One man's attempt at literacy

Category Archives: Innovation

Do you like being evil? Acting like a child? Competing in various ridiculous challenges? Then you just might like the game I have sort of made and done nothing with!!!

I am not a good salesman. But I do think I’ve done something good.

In October, my friend Maryann and I decided to finally run with one of our many, many (like, infinite) ideas, and make a card game that we had had an idea for. The original concept was a judicial themed (no joke) card game tentatively called Crime and Punishment, which was a mash up of trivia, debating, and filling in the blanks. It was a lot like Cranium… But evil.

Evil!!!

Evil!!!

See, at first the important thing we focused on was not just the actual game play, but the fact that this was a game that — you might have guessed — hinged on punishments. Specifically, punishing other players, by making them follow rules. Think King’s Cup, the drinking game (in fact, originally this WAS a drinking game), where there are rules to follow and you must drink if you forget them, only in our game there aren’t simply four rules at most for the whole group; there are countless rules that can affect one or all the players. The point of the game was and always has been to wait until one player is crushed under the weight of all their rules.

My friend and I are cruel.

Eventually, Maryann and I scrapped the drinking component of this, because even when we played it ourselves for the first time we didn’t all want to drink. Plus, marketability! We also debated what to call it, deciding that, not only did the name not fit, but we didn’t need to involve Dostoyevsky in our terror. For a while there, our very proper friend Chloe suggested DGBF *coughcoughdon’tgetbuttfuckedcough* (something you want to avoid in prison), which we used as yet another tentative title. During this time, we also realized that trivia was not a good category because it simply wasn’t replayable, like our other categories: the answer to who won the World Cup in 2010 won’t change unless Doctor Who intervened (new game idea!!!). Plus…writing trivia is hard.

Amid all these talks of change, Maryann and I did something very appropriate for us: we dropped it. About two weeks after we played our first test round of this in November, we stopped planning it, figuring it would never amount to anything, and feeling like we could spend our time better — like watching Lightning Point, an Australian show about aliens who love surfing.

Thankfully, Joe exists.

In January, I began debating what to get my boyfriend, Joe, for his birthday. Unfortunately, I was practically broke at that time, and on a (short-lived) path to being utterly broke. So what could I get for his 30th birthday that would be worthy? Well, there was one idea I had that wouldn’t cost too much. See, Joe Maryann and I have all these truly fantastic — I mean, FANTASTIC, right!? — ideas, but we never followed through and really finished any, and Joe said he wished we would. So DGBF was the perfect opportunity to do something for Joe and even something productive.

I kidnapped talked Maryann into resuming the game, and she agreed, reluctantly happily. We resumed by adding new categories, but, mostly, focusing on making the game more unified. What we decided was that the game wasn’t just about challenges and unrelated punishments for the loser, which may or may not be decided by others, but instead ALL challenges and punishment recipients would be decided by someone. More than that, there was a new emphasis on replayability, with the person who decides the winner of each round also having more control over what happens during the challenges.

We were set, so close to making this game ready to play, not just as something that two nerds created in their spare time (by spare time, I mean “at work on G-chat and sometimes in between eating Pommes Frites, bahn mi, and Big Gay Ice Cream in rapid succession), but something they actually thought about to excess. We just had one problem: the theme and the name. Our game was still DGBF, a game vaguely about the legal system and jail, but we weren’t happy with it. Then I had an epiphany.

I’m a bit of a control freak, sometimes. I am the kind of person who likes things a certain way, and thinks way too much about things, and when other people act in a way I like to let them know why I think they should do things the way I have painstakingly determined was best. Basically, I’m a control freak. This intermittent action eventually led Joe to call me a tyrant, and, one day, while thinking of this after the fact, I thought, “I’m not a big tyrant… I’m a tiny tyrant.”

