Update!

I’m blogging again.

Where to begin? There’s too much to cover (there usually is), and I don’t want my first update in months to be a rambling mess. So when things seem tricky, one must turn to lists. Here be two, in no particular order:

CURRENT TOP TEN

  1. Cube Root of Book by Paul Magee two thirds through and I’m hooked, with its balance of almost-too-intellectual wordplay and sneaky, gobsmacking sincerity. This guy was one of my favourite teachers at Uni; opened up a whole lot of doors and windows on poetry, he did, for me at least.
  2. Darren Hanlon been reading his online tour journal lately and revisiting his albums, EPs and songs. I listen to Old Dream and I tear up and I don’t know why but I love it and him.
  3. East West 101 just started on this and it’s already the best Aussie crime drama I know. Probably my favourite anywhere, after The Wire.  But I dislike most other crime dramas. Anyway, look! An Australian cast that isn’t predominantly white!
  4. The Lost Thing — deserved the Oscar. Shaun Tan is amazing. I gave him a glass of water once.
  5. You Are Here festival an excellent inaugural fringe arts festival for Canberra. Good stuff. Especially the bread. And Tom Doig’s Selling Ice to the Remains of the Eskimos. Full on. Still processing it all, a month later.
  6. Living in Canberra again it’s lovely.
  7. Myth, Propaganda and Disaster is Nazi Germany and Contemporary America: A Drama in 30 Scenes by Stephen Sewell — I love works with long titles. I read this as a script rather than seeing it performed and I was satisfied. Intense and brain-sparking.
  8. National Young Writers Month — it’s coming up in June and I’m the ACT Ambassador. Woo! Get amongst it, under-25ers.
  9. $8 one-kilo banana loaf — bananas are still expensive, but this is big, discounted and delicious
  10. Getting engaged — yup, it’s pretty awesome.


CURRENT BOTTOM TEN

  1. THE COLD IT’S REALLY FRIGGIN COLD.
  2. Money, or lack thereof I could do with some more paid employment, thx.
  3. Jerkface real estate agents I don’t want to buy your overpriced apartment, especially when you tell me it’s not so bad if my fiancée dies, you soulless arse.
  4. Blessed maybe my expectations of Andrew Bovell were too high after being floored by When the Rain Stops Falling and Lantana, or maybe it was the other co-writers, but this just seemed needlessly depressing and meh in comparison.
  5. queues just had enough of them this week, thanks.
  6. The response of most people when I tell them of my Canberra move stop acting like I’ve told you I have cancer. If you actually lived here for a while you’d see beyond stereotypes and how it’s actually kind of great.
  7. A Commercial Farce When a character is meant to be obnoxious, he shouldn’t be so obnoxious that the audience cannot stand him being on stage. Also, your first running gag should draw you in, not be obnoxious. Verdict: obnoxious and not very good.
  8. Coming up with a Bottom Ten  either life is really good or I am too positive. Hmm. OH!
  9. My breadmaker being on the fritz I added yeast! Why don’t you cook good?
  10. Any Royal Wedding hoohaa — seriously, why do people care about this?

Fun! I might do this again sometime. Or expand on any number of these. We’ll see. The blog is my oyster. But I hate oysters. Pop-tart? No. Banana loaf. Mmm. Wait, I’m rambling. Okay, until next time then.

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Freeplay 2010

Aw snap, before I get down to Melbourne Writers Festival blogging, I almost forgot I was gonna write about another recent date in Melbourne’s chock-a-block festival calendar: The Freeplay Independent Games Festival! Okay then. Quicksmart!

Righto, so the other weekend there was the 2010 Freeplay festival. This was my first time going along, and although I didn’t get a full ticket to the festival, there was still plenty of free stuff open to the public, within the State Library of Victoria’s Experimedia section. I WAS going to buy a ticket, but the main festival had already sold out (score for Freeplay!). In retrospect, it’s probably just as well I didn’t pay for a ticket, as pretty much everything I wanted to see was within the free public exhibition. A lot of the stuff in the paid festival was more for people deeply involved with all that tricky coding/programming/design/3D modelling stuff. You know, for people who actually make games.

