ARG

2012 Demographic and Salary Survey

Remember that one time in 2010 when I put together a demographic and salary survey for the IGDA's ARG SIG? Good times, good times.

I've been wondering how things have changed lo these last couple of years. Itt strikes me that the community could still use some fresh demographics and salary information, for the sake of comparison. So! I'd like to introduce the as-scientific-as-I-can-make-it 2012 ARG/Transmedia Demographic and Salary Survey!

It's meant for both audience members and for working professionals -- players, it helps us to sell in a pitch if we have some basic demo information, and pros, it helps us all to know what rates we're all charging so nobody is undercutting themselves too badly.

Take a look! Spread the link around! In a couple of weeks (or the end of the month or, basically, when I have a chance to do it) I'll collect the responses into a neat package like the last time. It'll be awesome. Let's roll!


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The Anti-TINAG

I love poking at our bits of ARG received wisdom to see how well they hold up under fire. Can you have a great, immersive narrative without puzzles? Entirely on rails? Meant to be played alone and not in a community? Sometimes yes, sometimes not so much.

Along those lines, today I started wondering what it would be like to abandon TINAG entirely. And not just by stepping out from behind the curtain as a creator -- that ship sailed long ago. But we take it for granted that our characters and world must always behave as if they thought they were real. Imagine, if you will, aggressively fictional characters. 

Steve Diddle and Martin Aggett got there first, of course, with his Fictional Online Rights for Characters Everywhere. Still, I feel like this is a mode it would be fun to really explore.

Imagine a character who won't simply admit to fictionality if pressed; imagine a villain who would chide you for giving up the hero's secrets. A character who says, "You seem to be having a hard time with this puzzle, why don't you try..."

Better yet, what if they performed more like actors in an elementary school play, offering up their own meta-commentary even as they read out their appointed lines? "Wait, why am I doing this? This is stupid."

I'm not sure it would be a trick that could sustain a particularly long story, and certainly one that wouldn't hold up to persistent use. But once or twice... that could be lots of fun, I think. I'll have to try it sometime.


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Deadly Affairs

So hey! Haven't had enough self-promotion from me for one day? Step right up! There is a thing that I am doing that I would like you to know about!

Deadly Affairs is an upcoming show on Investigation Discovery, and I have the pleasure of working on an immersive experience in the run-up to the premiere. It's... well.... it's... gosh.

I'd love to talk about it with a little depth because we've made a lot of pretty interesting creative decisions, but I don't want to spoil the surprise. Go check it out for yourself, OK? And then let me know what you think!


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SXSW, Storyworld, and Empty Promises

News! I have news for you about many, many things. First up: I have a panel proposal up for SXSW! It is called Harnessing the Power of Snark. I made a video about it.

And I guess that's about it for that.

Next up: Storyworld! I won't be there this year, but I will be taking part in a podcast series F+W is conducting beforehand, arranged by the ever-fabulous Scott Walker. I'll be talking with Scott and Aaron Vanek about ARGs, LARPs, and the difference therein. But there are also many, many other podcasts there that you should take a look at -- it's some seriously great programming. Register now!

Beyond that, my schedule has gone FWOOOM the last couple of months, and I have quite a lot of appearances coming up and interviews to report and so on and so forth. But... can I do that later? Please? I have, um, a thing. I have a thing I have to do. So yeah. See you later?


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Fans Like Joss

I'm a believer in big-picture, long-term planning. If you don't know where you're going, you can't be surprised when you never get there. It's good to be frank with yourself about what it is you really, truly want.

And so I've been talking to various of my friends the last few months about where I'm going with all of this. With the blogging and speaking, the marketing work, A Creator's Guide, with Felicity and Shiva's Mother and Other Stories

Five years ago, I reached a pivotal moment in my career when I left Mind Candy -- almost exactly five years ago, in fact. I've been very honest about how hard a time I had finding jobs or projects after that. (The summary: Yeah, it was hard and it sucked.) Nobody knew my work... and if they did, they didn't know I'd been a part of it. Certainly nobody was banging down my door.

That gave me the goal I've been chasing ever since: to build a professional reputation; to become somebody that potential clients seek out. Somebody they've heard of before. To find a way to make a living doing this weird stuff that might be alternate reality games or interactive stories or, as we say now, transmedia. "As god is my witness, I will never be obscure again."

Is it obnoxious to say that I think I've done this? I think I've done this. My mortgage lender is very pleased.

That means it's time to set a new big picture goal, and tick-tock just conveniently when the old one's five years are about up. So what is it I want now? It really isn't my own TV show or an eight-figure budget, though those would be amazing and I'd certainly not turn them down. It's not to work with any particular colleague or director or writer or artist. It certainly isn't to start a booming business as a transmedia pundit, ongoing punditry notwithstanding. What do I want out of all of this? What is the moon I am shooting for?

What I want is fans like Joss Whedon has.

Suddenly, this all winds up being very topical. A Guardian article some days ago talked about the "age of the social artist," to which Chuck Wendig and Harry Connolly have both responded. On Twitter yesterday, I discussed the topic of fans with those two gentlemen and with Stephen Blackmoore at some length.

Talking about having or wanting or cultivating fans is a mind-bending business. It feels a little crass to say "Yes, I want fans." It's one of those things an artist isn't supposed to talk about or think about, right along with stuff like whether there's a market for their art. But, look, this is the thing that I want, and I don't see the point in pretending otherwise.

Fans. It's fans I want. As many as possible. Fans who will pony down cash money, absolutely. But money is just a pleasant side effect of the thing that I want, which is for people to love the things I make

So why do I say "fans like Joss" in specific? It's because the Joss Whedon fandom has these hallmarks:

1. It's not really about Joss. The Joss Whedon fandom is fundamentally about his work, and not about him as a human being or even as a persona. For comparison, think about the fandom of Justin Bieber, the Beatles, Stephen Colbert. Certainly there is a lot of fan love for Joss-the-man, but that's a carryover from the work; people love the work first, and Joss himself only by association. This is ideal for me and my Complicated Ecosystem of Neuroses™. 

2. Critical love. This is a fandom that thinks independently. On the one hand, this means that they scour the depths of his body of work looking for nuance and hidden depth. No subtlety is overlooked, whether he meant to put it there or not. And at the same time, when something just isn't working, the community isn't afraid to talk about it. "This is kind of racist, right here." "This was not his best work, because X, Y, Z." That kind of thoughtful, critical feedback is more valuable than jewels. It makes it easier for you to get better faster.

3. A stake in his career. This community feels a personal stake in seeing Joss succeed. Nobody's calling Joss a sellout for making Avengers; instead, the zeitgeist is "Great! Now he'll have more capital in Hollywood to make more and better stuff!" 

So there we have it. This is what I'm shooting for. And the only way to do this is to start making and releasing work I've done on my own: so Shiva's Mother and Other Stories. Felicity. Other surprises in store. Because if I'm after fans, I need to make it easy to be my fan. And if you have to kind of be a transmedia wonk to even know I'm out there or what I've done... yeah, that's not going to work real well, is it?


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