Save The Toronto Zombie Walk!

Unfortunately, the annual Toronto Zombie Walk is risking some head shots.

According to a Facebook status written by Thea Munster, the Founding Director of the Zombie Walk, the event was denied its Celebrate Ontario funding. In addition, this year they have been asked to pay for additional barricading on Yonge Street and expenses with regards to using the Nathan Phillips Square’s Pan Am stage and added security. As Thea Munster also explains, the Toronto Zombie Walk Board might decide to discontinue the event itself.

However, something can be done. The truth of the matter is that zombies, however unique they look as individuals, coming from various places of death, disarray and reanimation, have always had strength through their numbers: and knowing what is ultimately their inevitable goal.

That’s right. The Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the Honourable Michael Coteau, is the person you should talk with should you want this grand recreational epidemic to survive this coming Halloween and for the years to come.

You can write Michael Coteau at his email address mcoteau.mpp@liberal.ola.org and ask him to reconsider and tell him how much the Zombie Walk means to you. In fact, Thea Munster has provided the following form letter:

Dear Hon Michael Coteau,

I am writing to ask you to reconsider funding the Toronto Zombie Walk and Halloween Parade through Celebrate Ontario. The TZW makes a unique contribution to Halloween events In Toronto. The participatory nature of the event attracts thousands of people of all ages, cultures and demographics to be creatively involved in the event every year. In 2014, the event had 15,000 participants and an additional 5,000- 10,000 spectators lined Yonge Street to watch and take photographs. The event also drew tourists from around the world. The TRIEM model calculations indicate that the economic impact of the event was $2,182,025 in 2014.

In 2014, The Toronto Zombie Walk won runner up for Best Free Community Event in Now Magazine, showing that it has become a much loved part of Toronto. A team of dedicated volunteers has taken years to grow this event into a world class tradition. Without Celebrate Ontario funding the event will be unable to support the number of participants at the level of quality that the grant helped build last year, and therefore may cease to exist.

Please don’t let this yearly tradition end,

Sincerely,

[Your name here]

So please geeks, horror lovers and fellow fiends, write to Michael Cocteau and let him know that we want to continue to spread the love. After all, reanimation is the most inclusive thing there is, and raising the spirit of celebration, through enthusiastic necromantic ritual, is always worth the effort.

My own reanimation before the Toronto Zombie Walk, circa 2011.
My own reanimation before the Toronto Zombie Walk, circa 2011.

Experiences from the 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam

The 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam last weekend was definitely an event to be remembered.

The TGGJ, which is the Global Game Jam’s location in Toronto, was held at the George Brown College of Applied Arts and Technology. We took up the fifth and sixth floors of the college where its Digital Media & Gaming Incubator is situated.  The GGJ is an event held all around the world, where teams are challenged to make a complete game in 48 hours. Think about that: we programmers, sound designers, graphic artists and writers had only two days to make fully functional games. Bear in mind that I am a writer and I have little to no programming experience and that I only really got to learn Twine, a text-based hyper-linking free bit of software, only a few months ago (and even now I only know how to use the basics).

We spent the first part of the Jam finding our assigned computer work rooms. I actually deposited my belongings, including my sleeping bag, into the spare classroom on the sixth floor. While it is discouraged for the most part, according to the event organizers Randy Orenstein and Troy Morrissey, I decided to sleep where my work would be (as I did last year, when I decided to try out this event for the first time without even the knowledge of Twine and hoping to find some people in need of a writer).

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About 300 Jammers registered and participated in the Jam itself. After settling in, we were eventually called down to learn this year’s game theme.  Every year the Jam gets a different theme to work with: which is, essentially, the prompt which we were going to shape our games around.

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The theme of this year’s Game Jam was, “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.”

That is a pretty open-ended theme, isn’t it? So I wrote it on one of my business cards and went upstairs.

TGGJ 14 Grab Bag

Earlier, at our assigned computer workstations, we were given gift bags. These bags had a variety of candy bars and snacks, mostly to maintain energy, but they also had a schedule for the events of the next two days as well as a schedule of when we were to upload our games onto the Global Game Jam site.

