Overlap - Investigations in new and forgotten storytelling

Overlap S1E1 preview: Sara Hill chats to us about Minecraft

On Tuesday 23rd October, Sara Hill will introduce us to the world-building opportunities of Minecraft when she presents the first episode of Overlap’s new season of events at the University of Sheffield. We caught up with Sara to find how her creative journey into the game began.

“A few friends were already playing it really, really obsessively. You know sometimes when your friends (whose opinions you really respect) go on about something until you can’t stand one more conversation about it? That was my first experience of Minecraft – deciding never to play it. This was before the game was officially released, about two and a half years ago.”

So what changed her mind?

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Lost Days of Memories & Madness

It’s almost thirty years since three school friends and I set sail across a pair of lunch breaks at the height of a childhood summer to play a game of AD&D. It’s a distant place now and my memories of our adventure in Gygax and Arneson’s world have blurred with the prefab art classroom we commandeered; a forest of wooden stools and poster-paint Kobalds…

Andrew Kenrick’s new storytelling game Lost Days of Memories & Madness forges the smoke-like characteristics of memories into a more tangible form. ‘Lost Days…’ treats them as marble-like treasures and trinkets to be hoarded, swapped and thieved by his cast of recollection-addicted Elven nobles. I’d like to show you a few from my collection, with the caveat I’m unsure how many of them actually belong to me.…

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Amusement Arcadia – The Machine

Described as “…a computer designed to analyse and decompose Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Rambler’s Lullaby II”, on the page, The Machine’s chattering, clattering stream of data at first looks like book music for an organ or the kind of game listing I would have typed into my beloved Spectrum 48k.

It’s neither of these things, but the comparisons are interesting. Written in 1968 by author, filmmaker and Oulipoist Georges Perec, The Machine is in fact a radio play, adapted for live performance by Sheffield-based performance artists Third Angel in Sheffield  just last month.

The play’s story borrows the forms and restrictions of computer programs, but it’s a lot more interactive than its monolithic title suggests. Not so much in the dazzling – and often very funny – back and forth between the computer’s separate processors as they attempt to fathom Goethe’s poem about solitude by (for instance) substituting its nouns for fairy tale motifs, as in the audience’s slow assimilation into its subroutines and  algorithms…

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Frank Rose Interview – The Art of Immersion

Frank Rose

Frank Rose’s book The Art of Immersionis ostensibly a field guide to new storytelling across the web, film and TV. Featuring explorations of landmarks from Grand Theft Auto’s Liberty City to Mulholland Drive’s ink black asphalt, it’s an attempt to work out where we are and where we might go as storytellers and audiences alike.

All the same, charting this new landscape is a little like mapping sandcastles on a beach. One of the few defining characteristics of new story forms such as ARGs is their mayfly-like lifespan. Happenings such as The Dark Knight’s Why So Serious – which saw players descending on New York bakeries to pick up layer cakes as part of a recruitment drive for the Joker’s gang – are devoured by fans before the icing is even set.  Even the millennia-old granite of Lost’s colossal four-toed statue quickly crumbled upon its discovery by the show’s marrow-sucking audience.

Smartly, The Art of Immersion avoids the need for FIFA or Madden-like iterations by remembering it’s a book. There’s a hero in game designer Will Wright and his brave and foolhardy war cry of ‘support the user’s story’, while Immersion’s narrative line cuts through the Dickenian morass of platforms with airport thriller gleam.

Our interview with Frank, recorded before his keynote at Sheffield Doc/Fest earlier this month, looked at the part he played in the tale as well as offering a chance to discuss games, stories and the places in between.

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About us

Overlap is a place for investigation, discussion and events about new and forgotten storytelling. We focus on emerging and undiscovered platforms for stories and narrative – everything from videogames, augmented reality and role-playing games to flash mobs, social media and more.

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