Welcome back to the stage of history!

Sunny Koda is a concept artist from Australia who went to the US filming a Documentary about Gamer Culture. He went from Sand Diego to Vancouver, from Comic Con to PAX. Now he's following his dream of working in the daunting US Games industry. Will he make it? I hope so. Because I am that guy.

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Major Maxim

"Our theory regarding PAX is that it is something that happens when we get enough of you together, quite on its own, and it is our task to construct an ecosystem around you that does not impinge on that culture's inherent virtues. When they had us down at GDC for that Ambassador Award thing, what I told them (when I was thrust before a microphone in abject terror) was that the basis for our work is the idea that the experiences that games create form the basis of a coherent culture - that the bank of shared experiences, simulated but no less real, coalesce into a collective memory.

I say things like this for two reasons. One, it's vitally important to me that people think I'm smart. But more importantly - well, maybe not more importantly, as important perhaps - that is the world I want to live in. Even if we have to make that world with our bare Goddamned hands for three days, to reclaim it from the Earth, it will be so."

Taken from today's Penny Arcade post written by Tycho. This is why I love these guys. This is why I feel PAX (not Blizzcon in October) is the perfect way to finish off the gamer leg of my documentary (Afterward I'm heading to Vancouver to meet some of Jeff's connections and hopefully set myself up for a job before returning to Australia). If my documentary has a thesis, then Tycho put it succinctly when he says "...the experiences that games create form the basis of a coherent culture - that the bank of shared experiences, simulated but no less real, coalesce into a collective memory." and I appreciate the timing not days after I myself came to the conclusion. This documentary is to be a celebration of the unique culture of the gamer, to literally live in that world. As an event, this is the essence of PAX.

Jerry also recently pointed fans towards the thoughts of Daniel Cook who turns out to be an excellent writer/thinker on the subject of games. His site Lost Garden will serve as a great asset to my film as he has provoked or confirmed many of my own musings on gaming and the industry. He has the best essay on genre lifespans and raises intelligent points in all his work. He is definitely writing from the position of an independent developer which is not really an area I'm interested in, but ultimately it's clear that he loves games and wants to see the community thrive and this coupled with his intelligence would make for a great interview.

Another indie developer I'm excited to get in touch with is of course Jonathan Blow who created Braid. I've seen a few of his presentations which mainly focus on being an independent developer but I do know he has a fair bit to say about the social influence of games in modern culture and I'd love to pick his brain. Braid finally came to the PlayStation Network and I thought it lived up to the hype. I was particularly impressed by the storyline which, simply, surpassed that of most big budget releases. Plenty to talk about, hope he's interested.

Oh and Felicia Day! Creator of The Guild which in turn was heavily supported by gamers. Microsoft then supported the second season and it appeared on Xbox Live. I'd like to know how she feels about the gaming community, as someone in her unique position (fringe gamer, celebrity, red-haired goddess to gamers everywhere).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Red Tape

Forgot to eat yesterday. Huh.

I've been giving some thought to the legal aspects of my documentary. Anne has offered me some advice on writing up contracts for the people I'll be filming and I'm getting a fairly good idea of the precautions I'll have to take when filming in public areas. I also need to contact the Comic Con and PAX organizers about filming at their events as i definitely want to include at least PAX in the series. It's very difficult filming in another country because it's not easy for me to get information of their legal system regarding Documentaries and filming. At least I'm not planning to record anything dangerous or morally dubious. Featuring games and trademarked logos will also (hopefully) be part of the documentary so that also requires permission from companies. Particularly without a budget to placate egos. However this documentary will be a celebration of gaming, so why wouldn't they let their games be a part of that? Yes, I realize the naivety of that sentence.

On a lighter not my weekend was wholly productive, split between gaming (and meeting people for the Doco), planning the trip (flight's booked) and working on my folio for Comic Con. It's a good feeling having a goal to drive towards.

I was at the mall briefly on Saturday and ducked into a newsagents. I never buy anything save for the elusive Imagine FX magazine but I have a little ritual, not unlike at EB Games which I also never buy from (unless they have an exclusive special edition I want damn you!), where I pick up ever gaming magazine and quickly flip through it. I don't really focus on any particular page or article, I never read anything beyond a list of games on the horizon, I just sort of get a feel for the contents and then drop it back on the shelf wondering why it even exists. Games stores are much the same, I pick up a game that looks appealing to me (I've written an essay on what appeals to me in a game case if anyone is interested/bored/works in marketing) flip it over to appraise the back and then stick it back on the shelf. I suppose what I'm really doing is shopping for information; when I do buy something my aim is to get in and out in eighteen seconds ([1f01] Rosebud).

