Thursday 6 August 2020

Making the Second Show

Before I dive in, the reason I’m writing this is for documentation. Part of the nature of interactive installations and playable shows is that they exist for brief moments in time before disappearing. The long-lasting mark they leave behind does not take the form of a finished object, like a printed cartridge or downloadable app, but in the form of lessons learned and questions raised.

Taking to the stage in the very first Scrambled Eggman Show

The reason I point this out is just to flag up that I don’t expect this to be a gripping narrative! As I re-read this all for editing I see how I get stuck in the weeds over minute details. But I don't want to trim that all out because - as a bit of documentation - it's useful to keep the weeds in. Who knows what I may see in them when I look back in future?

Within these weeds is the story of a project I am very proud of, a show that I've had a lot of fun performing and which was an invigorating challenge to create. I hope you enjoy it!

The winners of the very first Scrambled Eggman Show, at PLAY18 in Hamburg

The show is The Scrambled Eggman Show. It's the second interactive stage show I’ve put together. For context, my first show is The Incredible Playable Show which I've been developing and performing since 2016.

Making The Scrambled Eggman Show was a creative challenge rather than a commercial enterprise. If I were to try and make it a tourable show out of it I'd need to make significant changes, particularly to stop it leaning so hard on an existing IP, which would be another creative challenge in itself!

As such it's only been performed at a handful of play-and-culture events, enough to take it from concept, to proof-of-concept, to a working show that audiences have really enjoyed and I've loved performing. So it feels like now is the time to look back on what I actually did to make it happen.

What is The Scrambled Eggman Show?

In The Scrambled Eggman Show I perform as Doctor Eggman, villain from the Sonic the Hedgehog games, and take players through a series of challenges made using these games and a specially-modified Genesis emulator.

The emulator (my own modification of an open-source emulator called GenesisPlus) can read and write to a fake console's RAM, writing new data into the games while they're running, and sending out network messages when specific values in RAM change.

As host, I invite players to the stage to compete in challenges. The audience is split into two teams and the team that wins is awarded points, with the team who has most points at the end winning a prize.

The view the audience sees on the projector, with two instances of Sonic the Hedgehog running side-by-side

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Interview on So Many Bits Podcast

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Bill Nielsen of the So Many Bits podcast.

It was a really fun interview to do and it was great to be able to talk about my work and my perspectives in-depth. I talk about The Book Ritual, and how destroying books works as a way to get players to engage with difficult emotions. I also talk about my shows, their origins in improv, and whether competitive play pushes audiences away or draws them in.

The interview can be downloaded from here:

Or, of course, look for So Many Bits on your favourite podcast app. I'm in Episode 244 and the interview's at the 39:55 mark.

Friday 1 May 2020

Counting to One Million

What is the value of counting to one million? As in, if one person were to count all the way to one million, and you put a dollar value on them doing that, what would that dollar value be?

Counting to one million a totally pointless act. Nothing is gained by having someone count to one million.

So the answer is zero dollars, right? But then, a lot of work goes into counting to one million. Surely that work has to be worth something.

Fortunately, we need not speculate. In 2007 a man named Jeremy Harper counted to one million. He counted for 16 hours every day for 89 days. He live-streamed the whole thing.

I’ve been thinking about the value of pointless acts. About things like counting to a million: what their value is and why we do them.

I was looking back over the work I’d produced over the last year, planning to document the pieces I’d not written up, and realised this was a pretty consistent thread through all of them: pointless acts done simply to see what would happen if I did them.

Games that are unfeasible to play. Videos that are too long to watch. I like to see if they take on a life and meaning of their own with enough size, or enough time. I like sticking with an idea even when it’s going nowhere, simply to see what that nowhere looks like when you’re eyeball-deep in it.

Here’s what I’ve been up to.


A combination with my fascination with futile acts and a sense of being lost in time culminated in this alternative-controller prototype.

Three hourglasses control a clock: one for minutes, one for tens-of-minutes, and one for hours.

To add a minute to the timer, you must wait a minute before turning the minutes glass. To add a tens-of-minutes, you must wait ten minutes, and have turned the minutes glass ten times.

The installation measures the amount of time that has been spent paying attention to time.