutes "real" i-f similarly seems more
>> likely to scare people off from writing games than to encourage them
>> to do so.
>
>I seem to have upset a few people with my comments. I apologise to
>anyone whom I have offended. I think it's extremely impressive for
>anyone to master the intricacies of complicated and idiosyncratic
>programming languages like TADS and Inform and produce a game with
>coherent plot, writing and puzzles.
That's for sure. And ...

>But I also think that the best compliment that can be paid to a game is
>to treat it as though it were a serious piece of work rather than a few
>minutes diversion of roughly comparable value to Space Invaders. If
>anyone praised my work just because they wanted to make me happy I would
>feel patronised. I'd much prefer something along these lines:

Yes. Truly. I put an awful lot of effort into _Lethe_, and I expect people
who discuss it with me to talk accordingly. I don't want just heapings of
praise (although, I must admit that I was very surprised and pleased by how
many people wrote to say they enjoyed it), I'd like people to suggest ways to
improve it (such as "in all the time you spent checking and programming it,
why didn't you catch the large bug with the buckets?").

>"Christminster": a review
>-------------------------
[..]


>In conclusion, the author is to be commended on having had the endurance
>to write something as long as "Christminster", but this reviewer
>suggests he stick to flower-arranging in future.

Come, come. This is an example of a poor review, IMO. As someone who writes
IF oughta know, the presentation and content are both important :P It's just
not necessary to be this harsh with your game, even though you did point out
some flaws with it. Like someone says elsewhere, IF authoring and criticism
are both new genres, and we really need to be a little more careful how we
write (from either side of the review).

>--
>Gareth Rees

ErsatzPogo

unread,
Oct 17, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/17/95
to
I think everyone in here agrees that criticism is not just okay but
desirable -- the only thing we disagree on is what's "constructive"
criticism, and what's hitting your fellow i-f authors over the head with a
large mallet. ("Attacking the i-f author with the large mallet is not
productive.")

We're all amateurs here, and colleagues as well. I think we could all
exercise a little more tact than if we were reviewing, say, a Steven
Spielberg movie.

I think a few more "IMHOs" and "I thinks" would go a long toward making
this group feel less contentious, not to mention helping people to accept
criticism without getting defensive.

Neil

Magnus Olsson

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Oct 17, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/17/95
to
In article <45u0gr$o...@epervier.CC.UMontreal.CA>,
London David <lon...@ERE.UMontreal.CA> wrote:
>BTW, I agree with your comic book analogy. Comic books will probably never
>be considered art. But that's more a function of the "art establishment"
>than of the medium itself.

That's *entirely* a functionof the art establishment - or rather, of
*which* art establishment you're dealing with.

>To be honest, there are some comic books that
>are held in high regard - "Maus", "Mafalda", for example. (These are more
>political comic books.) But that gets us way off topic...

"Maus" is a good example because it's a very serious work. I can see
*no* difference between "Maus" and an ordinary (non-graphical) novel
about the Holocaust, except, of course, for the differences that are
due to the medium.

And there are lot of comix that are intended as art, treated as art,
appreciated as art - within certain circles. It may not always be
_good_ art, but that's entirely a matter of taste.


Please also remember that there are many areas of culture that are
reagrded as very "arty" today that weren't some time ago. Classical
music, for example, had a totally different role in society in the
18th century than it has today - the current view of classical music
was born in the late 19th century, and Mozart was perhaps the first
composer to regard himself as an artist rather than an artisan. A
similar thing holds for jazz - until the 1950's, jazz was popular
music, dance music, trashy music - today it's art, and almost as
genteel as "classical" music :-).

*However*, this having been said, I think it would be dangerous to
start treating all IF as "high-brow art". Viewing "Zork" as a statement
about human existence is similar to trying to extract metaphysical
statements from Bugs Bunny cartoons.

I'm not saying that we should apply different standards to different
peices of IF, or that all pieces of IF are equally good; I'm just
saying that we must keep the author's intention in mind. Criticizing
"Zork II" for failing to illuminate the existential dilemma of the
Wizard of Frobozz is rather pointless; saying that one prefers IF with
deeper characterization is of course not.

Magnus

Jon Drukman

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Oct 17, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/17/95
to
London David wrote:
> What IF is *not* is highbrow art. I do not expect to gain any insights
> into the human condition through IF. It is therefore inappropriate to
> analyse IF in the same terms that one would use to analyse serious
> fiction, films, etc. This is what annoyed me about Gareth's comments.
> I felt that he was criticizing the games (Zebulon in particular) using
> criteria (i.e. the quality of the prose) which is of minor importance
> to IF.

ooh well i have to say that i disagree with that in the strongest possible
terms. for me, the prose is utmost. my own game "busted!" has very few
merits in terms of puzzles (they've been done before, they're illogical, etc)
but i like to think my writing makes up for it. many have emailed to say
that that is indeed the case, so i feel like i'm not just making this up out
of thin air. :)

> As I said in my previous post, I don't think one has to be a good


> writer to "write" a good IF game. Indeed, a number of IF authors have
> said that they don't consider themselves good prose writers. It doesn't
> detract one whit from their games.

i think it detracts enormously. there are plenty of games that have seemed
interesting to me that i have just thrown out without finishing because i
couldn't stand reading the text. like it or not, IF is a text-based medium
and i think the quality of the text - in all respects - is incredibly
important. even the LAYOUT of it on-screen is important to me.

> It just goes to show

> that people enjoy IF in a myriad of different ways. And that's as it
> should be.

i agree with you here! and that's why i think mentioning the quality of the
writing is ABSOLUTELY appropriate for a review of an IF game.

-jon

David Leary

unread,
Oct 18, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/18/95
to
In article <45u986$h...@life.ai.mit.edu>, David Baggett <d...@ai.mit.edu> wrote
(speaking of criticism):
>I have to be honest here: in the five years I've been following this group,
>this is probably the most encouraging sign I've seen that IF may actually
>have a future as a serious medium.

Serious, maybe. Commerically viable these days... well, we know better,
don't we? :)
(Much insightful stuff about criticism clipped...I agree, in general.)

>Elements of this thread smack of the notion that all things are equally
>good when considered in the appropriate context. I admit I don't buy that;
>for example, IMHO, Handel's _Messiah_ is better than Michael Jackson's
>_HIStory_ in an absolute sense.

Not if you want to dance. Same old Baggett, I see...some things never
change, do they? Didn't I squash this argument of yours into the ground
six years ago? :)

>I'd say the same thing of _Detective_ vs. _Trinity_ --- wouldn't you?

Same genre. Not the same argument. "Music in General" <> "IF"

>Saying that all works are equally good benefits neither the readers nor the
>authors. All IF works are not equally good; not even close.

No, but you've got to define your terms. If the author's trying to write
a silly game with a lot of weird spellings (for example, hah hah) then
he's not going to write "Detective."

>d...@ai.mit.edu ADVENTIONS: Kuul text adventures! Email for a catalog.

(Could you take this line out of your sig sometime?)

-----
Dave Leary
(Nope, my views don't represent UMAB...good thing, huh?)

"If you get more luck, wouldn't there be less luck available for me?"
- Dogbert

David Baggett

unread,
Oct 18, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/18/95
to
In article <463atn$2p...@trout.ab.umd.edu>,
David Leary <dle...@trout.ab.umd.edu> wrote:

>Serious, maybe. Commerically viable these days... well, we know better,
>don't we? :)

Yes, but the distressing thing is that even books are not terribly viable
these days. It's only because printing is so cheap that there are as many
books as there are. Most publishers seem to prop themselves up on a few
hit titles (like _The Bridges of Madison County_).

