Level I : Video Junky

What has no lock, no hinge, no lid… yet inside golden treasure’s hid?

No doubt, some of you have already opened a second tab in your browser to ask Dr. Google for the answer; and to you I say “Off with your head!” (In my best Edwardian tone). However, for those daring enough to pull your neck from the digital guillotine, and to guess without a net; please indulge me with your best answer in the comments below.

You never know what might happen if you do.

The simplest of games.

Great riddles inspire me. Simple, literal mysteries; a keen riddle is often the foundation of a great game.

Game
ɡām/
noun
a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.

Those who know me best, consider me a prankster; though I see myself as a Dungeon Master, and a social engineer of sorts. More than anything else, building games electrifies my spirit. And while I enjoy every kind of diversion, my favorite games involve the examination of human response.

Life is a game awaiting your next move.

Within us all, is a desire to create, and our world is entering a mindset where technology offers each of us a more active role in the development of a personalized world. It is no secret that we like to be included in the process of creative works, it’s a human thing. Knowing this, I have decided to document my current process, and include the audience in the game building process. (An active experiment)

This is my story of building a game with, and for, the world who plays it. Join me if you will…

Level 1:
Video Junky

 Nintendo, roughly translated as “leave luck to heaven”, launched the Famicom (an abbreviation for Family Computer) to the Japanese market in 1983. The reworked, American version, called the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, was released in 1985 to North American audiences. I was four years old and hooked.

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As a child of the 8-bit revolution, gamification is the armor of my adult life.  In the 80’s, video gaming was the future in our hands, and I wanted nothing more than to get my hands on a new cartridge. I remember relentlessly groveling for a Nintendo at 5 years old, finally getting one at 7. Until we had our own, my brother and I spent our free afternoons hiding out in the basements and bedrooms of our more fortunate neighbor friends.

Almost immediately after unboxing that long awaited, dull grey beauty, my parents quickly realized the power of the digital pacifier. This allowed game consoles a permanent shelf on our entertainment center. The Nintendo was soon replaced by a Sega Genesis, followed then by an Xbox. Our time in the backyard diminished, as my brother and I wore away the warm, Summer afternoons, on the cool air conditioned floor in the lulling haze of the idiot box; chewing down freezie pops, two by two. We traded much of our youth for the homogenized fantasies woven by the programming genii of Capcom, Konami and Namco.

We were lucky

to have grown up in the gap between the physical and the virtual.
Being the last house on the block to get a system was not due, entirely to poordom. Our parents struggled to accept the great dis-connect, and so they made sure to afford us ‘real’ tactile experiences. I was open enrolled in a public school that had an emphasis on the arts, which meant lots of extended programming. On top of the school load, my evenings were bruised with an alternating schedule of sports and scouting. These activities were each paired with an equal share of weekend events including, respectively: meets, matches and merit badges.

I complained through each grueling practice, as a child does; and it wasn’t until much later that I recognized the power of those early disciplines. I attribute 90% of my perseverance to the begrudged, jocular rituals of my youth; so thanks, Mom. For while the digital realm of virtual realities is and will always remain an integral part of my creative work, the true reward for me comes when the two realms touch; when the virtual becomes tangible.

I believe, as long as humans require the functionality of the five senses to fully experience consciousness, physical experiences will remain the most impactful and measurable ones. What I could not have imagined, is how my combined childhood interests, both physical and digital, would provide conceptual insights that can now be considered my contribution to the defining genre of entertainment in the 21st century.

 

Alternate Reality Games 

For many, the term alternate reality game, or ARG (as gamers call it), might as well read;代替現実ゲーム. So to break it down:

According to Google and Wikipedia:
An alternate reality game is an interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and uses transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players’ ideas or actions.

Meaning that ARG’s provide gameplay by:

  1. Telling stories
  2. Including the audience in the development of the story
  3. Using the real world in conjunction with virtual environments as the playing area. (The board-less game)

A well constructed ARG, creates an invisible bridge between the fictional elements of its story and the elements of real life which the story touches or incorporates. The goal is to immerse the player as fully as possible, in an artfully compelling way which engages the player as an active participant in the progression of the story. ::More on this later::

The Great Unknown

I was 24 years old when I created my first ARG, and I freely admit that the effort was hasty and ramshackle. I had little resources, and no patience; but what I did have was an extreme sense of urgency, pushing me up the side of some strange, conceptual mountain. Thinking back, I really had no idea what I was doing. I felt like a mad explorer summiting towards a great, lost, secret… ::NERD ALERT::

D&D

I began by compiling a list of methods from every form of gaming I knew. Starting with the components of character development, I borrowed largely from early role playing games such as: Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun, Wrath, and Warhammer 40,000; virtual elements from video games of every genre; and collectibility components from Magic: The Gathering and trading cards in general. The final ingredient was to construct a birthing apparatus for this Marconian experiment within the new womb of gaming; the mother of all platforms: The Internet.

