Games for Change

When hearing or reading the title of the conference, I kept thinking about signs that read “Will work for food” morphing into “Will code games for change”

Over all the conference was not well-organized and was nothing at all like the Serious Games Summit I went to a couple of years ago.
Still, the notion of serious games seems much more accepted than it was back then.

Most of the audience seemed to be middle-aged women who seemed to care about the world, but had no experience with activism or with games.
A few of the panelists were good, but ended up dumbing-down what they had to say to suit the audience.

There were 4 or 5 UN people there, most from Unicef.

Many panelists had … Read the rest

Awake on his Back, Part 1

Jim awoke on his back, looking up at the stars.
He blinked a few times before realizing how cold he was.
His clothes were damp, but he knew it hadn’t rained because the sky was clear.
The dampness must have been from dew settling on him, which meant he had lain there for a few hours at least.
He stood slowly, and halfway up his head began to throb and he suddenly felt very thirsty.
He touched the side of his head and the bone felt soft. When he looked at his fingers they were dark with what must have been his blood.

He stood in a grassy area with trees on one side and a dirt road on the other, with more trees beyond that.… Read the rest

The Seer

The Seer of Island #10 had said that he had never intended to provide answers to anyone, but that did not stop his reputation from growing.
From what his sister described, he had arrived on the island by makeshift raft, like many before him, seeking some of the ordnance rumored to have been stored there, but found the island deserted.
Unlike the others, however, he didn’t leave.
Instead, he dragged his raft and supplies to the center of the island, put up a crude lean-to, lighted a fire and fell into deep contemplation, staring into the flames, wondering what he could possibly do next.

The troubles had continued long after anyone had predicted; long after the ones who had started it had been killed.
Those who … Read the rest

You Tonight

I’ve done some research on what aspects of music make a song popular. I’ve become convinced that one aspect is the structure of the melodic line, specifically that it needs to advance stepwise as in a scale. Jumps greater than whole steps make the song more complicated, while repeating the same notes make a song more simple.

I intended to compose a number of songs based on this idea, and the one that embodies the theory best is the one called ‘You Tonight’

You Tonight
Original demo

This song originated as a 2AM brainstorm that took maybe 30 minutes to write. It then had a life as a song recorded by Mark and Christina, and I modified it for Michael and Zoe’s wedding (where I was, … Read the rest

The Messenger

The messenger came one night, very late.

He was out of breath and could speak only in a hoarse whisper. His skin was stone-cold from the wind and rain he had run through. We offered him tea and soup, but he would have none. He would not even sit, he said his message was urgent, that there was a terrible danger at his farm.

His voice became quiet, and only those standing next to him, leaning close could hear what he said.

Speaking louder again, the stranger pleaded for every able-bodied person to go with him back to his farm. My father and the others were reluctant, and some looked afraid, but the man seemed so desperate that my father and the other men and the … Read the rest

Pricilla Gone Missing

Pricilla gone missing is a new and quite good, rather short game in the style of Samorost, where you control a character who walks around manipulating objects. I prefer this style to the ‘Escape the Room’ variety – a genre that seems rather stale now.

The graphics are very good, echoing some post-apocalyptic movies such as Mad Max. The sound is good as well, using music as a cue for success and ambient noises as the background sound.

The puzzles are good as well, and all rely on actual logic and physics, so you have to ‘MacGuyver’ your way through, rather than depending on finding that one active pixel, or on some arbitrary Deus ex Machina device.… Read the rest

Star Wars – The Hero’s Journey

For a while now I’ve been developing a story, an epic inspired by many of the classic stories (including Star Wars). Joseph Campbell and others have suggested that certain themes reoccur in the classic stories, spanning cultures and time, and I’ve been collecting these themes in order to incorporate them. A few are summarized below.

