About

Dead Pixel Co is my culture consumption blog.

 

What is culture consumption?

It’s what happens when your senses encounter some manifestations of our culture.

In other words, this blog is where I write about things I’m reading, listening to playing, watching, etc, and any other thoughts that arise from the resulting melange.

My current blog about cultural production is at Brooklyn Game Ensemble, where we are making a game.

 

Who are you?

My name’s Naomi Clark. I am @metasynthie on Twitter (and at most other places). Here are some of the things I’ve done that are relevant to this blog, and answers to the question of “where you might know me from.”

  • I was the juniormost editor of Word, an early online magazine that specialized in autobiographical non-fiction, interactive multimedia experiments, absurdist humor and documentary journalism. We also made toys and games such as Fred the Webmate, which I contributed dialogue for, and Sissyfight 2000, which I co-designed with Eric Zimmerman.
  • For several years I produced websites, games, and digital toys for LEGO. I’m probably most proud of helping to create the first version of LEGO Digital Designer, a software tool and website that lets you easily build with 3D bricks, upload your creations, and buy the toys. My favorite project, however, was probably Junkbot, an original creation by a team that included Frank Lantz, Eric Zimmerman, and Nick Fortugno — all amazing game design luminaries.
  • I was part of Gamelab, a long-running independent game developer in New York where we made casual games such as Diner Dash, games with social messages such as Ayiti: the Cost of Life. I didn’t work on either of those titles, but I did work on some of my favorite games ever, such as Egg vs. Chicken (designed with Frank Lantz, Mattia Romeo and Greg Trefry), a fortress-defense game where a band of revolutionary Marxist eggs travels through time, and Miss Management (with Nick Fortugno and K. Thor Jensen), a game that tries to weave an office-politics sitcom narrative tightly into gameplay. Gamelab is gone but survives in Gamestar Mechanic, a website where kids make their own games through a creative tool and a series of learning quests that I contributed to.
  • I’ve worked on a lot of games for social networks in recent years, including the quirky Dreamland (deisgned with Eric Zimmerman and Nicole Leffel) and the environmentally conscious Trash Tycoon (designed with Greg Costikyan, Rob Meyer, and Jared Sorensen).
  • I helped form the Brooklyn Game Ensemble, a group of collaborators working on a game that involves a library, semantics, and exploration of a procedurally generated 3D space.

 

 

  • In 2014 I was one of the organizers of the conference portion of the Indiecade Festival of Games and I’ll probably help organize it again!

 

  • I helped to get the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in New York City started and I’m still a member. We are a collective, non-hierarchical organization that seeks to build power in communities that are hit hardest by intersections of racism, poverty, transphobia, and ableism, among other things.  This tends to involve a lot of struggling with the criminal justice system, the prison-industrial complex, and various government institutions, which we do by providing free legal services, community organizing and events, and the occasional lawsuit. I’m technically the Board Chair, which means hilariously nothing in a non-hierarchical organization. I got to speak at Occupy Wall Street in 2011, though.
  • I used to blog at Feministe under the pseudonym Holly, about gender, race, games, anti-oppression politics, popular culture, and much more. It was a very rewarding but exhausting job.
  • I once tried to make a documentary about the San Diego Comic-Con with K. Thor Jensen, a brilliant writer/artist/game-designer who is my childhood best friend, former roommate and co-worker at both Word and Gamelab. The documentary project was a miserable failure, mostly because I never edited it OR let Thor have the footage. Oops. Now I only READ comics and WATCH films, and I’m currently reading the back DC Comics library from 1987-2012 so that I can think about superheroes and culture.
  • I used to hang out on these BBSs in Seattle. In my teens I helped build, write, and code for MUDs like AmberMUSH and DuneMUSH, as well as early MUDs based (without permission) on roleplaying games like Vampire: the Masquerade and Cyberpunk 2020. Later still, I was an admin and moderator of the strap-on.org forum for vitriolic young queers & trans people of the early 2000s.
  • I learned to play the drums from Rock Band, and then on acoustic drums; eventually I helped start a local country band called The Low & The Lonesome. I’m now on a long hiatus from music due to burnout and collaborative difficulties. On the other hand, I’m still an ardent supporter and fan of indie rock band The Shondes, not least because they’re my dear friends.