I'd like to interview someone like Chris Roper who was Executive Editor of IGN PlayStation until two weeks ago. I am very critical of game reviews and advertising these days. Before the Internet became an institution those magazines were our lifeline to games news. Now we can amass so much information I don't need to read a single review to know what a game has to offer me and if I will like it. Even if I did, reviews these days really stick in my throat. Rarely do they reflect the reaction of the gaming community and on occasion are written by people who sound like they have no interest or knowledge of the game or the culture around it. Then again in an age where 'casual gamers' (this is a dirty slur) are prevalent perhaps it's appropriate to have Final Fantasy XIII reviewed by, say, my mom. Don't get me started about scores out of 10 (particularly when it's more like out of 7-10) and having Gameplay as a sub category alongside Graphics, Sound and Story. Is it not a game? I thought that was the point.

As a kid I used to cut articles out of Hyper and Nintendo Power magazine and stick them to the walls above my bed (the way slightly older, less nerdy kids stuck Pamela Anderson, Claudia Schiffer or Elle MacPherson clippings to their pillows). My family didn't have a lot of money and even if they had, video games were a twice a year event (Birthdays and Christmas) so instead I would read the articles over and over again and stare intently at the pixelated screen shots imagining that I was actually playing those games (the way slightly older, less nerdy... you see where I'm going with this). So adorable and geeky is this image, I wish I had a photo to share! The point is, though my mom made me take them down, it was a clear indication that games journalism was something I might have been interested in pursuing.

I used to draw Sonic killing Mario with magic markers and send in my pictures. Remember that? It was truly a different time, when kids could be kids and parents weren't paying attention to video games or trying so hard to turn their kids into wusses. Ironically I did a quick google image search for 'Mario killing Sonic' in the hopes of some nostalgia but all I got was furry porn.

The image of Bizarro Phoenix is by Space Coyote who has some funny/cool pop culture art. I love developing original concepts but just as much paying tribute to those things in life which we admire. More on this tomorrow.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


So instead of playing Warhammer Online with my guild this morning, we are staring at the server screen discussing (over Ventrilo) the usual gamer stuff. Health Care policy in the USA, China's global economic position, Employment in Australia, how The Governator is treating California. I had a chance to explain a little of my plans for the documentary and it went down pretty well. Zufall, a badass Chosen of Tzeentch, actually lives in California and offered to introduce me to some of the best Arcade gaming left in the free world. It makes sense to ask my guildmates for help, but it feels so perfect that my best connections are friends I made in an MMO.

Come on server, there's Order to be slain! Which reminds me, I work with a guy who plays the other team (Order) on my server (Volkmar) and there's something deeply troubling about working with someone during the day then going home to crush their skull. MMO's are such a big lifestyle (almost like a seconde virtual life to some) that those grudges from the night before can be hard to shake at times.

/waves @ psychoic

Hey it's back up! I'll play my shaman, maxed out willpower>spam group heal.

Like a Man Possessed...

I laughed when I read that Zappa was (seemingly arbitrarily) from Australia. I always really liked Zappa but I think that's more to do with the fact that his play was always unpredictable (even to you) and he didn't seem overpowered or have a degenerate fireball. This gets me thinking; if I am going to go play people's favourite games with them, I'm about to get my ass kicked for a month! By the way I'm talking about Guilty Gear XX.

I woke up at 7am this morning even though it's a Sunday and I was up late last night painting. I'm doing a Witch Elf for a guild member (Warhammer Online) and a tribute to Yoshitaka Amano who is freaking unbelievable. Did I mention I'm working on a completely new folio? I'm going to have it done for Comic Con so I can try to get a job in America. The segment of my Documentary about the Industry will be from the perspective of someone who plays games, has worked as a junior, has a lot of respect for the pro's and is trying to get into the big leagues in the US. A good combination of hope, ambition, anxiety and the bitter realities.

Anyway the point is I don't seem to be sleeping too well at all. There's only three months to prepare! But this is how I know I'm doing something significant; I can't stop thinking about it.

One of the focuses of this Documentary is to meet the true gamers who make up the virtual community. One of the coolest things about PAX is seeing gamers pour out of the woodwork to reveal a community that has for so long had a clear identity without ever really meeting physically. I want to meet those people, the people who feel like they are part of something the way I do even though I rarely play games outside of my own house. Hence the idea of making house-visits.

