My Second Twine Game: Haunted

Me and my Head

I am apparently now in the habit of posting late. So a week or so after the WordPlay Twine Workshop with Christine Love, and exploring Faerie Dark’s world of interconnected Twine games and stories–essentially the progression of a universe-seed in progress–I felt compelled to make another Twine.

My first Twine game was mostly an experiment to see what I could apply in a very basic way to the software medium. I wanted to see if I could tell a story and use the medium to mimic page-turnings, or panels, or–if you prefer–punctuation. With this game, I wanted to do two things.

First off, I wanted to make sure what I did before wasn’t a one-off and I wanted to keep up the practice for when I create some of my more involved works. Luckily I have the template of “Level-Up” to work off of as well as some Twine tutorials and the instructions of Anna Anthropy and Porpentine as well as Gaming Pixie’s advice to go off of too.

But the second reason I made “Haunted” is because I wanted to make both a longer story and something personal. And this story is personal. I don’t just mean that it is based off of some of my life experience, which it is, but it really taps into feelings. I wanted to make sure that I could do this. It feeds into part of a feeble excuse in which I didn’t edit the text or anything, just because it was something I wanted to say and express while it felt real and fresh and, more importantly, tangible and cohesive in my mind. So, in part, I am basically taking Twine and telling a story as flat-out as I can and I admit that process is rather cathartic, if nothing else.

This also gave me an opportunity to explore the boundaries of my own ignorance. Right now, I am at the stage where I am basically taking basic Twine hyperlinking and knowing how to make titles and attribute my name and nothing more. I don’t know how to grey-out or eliminate links once they are chosen. I don’t know how to affect the game when certain items are chosen or not, or when certain places are clicked on or not selected. I have to be mindful about what words I will be using to click from one plot box to the next.

Sometimes I have made mistakes. In my old Twine story, I didn’t even unload it to Philome.la, a free Twine Twitter-based hosting site, properly. It took a few tries and I succeeded thanks to the very prompt and patient guidance of one Colin Marc. This story, such as it is now, is structurally limited but it is more of a game than the first one is. There is more exploration and you will have some–albeit simple–options. I am still focusing on story and expression, this time more personal expression, but I hope to eventually make a stronger game mechanic to make that exploration more potent … with editing, I assure you.

That said, I can see some “dictatorship of the narrative” going on here and I don’t know how well a more generalized audience will be able to relate to this game, but as I have said many times this is a story and I am working on one thing at least that might be a bit more inclusive. At very least and if nothing else, I made an experience and a story.

So here is my answer to the question of whether or not you can haunt the places of your own life. I hope you will appreciate it, and take it for what it is. Until next time, my friends.

For now, become Haunted.

ETA: Based on scraps of what I can remember from Christine Love’s Workshop, I believe I recall what the vertical bars, the |s do. They actually create Headings so that you can Rewind your game to that point and start off from there again instead of doing it all over. I will keep that in mind next time once I figure out how to utilize it properly.

When the Ghosts Stare Back Into You

In the First World, there were no ghosts.

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Everything was new and colourful in a washed out, nostalgic sort of way: like a lucid mind in an ecstasy of mushrooms and fantasy. And as shells of soldiers fell off ledges or collided with each other in contention, plants burned out by fire, beetles failed by foot, squat things were squashed back into the earth, and fish and squids fell in water and monsters drowned below bridges a princess was found in the right castle and all was well.

As a result, the Second World was a sleep of the just and bounty.

Until the Third World.

Until the ghosts came.

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Perhaps the ghosts didn’t so much come as they were always there and it was only in the greatest castles, forts and darkest worlds that they began to manifest. Certainly, in the time of the Third World they seemed mostly limited to those spots and, after, they could be rendered out of sight. Out of mind.

Yet perhaps in mockery of the deeds that heroes did not want to admit to, or examine in too much detail, the ghosts would always stare away from their tormentor … they would stare away until his back was turned and, like a guilty conscience no longer assuaged by excuses, his ethereal attendants would catch up with him.

By the Fourth World and the graduation from shaded 8-bits into vibrant cartoon colours the ghosts gained their own castles. And some of them had different faces. And there were so many of them. So many.

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Did the heroes ever stop to count the number of enemies they slaughtered and attempt to match them up with the restless, mocking, vengeful dead?

And now–now–the ghosts have grown in size and intent. And worse yet, not all of them turn away under scrutiny but lunge for their murderers or, worse yet, stare right back into their eyes. But what does it mean? What does it mean?

What does it mean?

Everybody Lives: A Review of The Day of The Doctor

I am going to quote River Song again when I say, “Spoilers.”

So for those of you who haven’t put on your Tenth Doctor’s 3D glasses this weekend or this coming week please don’t read any further.

Before The Day, there was The Night, and then Last Day. I am time-stamped on G33kpr0n in What Will Happen on The Day of The Doctor? as stating that it is quite impossible to predict a Doctor Who episode, never mind the 50th Anniversary Special. But I did make a few theories, just as I did in What Is a Doctor and When Does He Stop Running? in my Mythic Bios Blog.

I am not upset that my possible theories were wrong, not really. I went into watching “The Day of The Doctor,” on Space at 2:50 pm with no other expectations save for the fact that we were going to see how Gallifrey died. I mean, this is what we’ve been told since 2005. Gallifrey is no more. Gallifrey falls. The Doctor is the last of his kind and he keeps losing his Companions over and again. As the last of the Time Lords, The Doctor is alone. From 2005 to the present, this is the story that we have been told and that we have seen play out time and again. But just as we all had our theories about how this would all go down, there was what we thought and then there was what happened, what will happen, or what is happening right now to those of you watching this for the first time.

The episode begins with the original 1963 Doctor Who introduction sequence, complete in black and white, and so close to the junkyard owned by one I.M. Foreman where the adventures of The Doctor began. After Clara leaves from her new work at a school, where The Doctor’s first Companions may have once taught his granddaughter, to go see him and U.N.I.T. is in so much of a rush to get The Doctor to help him that they basically tow away him and his TARDIS by helicopter, The Doctor finds his past catching up with him.

