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Control Room / Laboratorio at the Royal Observatory

Sidekick are collaborating in two exciting, one-off forthcoming events. On Monday, 26th October, we’re joining Abigail Parry, writer-in-residence at the National Video Games Arcade in Nottingham, for CONTROL ROOM, an experimental interactive literature evening, mixing games and poetry. The audience can come and go as they please, ‘playing’ at one of four simultaneous poetry installations from 7pm onwards. The poets Harry Man and Abi Palmer will also be performing, and there’s board games next door. The event is part of GameCity, the NVA’s annual festival of games.

Then, on 12th November, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich is hosting ‘Laboratorio’, a live reading from our book of the same name, featuring editor/poet Simon Barraclough and a number of the real life astrophysicists who contributed work. Tickets are £8 and can be bought from the Royal Museums Greenwich website here.

Seven-Player Co-op: a Coin Opera II event!

For those of you unable to access the Facebook event, this Thursday 6th November we will be hosting Seven Player Co-op, an evening of game poetry, at the Four Quarters Bar, 187 Rye Lane, Peckham.

Contributors to ‘Coin Opera 2: Fulminare’s Revenge‘ reunite for an evening of poems based on, or inspired by, computer games, featuring: Samuel Prince, Gabrielle Nolan, Harry Man, Emily Hasler, Clifford Hammett, Jon Stone and Kirsten Irving.

And possibly a Top Secret End of Level Boss. I can say no more for now.

We’ll be setting a quiz and offering as a prize on the night the top level Kickstarter reward!

So that’s:
  • a copy of Coin Opera II in all its hot-foiled glory!
  • a copy of procedurally-generated and hand-sewn experimental poetry pamphlet Core Samples, featuring poems which drill through levels in Zool, Trine, Grim Fandango and more!
  • a poster featuring sprites of all of COII’s contributing poets.
  • a rather snazzy badge.
  • a copy of Super Treasure Arcade, a full-colour pocket booklet featuring a poem a game for every year between 1971 and 2013.
Nearest station is Peckham Rye Overground and readings will start between 7.30 and 8pm. Lots of buses too! The bar also has old school arcade machines, so you can take your pick of entertainments!

Coin Opera II custom poems #5: Fallen London for Claire Trévien

As top-tier rewards during our Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of video games poetry anthology Coin Opera II, we offered backers the chance to have their own custom poem written on a game of their choice. In the run-up to our Seven-Player Co-op event on Thursday 6th November at Four Quarters Bar, Peckham, we’ll be revealing the finished poems, now in the hands of their wonderful backers.

Poet and storyteller Claire Trévien selected Failbetter Games‘ steampunk text adventure Fallen London. Kirsty used the familiar refrain of the game to bring the narrative swinging back around each time.

Here’s what a mysterious stranger dropped through Claire’s door:

And here’s the poem to read (simpler text below, as the author was a scrawler):

Hmm. This might be a bit easier on the eye:

Delicious Friend
For Claire Trévien

The Embassy is quiet tonight.
No lesser imps by sulphurlight.
You could go home and pour a tot.
Perhaps not.

No, you have business. Old acquaintance.
A scent of debt and smoking incense.
“I thought I’d have to have you caught.”
Perhaps not.

She welcomes you with blazing eyes.
“I do hope you can help,” she sighs.
“Perhaps you’ve never been this hot.”
Perhaps not.

She tells you that she’s burning up
and can’t be quenched by any cup.
Your legs are weak. The candle’s squat.
Perhaps not.

You hand her now the blotto youth.
“He’ll do quite well,” she purrs. In truth,
you nearly ask, “Do well for what?”
Perhaps not.

“Your hand is empty. Stay awhile.
I’d like to see that thieving smile.
You know, we both might learn a jot.”
Perhaps not.

“Well, I’ve jawed on for eons, kitten.
Tell me of your expedition.”
Rapt, she wants to hear the lot.
Perhaps not.

You tell her of the rubber men
who flubbled through the laudanum dens,
and nearly mention what they sought.
Perhaps not.

The Carnival. The iron knives.
You tell her you live many lives.
“With many souls? Now there’s a thought.”
Perhaps not.


Thanks once again to all of our amazing backers.

Coin Opera II custom poems #4: Civilization V for Helen Lewis

As top-tier rewards during our Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of video games poetry anthology Coin Opera II, we offered backers the chance to have their own custom poem written on a game of their choice. In the run-up to our Seven-Player Co-op event on Thursday 6th November at Four Quarters Bar, Peckham, we’ll be revealing the finished poems, now in the hands of their wonderful backers.

