The Speakeasy and Audience Consent

On Friday September 30th 2016, I attended a preview performance of The Boxcar Theatre’s The Speakeasy, an immersive theatre performance at the production scale rivaling that of Sleep No More in New York City.

Marketing photo from Boxcar Productions.

There are a number of aspects of this show that were going right. The cast are all extremely talented delights who really show the depth of their abilities as performers. The content itself has very challenging questions posed both in content and to the art form. Sadly, the piece obfuscates all of that with significant consent issues.

I have serious issues with the safety and comfort of the audience of this show. As a professional house manager and immersive experience artist, there are conditions and policies that concern me. Conditions which, at best, prevent audiences from enjoying the piece. At worst, can cause emotional, if not physical harm. It comes down to providing constant and continuous consent throughout the performance. An audience that is well informed of what’s expected and how to opt-out of the space temporarily, if needed.

My concerns can be solved by the following:

  • Clearly identified, accessible non-performing ushers in every room;
  • Clearly identified, accessible non-performance audience lobby;
  • An organized front-of-house experience.

I’m deeply concerned this production will leave a horrible experience to people who haven’t experienced immersive theatre. After my experience, I wouldn’t blame someone to cast off the art form completely. I’d rather not make a habit of saying other productions could improve respecting an audience. I want Boxcar Theatre to respect their audiences now.

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Buy This: To The Moon

It’s rare that a title effects me so much as an artist. “To The Moon” by Freebird Games is such title.

The story is about a dying man who’s last wish is to visit the moon. Two doctors are commissioned to make this wish a reality by using a technology that supplants a second lifetime to the patient, giving them a second chance to make the dream a memory before they pass on.

What follows is one of the deepest interrogations of a character I’ve seen in a very long time. One that left me teary a few times while layers of the old man’s memories are pealed away one by one. It’s one of the best science fiction stories I’ve experienced in a very long time.

This is the point where I say you should buy this game on Steam or direct. Maybe a few weeks from now I’ll talk about it. For now, save yourself up to 4.5 hours to play this wonderfully written game!

“Mass Effect 3 Ending” or “What is a unit of art?”

Mass Effect is a game that I see as research for me. While it’s an RPG of sorts, I’m there for the story as it’s relevant to my interests. I work in interactive narrative, and while Mass Effect is a different genre, it’s focus and attention on character interaction and narrative makes this a very key piece of text to study. When Mass Effect 3 was coming out, I put this sign up above my desk in order to keep as fresh as possible.

Posted above my desk at work.

When the ending of the game started to get some traction, I was in a deeper focus to finish the game. Not just research at my own pace, but the contribute to the discussion about the ending. At first I was going to stick to just the narrative analysis. Then I got introduced to a different take which I agree with, and lead me to ponder what a ‘unit’ of art is.

Needless to say, behind the cut is the way to Spoiler-town.

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Synergy: A Software KVM

For years at the places I worked, I used more than one computer at a time. Usually my personal Mac laptop and a Windows desktop. The key piece of software that makes me work with more than one device is a piece of software called Synergy.

Synergy is a software KVM switch (Keyboard-Video-Mouse) but without the video. Instead, it allows you to work on one computer, move the mouse to one side of the screen, and start working on the computer next to it. All of which connected by the local network to control mouse and keyboard.

It doesn’t matter what OS the computers are using. Once they’re set up with Synergy, you use one keyboard and mouse to run as many computers as you wish. Have one computer with more than one screen? Synergy adjusts flawlessly. Even more amazing is that text-only copy and paste works across the computers!

The bugger is getting the system set up. Right now the project is recovering from a bit of neglect as well as a lack of user-centered focus on design. As you’ll read on, we’re now at a point where the setbacks are worked on. I invite you to use Synergy now as it’s stable. Just a bit curious to set up with Windows as the “server” (the computer with the physical keyboard & mouse).

As wonderful this software is, the development story was questionable in the late 2000’s. The maintainer for the original project at went AWOL. New operating systems, namely Windows Vista & 7, required maintenance on the software. There were a few groups trying to make the software work, but a project named Synergy++ came out on top as the successor to the project providing a good chunk of maintenance to the Synergy code. Eventually the project moved to it’s new home, Synergy-FOSS. In the past few days they released the first release under FOSS, brining Synergy back to awesome status.

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Review: Myst iPhone

The past few days I’ve been playing the iPhone port of Myst as previously mentioned and have a few thoughts to review.

Scope of this Review

Myst iPhone: Mechanical Age Entrance

I think it’s important to realize that this is a culturally significant title on a platform never dreamed or intended to be on. There is much said on the game itself in the past sixteen years and I don’t think I have much to uniquely contribute from reviewing the iPhone version. What I intend to focus on is that nature of porting the title onto the iPhone and review the choices made. This review is about how this title works on the iPhone and less about the content.