U.N.I.T., led by the Brigadier’s daughter Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, brings The Doctor to their Under-Gallery, where Queen Elizabeth the First placed all paintings deemed “not fit for public consumption” to see a sample of Time Lord-painting. This painting is a depiction of the last day of The Last Great Time War and the fall of Gallifrey’s second city Arcadia. Suddenly, The Doctor remembers that incarnation of himself that he doesn’t like to think about, the one he and Clara saw again in “The Name of The Doctor” when he crossed into his own time stream. We are treated to a look at the three-dimensional painting, which is bigger on the inside, of a golden, blood-red ravaged Gallifrey…

And then we are right in the War.

The Day of The Doctor 2

Murray Gold’s “The Dark and Endless Dalek Night” plays grandiose and horrifying in the background as Dalek saucers and Time Lord defences battle it out. But we see something new on Gallifrey’s surface. In “The End of Time,” all we saw was the Time Lord High Council in fascist red and gold proclaiming what would be the Ultimate Sanction, or the obliteration of the universe to assure their ascension as beings of pure consciousness. The Doctor made it clear that the Time Lords had been completely corrupted and irredeemable by battle lust and war. I mean, think about for a few moments.  Imagine a whole people that can Regenerate and manipulate the laws of Time itself. Now think about Rassilon, the founder of Time Lord society and the inventor of much of their technology, removing the thirteen Regeneration limit and with modified Battle TARDISes dying over and over again. The Time Lords and, by extension, Gallifrey were basically deemed as bad as the Daleks and this was the reason for The Doctor’s terrible decision. This was the reason he used The Moment to destroy all of them.

In my own Mythic Bios article, I saw it as an act of euthanasia, of basically putting an entire people that had gone rabid with a hunger for power to sleep out of mercy for them and the Universe. I saw it as a hard, but necessary thing. But we had hints that just as the Time Lords had done terrible things, they also weren’t all monsters even at this point in this game. Look at the mini-episode “The Last Day” for instance. Those soldiers were just people. They were just trying to defend their home. You see from the perspective of a Gallifreyan or Time Lord soldier another giving you a helmet and he has this look of empathy and shared suffering on his face. This is not a madman or a monster. They are the front-line that has to defend their home and their families.

Yes, Time Lord society has families. Despite earlier versions of the Doctor Who mythos where Time Lords were Loomed or artificially woven and grown into existence, Time Lords and Gallifreyans have parents … and children. And this is where the episode punches you in the stomach. You assume that all the Time Lords were engineered adults, even if they were once children. I even had the belief that an elder race like the Time Lords would have few, if any children at this stage in their evolution. But you see them. You see the Gallifreyan children cowering with their protective and very terrified parents. All of that over-exaggerated Gallifreyan fashion that we have seen over the years is tattered and clothing essentially war refugees that die by Dalek and friendly-fire. It is truly awful and perhaps that is the reason why Moffat does not show gratuitous Regeneration scenes. First of all, I am pretty sure that the Daleks could have replicated something like staser fire, one of the few weapons that can kill Time Lords instantly, and second of all it illustrates that there are no take backs in war where innocents die.

Then we see The Doctor, The War Doctor, who has frankly become my favourite. He is a worn, haunted, sad old man who has seen and dealt more death than any self-conscious being ever need to. Even as he rescues some refugees by having the TARDIS smash into some Daleks, he uses a gun to carve the words “No more” into a wall. It is as though he is writing his own name as the artist of the Time Lord painting we see from Doctor Eleven’s perspective. He might as well be.

After some very concerned Time Lord soldiers, who are fed up with the High Council for doing essentially nothing (which is another indication that not all Time Lords were aware of, or even agreed with the Ultimate Sanction) realize that The Doctor has stolen the most powerful super weapon in existence we think we know where this is going. It is The Moment.

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We find The Doctor in an isolated spot, having left his TARDIS miles away, either because she won’t have to see him detonate the device or watch him die. Despite the lack of hope in his eyes and his weathered, unkempt face he is still The Doctor. He is tinkering with The Moment and trying to puzzle it out like he does any other toy he comes across.

And then we see Rose.

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No. We actually see The Moment, as the device’s sentient program, taking on Rose’s Bad Wolf incarnation and deciding to make The Doctor fully aware of the consequences of what he intends to do. She is beautiful and golden in the feral way that her moniker suggests. The Moment has taken the image of someone from The Doctor’s past, or future, to attempt to relate to him. It is her that confronts him about the children. And you can see in his eyes even before he says anything that he intends to die with The War. It makes too much sense. After all the horror and the loss even later in his life, it is a miracle that The Doctor has never committed suicide. But The Moment, Bad Wolf, or Rose will not make it that easy for him. For some reason, The Moment has decided to make him face his decisions and his future by opening warps through the War’s time lock. Talk about an excellent piece of Ancient Time Lord technology huh?

These warps are how Doctor Eleven, Ten, and The War Doctor end up meeting in 1562 England. Despite the grimness of everything I’ve described so far, there is your typical Doctor Who silliness. Doctor Ten continuously mistakes Elizabeth the First as being a shape-shifting Zygon imposter (I’m thinking his shape shifter device kept getting confused by his own energy), while Doctor Eleven threw a fez through two of the warps that brought them all together. Even The War Doctor is exasperated by these younger, future versions of himself. In the scene where he meets them for the first time, convinced by The Moment to talk with his future selves, he actually mistakes them for The Doctor’s Companions. At first, I thought he was totally messing around with them, asking for The Doctor and calling them Companions until I began to realize that he genuinely didn’t know.