Contents of TGGJ 14 Grab Bag

This was, more or less, a similar format to how last year’s Toronto Global Game Jam worked. There were, however, some differences. For instance, while this year also had its Team Jammers and Solo Jammers (pre-established designer groups and solitary game-makers), there were two additions that didn’t exist last year. The first was “Team Random.”  Team Random essentially was a group of people who didn’t have teams and were looking to collaborate with people at the event. Last year, I was in Team Random, though we were not named as such and there were much fewer of us. I actually like the fact that this year the organizers actually went out of their way during announcements to ask who was looking for teammates and they seemed to have a more organized structure in mind for dealing with that. Last year, as I said, I didn’t even know how to use Twine and there was some anxiety there at the time.

The second addition this year was the Floaters. Floaters were an assortment of independent programmers, sound designers and artists that were either free to join other teams, give them advice, or even contribute some of their expertise to certain parts of other people’s projects. Unfortunately I wasn’t in a position to use any of their skills, though I did talk with a few, as I basically started my project solidly after the Friday introductions.

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On the Friday I had written up a considerable amount of notes, but I still wasn’t sure what I was doing. I almost switched away from the idea I had made so many notes for but I was stuck. The fact of the matter was that I had a story in mind that was pretty complex and a challenge to make. But by the middle of Saturday I had a decision to make and so I began writing out my story.

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I wrote it directly into the Twine boxes that you can see right here.

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And so, from roughly 3 pm to 12 pm on the following Sunday I wrote out and built my Twine story while socializing at times and drinking a whole lot of tea and sugar generously donated by Starbucks. There was a raffle for some cool free stuff (we got a ticket in our grab bags and, no, I didn’t win anything) and the session finished off with the announcement of  a wedding having occurred between the duo that made up Team: “I’m a Pretty Princess” (who actually came back and continued their work) and me having finished my first ever Solo Game Jam (I was the sole member of “Team Eldritch”).

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The Global Game Jam encourages Play Parties to showcase all the games that were created during the event along with their creators. Last year, the Toronto Global Game Jam had an Arcade and there is going to be another one this summer as well. I know I will be there with my “choose your own adventure” text game which you can find right here on the GGJ site:  The Looking Glass. This year the Global Game Jam site extended the time we had to upload our submissions. It is an improvement over the first attempt that I linked on G33kPr0n months ago and I hope to keep exploring this world of creation and community.

And you had better believe I will be doing this again next year.

Matthew K TGGJ 14

Photo Credit: Uber Events and Promotions

You can find more of Uber Events and Promotions‘ TGGJ Group Portraits at this flickr account.

Correction: The GGJ (the Global Game Jam) is an event held all around the world. The TGGJ (the Toronto Global Game Jam) is local in Toronto.

Battle of the Bazaar in Bento Miso’s Winter Market

About three weeks ago, I went to Bento Miso’s Bit Bazaar Winter Market and since then I’ve been trying to focus on what struck me the most. I was made aware of the first Bit Bazaar, the Spring Fair, through the Toronto Comics Arts Festival and its second Comics Vs. Games creative jam and exhibit. It is an opportunity for video game creators, art-makers, and food distributors to sell their wares and have some face-to-face relation with their current and potential fans.

Bento Miso itself is a collaborative work space for independent video game developers, graphic artists, game journalists, start-up businesses, and other individuals and groups. It is also inclusive and it attempts to make itself into a minority, women, and LGBTQ-friendly safe environment. It also functions as a community space and, this year; it was really in full swing. The Bit Bazaar Winter Market covered two floors this time around: with food and drink vendors upstairs with a wide variety of games, and Torontrons and various comics artists, designers, and other exhibitor tables selling various products and awesome samples on the main floor.

What stands out for me is what the organizers and planners of the Winter Market did this year. Henry Faber, the co-founder of Bento Miso, the game designer Damian Sommer and others created a card game called Battle of the Bazaar. Essentially, what they did was they made forty-five cards (with a forty-sixth one being a rule card) that represented a majority of the exhibitor tables, specifically the main games, comics, creations and foods of the exhibitors and gave them numbers of power and special abilities. The particulars of the rules can be found on Bento Miso’s site, just as Daniel Kaszor of the Financial Post‘s “Post Arcade” goes into more detail on its creation in an interview with Henry Faber himself but what I would like to note is that each of these vendors and exhibitors possessed their cards. In order to get all of them for yourself, you had to go to each of their tables and either get one from them, or trade cards.

