Creativity is just connecting things.
— Steve Jobs

Tag Archives: game

My Superhero Is Dead

God how I loved Evel Knievel. As a young boy I initially thought he was fictional. Later on I realized he was a real guy who was on the fast track to superhero-dom. I had the jumping toy, watched him on TV, and just felt so inspired by his insanely stupid yet important heroic deeds. Recently I watched a cable biography of the man and realized what a bastard he was in his real life. Nevertheless, I still revere his acts of courage as pure greatness. Even though he failed several times attempting fantastic stunts, his will to get up and try it was staggering. He looked death in the eye over and over during statistically impossible long life and always ended up saying I’ll be back. What a sad thing. I watched some of his jumps on YouTube and cringed after every one. You would think that after his injuries he’d just say forget it I can’t take anymore but instead he would pray every night and ask God for the chance to try again. To stand alone. To do what made himself feel alive.

Sometimes when my mind wanders, I play this game where I imagine that for 1 day, no harm could come to me no matter what I did. I would try to think of the wildest stuff I could do knowing I’d feel no pain and just get up and walk around again. Jumping off buildings, driving off cliffs, standing in front of moving trains, etc. My body would get thrown all over the place but I’d just stand up and find something else to do. I imagine that’s similar to Evel Knievel. To me, thinking those thoughts is simply a creative exercise. Learning to keep my mind open to any thought and exploring my imagination. I think Evel helped give me that. I use it every day with my work and in that setting, I try my best to have no fear. Any idea can work. It just takes someone willing to dream and stand behind it.

Hail To The Victors!

So I came home from work yesterday and my wife tells me that her new friend has a nephew who is in the hospital. I asked why. She said because he was hit by a F-350 after the Michigan/Penn State game in Ann Arbor. And he wasn’t alone. He was with 4 other U of M students and they too were all hit by this truck. Two died. One more is expected to die as well. The nephew has many broken bones and his skull was cracked open. He will require countless hours of physical therapy. I can’t say what the last person’s status is but I think it’s pretty horrible. The truck hasn’t been identified but the police could specify the vehicle type because of the paint it left on another vehicle it smashed into on its way out. The driver hasn’t been found. The police don’t know where the vehicle is from.

And this is all because someone wanted to beat the traffic out of the stadium. The sick thing is that these kids weren’t attending the game. They were leaving their apartment after watching it and wanted to go out somewhere afterward. They weren’t drunk. They weren’t instigating anything.

To top this off, the police officer told my wife’s friend that approximately 12 people are killed after each Michigan football game due to drunk driving but the school keeps it hush hush because that would kinda put a damper on all the illegal drinking going on in the parking lots on campus and possibly lower attendance. Sorry but I think if anyone finds their lives to be so shitty that they have to sit in a fucking parking lot and drink until they can’t drive your car all in the name of “school” and “sport” I’m not impressed.

Music Notes

I just read an interesting recap of Prince’s career on the New York Times and it got me thinking about some musicians that have come into my view lately: Prince, Billy Corgan, and Buckethead.

They each have their own way of promoting their music in the digital age where everything can be copied and redistributed in a heartbeat.

Prince is by far, the most progressive digital marketer in the music industry. Forget about Steve Jobs. He created the idea of getting music to the masses via the internet without regard for piracy. In fact, he probably encouraged it because at the end of the day, his name was bigger and he was in demand.

Billy Corgan, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. He did have an interesting blog for a while but stopped updating it. It’s too bad because I found his writing to be quite interesting. It mostly recanted old Smashing Pumpkins stories and how they made it big, which is always cool to read since for me, SP just appeared out of nowhere with Gish on MTV.

Recently I blogged about the news that SP was reforming and releasing new music…in a way that flies in the face of Prince’s concepts. He created a distribution deal that was split between four major music retailers. Each retailer would only be able to sell 1 version of the new record. The difference being that each CD had 1 song that was different from the other 3 versions. Talk about bleeding your fans dry.

