Showing posts with label Gold. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gold. Show all posts

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Los Angeles Gamer Gallery: David Nett

In this first entry in the Los Angeles Gamer Gallery series, we'll be taking a quick look at David Nett. He is a gamer, actor, webseries producer/writer/director, one of the founders of Nerdstrong Gym, and a tremendous advocate for the role playing game hobby. David came to Los Angeles after attending the University of Minnesota at Duluth in order to pursue a career in acting.

I first became aware of David Nett when he and his production company put together an interesting webseries entitled GOLD. The series was about a professional role playing gamer who suffered an injury during a championship match that left him emotionally scarred and unable to effectively lead the U.S. team in international competition. His story takes place at a time when viewers are abandoning watching live games in favor of computer based competitions surrounding MMORPGs. At the time, I thought the story seemed far fetched. Who would watch live role playing game sessions? Other than me that is. In the years since, David seems to have been on to something. While online Game Streams aren't competitive in nature, they can be quite sophisticated and very entertaining.

Where the first season/series of GOLD displays all of the rough edges one expects from an early project, and a significant amount of what I call pilotitis, the second season is a very entertaining and far more personal tale. That series, entitled Night of the Zombie King, doesn't appear to be available for streaming right now, but it is well worth tracking down a copy. Where the first season of GOLD tried to simulate a world with professional gaming on a large scale, this season brings it down to the individual level and tells the tale of a gamer coming home to finish a campaign left unfinished when he moved away from his small town to a larger community. It's a tale of returning to old friends and reliving fond memories while overcoming past wrongs. It's very good and deserves to be expanded into something more.

David recently stopped by Geek & Sundry's GM TIPS show with Satine Phoenix where they discuss what to do when your stories get derailed.

From his acting and directing career, to his work at Nerdstrong Gym, David has found a way to incorporate his gaming experiences into his work and creative endeavors. This is a common theme in the Southern California gaming community, and one of the things I love about it. The gamers I've met down here are about expanding the hobby and using what they've learned in the hobby to make them better at everything else they do. When my friends and I were working on the pre-production of our failed documentary about the "gamers hidden among us" called Dice Chuckers, David was one of the people we wanted to have as our principle interviewees.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Trying to Stand Out in a World of Kickstarting Awesome

Where to begin...where to begin?

I have long been a big believer in independent projects and fan supported endeavors, especially in the hobby gaming community.  It seems to me one of the best ways to ensure that the projects we want continue to get made, especially when "start up" costs would be too expensive to raise otherwise.  Pre-funding projects allows gamers to become a kind of venture capitalist, angel investor even, in some exciting products.

I was one of the first patrons of Wolfgang Baur's excellent Open Design Project.  I interviewed Wolfgang for my Geekerati podcast and am a long time subscriber to his Kobold Quarterly.  I think what Wolfgang has been doing for the gaming community with his "Switzerland of the Edition Wars" magazine and projects, is a great service.  He not only produces fantastic gaming products, but involves the community in those projects as well.  If only he would recognize me the next time I introduce myself to him at a con... ;-)

I have also been a long time customer of the Indie Press Revolution.  While not as "venture" oriented as the Open Design project, IPR has helped a lot of games that might otherwise have been overlooked get release and play.  It was the first place that I saw "Spirit of the Century," a fantastic game by Fred Hicks' company Evil Hat Games.  I like to think that my friend Eric's successful creation and launching of "Race to Adventure" started with my purchase of SotC and my excitement about the company.  I take no credit for Eric's game itself, I just imagine that I motivated a handshake that led to gold.

I really have to thank Ken Hite for pointing me in the direction of IPR and the games it offers, so ultimate credit for the handshake would transfer from me to him anyway.  I also have to thank him for directing me to Pelgrane Press and their Gumshoe product line.  I've been pre-ordering -- a kind of venture capital/patronage -- the games in their line for a couple of years now, and have been impressed every time.  I also have to thank James Maliszewski -- who I discovered at IPR -- for pointing me in the direction of a number of other independent projects in the Old School Renaissance/Revolution (OSR).  Thanks to James, I have ordered the White Box of Sword and Sorcery and Delving Deeper -- a product that I have been waiting for quite some time to examine.