The fantastic Helen Lewis chose Civilization V for her custom poem, and the finished piece ended up being excavated by Kirsty from many sediments and centuries, with just a dusting of Coleridge left behind.

Here’s the readable text for you to enjoy.

Thanks once again to all of our amazing backers.

Coin Opera II custom poems #3: GTA Vice City for Angela Cleland

As top-tier rewards during our Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of video games poetry anthology Coin Opera II, we offered backers the chance to have their own custom poem written on a game of their choice. In the run-up to our Seven-Player Co-op event on Thursday 6th November at Four Quarters Bar, Peckham, we’ll be revealing the finished poems, now in the hands of their wonderful backers.

This time it’s the turn of the talented Angela Cleland, who requested a poem on Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. This was huge fun for K to write, and began with Cleland’s memory of a particular song playing on the in-game car stereo: Toto’s Africa.

Here’s the physical poem Cleland received, done up as protagonist Tommy Vercetti’s prison-confiscated belongings. Well, it had to catch up with him sooner or later.

And here’s a postcard for you to read.

Thanks once again to all of our amazing backers.

Coin Opera II custom poems #2: Shenmue for Carly Lightfoot

As top-tier rewards during our Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of video games poetry anthology Coin Opera II, we offered backers the chance to have their own custom poem written on a game of their choice. In the run-up to our Seven-Player Co-op event on Thursday 6th November at Four Quarters Bar, Peckham, we’ll be revealing the finished poems, now in the hands of their wonderful backers.

This time, it’s the turn of the splendid Carly Lightfoot, who chose 1999 action-adventure game Shenmue.

Here’s the physical poem she received:

And here is a readable version, just for you:

Thanks once again to all of our amazing backers.

Coin Opera II custom poems #1: Ecstatica II for John Clegg

As top-tier rewards during our Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of video games poetry anthology Coin Opera II, we offered backers the chance to have their own custom poem written on a game of their choice. In the run-up to our Seven-Player Co-op event on Thursday 6th November at Four Quarters Bar, Peckham, we’ll be revealing the finished poems, now in the hands of their wonderful backers.

First up, it’s Ecstatica II, chosen by John Clegg. This piece was unique in being the only poem in the series written jointly by Jon and Kirsty as rivals for the protagonist’s attention. Here is the physical poem John received, in the form of a glorious medieval-style scroll (and here’s a video of him receiving it):

And here is the poem itself:

Thanks once again to all of our amazing backers.

Poetry Guest-Appearing in Games #4: Grim Fandango (Part I)

Over the coming weeks we’ll be publishing a series of articles investigating the existing crossover  – and the further potential for crossover  – between games and poetry.

This week, Rebecca Wigmore is your guide to the smokey jazz clubs that skeletons inhabit in GRIM FANDANGO.

When Grim Fandango was first released in 1998, I was a mere slip of a girl, amped up on almost a decade’s dedication to LucasArts’ point and click adventure game empire. From the zombie-beauty-queen antics of Day of the Tentacle to what I regarded as the nigh-on-flawless Monkey Island trilogy1 LucasArts were the beginning and the end of the adventure game genre. The beauty part was this: you could not die2. Freed from the tiresome burden of mortality, you could guide your archetypal nerd, gumshoe dog or wannabe pirate around what were, in the best games, fully realised worlds. You could look at anything, touch anything and be rewarded with a snappy piece of dialogue, a subtle clue and, often a great gag. The puzzles were labyrinthine and ingenious, but the biggest pleasure for me was wandering around a world.

This is the legacy of Tim Schafer, who started at LucasArts co-writing Day of the Tentacle and the first two Monkey Island adventures before being handed sole creative control of his own projects, including his masterpiece, Grim Fandango.

You might want to watch this. It establishes tone. I don’t have the wordcount to establish tone. I’m busy.

The quality of the writing and the thrill of incidental discovery was the reason these games had such a powerful replay factor – a sort of novelistic pleasure in inhabiting a wholly authored universe, coupled with what David Lynch calls “space to dream.” There is a deeply satisfying tension between the driving narrative force of the puzzles and the more abstract pleasure of wandering about, luxuriating in language and incidental space. LucasArts adventure games were certainly what the immersive theatre/tech crowd call “on rails”, in that the player had one route to one ultimate goal (solve puzzles, progress the story) but the experience of playing was so leisurely and ambulatory in nature it’s little wonder that Grim Fandango is often heralded as the pinnacle of the form. For it is here, in this world, that the gamer encounters the ultimate expression of LucasArt’s adventure gaming philosophy: they play as Manny Calavera, a jobbing grim reaper cast in the Día de los Muertos mould; a literal undead flâneur.