I will say that at this point in the venture, I thought Eleven would react much more angrily to The War Doctor given his denunciation of him in “The Name of The Doctor.” But he and Doctor Ten just seemed shocked. And after they are captured by Elizabeth’s guards, seemingly under the Zygon imposter’s command we see them pretty much face each other down. The War Doctor asks them if they ever thought about how many children there were on Gallifrey. There is another punch in the stomach for everyone in the audience. But whereas Doctor Ten does, in fact remember, Doctor Eleven claims not to and there is this very real, very angry moment between him and Ten about how he could “move past” something of that kind. Basically, even in a jail cell The Doctor is still running from his past and what he did that one time during The Time War. Meanwhile The Moment, who is still Rose and can only be seen by The War Doctor, is feeding him lines and asking him to consider matters.  I was thinking about all those Doctor/Rose fan-shippers that were crying inside about how close this approximation of Rose was to Doctor Ten and Eleven, and yet so far away.

Then each of them is led by The Moment, through The War Doctor, to realize that despite the different appearances of their sonic screwdrivers they all still have the same software. They are about to use them to break out when Clara, who the Zygons underestimated rather stupidly, just opens the unlocked door. Yes, all three Doctors are that absent-minded: constantly searching for complex solutions, when the answer is right in front of them. It happens to us all. But then what seems to be the Elizabeth imposter leads them out to show them how the Zygons are planning to conquer Earth. With their homeworld having been destroyed in the beginnings of the Time War, the Zygons somehow reverse-engineered Time Lord art technology (perhaps through the presence of the Time War painting that is somehow at some point in Elizabethan England) send themselves into other paintings to release themselves in Earth’s future. All of these events are components to another, greater Moment that comes up very soon.

So after realizing that Elizabeth I is the real one pretending to be her imposter (that she stabbed to death in the forest) and her impromptu wedding with Doctor Ten, all three Doctors come into the TARDIS and find a way to go back to 2013 into a “TARDIS-proofed” U.N.I.T. Black Tower and stop the mutually-assured destruction of London situation happening between the Zygon infiltrators and Kate Lethbridge-Stewart. It is here that we see Doctors Ten and Eleven taking their regret over what happened in The Time War and using it and craftiness to get both sides to agree to peace-talks. Clara then has some alone time with The War Doctor, a far cry from the young energetic man she has been travelling with and says that his eyes “look young” while those of his counterparts look so terribly old.

It is here that The War Doctor comes to his decision. He realizes that his “necessary mistake” in destroying Gallifrey is the only way to get his future incarnations to “grow-up” into the people that they have become. He plans to be the force that they learn from. And I know that I, as part of the audience watching this commercial-less simulcast, braced for what was going to come.

But even though this was not a Christmas Special, a 50th Anniversary counts for something. Even as The Moment makes him pause again, the other two Doctors with Clara in tow come to where he is now. It is heartbreaking to see The War Doctor want them to leave him so that he can do what he, albeit doubtfully now, still believes is necessary and Regenerate alone. But they accept that he is a part of them, after denying his memory for so long and they are all about to activate The Moment’s Big Red Button when…

Clara comes in and reminds The Doctor why he named himself The Doctor. The Moment too takes the opportunity to show all of them Gallifrey’s families and children. There have so far been two reoccurring themes in this episode. The first part of the episode starts at a school house with children in an English public school with its old private-school trappings. It is not unlike the Time Lord Academy in which The Doctor and so many others grew up. We see the children in the War. We see them at play in the sunlight of The War Doctor’s dusty memories. And then we see them hanging up colourful ribbons and streamers despite the destruction around them. We see something that we have not seen so far in this whole episode.

We see hope.

We also see women. It is no original idea or trope for a female archetype to be the helper or saviour of a male character. The Moment does everything she can to lead The Doctor to an informed decision not determined by despair. Clara reminds The Doctor of his purpose and is always his Companion. Elizabeth the First flat out states that arrogance typifies all men. Even the TARDIS, Sexy, won’t leave The Doctor in any incarnation. She even smashed down some Daleks like a Battle TARDIS. Where The Doctors act, these characters ask and question. And yes, they help save The Doctor from the spiritual damnation we’ve seen him struggle with since 2005.

The Day of The Doctor Women

In them, we see life.

And then a potential catastrophe becomes a eucastrophe: a happy-ending.

Between the three Doctors and all of their other incarnations–including the Thirteenth Doctor–they use the time-freezing technology used by the Zygons–the “cup of soups”–to capture Gallifrey and deposit it into another pocket universe.

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In this way, it looks like Gallifrey is destroyed along with the Daleks. But Gallifrey is not destroyed. Through loops and contradictions and layers of Space and Time Gallifrey doesn’t rise, or fall, or die. It lives.

In the words of the Ninth Doctor, “everybody lives.”

The ages-old and weary War Doctor leaves, finally at peace and although his later incarnations lose all memory of this crossover event, he Regenerates. We don’t see Doctor Nine, which is a little disappointing, but this is not unexpected. Ten also leaves knowing that he will not remember, but stating that they need a new destination aside from the doom of Trenzalore. But Doctor Eleven remembers.

I am almost finished. Like a TARDIS, this 50th Anniversary Special is “bigger on the inside.” As Doctor Eleven wonders if they succeeded in saving Gallifrey, and ponders embracing Elizabeth’s role to him as the curator of the Under-Gallery he … meets or reacquaints himself with someone. At first, I wondered how this was possible and who the elderly Curator could possibly be. But after re-watching the episode to write this review, I realized that The Doctor can actually decide what face he takes on in his Regenerations. He can even take on old faces.

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So when an elderly Tom Baker all but confirms that Gallifrey is saved and that the painting in front of them is called Gallifrey Falls No More. It is left ambiguous as to whether or not The Curator is a future version of The Doctor, or a possibility, or someone else entirely.  Ending the episode with that gentle, wise lighthearted moment, with a potential Doctor without bitterness and regret and filled only with a kindly acceptance, changed the whole tone of the series in that one moment. And Doctor Eleven taking his place alongside his other incarnations with the First Doctor standing in back of them with his arms crossed is positively inspiring.

There is so much I know I’ve missed in this review and I have tried to capture all of it in something like a Time Lord-painting. There are those who would say that this whole Special was a cop-out: that it negated all of The Doctor’s experiences and that it leaves plot holes and weaves itself with clichés. But I think that now, this Special leaves a whole other level of possibility and paths yet to travel. I asked a question in the title of my Mythic Bios post. I asked “When does The Doctor stop running?”

