VuPop II Schedule of Events

June 9th:

9:30 - 10:00

Registration and Coffee Time (Light Refreshments served)

10:00 - 10:15

David Uspal and Michael Foight – Introductory Remarks and Overview

10:15 - 10:45

Demian Katz - The History of Gamebooks

10:45 - 11:15

Rebecca Slitt - Viking, Gunslinger, and Madam Midshipwoman: Gender and History in Interactive Fiction

11:15 - 12:00

Laura Bang and Christopher Hallberg - A Live Interactive Reading of Groom of the Tomb

12:00 - 1:00

Lunch Break (Lunch provided)

1:00 - 1:30

Christopher Liu - On Writing, Interactively

1:30 - 2:00

Randy Cook - Let There Be Light (or at least a simulated torch)

2:00 - 2:30

David Uspal - Grues and Other Dark Place Hazards: The Incomplete History of Interactive Fiction and Graphic Adventures

2:30 - 2:45

Afternoon Break

2:45 - 3:15

David Perlman - Interactive Fiction: The Use of Two Forms of Pop Culture to Increase Public Bioethics Awareness

3:15 - 3:45

Tom Rothamel - Visual Novels and Ren'Py

3:45 - 4:25

Panel Discussion

4:25 - 4:30

Closing Remarks


     Afterwards, please feel free to stick around for our:


5:00 - 8:00

Unofficial Game Night at Falvey Library


June 10th:

1:00 - 1:30

Special Collections Tour

1:30 - 2:00

Scan Lab Tour

2:00- 3:00

Potential Collaboration Talks (hosted by Demian Katz)




The History of Gamebooks

Presenter: Demian Katz

With roots in oral storytelling, experimental literature, programmed instruction and gaming, the interactive novels commonly known as gamebooks (and typified by such popular series as Choose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy) inhabit a unique space in the entertainment landscape. This talk will examine the origins and development of the form, pointing out noteworthy and unusual examples along the way (some of which will be on display in an accompanying exhibit).


Demian Katz is a Library Technology Development Specialist at Villanova University.  In his spare time, he runs the Gamebook Bibliography at gamebooks.org and researches Dime Novels.



Viking, Gunslinger, and Madam Midshipwoman: Gender and History in Interactive Fiction

Presenter: Rebecca Slitt

When interactive fiction takes on a historical setting, the question of gender inevitably arises. Choice of Games LLC is committed to gender equality in its games: every game currently published under our label includes the option for the player to have either a male or female protagonist. Moreover, the story must be equally fulfilling - and nearly identical in plot - regardless of the protagonist's gender. This means that even when a story is set in a historical period when inequality was the norm, we need to find ways to create equal experiences.

This talk will explore the narrative and structural techniques that we use to find a balance between historical realism and ethical egalitarianism. Sometimes we include fantasy elements, or acknowledge the historical existence of sexism while also giving the protagonist ways to bypass it. More interesting, though, are the ways in which actual historical details can be used to counteract conventional wisdom about premodern gender roles. For instance, the social flexibility of the American frontier creates space for women to star in a Western; and new archaeological research on Norse women suggests that a story about a female Viking warrior would be historically realistic.

Historically-based interactive fiction, therefore, can both allow players to explore a gendered experience different from their own and provide a corrective to misapprehensions about premodern gender roles.


Dr. Rebecca Slitt is an academic turned game designer, having taught medieval history at Hofstra University, Queen's University, and Fordham University before taking a position as Managing Editor at Choice of Games.



On Writing, Interactively

Presenter: Christopher Liu

How do you make an interactive book? Some of the methods for creating interactive works, whether games or gamebooks, invite completely different ways of thinking from the traditional role of the author. We'll review some examples from the art of game design, and look into applying them to interactive literature.


Chris is the founder of Adventure Cow, a startup publishing digital interactive novels. Their first work, DestinyQuest Infinite, will be released in 2014.



