Category Archives: My News

Awards, Meaningful Games, Megagames, StoryWorld, and Solving the Sleep Mystery

Hello everyone!

We have now switched to a studio model at SAE. This means the teaching shifts from a lecture & workshop model to one in which students jump straight into creating games from our brief, and we mentor and do lecture & workshop follow-ups based on need. I am running a studio on “Making Meaningful Games,” and one of the things students do in the studios is blog each week about their practice. I said I would do it with them and sooooooo: I will be blogging every week for the next few months! I’ll be blogging like it is 2007! :D

The first news? AUTHENTIC has won two awards!!!! The Australian Writers’ Guild awarded AUTHENTIC in the “interactive media” category for the 47th Annual AWGIES. AUTHENTIC was described as “category-busting”. I couldn’t be at the ceremony, and so I did my first pre-recorded award acceptance speech! Although there were no other nominees, I do know there were other submissions. More on this in a moment. The second award for AUTHENTIC was in the “Digital Narrative” category for the 2014 Western Australia Premier’s Book Awards.

AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS is transmedia storytelling at its finest, borrowing the best of existing narrative techniques across a range of media, harnessing these to tell a compelling story about mortality and materiality in a playful but meaningful manner. AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS is held together by a luscious audio story, not dissimilar to radio plays in their heyday, but now updated with interactive pathways, bespoke online locales and a series of beautifully designed interactive web pages.

ChristyatWAAwards_small(thankyou for the photo Tama!)

I was able to be at this ceremony and I had a ball! It was a thrill being driven around and toasted, and hanging with fellow award-winners. I also thanked the Premier and the Library for having this category, the only in a literary award in Australia. Afterwards when I was having my photo taken with the Premier he asked what digital narrative is. So if the category is suddenly removed it is because of me. I hope not, it is a wonderful thing for us.

There are a couple of things I have learned from the award experience. Firstly, I now know that winners in most cases find out before the ceremony. I didn’t know this before and so when I submitted to the ADG’s award and didn’t hear anything I thought maybe I was in with a chance. Like the AWG I won, they had only one nominee and announced it on the night. So if you didn’t win you not only find out you didn’t win, but also that you didn’t even score a nomination. Both at the same time. It is a pretty crap feeling. I wish there was a different system. Indeed I did contact the ADG and suggest they let the unsuccessful nominees know. But I guess that just sounds silly in retrospect. So for those of you that submitted to the AWG Awards – I know how it feels.

Secondly, I didn’t know what to do when I had found out about winning the awards. I didn’t feel like an award-winner (I submitted hoping for a nomination). There are things I would like to change in the project. Not just things that you learn over time post the project. But things that I knew at the time I needed to change but I didn’t have the budget for. At the same time, I also have people who experienced AUTHENTIC that send me emails about how much they love it. So I can’t deny their experience. In the end I have accepted the awards as a gift for all the work I have done, and I celebrate it because it means the crazy work of digital storytelling risk-takers is not always a lonely beacon.

While in Perth for the WA Premier’s Award ceremony, I gave a workshop on “Making Meaningful Games” for the Film and Television Institute there. Kate Raynes-Goldie invited me and it was a delight. Among the great people I was able to meet in person finally, such as Anthony Sweet and Wesley Lamont, was Will Kirk. Will has started a gaming news site called GameCloud. He dedicates lots of time to writing articles about the local scene and beyond for no financial compensation. He is also really keen to understand more about the process of making games, to make him a better game reviewer and critic. Will shared his experience of my workshop: “Designing Deep Games with Christy Dena”.

On the weekend I was lucky to help out as a co-game-master for a Megagame being run in Brisbane. Megagames are live games that run a full day. They’re designed by a UK group of designers and privilege strategy and some role-play. I was so excited when I saw the ShutUp and SitDown video about the event (see below), and have been hanging out to play one. It was a fascinating day – playing non-stop for 7 hours straight. I think I would prefer to play than game-master though, as there is so much running around and calculations going on. Although writing my own is the really exciting path…

Megagame

I have also been watching and discussing the crazy events that have been taking place in the gaming world these past few weeks. I have been watching for a while how different women respond to feminism and shaken my head at the anti-feminism movement. At the same time, I have also looked back at my own behaviour in the past and seen how I have done damage myself too. Specifically, one event sticks in my mind because I actively took a role: the StoryWorld Advisory Board complaint. Writer Andrea Phillips bravely put forward that the board for StoryWorld was sexist. I was the only female on the board and so I felt it my duty to say something. Although I was not intending to reduce the seriousness of sexism, I did with my response.

