Mass Updates

Hey everyone, check through some previous posts and look for edits that have been made. They should be easy to spot, but if not I’ll give you a quick list.

Beauty and the Beast, 39 Clues, 5 Photo Repost, and Interactive Fiction.

Most of what has been added are author’s statements.

Critical Review: Digital DnD over Roll20

The website Roll20 has revolutionized the possibilities available to lovers of tabletop RPGs. The stories you used to be forced to wait months on end to experience when you could finally get a group together can now be scheduled conveniently on the web for everyone to meet in the “Game” lobby.
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The site uses a chat code based roll system, as well as interactive character sheets that you can do all the rolls from just by clicking the statistic. There’s even a macro system that lets you pre-build out your rolls so you don’t have to factor in every single variable every time you use a move. 2017-05-13 (9)
Not only does the site offer everything a game master or player could need to play a basic game all online for free, it has a full suite of drag and drop character art, level and map designs,2017-05-13 (13) traps, monsters, and there’s even a premium version with even more features. There are even extensive looking for player lists that help players without a group find a game master willing to add them to their group.2017-05-13 (11)

The site uses all the affordances of the digital medium and works as a celebration of collaborative storytelling. As time has gone on and its name has gotten out there the site has gotten even more fluid, allowing basically anybody to play full Dungeons and Dragons 5e without constantly needing to refer to their handbook or notes. Everything the player needs is available or can easily be made, going as deep as Macros for specific commands. It is a massive sandbox that requires a proper game master to make the most out of. In truth though it is an excellent proving ground for testing your gamemastering skills. And since all of the statistics from dice rolls are saved you can avoid arguments with ornery players who are salty about their poor rolls.2017-05-13 (8)

Games played over Roll20 could certainly be argued to somewhat cheapen the classic personal experience of playing Dungeons and Dragons with your group of friends. At the same time however, thanks to the the platform affordances of the internet, Roll20 brings the tabletop to everyone at a computer, and on mobile if you have premium, now when somebody leaves town but has some time we can still play in a game despite the massive collaborative effort that it takes to get a whole group of people scheduled for such time consuming leisure. Now instead of being forced to meet in real life you can play Dungeons and Dragons from anywhere.

Project: Author’s Statement

I definitely depended a lot on serial structure. As Alexander brings up, McCloud’s definition of “sequential art” is quite powerful and useful especially when it allows you to manage to juxtapose still images with moving video game footage thanks to the power of closure to keep the narrative thread consistent. Personal presence played a big role not only in the piece itself with the main character’s reactions arguably being the best part of the finished product, but also in the archetypal nature of the story itself that I was aiming for. I wanted to make it feel like something people who’ve had experiences online like this could project themselves onto the way I did. The social framework was taken into account in planning out the messages as a big part of the narrative, and this presented a challenge in capturing the messages themselves that was worth attempting to overcome. It also became intensely relevant when I realized I had no actors to assist me in capturing the right game footage. So having a group of friends over xbox live that I could ask for help proved to be huge in getting the project finished. As for multiple proscenia I think that this is the type of story that’s meant to pop up in the back of your head when something happens to you like what happened to the main character. If you get trolled, instead of getting mad and sacrificing your life to something that doesn’t even matter, just move on and don’t stress about it. Or report the guy. The affordances were the issue that made me switch my project up at the last minute because I realized the value of having the template drawings instead of having to struggle with trying to get the exact right footage I needed for what needed to be clear and quickly digested moments. I was lucky enough that Microsoft rolled out their new Upload studio just in time for me to capture game clips of my favorite game, For Honor. If I didn’t have that power I don’t know what I would have done for me final, but it wouldn’t have been as narratively cohesive at all because I would have had to spend twice the time learning how to make my screen caps look good and desperately try to act out the scenes I needed in more complex games like League of Legends.

If you get trolled online, don’t become the troll because you will still lose in the end no matter how much you get people that wronged you back. There’s an alternate universe where my main character just turned the xbox off and got on with his life. Or even just blocked that fellow who was mean to him and kept on playing. People will always be unnecessarily mean as long as there is anonymity so don’t let yourself get too hurt by people who are just out to hurt you.