The answer is that he doesn’t. The Doctor will never stop running. It is his nature to run. But he has changed. Because now, for the first time in ages The Doctor won’t be running from something. Rather, The Doctor will be running to his destination, to his end and Gallifrey and all the possibilities beyond it. Everybody lives, gentlebeings and now perhaps we can see The Doctor do that as well. Perhaps we can now see him truly live.

How You Can Help Me

Remember my post where I Am Asking For Your Help? Well, this follow-up post is both late and a long time coming.

I have been insanely busy. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it feels like I’m in a Time War of my very own. I am trying to find that balance between having a life and using my art to support that life. It’s hard. When people tell you that attempting to become a published writer, especially a published writer that makes money off of your creations, they are not exaggerating. I have attempted to get published “legitimately,” and while I have still not ruled it out by any means, and I have one work in particular that I want to send by those channels, there is this one hard fact to consider.

I am working hard to make content and I am not getting paid for it.

Don’t misunderstand. I enjoy writing for Mythic Bios and being given the opportunity to contribute to the other online magazines in which I publish articles. I write much better when I get to focus on the matters of Geek Culture and other areas of interest.

This not about them or any of that. I just can’t ignore the facts. I am on social assistance, and I am working hard to write articles and stories that are not making me any money.

And this has been bothering me for a very long time. To be perfectly honest with you all, I know I’m talented. I know that I have accomplished a great many things in this past year alone and I continue to make myself believe “in as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” which is a far cry from the one or two I barely had energy to concentrate on back in the day, but despite my efforts and my audience I am quite simply not getting paid for any of it.

So I have thought about a solution to this issue. I’ve realized that this is no one’s responsibility but my own and I am now going to take steps to deal with it. The fact of the matter is that throughout my entire life, I’ve never done anything through orthodox channels, and even when I’ve been in established institutions I have had to find my own methods of dealing with them, and creating my own learning path. And now that I’m outside of academia and those established places I realize that I have to apply that same mentality to life. That said, I didn’t even know how begin to deal with life on those terms.

Until now.

Anna Anthropy, through her own quests to support herself and her work, made me aware of a new crowd-funding platform called Patreon. It is essentially an application that allows an artist’s supporters to become their patrons: to donate money to their art. It is a lot like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but while the former are made to support larger projects, Patreon is created to fund artists on a smaller and yet potentially longer term monthly scale.

So now this is the part where I finally get to the point. While Anna Anthropy was the one who lead me to this platform, Amanda Palmer introduced me to the Art of Asking: to the power of crowd-funding, of trusting in the goodwill of your fans, and to simply asking for help.

And here is how you can help me.

I have created a Patreon Profile. I would like you, my loyal friends and Followers to read over what I have written on this Profile and do one of two things: become my Patrons and donate whatever amount of money you feel comfortable paying to my art, or spread word of my art and my Patreon Profile to the people that you know.

I go into a lot of detail in the Profile, so please read it closely, but allow me to clarify a few other matters first. I am not charging money for anyone to view my work on Mythic Bios or anywhere. Aside from the fact that I lack the authority in those other places, I do have the authority to state that Mythic Bios’ content will always be free to the public. If you’d like, think of it as what the name suggests: you are patronizing me (hopefully in the positive sense of the word) for the work that I already do and if you do become my Patrons in addition my Followers you will get to see some Patron-Only work, or be the lucky ones to get a first view of it before I launch it more publicly. And I am also willing to undertake research and creative commissions.

I am not begging you for charity and most of you already know this. I am asking you for the opportunity to work for pay doing something that I love doing and making that connection with you.

Now, this will be a learning process for the both of us. I myself am still figuring out the details with regards to Patreon and it will undoubtedly change over time. Also, I just want to state that if you ever want to stop funding me for whatever reason, you can easily cancel your donations. I am simply hoping for a modest cumulative monthly donation of some kind which I plan to share the results of with you.

The thing is: this is both really hard and very easy to ask this of you. What Amanda Palmer espouses, asking for help, is something that has been ingrained in me ever since I was diagnosed as being learning disabled. The very term “extra help” is indicative of asking. But as I said, I have challenges but I will not beg and if you can’t or don’t want to donate anything to my work I understand and, like I said I hope you will keep following it and let other people know about it and my Patreon.

There has always been a stigma to asking for extra help, or even just asking someone for help in society. But here is where I began to realize the difference. I am not asking a bunch of strangers for change. I am asking you–my friends, peers, colleagues, and loved ones–for help. I am letting go of the negative part of my stubbornness: the pride and the fear of change that does not want to admit weakness or, in this lexicon, vulnerability.

I am trusting, all of you, to help me in some way. Even if it is only in the form of suggestions, questions, concerns, or advice about the contents of my Patreon please let me know and I will treasure what you tell me.

So I am going to re-post a picture I’ve been using for two posts now, and with good reason. This was me looking at the horizon a few years ago: wondering what was going to happen next. And this time, not only am I doing exactly the same thing but I hope to see you all there with me. I will keep putting myself out there. I promise you that. I owe you that. I owe that to myself.

Thank you for supporting me: in any way that you can. You already are.

*Hugs*

sincerely,

Matthew Kirshenblatt

Looking Outward

P.S. I am going to pay this attempt at good will forward. Gaming Pixie is an excellent reviewer, graphic artist, site designer, and video game creator. She is one of those that already believes in six impossible things before breakfast. But due to life circumstances, she needs more help than I do at this moment. Please consider donating some money to her art on her website and seeing what she can truly do. Because just as I believe in her, I also believe in all of you. Please encourage her to believe in a seventh impossible thing.

And check out Anna Anthropy’s Patreon as well. She cannot have enough support for the work that she is doing: not only being one of those creating games with her own voice, but advocating the creation of means for other people to do the same.

What Will Happen on The Day of The Doctor?

This article and its contents will be time-stamped, but they certainly won’t be time locked … whatever that means anymore.

