The Deletionist: Erasure Poetry from any Web Page


Announcing The Deletionist, a project by Amaranth BorsukNick Montfort and myself.

This is a bookmarklet (added to the bookmark bar in one’s browser) that automatically creates erasure poetry from any page on the World Wide Web, revealing an alternate mesh of texts called the Worl. Amaranth and Nick presented The Deletionist for the first time this week at the E-Poetry festival in London, at Kingston University.

For every page, The Deletionist weighs 30 different principles of erasure to see which is most appropriate for a given text.

Please post any interesting examples that you may find by tweeting @thedeletionist or posting here!


Games Telling stories

This is the alliteration rule – this guy’s clearly obsessed with the word “narrative”!  (example by


The “it’s not you it’s me”-rule.

Susan Sontag: Against Interpretation

The Steinian Continuous Present rule.

Bioshock Infinite ending spoiler


Readable, without spoiling much! The “I am Interesting” rule.

Introducing the Not Helvetica Collection

We love Helvetica! We really do!

But do you ever feel uneasy over its excessively clean lines?

Suspicious of the self-conscious foot of the upper case R?

Disturbed by the smug purists who think they have found the Eight Wonder of the World?

Then I have something for you.

A wholly frivolous side project, I present to you the NotHelvetica collection: a modest line of apparel and household objects featuring classic good-taste fonts like Helvetica, Bauhaus, and Futura … only in, well, other fonts like Comic Sans, or Old English, or Rosewood.

 Get the T-shirt

The iPhone 5 case

The cosmetic bag

And more! All customizable.



PS. For the truly daring contrarian, the Helvetica in Arial T-shirt is now available!

Is Tetris copyrightable? [In the US]

[Update: EA is suing Zynga for copying The Sims Social in The Ville.]

Here’s a recent court case on a question that keeps popping up: can a video game be copyrighted? (In the US that is.)


The Tetris Company sued Xio for copyright infringement for the game Mino. The judge has  ruled against Xio, and hence for the present and future ability of the Tetris Company to sue apparent Tetris clones.

Not being a legal scholar, here are some things I find interesting: Overall, the case doesn’t differ too much in general layout from previous court cases, and it cites generously from previous cases regarding the copyrightability of video games.

The main question concerns the “idea-expression” dichotomy, where by convention an idea is not copyrightable, but the expression of an idea is:

“protection is given only to the expression of the idea—not the idea itself.”

Hence the question really is what parts of Tetris is an idea, and what parts are an expression of that idea. The Tetris company specifically claims that these 14 points are expression:

1. Seven Tetrimino playing pieces made up of four equally-sized square joined at their sides;

2. The visual delineation of individual blocks that comprise each Tetrimino piece and the display of their borders;

3. The bright, distinct colors used for each of the Tetrimino pieces;

4. A tall, rectangular playfield (or matrix), 10 blocks wide and 20 blocks tall;

5. The appearance of Tetriminos moving from the top of the playfield to its bottom;

6. The way the Tetrimino pieces appear to move and rotate in the playfield;

7. The small display near the playfield that shows the next playing piece to appear in the playfield;

8. The particular starting orientation of the Tetriminos, both at the top of the screen and as shown in the “next piece” display;

9. The display of a “shadow” piece beneath the Tetriminos as they fall;

10. The color change when the Tetriminos enter lock-down mode;

11. When a horizontal line fills across the playfield with blocks, the line disappears, and the remaining pieces appear to consolidate downward;

12. The appearance of individual blocks automatically filling in the playfield from the bottom to the top when the game is over;

13. The display of “garbage lines” with at least one missing block in random order; and

14. The screen layout in multiplayer versions with the player’s matrix appearing most prominently on the screen and the opponents’ matrixes appearing smaller than the player’s matrix and to the side of the player’s matrix.

The judge does not make a decision for every single claim, but much of the argument concerns whether Mino could have made other decisions than have same size playfield, ghost pieces, and so on. The judge says:

In addition to the design and movement of the playing pieces … I find the following elements are also protected expression and further support a finding of infringement: the dimensions of the playing field, the display of “garbage” lines, the appearance of “ghost” or shadow pieces, the display of the next piece to fall, the change in color of the pieces when they lock with the accumulated pieces, and the appearance of squares automatically filling in the game board when the game is over. None of these elements are part of the idea (or the rules or the functionality) of Tetris, but rather are means of expressing those ideas.

And there you have it. As I read it, this decision seems to pull more game elements into the domain of expression (and hence copyright) than previous decisions did, but I will leave that analysis to others.