Baudelaire would have made an excellent skeleton.

“Well, I have a poem I wrote just for you. Pay attention because it’s pretty short. Here it goes: Ch-ch-ch-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-mp.”

As Jon said in the first post in this series, inserting poetry into games seems to have a function that sits outside of the purely ludic: to give a sense of narrative texture, a sort of shorthand for folklore and history.

Grim Fandango‘s universe is alive with poetry, where it functions as a way to give the game’s universe a rare texture and history, build character and puncture pomposity, a conceit that is set up early on in the game (indeed this puzzle formed the game’s demo way back when PC Gamer had corporeal giveaways on its cover) when Manny has the option to ask the balloon artist to make him a balloon in the shape of a cat, a dingo or a famous poet. The puzzle requires that Manny pops that balloon to scare away some aggressive pigeons. Now, if you can get through life without enjoying the phrase “Run, you pigeons, it’s Robert Frost!” then I admire your austerity but ultimately, I pity you. This puzzle sets the game’s tone: knowing but willing to prick any pomposity, whether it be from the Old Guard or from phony anti-establishment types.

You can see the likeness. Balloon pipe and everything.

The War on Beat Poetry

Let’s look at the this segment now, which is just under halfway through the game’s four-year structure. Year Two: Rubecava.

In a brief bit of scene-setting, Rubecava is a maritime town that functions much the same as Casablanca, with Manny adopting the persona and suave white dinner jacket of Humphrey Bogart. Unlike Bogie, however, Calavera is going to give it all up and pursue Meche, the virtuous woman, who should have got a free ride to The Other Side but, for reasons way too Byzantine explain here, Manny doomed to walk a treacherous path to salvation alone. The noirish mood of Rubecava is very much Casablanca, Chinatown and On The Waterfront whizzed up in a blender, in a temporal space that seems to occupy about four decades at once (a move which seems appropriate for a game set in Purgatory). However, in the scene that we are looking at, it is very much the 1950s, with the spirit of Ginsberg hanging in the air. Manny must visit The Blue Casket, a beat poetry club where – surprise, surprise  it’s open mic night.

The game has a lot of fun with the club’s beatnik audience  “Hola, trust-funders!”  but one of the true pleasures of this segment is your interaction with Olivia, the owner of the club, and her subsequent performances.

You can watch the performances here. They are accompanied by very excited gamer commentary, 
which adds to it, somehow.

Olivia’s first two performances are exemplars of the kind of performance poetry that often infuriates: lotta poetry ‘voice’ and vague aphoristic-sounding half-jokes that barely scan:

I called my cat “Boney.”
‘Til she said it wouldn’t do
I said, “Why?”
She said, “Sister
‘Cuz that’s what I’VE been calling YOU!”

That extra syllable that ‘Cuz’ provides in the final line is maddening, although the spoken delivery of the poem means that the player glides fairly easily over it. The voice acting in Grim Fandango is uniformly excellent and the work of Paula Killen, who voices Olivia, does a lot to elevate the poem’s stature. Olivia’s cat poem was never intended for the page  the transcription is from the game’s subtitles, the capital letters functioning as performance note more than anything else  direction that Killen thankfully ignores. The rest of Olivia’s poems are the same kind of beatnik pastiche until we reach her final poem:

With bony hands I hold my partner,
on soulless feet we cross the floor,
the music stops as if to answer
an empty knocking at the door.
It seems his skin was sweet as mango
when last I held him to my breast,
but now we dance this grim fandango
and will four years before we rest.

I want you to understand how much this thrilled my 15-year-old self and, in truth, how it delights me still. This is one of a handful of poems in Grim Fandango that have a function beyond character-building and laughing at how lame bad performance poetry can be3. This poem, which serves no function from a gameplay standpoint, is the only point in the entire game in which the title is mentioned at all. It would be easy to bypass it entirely if you were focused on beelining through the puzzles. “Grim fandango” is a wondrous phrase, an iambic delight and one of those rare titles that seems to contain more the more you consider it – yes, it’s literally a dance of death, which calls to mind the herky-jerky climax of The Seventh Seal, the rhythmic contradiction of this frenetic and joyous couples’ dance being invoked in a poem with a slow, thunking heartbeat of a meter. For the first time there is imagery that extends beyond a punchline or narrative set-up. There is something sensual and vaguely upsetting about skin-as-mango-flesh: exotic and heady, yes, but also something that drips with moisture, easily rent from the body. There is a pun and palpable despair in the “soulless feet” that cross the floor.

