On The Merits of Doing Nothing

I really struggled not to write this.

It’s a Saturday morning. So instead I focused on chores; cooking and cleaning. Took in a bit of the morning sun over coffee. Truth is doing nothing is quite challenging.

In fact, it’s been a challenge throughout the ages, so much so that various cultures have enlightened beings of legend that accomplished this transformation from doing, well, nothing; nothing at all.

Which is why for me it’s so challenging to see people complaining about nothing, and stating that when we weren’t all wired, blessed be those who still aren’t, we had dreadfully boring lives. How terribly wrong they are.

Life was a rich tapestry with depth, a depth it clearly lacks in this shallow age of screen-based superficiality.

In my youth I spent a lot of time studying masters, and learning how to sit still, as we say. My teacher used to tell me “When you can count to three, and nothing more, you will have achieved it.” I tried. I counted to three. Nothing happened. I loved it. Suddenly it was like everything was one, and I was one with it. I was full, I was empty. It was beautiful; life changing in-fact.

I’ve since spent a lot of time exploring that altered state, however centered, and trying to understand what fruit might be wrought of it. I employ various techniques, some all my own. You see, I’m guilty of doing too much. So much so that sometimes I wonder why I do it at all. It used to be somewhat unique, but I see it all around me these days, the constant need to grind oneself; ‘the hustle’ as some call it. The need to improves one’s ‘game’. It’s a comforting way to keep the ‘chattering monkey’ within us all alive and well. It never wants to see nothing, let alone to speak it or hear it. The sheer emptiness of stillness can be terrifying for some, but it offers a rich bounty for those that dare to explore it. In the end, there’s more nothing. Layers upon layers of it. Ourselves too, nothing at all. Figments.

“The way never acts yet nothing is left undone.” – Lao Tzu, Tao De Ching, 37

Life As A Game 1

Playing GiantLands at Harvard Business School

It was a day like any other at Harvard, I was there to speak at the annual Tech Conference about the future of games. I first checked in to make sure all was well, then slipped away to the restroom to change costumes. When I arrived back to organizer looked at me in horror. It was at that moment Harvard became a setting for my latest game GiantLands (GiantLands.com). It doesn’t require fancy new tech, only the a robust old technology we call “imagination”.

The Way We Were

Sometimes over the course of production a product might look any number of ways. I myself am a game doctor, often called to breath life into a production that’s losing steam, changing directions, or missing that special something. It was no different when Day 1 & Warner Brothers contracted me to operate on hit, first-person shooter franchise F.E.A.R. a classic PC franchise about a silent protagonist bent on redemption, yet again. I couldn’t count on my two hands the number of stories we burned through on FEAR 3 before we settled on the last. Just before I started it was FEAR 2. Long story, and not one especially unique to the title or franchise. That’s showbiz, but for some fans it means a lot. One made this short documentary about what might have been.

Hollywood’s Asteroid

They say nothing teaches a viewer so much as a bad film, can you guess which it was? This was our double feature last night.

One took place in an empty theatre. My son and I the only attendees. It was so terrible, about 40 minutes before the climax we decided to leave. (It was my idea. It was painful. There wasn’t even a loose plot to hang my hat on, let alone a decent character to give a damn about.)

Now you’d think this wouldn’t be the case. I’m a lifetime Wes Andersen fan, and don’t get me wrong. We all deserve the ability to deliver a solid creative turd sometimes, but it was remarkably cryptic, and lacked any sort of fiber to hold it together. Sadly Wes has gotten to the the point where no one will call his B.S. and that’s how a picture like Asteroid City gets made. (How an A-list director tanks it with a cast of this magnitude is something worthy of study.) To heal my bitter, underfunded, creative wounds, we followed it up in the home with what I once thought real Hollywood trash, of the highest order. I mean its Mannequin good, right? Wrong.

Much like the Bush dynasty, “Earth Girls Are Easy” looks different from this perspective. Almost wholesome. It has a clear plot, one almost arc-like, that resolves in a somewhat satisfying way. It even has some characters that manage to have (dare I say it) depth in comparison to any of the less-than zero dimensional characters of Asteroid City. Despite their pedigree, none manage to surpass that of an underplayed prop dressed to kill. In fact, its so contrived they are negative-dimensional characters. Somehow they manage to become pictures of flat characters played by lifeless Barbie Dolls once called “actors”, and that alone could destroy a picture. I mean, if there was one. One might hope that at some point it existed. One can only wonder if it’s on a ‘cutting room floor’ somewhere, and by that I mean unedited on a thumb-drive.

Sure, we’ve all gone a little mad, but #Hollywood #storytelling has fallen into the realm of pure insanity. Even cliché drivel beats it. My former idols too. The only thing that will save us it seems is real #cinema. Something even “Earth Girls Are Easy” wasn’t far from from this vantage point. (However in another derivative Jeff Goldblum b-metaverse.) Look out for its comeback, coming soon to a camera or teenager near you. #asteroidcity

Hello, again, world!

Oops. I did it. Again. No, nothing too sinister, but I started a blog. A year ago, I would have scoffed at the idea. 5 years ago, I would have simply refused to entertain the idea with much more than a smirk. Blogs are dead. Right? Right? Somewhere, something in me knows its time to go back, even if I do want to kick my feet.

The first time I heard that word, “blog”, was 20 years ago. My teacher Scott Fisher at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, whom was also my department chair, required us to start one for our intro class. As a grad student I used to think it was silly. To be perfectly honest, in some ways I still do.

Much like cartooning, I never thought I’d return to blogging.

The internet hasn’t really evolved much from those days, so much as devolved. As a technologist I’ve been trained to always look at the new, and that’s one reason I left the blog. I didn’t need it anymore, blogs or blogging, and I was certain there were new ways of communicating on the internet, better ways.

There’s no reason to justify my flippant attitude though. Blogs changed my life, and for the better. When I started in the Narrative Designer role I had created for THQ Global back in 2006 I quickly realized I had few peers, especially in-studio, and the so the best way to get deep and build a community was with my now defunct NarrativeDesign.org blog ‘The Narrative Design Explorer’ (NDE). It helped me in countless ways. Yes just like that first blog. I thought of using this as a reboot of the NDE, but this blog will be much more, perhaps less, in some ways as I’ll use it for a range of subjects and as much more of a personal journal in some respects.

Maybe in a small way this is how we take it back, the internet. Perhaps even our collective sanity. One blog at a time. Thanks for tuning in. Oh, and, I don’t keep personal media accounts for the most part anymore, only this and for the time, Linkedin. If you need me please use the home page, coming soon…. NarrativeDesigner.com All the best.