Hello! This is a quick update on recent and this weekend’s events:
An unusual interview
At the end of last year I had a special guest come stay with me. Her name is Cara Ellison and she is an international games journalist and critic. For a year Ellison has been conducting a fascinating project: “Embed With…“. She has been flying around the world ’embedding’ herself with game developers and sharing her view of the experience on tumblr. After noticing my game Magister Ludiat the Freeplay Independent Games Festival event ‘Parallels,’ Ellison decided to come to Australia for the final interviews. In December Cara, and game critic, journalist and theorist Brendan Keogh came to visit. – the interview with Goldie (the artist on Magister Ludi) and myself is on her tumblr. I am so thrilled to be a part of this fascinating interview series, and had a ball with Cara and Brendan.
Article on interactive writing for the QWC More recently, to prefigure my forthcoming workshops (see below), I was asked to write a short piece for the Queensland Writers Centre blog. The article, ‘Characters, Players, Writers and Interaction,’ shares some of my experiences and thoughts about interactive writing.
Closing presentation at the WIDGET Unconference While I will be travelling interstate for the workshops, I will give a remote presentation to for the first WIDGET Unconference. I have previously written an article for the WIDGET site, and I am very flattered and excited to be giving a special presentation for the special day ace Leena van Deventer has organised. I’ll be sharing a mixed bag of tips and tricks and triumphing over trauma.
WIDGET (Women In Development (Games & Everything Tech)) is a not-for-profit organisation supporting those underrepresented in the fields of development and technology, specifically women (including women-identifying) creators across a range of disciplines. We support women developers by means of supplying resources, showcasing role models, and providing an encouraging space in which to ask questions and learn from others. WIDGET hopes to increase the number of women making awesome stuff in our culture and community.
I like doing these round ups of the year. I have only been doing them (that I recall) these past couple of years (2013, 2012), but they’re a good technique to both reflect and look forward. As I have also done previously, I have categorised the summary of activities. But this year I also add photos at the end.
My 2013 commissioned digital installation Robot University was launched to the public at The Cube, QUT on Feb 27th. A mini-documentary about the making of the installation was also released. It is a pretty great feeling to drop through the venue every now and then and see your robot friends hanging with kids.
I was excited to be commissioned to create a digital game for Experimenta’s 2015 International Biennial of Media Art: Recharge. Magister Ludiputs a twist on escape-the-room games and asks you places objects into the room you will need to escape. It is a game about how we don’t really escape school, abusive relationships, or poverty until we’ve acknowledged our thought-processes that attracted us to them in the first place. The title alsoalludes to Herman Hesse’s novel ‘The Glass Bead Game’. It was launched in November both onsite as an installation and online.
I was commissioned to create an ambient party game for my work Xmas party. The boardgame Shenanigans was a lot of fun to create and play, and I’ve released the rules and board for anyone to use (for any event).
I co-GMed a MegaGame called Watch the Skies. MegaGames are a UK-designed format involving around 20-40 role-players taking on tactical and social tasks to save the world.
In the background I kept developing my party card game DIY SPY School, playtesting it with colleagues, friends, and students. After some time away from it as well, I have come up with some nifty refinements and am keen to jump into blindtesting as a last step.
It was super surreal winning these awards and having these great Official Selections. I actually debated with myself for weeks (I knew ahead of time) about whether I should even accept the awards. I don’t know why, but I see these sort of things as end-of-life events. You know, you’ve made it when…. It is unanticipated to have these things come my way so early in my career (I was hoping for a nomination). But in the end I have embraced them and take them as a message to keep going, to not give up.
Presentations & Events
I gave the keynote presentation at Transmedia Living Lab in Madrid, Spain. It was a delight catching up with some great colleagues from around the world, hearing what projects they have been working on, and having fun in the streets on Madrid with Mojitos. It was also the first time, I have to confess, that a client flew me business class. I have been travelling long-haul to multiple countries every year for years. I was used to it, I had my frequent flyer injuries, and I knew what to do to make my journey comfortable. But flying business class for long-haul flights is a delight. Besides some luxuries like Bvlgari toiletries, what we had is what everyone flying long-haul should have: good food, pleasant service, comfortable blankets, reclining seats, clean toilets, working TV systems, good headphones, and so on. I really hate that sub par service is the norm. But thank you TLL for the experience.