Logo

In that instant the heavens opened up, and naked, winged babies flew around me, singing hymns. We had a name, and we had a theme: our game was now about Hitler. Or rather, young dictators through the ages. Given this, the challenges became kids testing each other in horrible ways, and the punishments and rules were, well, what happens when you are in a room of dictators, even preschool-aged ones.

Once we had this, I begged my father — a kind, loving man who is too nice to his kids — to make me some art, and he gladly did. Tiny Tyrants was finally printed out and ready to play roughly four hours before Joe’s birthday party. Ironically, we didn’t play the game because people showed up over the course of two hours, but we did draw pictures on the white boards for it.

IMG_1694

Even after the birthday, Maryann and I continued making the game, and did some more play testing and fine tuning. We now have four delightful categories that test people’s  willingness be creative, funny, earnest, and/or ass-kissing. Similarly, more and more control has been given to The Dictator, the person in control each round, who can literally decide the fates of others on his or her whim. No longer is it just a game of high replayability with some rules to follow, but it’s a game that is unique in that players get to control how they “score” and even determine how much time they have to complete their challenges.

Two weeks ago, I submitted this game to the Boston Festival of Indie Games, today I sent them a prototype because they requested it (and my bank account feels it, eek!), and on Friday I’ll be entering Tabletop Deathmatch, a competition created by the makers of Cards Against Humanity. If nothing happens with any of these, or other competitions that may come up, I may do a Kickstarter. Even after eight months of work, this game is still not really anything more than a few cards on my shelf and way too much time spent thinking of everything I’d want to experience in a party game, but maybe, one day, you could see Tiny Tyrants in the stores, and that’s pretty cool to think about.

-13


I have been absent lately. I’m sorry. But I’m going to try and write more again, and the first thing I’ll do after my brief hiatus is one of my favorite types of posts: a bad movie idea.

We’re talking Sharknado bad.

You see, I have this super power that allows me to quickly turn most anything into a really awful, yet awfully believable, movie idea.

A bad movie post is also very appropriate because last year I made four very beautiful (and disturbingly realistic sounding) bad movie ides for the holidays. This time, there is no theme besides being a movie that is sad and sadly realistic. I give you

 

This Town Isn’t Big Enough

Raymond Eugene Cornelius (working name, I’m sure producer’s would want to pick something sexier) is a happy-enough New York man who is average in most every way; he’s in his late 20’s, been through some relationships he views with a mix of nostalgia and slight pain, works a decent job that affords him enough to survive and, occasionally, indulge. The only thing that seems to set him apart — and something he prides himself on — is his name, which is unique from start to finish.

Or so he thought.

One day while joking with a friend, he decides to google himself. Only when he googles “Raymond Eugene Cornelius” the person who comes up isn’t him; it’s another man located just north of New York. This other Raymond is a few years older, with a life that sounds more exciting and — gasp! — unique.

The discovery of this second, and in some sense original, Raymond Eugene Cornelius throws our protagonist into a spiral of depression and shame. The thing he had prided himself about most was his name, his very identity, and now he has discovered that someone else has possessed this aspect of him (and more) his entire existence. In a way, his being is a shame. So, of course, he decides to take action.

He decides the other Raymond Eugene Cornelius must die.

Raymond 1 travels to this other city and stalks Raymond 2, planning what he’ll do to this man who has stolen so much from him — only to discover the man he has come to kill is, by all accounts, a great person. Raymond 1, using an alias, befriends Raymond 2, and slowly learns his nemesis is a pediatrician who volunteers at the local homeless shelter and is a devoted single father of two. Suddenly, Raymond 1’s plans are thrown into chaos as he realizes he loves  (whether platonically or romantically will depend on whether the Director wants an Oscar or not) Raymond 2, the man who stole his identity.

Raymond 1 battles his feelings, but eventually he decides he can live in the shadow of this other man, and if he wants to be an individual he should strive harder.

Unfortunately, the world has other plans.