 

Next Week
Chapter II: Mainframe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fore Matters

I have learned a new term today: Form Letter

According to Google, “a form letter is a standardized letter to deal with frequently occurring matters.” that being said;

The rejection letters are flowing in…

REJECTION

If you missed last weeks entry (titled: Query Eyed) I discussed the beginning of my exploration into the process of querying literary agents. And so the next few lines speak to that.

After a few weeks chewing my nails down, I have begun to receive the long anticipated refusal letters, or form letters as I now know them to be called. And as strange as it might sound, I am extremely relieved. After all, it means the system is working! And it reminds me of a story my mentor, The Admiral, has told me several times:

“A good friend of mine is a salesman, and one day I noticed him to be unusually excited, so I asked him what had sparked his exuberance. With a beaming leer he said, ” I just received my Ninth NO.” to which I scoffed “That doesn’t sound like a reason to be happy”, he then replied with the answer to my question “For every Nine NO’s I get a YES, and I have a sales call in half an hour!”

If the system is working, keep working it.

With the leap of the query stage in effect, I have set my focus back to the formatting of the E-Reader Edition of The Nitch.

In the beginning, I thought I would complete this step myself. I am somewhat savvy with digital interfaces, so I imagined I could wade through the tutorial bogs well enough to solve the clandestine operandi of the epub process. However, upon closer examination, I found that each E-Reader format has a different set of requirements. In learning this, I began to imagine the gray hairs multiplying, so I decided to find a pro.

I started with the local publishers I know, which proved it doesn’t take much to learn who your real friends are. Upon meeting the first, I was flat out denied. He said I didn’t fit his genre scope, and so he couldn’t time for it. The second one quoted me $2000 and said, “that would be the low end” which he knew, from previous conversations, blew my budget requirements out of the water. At lunch with another, we were discussing the current digital format of the book. When I told him I had cobbled it together as an Illustrator .pdf, he stared at me with a perplexed expression and said “that’s like building a car out of ice…and launching it in July!”.  We both laughed to tears, because he was right, it was as backwards a process as Kriss Kross’s wardrobe. I should have initially created the layout with indesign, however, I was under time constraints, so I rushed it through with the program I knew better.

I eventually took the advice of this friend and decided to outsource the work through an online freelance network. And so I am now working with a talented formatter through Upwork.com to finish the E-Reader version of The Nitch.

Formatting a picture book has unique problems which my digital specialist was quick to dispel the worries of. After giving him an overview of the project, he immediately identified the solution as being a fixed layout. While the verdict is still out on this layout type, I am putting my faith in this new comrade who has 12 years in the print media industry and over 800 hours logged on his Upwork resume.

I have been instructed to reformat the book as a friendly, editable version, and so I am about a week away from sending the package to be finalized for E-Readership. I will let you know how things turnout.

Three things to remember when selecting an online/virtual freelancer:

  1. Choose a reputable freelance platform like Upwork, Toptal or Guru
    While transferring and sharing IP, I appreciate the extra peace of mind that
    comes from using a publicly ranked service provider.
  2. Take your time choosing a specialist
    You’ve come this far, no need to rush. Choose a candidate that offers portfolio
    work resembling what you need accomplished, and have a bit of dialogue with
    multiple candidates before selecting. This will help you determine what candidate
    is the best fit for you in terms of communication style.
  3. Full disclosure
    Be as exact as possible in telling your needs. By leaving out details you do
    disservice to your specialist and your project. Think it out and use your
    specialists time wisely. This will result in a happy specialist, and thereby a
    better experience.

I am by no means in cahoots with any of the freelance platforms I have listed, but I have had a positive experience with Upwork.com thus far, and I like to share the services which help me go farther. That being said; for those of you who are curious about Upwork, you can visit their site by following this link:

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Currently reading:

HERO

If you are interested in archetypal theory, this is one of the best resources available. I am revisiting ‘The Hero’ after 10 years, and it remains extremely applicable in the creation of mythological premise.

