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Yet Another Retrospective on the IF Summit

I've (semi)recently returned from my first-ever gaming convention, PAX East. PAX was great, but mostly because the interactive fiction community used it as a bit of a summit. Beyond the scope of a normal IF meetup, we had a series of formal events, and the dialogue that's begun is really refreshing, rejuvenating, and energizing. Hopefully lots of folks (myself included) will Go Forth and Do Good Things in light of the experience we've had.

Lots o' people have written up their well-constructed, interesting thoughts. I instead have written more of a daily journal from the weekend. It's really long, and it's written for me rather than an audience. I've included some headers to break it up a bit and find what you might be interested in, but even then it may not be worth wading through... unless you're really, really curious/bored, of course, in which case, you're welcome to read on. But you were warned... no TLDRs in comments! [That means you, maga_dogg!]

A retrospective of my long holiday weekend in Boston!

Wednesday, March 24

The Freedom Trail, Lindt Truffles, Espresso Martinis, Freshly Baked Cookies, but No Interactive Fiction

Wednesday Sam and I strolled the first half of the Boston Freedom trail. I learned about black soldiers in the Civil War, and about Boston's links to the Irish Potato Famine, among other things. Had a fun time picking out Lindt truffles to take home at a ridiculously low price, then met up with one of the seasonal Park Service employees from my office (she spends her summers in Alaska, but her winters in Massachusetts). The three of us enjoyed an Indian dinner, then moved on to the Top of the Hub to savor espresso martinis and freshly baked cookies while taking in the view from the 52nd story of the Prudential Center.

Thursday, March 25

Freedom Trail II with Cannolis

I wanted to finish up the other half of the Freedom Trail, so on Thursday afternoon I logged on to ifMUD and said, "maga and I are going for a walk on Boston's Freedom Trail, if anyone wants to come." Next thing I knew, Sam and I were enjoying cannolis with Dan Shiovitz, Iain Merrick, and J. Robinson Wheeler. Then we visited Paul Revere's home, poked about in an old cemetery, and took a stroll to the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill. I learned why marines are called leather necks, and where that lyric to the shores of Tripoli comes from.

Communist Geeks
The Freedom Trail group then headed over to the Hilton, and tried to find the suite that Andrew Plotkin had rented for the cause of interactive fiction for the weekend. There was this amusing exchange at the front desk:

ME:Excuse me, I'm looking for a suite that's been reserved for this weekend... the Interactive Fiction suite.
CLERK:   I'm sorry, miss, but there's only one suite in the hotel, and it's not tied to that.
ME:Oh, um, maybe it's listed under The People's Republic of Interactive Fiction?
CLERK:[Looking a little weirded out that there might be communist geeks in her establishment...]
Um, no.
ME:Well, it would have been reserved by a guy named Andrew Plotkin.
CLERK:There is a registered guest by that name, but there's just one room, and it's just a normal room, not a suite.
IAIN:According to Twitter, it's in room 2305. Let's go!

How silly of me to ask at the front desk when I could have just looked at Twitter!

Initial IF Crowd Mingling
Went to the IF Hospitality Suite, met a bunch of folks, then strolled off to supper. We went to a tapas restaurant. No longer will I be able to truthfully utter the phrase, "I've never seen a dinner tab over $1000." (Thanks to J Robinson Wheeler for the image at that link!) We then returned to the suite, where we continued to mingle and chat. That was the whole of the afternoon and evening: mingling, chatting, nothing too formal.

Over the course of the entire evening, two conversations stand out amongst the initial IF crowd mingling.

The first conversation of note was with a woman named Mary Kaplan, who asked me what my connection to interactive fiction was. I told her, then similarly asked what had brought her there, and she said she was an avid player of interactive fiction, that she kept track of what we were doing, but that she'd never spoken up on a newsgroup or been on the ifMUD or written a game or anything of that sort. This was the first time I'd met any of the people that I had (for years) assumed existed... people who watched from afar but generally didn't interact in any real way with the community. Non IF friends often ask me how many people are in the IF community. I generally toss out the number "1000 or so". It used to seem like maybe I was inflating things a touch, but here was one of those people that no one has on any list, and she's probably far from the only one.