So in the immortal words of River Song, “Spoilers.”

After May 18, 2013 there was, if you will pardon the pun, a large moment of silence. Then, on September 28 after “The Name,” there was a name. For a while, after that, there were murmurs until, on October 19 Time itself became suspended as though holding its breath in a debris of lives and, from a mountaintop a green-hued sonic screwdriver is pointed at the skies. And like a released elastic band, Time speeds up on November 9 and war and chaos come spiraling towards us with the “premonitions” that a soldier claims do not exist. But I am getting ahead of myself because, before that on the same day, there is one more moment of silence before a plunge into the epic music and story of a man known to his foes as the Oncoming Storm.

And then we go back. Yes, we shall go back. We go back to November 14 from a countdown of Eleven, Ten, Nine until Eight on The Night of The Doctor when we see the fateful decision that forever shapes the numbers that come after. And just when we think it’s over, just when we think that perhaps we will only see fragments of a war and nothing beyond what will be seen, on November 20th we witnessed The Last Day of the Time Lords.

These are the main trailers and mini-episodes leading up to the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who episode “The Day of The Doctor.” So as “The Day of The Doctor” awaits us tomorrow on cable, in movie theatres and even on its own global simulcast, what do we already know about this episode?

The Day of The Doctor Commerative Stamp

Well, trying to predict Doctor Who is a lot like attempting to predict God in Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, because like The Doctor “God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”

The above pretty much sums up my feelings on trying to forecast the Oncoming Storm’s episodes, never mind the 50th Anniversary Special. However, based on various clips, trailers, and the two web mini-episodes here is what we can put together so far in something like the strange Doctor Who puts, well, anything plot-wise together. First, let’s look at what BBC released with their hashtag:

“The Doctors embark on their greatest adventure in this 50th Anniversary Special: In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion.

All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him.
World, are you ready? #SaveTheDay”

Now, it seems likely that Doctor Eleven and Clara got out of his own time-stream and based on the small clips, such as their time at the museum, they are the ones in 2013. We also know, based on past episodes, that Doctor Ten was once romantically involved with Queen Elizabeth I (apparently married to her) and something happened between them that made her so angry she ordered his death. Finally the ancient battle coming to its conclusion, based on what little we know of temporal war and the fact that The War Doctor, played by John Hurt and identified as such in the credits of “The Night of The Doctor,” aged from a young man to a very old one seems to be evident, or at least to me. What is also interesting is that the Zygons, classic shape-shifting Doctor Who monsters, are also making their appearance in the 50th Anniversary Special along with the Daleks.

Zygon

Whether or not they are a part of the Time War or they are after it is unknown. The fact that the TARDIS is being lifted however seems to indicate that Earth is aware of The Doctor again, or that U.N.I.T. is getting involved in what will most likely be a potentially cataclysmic event. Rose Tyler is also going to be with The Doctor, at least the Tenth one as his Companion before she is taken to an alternate reality, and she seems to be present with The War Doctor at The Moment where he destroys both Time Lords and Daleks in her manifestation as Bad Wolf.

And now we go further into conjecture, if we aren’t there already. I certainly know I am. For me, the fact that the white rift opens in the museum in front of Clara and The Doctor reminds me of “the cracks in time” that occurred with the TARDIS’ destruction back in “The Eleventh Hour.” At the same time, this is not the first instance in which Time has conspired to place The Doctor with his past incarnations when the need arises.

But I think what disturbs me the most is that, on Trenzalore The Doctor jumped into his own time stream. This is apparently something that no one should do, and most people do not survive it. For me, I suspect that there are consequences for The Doctor entering his own time-stream at the point after his own death and I think that the presence of The War Doctor is indicative of this. He is an incarnation that The Doctor does not like to acknowledge based on his actions during The Last Great Time War.

Yet I wonder if perhaps The War Doctor is in some ways a gate onto himself due to his psychic trauma and influence over Time past the apparent time lock around the events of the War and if by entering his own time-stream, in a similar way to how the Time Lords used The Master to bring Gallifrey and the War to 2010 in “The End of Time,” he has unlocked something incredibly terrifying. It would not be the first time that The Doctor has inadvertently unleashed a horror on the universe out of curiosity or a sense of compassion. After all, the Daleks were once trapped in their own City on Skaro and weren’t even aware of life on other worlds before The First Doctor decided to pay them a visit.

Aside from all this speculation as to how we can even see The Time War with the time lock (without going insane like Dalek Caan) and what is going to happen is beyond me and, frankly, I am overjoyed to see how this will all fit haphazardly and gloriously together. But there is one thing I would definitely like to see in this 50th Anniversary Special. I would love to see the Tenth Doctor’s response to seeing The War Doctor which will hopefully be different than Eleven’s response. Yet more than that, I want to see Bad Wolf Rose interact with Doctor Eleven and see her show The War Doctor a little more compassion because, if anyone deserves it, it would be him for doing what none of his other incarnations could ever do.

Doctor Who – 50th Anniversary Special - The Day of the Doctor

I am fascinated by one rumour however. We have already seen Paul McGann’s return in “The Night of The Doctor,” but apparently Tom Baker, who once played the jelly-baby eating Fourth Doctor, is going to make his own appearance as well. Whether he is coming back as the Fourth Doctor or in another role is a different story entirely.

Time always brings with it surprises … and this is especially true for Time Lords. And please, post your speculations and comments down below so we can predict how The Doctor’s day will go. We’ll see you in Utopia.

WordPlay in Toronto

So last week  Jim Munroe, the comics writer of Therefore Repent!, novelist, and the co-producer of the controversial Pipe Trouble game, invited me to the first-ever Toronto WordPlay Festival of Writerly Games on November the 16th. The WordPlay Festival is an event that the video game arts Hand Eye Society, of which Jim Munroe is also the executive director, in cooperation with the Toronto Public Library and with support from the Toronto Arts Council, celebrates and examines “the use of words and writing in contemporary games.”

