‘Game poetry’ is a term applied to a range of distinct hybrid forms and genres. Here, I use it loosely to mean the place where the respective cultures and practices of digital gaming and contemporary poetry meet and intermingle. This is my major area of theoretical and practical research. Poetry and computer games are two media types that rely on – play on, in fact – their artificiality. They are anti-naturalistic; their users derive pleasure and understanding from negotiating their (arbitrary) rules and anticipating the patterns in their structure.
In terms of content, they also share an aptitude for using fantastical and surreal components in non-literal ways. In this, as well as in their non-linearity, they are counterposed to pure narrative forms. And yet poetry and computer games are widely regarded as occupying opposite ends of a spectrum, with serious artistic endeavour on one end and frivolous play on the other. The study of game-poetry hybrids is therefore the study of how seriousness and play are not, in fact, diametrically opposed, but aspects of the same drive toward self-knowledge – and ultimately inseparable.
I started work on mixing the two forms by producing, with Kirsten Irving, the micro-anthology Coin Opera in 2009, which involved commissioning poets to write lyrical and visual poems based on well-known computer game titles. We followed this up with a much larger sequel, Coin Opera 2: Fulminare's Revenge in 2013, and at the same time produced two accompanying pamphlets: Super Treasure Arcade and Core Samples, both of which, in different ways, translate some of the rules and mechanics of games into aspects of poetic form.
In 2015, I started a PhD at the University of the West of England entitled Dual Wield: Adventures at the Interplay of Poetry and Computer Games, and as part of those doctoral studies I have been experimenting with digital-interactive poems and poetry embedded in digital games, collaborating with Abigail Parry. Some of our collaborations and individual experiments were displayed as part of an exhibition, Print/Screen, at the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham in November 2016.
related: Core Samples and Super Treasure Arcade are both early examples of integrating computer game tropes and lore into lyrical and experimental poems.