Nov 3, 2010

News Formatting and Style

I am having a hell of a news day. Google Docs, which has been my darling for the past two years, switched their editor.  Unfortunately, most of the key features I use to news editing are now throwing script errors.  I am disgruntled.

Anyway, I thought I would share this, for educational purposes – or maybe so you can correct my style!

This is an example file, showing what I send my manager in email once I’ve edited a news story – down to the filetype.   It also includes some style advice.

DOWNLOAD

Fun fact: I also use this format to write fake news for ARGs.

Oct 17, 2010

Dallas Makerspace’s TEDxSMU Installation

Back in July, four people from the Dallas Makerspace, including yours truly, started out to build a virtual paint system with a hidden message about resource scarcity for TEDxSMU.  I am home and at rest for the first time in days, and now I can safely say, we did it.

Here are the first few videos of the project, shot our creative lead, Alan Hatchett…

It took about 16 of us to turn the idea into a physical experience. Most of us were amateur tinkerers, but we adapted to the project’s needs by doing research, design, and pushing ourselves to learn new skills. I’m happy to say the result, while not without its technical hiccups, was intuitive and looked great.

The giant paint brushes were my babies. Along with an electrical engineer, a hard coat expert and a small gaggle of volunteers, I made five of these.  The tips apply virtual paint when brushed across the canvas, and painting with them requires you to accept that you are dwarfed by your tool.  Before long, painting becomes less like a struggle, and more like a dance.

More photos coming, after I sleep.

Sep 27, 2010

My Sketchbook Project Project Sketchbook

Today, I got something very exciting in the mail!

It’s my sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project!

Since I can’t draw, I am going to use this as an opportunity to do some heavy transmedia prototyping/experimentation.  I have been outlining away, and by January 15, I hope to have a complete 80-page story leading to offsite elements and hopefully a little interaction.  This is my NaNoWriMo, only instead of writing a novel in a month, I’ll be making a transmedia experience in (slightly more than) a month.

The cool thing about doing this with the Sketchbook Project is, anyone will be able to see the original central game artifact by catching the Sketchbook Project tour next year, or visiting the Brooklyn Art Museum.  How neat is that?

My theme for the exhibit is “Science project gone wrong”, and the story I’m cooking up involves a mad scientist, a cadre of con men, and a Dymo Typewriter M10 label maker.

As far as the writing goes, I know this isn’t going to be Cathy’s Book, but it won’t exactly be a first draft, either.  I’ve built segments of improvisation into the story, so it will hopefully come across as a piece of natural expression – like, you know…a sketchbook.

If I finish it in time, and it doesn’t suck, I’ll be scanning it in so those who can’t make it to Brooklyn can get a copy.

Sep 19, 2010

ZOMG Vampires!

Ok, I love Regretsy.  They found this most supreme example of internet magick quackery on eBay.

It’s a vampire transformation spell.  For turning you (or a loved one, I suppose) into a vampire.  The whole thing is worth reading, but I loved loved loved this bit in particular:

“LET ME SAY THOUGH THAT IF YOU FIND SOME EBAY VAMPIRE SPELLS OUT THERE FOR LIKE $20,$50,$80, WHATEVER, THEN I ASSURE YOU THAT THEY ARE SCAMMERS.  ALWAYS IF YOUR SEARCHING FOR A SPELL AND SEE THE SPELL YOU FIND AND ITS PRICED KIND OF HIGH THEN IT IS MOST LIKELY LEGIT.”

And that’s when I realized, the cheapest spell on Rule of Three is only $50!  I look like a scammer!

So I did what any self-respecting, legitimate magickal businessperson would do.  I added a zero to all of the prices on the site.  I want to make sure that all our customers know that Rule of Three is a high quality source for only the finest, most potent quackery available.

Namaste, bitches!

Sep 16, 2010

Software Freedom Day

The Dallas Makerspace is hosting Software Freedom Day for Dallas this Saturday, September 18.  We’ll be guiding people through Linux installs, giving talks on open source topics, and giving away sweet OSS swag.  The event is open to the public, and, of course, free.

I’ll be giving a talk there about Open Source models and tools for artists.  It’s a topic I could discuss for hours, but I will try to be brief.  Feel free to tackle me and ask any questions after, too.

You’ll also get to check out your local Dallas hackerspace, and talk with some of the members.  We’ve just moved into our new space, and we’re already doing some cool projects, including a big art installation for TEDxSMU.

