Thursday, 29 November 2018

Tetris Effect(ed me)

It’s been a very long time since a videogame made me physically feel the same way that Tetris Effect does. There’s a particular kind of toe-curling sensory harmony that I’ve not experienced since playing games like Rez - that sort of audiovisual overload that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up even now.



Playing Rez, or at least playing it how I used to play it, is that thing that’s consigned to my past, now. Rez was my post-club game, like Wipeout was for those a few years ahead of me. Rez was my end-of-the-sesh game (and if you know, you know). Rez was the game I played at 5am, the dim light of the rising sun just beginning to peek through the blinds, piercing the bubble we’d been in for hours. The usual suspects still standing after whatever mischief we’d been up to. Party, rave, both, or none - sometimes a sesh is a sesh without even going out. My mate used to go to sleep in the middle of the floor while we carried on around him. People would still nattering to each other, nonsense at this point, making plans they’ll never carry out, promises they won’t remember making. A lot of hugging. I’m not a hugger, unless.... I’ve had a half-crushed can of shit beer in my hand for an hour now. I’ll put it down in a minute.

But that time, exactly that point in time, was the time when Rez made sense. The music drove everything: it drove the experience, drove the graphics, and most importantly it drove that part in my brain that was still tingling with the tail-end of whatever I’d been caning for the last ten hours coupled with the lack of sleep and cheap booze also cruising through my system. Sitting in a soft chair, enveloped in that really specific fuzz, Rez made sense, and it had an almost physical effect on me when I used to play in that state (and what a state it usually was).

I don’t get to do that any more. Of course I don’t - I’m in my thirties. I have to do stuff. This morning I did the rainy school run with my two kids, came home, put my slippers on, and turned on the slow cooker. Emailed someone about a late invoice. Made a note to ring the bank. Grown-up stuff. This is what my days are like, and that’s okay. Phases of life and all that.

What I didn’t expect was that, on this nondescript rainy midweek morning in between errands and paperwork, I would turn on Tetris Effect for a half hour break, and be instantly pulled back into that warm, smoky room with my mashed friends, our only cares being the sunlight piercing the dim comfy darkness, or running out of fags, beer, or other stuff. Simpler times. Simpler pleasures.

Despite now being in my thirties and playing in the middle of the day, Tetris Effect does exactly, to a tee, what Rez used to do to me back in the day. The core game is just no-frills Tetris (“I’m not paying £35 for Tetris” - be quiet). Tetris is just the framework, around which hangs a shimmering, morphing, audiovisual feast of synaesthetic beauty. Every stage is different, each one has its own harmonies, ebbs and flows, build-ups and crescendos. The visuals are astounding, intricate, alive - and so tightly coupled to the music and sound that it feels like one couldn’t exist without the other. Headphones recommended, indeed. Out of nowhere, it was that tight coupling between music and visuals that grabbed me, transported me back there, just for a moment. The hair stood up on the back of my neck, and for a fleeting second it captured the essence of why I remember playing Rez back then, like that.

I’m in my thirties now though. I might go and have a lie down.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

I am giving away an arcade cabinet*

*with caveats, read on.

*** PLEASE NOTE, the cab has now been claimed, thanks for playing! ***

Wait, what?
Yeah, you heard me.

If you follow me on any networks you'll know that over the last year I've been working on and touring an arcade cabinet artwork called The Loss Levels. You can read about it here on Engadget, and there's some info on the wider project on The Guardian here.

It looks like this (click for bigness):



Why are you giving it away exactly?
The cab was originally commissioned for the amazing Now Play This festival at Somerset House in London, and has since been exhibited at HOME in Manchester, as well as Sheffield Doc/Fest. The cab was added to the Doc/Fest touring exhibition, and made it's way to Lighthouse in Brighton.

The next stop on the Doc/Fest tour is... Buenos Aires.

This is great and very exciting, but comes with the snag that the current cab is not designed to go onto a plane - in fact it was never really designed to move much at all! I am currently putting the finishing touches to version 2.0 of the cab, which is massively more robust and won't break into a million pieces during a flight.

So, this also means the original cab is now sat in my studio, and to be honest I don't have space for it. It's a little dinged up, but it's intact and perfectly usable. I decided that it might be nice to help someone out, and so I'm going to give it away.

About the cab
The cab was designed and fabricated by the awesome James Medd, and is made from an MDF core wrapped in authentically arcadey semi-matte perspex. The unit splits into two halves so it'll go in a reasonably-sized car without too much fuss. As I say, it's got some cosmetic wear and tear from being transported and played a zillion times, but structurally it's fine.