The second conversation of note was with Ben Collins-Sussman, who works for Google's Chicago office and who told me about an internal talk he was giving at Google's Boston office the next morning about IF. I had the courage to say something like, "gosh, I wish I could go to that," out loud, and he replied that there'd be nothing new (to me) in his talk. "Well, I want to go more just to see what Googlegeeks think about IF," I told him. And next thing I knew, Sam and I (along with Dan and Iain and Juhana) were invited to the talk. Hooray!

Friday, March 26

So Friday we met for breakfast at this cool little place by MIT called The Friendly Toast, then went to Google. The talk was great, and I was impressed that everyone in the room already knew about IF. Unsurprisingly, they had great questions for Ben. Ben made mention of IntroComp (a competition I've organized for several years now) and ClubFloyd (the IF gaming group I run most weeks) and I was also considered the knowledgeable person on the status of localization in Inform 7 code... this last thing was amusing, because the whole room turned to look at me for the answer, and even though I knew the answer, I didn't know that I knew the answer, because I didn't know what localization meant. (Localization, for what it's worth, refers to making computer languages work for people globally, and they were looking to me for an answer because I interact with the French and Spanish IF communities.)

Anyway, the presentation at Google gave me a fantastic feeling... for once I was in a room with people who didn't think my hobby was just some silly geeky nerdy thing. They had all turned around and looked to me for an answer on a question they had, and me, little non-hard-core-coder that I am, was able to answer that question. I must admit this pleased me a great deal. Soon, I would be back in Alaska, among people who think it amusing to poke fun at my nerdier side, but for this weekend I was amongst people who understood the appeal of how I spend a lot of my free time. Very cool.

IntroComp 2010 Inspiration
The talk at Google and thoughts of the new-to-IF people that might drift through our IF Hospitality Suite over the coming weekend inspired me. It made me realize that it would be a good time to settle on deadlines for the 2010 IntroComp. So I told folks who'd gone to Google with me that I was going to swing by the apartment where I was staying (mad props to Nick Montfort for hosting the Ashwells!) to figure out the dates for the comp and update the website accordingly so that I could promote the competition. IntroComp is open to anybody, but in particular I think it's a great opportunity for new authors to test the water, and the PAX East IF Summit seemed a good venue for promoting it.

Learning to Queue PAXstyle
Anyway, when I mentioned swinging by the apartment to do this, I meant that I'd do it alone, but Dan and Iain and Juhana offered to accompany Sam and I, and I didn't tell them no. This turned out to be Not A Good Thing, as it resulted in all of us learning what everyone would come to learn by day's end: PAX was unprepared for our numbers. The keynote was set for 3:00. Okay, fine. The doors opened at 2pm, and we were in line around 2:10 or so, but by the time we'd gotten our swag bags and were nearing the hallway in which the doors to the auditorium were located, we were turned 'round by the ENFORCERs (guys (yes, guys; I don't think I saw a girl enforcer, though they no doubt exist) who volunteered to help at the event in exchange for passes).

So, we didn't get in to see Wil Wheaton give his keynote speech, nor were we able to get wristbands for the music concerts. I didn't fret on this too much, because Wil Wheaton, much as I enjoy his blog and am a fan of him as a fellow geek, was not necessary to my enjoyment of the weekend; if I'd gotten in, great, but I didn't, and that was fine. I was admittedly a touch sad to not get a wrist band for the concerts because I wanted to see MC Frontalot.

