Posts Tagged ‘jason scott’

I originally watched Get Lamp, Jason Scott’s documentary about IF, in Boston at PAX East in March. It was raw, but I had trouble with the lack of attention on the existing community and nature of IF.

Then I got my free copy from Jason and watched that…and although it was no longer raw, it still lacked a great deal where the current IF scene is concerned.

Last night Jason did a screening at google Chicago with the Chicago IF Group and something strange happened. It was great. I could swear that I’d never seen any of the film that dealt with the community, the tools, the competition. Did I somehow miss this on the DVD? Did I lose a chapter? Did Jason show a different version last night?

I have no answers.

But the movie, as I saw it last night, appeases all of the concerns I had in earlier viewings. Well, I wish the Berlyn comment was balanced somehow, but it’s such a powerful moment that I can’t see leaving it out. It is what it is.

But the movie, as I saw it last night, was great.


I interviewed with Jason Scott for the Interactive Fiction documentary Get Lamp a few years ago. I was just getting Textfyre going and was excited about the potential of modern IF. I’m even more excited about modern IF than I was back then, and that has nothing to do with Textfyre. There seems to be a new push to widen the interest of IF. New websites like, server tools, javascript based interpreters, new books, and more.

So Get Lamp kind of lands in the middle of this period of time and from my perspective sinks like a lead weight. From a nostalgic perspective, and certainly if you’re an Infocom fan, Get Lamp is fantastic. But if you’ve been working at IF for the last 15 or 20 years as a hobbyist and the passion for Infocom or Level 9 has faded, Get Lamp is like a mint without the dinner.

Get Lamp completely ignores the modern IF movement. There is nothing in the documentary about modern IF platforms like TADS 3 or Inform 7. I’m not sure Graham Nelson or Emily Short are even mentioned (how is it possible to discuss IF without their efforts?). There aren’t any discussions about Curveship, a new platform being developed by Nick Montfort. There isn’t any talk about any games that have come out in the last ten years. There’s no talk of how we’ve evolved and grown. How we’ve adapted to changes in technology, content, and communal expectations. Jason literally only touched the tip of the iceburg. Get Lamp should have a subtitle: The History of Interactive Fiction.

In general, there is absolutely nothing in the documentary about what the IF community is doing right now and I think this is a huge gap in the film. I think Jason Scott made Get Lamp for his own Infocom fanboy moment. Those are harsh words, but it seems pretty clear to me that Jason has zero connection to the modern IF world. Now that the movie is completed, and after he sells a few hundred or few thousand copies, he will be off to make some other documentary and leave IF behind. I’ve reflected on my own Infocom fanboy moments and realized that I love Interactive Fiction. Not just Infocom. If anything, Get Lamp’s lack of interest in modern IF has ignited my passion for promoting modern IF, either through Textfyre or through open source tools or general community outreach. I realized this while having a drink with Lebling, Meretzky, Dornbrook, and Moriarty at PAX East. They loved Infocom. But they believe if there were ever a new IF age, it would have to be new and different. Like me, they actually love Interactive Fiction more than Infocom and IF’s history.

Anyway. I propose we all pitch in and do interviews of each other and post them on a website somewhere. These interviews will talk about what we’re all doing now and how IF has evolved into something well beyond the days of Infocom. We have an opportunity at PAX Prime to do a few interviews. I would like to encourage someone else to grab a camera and sit a few people down for 15 minutes or 30 minutes and get them on film talking about modern IF. We can do more at PAX East next year.

In the next six months we could produce enough material to be a sort of addendum to Get Lamp that fills in the gaping hole left by Jason. I can work with the Chicago IF group to interview Chicago people. I would spend time talking to Peter Nepstad, Jeremy Freese, and a few others. It would be good to create an outline of things we’d like to see discussed on film. Maybe I’ll setup an IFWiki page and everyone can add their “wish” list. I really believe we need to capture the modern IF community on camera. Its participants, but also its evolution and branches.

In Boston at the PAX convention, Jason Scott premieried a portion of his new documentary, Get Lamp.

First, I was disappointed that we weren’t getting a final product viewing. I’ve been watching Jason put the film together for four years (he interviewed me and I’m in the film) and I had hoped to see something more complete. From a business perspective, it may be that he simply had to move forward in whatever state it was in. However, the whole thing might have been better served by waiting another six months. The fact that PAX East was in Boston and they were receptive to the several IF panels and the film…this was probably just too good to pass up on Jason’s part. I still would have liked to have seen the entire film.

The hour of film that Jason previewed was well done. There were a few gaudy moments; like holding onto Steve Meretzky as if he’s going to cry. Then holding onto Mike Berlyn as he states very emphatically that commercial IF is dead and no one should every put money into it. I think the former was just goofy. The latter was misleading. There’s more information about Berlyn’s Cascade Mountain Publishing company and with that, Berlyn’s comments become something else entirely. Was Jason afraid to expose dirty details? Isn’t that part of the point of a documentary? To tell the whole story? In any case, I think this point in the film does a disservice to anyone, myself included, trying to rekindle commercial IF. Without the backstory or without some balancing narrative, Berlyn’s comments are wildly out of context. There was a hint of balance coming at the end, but it was nowhere near as strong as Berlyn’s comments.

The rest of the film was excellent. All of the interviews, with Infocom people, Scott Adams, the educators, the blind players, and a few contemporary IF people were all wonderful and really give you a sense of the love and passion many of us have for the medium. In this respect, the film is a tremendous success. I’m sure the unfinished portions will only add more depth to the story.