I posted about how everyone agrees there is sexism. I now know this isn’t true, as some are still blind to it, and some deny it’s existence for various reasons. I also said that some of the criticisms about the board list were veiled criticisms of the people, rather than sexism. That I believe is still true. I then also said that I was concerned about the focus on Alison. This is also something I regret as I feel I jumped to her defence too quickly. I should have let her and others feel the depth of the experience. And further, I don’t think she did learn from the experience in the way I had hoped at the time. I am a supporter of Alison and she has a special place in my life as I mentored her many, many years ago. But I don’t think she understood the impact of having all-male boards – considering the following year no women were added to the board. I criticised women for messaging Andrea privately rather than speaking publicly. Doh! Of course they did, as there are many unreasonable repercussions of going public. I also encouraged more women to step up and take on directing positions etc. While I still want to see this more, it wasn’t appropriate to put such remarks in the middle of a discussion about sexism. There wasn’t an all male board because women don’t bother to step up. I think my post had a silencing effect, which is harmful and not helpful.

So I see how I have done things that didn’t help feminism. Indeed, if men are the majority of people agreeing with you then you may want to check your internalised sexism. So I apologise for the harm I did back then, and have a bit more understanding of how early feminists can do more harm than good.

My last comment is a weird but perhaps helpful discovery. For the last few months I have noticed that I can easily fall asleep on my couch, but then when I go to bed I toss and turn in eternal awakeness. I searched the Net to figure out why and found the answer. I have been scrolling through social media in the morning to wake myself up. Once I’m awake I jump out of bed. I jump on the couch, however, usually when I’m exhausted and want to flake watching a movie or something. So I have trained my body to sleep on the couch and wake up in bed. Knowing this, I reprogrammed myself by getting out of bed as soon as my alarm goes off and scrolling through social media on my couch. Now my mind knows bed is for sleep. It has worked. My pleasure.

Also on:

I am a Citizen of the IndieWeb! :D

For a while now I have found it frustrating searching through my Facebook feed to find posts and discussions. Facebook has been my main networking channel for a while now, more than Twitter this past year or so. But everything I put in there is easily lost, and it is really hard to get it out. It isn’t my space.

I’m keen to write more again — especially to share random thoughts on my projects (a creator’s log/dev diary). A blog is better for this and will reach people outside of my network. To be frank, considering the algorithms of Facebook and the serendipity of Twitter, blog posts may reach more people IN my networks too.

I, like many people have been looking out for a new social network. But another social network will not solve the problem. And neither will leaving social media. Then I stumbled on something.

Well I didn’t quite stumble, I went looking for it. I went to someone I know will have his finger on the pulse of what the vanguard-tech-scene-with-a-conscience is doing. Kevin Marks. I met Kevin in 2009 at the ultra secret O’Reilly Social Web FOO Camp. Yep, we camped on the O’Reilly grounds in Sebastopol, California. Kevin and I bonded immediately and caught up at tech events around the world. The following year we had a great conversation together over at TummelVision, and he advised me on the early tech ideas for my web audio adventure system. But back to the point. I was looking around at Kevin on the web, and came across this presentation he gave at LeWeb: “the web that will win“.

I found myself nodding at his comments. Yes, I remember when I used to blog! I remember my Technorati ranking peaking at times. And I’m well aware that I no-longer blog and instead use social networks as the places I post my primary original content. Then I read this:

The IndieWeb is a group of people who recognise that the silos are important for connecting – but you should have your own site. Don’t replace those tools, but use them to connect the rest of the web.

And I got it! Right! I don’t have to leave social networks. I just need to post all my content on my own blog and syndicate it out. So I don’t lose it. I control it. And it is easily archived, and found, and so on. I get it!

But there is more. You don’t just post to your own site. You don’t just syndicate. You still utilise social networks (and hang out there if you want). But even further to this: all the comments that happen around the web come back to your blog.

I am in. I have spent a few hours installing plugins and I have some more tweaking to do. This is my first post using the tech of the #IndieWeb and I’m not sure if it will work (and there is more updating of my pages I need to do here too). But by golly I am excited and will make it happen. I’m super keen to explore posting more and playing with post titles that work in syndication and everything that goes with this approach [addendum: the Social plugin I’m using gives you the opportunity to write what comes before your link so the title doesn’t matter at all — another cool thing]. If you’re interested too, check out the links below. Ping me if you have any thoughts! :D

Screen shot 2014-07-02 at 7.44.48 PM

Some articles on the IndieWeb:

2013 Wrap Up!

It seems I’ve now got to the point where I do one blog post a year, rather than one summary post a year! I’ve been busy, and sharing through social media primarily.

This year has been a big one for me. A big one that grew out of a horrible year previously. In 2012 I had some great things happen, but in my personal life things were quite bad. Perhaps one day in 10 years I’ll share what actually happened. But for now I’ll just say things got so bad I decided at the end of 2012 that I never want to live through what I did ever again. So I made drastic changes. I researched and understood a lot more about how other certain people operate; I altered how I viewed myself and consistently try to see things for the better; I made sweeping changes to who I spent time with and even moved interstate. Things have gone so much better for me in 2013 and this is in no small part because of the personal changes I have been diligent in making. 

