Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The WordPlay Festival: An Interview with Jim Munroe

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WordPlay Festival

This weekend the gaming community is in for a treat as the Toronto Public Library and the Hand Eye Society host the first WordPlay Festival. The festival is being held at the Toronto Reference Library as part of International Games at Your Library Day on November 16th.

The focus at WordPlay will be on video games that use words and text as an integral part of the gameplay. Not sure what these “writerly videogames” would look like? The festival promises to showcase more than 20 examples that participants can try out. Also on schedule are four panels and discussions about this new way to play videogames. More information about the festival and a full schedule of events can be found at the Hand Eye Society website here and on our events page here.

Today we have the great pleasure of interviewing the festival’s director Jim Munroe. Jim is also part of the Hand Eye Society, a non-profit videogame arts organization that helps videogame makers not only make videogames but connect with other industry professionals and gamers.

Open Book:

What can participants expect or get out of the WordPlay Festival?

Jim Munroe:

They can expect to be exposed to a different kind of videogame, one that uses the human brain to generate images rather than a graphics card. People who love reading will enjoy the variety of styles and perspectives used in an interactive context.

OB:

Why do you think the WordPlay Festival is important for the gaming community?

JM:

The public impression of games is dominated by violent first person shooters like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. But beyond these franchises there's a variety of creators approaching the medium as they would any art form, and by spotlighting a different type of game we show the diversity of what's being made and played.

OB:

Do you have any particular goals or accomplishments you wish to achieve in holding the WordPlay Festival?

JM:

We hope to introduce some people to the particular strengths of games that use prose. Just like there's a place for books alongside movies, we want to show that text games and interactive fiction have pleasures of their own. For people interested in making games who have writing skills, we want to show them how they can start making games today by themselves.

OB:

This year marks the first WordPlay Festival. What made you decide or inspired the idea to hold the festival in the first place?

JM:

It began with a discussion between the Hand Eye Society and the Toronto Public Library about partnering on something for International Games in Your Library Day, Nov. 16th. At first we discussed doing something broader to involve all kinds of games, but quickly realized that it made sense to focus on writerly games: it would be more interesting to book-centric library patrons, and it made more thematic sense of the Toronto Public Library venue.

OB:

Which events, panels or discussions should participants really look forward to at the festival?

JM:

We're starting off with a panel with five people who have one foot in both game and book worlds, and then having an in-discussion-with the Chicago creators of Kentucky Route Zero, a Southern Gothic magical realist point-and-click adventure. We then have a local game creator Christine Love leading a workshop for beginners who want to learn how to make their own interactive fiction. Plus, there's 20+ games we've curated to let people play a range of what is being made out there.

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