Ludologists Are Vomiting Mango Chunks As They Read This.

The ease with which Grim Fandango manages the drastic tonal shift from beatnik comedy bits to the mortal wrench of the final poem is one of the arguments I can make for this game as art. You could make a similar case for Portal 2, although that rather worryingly betrays my origins in the traditional humanities department. Non-ludic narrative world-building is only an aspect of digital gaming and one that is certainly not essential to the artistic success of any given number of games. Yes, poets have embraced him but Pacman does not have a richly imagined in-game social history. There is no moment where you can instruct Pacman to ‘use’ the moon, as you do Manny in Grim Fandango, and be surprised by his recitation of a simple, Poe-ish verse. There is no purpose to this action another then that shock of pleasure at uncovering what appears to be a moment of shared folklore as the NPC sailor joins in with the final gothic couplet:

This isn’t Pacman’s schtick at all. Its pleasures are visceral as part of a carefully designed and programmed feedback loop of input from player and output from game. There isn’t the poet’s space to dream in this kind of game, unless it is created externally. Indeed, if you start reading old-school academic analysis of computer games, it often reads starkly irrelevant. Like using the same aesthetic criteria to evaluate Jaws as you would Moby Dick – they might have a crossover but dude, they’re different animals, always.

There is much more to say about Grim Fandango‘s use of poetry – we haven’t even gotten to the player-created in-game performance poems – and I will continue in PART TWO.

1. Let us gracefully draw a veil over subsequent instalments. Very few things were meant to have quadrilogies. The Fast & The Furiousseries is a notable exception to this rule, Vin Diesel more than anyone understands the profound, self-replicating beauty of a fractal.
2. There are exceptions to this, most notably the Indiana Jones game series.
3. Both entirely worthy aesthetic pursuits.

Poetry Guest-Appearing in Games #3: Trine 2

Trine 2 is a delightful co-op puzzle platformer which will burn out your PC’s heart with its gorgeousness. The plot makes a little more sense in single-player (the Trine itself is a device used to explain why the player can switch between three characters) but it comes into its own when played with two friends. The Knight holds off the goblins with sword and shield while the Wizard alchemises an unstable bridge out of thin air and the Thief lights the way with flaming arrows. Something like that.

The poems in Trine 2 are written on secret scrolls hidden in various places throughout the span of the game, much like in Mark of the Ninja. And like in Mark of the Ninja, they form a complete narrative when pieced together, gradually revealing the history of the game’s antagonist. Because it’s set in a fantasy land ablaze with colour and sunlight, however, the narration is somewhat more direct, the style of telling sharply reminiscent of children’s fairy tales. The first ten are all simple quatrains with an ABCB rhyme-scheme. Cleverly, they use repetition to telegraph the conceit of alternating narrators: two sisters taking it in turn to speak about their relationship, each with a different outlook. There’s little in the way of subtle metaphor, but that’s fine – they fulfil their intended purpose of innocently leading the reader down an ever-darkening path.

The writer’s grasp of meter does slip a little, unfortunately, as in the last two lines of the sixth piece:

My sister is silly,
Insipid and dim.
Yet everyone still loves
This golden girl prim.

It’s another case, I feel, where even waving it under the nose of a poet would have resulted in a superior edit.

The last two poems in the game are longer. The sisters are finally named and Isabel gets a song, Rosabel a lament. ‘Isabel’s Song’ is the better piece:

The ABBA rhyme-scheme is refreshing in this context, and there’s just enough variation in the rhythm for this to feel like a ‘song of innocence’ in the style of Blake, even if it’s rather clichéd. The fourth line being one less metrical foot long is surprisingly effective. If it only it were repeated in the eighth!

‘Rosabel’s Lament’ is hamstrung by at least two absolutely clattering lines: “And grief and pain are my hopes” and “My failures ever let me mourn”. “Failures, may I mourn?” “Yes, you ever may!” “Oh thanx.” Maybe there’s something deliberate in the way the sinister nursery rhyme has segued into bad teen angst poetry as the sisters have grown up.

