Getting Into The Game

'Who Wants to Play Videogames' by JDHanckock
Poster based on ‘Who Wants to Play Videogames‘ by JDHanckock.
 jdhancock.com | @JDHancock on Twitter. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Download: Getting into the Game Documentary

Broadcasting Bank Holiday Monday 31st October, 11AM on Newstalk.

Getting into the game is a new documentary aimed at kids who play games. Video games. Kids who play videogames and wonder maybe, possibly, perhapsily, if they’d like to make them. Growing up I remember getting those magazines full of strange impenetrable symbols that promised – if you could just type the whole book into your computer, without making any mistakes – you’d get a brand new, completely free game. These days games are everywhere, but they’re so damn fancy they can seem impossible to learn how to make.

This documentary will help open the lid, just a crack, to see what lies inside your favourite games. We’ve brought together people from every corner of the industry – artists, coders, indies, musicians, gamejammers, and developers of every age.

Featuring interviews with..

Mary Moloney of Coder Dojo
Andrew Boel, Pete McNally, Nick Grey, & Jen Taylor of Havok.
Terry Cavanagh, creator of VVVVVV and Super Hexagon
Owen Harris, designer of Deep, and co-founder of DubLUDO.
Niall Kehoe, Irelands youngest videogame developer.
Students and Lecturers from IT Carlow’s Videogame design degree.
Vicky Lee & Andrea Magnorsky of Global Gamecraft.
and filmmaker, animator and indie developer David O’Reilly.

The programme is divided into five segments, each one looking at a different part of making games.

Learning the Art

We visit cutting edge computing research laboratories at DIT and IT Carlow and tour exciting games development technology.  Lecturers and students explain the skills students should be building outside the classroom if they’d like to study videogames in college. Students tell us about their love of games and how they got into making their own.

Getting Covered in Jam

At DIT a group called ‘Global Gamecraft’ host ‘game jams’, competitions where anyone (over 18) can help make a game in just a few hours. Game Jams are an excellent way to develop the technical, artistic and collaborative skills sought by the games development industry. Jams are a fun and friendly way for young people to get a taste of game development. We speak to competitors and organisers like Vicky Lee, and provide a glimpse of the excitement and accessibility of ‘homebrew’ game development

Creating Havok

Modern videogames simulate exciting and realistic physics. The most impressive game physics ‘middleware’ software in the world comes from an Irish company founded by graduates of Trinity College. Havok are an industry leader employing dozens of artists and programmers. We speak to staff at the company about the day-to-day work of making one of the key technologies underpinning some of the most exciting and popular videogames.

Independent Heroes

The independent game development community is a thriving segment of the industry. We speak with leading Irish indie developer Terry Cavanagh, creator of hit games like ‘Super Hexagon’, about running his own studio. Terry explains how new distribution methods make it easy for anyone to sell their homemade game on the internet. Independent game development is a part of the industry that is particularly important to present to second level students – since it can be used to develop skills, or even start a business while at school.

We try out virtual reality in the company of Bryan Duggan of DIT, exploring DEEP, the anti-anxiety game from Owen Harris. Deep uses unique breathing sensors, soothing music and a beautiful polygon virtual environment to teach deep breathing relaxation techniques.

We hear from David O’Reilly, animator and creator of fictional videogames for use in Hollywood films. David gives us a glimpse into a self-directed career involving art, graphic design, and filmmaking.

Coder Dojo

Coder Dojo is a place for kids to learn how to make games, websites, and even robots. Started in County Cork, the Dojo movement has spread worldwide. Amazingly, Coder Dojo events are completely free! If there isn’t a coder dojo in your area, you can even start your own. We meet some of the kids who are making coder dojo the coolest place on earth.

Getting into the game was produced by Dead Medium Productions. The programme was developed, researched and presented by Gareth Stack and James Van De Waal.

All the music and sound effects used in the programme are listed here. Many of them are available for you to use for free in your projects under a creative commons licence. This documentary is available to download and share for free under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence, it can be played in class or emailed to your students. Use it and share it! Go make some games!

