Videogames

Oct 082013
 

Magi's Rendering screenshot

Quite flattered and surprised to announce that I’ll be the artist-in-residence at one of North America’s largest museum galleries, the AGO. During February and March they’re providing a studio, a stipend and institutional support to make art — in my case, game art — and engage the public. What the public engagement will look like is still in the planning stages but I’ll be posting more about it as event details firm up.

In related news, I took part in a hackathon and made this art game in about six hours with the guys at Verold. The Magi’s Rendering is my first 3D game, and you can play it now in most recent browsers. Credits and design notes below. Continue reading »

May 132013
 

I was lucky enough to be on the narrative jury this year for the Independent Games Festival. One of my favourite games was Kentucky Route Zero, a lovely point-and-click adventure with an anachronistic story that dips into magical realism and Flannery O’Connor. Like the writing, the art and cinematography is evocative and assured, and indeed took the Excellence In Visual Art award (up against strong competition from my Guilded Youth collaborator, Matt Hammill).

I stayed with KRZ co-creator Jake Elliott on a recent trip to Chicago and, inspired by a Let’s Play-themed screening/performance event I took part in there, we ended up doing a Let’s Play-style interview (video heremp3 audio-only file here). It’s pretty long and in-depth as we do play through most of Act I, but I imagine some fans will get into the slow-paced conversation amidst the chirping of the crickets. But if you’re just mildly game-curious, scrub through it — you’ll get a sense of the artistic sophistication and some of the creative concerns. If you’re suitably intrigued, you can go buy it here.

May 062013
 

wonderland

Do you know the Latin phrase “solvitur ambulando”? Used by the wandering scholars of medieval Europe, it means “walking solves it”. It’s always been true for me, as someone for whom walking is both wonderfully meditative and creatively inspiring. I started thinking about using this sentiment in a game context, and came up with an idea that coder Callum Hay and sound designer/composer Adam Axbey were both into, too. We realized a proof-of-concept this past weekend at the Toronto Game Jam.

Wonderland: A Solvitur Ambulando Mystery is an app for the iPhone. You listen to an audio story set in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood in 1915 — the projectionist of the Wonderland, one of the city’s first movie theatres, makes a grim discovery in the aisle one morning. You can listen to the beginning of the superbly produced and acted clip after the jump. Continue reading »

Apr 022013
 

451-700
Today is the launch of KTR 451, a game I developed for the Toronto Public Library. Drawing on the themes and characters in Fahrenheit 451 (the TPL’s One Book this year), it’s a simple alternate reality game — part scavenger hunt, part audio drama — and people in Toronto can play it by calling the phone number above. There’s three missions, one per week, until a live event on April 22nd.

Naturally, this was a huge thrill for me on a number of levels. Continue reading »

Mar 062013
 

Pipe Trouble is an arcade-style game like many of the “pipe-connecting” genre — except you’re connecting natural gas pipelines in Alberta. Build too close to farms and livestock and risk incurring an eco-saboteur’s explosive wrath. Build too far around and your boss gets upset that you’re wasting money. It’s a serious game that attempts to model the tensions in the region while providing engaging gameplay, with a score by members of Fucked Up (who I think should be credited as Fracked Up, given the issue we’re addressing).

Play the free trial here in your browser. A percentage of the $1.99 full version for iPad and Android goes to the David Suzuki Foundation.

Update: Due to the Sun’s sloppy journalism, there’s been a bit of a media furor, but unfortunately in a “taxpayer dollars paid for this?!” vein rather than about the more important environmental or industry issues the game addresses. We’ve issued a press release in response.

My thoughts on it below. Continue reading »

Nov 102012
 

The verdict is in: people really liked Guilded Youth (it just took 3rd in the Interactive Fiction Competition, and 1st in the Ms. Congeniality competition) but hated the ending. Of the fourteen or so reviews I’ve seen over half of them expressed being disappointed by the ending or finding it abrupt.

A previous novel of mine, Everyone In Silico, also had an unconventional ending. I figured it’d be irresponsible of me to tie everything up with a neat little bow, given the complexity of the politics. Depriving readers of their resolution and catharsis made some of them upset, but it was by design and I stand by it.

Not so with Guilded Youth. I just kind of dropped it when I was done. Me and Matt considered it a lark, a nostalgic trifle, so much so that we didn’t anticipate people would care what happened to the quickly sketched characters. But of course we’re delighted. And because it’s not a physical book like Silico – and the digital format allows it — I decided to add two more scenes to give people more time with the awkward adventurers. It’s still charmingly low resolution, but with more of a resolution!