We instead hit the exhibition hall, and it was so slammed with other souls that Sam begged his way out. He just didn't want to be around that many people. This would prove to also be Not A Good Thing. Rather than wax and whine more about how PAX East wasn't ready for this many people (a lament already heard the Internet over), I shall suffice it to say that even the official panels on interactive fiction were so popular that if you weren't in line half an hour to an hour beforehand, you were not going to get in; this means that you couldn't attend two consecutively-scheduled panels, because you had to miss the latter half on the first one in order to be in line for the second one.

Storytelling in the World of Interactive Fiction
I remember sitting in the Design an RPG in an Hour session, looking out over the packed house, the standing room only crowd, and thinking to myself, "Gosh, I hope we can fill a reasonable portion of this room during the IF panel later this evening." Fortunately, someone gave me a heads up that I needed to leave the RPG session early and get in line if I had a prayer of getting into Storytelling in the World of Interactive Fiction panel, because the line was forming, and the line was actually getting rather long. I was blown away to find that, not only did we fill that room as well as the RPG session had, we filled it to capacity, and there were quite a few people turned away. Sam, having peeled off from the rest of the group earlier in the day, was among those that didn't get in. (Un)Fortunately, he had company in a few other key IF people who similarly were denied entry.

Unlike the aforementioned RPG in an Hour session, which had some good points but failed to hold the interest of everyone and saw people starting to slip out here and there after the half-way point, The Storytelling in IF panel was really, really worth the wait in line. People stayed until the end, and there was a long (okay, not PAXlong, but long) line of people who queued up to ask questions of the panelists. It was wonderful to see friends of mine, some of whom I've known for years, some of whom I'd beta tested for yet never met in person, in front of this packed house, taking questions on narrative and plot and conversation and engaging the reader. One of the people in line was none other than Don Woods, a co-creator of Colossal Cave, the game that started it all, and we would come to learn that Don (who works for Google these days) is very interested in what the modern community is doing (pretty cool, I think).

An Evening for Fresh Sushi
After that panel we all bailed to various restaurants in smaller groups so that we could eat and make it back to stand in line for the premier of Get Lamp. The director, Jason Scott, who has been hanging out with us on ifMUD for a couple of years or so now, had assured us that the travesty of Sam Kabo Ashwell and Dan Schmidt and Liza Daily and others not getting in would not happen on his watch. We trusted that, but we wanted to get in without the special treatment if we could. So yeah, we split up into tinier groups... which made for easier, quieter conversation.

Dinner was great. I ended up having sushi and sake with Mark Musante, Iain Merrick, and Emily Short. We discussed the storytelling panel from earlier in the evening. It was over this dinner, as I mulled over comments that had been made about setting and immersive environments... in particular Aaron Reed's comment that his favorite part of (I think it was) Halo was where you just wander about in the world, exploring, and that he didn't feel like playing anymore after he got the gun and was expected to start killing everything... anyway, it was in this moment that I thought back to what drew me so much to interactive fiction as a child: immersive and well-crafted fictional worlds. Not the characters so much, but the worlds. I spent hours and hours as a child lost in my imagination in the Great Underground Empire, its caves and rivers and canyons. While this and this alone isn't solely responsible, I suddenly realized that IF might be part of what led me to this place in my life with a career as a park ranger. Me, originally a city girl. Me, who had been a teenager consumed with looking good and wearing designer labels. Eventually something snapped and I went back to the elements of my youth where I felt most inspired: out of doors, exploring, observing the natural world. Sadly I'm starting to find myself more and more estranged from that these days, but that's another post in and of itself. Let's get back to PAX.

We made it back in time to get in to the Get Lamp premier. Not great seats, but seats. It was wonderful to experience the premier with a crowd, and afterward there was a very good panel discussion that included Don Woods, folks from Infocom (Steve Meretzky, Brian Moriarty, Dave Lebling), and a couple of modern-day IF authors (Nick Montfort and Andrew Plotkin). You can listen to the audio of that panel [HERE]. It was a good exchange, but the moment that will stand out for me is that afterward I got a chance to speak to Don and to thank him for that realization I'd had over supper earlier that evening: that his work on Colossal Cave, which had so deeply influenced the Zork universe, was probably what led me to the career I currently have. I thanked him for that inspiration, and he seemed genuinely pleased that I'd told him.