BAI CREDIT

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The Instrument of the Law – Episode 5 – Mad Scientists of Music

This episode looks at how innovative new ways of making and distributing music are coming into conflict with our legal system. Some argue that copyright and patent laws, created to encourage innovation, are no longer in touch with how artists remix and reinterpret our cultural landscape.

Part 1 – Piracy

We learn about copyright law, the ‘copy left’ movement and new licensing schemes like Creative Commons. Eoin O’Dell corrects some common copyright misapprehensions, Ed Devane and Simon Kenny discuss their experiences having their music pirated. Niamh Houston (Chipzel) discusses how small Chiptune artists are challenged by ubiquitous piracy and major label plagiarism alike.

Part 2 – Sampling

Ewan Hennelly and Meljoann talk about the culture of sharing. MarQu and Meljoann describe about how ready access to the internet enabled them to learn techniques and exposed them to niche scenes that would have been unavailable historically; and how our always on, connected society is reshaping music. MarQu VR discusses the endemic and transformative use of samples in VJing and parody.

Part 3 – Illegal Art

Karakara (Kieran Dold) and Siam Collective (John Leech) discuss the idea of remixing as a crime and illegal art as a wilfully provocative act.

Featured Interviewees:

Eoin O’Dell, Colm Olwill (DJ PCP), Seb & Emma of Deathness Injection, Niamh De Barra, Simon Kenny (aka Bitwise Operator), Ed Devane, Meljoann, Ewan Hennelly (also known as HERV / ZPG), MarQu VR, Andrew Edgar, Kieran Dold (Karakara), Niamh Houston (Chipzel), John Leech (Siam Collective).

Download:
Episode 5 – ‘The Instrument of the Law

About the Series

BAI logo mark colourMad Scientists of Music is a six part, BAI funded documentary series on Near FM. The show explores the world of Circuit Bending, Chip Tune, and Electroacoustic music in Ireland. Low cost technology, recycled instruments and a new attitude to tinkering embodied by the ‘maker movement’ are helping to reinvent music. A new generation of Irish musicians raised around computers, the internet and video gaming, see noise as something to be hacked, taken apart, and reconstructed. These artists build their own instruments, whether by recycling toy keyboards, modifying video game consoles, or attaching electronics to traditional stringed instruments. They often share their music online for free, and in doing so challenge our ideas about copyright and ownership. Their playful attitude to technology finds new uses for obsolete devices and brings the collaboration of musicianship to engineering and the arts.

Tracks used

Chipzel – Only Human Foilverb Remix (RoughSketch)
Karakara – Illeagle – Thesis Song
Karakara – Illeagle – You called it that
Karakara – Illeagle – God only knows
Karakara – Illeagle – Really
Karakara – Illeagle – In Light of your misleading

Lobat – my little droid needs a hand
Covox – Sunday – handheld electropop

Siam Collective – Melatronic Mission (unreleased rough mix)
Siam Collective – Meatloaf Madness (unreleased rough mix)
Siam Collective – Simpson Chemical (unreleased rough mix)

Growing Up Digital – Episode 2 – Mad Scientists of Music

Episode two explores the video game backgrounds of a variety of Irish experimental musicians – how video game culture and ready access to technology influenced their love of music and their aesthetic sensibilities. Chiptune music in particular reappropriates not only the machinery, but also the distinctive sounds of computer games of the 1980’s, and this helps to define its unique aesthetic. Kieran Dold (Karakara) discusses the aesthetic appeal of retro videogame music. Niamh Houston (Chipzel) explains how ‘home brew’ software like LSDJ, allows her to make music from classic Game Boy portable gaming consoles. Niamh talks about completing the loop – working with BAFTA award winning video game designer Terry Cavanagh to create retro video game inspired music for contemporary ‘indie’ computer games like Super Hexagon.