Not me though. Well, there was Klik n Play. And I did make a Frogger-like game (called Froggo) for my Software Design and Development class in Year 12, and it was a goddamn marvel that took me weeks to get working. But I still haven’t worked out how to get the VisualBasic program working on my newer computer so I can show it off. BUT, while it was satisfying to make in the end, the arduous process of writing the code and fixing the bugs and remembering the jargon and getting the darn thing working assured me that building games from scratch was not my idea of an ideal career path. My talents lay elsewhere.

So yes, anyway, I figured a while ago that I’m not a Maker of Games, and although it would be awesome to write dialogue or the story for games, until I become a Renowned Writer, I will remain content with playing them. I don’t spend days upon days playing video games, like I did back in the day, though events like Freeplay always inspire a reminder of what I love about games, and thus inspire a brief return to the gaming frenzy. Still, my newest console is a Playstation 2, and I’m mostly still playing games of roughly that era or earlier, every now and then. I do keep up with what’s happening in gaming, but with a few exceptions, I’m pretty much a decade behind in games, which is okay by me. Maybe I only pay attention to those that have truly stood the test of time. That’s what I like to think.

In any case, games are awesome. Computer games. Video games. Board games. Card games. Or just good old fashioned, unmediated, unstructured play, like a kid with nothing but the world around them and their imagination.  And thus, the theme of the festival: Play is Everywhere.

And there was definitely a lot of play to be had within Experimedia.

Among the games on display, the first to catch my eye was Jolly Rover. If you’ve ever played any of the classic Monkey Island adventures, then think that, but with pirate dogs instead of pirate people. This one is now on my buy + play list. Check it out:

Two others of note: Mine Quest, which will soon be on Facebook to challenge Farmville’s time-sucking powers, and Hazard, which is just downright trippy.

Later I found out that some of these, and plenty of others, were featured in the Freeplay Awards Winners list and the shortlist. Yarr, thar be some super fun and super interesting games in them thar lists.

Beyond the games, I also caught a few panels.  The first: Everything Old is New Again. Being one of the first panels of the fest, there were a few teething problems with sound and presentation, but they soon started enthusiastically chowing down on things like retro revival, abandonware, the role of memory and nostalgia in a generation that has grown up with video games, and how things come in different cycles, refreshed for each new generation that doesn’t share the direct experiences of the last. They also touched on how games can (and should?) be deep, difficult, complex and original, but this kind of game often doesn’t find as much of an immediate market because it’s not easily compressed into a tweet, a marketing slogan, a recognisable genre or an existing franchise.

The next panel I saw was Getting Started. This was about all sorts of 3D modelling programs and industry tips for those just starting. Judging by my notes, I spent the whole talk contemplating the differences between games and other mediums, like movies, songs and novels. I pondered interactivity, narrative, the imagination, and the roles they play in different mediums in different ways. And I just mulled over the originality and experimentation in independent creative works.  I’m sure the talk was great for others, but I guess my mind wandered because I wasn’t too interested in learning all that technical jibbajabba. See? Writer, thinkerer, not a Game Maker.

Then there was the Play is Everywhere panel, taking its title from the theme of the festival. Appropriately, the panellists explored the topography of the topic far and wide. They questioned the value of play, intrinsically and otherwise. What can play offer us, besides pleasure and relaxation? What can play teach us? Can play be political? Can it make us more virtuous? It’s been shown that surgeons who play games can be better at doing their job. And games bring diverse people together, both online and off, to play. Children are teaching adults. Kids aren’t babysat by games, unlike with TV. It’s a less passive medium, in a sense. People are learning complex systems through interaction and experimentation. Play = risk = experimentation = learning = reward = life. One speaker made the note that play has always been everywhere, that’s nothing new. It’s games that are now widespread, often literally via mobile devices. Games are a unique fusion of art, science and technology.

I particularly liked what one panellist, Morgan Jaffit, said: that games should be more dangerous. Truly rebellious. Exploring scary stuff and controversial ideas (Escape from Woomera was given as one of the few examples out there). Not just mindless shoot-em-up violence and gore, which has actually become fairly safe. Games need to step beyond their association with kids, and get into complex, adult territory, like some of the best films and novels have. And this is partly why video games need to be able to have 18+ classification, rather than being refused classification. So yes, like play, this panel went everywhere and it was super interesting.