I made the journey back to Nick Montfort's with a fuzzy feeling in my heart and a spring in my step (figuratively: I did not walk home, but rather took a cab). This hobby of mine, this thing to which I dedicate time... other people like it, too. More people than I realized. Before this week, I'd speculated that there might be a thousand people who liked interactive fiction. This week I'd met a "fan" of IF who wasn't an active member of the community, and a thousand seemed like a solid estimate or maybe even an underestimate. Then on this day I'd been to a room of interested Google engineers who hadn't needed an explanation of what IF is, and seen two largish rooms get packed to the gills with people interested in the art form. And this was all just in one city in one country on one day. Suddenly, one thousand seemed like a really low estimate.

Nerdcore of Note
So, a side note. That MC Frontalot concert I'd missed due to not getting there in time to get a wrist band? The one that I figured I'd missed anyway because I didn't get out of the Get Lamp premier until after the subway had shut down, thus necessitating my taking a cab back to Cambridge? Turns out he didn't go on until well after 1am, and I probably could have gotten in, but I was on such an interactive fiction high that it never even occurred to me to see if I could still see his show. No matter; later in the weekend I got to meet him at his vendor booth and buy a CD and have a nice chat with him.

He is a friendly guy and his music is great if you are a geek and can listen to rap then you should check his stuff out and maybe buy some of it to support his continued creation of more awesome music.

Anyway, instead we grabbed the aforementioned cab back to Nick Montfort's, only to learn that Nick likes hosting guests, and likes scotch, and likes combining these two things. He's also apparently not too big on sleep. We went to bed at 3am. For a girl who generally likes to be tucked in by ten, it had been a Very Long (But Excellent!) Day Indeed.

Saturday, March 27

SpeedIF Day
Saturday was SpeedIF day for me, but filled with such quality distraction that I churned out little more than an interactive vignette. It was a seriously short game, winnable in a handful of moves so long as you take two quite obvious actions. A teeny tiny part of me perhaps wishes I hadn't contributed to the Speed IF, because whenever I got distracted it was by the really good conversations that were taking place in the hospitality suite, and part of me wishes I could have just given myself over to that fully. But seeing my little game among the list of Speeds makes me happy for some reason; makes me feel like I was just that much more a part of things. So what's done is done, and I've no regrets. Coding all day in the suite meant that I missed all the official PAX panels (but really, I'd had my fill of queues the day before), that I was there with a good seat when the unofficial-by-PAX-standards panel Dispelling the Invisibility — IF Outreach convened, and that I was present for the generous free beer that was in the offering come about nine that evening (thank you, Misters Collins-Sussman & Welch!).

Dispelling the Invisibility — IF Outreach
I guess I'm of mixed minds about the IF Outreach discussion. A lot of it came down to the ol' Can We Make Interactive Fiction Commercially Viable Again discussion. Now, I'm all for that, having been a supporter and employee of Textfyre, and having myself experienced some mild interest by an outside party to publish one of my games, but the more I thought about the conversation later, the more the Kumbaya-glow started to fade. While there were thoughts that perhaps we should market IF as interactive books rather than as games you read—something I think might hold promise, particularly if we can figure out a way to adapt our interpreters to eReaders like the Kindle or whittle our bloated code down such that it runs more smoothly on portable devices such as smart phones—I in general came away with this feeling that we'd have to put out shorter, perhaps episodic IF to attract attention, that we'd ... how do I put this tactfully? That we'd have to sell out. A bit. Perhaps a lot.

