Syllabus ideas

Few hours late, but here are my suggestions. I tried to focus on types of media that only came in to prominence through the internet. That being said, my selections are an interactive hypertext story, a self-published webcomic, and a homebrew flash game.

Howling Dogs by Porpentine- A mysterious work of interactive fiction.

You quickly find yourself reading some pretty twisted scenarios. You’re in some kind of cell where you must eat and drink and then enter virtual reality simulations. Once the simulation is over, you go to sleep and do the same thing when you wake up. It doesn’t really have a plot. Instead, the reader is presented with several virtual reality sessions that constitute the meat of the story.

What really makes this piece of interactive fiction for me is the style. It eschews classic notions of narrative and instead immediately plunges the reader into a dark and unexplained world. This is a very well-constructed hypertext story. The pacing is spot on and the scenarios had me thinking about them long after I finished reading. It’s fairly linear, but it’s gripping. A great example of a relatively young form of fiction.

NOTE: I’d advise the squeamish to steer away from the blog of the author. The link on the left of the page (the one that says Porpentine) will take you there. It’s totally fascinating, but absolutely not work safe. Like, really really not work safe.

Forming by Jesse Moynihan- A webcomic.

The creator is a storyboard artist for the cult children’s cartoon Adventure Time. That will be apparent to anyone familiar with the show. The plot deals with ancient aliens, gods, and other worlds. It uses mythology we are all familiar with (the story of Atlantis, the bible, Ys, to name a few) and weaves it into a tale of high fantasy and sci-fi. It’s pretty grand in scope but retains a sense of humor that keeps it from becoming too self-indulgent. The art is a few steps above high school notebook doodles, but the otherworldliness and psychedelic color scheme are reminiscent (to me at least) of the french comic artist Moebius. Even if not stunning in its virtuosity, the art is consistent and the plot and characters are charming. It doesn’t necessarily challenge or innovate the form, but it retains a high level of quality throughout. Forming is a great example of using new media to tell a story and tell it well.

Dys4ia by Anna Anthropy- A flash game. Sorry that I’m sending you guys to newgrounds…

My neighbor recommended this when I told him about this assignment and my only other idea was to post a link to the library of congress’ digital collection so I’m gonna go with Dys4ia.

Dys4ia is the story of one person’s struggle with identity as she goes through hormone therapy. The gameplay is simple; it is a series of mini-games reminiscent of something you’d see on an Atari 2600. Each mini-game, however, works as a metaphorical representation of the challenges being faced by the author during her therapy. What I find most interesting about Dys4ia is its utilization of the video game medium to create an autobiographical memoir. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.

There’s not much content; I think it can be played through in about 7 minutes, but the implications are what my academic mind finds most interesting. The author (auntie pixelante) really challenges the notion of what one can articulate through a video game.

-William Oliver


~ by wro1 on January 12, 2013.

7 Responses to “Syllabus ideas”

  1. William,

    I really enjoyed “playing” with dys4ia. I was completely unaware that anything like this existed, so thank you for bringing it to my attention. I appreciate the fact that it was a “game” with minimal directions and moments where we had to “fail,” showing us the difficulties of those who are transgendered. It really did tell a story about a girl who was consistently mistaken for a man, despite wanting nothing else but to be able to take hormone pills and feel normal and secure with her girlfriend and the public. The fact that it had the appearance of such “old school” video gaming also added another layer: it speaks to the idea that this experience has been going on for a long time (and is such a basic, and henceforth normal, experience), despite the fact that it is still so taboo. Using this gaming system, I think it made remember a lot more about her story because it was so interactive: I remember how she finally had no more hair on her breasts but still had to shave her mustache…because I had to shave her mustache. There are a lot of subtle yet meaningful nuances in this story as well. For example, when we had to shave her chest, it would bump you and not allow you to shave her breasts; this says to us about how difficult it would be (and perhaps painful) to have to shave your chest if you had breasts.

    Altogether, I think this is an excellent example of the capabilities of digital storytelling. Great find.


  2. Kelsey made a lot of really interesting points about dys4ia that I agree with. I really loved the setup of the game and how it seemed, as she said, “old school.” It’s awesome how she was able to preserve her experience and present it in the form of a game as a truly unique type of digital storytelling. There aren’t any games I know of out there that are anything like this, so I truly believe it’d be a great addition to our syllabus this semester.

  3. Along with what Kelsey said, I also enjoyed playing dys4ia. I can not recall many virtual games that’s sole purpose is to tell a story about struggling with identity within the heteronormative patriarch. It is quite an outlet for empathizing with the creator of this game. Because one literally has to play the game through the lens of this characters, and this allows for the connection between player and creator even if the gender struggle is not the same situation for both.

  4. I really enjoyed the “Howling Dogs” interactive fictional piece. I found that it kept my attention in many of the same ways Raw Shark does, and I continually tried to “figure it out” which challenged some of my ideas of how we relate to stories. It was a neat experience and I think it would be great to pursue further.

  5. I also can’t say enough about the Dys4ia game – I agree with all the points made and I don’t have anything further to add. I think that it’s a most interesting way to view storytelling from a very personal place. I could learn a lot about combining the art of personal storytelling and using interactive digital media. I’d love to see more things like this and I think the discussion that could result from looking into this game more would be extremely helpful.

  6. For some reason I am really impressed with the “howling dogs” story. I really enjoy the sleek aesthetics and am very drawn into its maze-like qualities. I’m not sure that it would provide enough heft for our syllabus, but I like this representation of digital storytelling – simple, sleek, interactive, but still very closely resembling a traditional story as we might picture it.

  7. Howling Dogs was a really interesting experience for me. I’m not very experienced with text based games so it struck me as quiet novel. I liked how the author used the white on black text and sparse prose to create a feeling of sensory deprivation and containment, which incentive’s the reader to flee repeatedly into the activity room and its more vivid stimulation. The story does an excellent job of controlling the reader, locking a behavioral loop while offering more exploratory choices than a conventional printed book. All the while underlining the irony that the reader is only in this ‘prison’ because they choose to visit and remain on the web page. I think we could have a very interesting discussion on this text based game, possibly contrasting it with linear print literature and graphical video games.

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