Download:
Episode 2 – ‘Growing Up Digital

About the Series

BAI logo mark colourMad Scientists of Music is a six part, BAI funded documentary series on Near FM. The show explores the world of Circuit Bending, Chip Tune, and Electroacoustic music in Ireland. Low cost technology, recycled instruments and a new attitude to tinkering embodied by the ‘maker movement’ are helping to reinvent music. A new generation of Irish musicians raised around computers, the internet and video gaming, see noise as something to be hacked, taken apart, and reconstructed. These artists build their own instruments, whether by recycling toy keyboards, modifying video game consoles, or attaching electronics to traditional stringed instruments. They often share their music online for free, and in doing so challenge our ideas about copyright and ownership. Their playful attitude to technology finds new uses for obsolete devices and brings the collaboration of musicianship to engineering and the arts.

Credits

Part 1 – Gaming

Game experience intro: Sebastian Dooris (Deathness Injection)
Montage of Gamers: Emma (of Deathness Injection), Andrew Edgar, Kieran Dold (Karakara), John Leech (Siam Collective), Ed Devane, Colm Olwill, Ed Devane, Meljoann.

Part 2 – Chiptune

Interviewees: Kieran Dold, Niamh Houston.

Featured Artists

ChipzelKnuckle Joe
ZPGMalware Brigade
ZPGXai Unbound
ChipzelSuper Hexagon Soundtrack and Super Hexagon play through (courtesy of Terry Cavannah)
Menacing WondersChipzel (feat Manami Matsumae)
Super Gammy BoyMicrosoft Excel Swag
Super Gammy BoyI’d Have That Many Followers Too If I Dressed Like a Whore
Bitwise OperatorHows That

Men Becoming Animals – Episode 4 – The Gareth Stack Show Live

Your monthly dose of lowbrow comedy and middlebrow culture with Gareth Stack, hosted by Andrew Booth. May’s guests are three of the most flabbergasting Irish musicians at work today. Myles Manley has been described variously as Mick Jagger meets Alan Partridge, and as ‘whitesploitation’. Chanteur Dr David Turpin is an expert in mid-twentieth century American poetry (although his botany leaves much to be desired). Gamepak’s Andrew Edgar creates a melange of child noise from his beastly machines live in the Radiomade studio. Join the ‘lads’ as they discuss the arrest of top tweeter Gerry Adams, Richard Ayoade’s Dostoevsky derived ‘The Double’, and why super producer Ronnie recently saw fit to swim around Ireland. This month’s murderer is Sid Vicious.


Download: Episode 4 – Men Becoming Animals




‘Mad Scientists of Music’ – April Update

science

It’s April and I’m closing in on a final shape for the show. It’s been almost a year since I started preliminary research and interviews for ‘Mad Scientists‘, an enormously self indulgent amount of time to work on a radio documentary series. And yet, I feel I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the Irish experimental music scene. Creativity is a process of continuous curation, in fiction and especially in documentary, where research and footage accretes into a melange of gooey information that threatens to overwhelm you. Several years ago I embarked on an ill fated project to document the experience of Irish refugees at the hands of immigration services. Ultimately I had to abandon the project. I was simply unprepared to deal with the responsibility of capturing the experiences of people who’d been so cruelly treated, made so invisible by our state, by our indifference.

Maybe that’s why I switched to writing comedy. While the stakes are the same – failing or succeeding on the public stage, the consequences are purely personal. I’ve grown up a lot in the years since the documentary film flatlined. I find one of the positive aspects of getting older is an increase in organisational capacity – the ability to plan, to anticipate how long a task will take, to reassess a project as it develops. I’m still a disorganised shambles, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but these days I get the things I start done.

With that in mind, here’s where I’m at with the doc. I’ve got four thirty minute episodes almost finished, with two further episodes about half done. I’ve also pulled together a bunch of bonus content – four additional web only episodes, that will flesh out the musicians featured in the show, and focus on topics (like musical influences, nerd culture and so on), that the series doesn’t have time to fit in.