>>Elements of this thread smack of the notion that all things are equally
>>good when considered in the appropriate context. I admit I don't buy that;
>>for example, IMHO, Handel's _Messiah_ is better than Michael Jackson's
>>_HIStory_ in an absolute sense.
>
>Not if you want to dance.

There --- you're doing it! You're saying that one is better than the other
within a certain context. This may be true, but says nothing about which
one is better in an absolute sense.

Consider this analogy: A fast computer, I think we'd all agree, is
absolutely better than a slow one, all other things being equal. Yet you
could argue that the slow one is better, for example, if you're getting
paid by the hour and you don't like the work you're doing on the computer.
(I.e., if you'd rather sit around waiting for the machine to grind away
than make more progress on the problem.)

The fact that there is a limited context in which we might prefer A to B is
no reason to throw common sense (or, in this case, artistic sensiblilty)
out the window and refuse to make an overall qualitative judgment on A
vs. B.

>Same old Baggett, I see...some things never change, do they?

I don't think I'll ever agree with the idea that all things are equally
good. It's counterproductive (since it argues against trying to improve
one's work --- what does it mean to improve something if it's all a matter
of finding the right context in which to consider it anyway?), and it
makes criticism essentially irrelevant.

>>I'd say the same thing of _Detective_ vs. _Trinity_ --- wouldn't you?
>
>Same genre. Not the same argument. "Music in General" <> "IF"

I don't see your point here. How is "IF in general" an acceptable context
while "Music in general" isn't?

>No, but you've got to define your terms. If the author's trying to write
>a silly game with a lot of weird spellings (for example, hah hah) then
>he's not going to write "Detective."

Of course it's important to understand an author's intentions before
reviewing a work. But that doesn't mean I can write garbage and expect
people to call it wonderful "in the context of a game that's supposed to be
garbage" --- as wonderful as Trinity is "in the context of a game that's
supposed to be a work of art." It seems to me that the relativism you are
so fond of leads us to equate these two kinds of "wonderful," which is an
obvious mistake.

Dave Baggett
__
d...@ai.mit.edu

Palmer T. Davis

unread,
Oct 18, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/18/95
to

In a previous article, dle...@trout.ab.umd.edu (David Leary) says:
>
>No, but you've got to define your terms. If the author's trying to write
>a silly game with a lot of weird spellings (for example, hah hah) then
>he's not going to write "Detective."

What are you talking about? _Detective_ is a very silly game, full
of weird spellings.... :-)

-- PTD --

(...and they're every bit as adolescent and annoying as in those other
games that you're referring to....)
--
Palmer Davis ___
<p...@ptd.org> \X/ Vivo simpligxus se oni povus legi la fontan kodon....

Groos

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Oct 18, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/18/95
to
In article <45rpju$i...@echo2.echonyc.com>,

Neil Demause <ne...@echonyc.com> wrote:
>
>For some reason, this competition has loosed a lot of tongues in this
>newsgroup. Used to be, everyone bent over backwards to praise authors
>just for having produced a game. Lately, though, there's been a lot more
>sniping at games and less constructive criticism, and this latest trend
>of arguing over what constitutes "real" i-f similarly seems more likely
>to scare people off from writing games than to encourage them to do so.

I've actually enjoyed reading people's criticisms of the entries.
Most of the critiques have been well-reasoned and well-presented, and
have given me some insight into the varying reasons that people are
interested in IF. I think it's a valid discussion, and can't do
anything but help. So keep it up, guys, and if I think of something
intelligent to say, I'll chime in too.

-Groos

David Leary

unread,
Oct 18, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/18/95
to
In article <463iip$f...@life.ai.mit.edu>, David Baggett <d...@ai.mit.edu> wrote:
>Yes, but the distressing thing is that even books are not terribly viable
>these days. It's only because printing is so cheap that there are as many
>books as there are. Most publishers seem to prop themselves up on a few
>hit titles (like _The Bridges of Madison County_).

This is true, unfortunately. Julie Fallowfield tells me she can't sell
ANYTHING these days, so at least it's not just my stuff...

>There --- you're doing it! You're saying that one is better than the other
>within a certain context. This may be true, but says nothing about which
>one is better in an absolute sense.

What's the "absolute sense?" Who decides what criteria are used to judge
a painting/book/game/whatever? Okay, so this discussion is getting a
little metaphysical, but heck - you know where I stand on this.

>Consider this analogy: A fast computer, I think we'd all agree, is
>absolutely better than a slow one, all other things being equal. Yet you
>could argue that the slow one is better, for example, if you're getting
>paid by the hour and you don't like the work you're doing on the computer.

Or if you want to play "Wing Commander" on your Pentium...can't be done. :)

I don't think the comparison is apt. You're comparing machine speed (a
quantifiable thing which is subject to the physical laws of the universe)
with artistic elements (possibly quantifiable, but created by human
beings). And one computer "competes" with another. Bach (classical
music) isn't in competition with Michael Jackson (pop music).

>The fact that there is a limited context in which we might prefer A to B is
>no reason to throw common sense (or, in this case, artistic sensiblilty)
>out the window and refuse to make an overall qualitative judgment on A
>vs. B.

Heck, I'll happily make artistic judgments left and right. I'll happily
say "The Bridges of Madison County" is the worst piece of crap ever to
grace the shelves of a bookstore (for example). That's opinion. But the
problem with comparing Bach to Michael Jackson, using the criteria that
make Bach excellent classical music, is that the contest is rigged.

>I don't think I'll ever agree with the idea that all things are equally
>good. It's counterproductive (since it argues against trying to improve
>one's work --- what does it mean to improve something if it's all a matter
>of finding the right context in which to consider it anyway?), and it
>makes criticism essentially irrelevant.

I fully agree, and I'm not saying all things are equally good. Now, is
Bach better than, say, Handel? That's worth discussing.

>>Same genre. Not the same argument. "Music in General" <> "IF"
>
>I don't see your point here. How is "IF in general" an acceptable context
>while "Music in general" isn't?

Not sure it is. Perhaps I was wrong here. "Planetfall" and your
"Legend" game, for example, are very different. But they're closer, in
form, content, and goals, than Bach and Michael Jackson.

>Of course it's important to understand an author's intentions before
>reviewing a work. But that doesn't mean I can write garbage and expect
>people to call it wonderful "in the context of a game that's supposed to be
>garbage" --- as wonderful as Trinity is "in the context of a game that's
>supposed to be a work of art." It seems to me that the relativism you are
>so fond of leads us to equate these two kinds of "wonderful," which is an
>obvious mistake.

Ugh. Not the point I was trying to make. If the author's striving to
write garbage, all bets are off. Now, if he's trying to write crude,
disgusting parody (let's say, for example, someone writes a game called
"Sociopath", heh heh) then there are two things you can do: 1) say the
game is a bad/good/whatever example of the "crude disgusting parody"
genre and 2) say you don't like the "crude disgusting parody" genre as a
whole. There's a wide variety of reasons you can call the theoretical
"Sociopath" game crap -- but you've got to define your terms.

-----
Dave Leary
(Nope, my views don't represent UMAB...good thing, huh?)

"I've been of thousand devils caught,
And thrust into that horrid place,
Where reign dismay, despair, disgrace." -- George Crabbe

Jacob Solomon Weinstein

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Oct 18, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/18/95
to
lon...@ERE.UMontreal.CA (London David) writes:

>I don't think anyone (certainly not I) was questioning the artistic aspects
>of IF. However, the question remains: what kind of art is it? Is it Michael
>Jackson or Handel? Is it Spielberg or Ingmar Bergman? Is it Dick Francis or
>Tolstoy? (And of course there are continuous shades of grey between the
>extremes.)

I would say that those questions can't be answered, because you're
comparing a medium to a genre. That is, Spielberg and Bergman both work in
the same medium, film; but they work in different genres within that
media.