“The Big Lez Show” created by Jarrad Wright is a comical cartoon housed on youtube that was done entirely in microsoft paint. “Really it was me and Izak being mates in school in class and shit. And obviously we’d get bored, nothing to do there, so we started drawing characters, making fictional characters, making stories, and making comics with textas and pens, and then it became a hobby and opened up another universe with all this shit happening with all these characters we built up.” (Jarrad Wright) The show is cult famous for its raunchy depiction of the more brutal side of Australian humor. My piece was absolutely inspired by my experience watching “The Big Lez Show” because of how impossibly funny the show is without using traditional methods of representation that are clean and easily palatable. It’s different in that it’s all done in paint and there’s no gameplay or real footage used. It’s so incredibly rough as a product but the narrative as well as the aesthetic cohesion blows mine out of the water, I wish I could be as consistent as they are with their drawings it must have taken ages. I think it was a good source of inspiration for me to try something new and make something out of drawing on a piece of software and I think that doing so in a new way that combines game footage the way I did is just another step forward for DIY media makers. (only playable on mobile or through the android or IOS app store)
“Polyfauna” is a soundscape adventure app that was released during promotion for Radiohead’s album The King of Limbs. It featured ambient music and the only gameplay is spawning different visuals to your touch while you sort of half chase a small red light. “It comes from an interest in early computer-life experiments and the imagined creatures of our subconscious,” says Thom Yorke of Radiohead. It’s hard to find similarities with this application in relation to my project but I do see one in the sketchy and organic nature of the visual art used in the app. Radiohead’s style is something I’ve coveted for years and wish I could accurately imitate. This app is certainly different from my project in its lack of a traditional sequential narrative. It relies much more on a knowledge of Radiohead’s apocalyptic subject matter as well as an open mind willing to dive into the app as more of a meditative experience than a traditional story. I do feel that if nothing else it certainly has unified themes such as desolation and seeing the “leftovers” from the destruction of humanity. I think attempting to aim for the underplayed strength of these sorts of thematic narratives is actually one of the things that made my project worthwhile. It’s pretty dystopian when you can’t get on a video game for longer than a minute or two without being told you kill yourself. As outlandish as my project was, that’s something that goes on ever single day.
This was the original project by now booming media company Rooster Teeth and it was intensely successful. It was right in the sweet spot of coming out after Halo where people were hugely into the game and were also desperate for more content because this was before the explosion of youtube and widespread easy to produce machinima. “Not only did RvB survive, the show flourished in a world where viral video didn’t yet exist. Within a year, RvB had a dedicated following in the six-digit range and today, parent company Rooster Teeth is a hive of animation production that works on five different shows simultaneously” (Pete Dreyer) It uses game footage to create a narrative so in that we are similar. However Red vs. Blue features voice acting and a music score as well as only taking place in the Halo games, while my project bounced back and forth between drawings and gameplay. Red vs. Blue was also made episodically and has a more cohesive narrative arc thanks to its strong characters. I hope my project can be one more in the pile for those who’ve spent a lot of time online that don’t want to see other people make the mistake of getting too emotionally invested in stuff that, at the end of the day, is just a game.

At the end of Chapter one in Murray where he discusses how we as designers of “interactive artifacts…are engaged in a collective task of inventing a new medium of representation. We cannot be satisfied with just reproducing older information forms in digital form, settling for mere remediation….We have to think more radically. But we cannot redesign the world with every object we make. We have to accept the creative boundary of the project at hand,” (Murray 45). This was my feeling from the start of the project because I knew in my gut I wanted to do something that I hadn’t seen before.

In Hickey’s “How Data Can Help You Write a Better Screenplay” even though it was a bit of side note in the article I took it to heart when he brought up the black list and how “(First time screenwriters) write a deeply personal, pseudo-autobiographical screenplay about nothing in particular. “Everybody basically writes that script at first,” Hagen said. “You have to get it out of your system.” Or they swing for the fences and go in the opposite direction, thinking, “I’m going to write a $200 million science fiction movie,” and plan an entire universe and mythology. Those scripts, Hagen said, tend to fail for entirely different reasons.” This was frighteningly accurate to my own screenwriting history and so I really felt I needed to do something different narratively and in the themes with this project that I hadn’t approached before.

Final Project: Heroes (IF)



Author’s Statement:

My piece turned out the way it did – mainly, a little smaller than I had intended, and without pictures – due to time constraints and the fact that I had never worked with Twine before this semester.  I feel, however, that I learned a lot from the process.  I learned just the very basics of how code can be an integral part of storytelling in its own, logical language.  My interactive fiction includes Personal Presence (through the voices of the characters) and the natural Platform Affordance of the IF form (multiple paths and playthroughs).  I am really proud of what I did come up with and definitely want to continue using Twine in the future.  I am hoping that players will be drawn into the story through the tone, and be able to put themselves into the shoes of the young writer in the story.