I joked later to a Famous IFer Who Might Wish to Remain Anonymous, but who's been relatively vocal about how they'd love pursue IF as a career, that it would be a vicious positive feedback loop (and a negative one at that!). Say for a second you could quit your day job and have all the time in the world to write IF; before you know it you'd have to start writing on a schedule to meet the demands of publishers, the quality of your work suffering in the process, and you'd start churning out the formulaic crap that we see on television and in the cinemas. Sure, every once in a great while there'd be a gem, but on the whole the art form would lose a bit of its lustre. When I said that to the aforementioned Famous IFer, the reply was, "I'm willing to take that chance." Fair enough.

I think the conversation got a lot of people pretty excited. Perhaps we'll see a new push here. For what it's worth, I stand by the idea that the greatest market for interactive fiction will be of the 1893esque variety: interactive historic fiction or interactive natural history fiction. IF's greatest strong suit is crafting worlds, and makes for an excellent venue by which to explore what it would have been like to live in the past... not some fictional fantastical world, but a place that once was and that you can revisit, in a medium devoid of cheesy graphics or stilted voice acting. Graphic adventure doesn't do this well. Not yet. Interactive fiction has been capable of doing it extremely well for a very long time already, even if we haven't really seized upon that opportunity as often as I wish we had.

Oh, and of course I was still staying with Mr. Montfort. I wasn't up until three in the morning two "nights" in a row. No! Saturday night we were up until half past four. Had too much fun swapping stories, sharing favorite things from the Web, watching dueling Odysseys, and discussing the delicate nuances of what gets lost or gained in translation. Good stuff.

Sunday, March 28

Action Castle!
Despite going to bed at half four, I was determined to try to get up and enjoy a bit of PAX proper. There was a cool-sounding event on the schedule called Action Castle!, sort of a live, real time IF game played by an entire room full of people.

We woke around half nine, dragged ourselves out of bed, and headed straight out the door. Sam was an adventurer who needed food, badly, so despite the fact that it would probably mean no Action Castle! (there would no doubt be a gimungous line, even first thing on a Sunday morning) I was a benevolent taskmistress and relented—we got some breakfast burritos and lattes en route. This put us a bit behind, and sure enough we not only arrived late, but arrived to find a very lengthy line winding its way through the halls of the convention center. But! As fate would have it, these weren't all souls that had been shut out, they were actually souls who had not yet been let in because Action Castle! hadn't started on time. Nvidia had been doing some promo thing in the room Action Castle! was set to be in, and they'd run over time, because they're Nvidia and that can do that. And as further luck would have it, there were lots of IF folks already in line and they wildly waved and motioned us over as they saw us walking forlornly past.

Through some weird fluke, despite the fact that the IF group was nowhere physically near the actual door to the room, they turned out to be the very first ones in line, and we got in and got "prime seats." Turns out, there are no prime seats at Action Castle, because the whole room stands up and becomes a queue that snakes its way toward the front of the room to a microphone; each person may speak one command while at the mic, and the dude at the front of the room recites the result. So we spent an hour shuffling through the room, playing first Action Castle! (which we solved, though we did die a few times) and then Jungle Adventure. While a lot of the puzzles were pretty basic, Jungle Adventure had a clever meta puzzle where you were presented with three huts: one for the warriors, one for the women, and one for the witchdoctor. We'd had a clue a few moves previous when we'd examined ourself and were told that we couldn't quite get an accurate image of who we are, because our image kept changing... turns out we had to set ourselves up so that when we wanted to get into the women's hut a girl would have to be the one at the mic to say >ENTER HUT. There were girls in the room, of course, but not that many of them, so this was a little bit tricky... the people in front of you in line had to make sure that by the time a girl was approaching the mic we weren't off wandering through the jungle or in a different hut. The boys did set it up, and a girl found herself at the mic when we were in front of the huts, and everyone was waiting for her to enter the hut, but she used up her one turn to examine the hut (or something similarly ugh-inducing). Fortunately, there was another girl in line just behind her, and we got into the hut. We ended up not finishing Jungle Adventure, but I think we came close, and it was a really neat experience, despite some issues.

