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.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


And just look at these... breasts. That's a Black Books reference. I don't really stay abreast of the news, but some friends brought some unsettling stories to my recent attention:

Australia is set to sensor the internet.

Unemployed Americans need not apply.

Now I'm not sure if the net filter is really going to affect me, I think I can do without these sites. But I protest any 1984-esq government censorship of the last free medium, the true arc of the people. Well, the intelligent people. However the increasingly severe state of unemployment in America? That is indeed distressing. Looks like I chose the worst possible time to try and make it in the states...

And then there's Scott Pilgrim. I read it and I really liked it, but I'm not sure if it falls under the gamer shade cloth. More like equal parts non-jap-manga, poser-scene-trash and indie-gamer-rag. What I am sure of is that it's good, and it's the story's tendency to blend the lines between reality and gamer-fiction that really appeals to me. Any dedicated gamer does tend to apply gaming diction to everyday events and real life can at times blend with memories of games. It's clear that Brian Lee O'Malley is one artist who is sensitive to this phenomenon. Scott Pilgrim may not be the first comic to blend reality with gaming, but the movie adaptation sure is interesting for this very reason. I trust Edgar Wright to do it justice, he wouldn't let us down.

Unfortunately the latest trailer suffers from that terrible new habit the trailer editors have of explaining the whole damn story in 3 minutes. So if you've read Scott Pilgrim, and are wondering how they can pull it off then watch this but if you're curious and oblivious watch this one which is a little less offensive (it's okay to see a movie and not know what it's about). I must point out though, The Ting Tings into Pendulum is some heavy indie cred so they at least did that right.

On that note, here's how to do a trailer so right I just might see this:

Mortal Kombat has had it's ups and downs. Well, one initial up before a dynasty of down. The movies were only watchable as the grand finale on bad movie nights (although Techno Syndrome by The Immortals is one of the best things ever recorded) and each game more disappointing than the last. But this trailer really does make me want to forget that and watch something that someone really tried hard to make cool. I appreciate effort.

I spent part of yesterday looking at my gamer t-shirts. I have a few, some don't fit too well while others are faded. I'm going to email some of the better sites and see if they're interested at throwing a couple of shirts my way in exchange for me wearing them in the doco and their brand in the credits. That'd be very cool as I don't really have the money to buy new clothing.

I'll leave you with some quotes from 'gamers'. None of them are known for playing video games but they certainly have some relevent wisdom to impart. In the end a game is a game, and a player is a player :)

I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
-Michael Jordan

You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.
-Albert Einstein

Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.

It's the game of life. Do I win or do I lose? One day they're gonna shut the game down. I gotta have as much fun and go around the board as many times as I can before it's my turn to leave.
-Tupac Shakur

As things are, and as fundamentally they must always be, poetry is not a career, but a mug's game. No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written: He may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing.
-T. S. Eliot

Through my illness I learned rejection. I was written off. That was the moment I thought, Okay, game on. No prisoners. Everybody's going down.
-Lance Armstrong

Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.
-Donald Trump

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Continue? YES - NO

Big week, but not big enough considering I am within a month of leaving. I am running out of time and already I have too much to cram into 3 weeks.

After feeling sorry for myself because no-one is sending me emails I picked myself up with a can of Mother (half a litre of adrenaline) and went for another round of Camera shopping. Initially I was given some advice from some Doco camera guys to go with a camera that films onto tape, but after shopping around I found that they are going the way of the dodo and that airport scanners kind of screw them up. This time I thought I knew what I wanted; digital full HD camera with directional mic mount, 4 hour internal HD, full manual control and timelaps feature.

Turns out not.

My budget is really tight in every possible way, and despite vague the possibility of more work (phone call 3 weeks ago, no word since) before I leave it was not looking good as cameras with external mic jacks start at around $1400. However a suggestion was made by some honest young sales-dude that I look at filming on a Canon 550D SLR photo-camera-madoodad. But those are for JPEGS not .mov's, I thought to myself. Little did I know that an entire episode of House was in fact shot on the same model and that with technology's relentless march cameras were doing everything video cameras can do, only better. Sort of reminded me of iPhones and the failed N-Guage (scroll down). This is turning out to be a very attractive option.

But before I could go out and do something stupid my brother has graciously offered the use of his own rig which, considering his occupation as a cameraman, just goes to show that brotherly love is alive and well.

But it looks so fucking cool.