This is not the first time that the Toronto Public Library has cooperated with either Hand Eye or the Torontonian video game scene. Not only did Jim Munroe create an interactive alternate reality game in the Library back in March of this year (in which you are part of the Literary Resistance attempting to prevent the book-burning culture from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 from ever happening) but last year the North York Central Library hosted both a Gaming Journalism Workshop for Gamercamp and a Writing for Videogames Workshop by Kan Gao: the creator of the beautiful independent Adventure RPG game To the Moon.

In fact the introduction to the Festival in the Atrium was made by Ab Velasco, a Communications Officer for the Toronto Public Library who, among things, helps facilitate special events at the Library including the Toronto Comics Arts Festival, and workshops such as Kan Gao’s and Gamercamp’s (where I first saw him). In fact, he mentioned that there is even an initiative in the Toronto Public Library system to make game-making technology free and available to library patrons as well providing eventual access to a 3D printer. This is pretty amazing news and you can tell that Ab Veslasco is having a major hand in these developments.

The Festival took place at the Toronto Reference Library and it was divided into two segments. There was a panel and a discussion that took place in the Atrium, while the WordPlay Showcase opened up its terminals with over-twenty text and story-based games to the public in Learning Centre I.

robothorse

The panel was called “Where Prose Meets Play.” It was moderated by Jim Munroe, and its other panelists were composed of freelancing conceptual artist and illustrator Rachel Kahn, game designer and animator Matt Hammill, Canadian writer, computer programmer and creator of Dinosaur Comics Ryan North, and Canadian science-fiction writer Peter Watts. Essentially, the entire first Panel looked at a wide-range of topics including the differences between storytelling for prose, comics, and writing for video games. It was some really interesting stuff: from Peter Watts stating that he had to write some very obvious descriptive passages for games that wouldn’t have worked in prose, to Rachel Kahn talking about how architecture and environment can tell a story. What I really found interesting was the discussion that examined the line between allowing a player too much freedom or giving the player too much structure and how it would be utterly fascinating to make a game, be it electronic or in book form, that allowed a player to choose the ending to their story.

WordPlay Panel

After a half-an-hour intermission there was a discussion with the Chicago-based group Cardboard Computer who created the magical realist point-and-click game Kentucky Route Zero. It was basically an interview facilitated by Miguel Sternberg, the founder of Spooky Squid Games and the creator of They Bleed Pixels, with Jake Elliott, Tamas Kemenczy, and Ben Babbitt.

WordPlay Discussion

Unfortunately, I was not able to fully get into the discussion due to two factors. First of all, I had never heard of, nor played the game though there were some interesting thoughts that the creators were spinning around such as making a game about a character whose choices are limited by debt (a fact of life that many of us are all too familiar with nowadays), and a game level that takes place in a museum or archive filled with old video games. Unfortunately, it is entirely possible that I am combining two different ideas mentioned in this discussion into one.

The other reason I had difficulty getting into the Kentucky Route Zero Discussion is due to the fact that the acoustics in the Atrium, even with microphones, were not that effective and announcements from the Library would drown out the speakers at key points. This also affected my following of the panel before it, and it is my only complaint about the Festival’s arrangement.

But since then I have done a little bit of research on Kentucky Route Zero. It is a game in five acts that, according to the WordPlay Festival bookmark, has literary influences from a writer named Flannery O’Connor. Once I looked up who this writer actually was, I saw that she utilized what is called the Southern Gothic Style: writing that relies a lot on heavy regional influences and grotesque characters. The game itself is apparently about a mysterious highway underneath the caves of Kentucky and the strange people that travel it.

I want to make a point of mentioning that not only did WordPlay occur one day after the release of the PlayStation 4, but it also featured a premier of its own. Off to the side of the audience were two desks with half-empty glasses and brick sandwiches (yes, you read and saw that right, they were actually brick sandwiches) and two Oculus Rift headsets lent to the event by the Toronto independent game designer and community work space Bento Miso.

WordPlay Brick Sandwich

Now, I’d heard of this next stage in virtual reality gaming but I didn’t really think much of it. I mean, I’d heard that these systems can cause dizziness and nausea, and I still have memories of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy and so many other virtual reality promises and hopes throughout the years that eventually rendered me to the point of apathy.  But I knew that since I was covering this event, I felt compelled to try it out. I didn’t actually get to checking out the Oculus Rift until much later. In fact, I only came to them as the Festival ended and the Reference Library was closing for the night. I thought I was too late.

However, a very helpful volunteer or Cardboard Computer staff member got me an Oculus Rift and I got to play, for a while, a Kentucky Route Zero intermission level or chapter entitled “The Entertainment.” It was strange because by the time I got to it the table and items on it, including the brick sandwich, were being packed up and I had nothing to touch, but I was … impressed. Unlike the rest of Kentucky Route Zero with its pixilated 2D graphics and third-person perspective, this was first-person and it was pretty cool. Cardboard Computer made  a three-dimensional room which, like its original game looked like it was made from angles of paper or “cardboard,” but it also attempted to play with light and shadow and the distance of sound when you move your head. But I think what I found the most intriguing is the fact that there are dialogue boxes containing narration that give you physical cues as to when you should look up and listen in on a conversation. It is like being able to explore but there is also a story that subtly acts like a script when “your part” comes up. That line between free choice and structure is a theme that comes up again as it gets explored and played on in this game. I just want to add that playing an Oculus Rift for the first time with a Wii remote was an interesting experience for me as well.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I got to check out the WordPlay Showcase with that whole collection of story-based games featured on each terminal in Learning Centre I. During the Discussion with Cardboard Computer I ran into Ian Daffern again, a fellow writer and creator whom I actually collaborated with in  the 2013 Toronto Global Game Jam–my first–and he told me that he created a Twine game called TRUNKED.

Now, I have really wanted to talk about Twine on G33kPr0n for a very long time and I always take time to mention them elsewhere. Twine is software that allows writers that may not necessarily have much programming knowledge, to make interactive text-based games or stories. So I only managed to play his excellent game twice (where I died once and then actually realized that my gut instinct about a certain item could help me) before the next and final part of the Festival began.

