nm3222 module critique.

End of sem is approaching and I’ve promised myself this: a critique on NM3222 Interactive Storytelling. I’ve never done module critiques before because none of the modules I’ve done in NUS have been good enough to necessitate this. Since I’m procrastinating as usual, here goes:

THIS IS THE BEST FUCKING MODULE I’VE DONE IN NUS!!!

Ahem, that’s not all, obviously…

The module syllabus was comprehensive and very applicable. Alex Mitchell drew very relevant links between theory and practical.

Breakdown of workload:
1. Weekly reflections usually based on tutorial sessions and how they relate to prescribed readings. Otherwise, we would be told to either base it on prescribed online games (again relate to readings) or the software we used.
2. Three interactive games/stories spread over the course of the semester. Chronologically, they were hypertext fiction, interactive story, story generator.
3. Three proposals for our respective interactive stories.
4. Three critiques based on a classmate’s proposal.

Now that I’ve broken it down, it doesn’t seem like much work! But believe me, I died and came back to life. And I’m sure my fellow coursemates will agree. But then, the person who did the most work has got to be Alex because he critiqued each and every weekly reflection, proposal, critique and of the course the games. And he stayed up all night with us on IVLE while we were tearing hair apart and having the hysterics because the software would not comply and the deadline is at 8am. (Well, I knew because I saw the forum after that. ‘Cos that’s the power of working smart!) And he wrote 30 page long instructions for the softwares. And still found the patience to understandingly explain and re-explain the nitty gritties of the software to each student who sought his help.

Lecturers like him do not exist. They live in HappyLand somewhere, a parallel universe to the crapped up one we have here. He must have taken a SorryJet out to research the meaning of ‘pissed off’. Oh and they most certainly do not exist in container beings with dreamy, puppy eyes. 

Right I kinda got carried away. Hitchhiker’s Guide was on just now and I was thinking of Marvin the Paranoid Android who’s one of my best friends.

The core of the module was for us to ponder the true meaning of interactivity. And he did a great job in illustrating the ambiguity that shrouds the term. Course materials were well-chosen to equip us with enough theoretical background to sufficiently contemplate its existence (or non-). Some of the games he recommended even went beyond the scope of this field to dabble in political and moral dilemmas. September 12th (note the date!) is one such ‘game’. Basically, through playing it, you should get the sense that killing and bombing isn’t going to rid the world of our problems. And I thought that execution was brilliant! There is another one, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Those games, they simulate real-life emotions that we may not be in a position to really encounter. Like how we had to help this really old lady hobble down the lane in a cemetery where all her loved ones lay dead but we couldn’t do it fast enough because she’ll start limping and hopping. It gives you a sense of how it feels to be trapped in a deteriorating body, how you can’t do anything fast enough, how you scream out to be agile and how every bodily maneuver is a battle against your aging physical capabilities. Another game simulates the anxiety of a mother protecting her crying baby from the approaching soldiers. That is very poignant, it made me cry. I need to find the url.

Along with the interactivity aspect, we had to think about narratives and how the traditional structure of narratives as defined by Aristotle cannot be adapted to postmodern manifestations of it, especially when you bring in ‘interactivity’. (And the reason I’ve put it in quotation is that we haven’t yet reached a true definition of interactivity.) And especially if the medium is new media. The best thing about all these attempts at defining business is that he didn’t merely tell us so, or force us to see it by reading the boring journals (actually, though, they’re among the most interesting readings I’ve done so far). We actually experience the whole ambiguity and perplexity by going through the process of crafting stories and seeing them being torn to shreds of confusions through the paper shredder of a software. Ariadne, SUDS and WideRuled2.

Anyway, what really killed people in the module was the programming part. Otherwise, I love love love this module. It is new media, literature, philosophy, computing with a dash of socio-political trimmings all rolled into one.

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