Overlap - Investigations in new and forgotten storytelling

Russ Stearman introduces Overlap S0E2:The Secret Agent

Russ Stearman is our guest host for the second episode of Overlap’s pilot season. Here’s his introduction to the event which takes place on 11th October in Sheffield. There’s more info at our announcement for Overlap S0E2.

This Tuesday we’re looking at ‘The Secret Agent’ of stories and videogames. We’ll be exploring the idea of who’s controlling who and to what effect. Based on the title, you might be mistaken for thinking it’s a look at the stories of a certain Mr Bond and his ilk, foiling world terrorism and certain destruction. I’m sure there’s a whole other talk about the portrayal of super spies in games, but my inspiration comes from a different (although equally explosive) source.

It’s a bomb that went off near Greenwich Observatory in 1894. This later inspired Joseph Conrad, one of the greatest writers of the last century, to write The Secret Agent, the tale from which the session takes its name. The themes of spying and agents in the novel are dark and twisted, a world away from the glamorous gadgets and plans of world domination found in Fleming’s James Bond stories.

The Secret Agent tells the story of an anarchist named Verloc. Unbeknownst to his peers, he is also a spy for a mysterious foreign power. When Verloc is ordered to manipulate his anarchist friends to commit acts of terrorism, he finds them to be all mouth and no trousers, leaving him caught in the middle. It’s a great read with Conrad’s masterful method creating a disgusting yet vivid world.

Several attempts have been made to film the novel, including Hitchcock’s Sabotage which was shot in 1936 while he was still in the UK (and not to be confused with Secret Agent released the same year). You can watch Sabotage online.

Hitchcock is another inspiration for the talk, and several of his earlier films could be easily turned into videogames. It’s a wonder The 39 Steps hasn’t had the treatment already, as it’s hard not to see its influence in almost any location-hopping adventure game. I’ll be looking at how Hitchcock developed his narratives and exploiting their transmedia potential. I’ll also visit the work of the Coen Brothers, steering clear of Andrew Kenrick’s great talk at the last Overlap and examining another of their films (without a single mention of rugs).

I won’t just be looking at films but also at games, covering how narrative works and what we can do with it, with examples that range from Indiana Jones’ classic point n’ click games through to Bejewelled Blitz – there’s narrative everywhere. Finally I’ll be showing the latest project I’ve been working on, giving a special advance preview and discussing how we tried to don the metaphorical role of the secret agent.

Of course it wouldn’t be Overlap without some kind of audience participation so come along and let’s hunt for that elusive agent.

Overlap S0E2:The Secret Agent takes place at Brezza, Wellington Street, Sheffield on Tuesday 11 October. Tickets are free. Find out more and register your place now.

Category: Events, Transmedia, Videogames

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