video by: brian fullerton, seth vincent, orion canning, ross cowman, jackson tegu
Story Game Convention in Olympia, WA – 6.15.12 – 6.17.12
Friday, Saturday, Sunday-Day SOLD OUT, Sunday Night Gala Passes available at the Door
Through an alleyway and into a warehouse art studio – follow us to the final year of Fabricated Realities.
Our three-day schedule includes eight gaming slots and lots of relaxed social time.
Come dream, imagine and explore with us.
Joel P. Shempert is interviewing each installation artist about the Reality they’re fabricating. The most recent interview will be placed at the top of the page, check back or scroll down!
Caroline Gibson / Underwaterscape
Caroline, you’re doing an art installation for the Fabricated Realities convention. So to start with, can you describe your installation for us?
Yeah, it’s going to be an underwater-scape. So surrounding the gaming tables is going to be banners of cloth, in various blue shapes, to make it feel underwater instead of enclosed. Hanging from the ceiling are going to be mobiles with lots of little fish; I’ve started work on some paper jellyfish that are going to hang out on Christmas lights. There’s going to be some sea urchins, anemones and coral on the ground.
Cool. So, you’ve talked a little bit about it, but what kind of materials and craft are going into this? You’ve got lighting and stuff; that’s cool…
Yeah, we’re getting some lighting; I’m using fabric—I’m trying to get all recycled fabric, so old sheets donated from friends or from second-hand stores, and just slice those up. The paper that I’m using for the jellyfish is maps, pretty maps—why not? For the fish that are going to be hanging down, my typical medium of art is watercolor, so I’m going to be doing some watercolor fish cutouts for that. Coral’s going to be made from foamcore; sea urchins from pipe cleaners, and anemones hopefully from some little, long balloons. So, a lot of things!
That sounds really fun. What kind of mood or theme or feel are you trying to evoke with the installation?
Did you ever play Chrono Trigger, and there’s the Underwater Palace? I don’t know; it’s awesome to play things underwater. You have a feeling that it’s a high fantasy, awesome, magical, weird universe—we’re on the same planet as this underwater world, but we really have no interaction with it at all. So I think that’ll be fun for specifically a gaming environment, because you can do science fiction with it, you can do high fantasy with it, you can do, I don’t know, the human condition with it. And I hope it’ll feel sort of calm and separate from the rest of the activity at the con. Like, if it’s really busy I want it to be a place where people can go and their visual stimulus is blocked, so they can relax.
Oh, cool. Very nice. So, this is a story game convention; have you played story games before, yourself?
I have. I’m big in the Seattle story gaming community. So I run the Saturday meetup that runs parallel to Ben [Robbins]‘ Thursday meetup. So I’m deep in!
I should’ve guessed when you said “the human condition,” honestly. [Inside joke. -ed]
And I’ve heard all about Fabreal, so I’m super excited. It was apparently the best thing ever last year, so hopefully we’ll bring it this year.
Very nice. So what do you enjoy about playing story games?
I like the ability to collaborate with people to make an awesome story. And that’s sort of the definition of what story games are, but still, the coolest part to me is figuring out what someone finds interesting or challenging, and exploiting it. I’m a sucker for sad games, and finding what makes people get a little misty-eyed and trying to make that happen—trying to make them make that happen to themselves.
Nice. I really dig that experience. Usually it’s me manoeuvring so that it happens to me. So maybe we would play really well together! So let’s talk about you as an artist. How long have you been doing art, what kinds of media have you used, and so forth?
My current project is an underwater project. I have a website, www.underwatermadness.com, where I post weekly or semiweekly watercolor paintings of fish being sassy. So, that’s been a way for me to keep up with art, because I’m an adult with a job that has nothing to do with art. I have a visual thing that I’m doing, so fish underwater, whatever, and then I have a verbal way of making it funny. I make stupid captions and make myself giggle. So this is my first installation work.
Cool. Any interesting challenges that have gone into doing that?