Then there’s Buckethead. Say what you want about the guy’s name and persona but you can’t argue with his talent and ability to get the word out. Here is a lone guitarist who usually records on independent labels yet has come up with some really interesting ways to promote himself and his music. The most recent example of his ingenuity is his simultaneous release of 13 CDs. (I have heard them, so I’m speaking from experience here.) Buckethead knows that aside from his unparalleled musical ability, his mysterious persona is a major draw. Keeping his mysterious persona in mind, the 13 CD set sounds more like you are getting access to multiple private recording sessions where he plays everything and anything just for you. There is no distracting audience noise or cheering, no overproduced tracks with 5 other musicians (can you say the new GnR?). You can easily picture just him sitting in a studio, pressing the record button, and wailing for hours, hence the CD set title “In Search Of The”. There truly are some really incredible bits in there. He’s not trying to create 3 minute hooky songs for radio. He’s letting you into the studio and hearing bits and pieces of future songs while he’s working on them.

Anyway, the truly unique aspect of this CD set is that he is personally autographing and drawing little things on each and every CD. The response to this idea has been so huge that they’re on backorder and it’s tough for he and Travis Dickerson to get them burned and out the door.

Back to the point of this post. What differs Buckethead from Prince and Billy Corgan is his use of the internet. His website is quite crude, which is odd considering that he’s been an underground music star for about 10 years now. What is most interesting about the site is the total lack of an online store. You cannot purchase music on the site, period. He only links out a handful of sites where you can get his music…typically the recording studio where he recorded the album.

What Buckethead does do is use the power of social media like YouTube. Ok, it can be debated that he “uses it” or doesn’t have time to shut people down, but either way, the popular video site is the perfect showcase for his work. Fans from all over the world post not only videos of him playing live but also their feeble attempts to recreate his musical magic on the guitar. For a musician whose “act” relies on a visual image, online video is the best thing to happen to his career. Regardless of his official stance on the site, when an artist has a bootlegged video of one song that has over 700k views, a guitar lesson with over 588k views, and another with over 442k views, he MUST be happy with those numbers. And those are just the top 3 videos. There are many more with 200k views per video.

Finally, another huge win for Buckethead was his inclusion on the super popular game Guitar Hero 2. His incredible playing and persona was the perfect fit for the game and I’m sure has introduced him and his music to millions of music lovers around the world. My guess is that the next tour he puts on will be sold out in every single venue across the U.S.

So, in the age where it seems the mainstream media proclaims that the music industry is imploding, iTunes is killing P2P sharing, individual artists are taking quite different roads to marketing themselves and sell their music.

Blood Free Pixels

Below is an excerpt from a Wired article about Joesph DeLappe, an art professor at the University of Nevada who is engaged in what he calls online gaming intervention. Every day he logs into the U.S. Army’s official online game (America’s Army) and broadcasts names of actual soldiers who have died in Iraq.

“By bringing these names into that context it’s not only a way of remembering, it’s bringing a reality into the fantasy.”

But America’s Army already has a toehold in the real world. Billed as the “official U.S. Army game,” it doubles as a tool for Army recruiters. To a reported 6 million registered users, leveling up means getting into the game’s version of Green Berets, and qualifying for “multiplayer missions with units ranging from the elite 82nd Airborne Division to the 75th Ranger Regiment.” The training for these virtual missions mirrors the training for real-world military operations.

So how does an online memorial-cum-protest fit into this public gaming space? According to Paul Boyce, a U.S. Army public affairs specialist, “The Army does not limit participation unless there is negative impact on other players’ experiences.”

——

What’s interests me are the in-game chat responses he’s getting:

“dead_in_iraq…u aren’t encouraging me to join the services”

“are those real people??”

“we all know alot of guys who did”

What frightens me is the game’s rating. It’s so low that 13 year old kids can play it because of the omission of gore. There’s barely any blood or carnage:

“Thanks to a low-gore factor, however, those other players could be as young as 13. America’s Army has a Teen rating, which the Entertainment Software Rating Board says can include violence, “crude humor, minimal blood … and/or infrequent use of strong language.”

To DeLappe America’s Army is more than just a game. “This game exists as a metaphor, not wanting us to see the carnage, the coffins coming home. It’s been sanitized for us.” DeLappe said, “It’s to entice young people to possibly go into a situation that would be almost the complete opposite, completely terrifying.”