Finally, there was the Sleep is Death panel. If you want to know what Sleep Is Death is about, then just go watch the explanatory slideshow at their website. But basically, it’s a two-player collaborative storytelling game and it was something of a revelation to see it in action. It’s simple, yet it has essentially endless possibilities. It can be used to create interactive narratives of madcap surrealism, or elegant wonder, or who knows what else. It’s up to the two collaborative storytellers. In the demonstration we had, a member from the audience played as a judge who reluctantly slayed a wolf that was terrorising the community. But the game essentially has no limits, as far as the stories you can tell and play around with.

From the slideshow on sleepisdeath.net

Yup.

It’s utterly responsive and unpredictable, and I just found it hugely inspiring. Even better, you can watch back past games (yours or others) like a slideshow. I’m keen to buy this, but I’m holding off, just because when I do get it, I know I’m gonna be hooked. But you can bet you’ll hear more about it from me eventually.

So. Sleep Is Death. Storytelling meets play. This is another thing I’m super interested in. I’ve always been interested in games where the story is integral. And I guess in a sense storytelling is in itself a kind of play. But then hang on, I’ve realised that with Sleep Is Death, I kind of can make games, in the sense that I can create an interactive narrative. Now I really want to download it. Who knows where that will lead? Maybe I’ll even play around with VisualBasic and get Froggo working again. And where will my tinkering take me from there?

I guess one overall lesson I took from Freeplay 2010 is that play is important. Sometimes it gets a bad rap. Some call it childish. But I also learnt a new word — neoteny: the retention of juvenile characteristics in adult life. Sure, it’s a biological term, but it can be useful when you look at it more broadly. Really, whether you’re a child, an adult, or somewhere in-between, play is vital and enriching, and it’s good to have it as a balanced and integrated part of your daily life.

Finally, for some further, detailed, Freeplay-related reading, check out some great stuff I found, trawling via the #freeplay10 hashtag and various related links: Grassisleena’s report, an exhaustive wrap-up from Critical Damage, some deep thoughts from festival director Paul Callaghan’s blog and a great piece on Sleep is Death. There. That’ll do ya. Nearly as edifying as attending the festival yourself, no?

What are the haps?

Hey! Hello! Hi there. Hi. How are you? That’s good. Me? Well, you know, just getting back into blogging, you know how it is. Yeah, I know I know, two-thirds of the way through the Emerging Writer’s Festival it seems my blogging fingers fell off. But I did go to many a thing and have a jolly ol’ time. Maybe some of what I attended and took notes on would still make for an interesting post (many weeks after the event, in contradiction of the internet’s immediacy)? We’ll see. Anyway, since then I have been busy. Moving house. Travelling up to Canberra and Sydney and back again. Oh, and I’ve been enlisted into the Voiceworks EdComm, which is great. We have a blog and we did a night of readings and Boggle and a radio play and a spelling bee, oh and we publish a cracking magazine that you should read and submit to, if yer able.

But anyway! Yes indeed, to everything there is a season. Gone is the long winter of discontented nonblogging. Now is the season for bloggingbloggingblogging, like a glorious summer.

And O! what a time to be a-blogging it is! So many things are the haps! A perpetual cornucopia approaching for me to partake in and report upon! Most importantly, perhaps: the Melbourne Writers Festival! The MWF program has been launched, and in anticipation of the festival’s arrival on August 27, I am spending many an idle moment flipping through the program, planning all the marvellous stuff I might see. Not only that, I plan to be a Genuine Unofficial MWF Blogger, blogging about it a whooooole bunch, much like others such such as him and her and several others. Oh, and don’t forget the Official MWF Blog.

Other than that, to further commence the buzzing warm-up to the fest, check out a nice big blog I did for MWF last year, back when this blog was part of my coursework at the Uni of Melbourne. Speaking of which, as of Thursday, this blog will have been around for a year. Can you believe that? I freakin’ can’t! I will definitely have to celebrate.

But yes, coming soon, I will have a massive post (or three) detailing the myriad things I plan to attend at MWF. All of that and many more meandering missives such as this one are surely on their way.

Ah yes indeed, it is a good time to be blogging. Festivals and blogging go together like custard and fish fingers, or, if you will, bowties and fezes.
(In case you are not cultured, what I am saying is that blogging and festivals go together exceedingly well and they are cool and also Doctor Who is cool and yeah okay so bye and um have a frabjous day!)

010110

If you go by the ever-sensible dd/mm/yy format, and remove the slashes, then today (and several other dates in this new year) are in binary.  Truly, we are now living in the future!