Until soon…

 

Query Eyed

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

Delving into the forest of publishing, has been bewildering thus far. When I first began making faces (masks) of the Jeering ilk, I had no intent to publish a book. It was agreed I would be the sole craftsman for the one off faces of Satyrus Jeering’s designs. That was it. Nothing more, nothing less, I would be the mask maker for an artistic explorer. However, like most lines of work, the load begins to diversify over time, usually in order to keep the lights on.

I have always known Jeering had stories needing told, and I imagined, one day years from now, in the corner of some reclusive, Northeastern township, I would sell clocks from behind the desk of a small dusty shoppe. There would not be much business, other than adjusting the hands every few weeks, so I would in fact own the time, and therefor have plenty of it. And in that time, I would write it all down. What I didn’t expect was for that time to come so soon.

While I am not in a musty clock shoppe, the 19th century home I inhabit, serves as a fine exchange. And in this place, I have made an effort to slow down. This ‘slowing down’ was brought upon, largely, by a very synchronise friendship. You see; three years ago, after meeting my dear friend, Admiral Jon, I was set upon the task of forging The Nitch, for once Jon caught wind of Jeering’s hope to create an illustrated work, he commanded us to proceed.

When we started working The Nitch, Satyrus Jeering had garnered no recognition in the world of publishing, which, to me, meant it would be nearly impossible to gain the ear of a proper literary agent. And so it was decided we would independently publish first, in order to prove the work. Then later, we would query agents who work within standard publishing, to see if we could find an open door.

Of all the things I have done in my life, co-creating The Nitch has been the most challenging yet. While I started with a clearly defined plan, I was oblivious to many of the processes I learned while completing the many laired effort.

The Stages thus far:

1. Editing Jeering’s original verses
2. Illustrating and Editing again
3. Formatting for print
4. Building the mock
5. Raising the capital
6. Binding the Author’s Edition (Proof of 111 copies)
7. Writing the grant
8. Binding the First Edition (1,111 copies)
9. Forming an Advisory Board
Presently
10. Formatting the E-Reader version 
11. Finally…

After three years clawing through the unyielding wilderness, a clearing reveals a castle wall. We now approach the gates.

This step is known as; querying the agents. If you have come upon this specific trial, you know the crucifix of which I speak. Querying is a frightful endeavor which I have long put off, for with querying, comes rejection. There comes a time, however, when you have cooked it down as much as possible. And for us, that time is now.

Like any industry, publishing has its gatekeepers, and it seems in the world of the printed word, the oracles of its hidden knowledges speak in cryptic tongues. And as a true outsider to the literary realm, finding the way through the trees has been quite a challenge. It does not help to be in a landlocked portion of the country, where the agents of creative work are mythic creatures akin to Unicorns.

It takes a special gun to fire a silver bullet.

If you are reading this post, skimming to get to the part where I divulge the secret methodological key to the perfect query; this is where I tell you it does not exist. (for if it does, I still have yet to find it.)

You see, while my advisors have urged me to explore the standard publishing path, we are not holding our breath. While it will be good to find agency, finding the right agent will be a matter of perseverance, time and effort. And so I continue in the Buddhist way to; chop wood, carry water.

These five habits will take you far:

  1. Write every day
  2. Meet new people
  3. Share your stories
  4. Breathe deep and
  5. Enjoy the moment.

Life is the plot of a million stories.

While I can’t divulge everything about my search yet, some interesting things have begun to take shape, and what I can tell you is; in searching for an agent, or in doing any other writerly thing, you have to Keep Moving

Do the work and you will be rewarded. When you reach your goal, you will realize, like you have in the past; there is no single path to the answer, and any path will work as long as you are walking towards a destination. Define your intent, and walk toward it.

Chop wood, Carry water.

Some great insight about literary agents from Neil Gaiman

If you are in the process of writing a query letter, feel free to post questions pertaining to the process, and I will do my best to answer.