In the climax of the movie, Raymond 1 is confessing his story to Raymond 2, who is shocked but also expresses how he reciprocates Raymond 1’s feelings; he says that, even though Raymond 1 only associated his uniqueness with his name, he possesses so many other virtues (which I haven’t really figured out yet, as the basic plot makes Raymond 1 pretty blatantly a psychopath). Raymond 1 flees afoot, ashamed, and Raymond 2 follows. As Raymond 2 is in the crosswalk, he hears a horn and the sound of wheels turning that he had missed: a semi-truck is coming! Raymond 1 turns back in time and observes the danger his friend is in, and desperately pushes Raymond 2 out of the path of the speeding vehicle.

Raymond 2 recovers from his fall and goes to Raymond 1 (this is getting confusing), finding Raymond 1 is dead.

And so it goes that Raymond 1 dies saving the man who, until that moment, he had blamed for his lack of identity, and, for the first time since Raymond 1’s birth, the world does indeed only have a single, unique Raymond Eugene Cornelius.
_________

Image property of Spike Jonze and such!

Next up: Pygmali-her, about a woman who voices an advanced OS and falls in love with her phone-self.

And hey, maybe this sounds a bit ridiculous, but I want you to think: is this more ridiculous sounding than movies like Her, about a man who falls in love with his phone’s OS, which is getting a number of prestigious nominations? Really?  Not really!

Spike Jonze, I look forward to your call/email/hastily scribbled post-it note asking me to be your new idea guy.


Thanks to the wonderful Jules at Go Jules Go, I became aware of something wonderful, the Pi Day Pie Challenge. The short is this: Pi Day is March 14th (3.14). A pi pie is a pie made in honor of Pi Day, and it is extra delicious because it is the tastiness of pie with the awesomeness of math. It’s practically algebraic!

Not so pretty yet, but I swear this will make your socks fly off in pure happiness!

Not so pretty yet, but I swear this will make your socks fly off in pure happiness!

Prior to this I had only made about four pies in my life, and only the last — a pumpkin pie I made for a dinner with friends that had fresh, garden-grown pumpkins — was a success, so I immediately was wary going into this. However, I had something on my side: Pushing Daisies, and a pie discussed in that show, a “tart apple pie with gruyère baked into the crust.” Gruyère, for those who don’t know, is a wonderful cheese. Pushing Daisies is — well, let me explain.

Pushing Daisies copyright ABC etc.!

When you see this poster you might think, “Oh, now an apple pie with cheese sounds a little less unusual.”

Pushing Daisies was a show that aired a few years back with a short first season, that was cancelled in its second season. And it was magnificent. I will not deny that the second season wasn’t nearly as good as the first, but that’s partly because the first seasons was practically perfect. It was the story of a pie maker and his childhood sweetheart, whom he could never touch because it would kill her (again), as they assisted a private detective solve murders, often aided by the pie maker’s single employee who secretly loved him. Sound weird? It sort of was.

Pushing Daisies had everything; romance, comedy, drama, action, and mystery, and instead of being overloaded by any of these elements it came together to form a cohesive and unexpectedly wonderful creation (like a cheese, apple pie!). It somehow managed to be better at any of those aspects than 90% of the television that focused on merely one or two of them. More than anything, it had heart and it had magic. If there was a reason the second season failed it was because it tried to force what seemed to come so easily to the first. The first season of Pushing Daisies is probably my favorite season of any show ever because of how amazingly well crafted and thoughtful it was.

In the show, the sweetheart has two aunts who are recluses that love cheese, and she can’t see them so she tries to help them by giving them pie laced with homeopathic mood enhancers and, more importantly for this, cheese baked into the crust. I used this crust recipe but augmented the filling so it was a bit more substantial, plus I only had winesap apples, which are actually not tart. The end result was this: the filling was fine, but the crust is delicious. It’s so good. Even the dough was so delicious that I couldn’t stop raving about it, and the smells that wafted from my oven as it cooked were intoxicating.

The dough alone to this is so lovely. It's everything you love about cheese combined with everything you love about butter.

