Tag Archives: games

Haunted House Adventure . . . fixed!

August 24, 2012

No wonder nobody has solved the Haunted House Adventure puzzle lately. Its code was outdated and therefore buggy! I think I’ve fixed the issues, so please visit the haunted house and play. A free book to anyone who finds another 404 error in the game that I can reproduce. My Facebook fan page has an exclusive picture from within.

Trailer for Dr. Ella Mental’s Mad Lab Picture Show

August 2, 2012

Here’s a trailer for a movie I co-wrote, coming to a website near you!

[Feb. 2015: Looks like it’s been taken down. Well, that sucks.]

A New Way of Old Storytelling

May 17, 2012

The Boston Globe recently published an article that should make the publishing industry feel good about itself, “Why Fiction is Good for You.”  Its thesis is that stories act as a kind of societal glue by teaching us to empathize with our fellow man.  If we can recognize a bit of ourselves in our compatriots, then that’s good for society.  Is it any wonder, then, that societies who discourage reading anything other than a religious text might not be such nice places?  There’s nothing wrong with holding scripture near to your heart, but even Jesus said man does not live on bread alone.  (And yes, the moral of this observation is that the world should buy more Matthew Warner novels.)

But the glass is half full for us prose fiction writers who dream of seeing our names on library shelves.  A week after the Globe article, Slate magazine wrote that paper books will pretty much become a thing of the past except for those printed for the collector market or when the physical presentation of the printed book is intrinsic to its content.

There’s more to this story, however, than the conclusion that eBooks are the future.  A couple years ago, I worried on this blog about whether the art of fiction was on the decline and whether prose fiction would become obsolete.  The Globe and Slate articles seem to answer those questions with “no” and “maybe,” respectively.

Which brings us back to the cogent question, at least for a working writer like me: what is the next big thing, and how can I catch the wave?

In my previous blog entries, I concluded that storytelling would become more of an interactive experience on par with the old Choose Your Own Adventure books, and that video games were the answer.  To that list I add another form, the interactive movie.  My friends at Darkstone Entertainment have been experimenting with it in their Spade series, which you can watch for free online.  (Notice the cool website header, in which I flexed my fledgling artistic powers.)  They’re continuing the Choose Your Own format on a new pay-for-view website called Flicksphere.  The movie I helped to write, Dr. Ella Mental’s Mad Lab Picture Show, is scheduled to go up in mid June.

Is the interactive movie the newest incarnation of an old art?  In the spirit of interactivity, why don’t you tell me what you think?

Dr. Ella Mental’s Mad Lab Picture Show

April 12, 2012

Darkstone Entertainment is employing me to write a script for its strange new online show coming this May. Dr. Ella Mental, mad scientist, will host a double feature of Night of the Living Dead and The Satanic Rites of Dracula at Flicksphere.com. The website will allow you, the viewer, to manipulate Ella’s story between movie segments. Will her evil alter ego, Hydie, come on screen? Will she do the next segment in a wet T-shirt? This promises to be a foul, fun romp for horror fans.

See Me Get Blown Away!

February 26, 2011

I’m a gunman who gets gunned down in the latest episode of Spade, Darkstone Entertainment’s choose-your-own-adventure web series. While doing my own stunt of collapsing to the floor, I broke my thumb and lacerated my chin, requiring stitches. My thumbnail is still growing back. (Cool!) I come in on part 2 at 2:30 as the gunman on the left.

2011: Movies, Books, and Fewer Cats

January 2, 2011

Happy new year! (Or is that, “Happy New Year!”) Here’s what’s on tap for 2011:

  1. “The Good Parts” movie will be viewable online as soon as its IMDB title page is set up. IMDB’s subsidiary Withoutabox authorized it for a page a month ago, but there have been the usual technical issues and delays. The movie has also been submitted to a number of film festivals; fingers crossed it’ll get into one of them.
  2. Blood Born is on schedule for a spring release from HW Press. If it’s out by April, I’ll sign copies at RavenCon; if not, then I’ll have it at the Stoker Weekend.
  3. In the meantime, the newest Blood Born trailer can be viewed on Youtube by clicking here. John Johnson and Darkstone Entertainment have exceeded my expectations in production value. The latest trailer benefited from having an actual National Guardsman named Michael Hebron, whose services included technical consultation on the script. Michael and I starred as the soldiers. The last-minute casting of me required me to do a quick shave of my beard. My publisher participated by donating two cars to the traffic jam. The final trailer will premiere Feb. 28.
  4. The “Save the Baby” contest ended New Year’s Eve with only two winners. I guess the free online video game I programmed is too difficult. (But maybe you’ll prove me wrong?) Robert Brouhard and Jamie Wasserman will each receive book freebies.
  5. I’m currently writing short stories for various spec markets. One of my efforts, “Maybe Monitored,” about the dark side of baby monitors, will appear in the last web-only issue of Dark Fiction Spotlight.
  6. And on a personal note (but then, isn’t everything here personal?), our youngest cat, Percy, has gone on to greener pastures. I mean that quite literally; he’s now living on a farm in North Carolina, where he’s the sole mouser. No other cats, no small children like my son to scratch, and nothing but shitloads of rats to eat. It sounds like cat heaven, and I wish him the best.

