Another convention has been moved online, it starts tomorrow and keeps going until next week so check it out and see if there’s anything that grabs your attention. I was actually going to post this a few weeks ago, but a convention ended up happening in between then and now, and having all of that up at once, felt like it would be getting things in the way of each other. Anyway, the rest of this post was written way back when I was originally going to post it. So heads up if it doesn’t make any sense, that’s why!
The convention is NarraScope and as I have said it is geared towards people wanting to write games and interactive fiction. It starts on Thursday the 28th of May and continues on over the weekend to Thursday the 4th. The schedule page has a handy thing that gives you the chance to set it to your time zone, which will be really handy for anyone wanting to figure out when things are on.
For me and others in the UK, it seems to be mostly in the evenings, starting at five-ish and going on towards midnight. Some nights it goes all the way up until today becomes tomorrow, but it isn’t that long every night. But there is a good solid number of hours to pick and choose from, if you have the time I am sure that it would be a fantastic way to spend it, but if not it might be a good idea to read through my notes below and figure out a reduced schedule. Otherwise, you might be dedicating five or so hours every night for a week to this convention and that might be a bit much for anyone.
- The first Thursday is filled with plenty of workshops and seminars that you can sign up to, the workshops have been capped at 50 people each so I don’t know if any of them are still open to the curious who want to go along. It might be too late, so bad luck folks. I haven’t signed up to any of the workshops, but the seminars are really interesting sounding and I definitely intend to tune in to them. There is also a meeting where the folks operating the convention will be talking about what they have gotten up to. While obviously, this will be interesting for anyone wanting to find out about the convention, I must admit I am curious to find out what they learned in suddenly transforming the convention to adapt to the new world.
- Friday is the real start to the convention, however, with a keynote address and opening remarks. Then they get stuck into the really interesting stuff. The first lectures, or maybe seminars, I’m not entirely sure what the difference is, but the first ones up are about making “Beast Races” and how to navigate writing People of Colour in your games. These two lectures sound really interesting and as someone who is always trying to grow and improve as a writer that seems like a pretty good way to start things off. Ultimately, I know I am not the best at these subjects and I would really like to learn more and, well learn not to be the kind of writer people warn you about, like, oh the fight scenes are good, but yikes the representation is terrible. I hope I’m not like that, but it seems like a good idea to put extra work into making sure. The next section is a bit more varied and harder to sum up in a line or two, there are three lectures of ten minutes each, one about queer romance in games, one about gamifying The Portrait of Dorian Gray, and one about how to use space and setting to control the story and vice versa. All of these sound really good too, I am particularly interested in that first one because I have always wanted to write a game with complicated relationship mechanics, but I haven’t the faintest idea where to start so that will be a useful one for me. After that things are a bit more technical with an hour-long lecture on the tricks behind teaching programming through interactive fiction. That sounds like it might be a bit beyond me, to be quite honest. After that, there’s a lecture on improvisation and structure in narrative games, which I will probably log in for because I am always delighted to hear more about structure. I think I know about it right up until someone else starts talking about it, then I end up writing my notes as quickly as I can. Fingers crossed I will remember to have a notebook and pen handy, or else who knows what I’ll end up doing.
- Saturday starts off with an analysis of a series of anthologies done by the writers themselves. This will probably be more useful to people who have read the books, but I always think it is interesting to hear about what creators would do differently after they’ve finished a project. You can learn a lot from those sorts of analyses. After this there is an hour with a couple more lectures, one is more a discussion about how to talk to sceptics about the genre, and then a more straightforward talk about writing and designing text-based horror games about mental illness. This is another one that is probably a good one to listen to for the sake of clearing out some bad old habits and learning some new better ones. After that are some short, ten minute talks about first the moral ambiguity in the game, SOMA, and then afterwards a talk on how to build a good resume for the industry. Then it’s a double bill of lectures on different kinds of mystery game. And then finishing off the night is a round table between educators and students looking at how to improve the ways people are educated to step into this industry.
