Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2017
In the 1990s, the Personal Computer (or PC) was on the rise in homes, and with it came new genres of play. Yet most of the games in these new genres featured fantasylands or humorous science fiction landscapes with low stakes and little to suggest the potential of the PC as a serious space for art and play. Jane Jensen’s work and landmark Gabriel Knight series brought a new darkness and personality to PC gaming, offering a first powerful glimpse of what games could be as they came of age. As an author and designer, Jensen brought her approach as a designer-writer hybrid to the forefront of game design, with an approach to developing environments through detailed research to make game settings come to life, an attention to mature dilemmas and complex character development, and an audience-driven vision for genres reaching beyond the typical market approaches of the gaming industry. With a brand new interview with Jensen herself, Anastasia Salter provides the first ever look Jensen’s impact and role in advancing interactive narrative and writing in the game design process.
University of Iowa Press, 2014
What is Your Quest? examines the future of electronic literature in a world where tablets and e-readers are as common as printed books. As devices optimized for the consumption of content of all media forms, iPads and their counterparts place books, games, and films on the same playing field, accessed through the same interface. The touch screen acts as a chameleon, imitating on-screen controls, keyboards, and even the flipping of a page as appropriate to the content. The convergence of media forms alongside the relative transparency and adaptability of the touchscreen interface became a core part of Apple’s initial iPad campaign emphasizing the device’s magic. But the magic of the iPad is drawing upon a history of convergence in digital storytelling that has evolved alongside computing itself, as new tools and models for interactive narrative and the increased accessibility of those tools have allowed for a broad range of storytellers to build on these emerging models for literary interaction. The beginnings of so-called “interactive” books on the iPad can be found not only in print but in a legacy of playful storytelling shaped by fans and online communities, creating and sharing their own stories through games. The genre of adventure games, or games centered on quests and characters overcoming obstacles and puzzles, holds the early patterns for the type of playful storytelling that is now bringing the strengths of different media together and demonstrating the power of games to share personal and communal stories.
Anastasia Salter & John Murray. MIT Press, Platform Studies Series: 2014
Flash evolved as a browser extension allowing developers to escape the confines of foundational web infrastructure, becoming the first widely-adopted tool for online multimedia. Flash aspired to bridge divisions between operating systems and web browsers: a universal language for interactive and creative web experiences. Using the lenses of media studies, critical code and software studies, and digital humanities, we will examine Flash’s rise and fall in the landscape of online media and its role in defining web genres, including “Flashimation,” browser-based gaming, and Internet-enhanced applications. Unraveling Flash’s history and the role of competing interests of performance, security, developers and users also offers insight into the fate of the next universal languages that hope to supersede its relevance. We’ll also trace the history of user and developer involvement through periodicals, forums, wikis and newsgroups. Flash’s evolution is particularly useful in understanding the transformations inherent in any non-fixed platform: its context moved from hypertext to web 2.0, from game arcade to social gaming’s cornerstone and from web plug-in to internet application operating system. Our study will illuminate the critical role of Flash’s duality of aesthetic and procedural affordances in shaping the participatory web and online multimedia, alongside the limitations that ultimately prevented the platform from remaining a dominant “universal” standard.
Recent Digital Works
From Beyond, a collaboration with John Murray, is an exploration of the ghost in the machine using a dual interface: a physical Ouija board and a Twine game controlled by moving a planchette. The game invites the player to occupy the role of a ghost at a slumber party, exploring the idea of the voyeuristic positioning of the player as well as the operational mechanisms of a physical / digital interface. Several different threads of the story are exposed by the player’s choice to occupy a particular role as the ghost, exploring the tensions of interactive communication and social media through this reliance on the disembodied for self-realization. This installation was first displayed at the Electronic Literature Organization’s 2015 “Hybridity and Synaesthesia” exhibit in Bergen, Norway.
Alice in Dataland 2.0University of Florida’s Afterlife of Alice & Her Adventures in Wonderland Collection
Alice in Dataland 2.0 is a solo meditation on a journey through the rabbit hole of Alice in Wonderland, structured with Alice’s adventures as a guiding metaphor and metatext. This is an exploration guided by the question: “Why does Alice in Wonderland endure as a metaphor for experiencing media?” The project contains several remediations and adaptations of elit structures, including a version of Nick Montfort’s “Taroko Gorge” entitled “Twinkle Bat.” Although the project is built in HTML5, it evokes the early web, considering Wonderland and “Web 1.0” in parallel. Published in Kairos 20.1.
View from Within, a collaboration with John Murray, is an experiment in storytelling using an infinite canvas framework. The work explores perspectives at a moment of existential crisis through layers of the same moment, frozen in time. The project was inspired by Scott McCloud’s vision for the future of webcomics as an infinite canvas, with the browser as a portal to an experience unbounded by the printed page. The work is constructed from layers of hand-drawn illustrations. A head-mounted display version, built in collaboration with John Murray in Unity and designed for an augmented reality platform, will be on display at the ELO 2014 Media Arts Show.