The issues? This session played up the nostalgia angle quite a bit. We've gotten away from that in modern IF for the most part. And a lot of people remember text adventures from the eighties as experiments in GUESS THE VERB and FIGHT THE PARSER and there was a bit of that sort of thing happening here, which isn't really the sort of stereotype I'd like to see perpetuated.

Still, here was this giant room of people playing text adventures without knowing about interactive fiction... it seemed a ripe environment for inviting people over to the IF Hospitality Suite, so at some point I'd slipped a note to one of the organizers asking them to promote it. They said they'd promote it. Then they forgot to promote it. But I was not to be forgotten! I made my way to the front of the room, then to the stage, and asked if I could make an announcement, and they let me up to the podium, and I made the announcement to all those people over the microphone. People stopped and listened, which was pretty cool, and I ended up giving out what fliers I had to interested individuals, and later some people did stop by the room. So huzzah for that.

CYOA Meets Interactive Fiction
I made my way back to the room, because it was my "shift" to watch the room. It turned out to be a bit of a quiet hour, because it was lunchtime and most people were out eating. But it was during this hour that my new friend Melissa Bounty, who works for Choose Your Own Adventure, appeared in the room. She'd been told about our little get together by Duncan Bowsman. CYOA is located in "nearby" (by Alaskan standards) Vermont, so she came. And I think she had a good time and was intrigued by our art. She also tuned me in to the new CYOAs that are out. Turns out I actually own one (Moon Quest), and now that I've returned home and dug it out, I can see that (at least in this one case) they're a better read than the old ones, even if you do seem to go a lot longer between choices and have fewer endings.

No Hints Please — Adaptive Difficulty Strategies
We then had a panel on adaptive hints/difficulty settings. It was... a touch demoralizing. But also very interesting. A lot of what I learned is that players these days have very short attention spans and don't read directions so you have to spell things out a lot more. I learned that commercial game designers, as I suspected, want short turn-around on games, and that artistic vision often suffers. I learned that going pro takes a bit of the fun out of these things.

I think I'll stick to the philosophy that I heard author Christina McCarthy mention one time (not on this panel, just something that's stuck in my head): don't think about the audience, write for yourself, because you'll enjoy the process, and there's bound to be loads of people like you out there who like what you want to write just fine.

But I guess the panel wasn't all doom and gloom. I did pick up some ideas for ways to make the player pay attention more, to integrate ways of keeping them from going to Google for hints, and to make one single game fun for a variety of players (though the craftier ways of doing this involve tons and tons of extra work, the sort of work that's already keeping me from finishing my pet projects).

The Rest of PAX
Though the conversations in the IF Suite were still going strong, I wanted to catch a few more things at PAX and hadn't really gotten to see much of it, having spent the majority of my weekend (without regrets) in the suite. So Sam and I wandered off to the convention center again. We picked up a couple of games (we got Making History for free in exchange for trying out Making History II, and All Heroes Die's beta  alpha was $5 but we'll get free upgrades forever and the finished product will probably be interesting). We hit the Get Lamp booth, chatted with Jason some more, and picked up a copy of Nick Montfort's 2002 palindrome book. I touched base with MC Frontalot and purchased an autographed CD. And, of course, we picked up various bits of cheap swag. The board game section, which I'd been wanting to hit all weekend, didn't have anything I was looking for (one is hard to get in the States, the other is sadly out of print). I also checked out a few video games that had looked intriguing on first glance (Limbo, Dante's Inferno, and Calling, though after examination I'm only interested in the first two). I realize now, once again, that the world has decided to specialize and get really serious about consoles at the exclusion of PC gamers, which kind of ticks me off, even if I understand it. The anger is not that they want me to buy a console, of course, it's that I refuse to buy one because my time is already too precious, and the last thing I need to do is make things worse by owning a console. Ah well.

