Update Posted by Jonathan Liu, Designer
Meet the Artist: Harold
Right after I announced Emperor's New Clothes, I received an email from an artist who goes by his first name only: Harold. He said he loved the theme and didn't know if I had room for more artists, but he had experience in the field and would be interested in being involved in the project. Most of the art for the game was already complete, as you've already seen in the photos, but I was rather intrigued by the sample image he sent me:
Granted, it's a little darker than what I'm looking for in this project, but it was enough to get me to check out his website, where I discovered that not only do I really like his style, but he does indeed have experience illustrating for board games. In fact, he's currently working on Cheapass Games' upcoming remake of Captain Park's Imaginary Polar Expedition, a board game "about lying about going on exotic adventures." (download print and play zip file) Hey, if Harold is good enough for James Ernest, then he's all right by me.
Since I don't know Harold personally, I asked him to provide a brief description, and I think it shows he is a good fit for Emperor's New Clothes. Don't worry if the image above doesn't feel quite right to you; the final art he's providing for the game will be a bit lighter in tone.
Voted sexiest man alive by The Hairy Illustrator magazine, recipient of the famous Cross of Valour for Service Rendered Under the Stress of Very Short Deadlines, honoree of the 37th International Festival of Manicure, Gymnastics and Non-Academic Drawing, author of a pamphlet on the Patterns of the Modern Manifestations of Strange Cults and Unordinary Habits Surrounding the Exotic Worship of Old Dead Illustrators: a Study, survivor of not one but three severe paper cuts, Harold is a man of many epithets, a hero of humanity who draws silly people for a living... and for the sheer glory of it.
His art has been described as "daringly authentic" and "empowered like an orchestra of deaf barbarians playing brass instruments, yet very refined" by the critics.
He has produced astounding art for the Emperor's New Clothes kickstarter campaign. Here is a short interview:
Q: Do you think the illustrations you produced for the Emperor's New Clothes is your best art to date?
Q: Any projects after that?
A: Well, I'm on my way to the Foundation for the Unprivileged Who Cannot Draw, where I will give a lecture on the virtues of tea and traditional beekeeping.
Designer Diary: Made You Look
It's not enough these days to have a product—you need an image.
I was reading Tom Bissell's book The Magic Hours, a collection of "Essays on Creators and Creation," and it has a lot to say about art and writing and making video games and movies. The first chapter, "Unflowered Aloes," challenges the idea of destiny, particularly when it comes to literature. Though most intellectuals are skeptical of the "quaint notion that things happen as a matter of necessity," Bissell argues that nonetheless many are inclined to believe that works of great literature will receive their due recognition, that somehow a work of art must find its eventual way to greater recognition.
What made Bissell question this worldview was working for a publisher, when he discovered that a book's publication might rely on a mixture of happenstance, that "greatness, in the end, [is] no purer guarantee for survival than awfulness is for swift dispatch."
For me, this is confirmed by what I've seen myself as a reviewer—of books, board games, even Kickstarter projects themselves. While I like to think that I'm evaluating PR requests based on some objective (or, if not that, then at least standard) criteria, I must admit that a host of other factors come into play as well. It may be that I received the email while I was busy something else and set it aside for further perusal, only to come back to it too late (or not at all). It may be that I'm finally burnt out on dystopian YA romance novels, and although I wrote glowingly about the first four, you had the bad luck to be number five on the list.
Granted, my reviews alone are not what make or break a product, but exposure on GeekDad certainly can be worth something, particularly to the indie writer or designer who doesn't have a big publicity budget and a mighty marketing machine behind them. It's why I write so much: because I want as many cool projects and games and books to get as much exposure as I'm able to provide, just in case my voice happens to be the one that encourages somebody to take a closer look.
But how do you get my attention, when I have literally shelves full of books to read and piles of games to review? Is just having a good product enough? Will the best-written books and the most fun games exude some sort of aura that makes them stand out? And here I have to admit, that sometimes the gimmicky pitch is what works: an email that makes me laugh out loud, an endorsement from somebody I respect, a prop or swag that makes me look twice.
Of all the books I have on my shelf, the one I read this week was Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave, because the publisher sent the book along with a backpack with survival gear and a beat-up teddy bear. I enjoyed the book, but is it better than any of the other books on my shelf? I have no idea. Is it more worthy of attention? I can't guarantee that either. But did the gimmick work? Oh, yes. Yes, it did. (Am I going to open up that unmarked can of what may be sardines? Haven't decided yet.)
Now that I'm on the other side of the fence with my own product to pitch, I have to wonder the same thing: how do I get my project noticed? Whom do I contact, and how do I catch their attention long enough for them to really grasp the idea? How do I present this in a way that makes people stop and look? What's my gimmick?
Well, I suppose that should be pretty obvious.
Just in case it isn't, I'll spell it out. I've made my Kickstarter campaign a mystery, something that is supposed to make you stop and think and wonder, rather than one that you look at and say, "oh, here's yet another tabletop game project." Since the game itself is designed to appeal to people with a specific sense of humor and attitude toward play, I wanted to construct my campaign in a way that self-selected for that type of person. Obviously, like the creator of any sort of project—be it a game, a book, a gadget, an illustration—I hope for the widest possible audience. But I'm not so naive that I really think I can actually appeal to everyone. People have different tastes; a joke that puts one person in stitches leaves another fuming.
I think a lot of people will enjoy Emperor's New Clothes, but I don't know which ones for sure. That's the reason for the ROOS: wouldn't it be great if I could simply not see any of the Kickstarter projects that won't actually satisfy me? Can you imagine how much easier it would be to sort through your inbox if half (or three quarters) of the messages simply looked blank, because they didn't actually apply to you? (Note: this will never happen, because PR firms would never limit the types of people who can see their messages.)
So I'm giving it a shot: by making it easier for some folks to write off my project as uninteresting, unfunny, meaningless, I hope to find those people who will see Emperor's New Clothes as interesting, funny, and full of meaning.