What possibilities might gaming and VR technologies open up for classic literature and drama?
Hello everyone, and welcome to this first event from the Remixing the Classics research network. My name is Erin Sullivan and I'm one of the co-chairs of Remixing the Classics, which is exploring how digital technologies are being used to remake and re-experience classic literature and drama. I want to start by thanking our funders, the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, our partner, the Association of Adaptation Studies, My co-chair Deborah Cartmell, who you'll be hearing from a few minutes, And our project assistant Beth Sharrock, who's working with us to help make sure that this call runs as smoothly as possible and also will be putting some links into the chat that you can follow if you'd like to find out more about some of the things being discussed. Please also feel free as audience members to use the chat constructively and respectfully during this event, and in fact if you'd like you can start now by letting us know where in the world you're listening from.
Right now I'm in Stratford upon Avon in the UK in my office at the Shakespeare Institute, which is part of the University of Birmingham. Before we get going with the seminar I'd like to tell you a little bit more about Remixing the Classics and some of our upcoming events. At the heart of this project is an interest in what digital technologies bring - artistically, pedagogically, politically - to the retelling of old stories. So to get things started we've programmed five free online seminars that will take place between now and June - you can see the flyer for the program through the link in the chat. Through the network, we want to bring academics, creative practitioners, teachers, cultural programmers, all different people into conversation with one another. We want to explore how digital adaptations can be used in the classroom as well as what the barriers for doing so might be.
We want to find out what excites creative writers, theatre practitioners, and other artists about exploring the classics through digital technology. But again, what their concerns are, what their questions might be about this kind of work. You can read more about the project on our website and you can also become part of the network yourself - and you can also sign up for our mailing list by filling in the form here. They are already over 50 people involved in this network, and we hope to continue growing in the coming months. In July will be hosting a hybrid workshop exploring the preliminary findings of our project.
It will take place in person in Birmingham UK at The Exchange, which is a hub for public engagement and knowledge exchange and it will also be streamed online. We'll have more details about that in the coming months. After that, in August, we'll also be hosting an online conference on digital adaptations and putting together a special journal issue on the topic. I'm going to turn over now to my co-chair, Deborah Cartmell, to tell you a little bit more about that. Thank you, thank you very much Erin. The conference on the 4th of August, we'll be receiving abstracts as well, and I think the deadline to that is the 1st of June, but we will accept abstracts with alacrity.
Anytime after after today, and we're also very fortunate that the journal that I edit, Adaptation, which is published by Oxford University Press, has agreed to a special issue. And so, if there's anyone who wants to contribute to that the deadline is officially the 1st of December, but it's an e-first publication, so you can send us an article, we can read it and we can publish it well before that deadline. We will be will be collecting articles in it, if we get too many then we'll have a double issue which will be double as good, so please think about contributing to that and coming to the conference, which is under the auspices of the Association of Adaptation Studies on the 4th of August. So back to you Erin.
Well, thank you Deborah. So, finally, the last thing I wanted to say about the network is, we also want to gather some insights into how online seminars and conferences like this one can be made as engaging, accessible, and sustainable as possible. So, with this in mind we've set up a short six or maybe seven question survey, depending on whether you answer the optional one at the end. That will appear at the end of this event and we'd be really grateful if you could fill it in, as you leave the Zoom call. In doing so, you'll help us understand how we can make these kinds of seminars better and also help us give advice to other people who are interested in doing the same. So without any further ado it's now my pleasure to turn our attention to today's seminar on video games and virtual worlds and to welcome the wonderful trio speakers who have generously agreed to share their work with us today.
In 2014 I read a book by Stephen Jones called The Emergence of the Digital Humanities. And I distinctly remember him saying that if you want to engage with the most cutting edge work in digital culture and creativity, then you need to look at video games and video games studies. Deborah and I were absolutely delighted when our three speakers agreed to be involved in this seminar.
They've produced some of the most influential and exciting work on video game adaptations of classical literature and drama. As well as work on virtual and augmented reality adaptations that immerse participants in the world of classic texts. Together they represent the disciplines of education, English and drama and we're hoping for a lively interdisciplinary and cross professional conversation to emerge over the course of the next hour and 20 minutes or so.
The format for today is that each of our guests, will speak for about 10 minutes and then we'll use the second half of the seminar for discussion. And we hope that you, the audience will get involved in that discussion. You can submit questions using the Q&A button in your Zoom toolbar and you can also contribute comments and further thoughts in the chat.
In terms of questions we will save the discussion until the end but feel free to Type questions in, as the speakers and talks are going, and then we can jump right in with discussion once we get to that second half. Please remember, of course, hopefully this doesn't need saying, to keep the tone of the chat respectful at all times. Deborah, Beth, and I will keep an eye on the Q&A and chat comments and we'll draw on them when we get to the discussion portion of the seminar. But first, our speakers. I'm delighted to start by introducing our first speaker, Rebecca Bushnell, Emerita professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States.
She's the author of Tragic Time in Drama, Film, and Videogames, published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2016. A scholar of tragedy from Sophocles to Shakespeare, Rebecca has written about how playing serious video games deeply complicated her understanding of what she describes as the mechanisms of tragic necessity and the tragic protagonists' actions in time. In recent years she's been looking at video game adaptations of Shakespearean tragedy, as well as adaptations of Shakespeare and virtual reality.