Next week’s post:
FORE MATTERS
Formatting a picture book

Click here to order a First Edition copy of The Nitch 

 

 

Long live the Black Star

You remind me of the babe, the babe with the power…

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Still from Black Star © David Bowie 2015 Click to watch

I awoke to a text message from my brother. I was still sleeping when I jolted up from the sheets. I heard my phone hit the floor half way across the room, realizing the sound from a notification must have woken me up. I got out from under the warm covers and put my feet on the cold wood floor. The text message leading to the phones violent duvet trebuchet, was from my brother. It read: David Bowie is dead frown emoticon

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Still from Ex Machina © DNA Films 2015 Click for IMDB

Last night, Karla (my partner) and I, watched the film Ex Machina for the first time. The haunting story of evolution settled in me as a matter of fact cinematic statement, and lead to a deep conversation between K and I. Questions arose in us which unraveled deep personal sentiments about the clinging to life we humans tend towards. Emotional responses have often replaced logic in our longstanding quest for the grande purpose, as the tragedy of human history so willingly reveals. And so we talked deep into the night, abandoning the morning plans to sleep the existentialism off.

After reading the news, I knew my social network feed would be brimming with the worlds sentiments of the man’s life, as the Starman was a rare talent in the way of breaking molds.

bowie
Henson, Bowie & Lucas Click for Labyrinth story at Vox

For me, Bowie is Jareth. My first recollection of the glam icon’s life was in his depiction of the 1986, Jim Henson film, Labyrinth, where David embodies the Goblin King residing at the center of an otherworldly maze. While many humorous memes have pointed to Jareth’s costuming over the years, it was the package of the magical world Henson created, paired with Bowie’s mythic vibe which captivated me at five years old. I wore the tape away on our families VHS copy. From the time I was five years old, I have watched Labyrinth annually in commemoration of my childhood, I am 35 now…

 

Face the Maker

Los Angeles.

A sneering, beastly dreamland, consumed in a halo of soft glowing toxicity.

The original film Mecca, by the time I arrived at 27 years old, had become a last ditch, for half starved media junkies to hurl themselves into. A million wasted souls, tending bars under which they clutched the daggers of deranged hope, poised to slash rivals, ‘if that’s what it takes’, all clawing towards the impossibility of fames measure. If that’s what it takes.

Staring out the window of a red eye flight, I gripped my right ear tightly, as a billion twinkling eyes from the vast electric wasteland below, swallowed my mind whole. I prayed the pressurizing earplug would shift into place before the altitude dropped. It was a city I never intended to visit, let alone live, and here I was on my third return flight in as many weeks.

Magic is real in L.A., it is tangible and thick, it parades sequenced capes ladened in perfumed veils of smog. The wheezing city is like cough syrup to the young person’s intellectual cold, and while the thickness of its’ enveloping madness provides a temporary remedial delusion; a long month of sparse gigs can send the strongest willed hopeful into a spiraling funnel of dark, cinematic quality, despair. A bad acid trip that won’t end. A hundred broken watches in a nightmare where telling time is the only thing keeping you alive. If the old expression, you get what you give, holds any truth for you, you’ll understand; when you’re up in Hollywood, it’s all red carpets and love affairs, but when your down, tracing the gutter of Sunset Boulevard with a busted pocket knife, 17 cents left in your dingy Levi Strauss; It’s all broken windows in hollowed out production offices, and cackling prostitutes pointing at your foreign drag. You are not welcome here, because no one ever was. From the very beginning this has been the land of the fight. The fight of the dream materialized. A place where the champions landed an age ago in private jets, and now reserve the remnants of the pilgrimage for their descendants alone.


I had been forming the faces of S. Jeering, for many years before we met face to face. From the time I began my apprenticeship, I was perpetually enthralled by the ethereal distance the Meister kept. Content in doing the work from afar, I didn’t question the man’s process, he would send me the design parameters, and I would fabricate the forms. Truth be told, I was so far removed from the embodiment himself, I wasn’t sure if he was a man at all (and to this day, I wouldn’t dare ask). “Some things are better left unknown”, is a sentiment Jeering has often echoed. Yet I say he, because that’s how he made himself known, to me.

And there I was, several years into the fold, following the faint voice. A swirling mirage, daring me towards an adventure I gladly accepted. And to Tinseltown I went, galumphing…



 

Finding The Nitch, is a weekly B.logbook, aimed at sharing my insights while under the direction of that one most enigmatic, S.Jeering. Join the email subscription list (widget tab on right) to delve deeper.

Stalking stuffer

I could have sworn I hadn’t missed anything, but there was definitely something still inside the sock. By it’s shape It couldn’t be coal, but it sure wasn’t a fruitcake either…

I was going to preface the banter here, with a day’s work, in a passage about the Krampus, and all the Kramply things I’ve been faced with this holiday season. Alas, I had a change of heart, and decided to keep it sweet/er, by sharing the touch stone that brought me around this year.