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Here is what my story looked like earlier in the process…


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…and here is how it ended up looking!
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A screenshot of the page with the most code.  I can do a tiny bit of coding!

My story is similar in several ways to Depression Quest, not only because both discuss said depression but because they delve into the thought processes of those affected by it.  Depression Quest is a free IF created by Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey, and Isaac Schankler.  It was created to bring to life the lifeless reality of depression, in order to educate players and other sufferers know that they aren’t alone.  The game has very positive reviews on their website, though their audience is fairly small;  I believe that this is the kind of small project that has loyal players and ripple effects (like Night in the Woods! :D)

Both stories aim to illustrate a believable range of emotions that one experiences in these types of situations.  Mine is different because it includes a fantasy element that draws the reader in and then drops them into the “real world” from which these fantasy characters were birthed.  

My game also bears a resemblance to A Dark Room, a text-based RPG (available both online and as an app) that immerses players into a dark and fantastical post-apocalyptic world.  Both stories are words-only and include fight scenes and choices which affect the story.  With ADR, it’s more about what kinds of supplies you can scavenge.  My story is more internal.  I believe that Heroes could be a little more fiction heavy – maybe delving back into it – but I like starting with Lady Yusha and misleading the player for a bit.  I think it packs more of an emotional punch.

In relation to both of these games, I think my piece adds to the broader public a blending of fantasy and reality that may not be explored as often in interactive fiction.  The game was received well critically, but like Depression Quest is a very niche game (for very different reasons though!).

This video is about another POV…that of someone suffering from schizophrenia.  You experience the whispering, taunting, and wailing hallucinations that schizophrenics have to deal with.  It is a very disturbing video.  I don’t think it’s widely known, but it’s very well done and has been well-received by the youtube community (not always an easy task).  Again, my game and this video are similar because they both attempt to put the viewer/player into a certain person’s mindset.  They are different of course because of the subject matter but also the form; videos are more visceral and engaging.  Though you don’t control anything, the first-person view makes it seem like a game.  It is much easier to put yourself in this person’s shoes, especially when wearing headphones.  I think that my game adds to the broader public because it shows that someone who is not necessarily “crazy” can have illogical or looping thoughts, and that maybe the line between “normal” and “mentally-ill” is blurrier than we’d like to believe.

Two texts we have read this semester that relate to this piece:

In games designed to cause the player to put together stories, such as Sleep is Death, Facade, or Dear Esther, there is a system there, an algorithm — and then there is the statistical variation that is fed into it. And that statistical variation, the content, is actually little symbols and narrative moments, ones that are often impressionistic or disconnected. The “problem” the player faces is that of arranging them into a coherent whole.

The fact that symbols and moments and memories are profoundly intangible things does not mean that they can’t be manipulated in this way; fiction does so readily, as we have seen. From a mechanical point of view, though, they have much in common with the particular hand of cards you have been dealt, or the set of Scrabble tiles on your rack. You end your interaction with the system by making sense of them, which is different from finding a word in the tiles only by a matter of degree. Dear Esther‘s mechanics could be replicated with a different setting and group of symbols — to radically different emotional effect. When analyzed by the game grammar, we’d find two very different experiences to be the same game

This article is talking about how code/logic type languages still have to be complex in character-driven stories – there is still a lot of structure that goes into them, it’s just more invisible.

Even more numbers – This one is more concerned with the balance and performance of genre.  My piece has some parts that would be considered not-serious, and some might think the tone is wrong for the subject matter.  I believe that a good story is able to balance light and dark – thus (as someone once said of Avatar: The Last Airbender) making the funny moments funnier and the intense moments more so.

Both of these tie data with story, which I think is a pretty great liberal arts connection 😉

Interactive Fiction Waves

Here is my first Twine game!

And here is that terribly-formatted outline that I copied out of my sketchbook!

Author’s Statement below:


My goal was to have the player do some self-reflection by playing this purposefully undefined-but-clearly-anxious character.  I wanted the world to be representative of the anxiety rabbit holes and thought loops that often occur.  I tried to use a points system to vaguely convey what might be good or bad thought processes.  I wanted the character events to evoke similar memories in the players’ own lives.  In the interest of time, I made the cave a lot smaller than I had originally planned.  I think that the memes enhance the story by adding unexpected humor and also a networked aspect, as none of them were created by me.  Were I to add to this piece, I would want more flashbacks from the main character.

