This is slight diversion from our usual beat of stories on archives and storytelling, but interesting to our project nonetheless. Games studio Versu have created Prompter, a programming language for narrative.

When, say, Aaron Sorkin or J. J. Abrams are writing a screenplay, they’re not typing little essays to specify that REPUBLICAN FLACK #2 or SCIENCE OFFICER T’BLURG have elbows which articulate inwardly, or that they stand upright. They expect all of that to be understood automatically. More to the point, they don’t think about it at all. They need to give all of their attention to how people will feel as they watch the movie.

Versu’s game creators can quickly create new narratives and express genres, characters, scenes, events, arcs, plots and backstory in programmatic form, shortening production time as well as opening new possibilities. These possibilities can include the discovery of connections across multiple titles that might share characters, plots or locations.

For example, the following is compilable Prompter code, describing a character…

A poor young straight Ancient Roman man. By reputation he is attractive - “[He] is widely accounted tremendously handsome”, intelligent - “[He] is known for his poetry, and cannot be supposed a fool”, but not proper - “[His] misbehaviour, with various ladies, is the talk of the town”. He is open, unconscientious, extroverted and &irtatious. He is concerned with attractiveness, intelligence and friendship.

This is very much how we’ve been thinking about the connectedness of Pararchive stories, though we’ve explored this from a very visual and interactive perspective, as well as text analysis using OpenCalais. There’s no reason why our notion of blocks and artefacts couldn’t be programmatically created.

I’m not sure what Prompter means for Pararchive yet, but it’s an interesting discovery which might yield some long-term implications for the direction of our project.

Find out more about How Versu Works and their Prompter authoring language.