I am referring to Christine Love’s Hands-on Workshop: Make Interactive Fiction Workshop.

For me, this was the highlight of the WordPlay Festival. In addition to the fact that Christine Love is the creator of many intensely story-based games such as Digital: A Love Story, Analogue: A Hate Story, and Hate Plus that I truly respect and adore, I was also getting the excuse to use Twine for myself and make something. After Christine Love took about fifteen minutes to run through the basics with us, she then gave us five minutes to come up with an idea, and gave us the rest of the hour before closing time to implement it. I managed to make a template to follow for what will hopefully be a series of future Twine stories to come.

WordPlay Workshop

You can even see me in this photo if you look closely. I’m asking someone for help.

But just as there is a fine line between freedom of choice and plot for a player to navigate there, this article has also been a fine line between coverage of an important event and my own personal experience.

Anna Anthropy in her book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters talks about the importance of developing game-creation software and technology that is available and easy public use. She has often advocated and created many games using Twine software. It is an idea that can go beyond, or change video game industry culture and allow people who ordinarily don’t have voices in video games to express themselves and let people interact from their perspectives. It is something can change games as a medium and also the very nature of what they are. For me personally, I always felt sad because I always felt limited in what I could with games due to a lack of visual artistic ability and programming knowledge.

But what Twine allows me to do is use my own skill with words to make the games I always wanted. And having an interactive teacher, as opposed to some tutorial videos, gave me some of the basic keys to the kingdom of making interactive worlds and that, for me, is golden.

Finally I just want to also ask you, the readers of G33kPr0n, to  please check out all the hyperlinks provided above, look at the rest of Hand Eye’s Fest Pics and Showcase Links and even consider making some Twine stories of your own. If I can do it, so can you. I learned a lot from this event and I can best summarize that feeling in the title of my own very short Twine game.

Level Up

Photo Credits: Stephen Reese

The Last Day: Another Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Mini-Episode

This is now my thirteenth post and I wouldn’t be surprised if I turned into The Valeyard at this point. All right, before I go on just watch this video. Please watch it.

Are you done?

All right. I came across this today from Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Facebook profile. At first, it was a broken link until she linked to it from another Doctor Who Profile. Now, we have seen a lot of trailers and one other mini-episode “The Night of The Doctor.” So when I came across this, I felt like the soldier from whose perspective we are viewing the situation.

Gallifreyan

I will admit, I didn’t know who these soldiers were, or even what episode this was even going to be. It was like seeing that small little speck, you know? You are that soldier and you are looking for a bird or some kind of avian in the sky.

But then you realize This. Is. Gallifrey.

And then you look at the title to this mini-episode, Steven Moffat’s “The Last Day,” you as the viewer already know where this is going.

That's Not a Bird

That’s not a bird.

At first, in a manner not unlike the soldier and his, or her, fellows I wondered if this was real: if Coleman wasn’t linking us to an especially zealous fan-made video about The Last Great Time War. But as I went online, I saw a whole slew of links to this one video  and, by the time I got to Doctor Who TV I knew that this was legitimate. There were some other indications too for more nuanced viewers of the series. For instance, G33kpr0n’s editor Rob pointed out that the soldiers of Gallifrey are all wearing The Seal of Rassilon on their armour. It goes to show you that even now I still have a lot to learn as a geek which, frankly, is a whole load of awesomesauce.

Now I am just going to go into some conjecture of my own. I’m guessing that the helmets the soldiers (who may have been recruited from the Chancellery Guard or the non-Time Lord Gallifreyan citizenry) are wearing to access the memories of dead soldiers are extensions or an adaptation of The Matrix (which is a super-computer that, among other things, contains the memories of deceased Time Lords and stores information to predict the future, hence the soldier’s insistence that what “you” are seeing is “not a premonition”). It would be useful to store all of this information to transfer to the next mind of the newest soldier, you, for your very first day guarding the planet of Gallifrey.

Unfortunately, as you see through this unique second-person perspective of the War that also manages to humanize the Time Lords and their army while showing just how Frontline Combat they have become, you realize that you are not viewing a bird or even a flock of birds.

It's a Murder of Daleks

It’s a murder of Daleks.

And while there is “The Night of The Doctor,” “The Day of The Doctor,” and what should have been your first day on the job guarding your home world ultimately becomes your “Last Day”: The Last Day of Gallifrey.

Sexy and Clara: A Doctor Who Mini-Episode

I seem to be reaching my twelfth regeneration, or twelfth post, on G33kpr0n and I find it really interesting how even though I am a Star Wars fanatic I’ve really been focusing on Doctor Who lately. I suppose it can’t be helped. After all, we have the Adventures in Space and Time documentary drama and Neil Gaiman’s Nothing O’Clock both happening on November 21, and that isn’t even mentioning the 50th Anniversary episode “The Day of The Doctor” happening on November 23. There is all this gravitas and doom and glory that is about to hit a whole ton of of Whovians, and sometimes it can just seem like too much.

So now, for the moment, we turn away from The Doctor and what will probably be another potential universal apocalypse to the two current women in his life right now. “Clara and the TARDIS” is actually a mini-episode made exclusively for the Series 7 DVD and Blue-Ray box sets. It apparently takes place before “The Rings of Akhaten” and “Hide,” and therefore long before “The Name of The Doctor.” It’s been long known by most Doctor Who fans that the TARDIS is a sentient being (who has, relatively recently, chosen a name for herself) with her own sensibilities and feelings on certain matters, especially with regards to her beloved Doctor. And Clara herself, at this point in the game, seems to be new enough a Companion to be unaware of the others that came before her, but old enough to have her own room on board … for all the good that does her at this point.

I won’t say anymore than that except to add that, aside from the obvious fan-service that Steve Moffat produces between Sexy and Clara with this mini-episode, there is some actual foreshadowing with regards to Clara’s character arc in this confrontation. But all that really being said, Sexy either really doesn’t like Clara Oswin Oswald at this stage, or she really enjoys messing with her.