CREATIVE

  • In Feb I released my first little phone street experience at Pop Up Playground’s Fresh Air Festival. It is a single-person phone experience I made after the project I was commissioned to do last year for the Melb Writers Festival was cancelled. The design goal for me was to create a scalable locative experience. I wanted to create an experience that gets people engaging with their environment (streets) and can be played in any city in the world. Usually street experiences are site-specific. The street story “Guardians of Hidden Universes” played well, but one of the things I discovered was that it perhaps would have worked better to design it for the home rather than the street. Without the imperative of a known thematic like zombies or spies or vampires etc, a new/unknown storyworld that requires you to perhaps make a fool of yourself in public (which you don’t) is too much of a deterrent.
  • During Feb I also ran my crowdfunding campaign for my app AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS. My ace peers around the world came to my aid and supported the campaign to help me fund the final production. I really cannot thank you all enough – thank you so much for not only putting funds down but for all of the effort you put into promoting the campaign. I learned heaps during this campaign. I share my strategies in my Creator’s Log, and will introduce some initiatives next year inspired by what I learned. Then I went straight into production.
  • During production of AUTHENTIC, the Australia Council for the Arts and QUT awarded me the first Digital Writing Residency at The Cube, QUT. My project, “Robot University“, is a 3D installation using touch-screens and Kinects to take visitors to the venue through interactions with robots from the future. We had 6 months to complete the project and it will be launched to the public end Feb/early March next year (2014). I wrote, designed, project managed, and directed the project with a great team. A short documentary of the project will also be launched next year. I loved creating this digital work that involves four types of interaction: dialogue selection; UI interaction; touch-screen interaction with body parts; and gesture interaction. I share insights into how this created at the dev blog linked on the name above.
  • Ken Eklund (the creator of World Without Oil) and Annette Mees (Agency of Coney) invited me to be a writer in their experiment in narrative play: “Horas Perditam“. I wrote live stories based on the inspiration my ‘threaders’ gave me on the streets of London. I had a great time, and was invited back to create an online digital story inspired by the experience for their forthcoming magazine.
  • Sayraphim Lothian invited me to be a writer on her guerilla kindness street art project “Sharing Ink. I was given a hand-made journal in which to write a call-to-action for a stranger to write in and so on. It was left for someone to stumble on in the street. I wrote a piece that encouraged the finder to enter their own moment they want to “leave behind”. They then leave it at a place that is significant for the “leaving behind” moment for a stranger to find. I enjoyed designing the whole process of finding, writing, and leaving as a cathartic ritual.
  • Jonathan Parsons commissioned me to write a speech for an android. Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro’s Geminoid HI-4 was in Brisbane for Robotronica I wrote the speech the Geminoid HI-4 gave at the evening party where it introduced other robots and a band. Besides OMG I WROTE A SPEECH FOR A ROBOT, it was fascinating thinking about how I could make sure pauses happen at the right time. Writing humour for a robot isn’t easy, but I had a ball and it went down really well! I wish I had a video of it…
  • Chris Moore and Sean Redmond invited me to write a digital fiction for the inaugural edition of their Deletion Science Fiction Forum. I wrote a short story, “Deletions, and other pleasures“, set in a world where robots are given psychological and physiological health assistance through deleting things. I found the concept of helping via deletion an interesting idea and enjoyed playing with the various scenarios this may entail. I love having more than text in my works and so played with the Zeega platform.
  • Earlier in the year, inspired by a game jam I didn’t have time to participate in, I came up with the idea of a spy game. I started conceiving it as a digital + live game, then I changed it to be a card + live festival game, and am now developing the take home card game version. Every playtest has gone really well. Players respond to this game with a lot of laughter. It just seems to work. There is tweaking of course, but it is the simplest of projects I’ve worked on (it is just pure mechanics in a theme). The festival game version debuted at Pop Up Playground’s This Is A Door festival, and the card game version is currently in production. “Pop Up Spy Academy” is an improvisational storytelling party game for 5-18 players. You and your team members are training to be spies at an underfunded spy academy. You are given missions to complete doing your best without spy gadgets and trainers.
  • And then of course the release that took a long time coming: the (soft) launch of my web audio adventure “AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS“. It is surreal and wonderful to have it done and out there now. Wow! I have also been awarded funding by Screen Australia to market and port the app, and so will try and go out with more of a splash next year. But already I have had players email me saying they really enjoyed the experience and even some asking for more episodes! Quite surreal. I have done a lot of interviews and share a lot of the process in my Creator’s Log, so more info is around! But as a summary of the year, I did it. I created something I wanted to do without any creative limitations (such as client requirements etc). I also got to collaborate with wonderful people this year. I want more of this to happen next year.

PUBLICATIONS

PRESENTATIONS

JUROR & BOARD MEMBER

PRESS

 

Next year I have a few things planned. I will be doing a launch around the new version of the AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS app; I will be releasing my party card game Pop Up Spy Academy; I will be running an ‘Interactive Narrative Writers Room’ here in Brisbane (more details soon); I will be running the peer residential for storytellers working in tech with Lance Weiler ‘Forward Slash Story‘ in the USA (applications due 6th Jan!); I will be launching a new peer recommendation site I’ve been working on with Dan Donahoo; and the “Robot University” installation will launched at The Cube (wohoo!). These are the things for certain so far…Either way, I plan to have even more fun this year and to keep working on lots of interesting creative projects. See you there!