Playtester feedback:

  • Game is about overthinking memories and trying to move on, and not second-guessing oneself
  • I like the memes – they relate to what the text is saying
  • The game made me think of memories and how I perceive them, and how I feel when I’m lost or scared — but it showed that there is always a way out of a bad situation

UPDATED Critical Review: Idubbbztv Content Cop: Tana Mongeau

This video makes a digital story out of this clashing of vastly different types of creators who, without their YouTube personas, would likely have never met out in the world. It utilizes Idubbbztv’s Youtube channel “Content Cop’, a series focused on critiquing other YouTubers channels, in order to respond to personal attacks made on Idubbbz by fellow YouTuber Tana Mongeau. 2017-05-13 The audience are the fans of both YouTubers who had been following the drama as Tana engaged in it and were eagerly waiting for Idubbbz response. Tana picked the fight in response to Idubbbz copious use of the N-word, branding him a racist and going as far as to wish both personal injury on him and the loss of all his YouTube subscribers. Idubbbz builds sympathy for his case as he often does by comparing the value of the YouTuber’s content and production style he is critiquing with his own meticulous work and the product being his well liked videos. To do this he cuts in several clips edited from Tana’s own videos usually in order to paint her as a hypocrite or just to demonstrate how inane much of her content is. He also keeps up the trend from his other videos of editing over scenes from Pokémon, here in order to call Tana a hypocritical exaggerator in order to drive home the point he’s presented about her content relying on her natural choice to embellish “true” stories that happen to her. 2017-05-13 (3) The grounding point in his argument comes when Idubbbz establishes his philosophical stance of “Either all of its okay, or none of its okay” 2017-05-13 (4) in reference to Tana’s open use of other slurs like “f**got” in the very vlogs where she’s demonizing him for using the N-Word. Idubbbz further exemplifies the hypocrisy in a uniquely digitally networked way by finding her old videos that feature her own vitriolic use of the N-word 2017-05-13 (6) Interspersed throughout the video is footage of Idubbbz trip to a Tana Mongeau concert where in response to her attacks he trolled her by taking a picture with her only to tell her to “Say N####r!” instead of say cheese. He then cuts back and forth between her reaction video and the actual footage of the event in an effort to drive home her tendency to exaggerate. Idubbbz critical and analytical approach to dismantling and discrediting all of Tana’s arguments definitely satisfied his target audience and did so because it followed through on the promised premise of his Content Cop videos. The series is about critiquing and offering unsolicited advice to YouTube channels that he sees as gimmicky or just out to get views not to make real content. Even Tana’s fans I think will have to give Idubbbz credit for really highlighting her hypocrisy and foolishness in choosing to attack him over something she herself could be called even more guilty of. 


Fail Badge

I tried making my first critical review over Idubbbz’s Tana Mongeau video without really understanding the idea of digital stories being specific to those types of narratives that make special use of the platform affordances of digital media, so I didn’t properly explain in my review why I thought this video fit into the niche of digital story. I also went too deep into the description of the content of the video without realizing I was supposed to be analyzing what made it a story that’s engaging to its audience or why I thought it was an effective use of the YouTube platform. My review of the Idubbbztv episode over Tana Mongeau I think could be expanded to explain the use of YouTube as a community platform and the existence of the video itself as being a reflection of that community aspect, since it was the result of two media figures on YouTube who were only engaging each other because they found each others’ YouTube channels questionable. I also didn’t use any additional media or pictures so in general it was just a very weak review that I think I can improve on now and attempt to submit again now that I’ve got a better grasp on the theory behind digital stories.

Author’s statement: Digital Story

This project has been in the back of my mind for a long time, because ever since I started browsing pages centered around the culture of Vaporwave I’ve thought of it as one of the most cohesive new genres to come out of the rapid content creation age of internet exploration we live in. It just so happened that the format of the digital story worked beautifully with the plethora of evocative images I pulled from peoples posts about Vaporwave over the years. The first time I was shown the main page on Facebook, Vaporwave Sadposting, I was so overwhelmed by the level of identification I felt with the art and the emotions conveyed from the artists who edited the images that I couldn’t help thinking of the collective themes of nostalgia and depression and drug use all mirroring the struggles I saw my generation plagued with. Vaporwave really captures an essence that is inherently fleeting because of the nature of depressive addicts obsessed with the past. It can be a page full of enablers that glorifies suicide if you look at it from the right angle, but it also serves as a landmark that says hey, we feel lost in all this constant digital beauty too and we make the darkest parts of it look really beautiful just by trusting in aesthetics and an openness to new subject matter. In some ways I see it as a divergence from the pop culture my generation was spoon fed growing up that can’t escape its consumerist origins so instead it turns that rampant accessibility back at itself to make a powerful counter culture. I love Vaporwave and I think it has a lot of dangerous sides to it, so I wanted to show somebody who was particularly vulnerable to such an overload of beauty and see where he would go with it.