What strikes me most is how in the debate among fans of the Star Wars series, the subject of storytelling is seldom raised. The focus on why some feel episodes I, II, and III weren’t as good as the original trilogy seems to be on specific characters (Jar-Jar Binks) on the use of computer graphics (instead of miniatures and puppets), the acting and dialogue, and on the importance of nostalgia in … Read the rest

Sports Teams

We will know that we’ve won the War on Terror once we’ve begun naming sports teams after terrorists groups.

The Columbus Hamas
The Knoxville Al Qaida
The Cody Hezbollah
The Sacramento Mujahedin
The Birmingham Shining Path
The Portland Al Fatah
etc.… Read the rest

Conversations with My Mailman II

As I was exiting the liquor store around the corner, I nearly walked into my mailman, who was getting some lunch. He seemed to be walking a little stiffly and I asked him if he were alright.

He turned to the cashier to conduct his business and, talking over his shoulder, mentioned how the warmer weather means more sweat, especially where the strap from his bag rubs his chest and back, and more especially in his crotch. He said the other day he put a thermometer down his pants and after a minute he pulled it out and it read 126°.

The real problem is the choice of underpants; this girl he knows prefers he wear boxers, but those chafe his scrotum and upper thighs when … Read the rest

P.T. Barnum on How to Get Rich

Project Gutenberg, which has published online many many texts the copyrights of which have expired, has a copy of P. T. (Phineas Taylor) Barnum’s

The Art of Money Getting (or Golden Rules for Making Money)”

which seems to include most of the same advice found in modern self-help seminars. Each chapter begins with an aphorism, which is then expounded upon.

1. DON’T MISTAKE YOUR VOCATION

2. SELECT THE RIGHT LOCATION

3. AVOID DEBT

4. PERSEVERE

5. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO IT WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT

6. DEPEND UPON YOUR OWN PERSONAL EXERTIONS

7. USE THE BEST TOOLS

8. DON’T GET ABOVE YOUR BUSINESS

9. LEARN SOMETHING USEFUL

10. LET HOPE PREDOMINATE BUT BE NOT TOO VISIONARY

11. DO NOT SCATTER YOUR POWERS

12. BE … Read the rest

The Road to Mandalay

Rudyard Kipling is an interesting poet to study these days. His notions of the White Man’s Burden seem so outdated, yet his experiences in Colonial India have echoes in the actions of the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I had some music snippets and thought it would be a good exercise to fill them out using an existing poem as the basis for rhythm and structure.

I chose Kipling’s “Mandalay” because it had a structure that would work with what I already had melodically, and the verses are very visual.

The Road to Mandalay (mp3 2.32MB) is the simple demo.

It could use a bridge; it only has an A and B part now which gets repetitive after a few verses.

I heard a Sinatra version … Read the rest

Conversations with my Cabbie I

Walking home a little drunk at 3am, stop in at Kennedy Fried Chicken.
At this hour in this neighborhood, guys behind counters always seem happy to see a whitey stop in.
“What’s hot?”
“Hunh?”
“What’s ready?”
“Wings!”
“Wings it is then. 6 pieces, please.”

Munching wings at 3:05am on 1st Ave, I see a guy sprawled out in the street near a cab, and the cabbie with his arms out, palms forward standing over him, who looks at me and asks if I can help drag the passed-out guy to the curb. I finish the wing I’m eating and put the rest in the pocket of my coat and take the drunk guy’s left armpit while the cabbie takes the right.

Drunkie starts to wake up … Read the rest

Escape to Obion | Episode 5: The Chemisphere


Episode 5: The Chemisphere (beta latest revision: 2006/3/2)

length: long

difficulty: hard

This game is more linear than the others, which is necessary because we’ve added level codes for the 4 levels in the game.

The levels represent junctures in the game that tell you that you’ve solved everything necessary to get to that point.
The puzzles get increasingly complicated in the game, but should not require taking notes in the way that #3 required.

Still, you will need to jot down a few things.
There is one musical puzzle in the game, but you should be able to get through even if you are unable to hear it, relying on the symbols instead.

edit 2006/3/2: Added better feedback on last two ‘locks’ that open ‘level … Read the rest