The dough alone to this is so lovely. It’s everything you love about cheese combined with everything you love about butter.

You know how when you’re in grade school the most common retort to something like, “I love this pie!” is, “If you love it so much why don’t you marry it!”? Well, I would marry this pie crust. I would. It’s basically like the flakiest, moistest, most perfect cheese puff pastry I’ve ever had.

It's basically like everything you love about a salad with oil, croutons, apples, and gruyère minus the stupid green things in a salad!

It’s basically like everything you love about a salad with oil, croutons, apples, and gruyère minus the stupid green things in a salad!

This pie is an ode to pi and a requiem for Pushing Daisies. It’s the Pushing Daisies Pi Pie. It’s simply heavenly. And because it’s so delicious, it will, like the show, probably not be around for long, but my life will be better for having experienced it.


This week let me start by saying I’m a finalist in The Good Greatsby’s caption contest again this week — which doesn’t necessarily mean anything but you can go and vote for me to be a good, democratic citizen. Mostly why I mentioned this though is because it’s an awesome segue!

AWESOME SEGUE ACTIVATE!!!

I’m considering starting a new blog, or maybe a new recurring theme for many of my blogs, which I believe I will call “Recipes For Disaster” or “Politics Come to Dinner” or something like that, which combine three of my greatest passions: food, politics, and offending everyone by either making fun or or simply blaspheming sacred political figures. Because, as everyone knows, nothing is more socially acceptable than talking about politics at the dinner table. Continue reading


I’m the last person to win American Idol! Didn’t know that? That’s not at all surprising…

Over the past decade, reality TV has become more and more prevalent, with such popular shows as American Idol, Top Chef, and The Real Crazy Bitches Housewives of [Rich Place]. The reason these have become so widely produced isn’t just that they are as popular as scripted shows, but also because they are damned cheap. Hugh Laurie’s salary of $700,000 per episode of House — which ended up being over $15 million per year — is more than enough to produce an entire reality television show.

Despite this, even reality TV is often tinged with opulence that most Americans can’t fathom, like the Bachelor(ette), wherein people travel to at least four different countries, staying in 5 star hotels and mansions, all the while being bombarded by romantic songs from famous but not exceptionally popular musicians — because, you know, that’s the only way people can fall in love. This sort of lavish lifestyle, while cheap for the network, is altogether still out of reach for anyone who isn’t in the 1%. Given this, I present to you reality television anyone could produce, AKA TV for the 99%, AKA Occupy Reality TV!!! Continue reading


PrS (that means prescript, here): This isn’t a late post on 4th of July that I was too lazy to make yesterday, this is actually a story-ish thing! Rejoice!

Why, is that a tail? Nope! It’s impending doom. Read on!

Now, I used to be a big fan of the 4th of July. Not because I had any national pride; no, when I was a kid the only things I cared about were dinosaurs, cookies, and explosives. The thing you may not glean from my current high strung, hippy attitude is that I used to be quite fond of watching things burst into flames. My fondest memories of Independence Day were trying to talk my dad into buying $500+ in fireworks so that we could have a display that was the envy of all our neighbors, setting off a few artillery shells every night prior to the actual day. It was Pyromaniac Heaven.

Then I grew up and became lame. Kidding! I’m still (sort of) awesome. But the effervescent joy that radiated from my skin when I had witnessed a rocket dissipated as I grew older was replaced by yawns. Been there, done that.

Enter in Fruit -Blow-Up Day. Continue reading


My friend Maryann has recently decided she was a Cat Lady. Sort of.

Now, I’m not a cat lady person by any stretch of the mind, specifically because I am allergic to cats. Also, I have been in relationships. Actually, I’ve dated one guy three times so I guess that sort of makes me a slut. My oh-so-wonderful love life and my inability to withstand cat dander has led me to the belief that, maybe, I am something similar yet different; perhaps I am a Dog Lord.

The Nikita and I

Continue reading