‘Save the Baby’ BLOOD BORN Contest

September 28, 2010

Beat the Haunted House Adventure online game to win signed books! Contest ends at midnight, New Year’s Eve. Click for more info.

Movies, Movies, Movies . . .

May 11, 2010

A few notes from movie land:

  • The Good Parts is in post-production.  Just watched the rest of the dailies yesterday, and everything looks great so far.  The Augusta Free Press just ran an article about it.
  • I’m now under a tight deadline for an upcoming movie project with Darkstone Entertainment, fleshing out someone else’s concept.  It’s challenging to write in another person’s sandbox.
  • I had a cameo in my friend Alejandro Rosa’s parody trailer for a TV series called Captain Puerto Rico. My role was just to look cool as “Bootsy Tulane as Dr. Chaos” starting at 01:13. [No longer available online.] Alejandro made this for a party in which the theme was to come dressed as a superhero—either a “real” one or one you’ve made up—and to give a presentation about it.  Deena came as this character from Howl’s Moving Castle:
  • I also had a slightly more substantial cameo in episode 7 of John Johnson’s SPADE, again as a villain (of course!).  SPADE is worth following if you were a fan of the old Choose Your Own Adventure books like I was because you get to vote on how the story develops.

Cameo Role in Movie

May 7, 2010

Watch me get killed in Spade, ep. 7, from Darkstone Entertainment. I’m the gun-wielding thug who’s attacked by the three heroes in the old bathroom.

New Fiction Media

February 3, 2010

Okay, okay.  I may have struck a somewhat pessimistic tone in my last entry, what with my “prose fiction is being replaced” and how it “will become obsolete.” Yes, at 36, I’m a grumpy old man.  You ought to hear me bitch over the morning paper.

So, the inevitable question arises, what are the new ways of telling stories, if we’re not going to be reading them as often?  (“Huh, Mr. Smarty Pants?” I hear you saying.  “Riddle me that.”)

Before I list the obvious answers — and describe a recent brush with them — I just want to qualify what I mean by obsolete.  The word has a special connotation to me, coming from my college brush with Marshall McLuhan’s Laws of Media.  McLuhan’s laws are one of the few more cerebral things that stuck with me from my mass communications degree.  It’s a compelling theory that says all human artifacts and media always do four things simultaneously:

  1. They enhance or accelerate some aspect of the human condition.  Often, the invention will literally extend a part of our body.  A chair is basically an extension of our legs, for example.  Another example is a vacuum cleaner, which is an extension of our hands and an enhancement of our ability to save time when cleaning the house.
  2. They retrieve some earlier or obsolete action.  His examples of this are pretty basic and archetypal, so, continuing with the example of the vacuum cleaner, the machine retrieves the ancient primate behavior of grooming.  (Yes, this sounds like academic bullshit, but stay with me.)
  3. When pushed to its extremes, it reverses what it intends to do.  A vacuum cleaner eventually doesn’t save us any time because we come to expect a higher standard of cleanliness and therefore feel compelled to clean more often.  Think of it: in the pioneer days, how many times did the broom-swept house get cleaned?  Compare that to how many times Harriet Homeowner felt compelled to use her new Hoover after she bought it from the door-to-door salesman. (I think this is a good excuse to use the next time I want to get out of cleaning house.  “But honey, McLuhan’s third law of media suggests that . . .”)
  4. It obsolesces, or renders obsolete, another form of technology.  In the vacuum’s case, it obsolesces the broom.