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Episode 1 ‘Learning How to Listen‘, will take you on a tour of educational music projects. Starting at a circuit bending workshop in the Northside Shopping Centre, we stop by Roger Gregg’s eclectic home studio, before calling in on an instrument building workshop led by Ed Devane. We finish up with a visit to noise duo Deathness Injection’s incredible Culture Night mass collaboration, where hundreds of visitors to Exchange Dublin experienced the thrill of performing together.

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Episode 2, ‘Growing Up Digital‘ will examine the impact of videogames on contemporary electronic music through the childhood anecdotes of a variety of performers. We’ll introduce you to chiptune – music made with retro consoles and home brew software, and take a tutorial in gameboy synthesiser ‘Little Sound DJ‘ in the capable hands of chiptune diva Chipzel (Niamh Houston).

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Episode 3, ‘Taking Toys Apart‘, starts off in Germany, in the home ‘laboratory’ of author and musician Julian Gough (Toasted Heretic). Then we’ll hear about the impact of the geography of consumerism on toy hacking, from Gamepak Collective founder Andrew Edgar. Andrew, MarQu VR, and John Leech will explain the genesis of Dublin’s first chiptune collective. Finally, John demonstrates the dark art of cartridge ripping.

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Episode 4, ‘The Hacker In the Gallery‘, is still a work in progress. This episode will example the relationship between hackers, musicians and the world of fine art audio.

Episode 5, ‘The Instrument of the Law‘, tackles copyright, sampling, and illegal art, introducing two fantastic unauthorised albums from Kieran Dold (Karakara), and John Leech (Siam Collective); and featuring the legal wit and wisdom of Trinity College’s Dr Eoin O’Dell.

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Episode 6, ‘Postcards from the Edge‘, is still to be finalised. This episode will bring listeners some of the latest developments in electronic music, including a geocaching tour of Brighton and the South downs from Ewan Hennelly (HERV, ZPG), and an astonishing new software synthesiser under development from Dublin musician / programmer Bitwise Operator (Simon Kenny).

That’s it for the radio series. For web listeners, four additional interview based episodes will be released during and just after broadcast of the radio series. ‘Beginnings‘ covers the early musical influences and development of musicians like Meljoann, Oswald Green, Kieran Dold and Niamh De Barra. ‘Copyrights & Copywrongs‘ delves deeper into Creative Commons and the much needed reform of Irish copyright law, and touches on the patenting of music technology. ‘Irish Electronic Scenes‘, examines a variety of recent underground music scenes, through the eyes of Colm Olwill (DJ PCP), the Gamepak Collective, and Ewan Hennelly. Finally, ‘Nerds vs Chicks‘, collects two fascinating conversations, around the role of nerd culture and gender respectively, in electronic music. These bonus episodes are pretty rough at the moment, and will likely consist simply of voices, without music or on location recordings, but they include some of the best anecdotes and most fascinating characters of the series.

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I can’t wait to get the show out there, and introduce new listeners to the incredible artists featured. I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the show so far – Ewan Hennelly, Andrew Edgar, John Leech, MarQu VR, Niamh DeBarra, Niamh Houston, Meljoann, Colm Olwill, Simon Kenny, Kieran Dold, Seb & Emma of Deathness Injection, Roger Gregg, Ben Gaulon, Stephen Mcloughlin, Ed Devane an Eoin O’Dell.

Mad Scientists of Music will be out June 2014, on Near FM, and online at this site.

Mad Scientists Of Music – February Update

john leach

Artist Highlight – (John Leach, Siam Collective / Gamepak)

John Leach is the man behind psychedelic rap collective Siam Collective (pictured). Out of costume he looks like Damon Albarn circa 1996, and talks like the charismatic head of a hip hop fuelled electronics cult. Along with A4 Sounds’ Andrew Edgar, MarQu VR and ‘Jeff Jeff Jeff’ he runs Gamepak, the group responsible for bringing chiptune gigs and circuit bending workshops to Dublin. I spoke to John in the creepy cosy former Magdalene laundry he calls a home. Here here is, in full mad scientist mode talking about humanity’s cybernetic relationship with the circuit.