It was potentially a very useful tactic when you think about it. In addition to creating cards that embody the works of their exhibitors, as well as displaying the website information of all those involved (kind of like creative contact cards), the cards make up an interesting game, and the collecting of them made for a potential ice-breaker. It is true that you could go to a table near the entrance that sold the entire decks but part of the fun is collecting the cards and interacting with the exhibitors that had them. It definitely made for some interesting conversations of my own. When I wandered upstairs I began playing Apotheon, in a player verses player death-match with ancient Greek black-figure graphics (the kind you would find on pottery) in which you have to throw weapons at your opponent. After my opponent killed me brutally with a pleasant and friendly smile on his face as I barely figured out how to use the controls, I got this awesome looking “Thetis” card from the exhibitor table and it was how I became aware of the cards and eventually figured out what they were about.

I spent a lot of time at the Golden Gear Games table where I played Fate Tectonics: a game where a pretty 16-bit goddess sprite hovers over you as you attempt to build a world out of land pieces and you hope that she won’t strike you down with lightning if you get the puzzle sequences wrong. I actually bought the game in the form of hollowed out Gameboy cartridge USB port, along with some pins, a poster and a delicious brownie. I also went back and forth from that table to trade some cards with them (once I got their “Worldbuilding” card of course). Towards the end of my time there, I saw the software and game developer Alex Bethke who not only helped make Fate Tectonics but also collaborated with Dames Making Games in creating three interactive animated short stories in the form of comics. I even had the opportunity, after briefly speaking with Cecily Carver of Dames Making Games, to converse with Katie Foster on her multimedia game The Disappearance of Emily Butler. It is about a girl that returns to Newfoundland and discovers parts about her past that are more than she bargained for. What is really interesting about this game in development is that it is a point and click adventure that has an interactive comics element, with Foster being one of the Dames in Games that Alex Bethke and Golden Gear Games has created an electronic comic for. All of these interactive comics can be downloaded as the Swipe Comics Anthology Vol. I  app for the IOS: which Katie Foster had on display at her table. It is truly remarkable and as someone who is fascinated in the comics medium and its interaction with video games, it is definitely something I’m going to keep an eye on for the near future.

I traded cards between these the DMG table and Golden Gear Games, making my rounds and finally making it to Christine Love and Nadine Lessio’s Interstellar Selfie Station where I got and traded some cards with her. I’ve written on Christine Love’s games at Mythic Bios and even mentioned her Twine Workshop at the WordPlay Festival that helped me in my own creative endeavors and I was definitely going to meet up with her. Her card is “*Old Mute” and after you use its power, it makes all of your subsequent, future cards have a minus one to their score. If you have played her Analogue: A Hate Story and Hate Plus, you will realize just how appropriate this power truly is.

After passing by many other tables towards the end of the evening, I finally caved in and came to the Pianocade Table to find out what was being soldered and put together there. Basically, I got to play with a Wii Remote that created various sound effects depending on what buttons I pushed and how I swung it. Eventually, I came across Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime and Asteroid Base‘s table. I’d seen this game in passing at my first CanZine Festival and I actually had a twitter conversation with Jeannie Faber, another co-founder of Bento Miso and the Event Director of the Bit Bazaar. I was actually looking forward to meeting Jeannie Faber but we never had the opportunity to run into each other and as that table was very busy, I ended up just taking a card.

As the night drew to a close, I’d managed to accumulate forty-one of the forty-five Battle of the Bazaar cards. I didn’t get to converse with everyone, but I now have leisure to look at their information and get a better sense of what their products and wares were about along with what they as individuals or teams actually do.

On the Battle of the Bazaar card “Bento Miso” card, there is this specific description. It states, “At the end of the game, if you haven’t won a round, you win the game.” Three weeks ago now I didn’t get all the cards, do everything I wanted, or even knew what to do but I think as I walked out that night, watching my fellow geeks, couples, groups of friends, and families interact I felt as though I won the Battle of the Bazaar anyway: just by simply being there.

If you are interested, Bento Miso is selling packs of its Battle of the Bazaar cards, but there are only eight decks left for $26 plus $3 dollar shipping so you’d best hurry now. They are definitely cool to have.