In that work she's discussed how looking into a play like Hamlet from the perspective of gaming can shed new light on the relationship between freedom and control and the way it shapes classical drama. So Rebecca, over to you. So thank you so much Erin and Deborah and thank you for inviting me to this conversation. I am going to share my screen, give me a minute here. Do this okay and it's going to be my PowerPoint.
slideshow start. How does that look everybody? Does that look okay? Wonderful Thank you OK. So, again i'm delighted to be here to join this conversation about what digital technologies bring artistically pedagogically and politically to the retelling of old stories. This is actually matter I've been thinking about for some time, dating back to the early 2010s when I began to write about the subject of tragedy and temporality. So I was focused on on how tragedy generates for characters, readers, and audiences alike the anxiety of existing in the present, trembling, as it were, between the past and the future, so what happened then my daughter introduced me to video games, while I was also watching time travel films, and it was really then that I came to see that, when it comes to time and tragedy the medium really matters. When in representing an old story or an old play live theater, text, film, and video games all engage us differently in time while often recasting or remixing a story that we thought we knew.
This is not advancing there we go. Sorry i'm going to go back. um. So this research resulted in the book on tragic time in drama, film, and video games and it's since launched me into more work on games and virtual reality, especially in connection with Shakespeare. So
here I'm going to be drawing on some ideas from that books, but also more recent essay On Hamlet and video games that I recently published in a book on games in theater in shakespeare's England, edited by Tom Bishop, Erica Lin, and Gina Bloom. So many of you here may indeed be gamers yourself, or at least you've tried some games, and I'm just going to say a few words about how I see video games as a form of theater. So, as I wrote in Tragic Time, video games may lack live bodies to enact a story, but they do resemble theater when the avatar, the figure who acts out the story in the game, responds to the player's commands and interacts with the game environment in what feels like real time. And in such video games, you can say the player is simultaneously a playwright, director, a character, and actor bringing the character to life, but also a spectator who observes the action unfolding.
So, like most plays video games are scripted in so far as they are complex programs. However, because they're meant to be games, before anything else video games always embed the possibility for multiple versions to emerge as a result of the player's actions. So in some games these choices may create different versions of individual episodes or scenes affecting the process of playing, although the story will always end the same way.
In other games, however, the player's actions can change the outcome. So what then has happened when Shakespeare's plays, classics for sure, have collided with video games? Geoffrey Way once noted that Shakespeare has not generated as many video games as one might expect, and he attributes this lack of games for the plays To the challenges of making Shakespeare based games that operate as video games, and also as a recognizably Shakespearean experience. That is, how can something that we know as well as Shakespeare have the openness of the game and still be Shakespeare? Now, there have been several video games based on Hamlet, and this is just a list of them so far. First, Hamlet: A Murder Mystery dated back in 1997 which was actually based on Kenneth Branagh's film of Hamlet.
Robin Johnson's Hamlet, The Text Adventure from 2003, alas, no longer available on the Internet, calm under The Last Game from 2010. Ryan North, To be or not to be, which started as a novel in 2013 and became a game in 2015 and, most recently, Elsinore. Now each of these games varies in the way in which it diverges from the play itself and how it allows the ending to turn out differently, and I'd be delighted, of course, to talk about all of them, but here I have time only to discuss one, which is Elsinore, the most recent one. So the game Elsinore was developed by Katie Chironis and designed by Connor Fallon and a team at Golden Glitch and, as I said released in 2019. And in this game,
the player's avatar Ophelia is given the opportunity to avert Hamlet's catastrophes. As the website describes the game, on a summer night, the Danish noblewoman Ophelia awakens from a terrible vision. In four days everyone in Elsinore Castle will be dead. Even worse she's been thrown into a time loop from what she cannot escape, forced to relive the same four days over and over again, Ophelia determines to do everything in her power to change the future.
So Elsinore first seeks to remake the world of Elsinore Castle itself so Ophelia and Laertes are now by biracial, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are female scholars of color, and, surprisingly enough, Othello is available to assist Ophelia. As you can see here the image has some of the characters from the game. The game is also means to transform tragedy itself by crossing it with video gaming, both by using the game mode of the replay or time loop and by adapting model of the stealth character, who operates in the game world not in direct combat but rather indirectly or secretly. So the gameplay involves moving Ophelia through the various spaces of Elsinore Castle like here in the great hall, where she interacts with other characters during a time limited period. The end of the four days, she or others may die, but she will wake again to start a new series of days.
And if you play the game long enough and make the right choices, she might indeed save Elsinore from disaster, although there are 12 possible endings depending on the choices that you make. So as a reviewer Karen Pettit had described, the gameplay in Elsinore, where you don't change the course of events by poisoning people's goblets or stabbing them in the back with daggers, although your actions may get other people to do such things, you do so by gathering information, often by eavesdropping on conversations or then deciding when or who to share that information. As you can see here from this slide, the player keeps a list of information to share and builds on that over the process of the gameplay. So as Chironis hass commented on the game's origins, when she was both reading tragedies at school and playing video games, she thought, What if we combine this concept of the game power fantasy when all you do with win, win, win, with a tragedy, where all you do is lose, lose, lose.