Having said that I have been teasing myself with fantasies about interviewing some high-profile gamers too in the hopes of a) meeting them and b) getting some content with that attention-grabbing celebrity factor. Of course when I say celebrity I mean Mike and Jerry from Penny arcade or the Frag Dolls. You know, gamer celebrities. The other advantage of this is I have a pretty good idea what to ask these people as they make their personalities public. So who do I think would have something to say worth putting in a documentary? Hmm...

Penny Arcade (not just Mike & Jerry)
Scott Ramsoomair (VG Cats, webcomic)
Glen Schofield (Deadspace Executive Producer, I love everything about the story of this game's development and I love the game)
The Frag Dolls (I like the way they champion female gamers as well as female professionals)
Hex from Good Game (This may take a little explanation, Good Game is the only games show in Australia and it gets good ratings. There was recent controversy when one of the male hosts was fired in favour of female host 'Hex'. The channel it's on deny this but they haven't given any decent reason and this is the story the guy they fired is going with and considering he was the best part of the show I'm inclined to believe him)
Junglist formerly of Good Game (the guy, still writing for Kotaku.AU)
Jade Raymond, manager of the new Ubisoft Toronto and Producer of Assassin's Creed (I'd like to settle down in Canada, good folk)
David Jaffe (God of War designer, really interesting guy, funny when drunk)
Blizzard's Sons of the Storm (although I have to point out the Mark Gibbons aka Red Knuckle is my childhood hero and the reason I am anything of an artist)
Red 5 Studios (I have it on good authority they are working on an MMO, a big one)

That's just some ideas off the top of my head. I'll email everyone I can think of who fits into my touring plans. Hopefully I'll attract enough attention that some may be interested in volunteering? Who knows. If it was me, I'd do it!

I grabbed the image up top from www.fightersgeneration.com/ which as it turns out is 'the largest and most comprehensive fighting game resource on the net' and a great place to reference high-res official art from fighting games for all you fellow artists.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Welcome to you're "Doom"

Now that I've had some sleep (the last post was fuelled by a and extra long black Tim Horton's brew specifically imported by Canadian friends) and a little time to really mull this thing over two things are happening.

1) The gears are churning; ideas are becoming plans, thoughts becoming actions.
I am already liaising with a lot of people. Nothing gets done without the support of those more experienced and wise than yourself.

Great chunks of dialogue are writing themselves. After 6 odd years at University and a lifetime of loving and discussing games I already have enough topics and interesting content to kill a mini-boss.

Travel plans are becoming clearer. I'm starting in LA, dipping down to San Diego for Comic Con then couch surfing my way north with a friend in San Jose and Sacramento for support. Depending on time I'll then attend PAX in Seattle or overshoot to some contacts in Vancouver then back to PAX with time left over to re-visit any new friends or do whatever I have left to do.
Documentary will focus on the almighty Electronic Game against the backdrop of post-economic-slump America. I want to make 3 episodes/films, one about the industry and my efforts to become a part of it, one about the state of games today and why they even exist as a form of art/entertainment and, most importantly, one about Gamers [real gamers!] and the duality of their identity as an isolated player and participant in a cultural phenomenon.

2) Hesitation sets in: as good a proposal as this is there are about a thousand difficult questions or problems that need very solid answers/solutions.
Funding? I have some savings but this whole thing is going to succeed or fail on the good will of strangers: awesome, videogame loving, friends I haven't met. Both to help me with accommodation and share their experiences and to help drum up interest and publicity for this gaming adventure.

How do I get the attention of the internet? I've drafted a shortlist of sites I'm going to contact about help finding willing participants for the project:


Once I've got the webpage up I'll send them some mail. I really hope they take enough interest to make a post about it as this is my best chance to get in contact with enough people interested in helping me to make it work. Who knows? Perhaps they'll help personally! Ideally I'd like to stay with some people who are gamers, some people who work making games and some people who are involved in games journalism (like the people who run these sites). Also Mike and Jerry from Penny Arcade are my heroes. Hence ending the documentary shoot at PAX. Ideally presenting a panel about the experience at PAX!

I went and organised flights this morning (and something else which I will mention in the future) and travel insurance has crit me for an additional $1000 out of my budget. Ouch. But obviously crashing my way from Tijuana to Vancouver I'm definitely going to need it. There's a strange uneasiness in knowing that any drama I face will be a mixed blessing; good for the documentary, bad for my health. I should look at it as a win win situation I guess, just gotta make sure the camera is on.

Shooting the documentary! I have experience with cameras and I'm going to get some crash-training from an award winning Doco crew (thank you Anne!) and do a practice run in Australia before I head off but I am going Solo which can make filming more than difficult. I am going to buy a camera specifically for it (another necessary ouch to the budget). At least I'll have nothing left to get stolen I guess.