Just in case my distinction isn't clear--"prose" is a medium. "Detective
novels" and "literary novels" are two differents genres.

I know you feel we've been arguing too much over definitions, but I think
this is an important distinction. You can look at a genre and make a
reasonable statement about what the genre can and can't do--a sci-fi
novel can do X, a post-modernist novel can do Y. But I don't think you
can make the same sort of generalizations about entire media.

IF is a medium, and not a genre. There are different genres of
IF--detective IF, sci-fi IF, etc. So far, we haven't seen much, if any,
"literary IF." That doesn't mean it can't be created.

Because there just isn't that much IF in
the world, it's easy to forget that IF is a medium. In fact, you could even
make a case that all IF so far falls into one genre--say, the
"crossword-puzzle genre." That doesn't mean that IF _is_ that one genre,
only that other genres haven't been created. What I'm arguing is that
there's nothing in IF to prevent an artist from writing in the genre of
"literary IF".

New genres come and go all the time, in other media--witness the
detective novel, an invention of the last one-hundred years or so, or the
techno-thriller, an invention of the last fifty. But even with the
millions of prose writers in the world, it takes a long time for a new
genre to arise in fiction. Considering how few writers of IF we have, is
it a surprise that new genres are slow to arise?

-Jacob

David Baggett

unread,
Oct 19, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/19/95
to
In article <463odn$19...@trout.ab.umd.edu>,
David Leary <dle...@trout.ab.umd.edu> wrote:

>What's the "absolute sense?" Who decides what criteria are used to judge
>a painting/book/game/whatever?

The standard question!

Well, the reader/reviewer does, initially. Ultimately, the public at
large. At this point one can only predict that _HIStory_ will be unknown
in 2500 while _Messiah_ will still be cherished. We certainly don't know
for sure. But we *do* know the answers to the analogous question for Bach
vs. (say) Telemann. So whether or not you or I can quantify this "absolute
sense," it exists --- in the colective mind of the public.

>And one computer "competes" with another. Bach (classical
>music) isn't in competition with Michael Jackson (pop music).

This seems to be the crux of the relativistic view of art --- that HIStory
is just as good as (or not comparable to) _Messiah_ because they're
fundamentally different things, and that each is as good at what it tries
to be as the other. I think this is a cop-out.

>But the problem with comparing Bach to Michael Jackson, using the criteria
>that make Bach excellent classical music, is that the contest is rigged.

I don't think it's rigged if you look at the *fundamental* things that make
Bach's music great. Look at form and content. Bach's music is intricate;
it rewards extended study. It's also (in most cases) *about* something.
HIStory is technically simple (i.e., in terms of the mechanics of the
music; the craft) and isn't about anything compelling either.

HIStory doesn't lose because we view good music in terms of what Bach did.
It loses because it's neither interesting from a technical point of view
nor a thematic point of view. It's catchy, perhaps. Great. That gives it
about 10 years of life. Maybe 50 if it's *really* catchy.

(I'll admit that it's a bit of an unfair example, though, because the
public has already ruled on Bach's music, so there's no question about its
status.)

>I fully agree, and I'm not saying all things are equally good.

You didn't say that, I know, but my point is that this kind of relativism
degenerates into the view that all things might as well be equal, because
we can write off any absolute statements as differences in context, or
intent, etc.

>Now, is Bach better than, say, Handel? That's worth discussing.

But it's still a pointless discussion, isn't it? Because you can convince
yourself that since Bach was writing music for religious purposes alone
while Handel was earning the public's affection and cash, that they were
writing in different contexts, and that comparisons aren't fair.

Nick Montfort

unread,
Oct 19, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/19/95
to
I think this point is quite salient, and I very much hope it's correct:

Jacob Solomon Weinstein (jwei...@castor.usc.edu) wrote:
: IF is a medium, and not a genre. There are different genres of

: IF--detective IF, sci-fi IF, etc. So far, we haven't seen much, if any,
: "literary IF." That doesn't mean it can't be created.

...
: In fact, you could even


: make a case that all IF so far falls into one genre--say, the
: "crossword-puzzle genre." That doesn't mean that IF _is_ that one genre,
: only that other genres haven't been created. What I'm arguing is that
: there's nothing in IF to prevent an artist from writing in the genre of
: "literary IF".

Yet allow me to play advocatus diaboli. And allow me to introduce an
illustrative analogy:
Can we consider coin-op arcade games to be a medium? I would think that
since there are many different types - (Galaga-style, Driving and race
games, Adventure, Fighting games) - which one might call genres - that the
category as a whole could be considered as a medium. Coin-ops all have a
case with art, screens that display when the game is idle, something that
ends play, etc. There are unifying qualities of the medium. Within the
genres, there are traditions and techniques and perhaps even mutual
reference. (I smell a master's thesis and a 100-article thread in
rec.games.video.arcade)
Of course, the next question is, can coin-op arcade games be literary?
I think they clearly cannot. They can be lots of fun. Perhaps they have
have literary elements, just as some have now have filmic story frames or
sequences. Perhaps they could even be considered "art". Yet they aren't
literary because their users aren't primarially readers. They are game
players.
On to IF, and my point. In IF, the user of the medium is definitiely
both a reader and a game-player. But, is the user's literary
(reader-like, writer-like) activity primary, even compared to his or her
ludic (game-playing) activity? "Scrabble" is a game in which players read
and construct texts, but Scrabble doesn't seem literary. So the mere
involvement of text isn't, in my opinion, enough to suggest that the
medium has the potential for literariness.

Now, if you think my analogy is poor, that could be because I'm making
my point unclear, or it could be becuase you think I'm wrong (or becasue
I actually am wrong, of course...) But I don't want to spend a lot of
time talking about coin-op games, of course. I'm only brining this up to
demonstrate my line of thinking.
As stated, I happen to think the medium *can* be literary. But I also
think it's worthwhile to figure out the qualities that can make it so.


David Baggett

unread,
Oct 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/20/95
to
In article <465u5r$7...@boris.eden.com>,
Nick Montfort <mont...@eden.com> wrote:

>"Scrabble" is a game in which players read and construct texts, but
>Scrabble doesn't seem literary. So the mere involvement of text isn't, in
>my opinion, enough to suggest that the medium has the potential for
>literariness.

Different people mean different things when they say "literary." (The same
is true of "art," of course, which is a problem with threads like these.)

I'd argue that any medium in which the author can communicate ideas with
words has literary potential. I wouldn't call Scrabble a medium, simply
because a Scrabble board offers nothing that a piece of paper with ink on
it can't. So why call Scrabble-board-text a separate medium?

"Mere involvement with the text" doesn't necessarily make something
literary, or art, or noteworthy at all. To my mind, this whole issue of
what art is, and what it can be, revolves around form and content. What
does the supposed work of art try to communicate? (Communication isn't
necessarily linguistic, of course.) Does the form of the piece make it
interesting for some reason --- for example, did conceiving such a form
alone require great thought? Does studying the work over a long perios of
time still yield new insights into its form?

These are the kinds of questions we have to ask about art, IMO, and we can
ask them just as well of interactive fiction and coin-op video games as we
can of paintings and operas. Most of the time, regardless of medium, the
answers to the questions will be "doesn't communicate much" and "is
structurally simple," because it's *hard* to make something that is
otherwise, and easy to believe you have when you haven't.

I think you can even ask the same kinds of questions of bridges, or
computer programs, or shoes. It's harder to communicate effectively
through the medium of shoes (to be utterly silly here), but *impossible*?
I doubt it. And the act of playing a game of Scrabble could certainly be a
"literary event;" it would just be extraordinarily difficult, and quite
limited by the size of the board. It does sound like something that might
happen in a Calvino story, though. :)

There are so many ways to communicate --- particularly as of this century.
I think this realization is in part what has motivated many of the 20th
century's misunderstood artists (the dadaists being the obvious eample).

