super to see the supermes!

When I left Channel 4 Education in December, there were 5 projects which I had commissioned and were due to launch, and/or took the reins over from Alice Taylor after she originally green lit them. One of those was The Supermes, an emergent drama using The Sims 3 engine about a group of mates trying to get on with each other and what life throws at them in a houseshare.

The first episode is finally out.

It was designed to be part of Superme, the resilience system of content for teens to help them understand that it’s ok just to be ok.

The Supermes was part labour of love for Robin Burkinshaw, the genius crafter behind Alice and Kev, and part Massive Headache. In the best possible way.

The reason why it was a headache was simple: apart from stuff I can’t really talk about, there was the very fact that the characters were uncontrollable in a sense. These were not actors you could direct. Nor was this machinima. This was something entirely different and tricky because they were essentially robots. To cut what they did while Robin played them was no easy task, and the crafting of the story was a massive challenge, but it has worked.

Even the voice over was hard to get right. We originally wanted a Carl Pilkington-esque tone, but quickly realised it would not work. We did however want to make sure the narration nodded to some of the odd things our characters would do, because they were Sims. We wanted the narrator to balance those humorous observations with the more serious messages coming through, dealing with loss for example.

I am really proud of it, and some of the episodes made me cry.*

This post explains the whole process rather well, and you can also check out the blog on Facebook which involved the audience throughout the production process.

There were a lot of people who came and went over the course of this project, and they did a stunning job imho.

*Although still disappointed there was no cat in any of the episodes. The Sims 3 doesn’t have pets.

thrilling warm up.

I love dressing up, me. The next time I am going to get to do it will be on 29th October. At the MCM Expo where we shall be launching The Thrill Electric. Come join us! Yes ma’am, we shall be in Victoriana and John Reppion and Leah Moore the lovely authors of the comic (it’s enhanced, you know) will be on a panel and doing a kind of director’s commentary.

Bleeding Cool did a lovely write up today trailing the event and showing off the first exclusive cover art – one of my favourites (although they are all magnificent, and by different very well know comic artists). I think it really is going to live up to expectations: almost a year in production. W00t. Well done to Hat Trick, Littleloud, John and Leah, Emma, and the wonderful Windflower.

App will follow soon after launch too!

fashion dharling.

So after The End launched in August, the next project out of the blocks that I am immensely proud of, since it was one of my first commissions in the job, is the fantastic start up Inensu‘s Closet Swap. Like Sweatshop, it was conceptualised as a playful way of getting young people thinking about the choices they make in fashion.

Not about ethical fashion, but more about sustainable fashion, the site feeds off your Facebook social graph and lets you swap clothes for points (the more sustainable, the more points you get) with your mates. There are leaderboards too.

The iPhone buddy app which launches soon, lets you snap a wanted item while you are out and about and post it to your FB wall as a fashion SOS. It also tells you all about sustainable designers to look out for in the shops, and tells you where your nearest charity and vintage shops are.

I expect to see some really interesting stories coming out of this, and it’s already been nominated for a Bima Award!

Paulina Bozek, the mastermind behind Singstar, is a creative genius and a pleasure to work with. I shall be eagerly trying to borrow ALL HER CLOTHES too.

Some coverage:

Singstar creator sets sights on ethical fashion

Channel 4 Education announces Closet Swap


Grab the trailer. Or just watch it.

my baby sweatshop.

This is something I am Very Proud Of. It is my first games commission at C4 which I have seen from commission to live. It’s by the wonderful-to-work-with Littleloud and was part of our call for ideas around fashion and ethics last year. This turned out to be a way into global economics and is a classic example of cleverly taking a familiar game mechanic (Tower Defence) and use it to make learning happen through the game play.

I love the darkness of the Boss, the comedy of the references and scripting, the Gary Lucken art, and the 8 bit soundtrack. But most of all, I love the guilt of players and that many of the blog review comments have been about the politics of sweatshops, not whether people love or hate the music. And this is the point: *this* is why we do what we do,with the people we do it with.*

It is also our first game out of the door from the 2011 stable. More to come, including The End, a game about death, by the fantastic Preloaded and commissioned by Alice. Watch this space.

* And they squeezed in a cat for me (scroll to the end of this piece!)

syndicated self +1.

If I ever write one, my book is going to be called The Syndicated Self. I will attempt to explain after a hard day at work.

Google’s recent move to insist that all +1 accounts be registered under “real names” made me very angry. Over the weekend, the monolith started to wipe accounts out of existence if they appeared to be using a pseudonym, or as most of us would understand it, the names we go by in our digital lives and, often, in meatspace too.*

Three years ago, I was booted out of Facebook for “failing to use my real name”. And I still haven’t forgiven FB for its lack of understanding about on/offline/thereisnodifference identity and the right to exert any name (read, side of an identity) one wishes. It affords some semblance of boundedness between public, private, and semi public selves – yes, perhaps only conceptually, but still. Three years ago, I think I was more angry about the issue itself than the *real* issue which was that FB and others alike wanted to compel me to use my “real name” so that they could pin me down, and “productise” me more.