Dinner, Drinks, and Werewolves
A lot of IF people at this point had started to peel off from PAX and head back home, but a few decided to stick around until the next day for a gathering at MIT called Purple Blurb. So we met up with a bunch of folks for supper and beer, during which I was contacted by Mr. Montfort to invite the whole crowd back to Cambridge for drinks and cheeses and stuff. I passed along that message, and when the appointed time came we all headed off to Montfort's.

The get together was good. A bit less formal (if that were possible) than what had been happening in the suite, more stories swapped, more impressions of the historic weekend that was now drawing to a close. Eventually I seized upon the opportunity to start up a game of Werewolf... though I'd been playing the game for years on ifMUD, I'd never played one in meatspace before. Good times, even if I'm a crappy moderator and Duncan Bowsman is always a wolf.

We had a pretty good time, and (shockingly) I was in bed at a decent hour (that being midnight or there abouts). I dreamed of appliances, and woke to find myself not strewn about the village.

Monday, March 29

Gestural Engineering
Come Monday, Sam had some Boston LiveJournal friends with whom he wanted to meet up, so I called Andrew Plotkin, having heard mention the night before that he'd be interested in spending the day showing non-Bostonites (Bostonians?) around the museum at MIT. Sure enough, he was up for sharing his favorite exhibit, so I jogged through the rain and met up with him, J Robinson Wheeler, and Iain Merrick. We checked out the MIT museum, which I very much enjoyed. I found the Future of Human Spaceflight particularly interesting, and was rather surprised that I'd never heard of the MIT Climate Collaboratorium, but the highlight by far was the exhibit Andrew had brought us to see: Gestural Engineering: The Sculpture of Arthur Ganson (you really should go check out some of the videos of his machines on YouTube). The man's work is often nothing short of amazing. It's modern art, but of the sort I actually enjoy. And, fortuitously, the artist was actually there, showing people around the exhibit, and I got to hear him talk with folks a bit. Pretty cool.

At some point, Iain and Rob ran off to catch their flights, but were replaced by Duncan Bowsman and Melissa Bounty. Together with them and Andrew, I enjoyed lattes and some interesting conversations about the weekend... then we did another sprint through the rain to Purple Blurb.

Purple Blurb
So, Purple Blurb is where authors "read & discuss their D1G1T4L WR1T1NG at MIT." At the front of the room on this particular evening were Jeremy Freese (who read from his work Violet, with Jenni 'Pissy Little Sausages' Polodna as the interactor) and Emily Short (who read from Alabaster with input from Kevin Jackson-Mead).

This was interesting. I mean, I'd heard IF aloud before; I've played IF aloud a lot. I once did a car trip with Sam sitting in the passenger seat, reading Anchorhead to me from the screen of an old Palm VII, allowing me to speak my commands to the parser as I drove cross-country. But it was interesting to hear the authors doing the reading. They read it differently than I do. I always find it a bit interesting how each of us puts the emphasis on words in a subtle but noticeably different way.

It was also interesting to watch/listen to a room full of people unfamiliar with either title... the laughs I knew would come still made me smile, the tiny murmurs of connections made and revelations experienced.

Afterward there was really good food had by all at the Cambridge Brewing Company at Kendall Square. We were impressed enough with the Charles River Porter to lug a growler back home with us to Alaska.

I was glad we'd hung out an extra day.

Tuesday, March 30

Vegetative State
We slept in a bit, had one last meal with our host and his lovely girlfriend, then went back to his apartment... where we basically remained in a vegetative state until such time came as we were forced to pack our suitcases. I tried sleeping off some of my PAXpox (a head cold, but even as I write this I still have a horrid-sounding cough) and Sam killed a few more things in Shadow of the Colossus. We got our belongings squared away, strolled the couple of blocks to the People's Republik (the pub, not the IF group) to enjoy their wonderful black bean quesadillas, then met our pre-arranged cab which would take us to Boston Logan.