David Leary

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Oct 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/20/95
to
In article <464e6r$k...@life.ai.mit.edu>, David Baggett <d...@ai.mit.edu> wrote:
(First, my insightful comment...)

>>What's the "absolute sense?" Who decides what criteria are used to judge
>>a painting/book/game/whatever?
>
>The standard question!

Dismissive, aren't we? ;)

>Well, the reader/reviewer does, initially. Ultimately, the public at
>large.

So whether it's "good" is a HUMAN decision. I rest my case. Oh, wait,
there's more...

> At this point one can only predict that _HIStory_ will be unknown
>in 2500 while _Messiah_ will still be cherished. We certainly don't know
>for sure. But we *do* know the answers to the analogous question for Bach
>vs. (say) Telemann. So whether or not you or I can quantify this "absolute
>sense," it exists --- in the colective mind of the public.

Is that the criteria? Length of time that the work of art survives?
Heck, we know public tastes change from decade to decade. The "fashion"
in classical music shifts almost yearly. When Amadeus (the movie) came
out, it sparked a Mozart craze.

Some of the oldest English-language poetry, BTW, is essentially filthy
limericks and the like. But hey, they've proven their artistic worth -
right? They're OLD! (I'll stay away from what that implies about Bob Hope.)

>This seems to be the crux of the relativistic view of art --- that HIStory
>is just as good as (or not comparable to) _Messiah_ because they're
>fundamentally different things, and that each is as good at what it tries
>to be as the other. I think this is a cop-out.

Not what I said. I said the two aren't comparable.

>I don't think it's rigged if you look at the *fundamental* things that make
>Bach's music great. Look at form and content. Bach's music is intricate;
>it rewards extended study. It's also (in most cases) *about* something.
>HIStory is technically simple (i.e., in terms of the mechanics of the
>music; the craft) and isn't about anything compelling either.

Now you're guilty of exactly the thing I accused you of: judging HIStory
by standards more correctly applied to classical music. Listening to
Michael Jackson isn't about intricate melodies and extended study.

How did I end up defending Michael Jackson, anyway?

>HIStory doesn't lose because we view good music in terms of what Bach did.
>It loses because it's neither interesting from a technical point of view
>nor a thematic point of view. It's catchy, perhaps. Great. That gives it
>about 10 years of life. Maybe 50 if it's *really* catchy.

The length-of-time thing again. I'm not buyin' it. If that's the main
criterion, there's no way to judge art that's currently out there.

<Clippity-clip>


>>I fully agree, and I'm not saying all things are equally good.
>

>You didn't say that, I know, but my point is that this kind of relativism
>degenerates into the view that all things might as well be equal, because
>we can write off any absolute statements as differences in context, or
>intent, etc.

Doesn't have to, just so we define our terms in advance.

>>Now, is Bach better than, say, Handel? That's worth discussing.
>

>But it's still a pointless discussion, isn't it? Because you can convince
>yourself that since Bach was writing music for religious purposes alone
>while Handel was earning the public's affection and cash, that they were
>writing in different contexts, and that comparisons aren't fair.

Ahah! I knew you should have been the one to go to law school! That was
worthy of Johnny Cochran himself! :)

But you've hit upon the crux of the issue - how narrow do you make your
catagories? I don't claim to know the answers. Bach and Handel are more
comparable than Bach and Mozart. Bach and Mozart are more comparable
than Bach and Michael Jackson. I don't believe you can't make artistic
judgments (once again, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY - YECH!) but I do
believe that the further and further apart the goals of two "artists"
are, the more meaningless such comparisons become.

These are fuzzy things here. You seem to want hard-and-fast numerical
ratings on things, and that just can't be done - it's ART!

(Perhaps we should continue this in e-mail; while it might be sort of
interesting to this group, since they might get an idea why you wrote
LEGEND and I wrote UNNKULIAN UNVENTURE 1, it's become sort of off-topic.)

John Baker

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Oct 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/20/95
to
In <468ghb$n...@trout.ab.umd.edu> dle...@trout.ab.umd.edu (David Leary)
writes:
>(Perhaps we should continue this in e-mail; while it might be sort of
>interesting to this group, since they might get an idea why you wrote
>LEGEND and I wrote UNNKULIAN UNVENTURE 1, it's become sort of
>off-topic.)

If it's the same to the both of you, I for one would like to see it
remain here.
--
John Baker
"What the hell does that mean? Huh? 'China is here.'?
I don't even know what the hell that means!"
- Jack Burton

Trevor Barrie

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Oct 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/20/95
to
In article <465u5r$7...@boris.eden.com>, mont...@eden.com (Nick Montfort) says:

>Yet allow me to play advocatus diaboli. And allow me to introduce an
>illustrative analogy:
> Can we consider coin-op arcade games to be a medium? I would think that

>since there are many different types [...] that the
>category as a whole could be considered as a medium. [...]


> Of course, the next question is, can coin-op arcade games be literary?
>I think they clearly cannot.

Sure enough. Neither can films or paintings. The issue of whether they
can be "serious art" is an entirely different one, though.

**************************************************************************
Trevor Barrie tba...@upei.ca "It's a great big universe,
87 Kennedy Drive OR and we're all really puny;
West Royalty, PEI tba...@cycor.ca we're just tiny little specks
C1E 1X7 CANADA (902) 628-6845 about the size of Mickey Rooney."
**************************************************************************

Jon Drukman

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Oct 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/20/95
to
David Baggett wrote:
> >even the LAYOUT of it on-screen is important to me.
>
> That's a new one. Can you give some examples of good and bad layout?

sure. good layout is simple, clean and consistent - christminster and curses
immediately spring to mind as modern-day examples. most of the old infocoms,
for that matter. when they use textual effects like boxes, font changes or
menus, they are simple and effective. don't you get disheartened when you
load a WWW page and it's full of backgrounds and blinking text and gratuitous
tables that are just there for the pretty beveled borders? i sure do.

on to the bad... well, i hate to name names cos i don't want to discourage
anyone but a bad example that springs to mind is "the sound of one hand
clapping" - everything runs together, there are no line breaks... it's hard
on the eyes.

i don't want you to take this a flame - it certainly isn't intended as such -
but i've never been able to get into the adventions games for the same
reason. there's so much stuff to read at the beginning that i just get
turned off immediately. although i don't agree with everything in graham
nelson's "the craft of adventure", i do think his section about having a
short, sweet, punchy little hook at the start of a game is important.

(i'm a technical writer by trade so this stuff is important to me!)

-j-

Eli the bearded

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Oct 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/20/95
to
d...@ai.mit.edu writes:
>>Scrabble doesn't seem literary. So the mere involvement of text isn't, in
>>my opinion, enough to suggest that the medium has the potential for
>>literariness.
>I wouldn't call Scrabble a medium, simply because a Scrabble board offers
>nothing that a piece of paper with ink on it can't. So why call
>Scrabble-board-text a separate medium?

Sorry to interrupt this thread, but the Scrabble board is
separate medium. (IMHO)

A Scrabble board can be used to send a message. It does
place very strong restrictions on the message sent, but that
does not prevent it from being a medium.

Just the presence of a Scrabble board somewhere will send a
message. Not much of one, but something. If you further put
tiles on the board, then it becomes a substrate for another
medium and another message.

Elijah
------
currently reading _Understanding Media_ by Marshall McLuhan

David Baggett

unread,
Oct 21, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/21/95
to
In article <308801...@bud.com>, Jon Drukman <j...@bud.com> wrote:
>David Baggett wrote:

>sure. good layout is simple, clean and consistent - christminster and curses
>immediately spring to mind as modern-day examples. most of the old infocoms,
>for that matter.