I have in the past had some issues with allergies and anxiety attacks. While I'm all good now and have medication to make sure I don't get teary eyed and short of breath (NERD!) I've made another appointment with my doctor to ensure I'm ready for the rigours of a truly epic gaming adventure.

If I do get interest from people, I hope I do, I need to make sure that I can stay with them on very specific dates to ensure that I am slowly making my way up the north coast of America. How fast/far will I have to travel to make it to Seattle in a month? How far can I travel? Can I make it inland at all? How far inland should I go? I definitely can't afford any additional flights particularly in USA's busiest and therefore most expensive period. How much will trains and busses cost me. I may have to enlist the help of a native and thorough google mapping to make it work. I may also have to book the occasional night in a hotel for a break/downtime or if there is a gap I can't find anyone to host me.

That's enough for now. Gotta get this website happening and hone my artistic skills; that's what weekends are for. Oh and playing Dragon Age whilst eating a pizza and drinking beer!
That awesome Altered Beast fan art is by a wicked guy named Flavio Hoffe who is an amazing artist and makes me want to just give up and work in a factory biting the heads off chickens. That's what they do in factories right?

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I ran the idea by my brother and he's into it with his shiny new Mac and recently validated editing skills. He loves films and is all done with uni and set to take off in the Film industry. He's always been my support and projects don't fly if he doesn't give the nod. You see my ideas are often too crazy; he's my altimeter.

In fact, so far everyone I've talked to has been in support of this endeavor; a rare hit for my nutty hi-jinks. Maybe it's not such a wild notion? Maybe it really is a great idea.

I mentioned it to my girlfriend Erin, I don't think she's keen on the idea of me being gone so long but at the same time happy to see me doing something with my pent-up creativity and longing to travel. Even more happy that I'm not dragging her with me.

My Canadian friend and colleague Jeff (kick-ass animator/joker) gave it a thumb up and told me he has some industry friends in Vancouver who would probably hang out with me and talk about games (it seems gamers love nothing more than talking about games; I certainly do and this bodes well for a Documentary) and I'm thinking of hanging out in Van after PAX in September allowing me to do a US gaming run and then a Canadian one before finally getting deported!

I then spoke with my sister's friend and colleague (working in the industry is awesome) Anne (kick-ass producer/director/friend) who's interested in helping me and thinks the whole thing would be very cool indeed. She was wearing a Disturbed t-shirt, which I totally dig, and proceeded to offer to introduce me to a guy who knows cameras, a girl who works as a much more successful concept artist, and some people who won a documentary competition last year *inhale* AND give me her personal support with the project. I am so freaking lucky.

This weekend I'm booking my flight, I already have my ticket for Comic Con (as a professional) and my buddy Luke (Blizzard concept artist and all round hot-shot ninja friend) knows I'm heading to his place first. Time to get this splash website running and then contact all the gamer news sites to ask for help advertising for hosts and general publicity.

I am going to go on the biggest adventure of my life and I am going to make something Gamers and the Games Industry can enjoy and be proud of. This is my adventure, this is my chance, this is my gift to the world I love.

Rise From Your Grave!


Last night whilst riding my bicycle home from work I had an idea.

My name is Sunny Koda, I'm a 27yo Concept Artist living in Melbourne Australia. I like metal, art, films, eating, rock-climbing and meeting cool people. I love playing games.

My lease and my work contract both end in July and I've been planning a trip to California to attend San Diego Comic Con and visit a couple of friends (a talented young Blizzard employee and an old friend up in Silicon Valley). My main reason for going is to get a feel for the community and business over in the US where I'd love to get a job in the future. But now I've been struck with the spirit of adventure! I really don't have much money, but wouldn't it be awesome to hang out in the US right through to the Penny Arcade Expo at the beginning of September? As a gamer that would be totally win.

Then I struck upon the idea of couch surfing, an affordable way of remaining in the US for the entire month of August. But I don't just want to subsist for a month, I want to do something cool! So here is the plan....

I'm making a Documentary celebrating Gamers, Games and the Gaming Industry through an adventure narrative!

I'm going to see if I can convince 30 odd people who love games to offer me their hospitality and their perspective to document the ultimate gaming experience. Yeah! I'll try to stay with a different person each day and share with them views of games, gaming culture and really find out what being a gamer means to them. Perhaps each host can show me their all-time favorite game and in return I'll do some gamer art for them and they can appear in my documentary representing their game and locality.

I like this idea.