Update Posted by Jonathan Liu, Designer
Meet the Artist: Jake Parker
Jake Parker is the creator of Missile Mouse, which is a rollicking space adventure series featuring a cocky mouse with a rocketpack. Reading it feels like watching a Saturday morning cartoon, and the images are slick and polished. But Jake has also shown his versatility in Antler Boy and Other Stories, a collection of his short comics stories that he successfully Kickstarted last year. (You can read what I wrote about the Kickstarter project here on GeekDad.) It was also just announced yesterday that Jake's one of the first batch of indie comics artists to be published digitally through the new ComiXology Submit program, so fans of digital comics can also get in on the action.
Images from Antler Boy and Other Stories
Even though Antler Boy and Other Stories is a one-man anthology, there's a wide range of styles and stories. "Antler Boy" in particular almost seems like a fable or a fairy tale, with its sepia tones and softer edges. Jake struck me as somebody who is versatile and would find a good way to fit into any project. After all, he's already tackled flying pigs, imaginary game-playing pink bunnies, and figments of our imagination. You can also rest assured that he has experience in running a Kickstarter campaign and meeting deadlines, even going as far as personally signing thousands of books.
Seriously, if you hadn't heard of Jake Parker before now, go check out his website. I backed his Antler Boy Kickstarter and got the hardcover recently, and it was worth every penny, so I'm thrilled that he agreed to be a part of Emperor's New Clothes.
Designer Diary: This Is Not a Game
I read a fascinating article from a few years ago about Alternate Reality Games (ARGs). For those of you who are unfamiliar with ARGs, briefly: an ARG is an interactive story, often (but not always) a clue-hunting game, that is presented as reality. These have become more popular in recent years, and the internet plays a huge role, along with emails, phone calls, and other forms of communication. But it's really the internet that makes it possible to create elaborate webs of interconnected sites, hidden links, fake social media accounts, and so on, creating a plausible (or at least immersive) world for the gamers to explore.
The article, "Andrea Phillips on Blurring the Lines," is about unintended consequences of ARGs, which can often be mistaken by the public as real. What happens when a staged "kidnapping" (even if it's just reported online and not witnessed in real life) is mistaken for a real one? It's a bit like the disorienting feeling that you'd get if you stumbled onto a movie set and didn't realize that you were surrounded by actors with props; but online, it's harder to look around and see the cameras and directors, particularly if they are intentionally staying hidden.
Although the internet puts a host of information at our fingertips, there's also a huge learning curve involved in learning to distinguish what's real from what's fake. People unfamiliar with The Onion may not realize at first that the headline you posted on your Facebook wall was intended as satire; in the meantime, the growing strangeness of the real world can sometimes make The Onion's headlines seem mundane in comparison. Or to provide another example, there's the story of the Pacific Northwest tree octopus: a researcher wanted to study internet literacy among "digital natives," and presented a bunch of students with the site about this fictional beast. Many of them "insisted on the existence of the made-up story, even after researchers explained the information on the website was completely fabricated."
This isn't new, as the ARGNet article points out. Whenever fiction is presented on a large scale, there are those who may misread the cues and fall into the trap, whether the creators intended it or not (cf. Orson Welles' broadcast of The War of the Worlds). We want to trust people, and we often want to believe stories that sound too good to be true. In the ARG world, there's a common phrase, a mantra: "This Is Not a Game." It is both a hint that you recognize you are in fact playing a game, and a sort of distancing mechanism that allows you to role-play, to immerse yourself in the world as if it weren't a game. (I find it fascinating that we have these two related trends: ARGs present games as reality; gamification presents reality as a game. But maybe more on that later.)
The thing is, sometimes we want to be fooled. We want somebody to plunge us into a world of spies or aliens or code-breaking or whatever, without coming right out and saying "Hey, are you enjoying this game? You know it's not real, right?" If something isn't real, we want to figure it out for ourselves; we don't want somebody spoiling the illusion or giving it away. Or sometimes, we like the story so much that we want it to be real, and we don't dig any deeper for fear of finding out it's an elaborate fiction.
Take the recent scandal about Manti Te'o and his fake girlfriend. It was such a touching story that the public and the media wanted to believe in it. Even when there were hints that something was a little fishy, those loose ends weren't followed up, things were glossed over. It wasn't until Deadspin broke the story that everything came crashing down—and even then it has taken a while to sort out who was actually in on the hoax, whether Te'o was really duped or if he was complicit in the story.
This feeds into my motivations behind Emperor's New Clothes. The Emperor, his advisors, the townspeople—they all wanted the swindlers' story to be true. It was hard to believe, but nobody else seemed to be questioning it, so everyone just acted like things were okay, that they could see the gorgeous colors and patterns on this completely imaginary outfit. It's only the child, the one who isn't invested in it at all, who doesn't care what grown-ups think or how important it is to keep up appearances—it's the child who is able to point out that the Emperor has no clothes. What the Emperor and the advisor and the townsfolk failed to realize was that they were, in effect, bamboozling each other. I think that's a great metaphor for the internet: we're all so invested in our image, in how we present ourselves (see my Update #2) that when we encounter something unbelievable, we want to be the first to tweet/like/share it with all our friends, to be seen as a trend-setter. Nobody wants to be last to the party. (Of course, there's also a funny trend on Kickstarter sometimes where nobody wants to be first to a party that fizzles, but I'll get to that in a future update.)
Hans Christian Andersen didn't end his tale with a moral, although it certainly has all the markings of a morality tale. He leaves it up to you to figure it out yourself—and maybe that is the moral: that we should figure things out ourselves.
Announcing our first add-on! The Shirt Off My Back
I'll come right out and say it: I think T-shirts are kind of a silly thing to add on to a Kickstarter campaign. Maybe it's because I already have too many T-shirts (particularly black ones) or maybe it's because I'd rather just get the game itself and then save my $20 to put toward another game. But we've been getting requests for T-shirts, so I asked Game Salute if we could make it happen, and they said yes! But I insisted that this should be a separate add-on, rather than a stretch goal included in every game, because not everyone would want a T-shirt and I want to save stretch goals for things that will actually improve the game itself.
Of course, since the ROOS is such an integral part of the game, we wanted to try to incorporate it into the T-shirt design as well. Wysiayg Press confirmed that we can put the ROOS on T-shirts as well (just make sure you turn it inside out before washing), so this is the design we've decided on.
The front of the T-shirt will have the box cover art as depicted (minus the logo, so you can really appreciate the art itself), and the back will have the Hoke's Games logo printed in standard black ink, so that non-gamers won't think you're just walking around with a completely blank white T-shirt.
I know, you're gamers, so you'd really prefer a black T-shirt, but the ROOS doesn't work as well on color, which is why we're using a white base for all of our printed materials in the game. Right now we're just sticking with the standard cut T-shirt, but if there's enough demand for babydoll T-shirts then we might be able to include those, too. Let us know in the comments here!