Personally, I never liked the old Infocom's layout. Not enough whitespace
for my taste. Without whitespace between paragrpahs, and separateing the
room title from the room description, it's very hard to read, to my eyes at
least.

>when they use textual effects like boxes, font changes or menus, they are
>simple and effective.

I confess I despise the text boxes. But like you, I prefer simplicity.

>[in the bad games] everything runs together, there are no line breaks...

>it's hard on the eyes.

>...


>i don't want you to take this a flame - it certainly isn't intended as such -
>but i've never been able to get into the adventions games for the same
>reason.

I don't take it as a flame, but I do find it puzzling. I went to some
trouble to reformat all the text in our games to make paragraph spacing and
indentation optional. (You control it with the SPACE and INDENT commands.)
And I went to an *incredible* amount of trouble to make WorldClass'
contents lister produce much more natural text than any other adventure
game I've seen; certainly a far cry from "Things here: ..." More natural
text and layout were two of the main goals I had for WorldClass, in fact.
(It may sound like a triviality, but it's a lot more of a pain than you'd
imagine.)

>there's so much stuff to read at the beginning that i just get turned off
>immediately.

I can see your point, and others have said the same thing, but is this
still a layout issue? The text telling you who wrote the game, that it's
copyrighted and shareware, etc. is mandatory as far as I'm concerned, for
legal reasons.

>although i don't agree with everything in graham nelson's "the craft of
>adventure", i do think his section about having a short, sweet, punchy
>little hook at the start of a game is important.

Long introductions are another point of contention among IF fans, but,
again, this seems to have little to do with layout. (For the record, I
aimed _Legend_ more at those who like to read than those who like to play
games, so it's perfectly understandable that the latter group may find it
wearisome on the basis of text density alone.)

>(i'm a technical writer by trade so this stuff is important to me!)

How come you don't capitalize anything, then? :)

Jason Dyer

unread,
Oct 21, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/21/95
to
Trevor Barrie (tba...@cycor.ca) wrote:
: > Of course, the next question is, can coin-op arcade games be literary?
: >I think they clearly cannot.

: Sure enough. Neither can films or paintings. The issue of whether they
: can be "serious art" is an entirely different one, though.

Then how come I remember an English textbook awhile back with a
Twilight Zone script in it?

--
Jason Dyer - jd...@indirect.com

Nick Montfort

unread,
Oct 22, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/22/95
to
David Baggett (d...@lf.ai.mit.edu) wrote:
: I'd argue that any medium in which the author can communicate ideas with
: words has literary potential.

Well, as stated, I think this is true as far as IF is concerned. I think
it does have literary potential. But I think it's useful to figure out
where this potential lies, and what enhances it, and what works against
its development. That's why I contrasted game-playing with reading
activity. Does game-playing in IF enhance the reading of text in some way
traditional writing can't, or does this make reading like a word search or
scavenger hunt instead of like literature?

: Does the form of the piece make it


: interesting for some reason --- for example, did conceiving such a form
: alone require great thought? Does studying the work over a long perios of
: time still yield new insights into its form?

These are questions which, when asked about much IF, will almost
ceratinly be answered 'no,' unless you consider 'studying the work over a
long period of time' the process of puzzle-solving, which I don't think
is study. Look at any Infocom game -- my favories AMFV and Trinity
included -- and there's not much to entice one to return after the game
is solved. As you point out, this is hard to achieve, and it's absence in
Infocom games doesn't prove that IF is a barren medium. It's a useful
metric, though.

: There are so many ways to communicate --- particularly as of this century.


: I think this realization is in part what has motivated many of the 20th
: century's misunderstood artists (the dadaists being the obvious eample).

This brings up an interesting way that game-playing and literature have
interacted: in Dadaist word games, which juxtaposed the randomly dreamed
words and sentences of players in a way that Racter never managed to
emulate. Here are games that could very easily be argued to be literary or
to have literary results. Yet 'The Exquisite Corpse', 'Automatic Writing'
and other Dadaist games were never 'solved' like IF can be. At the end,
the spontaneous text demanded attention and re-reading, if only beacuse of
its absurdity. Very different than such texts as "*** You have died ***",
I think you'll agree.
So, in IF, how can game-play enhance literariness, and how can it
undercut it?

David Baggett

unread,
Oct 22, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/22/95
to
In article <46c946$r...@boris.eden.com>,
Nick Montfort <mont...@eden.com> wrote:

>Does game-playing in IF enhance the reading of text in some way traditional
>writing can't, or does this make reading like a word search or scavenger
>hunt instead of like literature?

I'm not sure I can make a good case for game-playing alone, but
interactivity in general can certainly draw the reader further in, as
several other people here have already mentioned.

I always bring up _Horror of Rylvania_ in discussions about what the "I" in
"IF" adds. (Major spoilers!)

There's one bit where you've got to kill a priest who's after you because
you're a vampire. One person complained about this vehemently. This
person couldn't complete the game, because murdering a priest -- even
"virtually" -- was morally unacceptable.

While I do think this reaction is a bit extreme, it certainky shows that
some people really do mentally place themselves in the role of the
protagonist, to a degree that seems unlikely with static fiction.

I can identify with this to a certain extent. I felt really bad munching
the goat in _Rylvania_. Silly? Sure. But for a moment, I was *there*,
not just reading. This is a very powerful medium when used expertly.

>: Does the form of the piece make it
>: interesting for some reason --- for example, did conceiving such a form
>: alone require great thought? Does studying the work over a long perios of
>: time still yield new insights into its form?
>
> These are questions which, when asked about much IF, will almost
>ceratinly be answered 'no,' unless you consider 'studying the work over a
>long period of time' the process of puzzle-solving, which I don't think
>is study.

I certainly agree, and I think that IF's puzzle heritage is for the most
part an obstacle to further progress.

Pounding nails into the floor with my forehead

unread,
Oct 22, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/22/95
to
d...@lf.ai.mit.edu (David Baggett) writes:
> Nick Montfort <mont...@eden.com> wrote:
>
>>Does game-playing in IF enhance the reading of text in some way traditional
>>writing can't, or does this make reading like a word search or scavenger
>>hunt instead of like literature?

> I'm not sure I can make a good case for game-playing alone, but
> interactivity in general can certainly draw the reader further in, as
> several other people here have already mentioned.

I've been lurking here for a while, but I've got to interject a few
comments here ... The idea of interactivity has been explored in other
areas as well - A growing theatrical trend is a form called
"environmental theater". In environmental theater, the production
attempts to include the audience in the stage action. Although this
isn't nearly as audience dependant as IF, I think some of the ideas
behind environmental theater run along the same lines.

The setup is like this: There is no seating area (performances
typically take place in large halls or outside (this is lots of fun).
Audience members are allowed to walk in and around the stage
environment (often picking up props, or talking to actors). This
means that scripts written for env. theater are often _very_ open
ended. But, it can be done to a limited degree with any script. I
was in an env. production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" my soph. year
at Ball State, and it worked surprisingly well. Much of this was
probably due to the fact that we had a rather well behaved audience,
but I have to admit, it was a great experience.

Now...back to the point! The idea behind env. theater is that your
point is communicated more clearly when the communication is
_interactive_ rather then _didactive_ (sp?). This also echoes modern
education theories. People who take part in the learning process
learn more than people who are passive receptors (if you want, I can
quote you some sources).

I think this all relates to IF as a very valid means of communication.
Now, is it an art form? That depends on what your def. of art is.
I've always liked to look at art in the traditional greek sense of the
word...The word Art originally stood for _anything_ made by human
hands. A pot was art as much as a sculpture, as long as effort and
skill was put into the making of it.

