Monday, January 19, 2009

VotF: The Digital Age Pt. 2

So nothing goes as planned. Here is part two of Digital Age, a little later than expected.

As far as art is concerned, technology and societal views go hand in hand. With the advent of digital interactive works, people found a new outlet of expression. Along with that, there are those from the old guard who view it as nothing more than a cheap thrill.

But nothing is static. Take a look at the genre breaking game Little Big Planet. This thing defies all pigeon holing attempts by even the best. (More on genre later.) It is a sign of changing times, and it is a sign of a work of art that takes its base image and gives the play not so much a sandbox as a desert to play in. I would daresay that the central theme of this work of art IS to encourage creativity in its audience as it requires critical thinking as well as out of the box applications of resources.

This kind of gameplay is nothing particularly new, but to see it evolve with the ever forward march of technology. The rise of Flash based gaming is also seeing a large boon, especially with the ability to publish not just online in casual environments, but on every major console currently available. (Castle Crashers comes immediatly to mind.)

This also applies in comics and writing. The changing technology has allowed for wider print ranges, and in some cases the elimination of print all together. While I still support printed works, this really opens up the scene to people since it broadens the range of resources available to everyone involved.

As we press on, we see the rise of ebooks, online comic books such as th3rdworld and zuda, and many other forms of new media. Now, granted, these just emphasis new publishing techniques, but others things will come about as well, from interactive story telling to who knows what.

These are exciting times we live in, and a lot happens quickly and unexpectedly. So just watch, and keep an ear to the ground, otherwise you may just miss a grand opportunity when it arises.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Visions of the Future: The Digital Age

I was glad that video showed up on TED, so that I could get this article series started off on the right foot. Since I normally like to put mine in my mouth, I figured I would let someone better than I kick it off.

The point I would like to discuss mostly is the future of interactive media as art. I liked what Scott was talking about when he demonstrated the various new forms comics can take alongside the older models of presentation. What he doesn't talk about though, are video games (probably since he is a comic book artist, but the ideas cross pollinate well.)

This debate has been raging since the first games showed up. The resistance to the idea of new media being inconceivable as art is nothing novel or unique. Just look at the birth of movies to see that at one time, they too were thought to be nothing more than a cheap thrill, a gimmick to appease and amuse.

But times change, and today many films are considered masterpieces not just by the viewing public, but by those who study the evolution of the medium itself. This trend is indicative of all things in human society (and nature at large): opinions change, evolve, and take in new facts as they become available.

The question becomes, then, why? Why so much resistance? From where I am sitting it breaks into three subjects: changing societal views, evolving technology, and application of the medium.

Application of the medium is the most broad of the categories, so we can address it first. Basically, what it boils down to, is how the creators are using their tools to express whatever it is they are trying to convey. In video games, like most long visual media, the point is usually less to express a single emotion, and more to invest the viewer emotionally in a story.

Movies accomplish this by exposing the character's flaws, interests, and objectives to us in order to help us identify with them. Books do it in a similar method, but give us the added bonus of at times having access to the thoughts of not only the hero, but also the villain, as well as world based information and the ability for long expanses of time to pass in a few pages. Our relationship with the character in a book is often slower to develop than it would in a movie.

Video games on the other hand have the unique ability, if applied properly, to invest the player on a more basic level of including interactivity. This immediately invests the player emotionally since they are essentially responsible for the success or failure of the character they are playing. Therefore, through application of lighting, mood, setting, you have increased your viewing willingness to receive what it is you are trying to tell them.

Now the question becomes: Do you have anything to say to them? This is where games depart from movies just slightly and enter into book territory. The story in a game is often told through a combination of narrative, dialogue, and the emotional investment of the player throughout their play time. Are they aggressive? Passive? Do they read each line of text or listen to every cut scene? Do they skip right to the action? Do they ignore story and action both for a while and just play with their environment?

This is where we get into uniquely game territory, and where the real art comes in. Choices matter in a lot of games, especially with regards to modern and roleplaying games. How a developer implements these choices reflects on the project itself. Some questions have to be answered early, such as: "Am I telling a linear story, or a tale of many paths? Is this a sandbox, or an alley?" Now, I have presented these as either/or statements, and that is oversimplifying the issue to say the least. The best of these games combine both sides to create a unique interactive piece of art that has the staying power of any movie.

That is where I will suspend this now, I will continue when I return from my trip. Until then, think over this (if it isn't a giant rambling mess, I lost my notes and outline) and I will resume writing on Saturday if all goes well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Picking around the rubble.

Sometimes, when life hands you lemons, they are actually hand grenades painted yellow to throw you off your guard.

How, as aspiring writers, are we to avoid this so that we can get on with our work?

We don't, because if it was that damned easy there would be no reason to write about it.

After finishing my first novel, I came to the realization that in order to progress in life I was going to have to don the mantle of minor miracle worker. This mantle is one part ditch digger, three parts pyramid brick layer, and six parts draft horse. I still have on my plate (I will get a bit personal here, so as to provide context): a troubling financial future, impending graduation (if I can get my act together), ailing family members, and trouble at home. This situation is hardly unique, but it is difficult, emotionally involved, energy and resource draining, and somewhere in it all time and energy must be mustered to write.

