Saturday, June 20, 2009

First go

Here is my first go at a "look and feel" prototype. Some penguin action. Not sure about shapes, but I do like the palette.

Rio's Great Wall

Article from Wall Street Journal on a wall created in Dona Marta to protect trees.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Meeting with Ethan Silverman

Today I met with one of my professors- Ethan Silverman to talk about my thesis. The meeting was helpful because after running my idea by him he made the point that the action of my interaction is exactly what I am trying to help to avoid in reality. This is a somewhat obvious point, however it made me consider a few alternatives to my game concept. One thought is to have the game utilizes alternate worlds- or realities- so while we are doing something that happens in the rainforest (for example) we could see how it is directly effecting the life of a city inhabitant. (this would help me to localize the content maybe?) Another thought is to come up with a scenario where there are portals into the past present and future so that any time you can see how current actions effect the lives of humans, animals, flora and fauna in the different times. This is a little complicated but I am going to try to write this out and make the index card prototype.

Some resources that Ethan suggested I check out include:
  • Rube Goldberg's illustrations
  • The Sims
  • Spore
  • The Boston Science Museum
  • The Manhatta project at the Museum of the City of NY
  • Eco- tourism in Costa Rica

Monday, June 15, 2009

Going to the Library

I am in the process of making a reading list but since the overall topic of land preservation is HUGE- I am going to try to break it down to what I need to research in order to have a good enough understanding of the subject to build the narrative.

specific details about the kinds of issues involved in preserving land so i can work them into the narrative
- what are the real threats?
-what kinds of environments are being threatened?
- is modernization an issue?
- is housing an issue?
- what kind of development is really happening?
- how are animals effected?

CURRICULUM: what are 8th graders learning on the topic?
- what is the current didactic materials being offered?
- what kind of in-class discussions are taking place?

REAL LIFE CASES: what is really happening?
- case studies?
- American case studies?
- statistics about virgin land in America?/ world?

PRECEDENTS: what has been done on the subject?
- animation
- games
- other

Cave of Time

I finished reading Cave of Time a few weeks ago and didn't get around to posting about it until just now. I think that I wasn't jumping to post this because I felt what Simon Cowell would call underwhelmed by the book. The book is a "choose your own adventure," "tree book", "game book" and/or "interactive narrative". The story was written in Each story is written in second person and so the reader became part of the story by dictating the choices and actions that the protagonist would make throughout the narrative. This was achieved by simple directives that followed at the bottom of a page where the character was at a crossroads- for example- if you choose to go into the cave go to page 5, if you decide to go on a horse ride to a castle go to page 11. In theory I thought that the concept was fun - but I felt that the resulting story was a little bit boring and sort of like clicking link after link in your browser following a whim. The plot lines were weak and I think the novelty of having say in the future of your reading is what added to the success of these books. I would also add that each reading of the book took 20 minutes maximum. Maybe this is what also appealed to its readers.

Although I am speakingly negatively about my experience, I do think that these are all things that are important to consider in regards to my potential audience. I need to remember that it is a game and that it needs to be fairly quick paced and to- the- point in order to be successful.
So, I do need to keep in mind:
  • TIME: keep each portion of the narrative short and decision making limited
  • PLOT: the plot doesn't need to be wildly complicated to be interesting/fun
  • INTERACTION: a choice can be as simple as deciding to go left or right
  • FUN: the novelty of the game playing interaction or core mechanic will provide a certain element of fun- not to be overlooked.
  • AUDIENCE: keep the game appropriate to the age of your reader/player

I did read that some of the other books in the series dealt with more historical fiction and/ or political type topics. I am going to try to get my hands on one of these books, however I do feel that these books are like a one liner joke in that you get what they are about within 5 minutes.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Into the Wild Green Yonder

I recently watched a video that was made directly for DVD release called Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder. The movie was great not just because it provided the typical humor and creativity that one can expect in the regular Futurama programs, but also because it dealt with the serious topic of land preservation vs development. In the animation, this was achieved by an elaborate plot dealing with the father of one of the regular Futurama character's (Amy). He is plotting to rebuild Mars Vegas into an interplanetary "mini" golf course which finishes on a rare "virgin land" planet that has some of the rarest animals and plants in the galaxy. Although I am simplifying here, the story becomes a quest of sorts for the characters to save the planet from development. What is worth noting here is that in this treatment of the subject, in order to identify the need to preserve the natural land and associated wild life- they needed to also identify the "trouble maker" or direct cause of that problem being developers. While in this particular scenario the developers were creating a needless and somewhat questionable theme park, in reality the problem is more complicated. Sometimes land clearing/ loss etc. is done to make way for more prosperous development opportunities - for example housing, eco- tourism, park or recreational land.

I think that it is important to say that this issue is not monolithic and that is why I am leaning towards making a game- not an animation- to show that there are sides to every issue. Maybe the solution to recognizing this issue is to not make a linear "narrative" with a correct course of action but maybe having different endings that would allow players to come into a potential in- class discussion with different views that would assist a dialogue.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Greens, greens nothing but greens

After doing some online research, I think that it is really important for me to state my interest in land preservation not conservation. While I do feel that both are very important and I am not opposed to either, I am interested in preservation because it addresses unique issues in human interaction with the environment. Preservation is focused on setting aside land, while conservation deals with creating a balance between industrialization and maintaining a harmony with the natural environment.

I learned that environmentalists are divided into three groups: dark greens, light greens and bright greens- which seems to basically distinguish levels of intensity in terms of activism.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Science, Art and Me

So it's been a few days since my last post and I feel good about the fact that I am not totally walking away from an idea. I don't care that it is not 100 % finalized, but I do like the fact that I have a concept: I want to create a narrative game based on Rube Goldberg mechanics that is built to raise awareness of a social issue. More and more I am liking the idea of virgin land. Today I read a great article in the Times about the man who re-creates human life forms - he is a paleo artist. He does all of the work for the Museum of Natural History. I am not sure if this relates at all to my thesis other than the fact that the work he creates is truly the intersection of what art can do for science. I want my project to be able to communicate an emerging scientific issue, show how human interaction created this problem, and show the results of the problem. I don't think that I want the problem to be solved in a game scenario because in reality- this is a problem that doesn't have a solution. What I can provide however, is a new awareness about this issue through game play. Audience? I need to research that.

On a sidenote I just started working at Sesame Workshop. The environment is truly amazing. I am working in the international division and am specifically focused on creating interactive and sometimes mobile educational material and content for english language programs in Asia. I could not be more excited. So far I just designed a teachers resource packet and collateral material (including an Elmo paper puppet that you put together with popsicle sticks!). The team that I am working with is very into making quick and dirty prototypes of things which I think is really good for me to see. It is comforting to know that you can just get an idea out there sometimes without being really judged. BUT... at the same time I do feel like when I create a dirty prototype in a work environment, and even to an extent at school people are judging the look of the product. I don't really know what to say about that other than I think it's a comfort thing that I just need to get over.