"When will Robb tell us the TRUTH about what happened at this??" -- gsdgsd, JC BBS
There is a salon in Boulder that addresses the digital arts called (funnily enough) the Boulder Digital Arts Salon. There should be a link on the front page of the site if you'd like to visit.
A woman there named Danyell did some Googling regarding "Interactive Fiction" and "Colorado" and found Paul O'Brian. Paul, in turn, knows me. Not just in a typical Internet way, either, but we actually met once before all this when some people from the ifMud had their annual summer meet in Colorado. A few of us had dinner at a Nepalese place in Boulder. Letseeeeeee, who was there, it was Paul, Vitriola, Benjamin "Pinback" Parrish, J. Robinson Wheeler, Adam Cadre, Jennifer Earl and a friend of Paul's whose name I can't remember.
Paul gave the BDA salon my e-mail address and from that point it became a two-man venture tasked with telling a room full of people about the wonders of text games.
Paul, Danyell and I had dinner a couple weeks before the event and we had a chance to discuss what the presentation would be like. We brainstormed ideas like the history of IF, playing through a game with the audience, showing the crowd our games... it was going to be great. I can't think of a better representative when it comes to the history and current climate of IF than Paul O'Brian. He's probably played 500 IF games and he's very articulate on the subject.
They did not tape the presentation itself, but beforehand the BDA set up a camera and asked the two of us some IF questions. Let me speak to what that experience was like. It's going to hurt, though. (Me, not you.)
I am, ah.... I am someone who loves to be on TV. Even though it is a very rare occurrence. Is it the idea of TV? The simple anticipation of being on TV again? Because I don't really watch a lot of TV except for sports, I haven't been filmed in any context in the longest time and I hate having my picture on the Internet. So I don't know. But when Jason Scott said "I'll be contacted" about his text game documentary I, for instance, flipped my gourd. That sort of thing. (I should mention that I include any scenario where a camera is in front of me to count for this particular personality failing.) I was really looking forward to a camera and mic being in my face and getting to tell people about the comic happenings of Delarion Yar and even more impressively, the Unnamed Adventurer from Saied.
Along these lines, I am also someone who will express a ton of negativity regarding the people that are on TV. Let's say that Dayna has a reality show on for a half hour one evening. I will gleefully point out every social misstep I can see in the contestants. Well, let me say this: the camera does something to you. I knew it did something to people on reality TV shows, but I thought I was just naturally immune. I was nervous, answering those questions and I don't think I did a very good job. Oh well, they will post them one day and everyone can have a good laugh at me instead of Puck, Frankie and Pedro. I thought I was much more relaxed during the big presentation, but it's easy for me to say that and spread vicious lies about myself because there's no proof. So, apologies there.
After the Powerpoint slides, we began a session with 9:05, by Adam Cadre. 9:05 is a pretty good game to pick if you're going to play it with a room full of people unfamiliar with IF. A game like this one, with a resolution in about 20 minutes, is ideal. Oh don't get me wrong -- I have made games that have disgusted in 20 minutes... made people re-affirm their covenant with God in 20 minutes... just generally made their players quit in 20 minutes... but not really got things going and wrapped things up in that time. Hell, it takes the blind kid on the BBS 20 minutes to simply hear the opening in Fallacy of Dawn thanks to the glacial pace with which the plug-in speaks.
I think the audience dug playing 9:05, hearing it and making decisions. Towards the end of the game you've given the choice of driving into work or continuing on the highway. One person in the crowd was not going to be railroaded into any sort of decision and said that the group should not go into work that day. Who says Boulder is full of lazy, scoffjob hippies? Of course (spoiler) not going to work has you killed in a horrible fireball in 9:05 (spoiler) so the game ended anyway.
Paul then rocked the mic with the comic book lettering in Earth and Sky 3. If your character is able to stomp on the ground -- and you do so -- you get that very effect coming up in the game. Originally we had planned to go through 1893 and Future Boy! but we were getting close to the end of the evening, so we switched over to Necrotic Drift.
There is a scene in Necrotic Drift that had me wary to place it on the big screen for the longest time. It's that one line about sprayers versus lumpers. I thought that it would only come up if you talked to Gibs. I could quite easily simply choose to not talk to Gibs and that line would not possibly offend an audience. I'm not a monster or anything. I don't go looking to offend people. It was the way the people in that game talked and all, but still. Since I was planning on running Fallacy of Dawn instead of ND, I never bothered to verify when the troublesome text appeared.
Well, the crowd had seen our visually-barebones IF presentation and 9:05 through Winfrotz in black and white. ND changes pictures every turn for the first four moves, so I thought it would be the better choice. The character Pang appears on the second or third move, and I was able to tell the entire crowd that the actor refused to put his beer down when I was snapping off pictures for the game, so I had to then incorporate that into the text. That's actually fairly common for the two games I've done regarding humans. I had to beg my brother to cut his hair when he was growing in longer in 2001 so I didn't have a main character with obvious discrepancies there. The three best pictures I had of the guy who played Yehoweh Porn were of him slowly getting sick after drinking a glass of beer... and that's why there was a body part in a keg. I wasn't dying to put pickled limbs in FoD, it just came about from the pictures.
Anyway, so that I can wrap this up, the lumpers bit is scripted so that it appears on the 5th or 6th turn no matter what you do. I didn't have my glasses on when I was presenting, so I did not notice this. I did notice that several seconds into what I was saying, a couple people chuckled, so I guess it wasn't all bad. I am just obsessing, I know.
All in all, a really fun experience. If I did it again I'd probably push for more of my and Paul's stuff to be shown to the audience present, but I think everyone there got a basic understanding of the scene. I hope that we conveyed just how approachable making IF is -- there seemed to be a mix of the creative and technically minded there and the programming concepts needed for the big three IF languages were certainly not beyond them.
About the author: Robb Sherwin is involved in "Spring Things."