- Sunday begins with a discussion of the first interactive fiction, Will Crowther’s, Colossal Cave Adventure. After that is a lecture about writing narrative with a view to it being done as a voice over at some point, then afterwards it’s a talk about characterisation and automata, which sounds very interesting for me as I am a big fan of including weird robots in my stories. Then the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation who run the convention take the floor for an hour and will be explaining what they have been getting up to and what they think they will be doing in the future. Then there is a lecture about ways to use film techniques to design and write games, and then after that a discussion of the different structural types used in games and how you can adapt them for your own work.
- Monday has a lot of stuff that promises to make your brain work. It starts off with a talk about a series of games that reflect the life of the designer who recently when through transition and how those changes have changed the way the designer creates games. Then there is a talk about the use of analytics in games and how this can be used to assess the players enjoyment of the game, then there is a talk about an exhibition which used wearable sensors to measure the effects of gun violence. That one might be a bit much for some people and I would remind you all to think carefully before making the decision to watch, I don’t want anyone being hurt by it. Then a second lecture on a tough subject, this time written with the help of a human right’s organisation in Kyrgyzstan on the topic of “bride kidnappings” and so, again, be careful with that. Then there is a discussion about a game which mimics anxiety in relationships, before a talk about the historic gaming language, Zork Implementation Language (ZIL). And then to finish off the night is a talk about what not to do if you do not want to be chased by lawyers who are angry about your game, surely an important item on everyone’s wish list for educational topics.
- Tuesday has a series of lectures about the different ways to use multi-authored worlds for games. It points out a lot of the issues and pitfalls that can occur, but it also takes care to point out how important this can be for creating larger worlds and stories over many years. Then there is a talk about storytelling through the setting and what the player can see and knows to be in their surroundings. That sounds to be a pretty great lecture, I’ll be sure to get my notebook ready for that one. After that, we get introduced to a game that promises to teach you Latin, but like, fun. And then one of the co-creators of the game Caves of Qud talks about world-building and writing for the game for ten years. In particular, how you learn to treat the past you and the game community as co-creators. Then the night finishes off with a talk about immersive theatre and how to and when to, and when not to, “cast” the audience in roles as part of the show. I’m not sure if I have explained that well, but it sounds cool.
- Then Wednesday has multiple lectures on the subject of the nitty-gritty of writing over long periods, talking bout how not to burn yourself out and how to work with story lets which appear to be a big help in working with long games. Plus just a lot of useful information on working with choice and narrative structure and how to use them effectively. It all sounds very useful, especially as the second talk is also promising to show how to sketch it out in Twine. Then there is a discussion about the game, Kentucky Route Zero, and the many topics that tie into that game. It seems to have references to all the old favourites of the Interactive Fiction genre and to raise a lot of new questions about where the genre will move on from this point in time. And the last thing for that night is a talk about lots of the various other ways that Interactive Fiction is making a splash in the world, and how to make the actions of a core group of more active players entertaining to the larger audience. This sounds like something I will definitely want to listen to as they specifically mention LARP and that is close to my heart.
- And then the final Thursday night is made up of a series of hour-long talks. The first is about a new online platform called Mote which uses text provided by multiple users to build a narrative. It sounds very complicated and I am looking forward to hearing more about it. Then there is a talk about talking, or at least, a lecture about dialogue and the different ways of using it in games and how it differs from other media. Then we get to hear about the history of Walking Simulators, how they have changed, evolved, and all the different ways they can be played and used now. And then, finally, we have the Wrap Up, which will be from the organisers and will have comments, questions, and their good byes.
So what do you think? Are you going to attend this virtual convention? I don’t know if I will try to catch every talk, but there is a lot of stuff there that I am really interested in hearing about. The convention is, once again, NarraScope and if you think that it is likely that you will go along then leave a comment. It will be fun to know there are other people out there who are watching along with me that I sort of know. If you have any connections to the convention please do leave a note as well, I have tried to give a fair description of everything but it is a long convention and I have definitely skipped things and described things poorly. If you want people to go along feel free to use the comment section to drum up some support.
Well, this was a very long post so I think I am going to go and do something else for a bit to clear my head. It really does sound like a good event, even if it did take forever to write up this summary of what is going to happen. Or maybe it is because it took so long to write this summary? Who knows.
Stay safe and see you next time,