So Chironis argues that Ophelia's minor role and Hamlet makes her the right choice to enact a new kind of balance between tragedy and the power of games, by acting as that ideal stealth character, who was invested with the ability to avert the catastrophe embedded in the story of Hamlet. So in this sense Elsinore's developers saw themselves as rethinking the whole concept of the gamer's agency in the context of the classical tragedy. Where they didn't want to grant Ophelia agency to change the course of events in the play, they also wanted to undercut what they call the power fantasy of gaming with its winning through violence. At the same time, the principle of the game is still that Ophelia may save Elsinore that she takes what she learns from going back in time to try a different strategy to unfold the story in multiple ways. So, in the short time I have left, let me just share a few thoughts extending from these notes about Elsinore about how the mechanism and approaches of video gaming can open up how we think about a classic play like Hamlet.
So it's Roger Caloir reminds us in his book on man playing games, all games are partially defined by conditions of uncertainty. After all, the pleasure and the challenge of gameplay are that you don't know how it's all going to turn out. Of course, our traditional view of Hamlet is a tragedy focuses on the outcome as Hamlet's ultimately ascending to his destiny to avenge his father's death and accept his own. However, refracting Hamlet through video gaming instead suggests the characters might be operating in a more open than closed world. One defined by uncertainty and indirection rather than fatality. One of what Horatio
at the play's end calls mischance, accidental judgments, casual slaughters. And indeed things might have turned out otherwise for at least one of Shakespeare sources for this play, Hamlet doesn't die when he achieves his revenge. Rather be violently severs Claudius' head, burns down the palace, and lives to reign as king. Indeed, I will also remind you that Shakespeare himself, not just here but elsewhere, was not averse to changing the original stories on which he based his own plays - see King Lear.
So video game Hamlet thus underlines how the play's events can be seen as unfixed and contingent, even as the tragic machine grinds on. I think video games make us question whether we really knew what the story was in the first place. Thanks for listening. i'll stop my share now.
Thank you so much for that was wonderful. Excellent yes so let's do virtual applause and we'll do a big round of applause for everyone, at the end Thank you so much. Again, if people think of questions as we're going please feel free to put them in the Q&A and we'll save them up for when we get to discussion. But I'm going to move on now to our next speaker, E. B. Hunter,
Assistant Professor of Drama at Washington University in St Louis in the United States. Elizabeth is creator of several digital adaptations of classic literature and drama, including Something Wicked, based on Shakespeare's Macbeth, Bitter Wind, a Greek tragedy in mixed reality, based on the story of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra in Greek literature and drama, And also another project that we're going to hear a bit more about today. Elizabeth has described her creative projects as a form of critical making that allows artists and users to explore the inner workings of classic texts.
In her writing she's argued that digital adaptations can, in her words, collapse spectator into enactor, and that they allow access to characters' subject positions in a way not achievable with other media. So thank you so much to Elizabeth for being here today and I'll turn it over to you. Thanks very much and now I'll get my screen to share and we'll see how that works. Right how's that. Thank you So hi first of all thanks for having me here i'm delighted to be here with Andrew and Rebecca on this panel, both of whom their work, I have followed for years. and whose whose work makes mine even feasible, and so I owe a huge debt of gratitude to both of my co panelists today, and thanks also Erin and Deborah for for putting this whole shebang together I'm excited to see the rest of the talks that I'll be awake for here in the United States.
So I really kind of leaned into Erin's invitation to focus on a specific element of a project and talk about the most recent project that I've built called Reason Not the Need. Which is not a video game per se, but a lot of the lessons in designing and building this project came from. What we learned from building Something Wicked, the Macbeth video game which is a free download from my website if anybody wants to. to play it, but I thought it might be an interesting complement, since you can read about Something Wicked and the design process behind it in an article that's out, I thought I would talk today about the.
process of building Reason Not the Need, and also the technology of augmented reality, which is what I'm spending a ton of time thinking about right now. So this is a mobile augmented reality adaptation of the thunderstorm seen from William Shakespeare's King Lear. And this app uses augmented reality on your phone or your iPad to populate the users space with holograms of like you can see here King Lear who was captured in volumetric video.
The fool who's on the left in the green modeled in I think the student designing that used Blender and other graphics like the lightning. which you can't really see lightning wasn't bursting in this screenshot but the rain, you can see, and our goal was to turn private space into stormy heath. Oh, and in the opening moments of it also uses facial mapping to add a crown to the users head and I'm clearly way too happy to be in an authentic. King Lear here in this in this screenshot but my lab called Fabulab - so exciting to be presenting to a crowd who will get that joke and not have to have it explained, instead of folks were like oh fabulous because it's fabulous I mean, yes, but not really. What our lab Fabulab designed and created Reason from June of 2020 from May of 2021 entirely remotely. The project was a collaboration with Jo Catell. Who is a directing fellow the Goodman theatre in Chicago and her work integrates immersive technology and theater.
With Aldo Billingsley who's here playing Lear who's a professional actor in the Bay area and Professor of acting at Santa Clara university. As well as faculty in my previous department at San Francisco State University, which was, where I was on faculty. Before coming to Wash U when we designed and built this prototype as well as student research assistance at State from theater computer science film and media studies and the Business School. Reason not the need was supported by the Illinois arts Council the CSU entertainment alliance and Marcus undergraduate research grants at San Francisco State University. So we built a prototype of this thunderstorm scene as a proof of concept for the director joke tell to use in order to source funding.