Of course, my def. of art is still a little more narrow than that:
For me Art must communicate some kind of idea of import to its
creator. So my test of whether or not something could be art would be
a two-part one: (1) It must take skill to create, (2) It must
communicate some important idea.

I think IF fulfills both of these criteria. Note, however, that IF
doesn't have to pass both of these tests to be _entertaining_. That's
a whole different set of criteria altogether.


>>: Does the form of the piece make it
>>: interesting for some reason --- for example, did conceiving such a form
>>: alone require great thought? Does studying the work over a long perios of
>>: time still yield new insights into its form?
>>
>> These are questions which, when asked about much IF, will almost
>>ceratinly be answered 'no,' unless you consider 'studying the work over a
>>long period of time' the process of puzzle-solving, which I don't think
>>is study.
>
> I certainly agree, and I think that IF's puzzle heritage is for the most
> part an obstacle to further progress.

Good call, but does an "art experience" (for lack of a better term)
have to be long lasting to be truly art? I know some first class
chefs and improv musicians who would be flabbergasted at this. Many
consider improv performance to be a very deep art, and many also don't
agree that its quality is defined by the ability to repeat the
experience. (I know several great jazz players who refuse to listen
to recordings of their work).


> Dave Baggett
> __
> d...@ai.mit.edu
> "Mr. Price: Please don't try to make things nice! The wrong notes are *right*."
> --- Charles Ives (note to copyist on the autograph score of The Fourth of July)

--

Chris Malone
(00ctm...@bsu.edu)
"Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?"
"Dave?"

David Baggett

unread,
Oct 23, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/23/95
to
In article <46gj9c$m...@grid.Direct.CA>, Neil K. Guy <n...@fun.direct.ca> wrote:

>Hey, I'm just wondering how you guys managed to agree on anything long
>enough to form Adventions, personally. :)

We're just an argumentative lot. We've also had this discussion at least
two dozen times in the past 7 years, so it comes naturally.

Jacob Solomon Weinstein

unread,
Oct 23, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/23/95
to

I think there's been some confusion caused by my use of the phrase
"literary fiction" and my notion of "literary IF."

I'm going to explain at some length what I meant by "literary IF," for
those of you who are interested. It may seem rather off-topic, but I
I think that we need a common langauge if we're going to talk about
whether IF can be more than entertainment. I think a phrase like "real
"real art" is so charged that it's difficult to use. I thought
that "literary IF" would be a good, vague term for IF that is, in some
way, more than just an entertaining game. But, evidently, the word
"literary" is too charged, as well.

So, before I go on to explain what I meant by "literary IF," I'd like to
make a suggestion. I think that we should use a heretofore meaningless
word--say, "floobix"--to mean "IF that, in some way, is more than mere
entertainment." We can therefore argue about what constitutes floobix,
how you know it when you see it, and even if floobix can exist, all
without having to get bogged down in arguments caused by the long and
painful history of phrases like "real art".

So, I withdraw the phrase "literary fiction." But if you're curious to
know what I meant by it, here's the explanation:

In the fiction biz, "literary fiction" is a common label for a very
wide genre of story or novel. It's a little harder to describe than most
genres. One way would be to say that it's all work that doesn't fit into
any other genre--if it's not suspense, mystery, SF, romance, etc, it's
"literary fiction." In fact, you'll sometimes hear people lump all the
other genres together under the name "genre fiction--" as if the mystery
novel were a genre, but the literary novel were somehow above genre.

Note that "literary" does not imply a value
judgement. Just as there's brilliant mysteries and lousy mysteries, so
you'll find brilliant literary fiction and lousy literary fiction.

Now, you might hear somebody say that literary fiction is fiction whose
authors have "serious" or "artistic" intent. To some degree, I think this
is an unfair value judgement, because it implies that writers of
other genres don't have artistic intents.

Still, I think that those labels--"serious," "artistic"-- are
useful, because writers of other genres are more likely to include
entertainment as one of their main goal, while writers of literary
fiction generally have purposes that are regarded as more artistic.

Some examples of "literary fiction" writers: John Barth, John Updike, Ann
Beattie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Joseph Heller, Ernest Hemingway, and
just about anybody you're likely to study in a high school literature class.

I'm telling you all this because, when I referred to "literary
IF," I was drawing an analogy with this genre, not making a statement about how
analogous IF is to traditional fiction. And strange as it may seem, I
was drawing an analogy with a definition of literary fiction that I
don't quite agree with-- by literary IF, I just meant IF
whose author had intents that would be recognized as serious or artistic.

Because I'm using the word "literary" to suggest an analogy, and not to
make a statement about the use of text, I could just as easily refer to
"literary" films. After Hours, I could argue, is a "literary" film,
because the primary intents of its creators seem to be artistic.


Neil K. Guy

unread,
Oct 23, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/23/95
to
David Leary (dle...@trout.ab.umd.edu) wrote:

: (Perhaps we should continue this in e-mail; while it might be sort of

: interesting to this group, since they might get an idea why you wrote
: LEGEND and I wrote UNNKULIAN UNVENTURE 1, it's become sort of off-topic.)

Hey, I'm just wondering how you guys managed to agree on anything long
enough to form Adventions, personally. :) Anyway, yes, I think your
discussion does lend some interesting insights as to the authors'
intents for your games.

- Neil K.

Jon Drukman

unread,
Oct 23, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/23/95
to
In article <469m6v$1...@life.ai.mit.edu>, d...@ai.mit.edu wrote:
> Personally, I never liked the old Infocom's layout. Not enough whitespace
> for my taste. Without whitespace between paragrpahs, and separateing the
> room title from the room description, it's very hard to read, to my eyes at
> least.

when a game spits out a lot of paragraphs without spacing between them, i
agree, it stinks. the infocoms were usually short and to the point,
however, and rarely output more than one paragraph at a time. i think the
verbosity of recent games is actually a strike against them. "brevity is
the soul of wit" and all that.

> I don't take it as a flame, but I do find it puzzling. I went to some
> trouble to reformat all the text in our games to make paragraph spacing and
> indentation optional. (You control it with the SPACE and INDENT commands.)

guess i never played long enough to find those commands... i'll go back
and give it another shot.

> I can see your point, and others have said the same thing, but is this
> still a layout issue?

good question! i think it is, in some ways. perhaps the text could be
broken up or something. i dunno, i'm just shooting from the hip here.

> The text telling you who wrote the game, that it's
> copyrighted and shareware, etc. is mandatory as far as I'm concerned, for
> legal reasons.

if that's true, it's unfortunate. i really like those short,
less-than-24-line openings. guess i'm just a traditionalist.

> Long introductions are another point of contention among IF fans, but,
> again, this seems to have little to do with layout. (For the record, I
> aimed _Legend_ more at those who like to read than those who like to play
> games, so it's perfectly understandable that the latter group may find it
> wearisome on the basis of text density alone.)

hmmm, i like to read more than play games, but there is definitely a
balance that needs to be struck in adventure games. this is old news
though.

> >(i'm a technical writer by trade so this stuff is important to me!)
> How come you don't capitalize anything, then? :)

since i have to concentrate on mechanics 40 hrs a week, i like to be able
to relax and be sloppy the rest of the time... :)

-j-

David Leary

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Oct 23, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/23/95
to
In article <46gpdk$m...@life.ai.mit.edu>, David Baggett <d...@ai.mit.edu> wrote:
>We're just an argumentative lot. We've also had this discussion at least
>two dozen times in the past 7 years, so it comes naturally.