So now you can play version 2.0 of the game, with a better ending. (If you’ve already played it you can start with the command “skipthru” to get to the dining room scene.) Continue reading »

Oct 032012
 

I’ve just submitted a game to the Interactive Fiction Competition that you can play now if you like.

You play Tony, a fourteen-year old thief who needs some help looting the legendary Oakville Manor.  Luckily it’s the 1980s and finding fellow adventurers is just a modem squeal away…

Notes on the game below.

UPDATE: “Suffice it to say that it’s one of the most evocative portrayals of our collective disaffected BBS-enhanced adolescence I’ve experience in a game, effortlessly giving surprisingly rounded life to characters you only know briefly via a few descriptive lines and Hammill’s skilled caricature.” –Brandon Boyer, Venus Patrol
Continue reading »

Aug 242012
 


Oh, that? That’s just my trophy nook. I don’t have enough for a case but I fill it out with other precious things like my gem-studded golden turtle.

I’ve won some awards before but I think this is the first meatspace trophy. It’s from Games for Change, who liked Unmanned, a game I did the writing for.

It’s also nominated in two other awesome upcoming fests, Indiecade (in Los Angeles) and Fantastic Arcade (in Austin). This is wicked because it gives me a great excuse to go there and hang out with amazing game makers and sneak in a few screenings of Ghosts With Shit Jobs as well!

Feb 162012
 


I got to work with one of my favourite gamemakers, Paolo from Molleindustria. He had an idea for a game depicting the day in the life of a drone pilot.

Now you get to play the newest kind of soldier: one who remotely drops bombs on foreign soil during the day, and at night goes home to his family in the suburbs. In Unmanned, the conflict is internal — the only blood you’ll shed is from shaving cuts. But is there collateral damage in this new way of waging war?

I did the writing for it. We went out to Sundance for its debut, and now you can play it online here.

Unmanned‘s a sharp satire that highlights how video games can circumvent traditional modes of political discourse.” — Kotaku

Jan 112012
 

Check out the introduction of Anton and Toph Karrento, the Silk Gatherers, the latest clip from my lo-fi sci-fi feature Ghosts With Shit Jobs.

This is actually the segment I directed, and although I did it reluctantly (I figure my real skill sets are producing/writing), it was a joy to work with these two super-talented guys. Fantastic at improv, they totally internalized the 2040 world in a way that just floored me. And I felt they nailed the dysfunctional brothers dynamic. After we wrapped I made a text adventure game starring them that you can play here, just so I could spend some more time hanging out in my head with them. Is that weird, bro?

Jul 202011
 

Last year I was speaking at the Game Developers Conference and saw Robin Hunicke‘s excellent microtalk (see it here at minute 24) about the continuing gender disparity in the games industry. Many talks of this type are documenting the ongoing systemic oppression of women, which is important and valid work. But Robin’s talk channelled Rosie the Riveter. It had a “this is broken, let’s fix it” attitude that was totally inspiring.

Mare Sheppard and I decided to start the Difference Engine Initiative.

As part of the OMDC-supported TIFF Nexus, the Hand Eye Society will be running two gamemaking incubators for women in Toronto, one in August-September, and one in October-November. By introducing new gamemakers from under-represented groups into our community, the Difference Engine Initiative aims to diversify what kind of videogames are made. Our first focus is women…

Find out about next week’s info session and how to apply for this free program over here.

Jul 292010
 

Last year I organized a project where we gutted an ’80s era arcade cabinet and filled it full of indie games. Jph Wacheski, the chief retrofitter, wrote the article below for people wanting to do the same in the most recent Broken Pencil.

Lots of people are making their own games these days — point-and-click tools like Scratch and GameMaker are making it more accessible for non-programmers, and it’s easy to get your game out there via the internet. But wouldn’t it be even cooler to get you and your friends’ games out there on an old-school arcade cabinet?

The old cabinets are generally made to play one specific game, but you can re-fit it with a PC and a display and wire up the existing controls to make playing new games possible. Many people have been doing this to run emulators of the classic games — MAME cabinets can run hundreds of old games on a single cabinet. The Hand Eye Society, Toronto’s videogame culture collective, wanted to do a similar thing, but with locally made games. They debuted the Torontron, which plays six hand-crafted games by Toronto indies, at the last Canzine. Jph, who did the retrofitting, takes us through the steps he took.

Continue reading »

Feb 022010
 

I made a text adventure videogame for the jayisgames interactive fiction competition that you can play now. Because they’re on my mind — Tate’s making steady progress on the rough edit for our new lo-fi sci-fi feature — it features two characters from the upcoming Ghosts With Shit Jobs movie, the Karrento Brothers.