Oh, I had to replan four times what I was going to do. Because I had this beautiful scheme for huge anemones that and they’d be made out of some fabric and be very, I don’t know, kooshy, then I emailed with Grace [Ellis] and I was like, “What’s the highest budget that you guys had last year,” and she was like, “a hundred bucks.” So I had to scrap that and start over a few times, to figure out something that would be affordable and feasible, because it’s not the largest timeframe, and it’s not a huge budget. So that’s what I found challenging, was making the plan. I think the execution, now that I have a solid plan, is going to be busy but fun.
So what is it about art that draws you? What excites you about doing art?
I really dig the visual aspect of it. I like looking, and making art that’s fun to see. I’m not super into decorative art and then I’m not really into ugly art. I’m into superficial pretty art. And the work that I’m doing now is humor, so I like to make people laugh. That’s big in it too.
The thing that really excites me about Fabreal is that it’s bringing visual art and stories together. So the other component being stories, what is it that draws you to stories? What kind of stories excite you and how do you interact with story?
I like dark stories where we’re exploring how people feel when bad things are going on. I like stories where we’re not focused on the world, or any sort of combat, or any sort of particular goal, but we’re being people that we can reasonably imagine, and we’re not so far removing ourselves from that fiction that we can stay involved with it on an emotional level. And I hear that Fabreal’s good for that.
Yes, yes it is. Yeah, I think that’s really great.
So I think that being in an installation would be pretty awesome for that, because you have your sensory stuff taken care of, and if you want to have a game within whatever reality in, that’s taken care of, and you can just go it; you can feel like you’re at least immersed in it in some way. And when you’re gaming you’re not focused on looking side to side and being in a world, and that’s good. But my hope is that it will take away that one step that removes you from the fiction.
Really nice. I’m noticing an interesting contrast, where you’re talking about dark and sad stories, and you’re also in a place where you’re doing bright and sunny art to make people laugh. That jumped out to me as interesting, so do you have anything to say about it?
I don’t know. I think that just might be my weird personality, that I like both those things. I think the dark sad games won’t happen in Colorful Underwater Land.
Probably, although somebody might dig the irony. Anyway, I don’t think it’s a contradiction, but it just struck me as an interesting thing going on. So, as you may or may not have noticed, the theme of Fabricated Realities this year is “The End,” because 2012 and Mayans and things. So just a couple of questions to wrap up: what’s one reason you would be sad if the world ends soon?
I’m getting married in December, just before the Apocalypse. So it’d be kind of a bummer to get married and then have nothing going on. That’s on a personal level. I’ve got a lot of stuff to do; I’ve got a lot of books to read.
Agreed! So what’s one reason you’d be happy if the world ends soon?
I think that it would technically solve all our problems. That’d be good, right? We’d have a nice, clean record that no one will notice.
That’s great. Well, thank you Caroline; I’m looking forward to the Underwater World. I woke up and got a Little Mermaid song stuck in my head, so it’s kind of funny that you were my interview this morning.
Rebekah Volinsky / Funnies Bureau
Rebekah, you’re making an art installation for Fabricated Realities, so can you describe your installation to us?
I’m thinking about a “Funnies Bureau.” The idea behind that is, I just graduated from college, and looking back on my academic career, I realize that I spent a lot of time and energy trying to be very serious, and not be hyperactive, or too silly, At the end of my senior year I was working on a thesis project, and I’ve always been very, especially serious about my art, because I want it to be good. But then I was working on my thesis, and I had all these other side projects going on that my thesis advisor thought were really interesting, which I though were just funny little things to do. Now that I’ve graduated, I don’t have this focus and pressure to work hard in the same way, but I want to continue to work. So I decided it’s time to get serious about being silly.
So this installation is going to be my first that is of that vein, and I thought the best way to do that was to completely cover an entire space with Sunday funny pages. Sillies, funnies, they’re pretty similar ideas, and I just thought for the convention it would be more interesting to make an environment where you’re inside and of course the comics pages are going to be bright and colorful, but there won’t be too much participation required of the people inside. So it’s more like a steadying and an interesting space to be in, and I thought that would be a good place for story gamers to play.
