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November 23, 2005

Some last bits on the VISUAL STORYTELLING conference


A few last thoughts for now. First these just arrived from author ERIC NYLUND, who has written a number of science-fiction novels, including some in the HALO universe. HALO is one of the most popular XBOX games of all time.

"I came away with new hope for storytelling in the 21st century. Traditional publishers will still be here, I'm sure, but they can't move as fast as the newer industries (video games and graphic novels) that are not (yet) as restrained by an antiqued business model.

As far as the round table, I wished it was longer: it could have been three separate panels: traditional linear storytelling in games, MMOs (massive multiplayer online games), and experimental storytelling in games). Maybe next time.

Just as impressive as the conference and round table discussion--was the Academy Of Art. After touring their game design labs, I asked all the hard-to answer questions(tm), and the director had all the right answers(tm) (they are using the Unreal engine to design in...they are launching a semester-long class with a twenty student team to construct a working game...and so on). All extraordinarily impressive. They've taken the best people from the gaming industry and plugged them directly into teaching the next generation of game makers--hopefully so they can circumvent all the mistakes the last generation made, and concentrate on making outrageously terrific games.


I told the director I wished I was twenty years younger so I could enroll.

--All best

Eric Nylund

Quick pencil sketch above is of Eric speaking at the conference. If I remember right he was saying something that made him quite unpopular: that for your typical videogame, the three most important things are 1) Gaming/action, 2) Visuals and a very distant 3) Storyline/character; but if a videogame aims to be a successful franchise, a series that gamers will keep returning to for years, then it's number 1) story & memorable characters, then 2) gaming, then 3) visuals. Thought that was interesting.

For books, I'd say Story and character tend to be the very purpose. Everything serves Story. In a lot of games I get the sense Story serves everything else. Reminds me of that cover for the NEW YORKER art spiegelman did a few years ago, called "The Eleventh Muse" (?) Can't find it online. Can't find any of his covers at the New Yorker website. Hm.

Well, here ends this little report on the visual storytelling summit. Didn't think I'd make so much of it, but it does strike me as significant about our day and age. There's lots that went unreported here. Like when the videogame people turned onto the subject of new technologies on the horizon. Their eyes lit up (be afraid?), when they started talking about A.I. / Artificial Intelligence as the next great leap for the gaming experience.

What if an A.I. is cut loose to decide and react within a gameworld? What if they have their own tastes? Author Greg Bear summed up by painting a picture of a virtual party to which you go, and discover everyone else in the room is an A.I. or synthetic human . . . and none of them want to talk to you.


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