Brand Canada

With the recent Apple TV update and the release of Apple’s Television app in Canada, I’ve been watching a bit more streaming stuff outside of Netflix. It got me to download the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) app, and I was surprised to see that all of their original series are all available to watch through it. Since moving back to Canada from Japan, I haven’t really watched any local TV, or explored much of the current Canadian mediascape — the glimpses I’ve seen didn’t really interest me much. But last night as I was looking through the CBC app I came across the Brand Canada web series — you can watch all episodes on YouTube — which takes a pretty fun look at how Canada is perceived around the world. There are some truly weird episodes (like the one about the “Meanwhile in Canada” meme and the karaoke episode), and I quite enjoyed binging through all of them (there are 10 and they’re pretty short, some more than others). I highly recommend it.

Star Wars: Forces of Destiny

For my latest “Sunday Morning Cartoon Cavalcade,” I went through the Forces of Destiny shorts that have been released so far (viewable on YouTube). I liked the idea for these, a series of animated shorts that star a few of the female characters in Star Wars (including my favorite Star Wars character, Ahsoka Tano). Although the action-oriented sequences make for a good thing to cover in a short, I find the animation to be pretty weak — sure, I realize it’s produced for the web, but with the Disney/Lucasfilm machine behind them, surely they could have gotten a higher level of animation done, especially since they’re so short. Add some uninspiring characters designs, and these are a big disappointment for me. They’re set to release another set of 8 in the fall, so I can only hope they improve a bit.

Rakka

I’ve been really excited to watched the shorts promised by Oats Studios — the new studio started by Neill Blomkamp — and the first one, Rakka, is really great. It’s made up of vignettes of a future Earth that has been invaded by aliens, and it’s cool to see Sigourney Weaver take part. It’s part of a Volume 1 series, and the second short has just been released, but I haven’t watched it yet.

Amnesia Fortnight 2017

When Double Fine Productions did its previous Amnesia Fortnight in 2014, and documented it through a web series, it was one of my favorite “TV” shows of that year. They’re at it again, and although the game jam itself ended a few days ago, all the episodes of the documentary series aren’t out yet (they’ve covered the first 5 days so far), but I’m yet again really enjoyed following all the teams as they try and produce a great game prototype in less than two weeks. You’ll find all the episodes here.

Screenland

I loved this series about game culture so much, I binged all 9 episodes — which you can watch here (although I recommend downloading the Red Bull TV app on Apple TV and watching them that way, which is what I did) — in one night. Each episode explores a different aspect of today’s gaming culture, from the experimental to the weird to the retro to the unexpected. Can’t recommend this enough. (And I loved seeing my friends Colin and Sarah Northway in the VR episode).

Rediscovering Mystery

I’m so in love with the Noclip series of game-related documentaries, and the latest one is called “Rediscovering Mystery,” covering the mysteries and secrets found in games. It features some great interviews, including Spelunky‘s Derek Yu (and I now want to go play Spelunky again). I’m also really happy that they’re going to release follow-up segments that focus on Spelunky, The Witness, and Frog Fractions.

Erno & Rubi

This is a nice little bit of interactive storytelling (more than a game) and well worth taking the time to check out, especially since it’s free. Taking inspiration from the movements of a Rubik’s Cube, you move aspects of the scene around, creating a story for the two characters that are represented within. It features great art, and is fun to experience for a few minutes.

Digging Through the Archives

At long last, my archives are back. Most of them at least.

Some of you may recall that back in early 2014, I had the great misfortune of the web host I was using pulling the rug from under me, which meant that my entire website — which dated back to 2002 — suddenly disappeared.

And I didn’t have proper backups.

Eventually I did find some SQL database backups from 2011, which meant that I could probably eventually try to reconstruct the site, and then do some digging through the Wayback Machine for the missing 3 years. But I was so disgusted with what had happened that I wasn’t looking to self-host something right away, and decided to just use Tumblr, which is what I had set up quickly to keep on writing.

Jump to now.

A friendly poke the other day from my old friend Craig Mod came my way. He mentioned that it was a shame that all those archives of me covering the art & design scene in Tokyo/Japan during the 2000s weren’t available online anymore, and I couldn’t agree more. It was the kick in the ass I needed to just go ahead and finally spend the time required to getting all of this back up and available for everyone. After a post on Facebook to enlist some aid on what to do with that old database, it was another old friend from my Tokyo days (Michael, an ex-AQ staffer who was a pro at wrangling WordPress) who helped me out — I ended up creating a locally-hosted WordPress blog on my laptop, managed to connect to that old database (after a few modifications), and now I’ve taken the step of self-hosting a blog again (using the quick-and-easy WordPress hosting by name.com, which is the company I use for my domain hosting).

So a first step has been done, and it’s what you now see here. As you can see in the sidebar to the right (at least for now, as I imagine I’ll eventually settle on another theme to use), you’ll find full archives of the site, from the very first post on September 4, 2002, going to August 2011, and then the posts from the new Tumblr-hosted site I had from March 2014.

(I actually started writing regularly on the web in 1998, in the form of weekly columns about my life in Tokyo, all coded in HTML, but that content may truly be gone for good.)

Unfortunately, none of the images from those posts made it over — although I may still have some I can manage to add, as I found an old folder with a good amount of them — and I still need to try and find those 3 years of missing posts (as I mentioned, fingers crossed that I’ll be able to find them through the Wayback Machine).

But at least for now, it sure feels good to have a lot of this stuff online again, and I’ve been having a blast going back and randomly reading old posts. It reveals a younger me who is so excited by what he’s experiencing, deliciously naive (in a fun way).

Digital diaries from the Japanese front.

Devs Play

I’m so happy that a second season of Double Fine’s Devs Play series is currently happening, and the four episodes so far have all been great. I’d say the two episodes with Patrice Désilets (playing Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and Assassin’s Creed II) are especially interesting, because you get to hear about a lot of the design thinking behind those games – the episodes with Ted Price (Spyro and Ratchet & Clank) are more about trivia relating to the games. I’m very much looking forward to the next episode, which will feature Media Molecule playing and discussing LittleBigPlanet. And if you missed it, you absolutely have to watch the 10-part episode from season 1 featuring John Romero playing/discussing Doom – it’s a fascinating masterclass in game design.