Cool. That’s gonna be a LOT of Sunday comics pages, huh?
Yeah, I think I need at least 60 copies of Sunday comics sections, and I’d rather have about a hundred just in case. That’s the biggest dilemma, is where to find all of those.
Yeah. Are you going to get a bunch of friends to canvas for you or something, or raid everybody’s recycle bins?
Yeah, that’s probably what I’ll end up doing. I put out a Craigslist ad, because I know there are probably a lot of hoarders around with stacks of newspapers, and then I would sift through them for the Sunday editions, but I haven’t got any responses, so I think I’m going to have to hop in the recycling center dumpster and sift through for awhile.
Fair enough! So how are you constructing the environment? What kinds of physical things are the funny pages going to be wrapped around?
Right. Well, most of of it is just going to be flat and shellacked onto the wall and ground so you can walk on it and it won’t get scuffed up. But I’m going to construct a ceiling, and it’s going to be made of bubble configurations of the Sunday comics so that when you’re underneath it, it seems like it’s bubbling out and flowing. It’s not going to be like you’re under a waterfall of comics, because that would draw a lot of attention, and I want it to be more just like a space you’re inside of. But yeah, the ceiling’s going to be bubbling out.
Cool. So since people are going to be playing story games inside this space, what kind of effect do you imagine the space having on that?
Well, it’s funny, because I didn’t actually know what story games were before this, and I have an idea ab out what they are, but I don’t know about the specific ones. I assume that they’re not all going to be well aligned with the bright colors, but maybe some of them will, maybe some of them won’t. I just wanted to create an environment that would be fun and playful, that people could step inside of, and then that could strike a mood, and then they would be able to turn their attention to the game, instead of—like, if I had 3-D things coming out, like I was thinking about having more bubbles, or things out of the wall that would create the space more, and thought that just might be a little hard to play a story game in, if it’s too participatory.
Yeah, I can see that.
I’d like it to be a fun thing, and for that reason I think it would be a fun place to play a game.
Awesome. So, you haven’t played story games yourself, or have you now, or…?
I haven’t. I have a couple friends who play Dungeons & Dragons, but I’ve never participated. I know Grace Ellis; she’s the one who introduced me to this convention, Fabricated Realities, and the whole idea of making-your-own-story games.
Cool. So are you planning on coming to the convention and playing, then?
I don’t know. It’s tricky, because I’m actually based down in Portland, Oregon. So I’m going to come up to Olympia to build the installation, but then I’m not sure how long I can stay after that. I’d like to be able to come catch a little bit, but I gotta get back to work.
Yeah, fair enough. So how long have you been doing art, and what kinds of art have you done?
Well, I’m 21, and I’ve been doing art since I can remember, so let’s call it 19 years. I mostly have my background in drawing and painting; that was when I was learning how to make art. I still really, really love drawing, but in the past couple of years, I’ve tried out printmaking, and photography a little bit, but have really focused on video art, and actually I make animation. I’ve also done some installation-type things, and performances—I’m kind of like a jack-of-all-trades at this point. I get excited about things and you know, I don’t want to be limited to one specialty in a medium.
Very nice. This is a really philosophical question and may be a little broad, but what is it about art that excites you or moves you?
That’s a good question. Honestly, for me—I’ve been doing this forever—art is everything about me, and not everything. I think it’s how I operate in the world, and how I think about how I’m interacting with my environment, and other people, and also how I want to then reach out and interact back. And that’s different for everybody, how they make that connection, and for me, it’s just always been the most exciting to think about it in terms of art, and representing things visually, but also experientially, and there’s some thing about how subtle art can be. When I was younger I struggled with the idea, “is art frivolous? Is it a waste of time and maybe I should be out as an environmental scientist or an activist, doing something more obviously directly affecting change in the world?” But culture counts, and you have to think more about the connections, and I try to be aware of the ideas that my art’s proliferating. I like to have something more to chew on, I guess. That’s why I like art.
Yes, very nice! I often struggle with the whole pressure to be practical, and all of my interests and strengths are in sort of airy, creative and artistic things. I like how you said that: “culture counts.”
