Mar 152014


We started making Ghosts With Shit Jobs in 2009, released it in 2012 and screened it in 25 cities thanks to a Kickstarter campaign through 2012-13. We’ve learned a ton and recently applied what we know now to a proof-of-concept trailer for a new project — it’s called Haphead, and features the infinitely stretching electronics factory pictured above. And bunny-ninja fights.

But before we move on we thought we’d talk frankly about the numbers behind our lo-fi sci-fi feature.

We attracted attention to the project by being up front about our original $4000 production costs, and now we want to do a final accounting in the hope that it’s useful and/or interesting to other indie filmmakers. There’s a certain amount of pressure to not talk about this stuff when it’s not super-impressive — that somehow it hurts our credibility — but we think it’s useful to show people what very minor success looks like.

Ghosts With Shit Jobs cost $20,180.97 to create and promote and earned a gross of $39,317.18 $40,917.18 $51,675.12 (as of Feb 2107 — mostly from iTunes sales). Continue reading »

Mar 072014

Ten years from now, videogames are so immersive that teenagers learn lethal skills just by playing. They’re called hapheads.

The folks I made Ghosts With Shit Jobs with made this trailer I adapted from a book-length story I’m working on. Don’t know if we can honestly call what we do lo-fi sci-fi anymore — with fight scenes and full-on special effects, it’s way more in the mold of traditional action sci-fi. I’m thinking what’ll set it apart is the characterization of the father & daughter (my emotional entry into the story, thinking about my relationship with my daughter in 10 years) and the subcultural mileau that’ll emerge. This trailer a proof-of-concept thing meant to rally the interest we need to get it made — so if you’d like to see it, share it.

Feb 042014

I’ve been getting together with folks I made Ghosts With Shit Jobs with to make a trailer for our next project, Haphead — starts shooting on Sunday, get in touch if you’d like to help out. We’re going to be working with the same actress who starred in “Just Ella” — a short I wrote/directed for the Lo-fi Sci-fi 48 Hour Film Challenge. It screened at Toronto After Dark (my favourite Toronto film fest) a few months back, and now you can watch it here.

“Just Ella” posits a future overrun by gibbering monstrosities. Ella takes refuge in a “the Ossington Safehouse, a collectively-run space dedicated to human sovereignty.” But despite doing the assigned tasks on the chore list, the Safehouse isn’t safe — the terrors outside are nothing compared to those within.

Contains perhaps the first cinematic example of autocomplete used for a dramatic reveal.

Credits here.

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 »

Sep 052013

At a time of year when everyone’s talking TIFF, we thought we’d talk BIFF. For us, getting into the Beijing International Film Festival was a bigger deal, what with Ghosts With Shit Jobs being about a future where China’s the first world and North America’s the third world.

Co-director Tate Young interviewed BIFF-goers earlier this year on what they thought about the premise of our flick, and got lots of great city shots to boot, in this 6.5 minute mini-doc.

It’s now four years since we began this project and it’s been quite a trip — literally and figuratively. Since its London, England premiere last year we’ve toured with the movie to nearly 20 cities across the world. Figured it merits its own commemorative tour t-shirt, which you can buy at cost for the next week (mens | ladies). It’s got all the cities on the back!

As an aside, you should enjoy TIFF while it lasts — it ends in 2019 after cultural funding disappears completely. BIFF buys all the red carpets at an auction afterwards.

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


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

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 »

Jan 142013

Put your trillion dollar coins away! Ghosts With Shit Jobs is available to rent for as little as $4.99. Our lo-fi sci-fi mockumentary about the slums of Toronto in 2040 is now in wide digital release at the links below.

To help support this we’re offering to do 20 videochat Q&As between now and when the Debt Ceiling falls in. To enter, sign up over here and plan a GHOSTS screening party of five or more people in January and February. Then, if you’re one of the lucky 20, one of our lo-fi faces will be beamed via sci-fi into your very home!

iTunes / Amazon (US only) / Xbox / PSN Vudu

Trailer / First 20 minutes

For people looking for DRM-free options, we recommend buying the DVD and then ripping it.

(And sure, Cloud City is a bit of an ethically dubious place. But it’s not like Lando would sell us out or anything, that dude is solid!)

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 »

Sep 082012

In the next month I’ll be visiting a bunch of cities to do Q&As after the screenings of Ghosts With Shit Jobs. If you know folks in these cities, it would be great if you spread the word!

Ann Arbor (Sept. 9, Workantile)
Ottawa (Sept. 14 [with Q&A], Sept 15 & 16, Mayfair Theatre)
Austin (Sept 19, Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek)
Tucson (Sept 27, Arizona Underground Film Fest)

Note that the Austin one will only happen if 30 tickets are reserved in the next 4 days as we’re using Tugg to gauge interest. (UPDATE: Austin is Go!) We can do it in other towns in the US too, so if you’re interested in bringing GHOSTS to your town in November, just fill out this form and we can start to try and make it happen! If you’re not in the US, just email us directly.

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!

Aug 072012

Back when I knew him in Toronto, Kirby Ferguson was making dirty comedy shorts and directing a segment of my sci-fi flick Infest Wisely. Five years later, he’s doing Ted talks and raising 50K+ for his next video thinkpiece series. His Everything is a Remix series is to blame for his ascension from the gutter — it’s a terrific, much needed piece of populist cultural theory. Watch it for free here! Earlier today we sat down to talk reinvention, being of service, and the benefits of obscurity.

You can download the newest episode in the No Media Kings Inspiring Creators podcast over here, subscribe to it via RSS2 or iTunes, or just click play below. Feedback welcome! I just got a new microphone, so hopefully it’s loud enough to listen to while you do the dishes.