For the full length version of the production that she was planning to build for the theater industry and in this opportunity to build the prototype was really an ideal sandbox experience. For the students for Joe and for the experimentation, that I do in my research, and I think it's it's an example of the kind of partnership between academia and the creative industries that that really just sings. And the goal with Jo aesthetically for the larger project was to implicate the audience in the arrogance and the despair of our famous mad king.
and her longer adaptation envisions a Lear whose misuse of technology leads to his estrangement from society is abandonment by family and eventually his madness. And my lab Fabulab bit off the chunk that dovetails with the strand of my research that uses digital technology. to explore the dramaturgy of famous production problems in theater and so in Reason obviously that production problem was the thunderstorm scene in Lear and the first project like this that I built.
That Erin mentioned Something Wicked the Macbeth video game that production problem was on stage blood in Macbeth because you need so much and it turns into a convergence of. dramaturgy and budget and ruining all the clothes and aesthetics, that I that I talked about in the article that came out about Something Wicked but I use the video game format to think through that problem, you can have much blood, as you want, in a video game. And then, in the next project after that, which was Bitter Wind, I used headset based augmented reality, which is the hololens. To actually have one back here sitting on my desk you put it on, and you can see the world around you still was holograms kind of populating it.
But the production problem I was working through was how to emphasize on stage the slow passage of time when you're besieged by embodied memories that are visible, but they aren't ghosts and that play of course is Agamemnon. But in Reason, in addition to using in addition to using new technology as a way to rethink this famous production problem of creating an effective thunderstorm. This project explored how in the pandemic's seclusion which was especially pronounced in northern California, which was where we all were we were building this project. Our design goals were to explore themes of isolation and madness and the ways in which immersive connected technologies can turn vulnerable private space into theatrical.
Space so as some of the folks who are listening in probably already know theatre and performance works created with augmented reality technologies have existed for several years. But these projects were kind of niche and experimental until the pandemic came along and closed down theater industry and. made everyone a lot more interested in using remote digital technologies like video games and augmented reality and virtual reality.
To make work that you can sell tickets to and give actors work doing so, as these vital elements of augmented reality specifically fall into place. Like the partnership between Punchdrunk who made Sleep No More and a lot of other projects, I know they're Burnt City is up right now I think in London. which I would be I would love to hear about going to be happening we've seen that. they're partnering with Niantic who created Pokémon Go which you might have to and also some Harry Potter adaptation But Pokémon Go is the $5 billion game franchise that came out five years ago - $5 billion is a quote it's not metaphorical - they've made $5 billion dollars with Pokémon Go in the last five years. But they're partnering with Punchdrunk in order to build theatrical video game experiences for their real world platform.
So as that piece of this AR tech infrastructure falls into place and also when AR glasses finally become consumer grade. These experiments in augmented reality and performance that have been niche are going to become broadly accessible really fast. And so I think that scholarly engagement with augmented reality as an emergent tool for thinking about theatre and performance and literature has become really urgent. So when we turn to the discussion part of this panel after Andrew's talk, I want to offer two provocations from an article that I just finished about augmented reality and how we're making and analyzing this work, because the ways. in which this technology makes meaning are really different from other born-digital theatrical forms like Zoom or video game or virtual reality And the first of those is that augmented reality is especially well suited for design that integrates a semiotic approach with critical literature. That is related to the source narrative and then this this combinations especially effective.
For navigating sources, where multiple versions compete as the authentic version, so the classicists here know that, in mythos, any given version has any number and any given mythos has any number of variations. which usually around revolve around elements that are easy to depict like it's an apple in this version, it's a pomegranate in this version, Iphigenia is murdered in this version, she is replaced with the deer in this version. But because the nature of augmented reality is such that designers pick only some elements of a source to turn into the holograms that stand out.
against your analog background of this semiotics led approach is my contention allows us to have a design argument that prioritises one version over another. or emphasizes latent elements of the source or production problems like I did with the Macbeth video game. And this is also how I chose which holograms to build for Bitter Wind, where the sad girl is pulling focus from the more familiar stage semiotics of the Agamemnon mythos, like a door, a bathtub and tapestries. In my version, the girl takes. She pulls focus and the second of these provocations is that I would want to encourage.
designers and scholars to foreground the porousness of augmented reality as a technology and the way its holograms haunt this space that you're in. So I've seen a lot of experiments early experiments that just kind of relocate a pre recorded. enclosed performance to augmented reality and then the user surroundings are visible in the background, but they're not really integrated as part of this story space, and I think that that design. really only uses AR as a novelty and misses the opportunity.
To engage its affordances meaningfully, so I would I would encourage us as we move forward in designing our games. and designing theatrical projects with augmented reality specifically I would love for folks to lean into that future where our own environments are haunted by Greek tragedy by thunderstorms and by whatever story kind of materialized on our walls and that we participated in. that's what I have Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you very much I'm making lots of notes as everyone talks - lots of things to discuss and another round of virtual applause. I'm going to move next to Andrew for our final talk and then
we'll go into our final discussion, and thank you for raising those provocations, Elizabeth. For Andrew I'm going to play a video - he's done a pre recorded video of his talk, both for connectivity security, but also because there's some. Video elements that he wants to play and share with you, and it can be a little bit tricky going in and out of those moments. So in a moment I'll. share my screen and run that video, but first I'll introduce Andrew, who is here with us live as well, and will be involved in the discussion. Our final speaker is Andrew Burn who is professor of English media and drama at UCL Institute of education in London.