Culture really counts.
Culture is kind of the point. So yeah. Great. One of the things that really excites me about Fabricated Realities is the way it’s bringing visual art and story-making together. So how do you interface with stories? What is it about stories that excite you and move you? Or what kinds of stories?
I’ve always been a very heavy reader, you know? I assume most people on this project read a lot as children. There’s something really beautiful about being able to get wrapped up in something that is outside of yourself, but you feel it as though it’s happening to you and you’re carried along with it. And I guess that’s the part about stories that I’m drawn to, and narrative in general, is the experience of it: the power of words or games or film—I’m really interested in film—or video installations. There’s a progression of emotion and experiences that you can be guided through. And I guess as an artist I’m interested in creating those sorts of experiences for other people, keeping in mind the open-endednes of things. I’m a little bit of a control freak by tendency, so I always grapple with this impulse to have everything perfect and have control over every little thing, and also knowing—because it’s impossible to do that—that I need to leave room for somebody else to take things as they will, and in that way create a story with me.
Yeah. That’s one of the really fascinating and exciting aspects of story games for me, the way they kind of help you kind of negotiate through collaboration with people. Honestly, the traditional model, going back to Dungeons & Dragons, was a little more like: one person is going to master the game, and provide an experience for everybody else. And there have been a lot of movements into more collaborative things, where you are letting go of—like, “Ok, I have this that I contribute, and once I put it out there, it’s not mine anymore, and somebody else is going to take it and make something new out of it.”
Yeah. So the background of how I heard about it is, I have a mutual friend with Grace, so we’re Facebook friends, and I saw, last year, her photos from it, and I kind of asked her out of the blue if I could participate, because the idea of Fabricated Realities, this idea that you’re talking about of collaborating to make something, is what really excited me about the convention. I want to make things that are so impossible and out of this world, just because we can. There’s no reason not to, and it’s a really radical statement to make something really outlandish, and prove to other people that something they hadn’t ever imagined is possible.
Well, I’m really excited, and last year was really wonderful, and I’m excited about bringing this whole D.I.Y. Artist culture into story gaming culture, and seeing the new infusions of creativity that result. It’s really cool.
Yeah, it’s a really interesting and unique thing that Fabricated Realities is doing, putting those two together.
Yeah. I think that’s about it; I just have a couple of wrap-up questions, that are sort of an experiment. Because as you may or may not have noted, the theme for Fabricated Realities this year is The End, because it’s 2012 and there are some Mayans or something. So two questions; first: what’s one reason that you would be sad if the world ended soon?
Probably because I would end with it. And that makes the other reason pretty selfish, but I’m at a place in my life where a very significant part of my life is ending, which is my academic career, which is pretty much all I’ve known, and I’m a very frontal-lobe oriented person and I’m very comfortable thinking and doing that, and now I don’t have that part of my life with me, or that’s not the structure of my life anymore. And I’m really excited to see what happens now. And I would be very sad if the world ended, and I didn’t get to find out where this post-graduate life takes me.
So what’s one reason you would be happy if the world ended soon?
The Mayans were right.
Yeah, everybody thinks these prophecies are bullshit, so it’d be cool to have one come true! Also, the end of war, and… we’re not treating this world too well. So…
Yeah, well. That’s probably similar to what my answer would be. Thank you very much, this was really enjoyable and I’m really looking forward to the convention and all the art.
Yeah, me too.
Amy Travers / Domestic Vessel
Amy, you are doing an art installation for Fabricated Realities. Can you describe your installation for us a bit?
What I’m hoping to do is create this domestic vessel of just, a lot of what are known to be like, female domesticated art craftwork, and a conversation between nonexpressive and expressive self. So, I want to build a world with yarn and a bunch of prints, and have like, this cozy area, but also somewhat sterile and have it converge into this really expressive state. That’s what I’m hoping to do.
Wow. That sounds really awesome and intense. So, you already talked about what kind of mood and themes you’re going for; that’s really great. What kind of craft and construction is going into that? What’s your physical process looking like?