I ran a workshop on Designing Deep Games for the Western Australian Film & TV Institute. Both of these digital writing workshops are part of a format I have been developing: the digital writers room. It is about peer-to-peer advice with key facilitated learnings. I’m exited about the format and am keen to run more around Australia and overseas.
I did guest lectures on Interactive Writing and Transmedia Design for different courses at Griffith Film School
Published definition for ‘transmedial fictions’ in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media (2014) Marie-Laure Ryan and Lori Emerson, Benjamin Robertson, eds. Baltimore: MD, Johns Hopkins University Press
I wrote a long essay on intrinsic design on this blog. I am trying to get back into my blogging and this was a big epiphany post for me. After speaking with some AAA devs afterwards, it was clear they knew about these differences in design but feel they have to use extrinsic to make their games more accessible.
If you want a scan of my contribution to these book publications, just shoot me an email.
I became a member of the Australian Writers Guild
I became a member of the Australian Directors Guild
In May I flew to New York to co-run the first Forward Slash Story lab with Lance Weiler. After years of bubbling the idea and waiting for others to create it, Lance and I got together and jump started a special lab for storytellers working in tech. We had great participants from around the globe come together at a beautiful venue. It was a totally beneficial experience and so Lance and I are excited that we will be running the next one in 2015.
I mentored a Year 11 St Thomas More College female student who wants to study game design (as arranged by Alice). The programme is called ‘Becoming M.O.R.E. Mentoring Program‘ where Local, State & Federal MPs were special guests. My student won the prize for best project.
I also introduced a public lecture series to the SAE Media Institute called ‘What I Really Do.’ I commission ace professionals to give a talk about what they really do in their work, and make it free to attend to anyone in the community. So if you’re ever travelling through Brisbane make sure you let me know (games or not, all artforms welcome).
The Robot Uni installation was featured on Channel 7 morning news.
It is weird to have this category, as it is the first time I have taken on full-time employment for over a decade. I took on teaching game design at SAE Creative Media Institute in Brisbane. I have been promoted and am now Senior Lecturer in Game Design, and Unit Co-ordinator in Overview of Industry. With the former it means I run an awesome studio unit teaching game designers ‘deep game design,’ and with the latter I create the online interactive content and manage the teaching of industry skills (like networking etc) across all campuses in Australia. I am so thrilled to be running a studio unit on deep game design. Basically it includes a lot of what is missing from some undergraduate courses: things like emotional design, personal games, narrative and mechanic blending, and finding your voice. What is even more awesome is the studio-model of teaching. I don’t give lectures, instead I mentor the students through making games from my briefs, taking them all the way to an exhibition in a gallery.
Looking back over the year I have managed to keep active with my own creative pursuits despite working full-time. But I have found that when it comes to the intense production times, I can only work on one project at a time. That is why my Chrome App and card game went into the background at the end of the year.
Looking forward to 2015 I am excited about some releases and new commissions. Firstly, I will be releasing the Chrome App version of AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS which was funded with a multiplatform drama grant from Screen Australia. This was the format AUTHENTIC was always intended to be created in, and so I am pleased to have it out in the aesthetic form I envisioned. But importantly, I will also be releasing the code to make your own audio tour across the web. I hope others jump into developing this unique form.
I will also be releasing my card game DIY SPY School either through a publisher or print-on-demand. I haven’t approached publishers yet, but I probably will once I have printed out the final(ish) version of the game. If the publishers take too long or are not interested, I will get it out there through a print-on-demand service. So it will definitely be romping through the world in 2015. I have a couple of game commissions, as well as my own major project. The latter I am doing a slow cook with, giving it time to really refine and find its sweet spot. So it may take a year or two. I don’t mean that I will think about for 2 years. While I have been fortunate to be commissioned and given grants to create projects, the funds have been so small that I don’t have room to really develop the project technically. I can and do develop before the prototypes and beyond. But there is never enough budget to make big changes. I want to be able to make big changes as I’m making it. I don’t know how I will be able to make that happen, but I have a long-term plan. I also have a couple of book contributions coming out, and Lance and I will be running the next Forward Slash Story lab.