The only solution I have found is time management. That is it. No magic words, no fairies in bottles.
Just plain old fashioned time management. It helps, I am terrible at it, but it helps.

So, if you find yourself swamped, but have a burning desire to create, do not despair. Do not sacrifice what is important to you for something else. Sit down, prioritize, plan out a schedule and most of all STICK TO THE DAMN THING. (as much as possible)

I have more thoughts on this subject, but for a later time. Just got off work and am a bit tired.
Good luck.

I won!

Can you beat him? (My money is on yes.)

A wonderful bit a satire from the people who brought us Real Ultimate Power. (Thanks Kristin)


The world we live in a fast moving, heartless place full of mysteries that don't really give a damn whether you live or die. That is why it always confuses me as to why people would rather emphasis our differences as flaws, instead of as the virtues that they are.

Like a stained glass window, we create a single work of art we call humanity, but it is each of our tiny differences that makes the whole. As we learn about our many views and walks of life, we can see not only our weaknesses, but also our strengths and our compliments.

As far as that goes, please enjoy this video (thanks to and Yervant for spreading it around) We will go ahead and say the gents who made the video are our artists of the week.



Players who enjoy Settlers of Catan, or Ticket to Ride should enjoy this game.

It is a game of resource management (current economists are welcome to join, I would love an easy win) where players must accrue wealth in order to purchase victory points. Person with the most in the end wins.

It is a game that is simple on the surface, but gets complicated quickly.

Out of a deck of 24 action cards, ten are drawn at random so that each game is unique. The cards range from allowing you to draw more cards into your hand, give you more actions on your turn, or an immediate boost to your wealth.

It is fun for both friends and family, is picked up quickly, and you won't have anyone stop speaking to you unlike Sorry.

So, go pick up a copy at you local games or hobby store.

Monday, January 12, 2009

We are in deeper shit than I thought.

When people think that 'health freedom' is more important (or even relevant) than our failing economy, two unsuccessful wars, and rampant corruption in the highest offices of the land, then we are beyond fucked.

Lets look at what 'health freedom' entails:

Specifically "freedom from coerced or mandatory vaccinations". (The other pro-infectious disease one is obvious)

What the hell do these loons think is happening to them?

We have watched the rise of the No-Nothings on the right, but apparently the left is just as bad.
This country now has bipartisan support for idiocy and is unified in its refusal to accept reality. Bitch, moan, and complain all you want about Republicans, but damned if the Democrats aren't just the other side of the moron coin.

These ignorant urban savages are so scared of everything they don't understand that they are willing to risk our very infrastructure just to keep themselves safe from bogeymen and monsters under their beds.

But I digress, so let us return to the point.

People have become convinced that somehow, autism is caused by vaccines. This idea is nothing new, its been around at least since the early nineties, if not even before. (Most likely before, I've only been alive since the mid-eighties, so feel free to correct me if I am wrong.) It has been spear headed by the likes of celebrities, charlatans, and 'alternative medicine' practitioners in order to profit off of the suffering of lost of grieving parents.

It is diabolically genius on its face, and evil to its core. These people blame the victims of freak genetic flukes for something completely out of their control, and then proceed to demonize the only damn people who stand a chance of helping the afflicted child. As most people know, people who are upset are more likely to cling to anything that gives even the faintest illusion of hope. 'Psychics' to contact the dead are a perfect example of this.

I am no expert, but there are resources out there for people looking for answers.
I recommend the following:

The author of this blog is a practicing doctor, and has addressed over and over why these myths exist, and has doggedly attacked the people who prey on the desperate parents of these children. He also is hilarious, so enjoy the reading, and most of all:


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Genius? I think so.

Thanks Aaron:


Our first artist of 09

Happy new year all, and may you make the most of it.

Today I would like to talk about Keith Thompson.

Mr. Thompson has a rather impressive online folio of concept and finished art that is wonderful roller coaster of creativity that plunges into some of the darker regions of the imagination. Though, not unlike most coasters, some of the pictures might give some people a bit of gastronomical unease.

I tend to enjoy concept art, since you get to see it usually evolve over time. Portfolios often include early sketches of finished works, and a bit of insight into what the artist's thought processes were.

Some of my favorites from this particular concept artist are: The Slaver, Havelock (more on him later), The Firestorm, and the Viraemia. There are so many more wonderful pieces of artwork available for viewing on his website. I really recommend checking it out.

Didn't I say more on Havelock? Well, that was because this is a special artist of the week! Enter round two with: Modofly. These folks have some REALLY impressive works of art laser etched onto moleskin notebooks. We grabbed one for a friend of our for holiday, and let me be the first to say: DAMN, was it nice.

The reason they are here is because one of Mr. Thompson's designs is featured on the notebooks! Good ol' Havlock in all his creepy glory, now in sepia. I would go through my list of favorites here, but like the above mentioned artist it would be better for you to go and check it out for yourself.