20 May

I graduated from college in the year 2000. It was an incredibly exciting time. Not only was I about to step out of the safety of the educational system and into the real world for the first time but as everyone back then knew we were only a few months away from getting flying cars and personal robot butlers. It was an exciting time indeed.

Sadly the reality I discovered shortly after graduation was that I would not be getting my flying/driving license any time soon and that finding a job in the theatre industry as a recent graduate can be incredibly difficult if you are not willing to work for very little money or no money at all. I spent a few months working here and there at different theatres as stage crew. I was enjoying the work but I could not ignore that it was not exactly financially viable for a young go getter like myself (even though I was still living with my parents).

I knew I needed to expand my options and find other areas in which I could apply the knowledge I had accumulated at college between trying to struggle through hangovers during lectures and playing Soul Calibur in the student bar.

Luckily I did not have to think very hard because a friend of mine had hit upon the same road block and already given it some thought.

“Computer games?”

“Computer games.” Jake said with a matter of fact confident nod which might have been made all the more confident by the two pints we had just consumed. “Think about it.”

I did. The blank look of my internal thought process must have shown because he quickly continued.

“It’s just like building stage sets but inside a computer.”

He was absolutely right. I’d suddenly seen the genius of his idea. I’m sure if Shakespeare had still been alive he would have expanded his famous ‘all the world is a stage’ theory to include ‘and all the stage is a computer game.’ The best part of it was I would be able to play computer games as research for my job (an excuse I still use to this day when ever my wife wants me to put down the controller and come to bed).

So I started applying to all the London computer games companies I could find and when I was feeling a bit more adventurous I even applied for a few a little farther north (I was still a young and naive college graduate living with his parents after all). I didn’t hear much back from my applications. I had one interview and then been turned down. I was starting to wonder if Jakes idea had been so hot after all.

But then something happened. I did not know it was something at the time but it was the event that set me on my course. I had picked up a copy of a gaming magazine called Edge and started looking through the jobs section as I had done countless times before. As I looked through the pages I suddenly found it; a rather strange and cryptic job advertisement. It was the kind of thing that made you expect to turn around and see that the shop you had just bought it from had disappeared and where upon asking locals about it they would reply that there had not been a shop there for 20 years, and then shuffle off while giving you strange looks.

I quickly checked. The Bromley branch of WH Smiths was still firmly there. I turned back to the job advertisement in my hands. I was fascinated by it. In big bold letters it read ‘Do you want to create new worlds?’ and I thought YES! I scanned the rest of the page for details. It was a company called Lost Boys games but there did not seem to be any address. My heart sank a little thinking that maybe they had forgotten to add any contact details and some where there was a group of gaming executives sitting around a phone, checking their watches and waiting for people like me to call. Luckily I spotted a email address at the bottom of the page and rushed of home to send them a email (hopefully a few of them were sitting around the computer as well as the phone).

A short while I had sent the email off a thought acureded to me. I had just applied to a job that I knew nothing about. I didn’t even know where in England it was. What if it was even a real games company? What if it was front for the mob or a gang of black market organ dealers? What if I woke up from the interview in a bath of ice with a kidney missing? I don’t think I could handle that kind of job rejection.

It did not take me long to get my answer. A few day later I received a reply. It contained three surprises. (1) At no point in the email did they enquire about the condition of my internal organs. (2) They were very interested in my application and (3) they were willing to pay for my flights to the interview location… in Holland.

17 Jul

1) If you are using an empty coke bottle to clean your brushes while painting never put the full coke bottle that you are actually drinking from with in reach. If the watery paint taste does not make you realize your error the paint brush hitting you in the back of the throat will.

2) The tutors don’t appreciate it when you drink all of their coffee and it is hard to hide guilt when you are really hyper.

3) Toy frogs are good at politics.

4) If you are making a life size dummy for a project never ever leave it hanging in the studio over night to dry. Security will really freak out when they see it through the window in the middle of the night and think a student has hung themselves.

5) If you put your bake potato lunch down on your chair while you clean some space on your desk for it, what ever you do, don’t sit down.

6) If an attractive girl asks you for help with something find out what it is before you say yes. Having your eye lashes dyed brown is not worth it, especially when you don’t end up getting her phone number anyway.

7) Never agree to play strip poker if you are so drunk that you think you are about to play black jack.

