A different approach to history

Sometimes when we think about history in videogames, I think we get it all wrong. While it is important to consider the history of when games where created, when certain consoles and titles hit the market are important perhaps what we need to consider more is the history when certain events happen. Though, it is important o underline that this would make of the history of videogames something very contemporary and a very moving forward kind of situation. Mayor events are only now starting to come up, with some few tournaments and gatherings starting to pop up just in the early 2000’s. However, if we want to be a bit more creative something that has existed from the beginning are magazines. Perhaps a motivated scholar could find archives where magazines like Nintendo power are gathered, along with other titles that could help us discern the historical context of the gaming history. In these magazines we could find things like cheats and tricks for the classic games, offers for merchandise and the earlier forms of video game affiliation in the form of clubs.

Perhaps another way to think about video game history is in function of its regulation, a quick scope of when and how the ESRB was created. Another way to track history is with scholarly papers, that would be an interesting trip, as the history shows a notable theme that starts with video game violence, goes into the world of exergames and now recently goes into the more positive effects that video games can have in the individuals. Another line of historical analysis is the way videogames are distributed, not all markets where reached at the same time and some places took a lot longer to be considered.

One thing is for sure, if we want to start building a history of gaming we need to do it in function of what we can see. We do have the advantage of games being a recent occurrence, and most of the archival date that we would want to find might be somewhat available, but how we use it and analyze it is where the challenge lays in.

A work of pioneering new media.


Poetry in hypertext: Narratives in motion.

“The Quick Brown Fox Jumps over the Lazy dog” Such phrase is pretty familiar amongst English speakers with the grasp of what a pangram is. In short; a pangram is a phrase that makes use of all the letters of the alphabet, a composed sentence used to exemplify the use of the written language. Pangrams exist in most written languages, used to illustrate fonts and typeset or merely as cognitive exercises.

But in the case of Alan Bigelow’s “Pangram” it is a means to express a sense of orientation, a remix of meanings and experiences. Produced in 2011, “Pangram” is a creative and novel way to put a traditional kind of product in a novel way to experience a content and to give the user multiple options to go through a content that put on paper might seem like a drop of water in an ocean of literary products.


The idea behind “Pangram” is to present a poem in such a way that the reader has multiple possibilities to experience it. Form the beginning, the name of the piece is an indication of what to expect of the work. Bigelow devices a clever way to deliver his poem, taking his writing and tossing it into a hypertext that not only conveys the work in a traditional matter, it also allows the reader to play with it and experience it at its own pace.

As for the means of how “Pangram”  is presented it is formatted in Adobe Flash. Now, Flash nowadays might be seem like a phasing medium, but it does allow for a dynamic environment to put sound and imagery together with certain animation to create the desired effect. Sadly, unlike using Java or HTML it is impossible to peer into he source code to appreciate more technical detail without using specialty programs. As a side note, I make note of this because in some cases, especially in e-lit (electronic Literature) authors hide notes and comments in the code, as well as those with savvy knowledge about programming can appreciate some of the effort put into it.

Continuing with he delivery aspect of this work, “Pangram” is first presented with advice “Is your computer’s sounds on?”.

“Pangram” is a multimedia experience, convincing text, animation, colors and yes, sound. The sound has a baseline that puts the user into a sense of attention, once tis thresholds passed, the poem literally gets moving, starting with a teaser of the phrase “The Quick brown fox…” before affirming that this is a pangram. Afterwards the animation gives way to interactivity, the user will be presented with the baseline music and the whole pangram, there are no instructions to follow, but curiosity and a bit of intuitive navigation will lead the user to hover their pointer over the letters. Every item a letter is hover on top of, the screen changes to a line of the poem, each starting with one of the alphabet letters. Every selection is also accompanied by a tone, that might sound familiar to keen eared users, but that at the moment is jumbled, much like the poem itself.

However as the user explores the poem and lights up the pangram in colors, the narrative seems to be jumbled and at the same time somewhat understandable, and once the user light up everything and gets to that final period, animation once more takes over and rearranges the letters into alphabetical order and color coded.

By doing this the user unlock the “traditional” structure of the poem and can read the piece in order, but keen eyes will notice that while the tones are now in a logical order, the alphabet loses its color and once they do, the alphabet scrambles and reforms the pangram. And a loop is created, and now equipped with self efficacy the user can start exploring the poem in different ways, having a basic understanding, appreciating the animation and imagery provided.

The experience a user might undertake is that of initial hesitation followed y understanding and ultimately curiosity. The cues that the poem employs are mutisomantic, appealing to different senses at the same time.  It is necessary to the user to o into the piece with the intention to interact and discover as I believe that making the interactivity too explicit takes away form the experience.