4 thoughts on “About

  1. karatedog says:

    I just tried Dreamland and I felt the same as with previously tested games which raise some questions and maybe you have answers. First, the game is good, the idea behind it is fairly unique, I liked it.

    However, I did not even spend 10 minutes in the game when it was asking for real money.
    I just wonder why the players are not allowed to spend more time in a game, getting familiar with the style, the environment, before asking for money? I played a bit more but I had already decided when I had finished the game I would have it deleted.

    Second, the pop-up windows that want me to share every (insignificant) detail with the Facebook community. They are obtrusive, I have to click on them to go away. It is not that I don’t want to share some of the info on me playing with this game, but the amount of push is overwhelming.

    Or is it just me whining over insignificant details and the younger generation doesn’t care and they happily open their PayPal account for a little micropayment?

    Thanks

    • naomi says:

      Hi karatedog,

      Thanks for trying Dreamland! First I ought to say that I haven’t been involved in running that game for over a year now, so there may have been changes to how the game asks for money or suggests sharing on Facebook that I’m not aware of. When I designed it, the game allowed you to play through a level or two before you ran out of turns to spend, after which you could choose to wait for more turns or pay money — purely optional, of course.

      With regards to “when should a free game ask for money?” the answer really varies. Back in the early 2000s I used to make games where you could play for exactly one hour, or exactly ten levels, before the game would “expire” and you wouldn’t be able to play at all anymore unless you paid $10 or so. We still felt like this was fair (“try before you buy”) compared to retail games where you only get to watch an ad or a trailer before paying $60. On Facebook, the standard is games where you can play forever — maybe without some “premium” content — and never pay anything. This presents a weird dilemma about when to nudge the player to give some money and help support the game. Personally, I feel that I want to know and understand very quickly exactly how the game is set up to make money — it’s part of learning the game — so that it doesn’t come as a surprise later on. I don’t think this should be “pressure” but since I’m not sure what you saw in the game as “asking for money” I can’t say for sure if I think Dreamland is pressuring you too much!

      Although I’m not working on Facebook games at the moment, I will say that I have sympathy for companies who are trying to make a living with Facebook games — they have a lot of pressure from all sides to do a balancing act. Players like you rightly feel that you shouldn’t be pressured into paying money or posting “share” messages. On the other hand, the success or failure of a Facebook game is not measured by “copies sold” or “good reviews” — it’s entirely measured by how many players help support the game by spreading the word about it or paying money. Most Facebook games aren’t exactly cheap to develop or maintain, and publishers or investors will demand that an “underperforming” game be improved. Sadly, the quickest and most obvious (but probably not best) way to improve a game’s performance is to “crank up the volume” on requests for money & sharing until you hit the sweet-spot where the maximum possible users are sticking around AND paying/sharing. Unfortunately, this sweet spot is always, by definition, too obnoxious for 50% of users.

      I don’t think the “market conditions” on Facebook will be changing drastically any time soon — and it’s these conditions and the pressure I describe above that determines whether a lot of games live or die. Even games with hundreds of thousands of players are often “killed” by owners if they don’t get enough players to pay or share, and if too many games are killed, the development companies also die, people lose jobs, etc. It’s a tough marketplace and I can’t say I think it’s producing conditions for “good games!”

  2. karatedog says:

    Thank you for the thorough reply!

  3. bettyboop says:

    Hello Naomi!

    I am a current student at Williams College taking a game design class. For my final project, I would love to create a game dealing with consent and making sexual dialogues more casual and productive.

    Would it be possible to get a copy of Consentacle to understand how other major game designers are experimenting with sex in games?

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