Clara

My First Twine Game: Level-Up

I know that in my last post, I asked for all of your help. And very soon, I am going to show you how you can help me. There is just a little more work to do, but once that is taken care of I will explain everything in my next post this coming Thursday.

But right now, I want to talk about something else in this belated post of mine. This Saturday, at Christine Love’s Twine Workshop during the first-ever WordPlay event, set up by the Hand-Eye Society, I made my first ever Twine story. The reason I call this my first story is because, technically, it is not a game.

So here is what I am going to do. I am going to paste the link of my creation onto Mythic Bios and then, afterwards, I am going to talk about the Creative Process of it a bit. This is my experiment–my first Twine by action if not in planning–and for what it is, I am extremely proud of it. So without further ado, and without images or sounds or other fanfare allow me introduce to all of you, my loyal readers to …

Level-Up

All right, now that you played through it I want to talk about what went on behind it. Basically, a little while ago I had a story sketch in my head that almost–almost–became an entry for Mythic Bios. Really, like a lot of my creative works, it grew from a single sentence. This single sentence formed in my head and I needed to create a home for it. Then I found out, and signed up for Christine Love’s Workshop. If you have been following this Blog for a while, you will know that I have the utmost respect and enthusiasm for Christine’s storytelling and her game-making. So you will understand that I could not allow the opportunity of attending one of her Workshops to pass.

And when I was accepted onto the reservation list, I realized that I wasn’t just going to learn how to make a Twine game. I was going to make one right there, at the Toronto Reference Library, in about little over than an hour.

You have to understand that I generally plan out my stories in advance, or I take a lot of time actually making them. But Christine took the time to talk about the basics of Twine in fifteen minutes and, the next thing I knew, we had five minutes to think of an idea and then the rest of the time to implement it.

And I did.

What you are about to see here is what happens when a world is being processed in your brain for a lot longer than you thought it did. It seems I am almost always world-building in the back of my head: even when I should be doing something else … or especially then.

But this isn’t a game. This is a story fragment that somehow functions well. I made up for my lack of knowledge and technique with Twine by attempting to create the right transitions or hyperlinks. Basically, I was aiming for making a rhythm for clicking through the story from one screen to the next.

Yet, as a friend of mine who is now working on his own Twine as part of my Challenge to him observed, what I didn’t really do with the medium of Twine at this stage I attempted to do with descriptive storytelling and dialogue. Also, my second-person perspective–you–might have gotten into the mind of the character in question. Or maybe you won’t. You’ve also see that it is extremely short and lacks sound and images: hence the storytelling that is my strength.

So allow me to thank Anna Anthropy for introducing me to Twine through Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, Christine Love for her Workshop and giving me the excuse to finally go beyond the theoretical and do something hands-on with the software I plan to work with, Gaming Pixie for her support and to all you for all experiencing my very first, and not my last, Twine story. It is not part of the two that I have been planning for ages, but I have to remember my priorities at this point. Also, anyone who can guess which line helped to form the entirety of the story will get bonus points from me.

Take care, my reader-player audience. I will be back here this Thursday … with news.

Looking Outward

A Doctor Who Retrospective: An Adventure in Space and Time

It is appropriate for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who that even as “The Day of the Doctor” focuses on the very beginning of the current series’ story arc, The Last Great Time War that has influenced Doctors 9, 10 and 11, An Adventure in Space and Time celebrates the very origin of Doctor Who itself.

An Adventure in Space and Time is a two-hour television documentary drama that not only details the creation of the program in 1963, but also particularly focuses on the story of William Hartnell, the actor that plays the very first incarnation of The Doctor from 1963 to 1966. According to the writer of An Adventure in Space and Time, Mark Gatniss, the film will focus on a few of the program’s first few episodes (including the design of some retro and vintage-looking props). It also examines how Hartnell’s role as the First Doctor essentially changes his life, even as his ill-health forces him to turn over the character to another.

I have to admit that this film fascinates me on a few levels. When I heard that something was going to be made with The First Doctor before the 50th Anniversary Special, I had no idea that it was going to be a documentary drama about the series’ genesis. For me, it is kind of like a meta-narrative: a work that tells the story of the cast of a show that attempts to portray fictional characters: something that seems to illustrate how art attempts to go beyond space and time in a way that even a TARDIS would have difficulty attempting to do. Certainly, the fact that William Russell and Carol Ann Ford, the original actors for the human Companion Ian Chesterton and The Doctor’s granddaughter Susan respectively, will be playing other roles in the film gives it all a certain nuance and perspective.

And then there is that fact that the First Doctor is one of my favourites.  Apparently Hartnell himself was like the First Doctor, cantankerous and likes to have his own way.  And when you look at the character himself, in those early episodes that were supposed to be “Saturday tea-time television for children,” there is something morally ambiguous and calculating about how this old man, who turns out to be much older than he even appears to be, interacts with his very strange and terrifying universe. In fact, it seems that only Susan and both human Companions Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright begin to humanize him a bit.  Yet even Hartnell’s Doctor always has a quirky sense of humour underneath that stern and snappish exterior, along with a sense of real gravitas that gets passed on throughout the rest of his incarnations.

But I think what really grabs me about the above trailer is the line that Doctor Who‘s first producer Verity Lambert (played by Jessica Raine) pitches to William Hartnell; “C.S. Lewis meets H.G. Wells meets Father Christmas, that is The Doctor.” After hearing this, strangely for the first time, it explains so much to me as to why I really like Doctor Who, and it is something that holds no less true even now.  Just seeing this first trailer for An Adventure in Space and Time is enough to remind me of that point when I used to think that The Doctor, who I only knew as Dr. Who, was merely a time-traveller in a phone booth, only to find out that he and the program around him are so much more.

For even though this documentary drama may not be a TARDIS, when you look at the surface and go deeper, the depth you can already see makes it definitely look bigger on the inside.

An Adventure in Space and Time is scheduled to air on BBC Two November 21, 2013.  If you are interested, here are some links to interviews with writer Mark Gatniss and David Bradley who plays William Hartnell.

An Adventure In Space and Time