No, no! Wrong! We've had this argument EIGHTEEN times in the last SIX
years! Can't you get anything right? ;)

-----
Dave Leary
(Nope, my views don't represent UMAB...good thing, huh?)

"If you get more luck, wouldn't there be less luck available for me?"
-- Dogbert


Gerry Kevin Wilson

unread,
Oct 24, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/24/95
to

Well, gentlemen (and ladies, of course), much of interest to me has been
said here recently. After weighing everyone's posts, I feel it is time
to interject my own opinionated comments into the fray. I'll do this, as
I always have in the past. with a numbered list. :)

1.) Define art: Well, to me, art is just something that is beautiful, or
not. It is something that communicates an important message, or not.
Everything that man creates (as the Greeks apparently said :) is art.
Art is about opening yourself up to other people. It's about working
through your own feelings, getting rid of guilt, sorrow, anger. Art is a
lot of things, at the very lowest level of which might be definable, but
not in the overall schema of things. (Computer Science Pun alert.)

2.) Define IF: Fiction, Interactive. Fiction that you interact with.
Fiction that interacts with you. Interacting fiction.

3.) Is 2.) a subcategory of 1.)?: Certainly. If you finnagle your
definition too far, the answer might be no. But you have to have a
narrow definition of art, one that explicitly or implicitly excludes
interacting with a work of fiction. I do not see this as an option.

-=-=-=-=-

Now, that part of the argument seemed straightforward enough to me, so
let me move on to what I find artistic about IF.

It is important to note that much of what can be considered art
in static fiction can be considered art in interactive fiction.
Symbolism, imagery, these things are important. In writing, thematic
ideas are important. Why am I writing this? is always a good question to
begin with. What do I have to say? is another.

Then, there is that in IF that doesn't exist in F, the I. How
can you make Interactivity serve an artistic goal, though? You can
portray characters more completely than in F if you so desire, and put in
the effort. We probably need a few more ways to interact with
characters, but as of now, an Interactive Hamlet written by a resurrected
Shakespeare would tell you far more about Hamlet than the static play.
Fiction can be excruiciatingly good. Interactive fiction can be better.

To substantiate this claim, one merely has to compare the two
mediums. IF can do anything that fiction can do. You can write a
program in TADS that just prints out a Hemingway novel and then ends the
program, there's nothing to stop you (except perhaps copyright.) Now,
whether this is as valid as having a paperback book in front of you, that
has been debated for quite awhile. I believe the consensus is that no,
paper is better. Fine, turn on your printer, and print it out. It's the
same thing, physical properties notwithstanding. IF can do these
things, I assure you. It can also allow the reader/player to hold a
dialogue with the author of the work. If

>kick cat

produces

Kick the cat? KICK THE CAT?! Get 'im Klaus!

* * You have died. * *

[paraphrased w/o permission. :) Here's where I tie Avalon into this,
the faint of heart may wish to turn away.]

Then you know a bit more about the author. I have, in Avalon, attempted
to explore my feelings on religion. I will leave it up to you whether I
did so in the persona of Merlin, Galahad, oer Launcelot. I have also
discussed issues of mortality, and the nature of the self. Assuredly, I
did so in a GAME, but I did so. Is a philosophic dialogue any less
philosophic when clothed in a game? Perhaps. I do not feel this to be
the case.

Another topic I find interesting, and have brought to bear in
Avalon, is the concept off the hero. Who is the hero in Avalon? Is it
Galahad, Launcelot, the security guard? Is it the player's persona, or
the old man? Admittedly, as I am tardy with the game, these things don't
mean much to you all, but save the message, play the game, and look at
the message again. For those of you unwilling to get the game, I will
elucidate a bit here.

[What lies ahead might be considered mild spoilers. I don't feel
they give any real information away. Well, maybe a little. But not much.]


Launcelot is a brawny hero, the height of medieval masculinity
and might. However else you may look at him, he is a simple man, driving
by love and self-hate, but his flaw is a fear of himself (in the guise of
the dragon.) He cannot bear to face himself.

Galahad is a holy hero. He is good of heart, pure of thought,
and true of word. He is also a bit overbearing and arrogant at times.
This is a result of his faith, but not neccessarily a flaw in it. We do
not see much of Galahad in this part of Avalon. He figures more
prominently into the sequel. (A short, free sequel, don't worry.)

Merlin is the bumbling hero. His good-natured attempts at help
are usually bound to end in failure. This is a consequence of his
magical abilities, however. He sees more than he wants to. He knows
aspects of the future. He knows when those he meets are going to die.
However, this at the same time distances him from humanity. When he
offers help, it may be what he considers help, and not you.

The player inhabits the persona of Frank Leandro. Frank is an
everyman hero. He puts his pants on one leg at a time, suffers from
lust, anger, greed, and impatience, just like the rest of us. Sometimes
his fears inhibit him from accomplishing his goals. Sometimes he's just
not up to snuff. Yet, he is heroic in his eternal struggle. He rails
against the unkindness of life, and strives to improve his fellow man's lot.

The old man is a tragic hero. He has striven hard in the past,
and accomplished mighty deeds. He has won a family, and peace. But that
was taken away from him. He has nothing left. He has struggled and
fought, but life has caught up with him and worn him down. I find him
heroic, but at the same time, he has given up, and withdrawn from the
world, and the state of his world can perhaps be laid at his feet,
through his inactivity.

The security guard...well, he's an aspect of Frank, in that Frank
is the embodiment of the everyman, and the guard is an instance of
everyman. He feels a certain kinship and admiration towards Frank, who
lives a fantastic life, in his eyes. But the guard is essentially noble
in bearing and deed, perhaps more so than anyone else in the story. He
has no special advantages, no magical items. He is perhaps closest to my
ideal of a hero. Not a new idea, I understand, but mine nonetheless.

In Avalon, there are no villains, just undeveloped characters.
Every being in Avalon is really not evil. There are beings whose
overweaning pride brings about their downfall. The Master of the Hunt is
wracked by an eternity of memories, without the balm of forgetfulness.
Other creatures are merely constrained by their own limitations, either
as a victim of another creature's actions, or as a result of their own
foolishness. Regardless, they are all heroes of some form or another.

-=-=-=-=-

So why do I drone on and on about this? Why do I so love to cite
my game as an example of art? Well, ego, for one. I like to feel that I
have created a consistant work that pushes forward the frontiers of my
medium. I could be wrong, assuredly. I attempted no new technical
achievements. I used nothing new to literature. But I feel that I have
used these things in a manner in which they had not been used before.
That, to me, is the essence of art. Looking at the world in a new way.
Looking at the world through someone else's eyes. What better way to do
so, than become that person for awhile.


I thank you for listening to my ideas, and apologize for the
longwindedness of this post. I just find the topic fascinating, that's all.
--
<~~~~~~~S~W~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~AVALON~~~~~~~DUE~XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX~~~~~~~~~~~~|~~~~~~~>
< ERT O A In the midst of the Vietnam War, one man dies, and is | ~~\ >
< V IGO F R charged with a quest from King Arthur. Live the quest! | /~\ | >
<_______T_E_____________...@uclink.berkeley.edu__|_\__/__>

Jim Newland

unread,
Oct 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/25/95
to


>1.) Define art: Well, to me, art is just something that is beautiful, or
>not. It is something that communicates an important message, or not.
>Everything that man creates (as the Greeks apparently said :) is art.

Whoa. This business about the Greeks is getting out of hand. When it's said that
the Greeks referred to everything man-made as art, it is just because of this:
that it is man-made; i.e. artificial, an artifice. This is as opposed to the
natural, where the natural is that which (duh) occurs in and by nature. Hence, a
chair is called art only inasmuch as it comes into being due to the chairmaker's
art and not by nature.