It prompted me to start thinking again about how much we the people have become (and have always been I suppose) the product, not the products that are advertised to us through FB etc, and not the services that purport to offer us something. They are buying *us*: they buy *our*  attention and activities. We are the products.  @ianbetteridge tweeted earlier today (which in turn prompted me to write this post):

If you’re not paying for a service, you’re being sold by it.

My response was that we are all products, and that “all our actions, musings, clickings, chattings, playings, voicings: all being harvested to make the fuel for money.

We know why Google has done this. Google has since “revised” its policy but it goes no way far enough for me, and many others still maintain the right to use other handles. My online name is part of my identity. An identity. Of course, nowadays, you can still find what other names any given name of mine is linked to. But by choosing which name to go under, to connect to, in a particular context, I also actively assert and give you permission make assumptions about me, to know what my boundaries are.

I think it is my right. As is my right not to tell FB any other details about me than my online handle.** And it is my right continue to make it hard for the market to make me any more of a product than I already am. I have the right to have some control over how I syndicate my selves. I know I may be naive about whether this makes a true difference, but it is the principle I stand by.

* I have just bought an Etsy necklace of my online handle.

** yes, this does mean than FB thinks I am 76 and so the ads I get served are… well…weird.

just a glimpse under the petticoats.

The Thrill Electric was the first thing I commissioned when I started my job last year. It was a long time in the contracting but the production has been smooth so far! Set in Victorian Manchester and against the backdrop of the Victorian Internet, it parodies what teenagers do with online communication now, but is primarily about gender and sexuality in the workplace.

It is written by Leah Moore and John Reppion, the fabulous married comic super duo. They were teamed with fresh out of college illustrators Windflower (who I love on DeviantArt) and lead character designer Emma Vieceli. I remember being really shocked hearing that as writers, they rarely had a choice of illustrators to work with and they didn’t really co-create with them. That was something we wanted to do differently in this production and I really think it has been an incredibly co-creative, collaborative effort.

With Hat Trick at the production helm and Littleloud on the “reinventing online comic readers”* and animation job, it truly is an all-star team, and they are all absolutely fantastically fun to work with.

We had a great time at the MCM Expo last weekend talking about it and ramming leaflets down teenagers’ throats**. We hope to be there again in the Autumn in time for it to go live.

And this time: we dress up.

Check out the very much work in progress teaser above…

*We are using Unity and some snazzy animation and camera work. It is the first time Unity has been used for a comic, apparently.

**It is aimed at 14-16 year olds.

ponycorns rock.

I LOVE this (via @Mrdarrengarrett). Welcome to Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure. This is why I will probably never have children (or cats). I would spend a looonnnng time exploiting their creative innocence for my own personal gain obvs. Adorable. I want a ponycorn. Now.

Yay Sissy and her education fund.

I *will* possibly get a chance to do this kind of thing, come to think if it, without actually having to go through the agony of childbirth, as I have just had my induction to be a Ministry of Stories Minister in Training. I might even get to work in the Monster Shop. Check out the history and inspiration here.

They do writing mentor workshops with primary school age and will be working  with older excluded kids soon too. Can’t wait. Bring on the Mortal Terror.

studio ghilbli meets minecraft.

This is quite possibly the most awesome thing I have seen in a very long time. Beats my efforts. I am still stuck down a dark hole in Minecraft, unable to find my way out as I have yet to make a torch. doh. (via Kotaku)

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2010. That’s about 26 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 15 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 712 posts. There were 10 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 511kb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was October 4th with 260 views. The most popular post that day was games, metaphor, empathy… .

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for cats, hitler cats, rent a cat, stupid people, and screen licker.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


games, metaphor, empathy… October 2010
1 comment


Cats that look like Hitler June 2006


Rent-a-cat at Cat cafe April 2008


About February 2007


Screen Licker March 2005

dolly seeks acceptance.

One of the saddest things I have seen this week.*
Sorry – can’t work out how to frigging embed this video into my post.

*Apart from the fainting kittehs.

i love data visualisation.

crap. this is good. (via brad king on Twitter)

oh and btw… one more thing.

Just reading the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Scientific Research in Learning and Education (phew) transcript which Dr Vaughan Bell pointed me to.

It was a debate which took place between Dr Bell and Baroness Greenfield on the “potential impact of technology, such as computer gaming, on the brain”. It really expands on the shorter Fight Club piece I referenced earlier (see previous post).

Baroness Greenfield asks again refers to the example of rescuing the princess:

So when you play a computer game to rescue the princess as say here, you may be becoming very agile at your mental processes, but do you really care about princess Yukihime? Do you care about what she is thinking or feeling? Do you care about what is going to happen to her after she has been rescued? Do you care what career she is going to take up? Is she going to marry a prince? Do you care about the princess compared to when you have been told a story for example, and you have princess Marya?

