Dissection of a ramschackle presentation

Last Friday all Interactive Performance Design and Theatre Design students were supposed to deliver a quick presentation on their thesis, such as it is, their proposed methods and schedules and their inspirations. Obviously I was one of these students and followed suit. In retrospect, however, I fear I may have given the wrong or at least a flawed impression of what I intend to do. Let’s cast our mind’s eyes back to last friday and run through a handful of these slides:

The title slide.

In a sudden, weariness-induced flare of inspiration I went with Exit Pursued By A Bear as a working title, partly because the stage direction from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale makes me laugh but also because the simultaneously trivial and suggestive nature of the phrase might reflect some of the things I want to achieve in this project. Thus far it has little bearing on anything, save that I might add a bear to the game regardless of what it turns out to be about.

The second slide.

This second slide was meant to clarify what it was exactly that I was intending to make, and it does not do that. At all. A ‘game which prioritizes play over priorities or one where play ois the priority’ does not sound especially good on paper but it makes even less sense when approached with some measure of scrutiny. The game is about playing, yes. Does it have a goal, or is play the goal? More accurately, I suppose, would be to say that it requires a goal that emphasizes play, or needs a goal that requires a lot of play to be met.

Third slide.

This slide is meant to clarify the previous slide and fails to do that. I build my slides as visual company to my nattering, so excluding the confusion that stems from that, this slide alone does little to convey any clarification whatsoever. The three points it emphasizes, ‘Embodiment‘, ‘Story‘, and ‘Stage‘ are absolutely relevant in a gut-feeling kind of way, but they are relatively non-descript and without context. ‘Embodiment‘ was supposed to refer to directly performing a character rather than performing it as yourself. ‘Story‘ refers to the creating a story through performance rather than expressing a story created beforehand. ‘Stage‘ refers to the ultimate function of the product: A playground that is both a level for the players and a stage to experience for an audience.

Another slide.

A few more slides which basically emphasize the same things. A story does not work especially well in an interactive environment, but interactions taking place in said environments can make for good stories. How can I adequately push players to interact in a way that makes for an interesting narrative? And, more importantly, should I?

Relevant slide.

This slide deals with Raft, a game I made in my second year, which attempted to deal with similar problems in an inadequate fashion. I’ve gradually come to realize that a lot of pitfalls in my current project can be avoided by accurately understanding what younger me was trying to achieve with Raft, so expect a detailed post-mortem of the game soon.

The ‘thesis’.

My so-called thesis ran something along the tracks of ‘How can I induce players to express themselves freely through an avatar?’, which is, at best, a problematic sentence, and one in dire need of replacement.

Other slides dealt with vaguely relevant things like intended demographics (‘Jaded Adults?’) and proposed areas of research (Lubbock, Propp), but when my presentation ended and questions were asked, I noted that the gist most of the teachers gleaned from my presentation was either playing like children, regression studies, and other things involving a lot watching children fumble with wooden blocks, which is both something I’ve done before and a gross misreading of my intentions, which was clearly my own fault.

First priority now is to reformat everything I intended to deliver with the first presentation and make it actually deliver what it was supposed to do in the first place. And hope a proper thesis rolls out of that either artifice or by magic.