8) Never drink the punch at the pre summer ball party. You’ll only wake up in a corridor, wondering how you got there and why your vomit is fluorescent pink.

9) If a tutor falls asleep during the lesson he is giving, there is no harm in letting him sleep for a little while.

10) Keeping score of how many times a tutor says ‘er’ or ‘um’ during a lecture is fun but you might not be able to stop your self cracking up and being found out when they break the 200 mark.

11) Be quick with the alt + tab keys so tutors don’t see you playing solitaire when you should be taking notes.

12) Never ever take the bare wires from a computer fan, stick them in an electrical socket and turn it on. If you do, don’t be surprised when there is a very loud bang (not me).

13) Never use the disc sander to sand a peace of wood the size of a coin. It takes a while for the skin to grow back and they have to change the sand paper (also not me, the same not me).

14) Never super glue a doll on the ceiling above the desk of the girl with a doll phobia. If you do, don’t be surprised when she gets very, very angry.

15) No one died in the old studio theatre, it is not haunted and it is wrong to tell the new students that it is.

16) Never super glue your fingers together, especially while doing number 14 (it makes it harder to hide your guilt).

Believe it or not I graduated student of the year and had to give a speech at the graduation ceremony. The audience was laughing a lot but the college deans were not to happy that I turned it into a stand up comedy routine.

4 Apr

Anyone who has ever overindulged in the consumption of alcoholic beverages will have more then a passing familiarity with the condition known scientifically as drunkenness. Symptoms can include slurred speech, impaired balance, poor coordination, reduced inhibition, memory loss and uncharacteristic behavior. In my case this list also includes the rather odd ability to get inanimate objects and their functions mixed up.

A few years ago after a night of drinking I found myself having great difficulty opening my front door. Normally this could be blamed on the degradation of coordination coursed mainly by the consumption of alcohol. However, I think at the time my problem was else where. The main root of my dilemma (if I had to guess) might have had something to do with the fact that I was attempting to open the lock with a 50p coin. After a while I realized my mistake put the 50p away and took a 20p coin from the collection of currency in my hand and tried that instead.

I know I did this because when my parents heard what probably sounded like an incompetent burglar they opened the door to investigate and found me. They asked me what I was doing to which I replied with a slur, “I’m trying… to f-find… the… r-right one to open the… door.”

Either my intoxicated brain had mistakenly thought the front door worked on a coin slot system or maybe I was planning to melt the coins down in some kind of MacGyver or A-Team fashion to forge a new key. All that matters is my parents had a lot of fun retelling the story to family members to embarrass me.

However, when I returned home drunk again a few months later I had learned from my mistake. Realizing I was far too drunk to attempt opening the door again I decided to delegate that responsibility to my friend who had accompanied me and seemed far more sober. I handed him the keys happy in the knowledge that I had save myself from an embarrassing repeat of the previous events. At least I might have if I had not handed him my bank card instead of my actual keys.

It must have seemed like I was suggesting that he slide the card between the lock and the door frame, allowing us to slip in like cat burglars. Luckily he was sober enough to inform me of my inebriated mistake. When we finally got inside I am happy to say I did not try to make hot drinks by putting tea bags in the washing machine.

Although it might seem like I have an almost Freudian association between keys and money these moments of confusion have not been limited to keys alone. After a night at a friends house that involved a few movies and a rather large bottle of Vodka things got very confusing for me and probably the driver of the bus I was trying to get home.

When I stumbled onto the bus the driver asked me to show my bus pass. I started to rummage around in my bag looking for it but suddenly produced a copy of A Bugs Life on VHS cassette instead which I then proceeded to present to him. He was obviously not impressed with my taste in movies and informed me that I still had to pay. I then found out he was not a fan of Toy Story either. Eventually my friend had to pay my fair because I found the task far too confusing in my intoxicated state and I was running out of videos to impress the driver with.

It’s probably a good idea that I have never tried to write a blog post after a few drinks. I might end up attempting to type it on the microwave or even the cat.

28 Feb

Before I got involved in the games industry and moved to Holland I spent a lot of time working in the theater business in England. However, I never got to play Romeo or even Juliet because I was one of the many people working behind the scenes as a member of stage crew. It was a great job but for someone who can be a little accident prone it was work that should have come with danger money.