Indeed, I am very excited about this. Forward Slash Story will be held over 4 days in 2015, in Costa Rica. It is an amazing venue and will be an amazing time for curious creatives. We have some great applications that have come in already, and we will be extending the due date for submissions to ensure we catch even more. So make sure you get in your application by Jan 20th. It is an event designed for practising creatives in mind. It is for people who give a lot with presentations and mentoring duties themselves — it is a time for them to be fed by a great mix of peers. So get in there!
See you in 2015 🙂
At Transmedia Living Lab, Madrid
The launch of Magister Ludi at Experimenta’s 2015 International Biennial of Media Art.
Receiving the award for ‘Digital Narrative’ category at the WA Premier’s Book Awards.
Players ingame at MegaGame Brisbane’s ‘Watch the Skies’
The Routledge publication of my definition of ‘transmedial fictions’ in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media
Pop Up Playground playtesters of my physical game ‘Seance for Lost Stuff’, featured at the 2014 Fresh Air Festival
Shenanigans ambient party game board and accompanying prizes at the work Xmas party
Gallery exhibition of my studio student games
Participants at the 2014 Forward Slash Story lab in The Hamptons
I am very excited to announce that our latest game, Magister Ludi, is now launched at Experimenta and available online. It puts a twist on the escape-the-room genre, highlighting our role in needing to escape. The game was commissioned by Jonathan Parsons for Experimenta’s 2015 Biennial of Media Art: Recharge, which means it will be touring Australia for the next year. Magister Ludi was also Official Selection for the 2014 Freeplay Independent Games Festival’s Parallels event at ACMI. I was inspired by the growing phenomenon of real world escape-the-room games and our attraction to them, and couple this with personal epiphanies I have come to regarding crucial psychological processes that must be attended to truly leave behind traumatic events and circumstances. Like all my projects about serious topics, I deliver everything through the lens of comedy. The title is an allusion to Herman Hesse’s Nobel-prize-winning novel “The Glass Bead Game,” and Magister Ludi plays with the idea of the conceptual game depicted in the novel.
I had a great team working with me to make it happen. Marigold Bartlett (Goldie) is the artist who does a wonderful job in creating room illustrations with beautiful and meaningful tones, detail and lighting. Goldie has worked with me before on my DIY SPY School card game (it is coming next year!). Trevor Dikes of Soundplay Interactive created the sound design and compositions for the game. He creates these wonderful mood moments with layers of fascinating samples coming through. Trevor worked with me before on our web audio adventure AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS. Cameron Owen of Attract Mode Games is the programmer on the game, creating all the assets in Unity. Cameron is both a designer and has UX skills himself, and so the process progressed quite quickly and smoothly. Cameron has just released his own game too (with James Bowling): Tail Drift.
I am also very excited to let you know that applications for the 2015 Forward Slash Story Lab are now open. Lance Weiler and myself ran the first one this year just out of NYC and it was amazing. We had such a great group of participants from around the world championing this opportunity with us. It is an event, an idea, that Lance and I have had for a long time and we’re super keen to develop it. Indeed, we’re very lucky to be a part of this.
FORWARD/STORY (Forward Slash Story) is an invite-only 4 day residential lab taking place in Costa Rica, May 15, 16, 17 & 18th, 2015. It is a special lab for writers and designers who work in uncharted territories to share their journey, techniques, socialize, collaborate, and solve problems. Five core challenges that storytellers face will be explored in a collaborative environment. On-site expenses are covered for those who attend.
We had a huge influx of applications for the first lab and so choosing the final participants was just about finding the right mix. Once again, we are putting our call out as far and wide as we can to encourage fascinating creatives from around the world to apply. It is a safe and welcoming community of inspired creatives. We love people who are trailblazers, who are continuously progressing their craft and art for themselves and others, who are drawn to interactivity and understanding ourselves. Writers, designers, directors, artists, critics, theatre makers, filmmakers, game makers, and whatever great thing you do are welcome. The deadline for submissions is December 31st! Let me know if you have any questions at all, and share the news if you think someone in your network may be interested in F/S or even Magister Ludi! 🙂