The Bethesda style of oral formulaic epic, part 1

May 22, 18 The Bethesda style of oral formulaic epic, part 1

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In a series of essays starting in 2004 and including a series of posts here on Play the Past, I’ve described player-performance in adventure games of various genres as examples of what Albert Lord, in The Singer of Tales, the seminal work on oral formulaic composition of homeric epic, calls thematic recomposition. Briefly put,...

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The line-end formula, smoking gun of play-mechanics in oral epic

Aug 16, 16 The line-end formula, smoking gun of play-mechanics in oral epic

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Part of a series on the educational affordances of interactive narrative. ba da Bum ba da Bum bum Podas ōkus Akhilleus (pronounce the final “eu” as “yoo” if you have to—it’s a diphthong: the final Bum). Polumētis Odysseus (same here). “Swift-footed Achilles.” “Cunning...

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Play the ancient game

May 10, 16 Play the ancient game

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I’m glad to say that I have real hope of starting to contribute to PlaythePast again. I’m working on a book I’m excited about, though I have no idea whether it will ever actually emerge in any traditional “book” format. In any case, I’m going to start broaching the subject of the book, tentatively...

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When Odysseus lets you type “get lamp,” you’re going to be illuminated

May 13, 15 When Odysseus lets you type “get lamp,” you’re going to be illuminated

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“But tell me, and tell me true, whether you saw any of the mighty heroes who went to Troy at the same time with yourself, and perished there.” Thus speaks King Alcinous of the Phaeacians, when Odysseus has claimed himself to be too tired to continue the marvelous tale of his visit to the underworld—the climax of those...

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Epic Life: The Big Break of BioShock, part the last

Mar 06, 13 Epic Life: The Big Break of BioShock, part the last

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I promised to deal with one last problem in my “Games are Humanism” line of argument (now that the non-essentiality of the academic ruleset and the incipient humanism of even the least self-aware performance have been established): if we grant that playing BioShock can be doing humanities, where does that leave games...

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