It is also notable that the poem has that moment where it switches for the pangram to the orderly alphabet. This moment of rearranging gives the user a sense of what they are looking for, but since the full experience in each case is changed after every time it is fully highlighted or deprived of colors, it is interesting to see how different users interact with it and to know if they got the gist of the poem or if it is amore about the interactivity and little audible cues.

By the end of this poem hopefully the user would have experienced a poem in a different way, nowadays a perhaps dated work, primitive and rustic, but in my opinion, still relevant and innovative.  “Pangram” I believe succeeds in peeking the user’s curiosity to see in how many ways can they interact with the narrative of the poem, to see if each color of the letters is related to their respective vignettes, if they can observe and rearrange in different ways to get different meaning out of the narratives.

The possibilities of presenting literature allow for those cases when the author would rather let users come to their own conclusions and interpretations rather than imposing their own. Yes, a base meaning might exist, but the ultimate understanding and experience is taken by a case by case basis.

Hypertext does represent a way to create these experiences, where little details can be included with the objective of alluring, provoking and mobilizing the user to want to see more and hopefully consider that poetry can be fluid and ever changing, that the order can change meaning while maintaining the elements there. A reshuffle of the elements giving a different narrative.

Alan Bigelow in the credits, accessible at the beginning of the work, denotes his role a “Spun by” not “written” or “coded” by, meaning that he knows this will be remixed and reconstructed, torn to pieces and then reassembled. All in a convenient format, online and ever dynamic environment.

A Rubric for a new kind of media.

To observe and consider new media, works of creativity and creation in a new dimension we need to think about how things are presented, what they want to represent and say with this new work. Or rater; a kind of remix of old presented in a new ecology, old travelers in new roads trying to find ways, means and meaning.

However to review this work at a critical level we must be permissive of what falls into the subjective and the objective. One can’t be considered without the other, and both have a valuable element to give the other. Categories of evaluation can be displayed, and even if more stablished and documented criteria exist for formal essays and papers, new media needs to have special consideration in order to deal with the especial environment being used.

We must consider categories that cover a group of values and elements at different stages of the work. We must remember that works of digital media have a certain temporality, the themselves represent a narrative to follow, a starting point to begin with and follow. Thus, my proposal for a rubric encompasses the following categories.: Intention, Delivery, Reception and Outcome. Representing both objective dimension and subjective dimensions.

The first two are objective dimensions:

Intention must deal with the thematic behind the work, what is the content that wants to be represented and presented. This is the part of the work that deals with the title, the content, the idea behind the work. This is the piece at a conceptual level and where we evaluate the work on the merits of the work itself.

Delivery is how the author puts the intention forward and how it is reachable by the Consumer. Delivery is where we evaluate and consider the technical ingenuity and prowess of the author. This is where we see the map and we try to follow along to see if it is an orderly affair, a controlled chaos or a bit of a mix of both. Here we can appreciate the resources used, the presentation of the work as well as the technical details.

The next two elements are subjective dimensions:

Reception deals with how the consumer receives the content, how they can interact and how much of it is understandable and how much requires either repetition of the exercise or further mental exercises to fully grasp. It deals with the impact of the media on the person, the dimensionalities of the consumer’s senses activated and challenged in order to move on to the next dimension of evaluation.

Outcome refers to the ultimate effect of the reader’s experience, the assumed and hopefully accurate, results on those interacting with the digital media creation and how that would make them think and reflex in any element of themselves.

It is true that some of these criteria depend on the better judgement of the evaluator and with a capacity to put themselves in several perspectives in order to evaluate a piece of work as something that will be consumed by both mainstream audience and experts (and anyone in between). However, for those creations based on creative works and more subjective themes it is important to accept and embrace the evaluator’s point of view by maintaining the criteria consistent soothers can come into a new work and try to see it under the same rubrics even if from a different perspective. In this case, even divergent opinions could carry truths and move forward a conversation that otherwise would be limited.

The final evaluation can be structured by using these as guidelines, moving from one to the other to not only represent the work, but to make a narrative of it trough the content, context, interactivity and result of it.

You are standing in an open field west of a white house.

Name: Luis Graciano Velazquez

Level: 34.

Class: Information and Media Scholar, game studies, identity and narratives.

Alignment: He/Him, chaotic good.

Backgrounds: Humanities major, fulbright scholar. Cat enthusiast, horizon walker. Wanderlust unlimited, role player and scholar.

Story: Born in the costal regions of the former Olmec empire (now Veracruz, Mexico) in the orwellian year on the fifth day of the julian month. Son of peerless warriors, grandson to ancient natives, looking for a way to open the portal between two worlds in a land of ingrained philosophies.