Feeling more determined than ever I sent out another round of emails, this one to everyman AND his dog. I tried to reword the email to look more honest, less like spam and with a touch of desperation. I am Mbau'nu Gmabini, African Dimplomatic Consort... it begins. I decided to contact games companies and you know what I've discovered? They probably get so much unwanted mail that they've just removed all contact information from their websites. I wrote a letter to the editor of Hyper Magazine (my fav.) asking him how he gets interviews set up when I can't even figure out how to contact games developers. I suppose it really is about who you know. I know a guy at Blizzard, looks like the doco might be a little bias. Just kidding.

Anyway I was all tuckered out from the futility of sending hundreds of emails to spam folders and ready to call it a night when I noticed a little white bar in my inbox. Thinking it was some kind of error I investigated further only to find out it was a punctual (5 minutes after sending) reply from one Mr. Madsen, the master of the ever popular Little Gamers webcomic. He wished me best of luck and agreed to mention my doco on his site. Finally the project might get some exposure to the gaming public (and hopefully other influential games media types, *cough* Penny Arcade *cough* will see it) and then it's just a question of if people really are interested. I have actually started to get no less than three people very interested and they are, at this moment, my heroes.

On a professional note, with only three weeks left I've done some math and realised I can't possibly finish all the work I've started for my Comic Con folio. I love having ideas and starting things but a fully finished piece of art is a difficult thing to nail down. I'll give it my best shot, once I finish FFXIII and my Warhammer subscription runs out it's just me and my tablet (and seeing everyone before I leave, family stuff and organising the trip... buying a new camera, learning to use a SLR and finalising plans, sorting out accommodation and travel routes/costs/dates AAAAAH). I almost feel like if my previous job hadn't collapsed I wouldn't have actually had time to plan this whole thing at all. Blessings in disguise.

Oh I'm also having a going away party at my place on the 3rd July. If you can make it feel free to come!

Continue? Hell yes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Outside the dream world life can be harsh--even cruel, but it is life.

I am making this post because I'm trying to be a thorough documentarian and even documentaries about how awesome gamer culture is need a little drama.

Right now, at 12:10am Tuesday 8th June, I am fucking depressed. I just wrote an email to my fiancee trying to nut out what it is about our relationship that is making me feel reluctant about being engaged and the whole documentary/trip is scaring the shit out of me.

I'm unemployed in a small room, lonely as hell and this whole thing just isn't working. My painting is actually looking pretty sweet but it's hard to find the motivation for more than a few sessions a week (that's terribad). It's like my previous life lies behind me; the family, friends, job, home and my new life is around the corner so I'm just preparing in some isolated limbo. I've spent the better part of the whole weekend playing Final Fantasy XIII.
Since making the website to try and get some attention for the doco and the whole 'stay with gamers' thing I've comepletely failed at getting people to look at the website. Turns out without any money it's actually quite hard.

I wrote to every games news website, no replies.
I submitted a tip to every games news website.
I contacted the writers of popular blogs, no replies.
I managed to become a full member of N4G.com and had a news link to the website posted on the culture page but it was only there for about 3 hours before being bumped off the first page.
My friends suggested posting on gamer forums which I thought was a great idea, because that's where the gamers actually interact. However this turned out to be a fools errand as mods, it seem, frown upon people who join forums to advertise their website, no matter how relevent. If I ever meet a Mod I may just headbutt them, they are the online equivalent of Mall-Security. My doco may end up being about the myth of the gamer community, and the prevalence of assholes on xbox live and online forums =P

It's interesting, if I saw something like this project I would definitely shoot them an email but at the same time, I probably wouldn't actually notice it as I haven't managed to get on any games news website.

I've been out twice to buy a camera and twice had my pro-help bail on me, but tomorrow we will try again. If i stick to my budget on the camera I'll be down to about $2,000 left when I fly out. Hopefully my tax return will kick in sooner than later. My work hasn't called back about the extra weeks or maybe paying some of the thousands still outstanding :/

On a lighter note I've started a robust exercise regime which is giving me much more energy. It's not wise to live such a sedentary life; sleeping in late, gaming, painting, eating pizza and then suddenly fly across the world for 3 months of rough living. Exercise is good people, plus it combats depression effectively.

Maybe I'll write back to that girl who admired my sketches on the bus, connecting with people always cheers me up.

And what do you know someone in San Fran who saw my website has sent me a very enthusiastic email...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I wanna shoooooot something =P

What with working on a tight budget and all there's been no spare gil for Red Dead Redemption. This has left me playing embarrassing amounts of Warhammer Online, like a true gaming addict. I think gaming addiction as an idea is a bit like sex addiction. It's natural to want to do it all the time. Well, at least for guys. Even 'The Sims' bores my fiancee eventually. That's what we call our special time. But when I look at my gaming log and realise I have perhaps spent slightly more time over the past week living a virtual life than my actual life I don't feel shame but rather a sense of accomplishment. Not only in regards to rewards offered by the game for such dedicated investment but also in successfully making, if only for a week, my real life into the dream.