His book Literature, Video games and Learning, published by Routledge last year, argues that video games are not so different from earlier literary traditions and that, quote, poetry itself is a form of play. he's described video games as digital rhapsodies made up of what he describes as the syntax of language, the grammar of visual action, the conditional mood of code. Andrew's led a series of important projects exploring video games classic literature and English education. And he's also developed a tool called Mission Maker, which allows students to create their own games based on classic texts, including Beowolf and Macbeth, and we'll hear more about that in just a minute. So everyone cross their fingers for me and I'm going to share my screen and hopefully optimize the video properly.
Okay. So I'm going to show two video captures of game levels designed by 14 year old girls in an East London School using software, we designed in our lab called Mission Maker. a Unity based game authoring tool, you can see some examples of projects that we've done based on Beowolf and Macbeth and I owe thanks to Stella Wisdom of the British Library for collaboration and to Erin who helped us judge our national.
video game competition based on Macbeth. So the girls had been allocated particular scenes from Macbeth by their teacher Allison Crosedale, who was also studying their work as part of her PhD project. So I want to pose two questions, the first is how might this help, not just the students, but also us, to think differently about the plays, to think about them as games and, secondly, what kinds of remix, to directly address the topic of our seminar series, are in evidence here.
First example, then, is Joanne's game, and it's based on the murder of Lady Macduff and son, so she's searching for a way to offer the player some kind of choice, some kind of way to engineer a multiple narrative. She homes in on the final stage direction that you can see here, she realizes that it offers a kind of loose end in the text, a kind of lacuna, is Lady Macduff actually killed by the murderers of might she possibly escape? The function of stage directions, by the way, is interesting here - I've just noted Sarah Dustagheer and Gillian Woods' comment about these. That stage directions take us to the heart of how meaning is made in plays precisely because they foreground the dynamic between text and performance. And I think Joanne's game precisely exploits this dynamic using it to prise open the text to re engineer the narrative to offer the player some possibility of escape.
I'll just play the video capture of her game and talk you through it. So here, you can see, we arrive in the game as Lady Macduff, and Joanne's chosen an appropriate digital body to function as our avatar. So we run upstairs, we open the door, we see the dead body of a child. We pass through the courtyard of the castle into the woods, where where.
Where we eventually see the murderers who will attack us. You can see the avatar's health bar at the top left of the screen, reduced with each attack. In this play's sequence, in fact, the health bar is exhausted and the avatar dies. However, it could keep on running, so Joanne has combined two design features of the game to produce this choice between dying and running. The narrative space of the woods and the heath which give us give us space to run. And the programming of the murderer, and here you can see the property panel that this character from the design interface, where she has she's she's chosen to program the character to follow the player and also to be aggressive.
So then she's re engineered the narrative as I've suggested to offer the player the choice to be killed or perhaps a worse fate, To to be condemned to an endless running, an endless flight. She later on told us that she'd been influenced in her designed by a popular mobile phone game which perhaps some of you know - Temple Run, a running game in which you run from temple to temple finding treasure and escaping monsters. So here's The second example, this is Leanne's game and she's been allocated the murder of Banquo. Once again she's chosen a small fragment as a way in. And once again her interest is in the ludic narrative, finding possibilities for multiple routes. So she finds a scrap of dialogue, which suggests that there might be a quality of empathy in the second murderer.
Who she has decided might then choose to show mercy to Fleance, and allow him to escape. I'll just play you a short video clip, in which he talks about her idea. 'Murderer number two seems more like he's trying to resolve the situation and trying to calm both of them down. So he seems the most sympathetic out of both of them. 'So how about we make sure that murderer number two is a traitor and he wants, and he eventually lets Fleance escape.'
'The avatar is set in the body of murderer number three.' 'The two murderers are supposed to go and kill Banquo, and while the two murderers who're playing Banquo, one of the murderers - us - we're supposed to chase off Fleance, so he ran away, and there is going to be this big elaborate. 'chasing of us and Fleance and they reach a point where we realize that we feel guilty for the whole situation and. 'The avatar's given the choice of whether to kill Fleance or to let him live and depending on which one he chose at the end of the day. 'Fleance will still escape, but if the avatar was to pick to let him go, then us the avatar have to go back to the murderers and lie to them telling them that he escaped out of our reach when really we let him go by ourselves.' 'But who told you to come join us?' 'Macbeth.
We can trust him. He's been given the same instructions as us.' 'Then stay then, it is still light. Everyone is going home and the one we should look out for should be near.' So, like Joanne's, her design begins with a a kind of instrumental reading.
To re engineer the mechanics of the narrative perhaps recalling what Louise Rosenblatt called efferent reading. to prise open the text and insert her desired alternative routes. However Allison asks them to follow up with a piece of creative writing. And this leads to something which is closer to the category of aesthetic reading which Rosenblatt emphasized, with its its strong sense of affective engagement.
Startlingly in this she has replaced the beefy warrior of her digital model with her own image. 'Who sent you?' he says, this is one of the murderers talking to you as the avatar. Scanning me, trying to decipher why a young lady, such as myself, would have any business with such. Five foot nine, curly brown bush heaped into a high ponytail by my cocoa tone skin.