Three days ago, after “The Saint” had his fill of stalking, and we had completed the sacred rites of unwrapping,  I moved to pack the hung stockings away. Only when I began folding my own, did I realize, I’d overlooked a gift. There was a small object left in the bottom of my stocking. The strange thing is, no one knew what it could be. I glared around the room panning a gallery of bewildered faces, each one responding with a look of incredulity. Then upon reaching into the sock, I produced an item which wholly restored my belief in the miracle. On a little scroll it read…

ROCK

It was signed S. Jeering, and a letter from him came yesterday, reading:


Dearest Ian,

I trust you’ve found the trouble in your stocking by now.

Keep it with you in your pocket, that way a gift will never be more than a stones throw away. When you feel the need to pass it on, you can do so with no strings attached.

Remember, there is only one rule when it comes to giving,  and that is; the giving is the gift itself.

S Jeering


Yuletide Greetings, and I’ll see you next year.

 

Truth is

Several years ago, I was looking to build a chair…

“Truth is”
– Admiral Jon

    … Not an ordinary chair, no. I dreamt a chair that would palliate the folding abdomen of nations.

At the time of this rising intent, I operated an independent gallery, hailed as Thee Eye. An image of the eye of Horus, most commonly found on the dollar bill, heralded the venture. Having long enjoyed the history of illuminated works, and considering the arcades purpose, I could conjure no better fitting icon.

The-Eye-FINAL

The gallery was set in the East Village neighborhood, a bustling epicenter for retail boutiques, here in Des Moines, Iowa.

It was positioned in a work/live loft which catered to budding entrepreneurs, providing access to a low cost brick and mortar option. Through the first year in the space, we offered Jeering’s works in a sort of shoppe/bench setup. A dear friend of mine lent me a set of red velvet theater curtains, which in combination with century old furniture artifacts, created the perfect atmosphere for the showing of Jeering’s faces. It was a dream come true.

After a year operating in that fashion, we moved into a larger space within the same building, and began curating solo exhibitions for other local creatives, while retaining the workshop area and consultation room for Satyrus’ work. This allowed more breathing room, while offering manifestation to creatives within the community. Shedding the curtains, we let the light in, and the parlor blossomed.
The gallery was thriving, and thanks to our relationship with mask sellers on either end of the states, we were realizing hundreds of new faces. It was a time of great fortune and frivolity.

One afternoon while drafting new masks, I noticed myself constantly shifting in my seat, and as I moved from one position to the next, in attempt to keep my buttocks from going numb, I had a revelation. As a gust tearing sails, I hastily discarded my current drafting paper, and began gnawing away at the angles of this posterior postulation.

When I finally lifted my head from the sketch, the sun was setting, and I had lost another day, this time to the tangent of my unsettled rump.

The next day, at the cafe haunt, I took a chance to share this latest ‘adjustment’ with a trusted barista. Having long standing spinal pains, she was enamored with the concept of this ‘sitting’ apparatus, and implored her husband, a professional fundraiser, to meet with me. Her husband, Sam, took the meeting and together with this curious new friend, we explored the concept further.

It was decided then, in order to fashion a functional prototype, there was one more link missing in the chain.

Enter; The Admiral.

On the Monday morning, following our initial dialogue, Sam entered Thee Eye. I was upstairs working a hide, while awaiting his arrival. “Hello!” Sam shouted, and I approached the stairs to welcome him. As I hit the landing, I was stopped in my tracks, seeing the shadow of a tricorn brim, hovering behind my friendly guest.

The Admiral had arrived.

As you might imagine, expressions like; dauntless and chimerical do well to serve as defining qualities of this most rare character. His roquelaire draped heavy over fixed shoulders. A stance exuding confidence resolute. At once his presence commanded respect and shewn a knowledge oceanic in measure. This was truly a captain of captains, and I was honored to take his coat.

Jon, never sitting, said little about the chair. And while we did forge a prototype in his metallurgical lair months later, t’were the faces of Jeering’s fashion which piqued The Admiral’s true fascination. It was the face of Fuego which he turned in hand, querying with distant admiration, which signaled a more sincere interest. I could see the recollection of past trials clouding his present vision, as he stared through the held visage; an oracle burrowed in the precipice of now.

FUEGO-WEB-GALLERY