Archive for the 'geekery' Category

The Storium Kickstarter Is Live

For the past year or so, I’ve been working with Protagonist Labs to build the beginnings of a new online storytelling game called Storium.

With Storium, players devise stories and explore fictional worlds through those stories. It’s part story game and part writing game, fused together with lessons learned from asynchronous multiplayer, board games, roleplaying games, play-by-post games, online RP and fan-fic writing, built into a new web-based experience. It’s imaginative play in a new context.

Today, Protagonist launched the Storium funding campaign on Kickstarter!

We’ve gathered phenomenal writers and designers to help us build myriad worlds for players to explore and expand through play. To pay those creators and fund their worlds, Protagonist has looked to Kickstarter. So, after a year of working without pay on the project, Protagonist is opening up our beta phase to Kickstarter backers and seeking support to fuel development in exciting new directions.

We hope people will connect and play through Storium for years to come. The project aims to expand to reflect and support a new culture of play with a site that’s not just fun but fulfilling. This is the start of something.

Man of Steel in Motion

Spoilers follow.

At first, I dug around some of my favorite sites for writing about movies, looking for examples of the critics writing about what doesn’t work in Man of Steel. By now, though, you’ve probably heard, read, or thought all those things, too. Simply put, the mayhem and destruction in the film may be too much. Superman’s actions either cause or allow too much damage to be wrought on the people of Kansas and Metropolis, many have said, and I agree with that. The climactic action of Man of Steel is too costly in human life even for a mythic yet novice Superman.

(That director Zack Snyder wanted it that way is telling. It’s a choice, and a choice he’s allowed to make as the painter of a Superman story, but it doesn’t work for me.)

That ending doesn’t undo everything I liked about the movie, however, and I liked rather a lot of it. The whole first hour of the film crafts bold, beautiful worlds on Krypton and Earth. It is earnest to the point of being pulpy, even cheesy, and I am fine with that. My favorite parts of this movie are when Superman talks with humans, including that final scene in the Daily Planet offices.

This incarnation of General Zod may be my favorite version of the character. He’s crazed from the get-go, dangerous and devoted and fanatical to his cause. His trajectory through the picture is the real propulsive force and the reason why the movie is so hyperactively violent. Thanks to Michael Shannon, especially, I felt like this was his picture — scary and bombastic because of his villainy.

That’s sort of a shame for what amounts to our reintroduction to Superman, I think. I think Henry Cavill is a terrific Superman. At once modest and powerful, doubting but driven, his relationships with his human and alien fathers is well handled by the actors of Clark. I’m eager to see another Cavill performance in the cape.

And that’s the best thing about Man of Steel for me. This is a deeply cinematic vision for the character and his world, building on stuff we already know about Superman and remixing it in ways to give the stories the right pace and style for the movies. I love that Lois Lane won’t spend the franchise trying to figure out who Superman is — we’re only likely to get a handful of stories with these characters before another reboot, so some of the tales that worked in the serialized comics won’t play as well here. I’m excited to see the Clark/Lois dynamic in the next film, thanks to this one.

Above all, though, the Kryptonian action of this movie — from Jor-El to Zod’s cadre to Kal-El — is all about motion. We get some strong visual portraits of Superman that would work in the comics, like that shot of him in the custody of soldiers, his hands bound. But we also get moments that work best in motion, like the casual breaking of those handcuffs and the use of Superman’s cape throughout. The shifting snow and pebbles before he takes flight might not play on the page like they do in the theater. That’s good stuff.

This movie doesn’t feel like it’s meant to be the core depiction of the character. This story plays with what we know and expect, fitting into the larger mythology of Superman in a way that I think is right for a reboot in an age when comics and movies and television are all interacting with each other in new ways. This isn’t a definitive Superman, this is a distinctly theatrical vision.

Here, moving images reign. The comics’ tableaus and heroically statuesque visuals rule a different realm. Let each form do what it does best.