Event starts at 1:00 p.m.; I’ll be talking at 3:30.  Be there!  Be square!  This page has all the details.

Sep 2, 2010

Main Characters in ARGs

Hi, all.  I guess this will be my first real post on this blog, and I have to admit – it’s a little weird, knowing that some of you out there might actually be listening.

I was lucky enough to sit in on a recording of CH’s Transmedia Talk podcast tonight, even though I’m not on it this week.  Somewhere in the middle of the conversation, I realized something.  It seems like transmedia writers have decided that every game needs to have a central character who is relatively normal, even if the story being told is fantastical.

In books and movies, this choice makes sense.  We need Harry Potter to be raised by muggles.  If he were raised by wizards, explaining magic would get very clunky and exposition-heavy.  We might even lose our sense of narrative expectancy altogether in that hypothetical story, since we could only guess what Harry knows that we don’t.

A linear story is a ride: we grab onto a character likely to take the paths we can follow without falling off, and we hold on tight.  But it kind of ruins the idea of an invisible avatar, doesn’t it?

In alternate reality games, at least in theory, the player is his or her own avatar, and the experience is theirs.  The players are thousands of Dantes, looking for a Virgil.  Creating another Dante seems a little redundant.

I’ve seen so many indie pitches begin with a graphic designer’s blog.  Beginning with a “normal” character seems like an obvious choice, but in the end, you have created another unremarkable site with (maybe) compelling content.  Is there any reason you can’t present the audience with a remarkable character from the get-go?

Let’s look at John Titor for a second.  John Titor was a character who appeared on bulletin boards around the year 2000, claiming to be a time traveler.  Titor was essentially an ARG character without an ARG to attach to.  He interacted with others the same way one of our characters might, answering questions, issuing warnings, distributing artifacts of his story in the form of photos and designs.

It was something more akin to a extemporaneous writing exercise than a game, but the character has become so popular and well known that more than one person has interrupted one of my explanations of alternate reality gaming to say, “Oh – like John Titor!”

Let’s also look at The Jejune Institute, whose main characters, while not entirely alien, at least profess and promise outrageous things.  This experience has been described as tapping into the root of the ARG experience – and yet it has no easily accessible guide; no Dante.  It’s Virgils all the way down.

The truth is, Virgils are a lot more interesting than Dantes, because they have seen things you have not.  They can teach, forewarn, and direct, or they can entice,  threaten and betray.  Your fate as a player is in their hands, and that is a thrilling experience.

This is a concept I have been dwelling on recently as I pace and wait to hear back on my grant application, wondering how I can make my game idea better.  I think excellent writing will be the key.

Aug 31, 2010

Well, hello there

This is my new blog, to go with my new portfolio, toenolla.com.  If you have no idea who I am, perhaps clicking that link will help.

In short, I’m an artist, an Alternate Reality Game maker, a journalist, a hacker, and an enthusiast about pretty much anything that can be assembled, analyzed, sung, mimicked, or played – with an instrument, a computer, or just with your brain.

The story so far?  I also recently launched Sew By Numbers, a project to create the printable fabric equivalent of papercraft.

I’m also working on a commissioned piece right now for TEDxSMU with a bunch of others from the Dallas Makerspace.  We’re building a giant digital canvas you can paint on with giant paint brushes.  Two canvases will share one common pool of color, making the whole thing an exercise in managing limited resources.

I just finished a grant proposal for a game I want to make called TurnAbout.  It will be the world’s first vending machine ARG, if the people at Aol Artists are nice enough to fund it.

I’m making a pair of subspace suitcases for the Desert Bus for Hope‘s annual craftalong.  All the proceeds are going to Childs Play, which provides toys and games for childrens’ hospitals.  The first one is mostly done, and it looks awesome.

I’m also to blame for the current segment of Search For New Lifeforms‘s antics.  I wrote about a month’s worth of script for the comic, which is currently being drawn, page by page, by the uncurtailable Johno Kantz.

I recently went to Comic Con for Culture Hacker, where I completely missed the launch of the Dexter ARG thanks to a member of the Dexter street team.  I’ll uh…I’ll explain later.

Oh, but while I was there I totally sold a tiny robot to Kaja Foglio, and I met Henry Jenkins!  Geek out!

Oh yeah, me and Michelle also ran a workshop at ARGFest, about creating game artifacts.  A whole contingent of awesome people attended, and created an entire tangible puzzle trail on the fly.

So that’s me.  Comics full of skull jokes, tiny robots, vending machines, magic bags, etc.  Any questions?