What's included?
This offer is only for the physical cab shell itself - the screen and controls are being taken out for the new build. The front panel that holds the controls is included, I'm just removing the joystick and buttons. I can provide precise details of the screen/fixing/controls for whoever takes it. To clarify:

INCLUDED: cabinet shell including panel that holds the controls, transparent perspex window for the front, specifications and design files for the whole thing including the fixings and screen.
NOT INCLUDED: screen, electronics, joystick/buttons, 'loss levels' signage.

Can anyone have it? 
No. Sorry. This is free-as-in-beer, but has the following caveats:
1) You'll need to come and pick it up from my studio in central Stockport at some point in the next couple of weeks
2) This offer is only open to someone who'll use it with either learners, beginners, or a group that wouldn't ordinarily have access to this sort of thing.

To be clear on point 2: I'm talking hackspaces that are open and used by people who are learning and growing, or schools, or community groups, or that sort of thing. If you are a well-established maker or a nerd who wants it in their space, or to turn it into another MAME cab, or whatever else, you are not having it, do not ask. I want to pay it forward to someone who'll use it for good, this isn't a freebie for someone to waste sticking it in their house. Whoever gets it should be hacking on it, learning with it, making something cool with it. Oh and I wanna see what you do with it too. :)

OK! This is totally me/us. What next? 
Great! Get me at hellodanhett at gmail dot com and let me know who you are and who would benefit from it. This isn't a first-come-first-served thing as that's a bit unfair, the cab will go to whoever I feel will turn it into the most benefit for people who will learn and experiment and benefit from it. To be as transparent as possible: I'll be giving priority to disadvantaged/community groups and young people first, who wouldn't usually have chance to noodle with something like this. Good karma and all that, you know how it is.

Ta.

Monday, 12 February 2018

TEDxManchester 2018 - transcript

Yesterday I stood on stage at the sold-out TEDxManchester at the Bridgewater Hall, and spoke to about 2,400 people about my experiences. It was terrifying, but ultimately a really positive experience. 

I've barely decompressed, and I'm going to write a full blog post about it all when my head is back together a bit, but for now here's the transcript of what I said, more or less:



Sunday, 23 July 2017

Dan++

A couple of days ago, I became a [very slightly] augmented human - I had an RFID transponder chip implanted into my left hand. What this broadly means is that I can now control compatible devices by touching them, and more importantly I can now store a small amount of data in my hand.

It's been a really interesting experience so far, and one that people are absolutely full of questions about, and so I thought it would make sense to put a blog post up with the (quite literally) gory details in, along with some insights on what the procedure was like, how it's gone so far, and what my future plans are.



Squeamish readers, look away now. This post contains images of large needles going into flesh, and some blood. Nothing hugely gross, but fair warning.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Studio.

Next month I move into my first proper studio space, at EPOK. Some thoughts:


Saturday, 4 February 2017

FAULT LINES - residential decompression

The FAULT LINES cohort got together for the first time over a three-day residential. I have some brief thoughts that I wanted to get down quickly while they were still in my head.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

I bought a giant plotter.

I bought a new toy. Specifically - I bought an insanely massive and very heavy, A1-sized, Roland DPX-3300 XY plotter from the 1980's. It is now sitting in my office taking up all the space until I sort some studio space out, and I'm very happy with it.

Anyway, I have big plans (creatively and physically) for it, and I've already discovered a few neat things, so I thought I'd jam a post together with some photos and musings.

The most important part for now is... it works:



Wednesday, 4 January 2017

How we made... Borborygmus!

Recently I finished up work on a really fun interactive book project, Borborygmus. It's a beautifully illustrated interactive children's book for desktop and mobile, which introduces Borby - the mischievous little guy in your tummy who keeps everything ticking over, while rumbling loudly and making a load of mess.


This project turned out really nicely, of course primarily as the hand-drawn illustrations were already amazing before I got my hands on them, but also in terms of the fact that we built it in such a way that it works everywhere really nicely and consistently. I've had quite a few people reach out and ask about the underlying tech and approach, so I though I'd outline how we put it together.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

FAULT LINES - I'm in.

So, the secret is out - I've been selected as one of the seven participating artists on FutureEverything's new FAULT LINES programme. It's been a weird (and towards the end quite intense) few weeks, with a lot to think about, and so I though it might be wise to get my thoughts down.


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

"So, how are you finding freelancing?"

The single question I've been asked the most since making the freelance jump has been, of course, a general one about how it's all going. So... this is how it's going.


I promised myself I'd try and document how everything is panning out, and apart from the "OK, I've done it!" post, this is the first time I've actually sat and put my thoughts down about the whole thing. At the time of writing this I'm about four months in, which is hardly any time at all in the grand scheme of things. But, it's given me enough time to settle into a routine and figure some things out.