ENG 394: Junior Honors Seminar: Digital Literature Theory + Practice: Guides

Semester: Spring 2006     Time: T 3:00 - 5:30 pm     Place: Kuy 411

Instructor: John Zuern
Office: Kuykendall 219     Office Hours: TR 1:30 - 3:00 (and by appointment)
Email (the best way to contact me): zuern@hawaii.edu     Telephone: 956-3019

Reading Guide for First Person 1-33 (Murray, Perlin, Mateas)

Questions for Murray

  1. You've all read traditional realist novels, and you've all played at least one computer game. How do the two experiences compare for you? Can you think of any other cultural practices that are immersive, interactive, and narrative in nature, besides those Murray mentions?
  2. What's the difference between "contest" and "puzzle" in terms of their supposedly common roles in games and stories?
  3. Why does Murray prefer the term "cyberdrama" to other possible terms for emergent computer-based game-story combinations?
  4. What does "agency" mean for Murray? Why is it important for her definition of "cyberdrama?"
  5. What examples of "replay stories" can you come up with? Have you seen any of the films Murray mentions? What aesthetic, ethical, and even pedagogical implications do replay stories suggest?
  6. Play around with OttoAndIris (if you can--it seems to take forever to load, even on a fast connection) and compare your experience with Loyall's description in his response to Murray.
  7. Have you ever been involved, as an audience member or an actor, in an audience-participation theatrical event? What did it feel like? How did audience members other than yourself respond?

Questions for Perlin

  1. How does "agency" as Perlin uses the term compare to "agency" in Murray's presentation?
  2. Have you played The Sims? What was the experience like? Do you agree with Perlin that the personalities of the characters in this game cannot compare with the characters with whom we identify in novels and films?
  3. Think about what, for you, makes a fictional character interesting. What textual, formal aspects contribute to this interest? If you have time, try to analyze the way a favorite novel or film establishes your interest in the protagonist (or some other intriguing character).
  4. In contrast, what diminishes or interferes with your interest in fictional characters? If you agree with Perlin that characters like Lara Croft are not as compelling as characters like Harry Potter, how do you account for the difference in your own experience?
  5. Perlin concludes by putting great emphasis on the role of "acting." What makes for good acting? What's your sense of the potential of the assemblage of "emotional primitives" Perlin describes in the end of his essay?
  6. Will Wright is the creator of SimCity and The Sims. He questions the assumption that games ought to tell better stories--representing the group of game developers who feel that game and story are separate cultural objects that won't easily merge. Where do you stand in relation to these two positions?

Questions for Mateas

  1. You might find it useful to look at a study guide for Aristotle's Poetics (the Poetics is the text from which we draw the Aristotelian model of drama) before you read Mateas' chapter. I created this guide a couple of years ago for students in my classes. I'm pretty sure it all still works.
  2. "Agency" is again a key consideration. How does Mateas characterize the problem of basing an interactive narrative (in which the reader possesses a degree of agency) on the Aristotelian dramatic model?
  3. Do you have a clear sense of Murray's categories of "immersion," "agency," and "transformation" as Mateas is employing them?
  4. Do you understand the contrast Mateas suggests between "phenomenological" aspect of first-person experiences" and the "structural aspects of carefully crafted stories" (22)? This question is connected to question #3 for Perlin (above).
  5. What is the difference between a "material" and a "formal" cause? My little Flash animation of the four causes in my guide to Martin Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology" might help clarify these two causes.
  6. What is "catharsis?" (No one has ever really answered this question, so don't wrack your brains too much.)
  7. What, for Mateas, are some of the most significant limitations on interactive drama, given the present state of technology?
  8. How do you respond to Mateas' outline of the drama of Grace, Trip, and "you" as their visitor in FaÇade?
  9. What main points about Mateas' application of Aristotle's theory does Laurel make in her response?

last updated 02/20/06 by jz