Works of "fine art" seem to exist for no other purpose beyond themselves. They
give pleasure to the soul, and that's about it. The other things that man makes
are for some purpose, as a chair is for sitting. One can say, when judging
between the maker of a three-legged chair and the maker of a two-legged chair,
that the former is a better artist, but this is to judge him as a maker of
things-to-be-sat-upon, and not as a "fine artist." On the other hand, if a chair
is both three-legged and possessed of beautiful adornments, we might say that the
maker is a "fine artist" as well, but in doing this we are judging the adornments
and not the chair simply as chair. This is because the chair-simply-as-chair
provides no aesthetic pleasure to the soul, while the adornments do (and the
adornments are not in any case any part of the "chairness" of the chair).

My purpose here, though, is not to argue for any particular doctrine of
aesthetics. It is to suggest that, if we are going to lump all the Greeks
together and talk about "their view," then it seems at least fair to say that
they, on the whole, admitted a distinction between art as artifice and art as
fine art (not to mention poetic art) and did not subscribe to the somewhat silly
notion hinted at in this newsgroup that everything man-made is a sculpture or
everything a melody or poem.


Jim Newland
76461...@compuserve.com

Carl D. Cravens

unread,
Oct 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/25/95
to
On 25 Oct 1995 11:44:27 GMT, Jim Newland <76461...@CompuServe.COM> wrote:
>things-to-be-sat-upon, and not as a "fine artist." On the other hand, if a chair
>is both three-legged and possessed of beautiful adornments, we might say that the
>maker is a "fine artist" as well, but in doing this we are judging the adornments
>and not the chair simply as chair. This is because the chair-simply-as-chair
>provides no aesthetic pleasure to the soul, while the adornments do (and the
>adornments are not in any case any part of the "chairness" of the chair).

Does it not follow that a game-simply-as-game provides no aesthetic
pleasure, but a game can be adorned to the point of being 'fine art'?

This reminds me of a discussion over on rec.games.frp.advocacy in which
the participants argued over the definition of 'fun'. "My character's
life is full of frustration and pain. His wife died yesterday and he is
in such emotional agony. The game is emotionally satisfying and highly
enjoyable, but it's not 'fun.'" One camp says 'emotionally satisfying'
== 'fun' while another camp insists that 'fun' has a distinctive quality
quite different from 'satisfying,' 'enjoyable,' or 'exciting.'

You say a highly-adorned chair is art, yet a plain chair is not. As a
craftsman, I say a simple chair is the highest form of woodworking
art... embellishments can ruin the lines and distract the eye from
'perfect form.' Sure, in some cases, a chair is a chair. But in
others, what you call a chair, I call art. The Krenov that I call art,
a fellow craftsman calls crap and a cheap ripoff of someone else's
style. Even fellow artists cannot agree on what is art and what is not.

Art is all in the mind, mood, and referential framework. Knowing
something about furniture building, I know a good, simple chair when I
see one and I consider it art, yet the average person sees nothing but a
chair because he lacks the *background* to see the art. If you know
something about IF design, you may know an elegant story when you see
it... while I may see it as nothing but a game.

I think art is purely subjective... that there is no way to 'grade' art.
What is one man's art is another man's passing fad.

--
Carl (rave...@southwind.net)
* I'm not lost, I'm "locationally challenged".

Jim Newland

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Oct 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/25/95
to

(for those who are pissed off about this being in their newsgroup, please read
the last paragraph before flaming me).


>You say a highly-adorned chair is art, yet a plain chair is not.

This is not at all what I said, and in any case I was trying to give "the Greek"
view--whatever that may be--and not my own.


>As a
>craftsman, I say a simple chair is the highest form of woodworking
>art... embellishments can ruin the lines and distract the eye from
>'perfect form.' Sure, in some cases, a chair is a chair. But in
>others, what you call a chair, I call art. The Krenov that I call art,
>a fellow craftsman calls crap and a cheap ripoff of someone else's
>style. Even fellow artists cannot agree on what is art and what is not.

I can't see what your gripe is. You agree essentially with the Greeks that there
is a thing called the "chairmaking art," and that the chair which is most
fittingly made to suit its purpose of being sat upon is called a better work of
art than that which is not. Further, you admit that the embellishments are no
part of its "chairness" and may even detract from its ultimate purpose of being
sat upon if they, for example, weaken the legs. This is nothing different than I
was saying. Where you seem to part ways with the Greeks, though, is in thinking
that your admiration of a well-designed and well-made chair is the same as the
joy or catharsis or whatever you experience in a painting or in music. Your
admiration of the chair stems from your judgment that it is most fittingly made
to be sat upon. The joy you experience in a painting arises only out of the
imititation of nature depicted therein, although there may be, admittedly, a
similar admiration for the technique and so on as in the case of the chair. In
this case, though, just like with the chair, your admiration comes from a
judgment you are making about the painter's craft, and is not the same as the
pleasure you feel upon simply gazing at the picture.

>Art is all in the mind, mood, and referential framework. Knowing
>something about furniture building, I know a good, simple chair when I
>see one and I consider it art, yet the average person sees nothing but a
>chair because he lacks the *background* to see the art. If you know
>something about IF design, you may know an elegant story when you see
>it... while I may see it as nothing but a game.
>
>I think art is purely subjective... that there is no way to 'grade' art.
>What is one man's art is another man's passing fad.

If you refuse to draw distinctions between kinds of art as the Greeks did, then
you are left with this position. Art becomes simply everything which is man-made
with no subdivisions admitted according to species of art. On this understanding,
it is very true that only the chairmaker can enjoy the chair and the painter the
painting, since only they know their craft. But you will need to explain, then,
why it is that so many non-painters claim to enjoy gazing at paintings and why so
many people who have never studied music go to concerts.

Anyhow, this is the last I'm going to say about the matter, since it's really
outside the scope of this newsgroup. My only intention in posting the original
message at all was to try to defend my friends the Greeks against the heinous
slander <g> being hurled their way. I wasn't necessarily giving my own views on
the subject.

Jim Newland
76461...@compuserve.com

Matthew Amster

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Oct 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/25/95
to
On 23 Oct 1995 20:28:38 GMT,
Jon Drukman <j...@cyborganic.com> wrote:

>when a game spits out a lot of paragraphs without spacing between them, i
>agree, it stinks. the infocoms were usually short and to the point,
>however, and rarely output more than one paragraph at a time. i think the
>verbosity of recent games is actually a strike against them. "brevity is
>the soul of wit" and all that.

It can go either way. If a game is poorly written, more writing is clearly
detrimental. But in Legend, for example, the world needed to be visceral
and consistent to get the story across. The thick description helped this
goal.

Yes, it's a different feel than Scott Adams, but it's also quite satisfying
to get a page of description about a location you've been trying to get to
for half the game.

>if that's true, it's unfortunate. i really like those short,
>less-than-24-line openings. guess i'm just a traditionalist.

Some of them work perfectly: Trinity, Wishbringer, Change in the Weather.
But in Wishbringer, the first few moves after the intro serve the same
purpose as the introductory text in Legend. It's not a paradigm shift,
just a different way of setting a game up. Had Wishbringer begun outside
the locked post office following a description of your altercation with Mr.
Crisp, it's unlikely the game would have played any worse.

How about a compromise? Thick description to set the scene in the first
location of a game section, then more modest text globs for the rest of the
scene? This sits well with my tastes. I admit, having to read two pages
for every location would be ridiculous. But I've never seen a game like
that, and most of those I've played have erred on the side of too little
description.

Matthew


Neil Demause

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Oct 26, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/26/95
to

[REALLY, REALLY ATROCIOUS PUN WARNING]

Ah, it's all Greek to me.

Jeffrey Taylor

unread,
Oct 27, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/27/95