And here he is demonstrating the black art of cartridge ripping.

Documentary Update

I’m sitting in the basement of Trinity Library, surrounded by studious folks burrowed in their laptops, their little desktop kingdoms defended by troops of empty Monster energy drinks and granola bar wrapper sandbags. On my laptop is a table of my work on Mad Scientists of Music to date. With the exception of a couple of sonic experiments it’s almost entirely been recording, collating and editing interviews: Capturing dozens of hours of ‘tape’, cutting out ems, ahs and digressions and slicing them into clips with names like ‘Quentin Tarantino’s Starwars’ and ‘Alien Language’. I’ve interviewed thirteen Irish electronic musicians, from circuit bending hackers to chiptune pop stars, and recorded several tours of their musical toyshops.

I’ve travelled to Limerick, Liverpool, Brighton, Maynooth and all over Dublin, in the process learning a little something about audio recording and the many many ways you can screw it up. I’ve had to deal with a couple of disasters – several of my preliminary interviews had to be completely redone due to foolhardy mic placement, and a whole week of editing work on a marvellous interview with Ewan Hennelly had to be redone from scratch when I managed to accidentally erase a bunch of files.

Technical mishaps aside, the interview process has gone great. My guests have included theramin robot builders Deathness Injection, the toytronica hackers of Gamepak, Irish hiphop diva Meljoann, and rising chiptune superstar Chipzel. Our conversations have gone everywhere from copyright to UFOlogy. I can’t wait to get this stuff out there. Thing is – there’s a long way to go before this documentary’s finished.

I keep a running tally of clip lengths in my SUPER-MEGA-EXTRA-ENORMOUS-SPREADSHEET-O-DOOM, and (with about half the interviews still to edit) we’re already looking at over 500 individual clips, containing 371 minutes of finished interviews, or enough for 12 thirty minute episodes, not counting music.

Putting it all together, mixing, building a sound scape worthy of the material and generally having fun – not to mention the chop chop chop of cutting the interviews, is going to take a looong time. With that in mind, I’m going to start posting Artist Highlights – brief bios of musicians featured in the documentary, with a couple of interesting / entertaining clips to accompany them. These won’t necessarily reflect the style or substance of the final series, but they’ll help motivate me to keep cutting, and hopefully provide a small thank you to the many musicians that have made the series possible.

New Radio Series in production ‘Mad Scientists of Music’

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I’ve just kicked off production on my new radio series, my first documentary. It’s a 6 * 30 minute show about experimental music in Ireland, entitled ‘Mad Scientists of Music’. Experimental music is a pretty big topic, covering everything from bedroom tinkering with Fruity Loops to technically and aesthetically sophisticated electronic ‘noise’  to Harry Partch style microtonal music. Clearly, I can’t cover everything, and this won’t be an effort to comprehensively catalogue the field. Instead I’ll be focusing primarily on participatory music – chiptune, circuit bending, music apps and other techniques and technologies which allow untrained musicians to take part in creating music.

For a number of years I was involved in the day to day activities of Exchange Dublin. Exchange was at that point a consensus based arts institution in Temple Bar Dublin; more recently the centre has moved away from total democracy, for better and worse, and apparently plans are afoot to leave its Temple Bar HQ for less contentious surroundings. When Exchange kicked off, the initial idea was to let open groups  co-ordinate creative projects in different mediums. Exchange Focus (founded by Dr. Jason McCandless) let enthusiast photographers and complete novices alike learn the intricacies of DSLR photography. My pet project, Exchange Words, ran workshops, lectures, and collaboratively organised spoken word performances. No Signal, a group organised by Dublin based artists like Jonah King, Daniel O’Donovan, Patrick Hough, Aine Belton, and Sebastian Dooris, fooled around with experimental audio video production and performance. No Signal was great fun, I used to head along as an interested if utterly unqualified observer. This was 2009, and demonstrations of 3D digital projection, live coding, and circuit bending seemed to come from a different world, a sizzling technoutopia where devices could be opened up, rejigged and tickled to reveal their secrets.  This open access mixture of mad scientists laboratory, artists workshop and technofetishists basement encouraged a playful attitude to technology, a million miles away from the intimidating math heavy culture of academic engineering and computer science. It was the purest expression of the hacker-artist culture I used to read about in Bruce Sterling think pieces for Wired Magazine or hear breathlessly described in The Net in the early 90’s. Talented amateurs using prosumer technology in interesting and innovative ways to make art, just for the love of it. Around the same time I took part in one of Ben Gaulon‘s ‘Sound Dig’ workshops, learning the very basics of circuit bending and hacking my first kiddie keyboard.

