What possibilities might gaming and VR technologies open up for classic literature and drama?

What possibilities might gaming and VR technologies open up for classic literature and drama?

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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

2022-05-25 20:44

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