(Ars Technica also has a writeup here.)

Tablets are Dead (history tells us so)

Behold the cover of the latest issue of Wired:

Behold the article “How the Tablet Will Change the World“.

Compare to another Wired prediction, from 1997. The browser is dead and will be replaced by “push” technology:

This is not to say that the iPad will fail.

But if history has taught us anything, it’s this: If something is on the cover of Wired, it’s future is in serious jeopardy. Iridium. The Long Boom. Sega.

Perhaps this is what Wired is: Current trends, extrapolated to the max, made into the strongest possible predictions about the future.

Peter Bøgh Andersen, 1945-2010

Mark Bernstein brings the news that Peter Bøgh Andersen died this week.

Peter played an important role on my journey through academia by serving on my PhD committee in 2004. He was a semiotician in the best possible sense, where it meant that no question was out of bounds, and that all media, art forms and human endeavors were therefore necessarily interesting, as his web page attests.

Hence, he was always a great discussion partner for a young researcher looking at an underexplored phenomenon such as video games, and he was the first person I ever heard give a convincing account of interactivity, back in the mid-1990’s when interactivity was used left and right. “Look, you need to distinguish between interactivity on the level of the plot, and interactivity on the level of the story”.

Noah Wardrip-Fruin speaks at NYU on September 17

The NYU Game Center in combination with The Games for Learning Institute presents Noah Wardrip-Fruin.

Date: Thursday, September 17th from 6:00PM to 8:00PM

Place: 721 Broadway, room 006, lower level


Noah Wardrip-Fruin is a prominent game scholar with a particular interest in the
intersection of fiction and play.

He is author of “Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies” (MIT Press, 2009) and has edited four books, including “Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media” (MIT Press, 2007), with Pat Harrigan, and “The New Media Reader” (MIT Press, 2003), with Nick Montfort.

At NYU from 1994 to 2000 he was a research scientist at the Center for Advanced  Technology, artist in residence at the Media Research Laboratory, and part-time graduate student in the Gallatin School. He is currently an Assistant Professor with the Expressive Intelligence Studio in the Department of Computer Science at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The talk is open to students, faculty, and the general public. We welcome everyone, whether your research and teaching is related to games or you are simply curious about this rapidly evolving field. Please come, and feel free to bring any interested NYU colleagues.

The NYU Game Center is housed in the Skirball Center for New Media at the Tisch School of the Arts and is a collaboration between Tisch, NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, and the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. The Center is supported by generous grants from an anonymous donor, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Sharon Chang and the TTSL Charitable Foundation.

The multi-institutional Games for Learning Institute studies the educational use of digital games, and investigates their socio-cultural, cognitive, and emotional impact. They develop design patterns for effective educational games that industry partners can draw on to assure high quality when designing their own games for learning.

My new Job at the New York University Game Center

From August 1st, I will be moving to a position as a Visiting Professor at the brand new New York University Game Center.

I am looking forward to teaching, researching, and helping build the new program there!

(It is obviously also sad to leave the GAMBIT lab at MIT where I’ve had a great and productive time with my wonderful colleagues the last year and a half.)

Here is the official announcement from NYU:

The NYU Game Center Announces the Appointment of Game Studies Scholar Jesper Juul as Visiting Professor.

The Game Center, an independent multi-school center at New York University for the research, design, and development of digital games, established in fall 2008, has announced its first visiting faculty appointment, the Danish games studies scholar Jesper Juul.  His position as visiting assistant arts professor is effective August 1, 2009.  Juul is currently a video game lecturer and researcher at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.

In addition to teaching an introduction to video games course, Juul will help to lead the effort to develop and implement an overall pedagogical plan for the new Game Center, including designing curriculum, planning facilities, and identifying new faculty.  He will also lecture and give talks.

A respected scholar as well as a prominent authority in the field of game studies, Juul is the author of two books: A Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games and Their Players (2009 MIT Press) and the influential Half Real: Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds (2005 MIT Press).  In addition, he has contributed chapters to a number of books as well as having authored numerous articles and papers on games and culture, delivered several keynote addresses, and been an invited speaker at many talks.

Juul has taught extensively at the IT University of Copenhagen and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.   He earned an M.A. in Danish literature from the University of Copenhagen and a PhD from the IT University of Copenhagen.

The NYU Game Center is housed in the Skirball Center for New Media at the Tisch School of the Arts and is an all NYU collaboration of the Tisch School, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, and Polytechnic Institute of NYU. The Center is supported by generous grants from an anonymous donor, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Sharon Chang and the TTSL Charitable Foundation.