As someone who claims himself as the resident Myst nerd, there isn’t much Cyan Worlds needed to do in order to buy the title. I own the Myst board game, so I can be counted as part of the base audience. My goals with this project is how this title can attract a new audience to the title. Stated different, how can the new platform revive the franchise. As I stated before, you can earn a one-to-one relationship between the desktop computer experience with a portable device. Success then is how closely the title can communicate the essence of the original experience.

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Watching the Watchmen

Yes, another movie review post and of a movie everyone else is watching. I need to write more…

Watchmen has finally made it to the sliver screen with much fanfare and service. The preamble has been enjoyable with posts from The New Frontiersman. An ingenious way of putting more use out of B-roll and props the film created.

MINUTEMEN 1940 by The New Frontiersman, on Flickr

This photo for example was the first put on the Flickr account, and the most important one. But there were a slue of other significant artifacts including this video “6 Minutes to Midnight”. Don’t want to dwell on this for the post, but I really wanted to illustrate that this was pre-release marking at it’s best. These things weren’t blatant and weak attempts, but strong pieces to help establish the narrative.

The format of the Media

The main point I want to make is how the format of the media can hinder or strengthen an adaptation. Watchmen is a 12 part story which also included ‘book excerpts’ for all but the 12th chapter. Even when you read the novel in the complete book form, there are 11 intermissions between each chapter; You can pause and take in the stories. Movies don’t allow for the audience to ‘digest’ the story before continuing. You have to go along for the ride until it is done. While you can pause a DVD, the fact that the movie doesn’t allow for these pauses by design.

This was the inherent problem for me with adapting Watchmen for the silver screen specifically. Even if there was a ‘part 1/2’ of the film, it still wouldn’t be enough to digest the narrative parts. I don’t claim that this film shouldn’t have been done because of this; I have to embrace the fact that we can never be satisfied with a film that can’t be broken into it’s parts.

But what form of media do we have that can be separated into parts but still yield the high production value required for the film? TV has the ability to separate into parts, but not the kind of production value to supply the demand. The movie industry can provide the funding, but the format limits. The Internet in general can do this, but not enough capital can be made to fund the production.

The Changed Ending

My LA collogues already warned me that the ending was different than the novels, but made sense and worked. When I saw the movie, I agreed that this change made a nice take. Though I would have loved to see a large squid…

What I find interesting is what kind of ‘other’ that left the society with each ending. For the novel, the ‘other’ is an alien race. This leaves the society to think to the stars and to not feel alone in the universe. Though hostile, there were other sentient beings in the universe. With the movie, the ‘other’ is Dr. Manhattan. Since he’s simply indestructible, the best path is to avoid him at all costs. Thus society is closed off from the rest of the world.

Personally, I’d rather have a world of a giant squid than Dr. Manhattan as the enemy. At least we’d be looking towards the stars more.

The Soundtrack

Being a period piece, using licensed songs can do a good job taken in the mood of an era. 99 Luftballons was welcomed both for the choice of the german version and that it’s a cold war protest song. Then it got weird.

While I can’t recall the specific songs and scenes, what stuck out was how simply inappropriate these songs were. I felt like I was back at Emerson where a professor would play a scene of Triumph of the Will (1935) and play the Yakety Sax song as the soundtrack. It ruined the mood and was simply awkward in a couple of scenes. ESPECIALLY with the sex scenes.

This is the only aspect of the film that was a completely wrong choice.

Random other thoughts

Jupiter / Silk Speckter II: Didn’t smoke. Was only apparently missing with the Mars scene.

Night Owl I: Completely skipped his death which was an extremely key aspect to Night Owl. Obviosuly we’ll be getting it with the 20-hour DVD version, but the situation around Rorschach’s death (the 2nd friend he looses in a day) really explains the crushing weight of the situation.

Rorschach: Jackie Earle Haley needs to be nominated (again) for best actor due to his performance in this movie. I can’t put it plainer than that.

Review & Thoughts: Coraline (2009)

Just got out of the theatre and saw Coraline. A film based off of the story from Neil Gaiman, directed and screenplay by Henry Selick. I don’t normally do reviews, but there are a few things that I thought to muse about the film. Some personal, others observations about the film. For the record, I have not read the book. I guess this post can count as spoiler, I guess.

Coraline - US Poster

I can’t begin without mentioning the various references to Michigan though out the movie. The family is from Pontiac, MI and moved to Oregon. The real father wears a Michigan State sweater. A key prop is a snow globe of the Horace Rackham Memorial Fountain. Both of which is funny because Rackham donated heavily to U of M. Not that it needed help, but I found myself warming up to the movie for these references.

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WiiWare Launch & Reviews

Today, Nintendo launched the WiiWare service in North America. This is of particular interest to me as I am personally working on a WiiWare title.

I’m actually lucky to play though all of the WiiWare games today (except My Life as a King) today. Checking the competition, I realize that we don’t have competition. Not in the perspective of quality judgments, but for the fact that each of the titles released on WiiWare are very different from each other. There is something different for a lot of different people, which is about what one would hope from a service launch.

The Wired Game|Life Blog does a good job outlining all the launch titles, now with impressions of each title. But if you insist, here’s my quick review of the titles:

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