Breaking from this existential switcheroo, I've redoubled efforts in preparation of my trip. It's such a huge thing I'm trying to pull off here the lead time is retarded. Look at this, an extract from correspondence with my friend in LA:

Visa is approved, got my passport and flight itiniary.

Got a sizable backpack and doctors appt. for meds.

Travel insurance check, extra for camera, ipod, second testical.

Drivers License test book, driving lesson pending...

Scrounged together some cash (phew) through parentals and frugal Mee Goreng diet.

Painting Furiously! Progressing gradually.

Cat on windowsill wont stop meowing, tried to wind window closed but cat was getting stuck :/

Continuing to try and advertise website, got two responses! Mods are out to get me.

Paid last month of rent, moving furniture/books/stuff to teh country next weekend.

Beginnign exercise regime to be in some kind of health to travel.

Requested release contracts to shoot at conventions.

Bought 16 cans of Mother.

Going to Yarram again to teach media class.

Got a call from work about doing a few more weeks, I asked to be paid they're gonna get back to me.

Practicing Stand-Up comedy on lengthy night-walks like madman.

Looking at booking wetern rail trip to seattle, should be awesome once i figure out where I'm departing from. gg.

Plans going very well for Vancouver!

Met some Arcade junkies from LA.

Buying camera on tuesday, must stick to budget.

Developing a healthy nervous vibration through entire body.

On top of that I've rediscovered the joys of other games, free ones. If you are thinking PoP Cap not quite, rather League of Legends and *gasp* games I forgot I'd already bought but hadn't had time to play while working.

Being now 27, I managed to avoid DOTA altogether. Only now am I learning that there is this whole rich gaming history being cemented at the moment. I suppose I would describe it as Action/RTS but it's really more than that, by which I mean less. DOTA, and therefore both HoN and LoL are one specific game. If Warcraft 3 was D&D, then DOTA is one single instance from one specific campaign. But like Chess, limiting the objectives and environmental variables place a much higher emphasis on skill and increase the weight of each decision. I guess you'd have to play it to really understand any of this gibberish but fortunately you can. For free...

DOTA was a Warcraft 3 mod, Heroes of Newerth is a standalone product that is effectively an official version of DOTA and League of Legends is like a spinoff with many things adjusted to create a game that is similar in feel but identifiably new. The only difference I'm concerned with is that LoL is free to play. The art style is a little eekish but it definitely gives the game it's own personality (much like Blizzards own IPs) and the game is very fun being much more consistent than DOTA and, to the disgust of hardcore RTSers, much easier to get into. I quickly figured out how to use a charming little hero with a huge gun by stacking attach speed and crit% and have been sticking to her whilst occasionally trying to use the nuking-scarecrow I unlocked the other day. After playing a PvP MMO like WAR for so long it was refreshing to be able to play a complete game in 45 minutes, in which time I became accustomed to my character and my enemies, leveled up, bought gear and ground mobs.

Before I sleep each night I read a little of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time saga. Now that he's passed on I read carefully and with reverence, knowing that with each word I read my resource is slowly being depleted. To offset my consumption I've been flipping open the ol' DS to Puzzle Quest, which is basically Bejwelled but somehow fun. I'm not quite sure if I feel alright playing it for any length of time given my contempt for timewasting flash games but it has a levelling system and you gain abilities and can purchase items so I guess it's okay. Turning Bejewelled into the combat mechanism of an RPG is a stroke of brilliance, I wonder what other simple flash games could serve the same sinister purpose?

Finally, Fantasy XIII. This game actually belongs to the friend I live with, the moral ground here is extremely hazy. I suppose, as an industry wannabe, I object to the resale of games. I certainly object to stores like EBGames reselling games (and purchasing second-hand games). You don't see CD/DVD stores offering you $3 store credit for Iron Man 2 Blue Ray or the latest Miley Cirus album (is that who the kids like now?) and those products are much cheaper to produce, assuming that theatre releases cover the expenses of actual film production. I don't mind people selling old games privately, as I don't mind collectors record stores. But undercutting revenue by publicly reselling new release games seems pretty damn evil to me. Particularly as 100% of the resale is retained by the store. So what about if your friend has a new game and they just finished it so they lend it to you? Or as in my case, a housemate or family member owns the game? Legally that's fine, at least you aren't handing cash over to a middle-man, but I feel strange when I pay full price for one experience only to enjoy another for nothing. Oh well, the game itself has yet to live up to the FF experience although I'll forge on because on PATV they said it actually does pick up at around the 30hour mark.