For me, the cinematic Steve Rogers of Chris Evans and Marvel Studios is still my preferred superheroic do-gooder (and I’m very excited to see Captain America develop further on screen in The Winter Solider), but I have room in my roster for this new Superman, too. Here’s hoping the next movie adventure of the Man of Steel learns a lot from this first one, though.

Addenda:

Hans Zimmer’s score worked so well in the movie, for me, that I went and bought it right after. Alas, it doesn’t work outside the film as well, for me, but some of its key motifs remain really powerful.

I dug the amount of sci-fi flavor in this film (though I’d like to see this Superman foil a bank robbery, too). This galaxy makes me a little afraid of what might come to threaten Earth next, which makes me feel like Superman’s role as our world’s galactic protector is nicely underlined.

Someday maybe I’ll get to pitch my sci-fi vision for a futuristic Superman miniseries or story. I have just one good Superman story I’d like to tell.

Denial is the Supermeh

Look at me, at my blog, at my life and work and self-identity, and it may surprise you to learn that I feel like a fake geek. It’s because I have something to hide. I liked Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — I almost certainly liked it more than many geeks or nerds will say they did — and you know what? Fuck you for making me feel bad about it.

This isn’t about seriously disavowing serious topics for serious reasons. This about denying the existence of sequels you didn’t like. This is about the ultimate dismissal of an artist’s work because you don’t want to process it. Vanity. Pretend a food doesn’t exist because you’re allergic — not because you don’t like it or don’t know how to chew it.

This is like saying “meh” on a grand scale. John Hodgman described meh as “the essence of blinkered Internet malcontentism. And a rejection of joy.” As Hodgman put it, “It’s part of the toxic Internet art of constant callous one upsmanship.”

Denial is the supermeh.

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Hear Me On The Misdirected Mark

Did you hear? My voice and opinions appear on this episode of the Misdirected Mark podcast, where I talk about games, stories, Storium, Project: Dark, and what it’s like to game with Kenneth Hite. I had a great time recording this interview and I hope you enjoy hearing it.

In related news, we’re experimenting with a new design for Gameplaywright’s website for this year. What do you think?

This week I’m also guest blogging at Wil Wheaton dot Net, alongside stellar talents, so be sure to see what turns up over there, yeah?

As we enter the final week of Dark’s Kickstarter campaign, my nerves are fluttering and my excitement level is high. This has been a remarkable month and it’s changed my whole year. Thank you all.

Onward.

You Can Hear Me Play Dark Planet on the Air

It was sometime after six o’clock in the evening, I’d just eaten my first meal of the day, and as I sat down at the mic to record a sample session of my new tabletop roleplaying game … I forgot everything I prepared.

This was Saturday night. I had just come from another demo that afternoon. I settled into a home studio to record a play session of my new game, Dark, for James D’Amato’s podcast, called One Shot (also available on iTunes) after he graciously invited me on the show. I offered James any of the game’s three settings to play in and he chose the grim and desperate retro-future setting called Dark Planet. You can hear how it went down on the show. (Please pardon my incessant “ah” and “uh” sounds.)

Perhaps obviously, I let the game drag here and there when I should’ve been ratcheting up the tension and keeping things lean and tense. We had a good time actually playing but I can do better when it comes to making an adventure for a listening audience. Too often, I think, I let the tension break. I wish I’d been more vivid, more detailed and tactile in my descriptions, too. So much of Dark is about the character’s movement through the environment and I could’ve dialed that up more.

You know what bit I really liked, though, was the bead of blood running down the cables. That connects the characters and the environment. I like those moments.

The players did a great job of finding their characters — and their own unique styles — really quickly. The clashes we felt between the characters struck me as natural and organically emerging from their own outlooks. And everyone engaged the game world in really exciting ways, which is fun to see.

I’d love to try something like this again when I’m operating at full capacity.

Have you heard the show? What did you think? I’d love to get your input or questions on it.

 

 

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