Well, currently, I am taking yarn and curling it around some sticks. So, I’m just kind of using found objects and putting a human touch onto them, like a representation. I’ve also built this metal chandelier to hang the things off of, that’ll kind of be the foundation of this vessel.
I’m still tripping on the phrase “domestic vessel.” That’s kind of amazing.
“Vessel” just all-around is a good word.
Yeah, it is. So, this isn’t just an art installation; people are going to be playing story games in this space. So how do you imaging your installation impacting the experience of people playing story games in it?
I don’t really know. I feel like it would be this weird comfort thing? Maybe there could be too much symbolism; that they might not get it. But overall I think that they would just—hopefully the would feel comforted by this.
Have you played story games yourself?
No, I have not, so I would like to actually learn more about them.
Cool. Last year there were several artists who had never played story games before, and it was really exciting to play with them, and see enthusiastic, creative people who are used to doing art around the edges of culture, getting into that new artform.
I don’t want to turn the interview around, but how long has this been going on in Olympia?
This is just the second year of this convention; I don’t really know a lot about the scene in Oly, but it seems like it’s really exploded in the last year or so. It’s really exciting because it’s not quite your stereotypical roleplaying community, and bringing that sort of DIY art sensibility to story games is really exciting to me. Now, is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your installation, or about art, or your process?
It’s really overwhelming because I want to create this wonderful space for someone to walk into and be removed from the real world. So I really want to work hard on this, and it’s overwhelming because I want to do everything myself, and when people ask if they can help me, I’m like, “totally; you can come and help to save time,” but I don’t know how they would help me, because I feel like I have this control over it, like I would want it to be a certain way. Which I probably need to work on. But yeah, it’s really wonderful, and I just want it to be an awesome space.
Yeah, the process is just everything hands-on, and my ideas, and I think that my ideas change with each new edition that I’m working on,. So I think my main idea in some parts will still be there, but I think it will just evolve the more that I work on it. And I think that’s kind of a beautiful thing, seeing how much it diverges from the first idea.
Yeah, that’s nice. So how long have you been doing art? And what different kinds of art have you done?
I think I’ve been painting since, I was little; I’ve always been attracted to arts and crafts things, and decorating things, since I was little. But I got more into painting in high school. And I haven’t taken any formal painting classes; it’s just me experimenting with things. So I’ve spent a lot of time with just acrylic paint. And then I got into photography when I was sixteen. The painting and photography, I think, are what I’m attracted to the most. And I took a woodworking class in the fall and winter this year. So I’m discovering that I like to build things with my hands. And my hands need to be doing something constantly. So I guess art has been part of my life for a really long time. It’s just discovering ways that I can project my ideas into different form and to construct things. It is wonderful to be in an area where other people are like, “Yeah, I’m going to build art,” and it’s not just like this hidden hobby, it’s like, “this is my life, this is what I’m doing.”
That sounds wonderful. We’ve talked a lot about art, and visual art is a big component of Fabricated Realities. The other component of Fabricated Realities is stories. What kind of relationship do you have with stories? What draws you to them; what kind of stories move you?
I really like when people read me stories, because I like hearing other people’s voices and their personalities coming through those stories. When I was younger I wasn’t a big reader, but my parents would read to us before we went to bed. I think I hit a certain point where I didn’t want to read, but I’ve been getting back into it in the last three or four years, and it’s just… I really like description words and transforming the surreality into something different, and picking up on small interactions that we have in the world, and giving those a note, saying “I see you, and I’m observing you, and I’m going to write this down and other people are going to start to observe you now, and see you in a different light that they haven’t witnessed before.
Very cool. This year’s Fabricated Realities theme is “2012: The End,” because, you know, Mayans. So, I want to ask a pair of questions to tie things off: first, if the world were to end this year, what would be the best thing about that to you?
I would say that I wouldn’t have to pay off my college loans.
That might be a pretty common answer, actually!
Yeah, I think it’s a huge ordeal.
And what would be the worst thing about the world ending this year?