Later I got to know the guys behind Gamepak, a loose knit Dublin chiptune / circuit bending collective. Gampaq run chiptune gigs at festivals like KnockanStockan, and circuit bending workshops in association with Harold’s Cross based A4 Sounds. Taking part in these unstructured peer learning workshops helped inform the ideas behind Open Learning Ireland. Most recently, MarQu and Andrew Edgar of Gamepak helped organise the Open Learning hacklab at our week long festival of learning.


Bitwise Operator, one of the acts interviewed for the series.

I’m no musician. I took piano lessons as a kid, and wrote some awful singer songwriter music after leaving school, but I can’t play any instrument with any degree of competence. What I like about these technologies, and the folks who play with them in an inclusive way, is that my lack of ability doesn’t matter as much as my desire to participate. This isn’t just fiddling about with a ‘my first musak’ toy either. Participative electronic music, like gamelan and other traditional forms of non-expert collaborative music making, let non-musicians take part in producing real music: Improvising with ambient noise duo Deathness Injection, fiddling with Andrew Edgar’s homemade keyboards, or jamming on Bitwise Operator‘s upcoming iPad app. That’s the feeling I’m trying to convey with this series.  The experience of playing with things beautiful, unsettling and deliriously novel. In my next post I’ll talk about some of the folks I’ve interviewed so far, and the techniques and radio series that have influenced the approach I’m taking with  ‘Mad Scientists of Music’. For now check out this collaborative performance curated by Na Hailtiri in association with Deathness Injection. 1000 members of the public converged on Exchange Dublin, to join in in the spontaneous performance – noodling on theremins, effects pedals and chaos pads.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pLJ5nCwrts]

Mad Scientists Of Music should be done by early – mid 2014. If you’d like to be interviewed for the series get in touch. If you’d like to follow production, check it us on Facebook.

8 Easy Pieces

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The pitched fork has pronged another prize with the fantastic documentary, Reformat the Planet on the emerging Chiptune scene. Chiptune (as distinct from 8bit music per say) has been around for about a decade, and is finally garnering some critical acclaim. Not content with inventing punk music, Malcolm McLaren hopped on the bandwagon early, writing an hilarious piece for Wired in 2003 claiming the birth of a new scene, ‘Chipmusic’. In the article McLaren is escorted my mysterious French underground electronic musicians to a dingy factory where credibility and curry powder mix in malodorous clouds, and odd young hips with blackened teeth play unironic retro-future music on outdated consoles and computers. Since those halcyon days chiptune has conspicuously failed to set the world alight – though it has had an ‘influence’ on mainstream hiphop and indie acts, on underground scenes like nerdcore and laterly on art and fashion [1] [2]; ultimately achieving the honour of being featured in the latest issue of Analogue. Reformat the Planet is only available for four more days, so check it out!

Update: For an Irish take on 8bit, check out the hyperkinetic 0010100, who mercifully avoid the europop chinz of much euro chiptune.

Update 2: If you’re in the UK or can get your clogs on and hop on a ferry, there’s a Chiptune Alliance tour on right now in Scotland and England, featuring some of the artists featured in Reformat the Planet including Anamanaguchi, Sabrepulse, and Random.