So, this is basically what I’m getting at when I ramble about the medium of prose fiction — that is, the communication of a story solely through the written word.  I think that when the McLuhan of the 26th century looks back on the history of fiction, he’ll have the hindsight to view prose fiction as just one link in a chain of evolving technologies.  He might even apply the four laws to his analysis:

  1. Prose fiction enhances our mental, emotional, and spiritual understanding of life by extending our unconscious mind into the realm of conscious awareness.
  2. It retrieves the act of talking.
  3. It reverses itself in the extreme form by engendering fatigue.  (Yes, I am totally thinking about the glut of ’80s-’90s sitcoms, may they rest in peace.)  I think that prose fiction can reverse its own effects when a bunch of poorly crafted shit floods the market through vehicles such as self-publishing enterprises.
  4. Prose fiction obsolesces the medium of the traveling minstrel.

Now, back to the original question: what new media are obsolescing traditional prose fiction?

One obvious answer might be movies and TV, although it’s easier to see a straight line between the stage play and those two.  Movies and TV replacing prose fiction?  Iffy.  Movies and TV replacing the traditional stage play?  That I can see.  (Notice that “obsolete” doesn’t necessarily mean that the former medium dies out.  Stage plays are still pretty popular, particularly in my area.  But when you compare the number of theater-goers today to the number of movie and TV watchers, the newer technology clearly has a bigger market share.)  So I’m not sure that movies and TV are the logical successors to prose fiction.

What is?  Interactive fiction.

You know, it’s a shame that the Choose Your Own Adventure books I loved as a kid aren’t filling up every book shelf today.  They’re more collector’s items than anything.  They’re wonderful books.  You read a few pages in which you are the protagonist, and then you’re presented with a choice: turn to page 10 if you go through door #1, page 15 if you go through door #2.  And then, on whatever branch of the story you follow, in time you’re presented with another menu of choices.  I’m not sure why this form of fiction is so hard to come by now; maybe it’s because it was usually written in the second-person “you” point of view, which is about as annoying as an unlubricated catheter.

The 21st century answer to interactive fiction is, yes, the video game.  And I’m not talking about the stupid “pew! pew! pew!” arcade games on the Atari 2600 that I played as a kid.  I’m talking about intelligent, immersive, juggernauts like the Assassin’s Creed and Bioshock series.  It’s telling that the video game industry not only didn’t suffer during the recession but grew its market share.  Sure, some games are written better than others, but there are very few books of prose fiction that can keep one’s attention hooked for as many hours as one of these games can.  Hell, why spend $60 for a collector’s edition of a book, for maybe 10 hours worth of reading (if you read slowly) when the same amount of money will buy you 10 times as many hours?

Yes, I believe I’m just a little bit jealous of Richard Dansky and Lucien Soulban for the profession they’re in.

I’m not saying that I’m giving up on writing prose fiction.  Hell, no.  I’m still writing books and short stories and even stage plays.  (Remember what I said above about stage plays still sharing space with movies and TV?)  But I am saying that I now recognize, more than ever, that I occupy just one satellite in the solar system of storytelling — and unfortunately, I’m not on the hottest planet.

It probably doesn’t surprise you to learn, then, that I recently wrote and programmed my very own video game.  I didn’t do it in order to break into the world of video game designers (although that would be nice) but really just to amuse myself.  As I wrote about in my final Horror World column a few months ago, it’s vitally important to amuse oneself when writing, otherwise there’s little joy in it.  I used the skills at my disposal — PHP and Javascript — to make a simple puzzle game where you as the protagonist have to explore a haunted house to save your abducted baby. It’s online here on my website, and you can play it for free.

It was a lot of fun to take pictures of the stuff around my house and to weave them together into a story, and it marked the second or third time now that my son has been the unwitting star of one of my projects.  I also learned a few lessons that I’ll be sure to apply if I ever attempt something like it again.  Those lessons mainly have to do with how damn hard it is to: (1) anticipate and plan for every possible move that a game player might take, and (2) program a logical method of navigating through a game level.  For #2, I settled on a “movement” palette of arrows, which I now realize was a mistake because it can potentially disorient the game player.  I think the things I did well were the ability to collect items from around the house and also the inclusion of a health meter, through which the player can die.  It’s not a perfect game — Flash probably would have been a better programming choice, but I know diddly squat about Flash — and players who know a little bit about website construction could figure out ways to cheat.  But I wasn’t trying to program a foolproof game, just something for people to enjoy in their spare time.

Anyway, that’s enough of a plug for the game.  Go play it so I’ll shut up.

Back to my point about the evolution of story telling, and that is: things are changing, and it’s not all bad.  I believe that interactive fiction — gaming — is the successor.  There are other notable experiments, such as the previously mentioned Choose Your Own Adventure and prose-movie hybrids such as Jude Deveraux’s “vook” titled Promises.  It will be interesting to see what other new forms arise.  There are probably others out there I don’t know about; if you can think of any, let me know.