I think it would be self-expression. Really growing and discovering yourself, and those new challenges that you face each year, and still figuring out who you are. Those are really awesome times, and I don’t want to let go of those.
There is a well from legend. It blasts its water from the ground, and sources say that if you drink it, you’re destined to return to Olympia. Some sources clarify that you’ll die in Olympia, so maybe you’ll come back, maybe you’ll die, could go either way. But the water is cool and delicious, so many accept the risk.
Most yards have trees within them. The streets meander, kids walk to school and no one’s in too big of a hurry unless they really should’ve been in a hurry a week ago and now oh rats, they’d really better get to it.
It’s a college town, one that people fall in love with and remain in. It’s a capital city, with all the pomp that such things require. It’s full of maniacs. Come to Olympia.
Procession of the Species Studio
video by: brian fullerton, seth vincent Fabricated Realities- 2011
Our venue is the Procession of the Species studio located at 311 1/2 Capitol Way North. The studio door/entrance is located in the alley adjacent to the Royal Lounge. Please be advised that there is only street parking available.
This active community art studio boasts several large rooms and abundant natural light. It is also at the heart of the Procession of the Species, Olympia’s annual parade celebrating our connection to the natural world.
Each evening the Columbia Street side of the alleyway is closed and the venue is only accessible from the Water Street side.
Red Lion Hotel (2 miles from convention)
IF YOU BOOK A ROOM BEFORE MAY 20th AND MENTION FABRICATED REALITIES YOU CAN GET A ROOM FOR $79/night
2300 Evergreen Park Dr.
Chez Cascadia (1.5 miles from convention)
323 Milroy Street Northwest, Olympia, WA 98502
Friday June 15th
10:00-1pm :Morning Session
1pm-2pm : Lunch Break
2pm-6pm : Afternoon Session
6pm-8pm : Dinner Break
8pm-12am: Evening Session
Saturday June 16th
10:00-1pm :Morning Session
1pm-2pm : Lunch Break
2pm-6pm : Afternoon Session
6pm-8pm : Dinner Break
8pm-12am: Evening Session
Sunday June 17th
10:00-1pm :Morning Session
1pm-2pm : Lunch Break
2pm-6pm : Afternoon Session
6pm-7pm : Dinner Break
7pm-Midnight : Fabricated Gala
Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Day SOLD OUT, Sunday Night Gala Passes available at the Door
video by: jay loomis, additional footage and editing by brian fullerton, seth vincent
Story games fall along several spectrums, and for every rule applied to them there are exceptions. Having said that, a story game is played by 3-5 people who are seated comfortably around a table. Each game directs its players towards creating some particular kind of story. They, the games, can be recognized by these three indicators –
The story is discovered through playing the game.
All participants have creative equality.
The act of play is collaborative rather than competitive.
Since it’s a young art form springing from several other young art forms, the whole field of story games shifts wildly each year. While the internet is an important place of discourse for story game designers, many of the most talented make their homes in the Pacific Northwest region of North America – we look forward to their attendance, bringing with them some of the games which continue to both warp and define this hobby.
This year, we’ll be playing games such as Monsterhearts, My Daughter The Queen Of France, Microscope, Lady Blackbird, Hot Guys Making Out, Serpent’s Tooth, Apocalypse World, Anima Prime, Fiasco, The Dreaming Crucible, Silver And White, PSI*RUN, Ribbon Drive, Dungeon World, and Kagematsu, among others.
For story games, a convention is a gathering during which multiple games are played, nearly back-to-back. There are enough attendees that several games are played at once, and those players rearrange themselves after each game so that the playgroups differ in each “slot”.
These gaming slots are timed so that the rearrangement can take place, and also maximizes the amount of functional social time which occurs. Story gaming can involve tapping into visceral emotions during play, which leads to strong bonds of friendship between participants, thus the desire for social time.
While Fabricated Realities is for people of all ages, some games we’ll play have adult themes such as violence, sex, responsibility, compassion, hope, and transformation. There will be many good-hearted facilitators on hand to introduce new games to festival goers, and help people pick what to play.