This is probably going to confuse things horribly, but the word’s getting out and I might as well put up an explanation of what it’s all about before I start reading “explanations” by people who don’t know me.
I’ve started another documentary. It’s called ARCADE. I have a website up: arcadedocumentary.com. It will be about arcades. Not so much about games, which has been done quite to death, but about the actual places, the come on inside to the flashing lights and drop some money into some skill games and you’ll lose your money but have a great time places that have been around for about a hundred or more years and which have included various types of machines ranging from skill cranes to pinball to pachinko to skee-ball to shooting galleries to video games. I expect this one will be quite a while in filming. It will be in high definition. I will be interviewing a ton of people.
So leaving that aside, the natural question is “What happened to GET LAMP, the documentary on text adventures you’ve been talking about for months????”
And the answer is I am still doing GET LAMP. In fact, I am primarily doing GET LAMP. Anything else documentary or computer-wise is secondary to GET LAMP.
I envisioned possibly doing some documentary about arcades some time back. I even did some small bit of checkaround research on them. I was much more entranced by text adventures, of course, since that’s a pretty big challenge and there was a lot to consider in making a video documentary. So I’ve been working on GET LAMP and occasionally doing some inquiries regarding the arcade stuff.
What changed? This camera I got, mostly. Ten thousand dollars is a metric assload of cash, and while it didn’t kill me financially, I didn’t know it was going to be the price of a Hyundai with extra trimmings either. I love the image it produces and it’s real easy to work with and once you buy into the whole P2 card thing on the HVX-200, then you really enjoy working with it. But so much money, so quickly, was not what I was intending to spend.
And really, within a year, the thing will already have lost significant value in terms of cost. I’ll probably be able to buy the amount of stuff I did for half the price, and have it be better, and all the rest. So really, I’m in this interesting position as regards time.
So, I’ve begun shooting the second documentary, ARCADE. Any time I don’t arrange an interview set for GET LAMP, any time I’m waiting on people responding, any time I could potentially lose a day of work on GET LAMP while waiting for ducks in a row, I’m going to jam ARCADE work in there. It will be a shadow documentary, the night shift, the guy who uses the office and the photocopier when the company’s closed. This doesn’t mean it won’t be good, just that I will not turn down an interview with an Infocom Implementor because I need to go find some shots of a pinball machine in a bar.
In terms of research, I found out something interesting involving text adventures: there has been a hell of a lot of good work done on that front. I mean, an amazing amount. With Bulletin Boards (and my producer would like everyone to be reminded to buy 10 copies) I had to self-start a lot of the research myself. There were smatterings of coverage about them and a lot of in-depth pieces on specific parts, but doing the whole 25-year story (and longer) and combining it into a timeline and chapter set and repository of information was insane work, involving many hours a week for months on end. By the end, I could say that I am honestly the world expert on bulletin board systems. I can get my ass kicked in specific areas, certainly ones where people personally played a part, but after 20 years of observing/collecting for what became textfiles.com and 5 intense years of study and interviewing… I got that stuff handled. Hire me as a speaker the next time you need a dash of BBS history for your corporate event or children’s birthday party.
Not so with text adventures or arcades. I am not the expert on these and will likely never be able to shine the shoes of those who are. I have enlisted the help/advice/confederacy of some of the people who have done years of research. I hope to enlist more. Unlike, say, trying to find all the different BBS software packages was a big deal that not many people were doing, a lot of people have worked to put together ultimate, exhaustive, amazing collections and lists of any program ever out for sale (or just distributed) that resembled a text adventure. People like David Kinder, Stephen Granade, Nick Montfort, Dennis Jerz, Andrew Plotkin, Graham Nelson, Emily Short, David Glasser, David Cornelson and many others – names I have learned very well in the past half year – forget more about Interactive Fiction and text adventures on the way to get a cup of coffee than I will ever know. I will be able to pipe up if someone asks for history and current events in interactive fiction and I will spell a lot of names and places better than the average person, but I will never be “the top expert”. Instead, I will be citing an awful lot of people, and an awful lot of web pages, and an awful lot of good solid work done before I ever turned on my camera.
Similarly, the discovery regarding arcade games is very well documented compared to the BBS Documentary. There are lots of explorations, overviews, photos, and stuff out there that I can pull from over time. I am not worried about being the only guy doing research. Organizations like the Video Arcade Preservation Society have many members and are doing amazing work.
I’m not saying I’m going to slack off or anything; expect the usual insanely anal Jason Scott work on these two projects. I’m just saying I can swing them together, allocating my time properly.
So there we go, it’s out in the open. Now everyone knows.
Now let’s get to work.
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