Outcast by society due to my appearance I've been forced to go into the streets stealing and selling just to get by with my pure hatred for the world. So she fills out the simple. receptacle of the avatar with her own image and story, re-mixing the tragic back stories of the murderers with her own concerns of gender and ethnicity. Her reimagining recalls perhaps Maya Angelou's well known provocation paraphrased here by by Juliet Fleming: William Shakespeare was a black woman, for he had marvelously understood and written about her outcast state. So how might this help us to think about the play differently, we could think about it, as already game like, how is it like a game, a series of missions, for the protagonists to accomplish.
How is it procedural in the sense that in Ian Bogost and Janet Murray describe, how is it made up of units managed by rules. How might it be seen as play, especially in respect of the categories which Roger Callois, the play theorist, identifies as mimicry and agon. How might it be seen as outward facing, offering what Astrid Ensslin calls the textual you of video games, offering the reader or spectator or player a point of access or purchase. A point of entry to inhabit the character. And secondly, then, my other question, how might the games exhibit forms of remix.
So in the study of literacy in the wider context of youth culture, practices of remix and mash up are common and they've been extensively described by people like Henry Jenkins and Mizuko Ito. Obvious underpinning of this idea is Levi Strauss's bricolage, so to see these girls as bricolas takes us some way in understanding their playful interventions. But that's not the whole story. We remember that Levi Strauss opposed his image of the bricola to the image of the engineer, the savage mind as he called it as opposed to the scientific mind. So I want to suggest that the creative bricolage here, the remix of stories, fiction, autobiography, elite and popular cultural fragments, blood and horror.
is interdependent with cool critical thought logical justifications and in fact actual engineering in the form of computer programming. In terms of the curriculum, we could see game design as a meeting place between computing and the stem curriculum and the arts. So literature remade through game design requires efferent and aesthetic reading and its literate procedures, and both bricolage and engineering and its forms of creative design. Thanks very much. Wonderful Thank you so much, Andrew.
Excellent. Okay, and thank you so much to the panel, so we can now properly have a nice round of applause, physical or emoji version. whatever seems most appropriate wherever you all are and in whatever context.
Thank you so much for sharing your work with us. And for bringing so many different perspectives to bear on the conversation so again, I want to invite our audience members to feel free to ask questions. We'll see them most easily if you put them in the Q&A button, but we'll also keep an eye on the chat. I thought I'd start with quite a broad question, which is about why maybe there aren't more. video game adaptations and maybe I might say commercial video game adaptations of of classic texts. I suppose the kind of obvious answer is maybe they don't make money. But I'm thinking about the fact that you know, certainly in the 90s, and into the first decade of the 2000s, there are so many film adaptations of classic texts, and we still see that today.
So I'm wondering why there isn't a kind of parallel trend, or if there is one just missed it? I don't know I mean there was a marvelous collection that came out a couple of years ago called Classical Antiquity and Video Games that tracks specifically. Ancient sources in video games, and so I am not sure that they're necessarily as many. Shakespeare video games, as the Shakespeareans among us would are astonished that there aren't Shakespeare video games, but I think there actually are a fair number of of classical antiquity.
Video games, certainly the Assassin's Creed franchise looks at - I mean they're not doing a one to one translation of the dramas. But there's a lot of work on historical sources taken to that big franchise level, I think, maybe more but that but that's a really good collection to start. Looking at I had it on my shelf, but i'm realizing I had to send it back. So I don't I don't have my own copy of it but it's called Classical Antiquity and Video Games, so I think that there's there's been a pretty decent representation, but maybe more on the side and that maybe is because there's a more robust around literature about the wars and.
You know war translates into video games pretty nicely and we don't get to see all the big battles necessarily on the stage in. In Shakespeare's plays. There's kind of you know they're quieter stories, Henry, the history plays notwithstanding, but I think it's out there, maybe just not Shakespeare, not as much as there should be. And I would add, yes, I was thinking absolutely be the Assassin's Creed games and the ways in which you know, for example, the Assassin's Creed's Odyssey one. Or that they the video games adapt themselves to the creation of ancient worlds or classical worlds and the same could be true for example of think about how much of video games are also based in. Images of medieval worlds and the recreation of worlds, and of course there's the huge amount of games that are dedicated to replaying wars, historical battles which interestingly enough.
If the argument would be, well we don't do them based on Shakespeare plays because, as I said, everybody knows how the Shakespeare. You know plays turn out, why are there are so many video games based on history which explore the opportunities of alternative history and let you replay battles. So there's something something is at stake there between between the way that that the stories that we thought we always know are being approached and the ways that video games have grappled with history.
yeah I can I just add I think Rebecca's point about the neo-medievalism is a really important when you think of Game of Thrones but, so I mean in relation to that I was just gonna mention the. The sort of vast and sprawling role playing game genre and games related to that which, in effect, all come from Tolkien and therefore eventually actually all come from Beowulf So you know you get Beowulf through Tolkien into that whole genre and then into specific adventure games which are adapted from Tolkien stories themselves so there's that kind of lineage you know, I think, which does play out. The other thing I was thinking is that there is it kind of commercial and technological. set of practicalities of work, so I was thinking of the Beowulf game which was based on the Robert Zemeckis animated film based on Beowulf And that was a kind of easy transition because Zemeckis's film used motion capture animation so the digital models are kind of already ready there to be turned into a video game, and also the voice acting was contributed by.