And prior to Kickstarter, word of mouth through blogs and whispers at conventions and in game stores was really the only way one could find out about exciting projects that needed "pre-release" support.  In the past couple of years though, as Kickstarter has grown and along with it the number of successful projects -- Kickstarter has become a go to place for exciting gaming related products.

Which is why last March, my business partners and I at Twin Suns Entertainment decided to launch our initial product offering on the site.  Our vision was to make a documentary film that told a surprising tale about the people who play role playing games, a tale that broke stereotypes.  We wanted to show the world that gamers come in all stripes, from students to professors and from attorneys to screenwriters.  Gamers come from all walks of life, and the only real stereotype about gamers is that they enjoy games.  That had been our experience and we want to share that with the world.

We also want to do it right...which isn't cheap.  We want to follow a number of gamers (say four) in their day to day lives, gamers on different coasts with diverse backgrounds.  We also wanted to interview experts and visit the homeland of gaming...Wisconsin, as well as a couple of major conventions like PAX and GenCon.  Add visits to major publishers to this mix, and the travel expenses get pretty high.  But we want to do it right, and that means a pretty sizable budget of $41,000 or so.  That isn't huge by film making standards, but it's pretty big for a first Kickstarter project.  This is especially true when it comes to competing in a saturated market, by which I mean a market saturated with projects worth backing.  I would have to be arrogant and ignorant to think that our project was the only project worth backing.  I think our project is the best idea of all time, but I am still dumbstruck by the awesome that emanates from the minds of my fellow gamers.  Let me give you a few examples of what I have recently supported...if you are interested in everything I support you can check out my profile.  Oh...and not all of what I am currently backing is game related.  There really is a ton of great stuff out there.

So, here goes.  I have recently supported:

  1. Xombie: Death Warmed Over by Epic Level Entertainment.  Epic Level produces the very funny web series "Dungeon Bastard," and I loved the original Xombie stuff so this was a natural for me.  I would love it if Cindi Rice would participate in our documentary.  The Dungeon Bastard himself has agreed to let us invade his life, but to share with others the journey from game creator to television producer is one I would love to provide.
  2. Random Dungeon Generator as Dungeon Map   I think the coolness of this project speaks for itself.
  3. Dwimmermount -- I told you I love James Maliszewski's stuff.
  4. Free RPG Day Adventure from Gaming Paper -- I have supported every one of Erik Bauer's Gaming Paper forays.  He's one of the nicest guys in the industry, and a Friendly Local Game Store owner.
  5. Geek Seekers starring Monte Cook and Jen Page.  
  6. Tales of the Emerald Serpent -- A fiction anthology from Scott Taylor of Black Gate Magazine.  It harkens back to the old Liavek, Thieves' World, and Wild Cards anthologies.  I cannot wait.
And that is just a smattering.  There is a ton of great stuff out there.  You should support it.  

I'd love it if you'd support us in our project.  We've lined up some great participants who include the following:

  • John Rogers -- the creator of the Leverage TV show, author on the Blue Beetle comic book, user of unobtainium before Avatar, and player of Savage Worlds, D&D, and other games.
  • Ashley Miller -- screenwriter on Thor, and X-Men: First Class.  He and his group play an interesting mash up rpg that I hope I'll be able to share in more detail with you.
  • Cam Banks -- the creative force behind much of what Margaret Weis Productions is putting out these days.  His evolution of the Cortex system into the Cortex Plus system with games like Smallville, Leverage, and the Marvel RPG is quite remarkable.  
  • Matt Forbeck -- If credit for me even attempting a project in the gaming industry belongs to anyone, it belongs to Matt.  He is an incredibly nice guy, and is attempting a challenging project of his own.  He's trying to write 12 books in 12 months and to become a modern Walter Gibson.  Though he will have to become a professional grade magician -- you know card tricks etc. -- to truly match Gibson.
  • Ken St. Andre -- Not only was he the inventor of two of the earliest role playing games ever written -- Tunnels and Trolls and Starfaring -- he's offered to host a session of T&T at GenCon for us this year.
  • David Nett -- David is the creator of the entertaining webseries about gamers Gold: The Series.  It's not everyday that someone tries to make a dramatic comedy about our hobby.  He did, and with Night of the Zombie King -- the second Gold offering -- he accomplished that task with style.
We've got some great people involved in our project.  We are looking for more.  We hope that we can get Wil Wheaton or Felicia Day to participate.  They are in our neck of the woods after all, but they do have their own exciting projects lined up.  You might have heard of it.