In General
The weekend   was wonderful. As a result of the trip, I've met tons of people that I've been virtually acquainted with for years, as well as some new folks that I'm looking really (really) forward to being friends with for years to come. And, of course, I've gotten to see perhaps half of what I consider a core social group in my life, those friends I hang out with all the time online, those people that move with me, no matter which job I take, no matter what town I move to.

I'm hoping we make this a somewhat regular habit.

There. I've written it. Over 6500 words! Now... can I start channeling this energy into my works in progress?


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 10th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
I was curious! And bored (well, procrastinating finishing my thesis... uh.) And it was informative!

(And... uh... sorry about 4:30? Heh.)
Apr. 10th, 2010 08:40 pm (UTC)
Curious is good!

And no worries on the 4:30a thing... it's good for me to mix it up now and then, Country Mouse that I am.
Apr. 10th, 2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
I publicly own up to the "would do IF as a career" position. If it turns out to suck, well, I know I can make a living doing other kinds of programming.

Really, I figure it would be more like being a writer than an Activision employee. Including long stretches where it doesn't pay all the bills, and other stretches where I have a lot of IF to write with deadlines everywhere.
Apr. 10th, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC)
Heh. This morning, Sam read this and said, "You know, you're not fooling anyone; everyone will know that the Famous IFer Who Might Wish to Remain Anonymous is zarf." I know that most people reading this will know, but I wrote it that way just in case you didn't want your current employer to Google your name, find this, and read something that basically implies that you'd love to quit your day job. That and I carefully hid the comment amongst thousands of words!

I do hope you get to do development and writing of IF full time one of these days, z!
Apr. 10th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks for that writeup. It's wonderful to see the same thing through so many lenses. I loved getting to meet you and Sam at last.
Apr. 10th, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading it. Hope I didn't bore you too much. On the one hand, I wanted to chronicle the whole trip, but on the other, I did want to touch on our panels and some IF-specific thoughts that had come up over the course of the event. Hopefully you at least found those bits interesting to some degree.

And yes, it was super awesome to meet you, Paul!
Apr. 10th, 2010 11:52 pm (UTC)
I am so possessed by jealousy I have to have a cup of tea to chill out. *supportive-encouraging-jealous-rage*

In short, really nice post. Wish I could have been there.
Apr. 11th, 2010 01:23 am (UTC)
You know, we somehow didn't have tea in the suite. It would have been perfect. Frickin' Americans and their primitive attitude to electric kettles.
Apr. 11th, 2010 02:33 am (UTC)
Aw, I wish you could have been, too, Brett. I even said as much at one point... wish you and Nate Cull could have ventured in from that general part of the world.
Apr. 11th, 2010 05:23 am (UTC)
I was just in Boston in February for Boskone, a bit cozier than PAX East, I think. I didn't get to see any of the sites/sights/but definitely not cites, although I did have some Sam Adams with dinner, if that counts. In the hospitality zone, I did have tea, since coffee from an urn often tastes like it should be in an urn.
Apr. 11th, 2010 06:03 am (UTC)
Yeah, PAX proper was not too cozy, but the IF Hospitality Suite was pretty cozy indeed.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


Jacqueline A. Lott Ashwell

Apropos of Something

"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it." - L B Johnson

"One hundred years from now, as people look back on our use of this continent, we shall not be praised for our reckless use of its oil, nor the loss of our forests; we shall be mightily damned for all these things. But we may take comfort in the knowledge that we shall certainly be thanked for the national parks." - R L Wilbur, former US Interior Secretary

"If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature. Nature we have always with us, an inexhaustible storehouse of that which moves the heart, appeals to the mind, and fires the imagination, -health to the body, a stimulus to the intellect, and joy to the soul." - J Burroughs


My isquiesque icons are John Allison's character Shelly Winters in all her many moods altered by me to look a bit more like me, with permission from Allison. He is wonderful, and everyone should check out his work at ScaryGoRound.com!



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