GET LAMP Text Adventure Documentary Coming in March

18-Feb-10 1:11 PM by
Filed under Films, Trailers; 2 comments.

When I was young, documentaries were the droll presentations that grade school students were subjected to. Usually making no pretense about their supposed educational value, these films rarely made any effort to be engaging or even entertaining. But in the last decade or two, the genre has matured (or maybe I have). The likes of An Inconvenient Truth, March of the Penguins, Welcome to Macintosh, and King of Kong have invigorated the medium to the point of making theatrical releases viable. It doesn't hurt that their topics have grown beyond their scientific and historical roots to encompass popular culture topics.

One recent example is BBS: The Documentary, which tells the stories of telecommunications' early adopters who ran dial-up bulletin boards, some of the first consumer-accessible pre-Internet networks. As a participant of that era, I was fascinated by the film's people and personalities and how vibrant their memories of that unique period was. The documentary was almost exclusively the product of one man: Jason Scott, digital archivist extraordinaire. As I wrote in my review in retrocomputing publication Juiced.GS (Volume 11, Issue 1), his inspired editing turned hundreds of hours of raw footage into several elegant and thematic chapters of computer history.

Since that film's release, Mr. Scott has been slowly chipping away at his next project: GET LAMP, a history of text adventures, or interactive fiction. As described on the film's Web site: "[using] limited sound, simple graphics, and tiny amounts of computing power, the first games on home computers … [gave birth to] an entire industry [that] rose over the telling of tales, the solving of intricate puzzles and the art of writing. Like living books, these games described fantastic worlds to their readers, and then invited them to live within them." Here's some early footage of the interviews that preserve that early entertainment art form and its responsible parties:

Mr. Scott recently gave himself a deadline for GET LAMP's publication; as a result, it is being fast-tracked for release at PAX East, a video gaming expo held March 26–28, 2010, in Boston. As the date approaches, more details about the two-disc set are being revealed. Besides ten hours of interviews, the documentary will sport several unique features:

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A Convenient Film

15-Oct-07 6:14 PM by
Filed under Films; 4 comments.

It seems like documentaries have suddenly become an acceptable format for a popular film release. From political releases such as Death of a President and the upcoming Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains, to scientific subjects such as In the Shadow of the Moon and more grounded ones like March of the Penguins, they all beg the question: Why the sudden approval of a predominantly slow, plodding, and — gasp! — educational medium?

I say the person we have to thank is Al Gore. As the former next president of the United States, Mr. Gore has a kind of fame not usually found in Hollywood. Any other star would've made a film about global warming into a made-for-TV special, but Mr. Gore propelled An Inconvenient Truth into theaters. Both his 2000 election loss and global warming are topics that are, for better or worse, controversial; people wanted to see what this presidential candidate, politically quiet for six years, had been up to, what his new angle was. It wasn't like Morgan Freeman narrating March of the Penguins; as engaging as the film was, there's little debatable about birds, and they didn't represent Mr. Freeman's politics or platform. But global warming? It's either the biggest scientific hoax of all time, or one of the greatest threats to life on Earth. It was a killer combination of topic and delivery, and its accolades, awards, and accumulated profits have opened the door for other documentarians.

And so I'd like to thank Mr. Gore, not for either alerting us to this peril or perpetuating this worldwide fraud, but for showing that documentaries can be edgy, accessible, and enjoyable — and, in so doing, expanding the diversity of film genres, subjects, and debates. If you haven't already discovered this cinematic style courtesy the Discovery or History channels or the works of Ken Burns, check it out; you'll find it's grown up from the inescapably dull classroom lessons forced upon you a generation ago.

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Live Long and Prosper

05-Apr-07 11:14 AM by
Filed under Star Trek; 1 comment.

Happy First Contact Day!

Only 56 years until the Vulcans land in Montana in 2063… In the meantime, click the above link for some great editorials, video clips, and documentaries about First Contact.