Narrative Games that Envision the Future

September 12, 2008

What if someone could develop a community-based, emergent, narrative, futures-oriented online game with a sustainability theme?  That’s ticked a lot of my buttons and it seems that this has already been done.  Anthony Williams over at Wikinomics chronicles a conversation that he had with Ken Eklund, a freelance writer and game designer, and the creator of a fascinating Alternate Reality Game (ARG) called World Without Oil.

World Without Oil is an alternative reality game based around a scenario of a global oil shortage.  It ran for 32 weeks and asked participants to imagine what they would do and how would they cope if a particular situation unfolded.  They were asked to post their responses and see how other people were adapting.  It both examined how people would cope at the local level plus interact with others and learn from them on their ventures.  In this way, it was quite emergent as the stories that people told were their own and how they acted in the game was entirely up to them as to how they exerted narrative control over the situation.

I really liked how this worked; it did not rely on the opinion of experts but went to the grassroots of the populace to see what they would do under a particular set of conditions and get them to interact to determine the nature of the situation and to identify alternatives to deal with what was happening.  Games such as these would make for excellent classroom material for teachers to work with their students or for foresight practitioners to design scenarios to explore how an organisation would respond to a future situation.

Holarchy and the Meaning of Life

September 9, 2008

Some people search for the meaning of life in their connections with others or with deep contemplation of inner mysteries or with heading up the chain to view mankind in connection with all other life (past, present and future).  Yet others search for it in the cosmos.  And others think that if they smash two itsy-bitsy particles together, they will find God’s particle in the Large Hadron Collider.

I love physics and the ability for mankind to build a massive 27 km ring that can smash tiny bits together is pretty cool. 

So I think that this little YouTube clip says it all really.  Anyone that can combine rap and physics in an educational clip has done extremely well.  Thanks to Cate via Facebook for the link. 

One day, I will get this blog hosted myself and I will be able to embed clips like this into it and also get a bit better theme than the one that I am currently using!

Tips for Writing More Betterer

September 2, 2008

When I was at high school, English was never my pet subject.  I always struggled to put two or three good sentences together into a semblance of a meaningful paragraph.  And as far as connecting paragraphs into an essay, well forget it! 

I did not really get the writing bit down pat until about third year university which was just in time to thrash out 50,000 words for my honours thesis the next year.  And then a career in the public service followed with writing presentations for Ministers and Secretaries of departments, cabinet briefing papers and so forth.

So I wish I knew these 6 rules for rewriting by Michael Nielsen back then as they would have helped me become a better writer a lot earlier.  His rules are:

  • Every sentence should grab the reader and propel them forward
  • Every paragraph should contain a striking idea, originally expressed
  • The most significant ideas should be distilled into the most potent sentences possible
  • Use the strongest appropriate verb
  • Beware of nominalization
  • None of the above rules should be consciously applied while drafting material

I am wont to nominalize a fair bit and grammatical experts love to pick my split infinitives.  But in the end, these rules are handy hints to follow to get the most impact from your writing and to facilitate that all-important knowledge transfer to the reader.