So if you’re up for a bit of transmedia fun, you can play the game before the movie’s released. Check out the cover art, a description of the game, and some info about the competition after the jump. Continue reading »

Sep 302009
 

The most excellent festival Indiecade has nominated my illustrated text game Everybody Dies as a finalist in their annual competition. Even better, they’re flying me out to Los Angeles to take part in the whole conference, which includes hanging out with the other awesome finalists and talks by the designer of Katamari Damacy (Keita Takahashi) and the Sims (Will Wright).

It’s been tremendously encouraging to see the response to Everybody Dies, so much so that I’ve started planning a new adventure game with crazy-talented artist Ben Shannon. Click through for more! Continue reading »

May 042009
 

At this year’s Game Developers Conference I was commissioned to do a text game set there — I got the nifty press pass pictured in exchange — and I spent the last month making it. You can play it in your browser here or here, if that one doesn’t work. You can read the announcement and my development diary I kept at GameSetWatch. Thanks to the betatesters, who I named the attendees in the game after, as well as the Hand Eye Society Social where I got a nice reception for a mini-talk about it a few weeks back.

In other IF news, Everybody Dies won a XYYZY award for Best Non-Player Characters! They had a pretty funny real-time text award ceremony. And the excellent e-zine SPAG did an interview with me about my interactive fiction.

Update: Kotaku warns it causes GDC flashbacks, Offworld said it “manages to capture quite accurately the collaborative, socially supportive and intellectually curious aspects of what it’s like to actually be there”, and Rock Paper Shotgun declares it an “oddly human little thing which captures quite a bit about the human side of development.”

Jan 072009
 

Our illustrated text adventure game, Everybody Dies, has chalked up over 7000 plays to date, in no small part due to the great press it’s been getting. It was declared one of the Top 5 Indie Games in 2008 by the great game industry site Gamasutra, it was listed as one of the Top 10 videogames of 2008 (alongside, y’know, Grand Theft Auto IV) by entertainment mag Variety. And you know the Onion’s AV Club? Gave it an “A”. All for a dinky little text game. Just crazy! Update: My first ever Russian review, in any medium.

If you haven’t yet, you can play it here. I’ve added Invisiclue style hints.

Dec 012008
 

from Jason Van Horne's The LandmarkersAnd you don’t even have to unwrap the latest games produced by my Artsy Games Incubator project. Just download them! There’s a point-and-click adventure set on Toronto’s Queen St. West, a pixelly Lovecraftian game with audio drama, a sharply designed underwater gold quest, an architectural preservation simulation game, & one by me and Susan where you play a plastic bag out to asphyxiate seagulls. Check out the screenshots here.

The response to the project has been terrific, with people who want to make games in future Rounds, people who are looking to start groups in their cities, and industry coverage of our Artcade event, so we’re expanding a bit. To apply to participate check this out!

Nov 162008
 

My new text adventure videogame, Everybody Dies, was just voted third out of 35 entries at the annual Interactive Fiction Competition!

It starts with a metalhead, Graham, realizing that throwing that shopping cart over the bridge was not the great idea he thought it was. Even if it did get him out of washroom duty at Cost Cutters.

UPDATE: Invisiclue Style Hints provided below, Windows exe customized.

Continue reading »

May 182008
 

Rosemary Mosco's AlbacrossThe second round of the Artsy Games Incubator went terrific: all five of us ended up with videogames you can download and play: check out Mouse Police, Bungee Fisher, Cupcake Challenge, Albacross, and my own Baby Runs This Mofo.

It’s a good excuse to interview one of the founding sponsors of the AGI project, Jon Mak, a Toronto game designer who Newsweek dubbed a “wunderkind”. His abstract videogame Everyday Shooter came out for the PS3 and now it’s available on the PC — if you’d like a chance at winning a free copy, leave a comment in response to the MP3 interview I did with him below. In it Jon explains why Guitar Hero is fun despite being a sucky game, that he learns best through failing, how he made ES while working part-time for money thanks to context switch, & how the work gets better the more you take away.

No Flash? Get the MP3 here.

Apr 082008
 

hangout.jpgThe last round of the Artsy Games Incubator was really good — we had a longer run (meeting weekly for six weeks) than the first round, and we all ended up making videogames worth showing. So we’re doing an open house at the Mobile Experience Lab at 52 McCaul St. (3rd floor) on Wed. April 23rd at 7pm, where there’ll be short presentations of the games we made using accessible tools. It’s a great time to find out more about future rounds of the AGI, and we’re also inviting people in the indie games community at large to bring their games-in-progress to demo — and no, you don’t have to identify as an artist. Admission: a game-in-progress, or a snack for the snack table. For a taste of what’s to come, check out some of the screenshots below.
Continue reading »