It's pretty hard to stand out in a world of awesome, but that's what we are hoping to do.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Season of "Gold" Lives Up to Its Namesake

Though I am a fan of role playing games and sf/f fiction, it was difficult for me to get the proper suspended disbelief mindset to truly appreciate the first season of "Gold -- The Webseries that Does Double Damage." I even titled my review "The Series that Does Half Damage" as a reflection of how incredible -- by which I mean non-credible -- I found the narrative of the story. I just couldn't buy into the background world rules.

It wasn't that the concept of "professional role players" was new, Steven Barnes and Larry Niven wrote an excellent series of novels that contained an incarnation of the concept. I think it was the representation of what professional gaming looked like that rubbed me as somehow false. Though the show wasn't able to cloud my most skeptical critical eye, I still found myself deeply engaged by the acting and the character based interactions of the actual story taking place.

By the time I first watched the series, they had already announced that they would be streaming a sequel at the end of 2010. I eagerly awaited the sequel, hoping that it would expand upon the strengths of the original series while leaving the more problematic aspects behind. My hopes have been more than exceeded with the new season "Night of the Zombie King."

The first season of "Gold" was the tale of a "fallen athlete" trying to pull his life back together to compete on the national stage, and as such it felt somewhat hollow at times. "Night of the Zombie King" starts with a much more mundane premise. A group of friends get together to relive their days of gaming glory and fun. "Zombie King's" premise is one has verisimilitude and nostalgic power for those of us who have been gaming for decades, and who have fond memories of playing games with friends. Where attempting to emotionally related to a professional gamer is an act of pure fiction, empathizing with someone awkwardly re-connecting with old friends comes naturally.

"Night of the Zombie King" is in all ways an improvement on the first season. As before, the actors in the series provide solid performances, but David Nett and company have found a way to make the game a more natural part of the story's environment. Additionally, by making the interpersonal conflicts of the story less grandiose, "Night of the Zombie King" has managed to make the relationships more emotionally powerful.

"Night of the Zombie King" has the same kind of mournful celebratory quality of a film like Fandango. People who thought they would never see each other again meet to finish telling an interactive story they once started together. Watching each episode brings to mind memories of the adventures I have had with my friends over the years. I can still see vividly the time one of my favorite characters faced "Beast-Man" from "The Masters of the Universe" toy line in a friends home brew adventure, the time a player character was intentionally swallowed by the Tarrasque because it was easier to hit the creature from inside its stomach, or the time a friend's superhero character (a character who thought it was the archangel Gabriel) in an attempt to intimidate a small time thug managed to manifest his aura of fear so strongly it cowed all of Europe.

These are the reasons we game, and "Night of the Zombie King" is about those moments.

BTW, if you watch the interview for their DVD, you'll see that it was filmed at my local game store.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

GOLD Webseries Posts First "Companion" Series Trailer

David Nett and company have posted a trailer for a one-shot spin-off webisode of their popular GOLD rpg gamer drama web series entitled NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIE KING. From the looks of the trailer, this one shot will lack some of the features that rubbed me the wrong way in the original series. I still think the original series is entertaining and well crafted, but this trailer hints that the storytelling talents of the GOLD crew are getting better and better.

My one complaint regarding the performances in the trailer is that the physical conflict in the middle looks forced and inorganic. As such, itloses some of the dramatic power it could otherwise have.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

GOLD -- The Web Series that Does HALF Damage

If you want to see an excellent independent drama/comedy that focuses on Generation X geek culture, go watch FREE ENTERPRISE written by Robert Meyer Burnett and Mark A. Altman. The film combines a solidly humorous "turning 30" narrative with constant LOGAN'S RUN, STAR TREK, STAR WARS, and comic book references. If SWINGERS weren't already the geek's version of SWINGERS, then FREE ENTERPRISE would easily take that slot in film canon. Oh...and it has William Shatner as an actor named William Shatner who wants to make a musical version of JULIUS CAESAR with William Shatner performing all the speaking roles. The film is hilarious and on target.

