Digital storytelling at Game City

gamecity-titleOctober has been a pretty stressful and bizarre month so far that has involved a bwain eating contest, interviewing Will Self (a man whose brain is so large it could feed a starving nation), collecting Jon McGregor’s old desk for the Nottingham Writers’ Studio (and resisting the temptation to sell it on eBay), LeftLion going monthly, sourcing patrons for Nottingham’s City of Literature bid, dealing with various tantrums in the world of digital comics and attempting to read the Booker shortlist before a friend at book club (pleasure).

But now my attention is fully focussed on Game City, or rather it will be after this blog. Game City is just gorgeous fun. Over the years it’s seen a SEGA Recital on solo piano in 13th Century Church, turned Market Square into a desert, and proved that gaming isn’t just about consoles by creating a playable meal. It’s nine years old this month and I’m well chuffed to be involved.

On Wednesday I’ll be giving a blather on ‘digital storytelling and Dawn of the Unread’ and discussing how multiple narrative threads enable a more complex understanding of literature as well as providing various routes into a text. Technically, Dawn of the Unread is not a computer game but multiple narratives are a theme of gaming culture and so this gets me a free pass. Dawn of the Unread does have a gaming element to it in that readers have to perform certain tasks in order to progress through the comic, but there aren’t any end of level bosses – unless you include illiteracy as our equivalent of Bowser.

I could harp on about why Game City is so brilliant for ages, but here’s two reasons. Firstly, anyone can give a talk. They have an open submissions system online where you pitch ideas. This makes it incredibly inclusive to the local environment. Secondly, it uses a simple scheduling tool called Sched which enables users to easily plan out their week, add events to calendars, and download to your phone. Sched also enables you to view all of the profiles of people attending your event so you have a good idea of numbers (23 signed up so far) as well as an awareness of who your audience are so that the talk can be adapted accordingly.

The Nottingham Festival of Words has just finished and I’m slowly starting to relax again. Although the literature audience is very different to the gaming audience, I think there is so much that we (the organisers) can learn from Game City, particularly the fun and simplicity that seem to define their approach and project management.

I’ll be dragging Paul Fillingham along with me, so if you have specific technical questions you’d like to ask about producing work across platforms, don’t be scared to put your hand up. Wed  29 Oct, 2-2.30pm. Game City website

Skype Me! Nottingham and the World

Robin Vaughan-Williams, the former Development Director of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio, is back in town for the Festival of Words. In this guest blog post he gives us a little teaser of what to expect…

Under three weeks to go now till Skype Nottingham on 18 October, and the programme is shaping up nicely. I’ve been enjoying some fascinating Skype conversations with participants in Brazil, Germany, and Austria, and am excited about their plans for the evening.

A couple of days ago I spoke with Reuben da Cunha Rocha, who took part in World Event Young Artists (WEYA) in 2012 and stole the show at the Festival of Words launch event that September with his incantational and, to my mind, slightly hallucinatory sound poetry inspired by the tribal rhythms he’d discovered on an island off the north-west coast of Brazil.

WEYA was an amazing festival, bringing together some 1,000 young artists from around the world, including 30 writers. There was enormous energy over the ten days as artists from different cultures discovered one another’s work and started to collaborate and make new connections. Then everybody went home. So it was wonderful to hear that WEYA had had a lasting impact for Reuben, as he’d been encouraged to go on developing the kind of work he’d presented at the festival, and had gone on to collaborate further with several of the artists he’d met at WEYA. Now he’s coming back to Nottingham this October, two years on, and, coming full circle, I’m looking forward to seeing what he has to offer us.

I’ve also spoken with Klaus Tauber in Vienna and Johann Reisser, who lives in Berlin but is currently undertaking a residency in the German city of Rottweil. I’m pairing Klaus with Leicestershire poet Mark Goodwin, as although they don’t know each other, they are linked by the Austrian poet Karin Tarabochia. Karin is part of a group curated by Mark on SoundCloud called Air to Hear, which collects digitally produced sound and poetry, and Klaus will be incorporating Karin’s voice into his performance for Skype Nottingham, which he’ll be presenting live from the roof of the Vienna Volkstheater.

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Johann Reisser organised an impressive event recently called Katastrophen /Formen, which involved bringing together WWI poetry from fourteen different countries for a staged reading. One of the things that interested him was how poets responded differently to the First World War in different countries. For example, I tend to think of British poetry from World War One as using conventional forms such as the sonnet to convey their traumatic content. But if you take a look at the poetry of German Expressionist August Stramm, translated here by Alistair Noon, you’ll see a very different, much more experimental approach to war poetry. The way his tornado-shaped forms wither down from top to bottom captures for me the whittling down of existence, and indeed of language, and the disorienting syntax suggests the disorientation of war.

Johann will be reading a poem on WWI by the poet Thomas Kling, who died in 2005, and I’ve paired him up with Ian Douglas, whose highly praised story of disaster in the North Sea, ‘Dead in the Water’, was included in the graphic fiction anthology To End All Wars. I hope this juxtaposition will give us a taste of the different ways that WWI is remembered in Germany and the UK.

Skype Me! Nottingham and the World takes place on Saturday 18 October 2014, 9–11pm at Nottingham Writers’ Studio (25 Hockley, NG1 1FP) as part of Nottingham Festival of Words. Tickets are £5 and available from the Nottingham Playhouse Box Office, online or by phone (0115 941 9419).