gaming + poetry
Can poetry learn from gaming? Like music and film gaming in the last thirty years has built a massive audience while being at times enormously complex and abstract. Unlike most music and film gaming requires active participation from its audience in a way that is in fact wholly different from what might seem like the analogous processes of reading complex literature. And without intending to be provocative gaming - and I mean both designing and in some cases playing - is a genuine artform. Like film - another technologically enabled artform of the twentieth century - gaming draws on a huge range of disciplines.Perhaps this is something poetry should learn? That the distinctive and successful artforms of the past hundred years or more have been social in execution and in consumption. This is even true of those forms that use a narrower range of disciplines - the various popular musics from jazz and blues onward for instance. Why should a poem be the work of one person? Why should a poet's work be solitary? Isn't the Romantic notion of the solitary genius getting a bit old? In fact isn't the idea of a writer slightly peculiar? A detached individual creating work not for large groups but for large numbers of detached individuals.Then there is the more obvious difference of technology. Some sound and visual poetry aside poetry makes little use of recent technologies. Certainly the internet and in particular blogging micro-blogging such as twitter and social networking have substantially altered the way work is disseminated and poets communicate with one another. But after the microphone and the photocopier not a lot else appears to have impinged on the way poems are written or consumed - or on what they look like. Is there anything comparable to the invention of amplification or recording technology allowing eventual post-production manipulation of sound in the recent history of poetry? There doesn't seem to be.Although in retrospect continuity with older forms can be seen both film and music - as gaming later - invented new ways of communicating with their audience. Film uses shorter scenes, much closer and more distant perspectives, juxtaposition, and a whole range of techniques unavailable on stage without the same technology used by film. Yet for all the novelty of their techniques film music and gaming have been able draw audiences into and guide them through complex sequences of events and ideas. Poetry on the other hand often seems to be more like an arcane kind of crossword.
So what does this mean? That the solitary poet should be consigned to history? That poetry should be an essentially social artform? That poetry should use technology to reinvent itself? I don't know. I'm trying to find an answer. While slow starting mutapoem is one possible attempt to create a social poem. Sound poetry has been another field of investigation concentrating on the technological aspects this time. In recent months I've felt that somehow using gaming might be another avenue to explore.
Then there's another parallel. Gaming takes time. It takes time in a couple of ways. It takes time to design a game and it takes time to play a game. There's a lot more can be said about designing games and I aim to provide links in the blog over the next few weeks. What interests me here is the time taken to play the game. In particular the point articulated I think by Dara O'Briain on Charlie Brooker's Gameswipe that when you buy a game you don't have access to all the content you've paid for. You have to earn it by playing through the game - solving the puzzles and exploring the world - going back to levels once the whole is complete. This takes time. In fact if it didn't take time you'd be pretty disappointed. But the experience does have to be enjoyable. Clearly the rewards are less tangible for poetry - and I'm not suggesting anything like the poetic equivalent of a boss fight at the end of every ten pages.
Besides which over the last couple of years I've discovered a large number of poets that I find enormously rewarding after spending most of my life struggling with the dismal mainstream - so this is not an argument that poetry is dying. Rather it's an argument that something challenging something time-consuming can be successful and that technology opens up enormous unimagined possibilities. In particular technology has facilitated new ways of networking for poets and readers.
I realise that this discussion is incomplete and that there is a lot more to say. I will return to some of these themes in a couple of weeks once my MA commentary is out of the way. In the meantime I'd welcome any thoughts you might have.
Finally apologies for the long delay between this post and the last. I was away over Christmas without internet connection and after I got back had persistent problems getting online - although I hope they've now been resolved. I would have posted from work but in the event I was only in on Tuesday 29th.