You can read all the poems here, although in this case in particular, I would recommend discovering them through playing the game. More so than in the two previous examples in this series, I would say the effect of the poems is enhanced by their gradual accumulation while the ‘present day’ plot unfolds. It’s a very effective form of narrative parallelism that feels less forced than threading flashback sequences through a story, as is often done in television drama. The fact that the saga of the sisters is told through poetry is an important factor; their story at once has the chime of legend and the tangibility of a recovered artefact, since it’s presented on weathered parchment. It leaves the reader in a position where they can make their own mind up about its significance.

Fads and Aftershocks: what can poetry and gaming do for one another?

Open mic poetry night in Grim Fandango

This article asks, and attempts to answer, three questions:

1. What can poetry do for gaming?

Electronic gaming culture is expansive and continues to expand, with indie development in particular burgeoning at a phenomenal rate. It’s become almost an umbrella term, in that it covers everything from teenagers playing mass-marketed war simulators with film-quality CGI to commuters idly thumbing through Temple Run on the train to work, to the activist inclinations of the interactive fiction community. Many game-making tools are now freely available on the Internet, and it seems as if every few months a new lone gunman developer surfaces with a breakout hit, earning him enough to quit his job.

But the conversation around gaming comes back repeatedly to its legitimacy as an artform, with gamers frequently expressing their desire for the best games to be ‘recognised’ as works of art. What is missed in the deployment of the term ‘recognition’ is the fact that the behaviour of the audience is an immeasurably large part of what defines a practice as an art, and the principle obstacle to games being recognised as art is gamers. I don’t mean that pejoratively, but as long as the bulk of the audience for games continue to express themselves mostly through financial behaviour – buying, then exhausting the product before moving on to the next purchase – gaming will struggle not to be regarded as a form of disposable entertainment. Shakespeare is not held aloft as an artistic genius because hundreds of Elizabethans and Jacobeans flocked to see his plays night after night; his esteem has been managed and sustained by generation after generation of writers and scholars who have provided intelligent assessment and insight into his work and used it as the foundation for creative works of their own.

There is no sense, therefore, in waiting around for ‘recognition’, or indeed for waiting for the Shakespeare of the game development world. How we act and think now will change how other people think about games, and aside from financial behaviour, the vast majority of discourse is journalistic in character. I have read many, many insightful articles about games, but journalistic copy is written to be succeeded the next day by something else – it is incredibly impermanent. Games studies courses are beginning to find a foothold in academia, but academia is, by its nature, secluded and self-insulating. I don’t want to diminish the importance of either of these areas, but there needs to be as much variety in writing about games as there is in games themselves. (I would go further and suggest that the cause of gaming as art has a serious problem when the most vexed and visible conversation of recent months has been a pitched battle between affluent consumers and corporate spokespeople.)

1997’s Snake, now a thing of nostalgia, is revisited by Cliff Hammett in Coin Opera 2

For games and gaming to be acknowledged and discussed in poetry – in the work, that is, of writers who are, first and foremost, poets – is an important step in the way gaming is written about. It’s not quite the same thing as blending poetry into games or making poems more like games, though I’m an advocate of those as well. It’s also not simply a case of putting a badge on games, saying, “You have been deemed worthy.” Poetry has that reputation of being lofty, but has also, of course, had a sideline in reconstituting detritus into art for the better part of century, so to be plundered for poetic content is not necessarily an honouring process.

No; the importance of poetry about games, as with poetry about anything, is that it suggests new ways of considering the subject, new ways of ‘reading’ games beyond the purely evaluative. It’s a creative-critical approach. I’ve been proffering examples from Coin Opera 2 to people for some time now, so here’s just a couple more: Cliff Hammett’s ‘Snake’ works as a reading of the once-popular mobile game Snake as a visual metaphor for the movement of water across the fissures in man-made structures. It suggests this both through its words and through its shape, and might cause us to return to the original game (now long since superseded as casual entertainment by Angry Birds and its sequels) and find something new and remarkable about it. Prompting the return is important; individual games may sell millions and enjoy a brief period in the public consciousness, but if any are to rise above the level of a fad, we need to find reasons to return to them once newer ones with better graphics supplant them.

My second example is Dan Simpson’s ‘Sympathy for the Orange Ghost’, an extract from a full-length show he’s taking to the Edinburgh festival this year. Pacman is already legendary, the main character already an icon. The game has gone about as far as games can go in embedding itself in our culture. Notably, it has already had a starring role in a one-man poetry performance show: Ross Sutherland’s The Three Stigmata of Pacman. But Dan’s work enriches Pacman further by unearthing a further implied narrative in it: the outcast status of Clyde, the orange ghost, whom he lyricises into a symbol of social marginalisation in general.