Let There Be Light (or at least a simulated torch)

Presenter: Randy Cook

Participation in creation is a basic human desire.  The genre of interactive fiction allows us to be both creator and creature.  We experience the story as we explore the author’s realm while exerting (however limited) some level of control or at least flow to the events as they are revealed.  While there are many ways to engage the reader in a story, gamebooks hold a unique place in literature by requiring active participation or at the very least a simulated participation in the story being told.  The interfaces to accomplish this are quite varied ranging from simple question->answer->result oriented branching to the necessity to role a die and react to the outcome.  Thrown into the mix we have text adventures with the classic, “Go North” as well as graphic adventures with point and click.  I wish to briefly explore how these methods of story\human interaction allow us as readers and authors to in some small way fulfill our basic desire to participate in the creation of yet unknown worlds.  Oh, and it is fun too!


No stranger to the genre of science fiction or of interactive games, Randy A. Cook's first text adventure game was published back in the 1990s.  Over the past two and a half decades his works of science fiction and fantasy, as well numerous business applications have been published by such software companies as eGenesis Media, Asgard Software and NuIQ Inc.  He continues to write both books and software while living in the Midwest with his wife Regina (a published poet herself).  Each book in his Legendary Journeys series has been dedicated to one of his three sons, Micheal, Zachariah, and Christian.



Grues and Other Dark Place Hazards: The Incomplete History of Interactive Fiction and Graphic Adventures

Presenter: David Uspal

Come with us on a informative and (hopefully) entertaining history of interactive fiction and graphic adventures -- from the first text adventure designed for the PDP-10 mainframe (ADVENT, later Adventure, later Colossal Cave), through the text adventure heyday of Adventure International and Infocom, and into the Sierra On-Line and LucasArts era of the graphic adventures.  We'll explore the birth of the industry, its heyday, its decline, and its modern "rebirth".  We'll also take a look at some of the more amusing aspects of the genre, including a few "Guide Dang It!" moments, Zarf's Cruelty Scale of Interactive Fiction, and some fun games of "Guess the Verb".  And all this in 20 minutes.  Wish us luck.


While other children learned to spell in school, David Uspal got a head start by playing the text adventure game series by Scott Adams on his Commodore VIC-20.  Thanks in part to this (and the idea that if he's going to spend so much time on computers, he might as well get paid for it), Dave graduated from Penn State with a degree in Computer Science and is now a library technology developer for Falvey Library, Villanova University. Dave still keeps up with the latest trends in text and graphic adventuring, although sadly his early works on the VIC-20 have been lost to time (and faulty cassette storage).



Interactive Fiction: The Use of Two Forms of Pop Culture to Increase Public Bioethics Awareness

Presenter: David Perlman, Ph.D.

The American Philosophical Association recently republished Stephen Toulmin’s classic article, “How Medicine Saved the Life of Ethics.” Toulmin argues that medical ethics saved the life of philosophical ethics from obsolescence. Why? Because in bioethics, instruction concentrates less on ethical or philosophical theory and more on justifications for particular choices in case studies. At its heart, the case study is a narrative or story about a patient or clinical situation and is a time honored method of medical education. However, using them in bioethics has disadvantages. This paper focuses on one – namely, its lack of ability to ignite the moral imagination for creative ethical problem-solving due to its static nature as a story “already told” rather than a story “in media res” or “in flux”. In order to have stories of the latter nature, some type of interactivity is required beyond asking “what if” counterfactuals added after the case. This paper describes the benefits of an innovative and unique method of interactivity drawn from two pop culture sources to teach bioethics. The use of pop culture (e.g., fiction, literature, film, news accounts) is not a new phenomenon in bioethics instruction. Neither is the use of interactivity in fiction. Remember the young adult Choose Your Own Adventure® books from the 1970s and 80s? For many children of that era, these books are pop culture icons. What is a new phenomenon is the combination of these two sources of pop culture – interactive fiction –  to increase bioethics awareness of the public.


David Perlman is the President & Founder of E4-Eclipse Ethics Education Enterprises, LLC, a Visiting Assistant Professor, University of the Sciences, Department of Health Policy & Public Health and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing



Visual Novels and Ren'Py

Presenter: Tom Rothamel

Visual Novels use text, images, and music to present choice-based interactive fiction. This talk will give an introduction to the form, showing how the medium is used to tell interactive stories. It will provide a short history of the medium's emergence in Japan and the west. Finally, it will describe Ren'Py, an open source game engine that has been used to create hundreds of visual novels.


Tom Rothamel has been involved with the visual novel community for over 10 years.  Tom is the lead developer of the Ren'Py visual novel engine and the host of the largest English-language forum dedicated to the creation of these works.