Overlap - Investigations in new and forgotten storytelling

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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‘Jenga Apocalyptica’ – User Generated Content in Grand Theft Auto

Luridly splashed across the headlines of 14 years,  Grand Theft Auto has evolved from the exploits of a literally faceless psychopath engaged in a ‘race n chase’ for a crime lord to the ambitious tale of a Serbian emigre in New York-alike Liberty City. Mouthy, assured and occasionally inspired, the scripts of the main storylines would brighten the corners of all but the gutsiest of B-movies. But here, in this most influential of videogames, they’re a sideshow. The true Rockstars of Grand Theft Auto are neither the celestially-named producers nor the sidewalking, starry-eyed avatars. They’re the players.

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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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