Poetry about games extends their life and extends their relevance. It is, in itself, a form of the ‘recognition’ that some gamers crave, but operates through an active creative engagement. This is what poetry can do for games.

Ross Sutherland performing The Three Stigmata of Pacman

2. What can gaming do for poetry?

At first blush, the answer seems obvious. In commercial terms, poetry is a dust mite to the gaming industry’s behemoth. In fact, poetry barely even registers as an industry at all, and therefore by infiltrating the culture of gaming, poets might be seen as making some calculated grab at the larger audience.

But it’s a mistake to think in these terms. Poetry is a much wider, older and potentially longer-lasting cultural discipline than gaming, and while it might look sickly in terms of revenue, its health in terms of the number and variety of its practitioners is booming. Money troubles may slow it down, greatly reduce its reach and hurt individual poets and publishers, but poetry will go on in some form, while the unsustainability of Western opulence may still spell an early end for gaming (in its electronic form at least).

What’s more, poetry’s lack of commerciality is in large part down to its effectiveness. That is to say, a little goes a very long way. Consumers burn through games, novels and even sprawling television sagas in days and find themselves hungry for more, while a small amount of poetry is enough for most people for most of their lives. Contemporary poets struggle for attention not through lack of skill or personality, but because poets of past eras successfully remain instilled in the national psyche, nourishing our cultural discourse far beyond their lifespan. We have an excess of good poetry, and in this sense, one sensible argument is that poetry requires nothing, that it is already the survival specialist of the arts, able to live on water and thin air if need be, growing fat in times of plenty or austerity.

What poetry does crave is renewal. Without renewal, entire generations risk coming across as nothing more than an aftershock of those that came before. Renewal is the sign that poets are in step with the present and prepared to attend to it, rising to the challenge of being the world’s ‘unacknowledged legislators’, rather than wallowing in nostalgia or trying to relive past glories.

Gaming provides an obvious opportunity for such renewal. I don’t suggest, of course, that all serious poets should at once turn to games in order to demonstrate an affinity with modern life. Done cynically, this leads to cheap and embarrassing poems (see Wendy Cope’s attempts at text message poetry). But we’re now living in a world where younger people are reading more from computer screens than they are from printed material, and part of the reason for this is the richness of virtual environments, where identity is more fluid and the ways of absorbing information more varied. The opportunities for philosophical and artistic exploration are immense. Thinking, for instance, of identity – a huge preoccupation in contemporary poetry – poets should be interested in the implications of being able to come home from work and role-play as a humanoid plant who can summon the dead until bedtime. Since experience is subjective, is there any reason to believe experiences in virtual environments are less real, less a part of our make-up and a contributing factor to our character, than experiences in the concrete world? Consider this particularly in the light of the increasing amount of social interaction within online communities.

What about how virtual architecture can inform form and rhythm? It’s no coincidence, I would say, that a good number of the poems we took for Coin Opera 2 chose to use shape, space or meter as a way of expressing their engagement with a game. And because the history of game narratives is one of constant, rapid evolution and faltering experiments, often with the reins of authorial control loosened in order to accommodate player interaction, they are, I would suggest, a treasure trove of myth, where ‘myth’ means the opportunity to take elements of a known tale and retell or reinterpret them to explore wider themes.

Games are abundant, often scrambled packages of meaning waiting to be untangled and made sense of. Gaming culture is a cluster of new experiences whose careful evaluation, in any literary form, will help us all make sense of ourselves. That’s what gaming can do for poetry.

3. What else can they do for each other?

Finally, there’s the importance of cross-disciplinary discourse, which I also allude to in my Dr Fulminare interview over at Sabotage. At present, as far as I can make out, there is very little discussion between gaming and literary audiences, much within the bubble of each. Meanwhile, there are multiple issues afflicting both literary and gaming culture wherein both could benefit from sharing their ideas. One example is the problem of gender bias, which I go into more thoroughly here.

There are numerous social and political problems all of us are grappling with in some form or another. There are arguments that poetry can be a constructive force in this respect, and there are arguments that games can be a constructive force in this respect. I believe these arguments, but if they’re right, then both cultures – and both disciplines – could stand to share their ideas a little more freely.


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