Monday, 28 July 2008

In a previous life I was...

...a mashup artist.

So here's a link to my critically acclaimed* mashup album, Demon Says...A Mashup Album.

A little bit of background on the album, all done in an attractive, bullet point style:
  • > I made it for a 20 credit point unit at Uni (It was half of a semesters load worth of study)
  • > It was made in around 4 months
  • > It is a thematic song-by-song remixing/reworking/mashing-up of the entire Gorillaz album 'Demon Days' (hence Demon Says... Geddit? like Simon Says... okay you're right it wasn't all that clever but it stuck.)
  • > It features other such prominent artists such as: Coldplay, Fergie, Will Smith, Radiohead, Rhianna, Lady Sovereign, Justin Timberlake and plenty of other unwitting victims.
  • > It got me a distinction. Nuff said surely.
  • > Oh yeah, it's free cause if I tried to make money from it I'd be hunted down and killed.
  • > Please try and listen to the whole album - there's supposed to be a thematic continuity and I think some of that idea survived the process. The ending songs do get a bit weird, but I like weird, and so do you - go on, admit it.
  • > Some song titles are appropriaely nerdy (e.g. the final tracks' title 'Exits are north south, east and Dennis'. If you don't get it, I'm not explaining it to you)
  • > I really enjoyed making it, and some of it remains some of my best work. I hope you like at least some of it too.

Go nuts people, but don't tell the authorities on me, K?

*by critically acclaimed I mean that I, speaking critically, am full of accolades for it.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Of Indie Games and Children

A few weeks back I was babysitting a family of four kids all under the age of 11 for the whole day, 9-5. It was fun, as they're all great kids and all I've gotta do to keep them entertained for a while is put on a Star Wars DVD and let em go nuts with the movie. By go nuts I mean be incredibly absorbed for multiple hours.

Anyway, as the day dragged on and they got progressively less interested in the movie (I think we were up to episode 6 by then) I decided to show them a couple of cool things on the PC. They showed me a few fun mini clip games that they enjoyed, and it got me thinking about sharing a few of the Indie games I was rather into at the time with the kids. I downloaded the cult classic Death Worm (which I've mentioned before in my 10 indie games to be playing while not working on your thesis post) and prepped the kiddies on how to gobble up lions and elephants and people like a good Death Worm should.

They got stuck into it like professional gamers. They loved it, and I quickly downloaded the two player version of the game, which delighted them even more, as there are 4 of them and in their family there's always someone wanting to do whatever another one is. Two players means one less person to be left out. Coincidentally, they were actually better at the game than me I'm mildly ashamed to say. It seems to me that kids are getting better and better at games, and at younger and younger ages too. I've got no chance these days.

Anyway, their parents get home about an hour or so later and I suddenly realised that... well... maybe Death Worm was a little bit of a mature game to be letting a bunch of (remember max age) 11 year olds play. Worries aside, their parents are super-cool and were totally fine with them playing it (I wish my parents were that understanding!) and that was that. Did I mention how awesome I think their parents are yet - both generally and specifically about games? Oh I did. Oh well, can't really stress it enough.

But it got me thinking... there are Indie games out there, for instance Randy Balma: Municipal Abortionist, which while not explicitly depicting abortion, at least hints at the act and is quite a mature kind of experience. Oh, and by the way, it's not at all rated by any classification system, because it's free to download. As far as I know, no idie game that is free to download comes with any kind of classification, offical or not!

I know, I know, Caveat Emptor and all that goes without saying on Teh Intertubes, but it's a bit of an interesting situation we're in whereby politicians are shouting left right and centre "WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF TEH CHILDREN!!!" whenever any game aimed at a mature audience comes out (For a recent local Australian TRAVESTY of an incident, see this video in which an audience member asks a panel of politicians and journo's why Australia can't have an R18+ classification for videogames and in which Fallout 3 is described as being 'all about killing people'. Incidentally what I want to know is why the FRAK did the question asker, apparently a writer for an Aussie online gaming portal, answered 'basically, yes' to that description... GAH!). Additionally, these same politicians are choosing to ignore current information, statistics even, that says the average Australian gamer is aged 28, and that there are games being made without classification being targeted at this same age bracket (indeed like Randy Balma and Death Worm).

So anyway, the lesson to be learned this is;
Don't forget when showing friends your Indie games to think about age appropriateness, because chances are if you're like me, you've probably never even given it a second (or first!) thought before.

Or maybe you have and I'm an idiot for giving Death Worm to a bunch of tiddlewinks. Either or.

Friday, 11 July 2008

The attraction to collaboration

I haven't posted in a while, mostly because I'm on holidays and I'm lazy, but also because I've been playing lots of Oblivion on PC. I bought a new graphics card last week (a Gigabyte 8800GT 512mb) which is awesome and makes PC games fun again. Hooray for generous tax returns to poor students! Anyway, what I wanted to quickly mention was something entirely unrelated. I've been thinking about it for a while and I just wanted to jot down some thoughts about it and ask the audience.

Collaboration. From Miriam-Webster online:
1 : to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor
: to cooperate with or willingly assist an enemy of one's country and especially an occupying force
: to cooperate with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected

Yes, that's the sound of this post heading in a completely unexpected direction. Collaboration is everywhere. It's in Music (any band who ever played together), it's in Writing (any writer and their editor/s), its in Videogames (in any multi-person development or mod team) and it can be in blogging (like RPS, etc).

I'm bored of doing stuff by myself - for starters, its never as good as when I work with someone else as what always seems happen is we end up inspiring each other and produce something better as a result. In my second year at Uni we had a subject called Collaborative Project in which we formed inter-disciplinary groups of artists from music, drama, electronic arts and fine arts to put on a short 20 minute work at the end of the semester. The groups were as big as 15-20 people, and easily became unwieldy, with decision making being done mostly on a basis of whoever actually bothered to turn up to the class (which was about 5-10 of us regularly =P). Anyway, it was a great time and one of the best things about such a large group was that you could do something very specialised within the group. My contribution, other than often helping facilitate discussions, was a piece of musical improvisation that used live digital signal processing to make lovely ethereal sounds.

A screenshot of my Max/MSP patcher - a visual programming environment made for digital signal processing, and my first musical love. The bottom box was used to 'draw' a spectral filter that was applied to white noise, resulting in some awesome sounds.

I've uploaded a short sample of a very early version of what it sounded like, just for fun, here. (1.9mb, 4:10) The final performance was... OK - and our supervisory lecturer really enjoyed it, so we obviously did something right. Good marks too.

The point that I wanted to to get to was that I want to collaborate more. The Internet is possibly the most powerful communication enhancing tool out there and can facilitate some great works... so where are they all? Have you got a great idea you want to collaborate on? A Mod idea? A musical work you want to do? Something you want to write about that you want input from others on? If so, tell me about it! Collaborate with me, people! I want to give you my time!

So in conclusion, consider this an official invitation to sequester me for all sorts of strange collaborations. Got an idea, drop it in the comments or send me an email and we'll talk! I'd love to hear from anyone and everyone, and I'd also love to hear your success/horror stories of collaborations. If they've turned you off them, why? They can be ever so much fun.