I’ve been made deaf for two days after working on a music concert, I’ve fallen into a lighting rig and I’ve had a speaker dropped on my hand which in itself was not as worrying as the rather camp first aid person who tried flirting with me as he bandaged my hand.

However, the most cringe worthy incident probably happened during my work on ‘They shoot horses don’t they?’ It was a show about a marathon dance set during the 1930s great depression. Since the stage crew was going to be seen quite a lot as they changed the scenery the director decided to incorporate us into the show by having us in costume as janitors. It was a chance to move from back stage to center stage.

My real chance to show my star power came when the crew got to play an integral part in one of the scenes. I got to play a post, a boxing ring post to be more accurate. The scene required the actors to race around the inside of a boxing ring so four of us (the crew) stood in each corner and held ropes between us. It was my big chance. There might have been talent scouts in the audience looking for someone to play a tree or lamp post in the next Robert Deniro movie.

During the rehearsal the director warned me that several members of the cast would collapse at my feet as they ran around. Using my method acting I stood as still as a post should when this happened and resisted the urge to flinch. Every night the scene took place with out a problem… Until the night my parents came to see the show.

The actors fell at my feet with out incident as they had done every night but on the following lap one of the cast members tripped for real and fell towards me. It is a natural human instinct to reach out for something to steady your self with when caught off balance but another person’s genitals are not a good choice. Her arm flung outwards in an attempt to break her fall but her fist connected very hard and painfully with an area that she did not know me well enough to be touching. She had twisted her ankle but was not in as much pain as me who suddenly had a new career option as a Bee-Gee impersonator. I had to stay on stage trying to look like I was not in deep and intense pain. Dogs from miles around probably heard my high pitched sounds of suffering. When the scene was over we both limped off the stage but unlike her I could not sit down for a while.

Sitting behind a desk might not always be as interesting as working back stage but at least it means my genitals are a lot safer.

7 Feb

Politics has never really been my subject. It’s one of the topics that makes my head hurt if I think about it too much. Maybe that is one of the reasons why I decided not to run for the position of Student Council Class Representative when I was at college (as a theater design student). I left that responsibility to my fellow class mates who had more political ambitions. There were three candidates but only one clear winner once all the votes had been counted, Malcolm.

Malcolm had won by a land slide but there was one small problem, something that made it difficult for him to for fill his new position in student politics (or any thing else for that matter). Malcolm was an inanimate green amphibian, a stuffed toy frog to be more precise. He was our class mascot who had been nominated because we needed a third candidate.

He would have been more at home on the Muppet show then in a meeting room debating what should be available in the college canteen. It had been amusing to vote for him but we had to face facts. Malcolm was not capable of representing us (something that was fundamental to the position as the title suggested). His muteness would impair his abilities and influence on the student council. We were forced to take another vote.

Once all the votes were counted again the winning student was awarded with his new title. However it was not the title of Student Council Class Representative. That would have been unfair to Malcolm. Instead the chosen student was crowned, “The Voice of Malcolm.” He became Malcolm’s emissary, his vessel, his voice.

The Voice of Malcolm took Malcolm to every meeting of the student council and spoke his wishes aloud for them all to hear. I never attended one of the meetings myself but often imagined Malcolm perched on his shoulder while whispering ideas into his ear like something out of a Philip Pullman book. However, some suspected that The Voice of Malcolm was only speaking for himself. No one showed any signs of being unhappy though (even if it would have been a great injustice).

Then one fateful day disaster struck. Malcolm had been left by the studio’s open window. As he sat their minding his own business (either thinking about the pond out side or his dreams to climb the political ladder) he fell out of the window into the car park bellow. By the time we had reached the car park to rescue him he was gone. We will never know if it was a simple accident or a political assassination attempt that led to his disappearance.

We tried to find a replacement but no other toy frog was worthy of filling Malcolm’s shoes. He had become more then a class mascot, he was our leader and he was mourned. You might think the story of Malcolm I have told you is far too strange to be true but we really did vote for a stuffed toy frog to be our Student Representative, someone really was appointed as his voice and he really was lost the day he fell out of that window (we were strange/typical students). I like to think that maybe he is still alive some where (as alive as an inanimate green amphibian can be) living like a king and leading some small country we have never heard of to a state of prosperity. Long live Malcolm.