Various people to that film, including Anthony Hopkins, for instance, was also easily transferable into the into the video game, so you can see why that happens, but there are other games, of course, based on Dante's Inferno and Alice in Wonderland. Even Atlas Shrugged actually all kinds of them so they're probably more. But still I think as. Elizabeth said, why aren't there more Shakespeare games.
I think that also for Shakespeare games, specifically, which of course there should be lots more of, the elephant in the room that with the we kind of. tangled with head on, in Something Wicked is the barrier to comprehension that the language presents, which has always been. Present with non specialists and specialists no longer even see that, and I think when you are in a context, like in Andrew has been in where you're taking. The source and talking about it with seventh graders or with people who aren't predisposed to like a bunch of engineers who didn't want to take a Shakespeare class, but had to check it off on their requirements list. I think that there's there's a barrier to enjoyment, that the language has always presented that isn't a part of the equation with.
Ancient Greek and Roman, with Beowulf, nobody's reading in an old English, all these other works that we've been talking about all are available in translation. And you know the study aids and no fear Shakespeare, and everything aside, which I am always a huge proponent of. That that chunk of like in order to understand the plot and get to the plot I have to get through this tangle of language, I think that's not a small contribution to why there's not more popular engagement with Shakespeare's plays. that's really interesting Thank you all and it's wonderful because it reminds me being a Shakespearean sometimes.
I over-look for Shakespeare, and to be reminded of other places the other classics that are you know producing really fruitful engagement is really helpful and it's exactly one of the reasons why. We started this network, so thank you for that I think Deborah at one point, did you have a question I did have a question and. I'm seeing that we are getting some pouring in too so just before we go into the Q&A session, I just wanted, I mean Rebecca showed us a lovely.
Still from Laurence Olivier's 1948 Hamlet, which has had a remarkably long shelf life, you know when you think about it. And we still think about Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, and I just wonder about video games and do they have the potential to have that long shelf life to become sort of classics in their own right. Or is technology moving too quickly for them to be the one and only kind of version of the text, of the text that survives the source. hmm interesting question. Well, I mean, as I, as I pointed out at least one of the games that i'm talking about.
In the article that I wrote on Hamlet and video games has disappeared it's it's no longer there so. They literally can have these kinds of games that are often generated for the Internet and only have that digital life. can disappear so that's you know there on the on the one hand side you can say, on the other side on I mean a game that I've been thinking about that I've actually also written about it or the Witcher games which again create that great. Neo medieval world and and which are three there's actually a production of a quasi Shakespearean play.
In the course of that game that game is very being conscious both of its own evocation of this world, but also of its theatrical game like status, and so you know certain games themselves have become classics and of course they get played and replayed and reinvented and modded and transformed. In ways in which they remind us, I always think they remind us of the fact that the Shakespeare plays themselves have been remade modded transformed. 308 00:52:50.970 --> 00:53:01.920
Rebecca Bushnell: Unlike you can say unlike Olivier's film, which exists out there caught in you know caught in crystal on film, until that film itself degenerates. So, but I think it's a to me it's sort of it's both the danger, but also the power of video games is is they have that malleability and ability to be transformed and adapted and modded - that they don't have the permanence. Of the Olivier film and which you can say is both a loss, but I think also a tremendous game. I mean they're hard to preserve and I think curators always have this huge problem, I mean what do you preserve. Is it the software, is it the concept art and whatever so that that is certainly a big problem. But they're not a problem which a student a student I once co-supervised with Steve Kelly at Cambridge.
raised was you know are games kind of subject to a sort of endless kind of improvement technological improvement. which renders previous versions of them obsolete and he conceived of this under the idea of. What he called ideality, that they're constantly striving for technological improvement or improvement in kind of representational. You know technologies like graphics, so the Witcher series, for example, you know which is sort of brilliantly kind of realized graphically. You know, does that mean the older games which look clunky. will become superseded and forgotten and I don't think they will actually because you take a game a classic game like Final Fantasy Seven.
Which fans still remember and love and see, as a kind of classic of the Japanese roleplaying game time, even though you look back on this and the graphics are kind of clunky and. You know doll-like, it seems to me that a game like that will always be fondly remembered in the same kind of way, as you know, cinema technologies which have been superseded. will always have a kind of aesthetic appeal and perhaps can be recaptured through nostalgic retro cultural processes as well. Right Thank you will like Deborah said we've got some great questions so I'll go ahead and start asking some of those. With two questions from Ariel Daggon and I'll ask one to start with. They're both about education and the classroom, so I think.
They might be mostly directed to you, Andrew, although Elizabeth they might also be of interest to you. Ariel asks how do you balance between the class time it takes to design edit and produce the video games by students versus the time spent teaching texts and perhaps additional texts. yeah I think my answer to that is always the it's the same time you don't need to teach the text and then make the video again, you can do them together, then they they support each other.
Also, I would say that you know our motivation in designing software like this is to make them easy to use. You know we've compared them, for instance, to Scratch, where kids after the unit produced by MIT where kids have to basically learn programming. before they can move the turtle from one corner of the screen to the other, whereas with ours the kids can pick it up in a really in a matter of half an hour, so those games that were made by the kids in London were made, you know in one day, off timetable session. yeah I think that that learning from the lessons of of Andrew's project which I read about when I started working on Something Wicked.