Digital Story

Here’s a link to my digital story exercise! (Sorry about the audio it’s pretty even though so it shouldn’t blast your speakers if you turn them way up to hear it properly)

Exercise: Guild Wars 2 Critical Review

Guild Wars 2 is a fantasy MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) which attempts to immerse the player in its world (intentional wording).  One of the most appealing aspects of the game was the fact that players could pay once and then get access to the full core game, without the usual subscription fees that come with most popular MMOs.  As of August 2015, the game became free to play.

Here is some playthrough of GW2.

The game’s greatest strength is its breathtaking visuals.  GW2’s style is that of watercolors, and the actual characters and environment are beautiful and more realistically rendered than other MMOs.  The sheer scope of it all is astounding.

Players, upon selecting their race and character storyline (these overlap; basically the race is the main story tree and then there are branches within each race) are dropped into the world and get to set out and explore.  My first character was a sylvari, so I entered the world and saw the lush, colorful forests and characters (literally – sylvari are basically rainbow plant elves).

Interacting with other players is an integral part of the game when it comes to strong enemies.  Your movement is not restricted by experience, so you can venture into higher-level territory if you dare and see what happens.  Any armor you find there may not be wearable by your character though.  Conversely, once you reach higher levels, you are “leveled-down” when you return to easier zones, though you retain your badass skillset and equipment.  

Having devoted an unhealthy amount of time to this game, I am very affectionate towards it.  However, it was not my first MMO.  I played a Worgen in World of Warcraft up to the level 20 cap – and to this day, miss my character and storyline.  Were GW2 suddenly to stop working and I unable access it ever again, I’m not sure the feeling would be quite the same.


I’m a little Guild Wars’d out.


To be fair, I have a level 80 main and a level 40-something(?) secondary character (with some help from level-boosters but not that much for my main).  Perhaps I would also get tired of WoW if I’d devoted the same amount of time on it.

I truly want to continue playing the game.  Not only because I bought it before it was free to play (lol) but because of the aforementioned positive things.  And tbh, one of my big motivators while I was super-into the game was getting access to better and cooler armour.  The other was the fact that I would try and play as my character would.  She is a guardian, and I decided that she tries her best not to kill animals if she can help it.  So when she is trekking through dangerous territory and a velociraptor-type creature starts clawing at her, she has to run away until she escapes its zone.  Kinda lame I guess lol but creating and maintaining a character really helped me stay in the game, especially when it came to making decisions in the main story.

WoW is the most popular MMO for a reason.  Players may be attracted to a game by the graphics, but they stay for the story.  Story-wise, Guild Wars 2 is lacking, even painfully generic at times.  You basically wander the world in search of quests.  Some of these quests are more interesting than others, but they’re all a bit formulaic.

This is a well-explored problem with GW2.  People have talked about it in many different places.

Another thing that I should keep in mind, although I don’t think this should be a necessary part of retaining interest, is a little embarrassing.


…I have yet to join a guild.


I could say I was waiting for the right one to come along, or that I was collecting invites so that I could compare them later, but the bigger truth is that I’m scared.

I haven’t really played a lot of games with people, and I don’t consider myself to be a particularly proficient player either.  I understand it’s a big aspect of the game, and I’m sorry that I can’t properly review it for y’all.

Of what I have experienced, I can say that there is definitely a community.  It’s kind of a vague, disorganized, occasionally hostile one, but I feel like that’s common in gaming.  I have often responded to or put out calls for assistance in a battle, and other people come to help.  When someone is dying or has died in battle, you can see them in your immediate map and come heal them.  This saves the healed money and time, and gives the healer some experience points.

As with many groups, the digital network is most evident in forums, like the official one or ones on reddit.  Here, people can posit queries from specific story puzzles to issues “getting into” the game.  
Guild Wars 2 is, overall, a really cool game that deserves a chance if you like character-building, fantasy, and beautiful graphics. 🙂