A Game Designers dream

Warning: if you haven’t played Knifetank: The Hauntening yet, there are spoilers in this video. In fact, it is all spoiler.

As a small time game designer, it’s rare that I ever get to sit around when someone experiences one of my games out on their own. We released Knifetank: The Hauntening (iOS or web) in 2010, a couple years later I stumbled upon the above video of a player doing a walk-through. It’s one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had. I love hearing his reaction to everyone of my bad jokes, to each creepy note that Crashfaster played, and to each page of art that Mike created. Knifetank is a short game, where you hunt around an empty mansion and discover clues. The way he describes his experience as he plays was totally lined up with what we wanted him to think. We led him hook line and sinker through the experience.

“Oh my gosh, I’m stacked with knives. I could become a rogue.”

In my short career as a game designer, this video is one of my highlights. Hearing him experience every plot twist, every puzzle, and every terrible pun out loud was wonderful. Huge thanks to Sebo for posting this wonderful walk through. I’m sorry we killed you twice.

10 years in San Francisco

I forgot to celebrate my 10th anniversary of living in the Mission! I can’t believe it’s been that long already. I came out here for a yo-yo gig at the Odeon and I decided to never go back home. Seriously.

I was living in Minneapolis at the time and my friend Kiya asked me to come out and perform at the Monsters of Yo show in the Odeon Bar (read the Squidlist post about it here). Kiya let me stay at his place over on 22nd and Valencia for a few days… then a week… then a month. The dude kept telling me how much I’d love living in the city, and he was right. My love for SF started in the Odeon, where Chicken John would push this wonderful booze called Fernet in between Dr Hal’s hilarious Ask Dr Hal show. The crowd at the Odeon was mostly burners who seemed burned out on the whole Burning Man thing. Though I never did the whole dessert art festival thing, I felt like I fit right in with this crowd of weirdos. I could show up any night and just soak in the weirdness as I drew in my sketchpad and drank shots of Fernet.

There were two great spots to eat back then too. One of them, Country Station, was a sushi restaurant owned by some eccentric hippies (who apparently were also responsible for introducing Butoh dance into the US). The restaurant was filled with random posters and crap on the walls and would often be blasting metal music. The food was cheap. Not great, not terrible… but the food was only part of the experience. What I remember the most is how everything would change when a mariachi band came in. The second a band would come in the metal music would shut off and the waiters would start handing out musical instruments to the crowd. Mostly percussive instruments, which we’d shake along with the band. The craziest part of this experience was watching the chefs. Though the rest of the staff were usually laid back, the chefs were always super serious. The chefs, who often wore their Rising Sun bandanas and long scraggly Fu Manchu mustaches, would become wildly animated and sing along with the band as they played “drums” on the sushi bar with the nearest pair of chopsticks.

The other spot I’d go to was Yamo, back when Ta Wei owned the joint. Looking back, it was sort of a precursor to the pop-up restaurant thing. Yamo was a hole in the wall Burmese diner, then Ta Wei took it over for a couple of years and really decked the place out. He’d have some old 70’s Bollywood action films playing on a 16mm projector, while he’d be playing the Shaft soundtrack on a record player. He’d often insist the name was short for “Yamo be there”. If I remember correctly, his menu only consisted of 3 vegetarian dishes, but many nights I remember only being offered one option. It was bring your own beer, with bonus points if you brought one for Ta Wei. He loved experimenting with his dishes as much as he enjoyed mixing up music and visuals. I remember watching him pour Dr Pepper into my pad thai one night, then sniffing the result approvingly before passing it over to me with a smile. You never knew what you were going to get there, which was really the Yamo’s biggest charm.

I just kept discovering great places in SF and couldn’t really deal with moving back to another Minneapolis winter. Every few days I’d call my airlines and push my return flight back a few days before I finally just stopped calling altogether. I’ve lived in the Mission ever since and I’ve never felt so happy and at home. Even now the neighborhood continues to inspire me. Thinking back on my post about how my life has drastically been changed because of one yo-yo I bought on my 21st birthday, ending up in this beautiful city all fits right in with that crazy adventure.

Huge thanks to Kiya Babazani, Chicken John, and David Capurro for their part in helping me find my home in SF.

The Seene from Alcatraz

You probably already know about my obsession with weird photo apps. In my never ending hunt for new tools I’ve stumbled upon a fantastic app called Seene. Seene captures an image, then builds a 3D model to texture map that image on to. It’s not always perfect, but if you play around with it for a bit you can really get the hang for what sort of scenes work best. The tech is really impressive either way.

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God Loves Dinosaurs

God Hates Dinosaurs
Getting counter-protested is one of the best things that’s happened to my newest art project.

I’m about 1/3 of the way through giving out 1000 copies of God Hates Dinosaurs, my fake religious book, out to strangers and still still staging “protests” about once a week in SF. So far most of these have been above the Powell St BART station. I dress up sharply and carry a big silly sign, but I don’t actually stay in character for most of these meet ups. My goal is just to make people smile and I feel like there’s a fine line between being a guy with a silly sign and being the jerk harassing passersby. So I usually err on the “Oh no, I’m not serious. Here, take a comic” side of things.
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A couple months ago I shared the story about a package of mine that got lost in shipping somewhere between Germany and here. The package contained all about 100 copies of a special edition Nanoloop cart that had been manufactured specifically for my Kickstarter backers and seemed to disappear somewhere in US Customs. Losing this box of carts was absolutely devastating, and threw my whole year off (fiscally and emotionally). The stress of hunting these carts down was so intense that it was even the subject of my music video for “Rumspringa“:

Thanks to Oliver’s help, we were able to order a replacement batch of carts manufactured and I’m pleased to say they will start shipping to my backers this week! I really felt honored that so many people believed in this crazy project, and I can’t wait for them to get their hands on the final result. I mean, it’s an album of my music that you can play directly on a Game Boy Advance. That’s just so freaking cool!

The carts will be a little different than we originally planned. Rather than going with the special red circuit boards, we needed to go back to using Nanoloop’s old school gray cases, which I actually prefer. You can see them in the Vine video up top. I’m going to start recording a “quick start” guide for first time Nanoloop users, as well as a longer how-to video for more detailed song creation. Sometime in the next few weeks I’ll even do a Nanoloop 2.7 workshop for my backers. It’s been a year since the project launched on Kickstarter, and I’m so happy to finally move out of the “stuck in customs” phase of my life.

For what it’s worth, I’m extremely proud of Destroy All Presets. I think it’s one of the best albums I’ve ever released and I really love the idea of shipping it (in an instrumental form) in a way that allows people to listen to it directly on the Game Boy Advance… just like I did in the months before the album’s release. Once people get the cart in their hands I’m hoping they’ll start exploring/remixing the tracks and spend some time creating tracks on their own.