Pretty extensively because I knew that. In terms of the design of the project itself, I didn't have I was writing dissertation also, and so this was my side hustle and so I did it I couldn't drill down into the making a whole suite of stuff. In the and also Andrew had already done that, like that that that project didn't need to be redone again, and so I thought about ways that I could.
create something that would just be supplemental rather than being an all encompassing lecture and so, in terms of the depth as a pedagogical tool, the depth of knowledge of the text that students get after working through the. process that Andrew has set up is extremely robust and mine is is meant to be worked in in five minutes as opposed, so you won't get as deep A dive into that dramaturgy into moving across media but they're they're doing different they're serving different functions in in a classroom and and that was actually the next step for me with. Something Wicked which has kind of been sitting peacefully on its shelf, for the past couple of years, has always been to think about testing it as I'm not a learning sciences person I'm a. theater person, a technology person, a theorist, so I'm in the classroom but I'm not a learning sciences person, but we noticed when we were beta testing it, that we would we were. In a space where there are lots of engineers so we would grab these computer engineers or other kinds of engineers and say hey, what do you think about Shakespeare and they're like. And we said well what read this passage, read Act one Scene two which is the Norwegian invasion.
and tell us what you think and then play this video game, which is the Something Wicked. turns it into a playable thing that you turns the battle into something that you play in four levels and it stays, but everything you can't diverge from the narrative and the source, you have to play the way the battles roll out in one two. And we saw this was just totally informal but we saw all of these lights going off. In the minds of engineers and you're like wait a minute I actually understand what's going on in this.
monologue now, and now I want to read the rest of it, and I see how you get the sparrows and the hairs and eagles and there's the sword, which is smoking with bloody execution and especially if they were gamers. They could sense that we were speaking to gamers also that you could kill the bad guys, you could kill them faster if you stabbed them in the back. And gamers could feel that mechanic and so, then they started asking is this a play about backstabbing. Yes, it is, and then Banquo had an AI script where he wouldn't get out of Macbeth's way and so, then they start asking, who is this guy I hate this guy I want to kill this guy like you do. But so thinking about how to drive their experience towards comprehension and affinity was a goal for that project that I think it's just doing different kinds different kinds of work but there they can both be valuable in a classroom setting.
Brilliant thank you. The next question is specifically for Rebecca. It's from Polina and she asked or she says Thank you so much for your paper. And then she says she's not acquainted with the game Elsinore, hence the question. So she asks how is our desire for tragic outcomes incorporated into the contingent world of the game, or does the game make you try hard to avoid tragedy? that's a that's a wonderful question and one that I thought about and also being aligned with the pleasures of gaming.
Because there are two kinds of gaming is all about winning and getting to the you know getting to the end. And so they're different they're different kinds of ways of winning you can say I mean it was interesting the way that on the Robin Johnson game, the lamentable text adventure of Hamlet. ended.
It it could only end with your dying as Hamlet. And so, when you finally get to the point and it doesn't give you any other alternative but to die, and then at the point in which you die the player's told, you've completed 100% of this adventure, Horatio rates you with a very Ecstasy of love. And so, there are the concept of actually as it is in some sense with with the ending of Hamlet itself, of giving in of let be. as it were, of giving into the experience of your own death and the pleasures of the tragedy become rewarded because that's also in that game, the form of winning the game. Now again what the other games do so, the in comparison To Be or Not To Be game differently.
rewards you rewards you in different ways, if you with for all the different kinds of ending. endings on the one hand, if you if you choose to go in a direction where you have a going to a just ending where Claudius is going to be judged to be guilty in a. court of law you're given justice points, but very few adventure points so you're you were judged to have a different kind of experience, as opposed to your receiving to.
To the tragic ending, which is aligned with Shakespeare's ending, but you don't get very much in terms of game rewards, as opposed to other kinds of experiences so so it's very much in games. baked into the whole reward and pleasure systems that are that are inherent in games themselves. Thank you. The next question is from Julie who says she loved all of the papers and she thanks everyone so much and then she asks.
kind of moving from games to film, but you know, maybe back again she asked if the speakers have any thoughts on Joel Coen's the tragedy of Macbeth whose sense of space felt to me or to her to be very virtual. And then another broad question she has was inspired by Elizabeth discussion of materiality do any of the panelists have any further thoughts about the paradox of the virtual space and the body or aspects or experience of materiality. there's a lot in there and I suppose the question is about. yeah how how a digital space renders renders the physical and if we, and I suppose riffing on it with my own thoughts, but kind of do we see this as a kind of. binary or do they sort of enmesh one another and I'm thinking about Elizabeth talking about porousness, and if anyone's seen Coen's Tragedy of Macbeth and wants to comment on it, likewise in the comments that'd be great. I think that that.
Cohen's Macbeth, which I thought was very brave to call it Joel Coen's Macbeth. Especially because the staging to me seemed to be a direct update of the Orson Welles. mm hm ponderous film, but I think that the notion of video games existing as a digitally rendered space. It one of the reasons that theater people a lot of times like talking about video games and. Also virtual and augmented reality technologies is it we're very familiar with the language of surrealism and symbolism, as opposed to going for. Historical realism in depiction, a