GOLD, a web series created by David Nett, is an attempt to for gaming what FREE ENTERPRISE did for the rest of Generation X geek culture. That is to say that it attempts to create a compelling drama around the lives of a group of individuals how happen to be professional role playing gamers. Every work of fiction has its one "gimme," in the world of GOLD that gimme is that there is a role playing game league that has enough fans who wish to watch games being played that role playing is a professional sport. Other than that, the world is our world.

If I were of a mind to do it, I could make almost endless comparisons between GOLD the web series and FREE ENTERPRISE. One of GOLD'S co-protagonists is a tad whiny and fails to seize the initiative while wallowing in his own personal drama, like the character played by Eric McCormack in ENTERPRISE. Both have nightmare's related to their "drama." The other of GOLD'S co-protagonists sleeps around with people he has disdain for, and is the "cooler" of the co-protagonists. FREE ENTERPRISE'S Rafer Weigel character comes quickly to mind. But there are enough differences between the two that I believe that the similarities are coincidental, especially given the differences in the overall tone and narrative.

Some comparisons need to be made, because FREE ENTERPRISE did such a good job of translating geek culture to a wider audience, but not beat by beat comparisons.

I want to love GOLD. It is attempting, unlike most gamer web series, to present a serious drama series focused around the lives of gamers. Sometimes it succeeds, but most of the time it seems to suffer from what I call "pilotitis."

Pilotitis is when a show's pilot presents the viewer with an intriguing premise -- that is for the most part well done -- but that feels ragged around the edges. That describes GOLD to a T.

It's six 10-minute episodes equate roughly to an hour long drama pilot, and the overall story is interesting. The show isn't about gaming, it's about the people who play role playing games. This is where the show shines. The character interactions are believable and often compelling.

Where the show fails is in translating to its audience what exactly is going on in the narrative. If a viewer were to jump in at episode two without a knowledge of role playing games -- and without reading the background on the About tab of the GOLD website -- that viewer would feel lost to some extent. The episode narrative would be clear, but the season's narrative arc would be unclear.

Jon, one of the co-protagonists of GOLD, is in physical rehabilitation for some sort of injury sustained during a gaming competition. The cause of that injury isn't revealed until the 6th episode of the series. If one watches the prologue and episode one, without reading the website, one might come to believe that the accident happened in the kitchen when Jon was telling his soon to be wife he would still be a while at the game. That's not clear storytelling -- and that is what this show lacks.

It is often said, and rightfully, that stories need to be character driven. They also need to have a narrative that lets the audience see what is happening. An audience watching a visual medium needs to be shown and not told. They also need more than vague implications. They need to see the world at large and how it affects the characters.

Nett and crew get the characterizations right. They get the acting right most of the time, though it is agonizing to watch the acting injured moments. The characterizations are sometimes over the top, but that is appropriate to the genre. If only more of the characters were over the top. If only more of the narrative were over the top. If only there were more humor in the show.

Then the show would be great.

As it is, the show just hits my entertainment Armor Class. Given my desire to like shows in the genre, meaning that my gamer web series AC is lower than normal, I think that the show might struggle outside of the gaming community. It doesn't quite fill in enough information for the uninitiated and uses its website as too much of a crutch for filling in narrative elements that were not shown during the episodes.

For those who are gamers though, GOLD provides the first real attempt at a genuine dramatic entertainment featuring gamers as protagonists. This in and of itself is praiseworthy. The fact that it does a workmanlike job and presents compelling characters is icing on the cake.

If you're a gamer, I recommend watching GOLD and supporting its second season. If you aren't a gamer you should still watch it, but only after reading all of the background information on the website.

PEDANTRY ALERT: Rulebooks from quite a few different roleplaying games are used as props to represent the rules for the "in world" role playing game. Looking for these easter eggs can be a distraction, but they are proof that the creators are people who genuinely love games. Why else would Jon be picking up a copy of the Mayfair Games edition of CHILL? I don't even want to think about all of the licensing problems associated with the DM screens and wall posters in this series.