Yup, it’s a new year. It’s the 21st century in double digits. It’s THE FUTURE.  So in keeping with this, it’s more than fitting that I kick off 2010 by getting down with the technology. So as promised, I’m continuing this blog beyond Uni and I’m going to try posting once a week, and hopefully more. I’m keen to start writing some reviews, rambling about things I’m interested in and just experimenting with maintaining a blog.

Since my last post, I’ve completed my diploma, with marks that I’m quite pleased with. I’m facing the first full year since I was four without an educational institution structuring my life. I’ve snagged myself a job in a bookshop. I’m looking to get more experience and involvement in the world of publishing. And I’m going to be reading and writing more than ever before, and not just for this blog. I’ve got lots of plans!

And yes, I’m on Twitter now.

The future looks wonderfully distracting. Here’s hoping I still manage to do good things.

So here’s to a jolly good 2010, full of reading, writing, editing, publishing and more!

Final words (for now)

Well, besides the pending Part 4 of my Web Portfolio, this is the last thing I’ll be putting up on this blog. But not forever.

Although it was undertaken as an assignment for my Writing and Editing for Digital Media class, I’ve taken a bit of a shine to working on this blog. Once I’ve finished my other assignments, had a bit of a break and received marks that confirm I indeed will qualify for graduation, I’ll be back. The focus of the blog might be a bit more casual, maybe a bit more serious, experimental, diverse, random, focused, who knows! I have a few ideas, but by the new year, I’ll be trying my hand at blogging here anew.

Before then, here’s a list of eight comments, thoughts, musings and things I’ve learned through the W+E4DM class and through my my blog so far:

• I’ve really enjoyed reading a diversity of blogging I otherwise might not have read, on topics from Facebook to fashion to kung fu. It’s great to read things outside my usual bubble of activity. If anyone in my class keeps blogging, I’ll keep reading and commenting.

• Blogging is pretty fun and addictive. I didn’t realise what a sad little thrill it would be to check out my blog stats thingo every day. People visited! People linked to my blog! People clicked my links! People searched for ‘peter bakowski blog’ and found mine instead! (it’s here btw). And best of all is when people read and comment and it seems like they’ve genuinely engaged with what I’ve written, even if it’s just in a small way. Or when your blog opens up opportunities to interact with people you’ve only briefly met, people you’d only heard of, or even total strangers. I didn’t think this blog would have an audience outside the class, let alone get visits from other acquaintances, established writers or a random dude from Copenhagen! All of this kind of stuff can be great motivation.

• The areas of writing, editing and publishing are changing alongside emerging digital media and technology. I’m keen to continue being involved in all of this, because there’s a lot of possibilities when everything is in a state of transition, uncertainty and experimentation. And I’m interested to see what role the internet and other related technologies will play in the ever-more unpredictable future of the planet and its inhabitants.

• Hardly anyone on the internet seems to pay much attention to copyright and I don’t really blame them. But I figure if you’re going to publish something for the entirety of the interwebs, you’d better make sure you can stand by all of it. And embrace Creative Commons and the like, because it’s awesome.

• I think my blog already needs a redesign. What do you think? The column layout seems a little off. And apparently white text on black is bad. I kind of like it, but maybe not as much as I used to.

• I think there will always be a need for people who can write well, think creatively, see things differently, speak the truth, or just make awesome things, be they stories, songs, visual art, games, articles, or software. The internet can help with all of this of course. But don’t forget that no matter how ubiquitous it seems the internet and all the latest newfangled iGadgets seem, there’s always the rest of the world. Instead of refreshing your Facebook feed again, try starting a garden, riding your bike, making something tangible and tactile with your hands, travelling somewhere new with some friends, attending a protest for something you believe in, practicing an instrument, or writing a letter to a friend. Yes, a real letter. They’re actually pretty special.

• A huge proportion of the world’s population do not see digital technology as an all-pervasive thing. There is a significant digital divide. The Internet has a long way to go before it’s a truly global and egalitarian network.

• Above all, remember: the internet is crazy.

CRAZY.

And that’s that! Thanks to everyone who has visited and read and commented and clicked my links and everything! Please do come back when I come back. Keep me on the good ol’ Google Reader! Until then, this is Duncan at DuncanWritingEditingPublishing clicking Publish and signing off.