Maybe the game doesn’t always let you carry on that narrative, but gosh fans do! Just take a look at the volume of fan fiction around games. Yes, people seem to care.

games, metaphor, empathy…

Reading some of Greenfield’s musings on the effect of games and digital media (“screen culture”, as she calls it) on young minds, I felt compelled to pick out three arguments she makes and find examples of where games in particular contradict her assumptions.

I am picking out only three of her claims because the others are well trodden areas of debate.

She argues in The Times Fight Club piece from earlier this year that in games and other digital media activities,

[…] there is “living for the moment”, where the emphasis is on sensory-laden thrill — the buzz of, say, rescuing the princess in a game. This is a literal world where everything is not related to previous experiences or any wider context. No care is given for the princess herself, for the significance of her situation. Because there is none.

She argues this kind of screen culture means:

[…] a decline in the capacity for empathy. Interacting in person with others, listening to stories and reading novels are all good ways of learning about how others feel and think. The prolonged exposure to screen activities will, for the first time, stymie this familiar developmental process.

and that screen culture leads to…

[…] the diminished use of metaphor and abstract concepts. It would be difficult to expect current software to help the user to gain a sense of concepts such as honour, or of measuring one’s life in coffee spoons (as mentioned by T. S. Eliot’s Prufrock). Small children have problems interpreting metaphor. Might constant exposure to a literal world mean that the brain remains infant-like?

So I asked these two questions of Twitter:

  1. what are the best eg of games which encourage players to have empathy or think about the social context of a game character?
  2. which games do you think make the best use of metaphor in the narrative or gameplay?

You can have a look for yourself at just some of the many responses I have had. Some of the examples which stand out for me are Heavy Rain, Everyday the Same Dream (thanks Jo!), and Limbo.

There is no doubt that games can and do employ abstract concepts and metaphors to let players think about social contexts, actions and decisions. There is no doubt that players care about what happens to the protagonists and those they love. The consequences in games may not (most of the time) be meat space based ones, but in a sense they are. I felt thoroughly sad after playing through Everyday the Same Dream.

A noir game like Limbo:

… poses questions about life death versus life and reality versus dream, but it doesn’t answer them. It’s the questions that are important here, and you’re left to contemplate the meaning of this world for yourself. (Tom McShea Limbo Review)

The trick is how we equip ourselves as players, and open up spaces to have the conversations around these questions with which players are left contemplating. If we want to. And the more game developers, as artists and as storytellers, are able to write themselves and their experiences into their work, the more we will get to experience a kind of screen culture, as part of our everyday lives, that helps us question more and decipher our lives.

What say you?

stuff I am reading to prepare for a panel session

… on DIY education. at the Tory party conference this week. I shall be on a panel with, among others, Baroness Susan Greenfield.

Anymore refs, do add!


And of course:

bernard lietaer talks

I am just testing the post by email function, which I am doing from Google Reader, since Bloglines is going under. This might be an interesting talk. It might not be. It probably is. I should watch it really.

Bernard Lietaer’s Site Launched

via Boing Boing by Douglas Rushkoff on 29/09/10

And speaking of alternative currencies, Bernard Lietaer — the man who introduced a great many of us to the inequities inherent to a monopoly currency system and the great possibilities for complementary alternatives – has finally launched a comprehensive website about his work. Above, the TEDX Berlin talk, currently on his front page.

This is a great one-stop shop for a total mind-shift on how money works and how it could.



Things you can do from here:

wang shapes

I know, I know: give me a break! I started a new job.

OK, so not the most intellectual post to kick this off again. I just wanted to show you the Best Flickr Gallery Ever: Wang Shaped Things. Proud that one of my photos has become a part of nature’s wonders.

Enjoy people, enjoy.

popular science archive, cats and internet tv

Ha! So my promise of blogging for the New Year lasted a while didn’t it.

I feel compelled today, however. I was a bit bored at work today (for oh so many reasons) and in a particularly bad mood, when a Boing Boing post pointed me to these classics which kept me amused for quite some time.

Popular Science magazine and Google have teamed together to put the magazine’s 137-year archive online, for free. You can only search the keyword right now.

Of course, my first keyword search was CATS. And this was one gem of an article I found amongst the various pieces on catamarans (left). It’s from January 1939. It helpfully explains, with the use of a sophisticated cardboard model, why cats always land on their feet.

I also uncovered this throughly controversial piece (below) debating the claim that dogs are smarter than cats (from p56 of May 1930 issue).

It claims cats have possibly not had a “fair show” in scientific experiments done thus far, and that this is about to change with some groundbreaking experimental work:

Because the dog is a gregarious, sociable animal that loves its master, is eager to please him, and is fond of praise, it is much easier for it to demonstrate its intelligence than it is for the cat. Solitary by nature and habit, indifferent to its master’s attitude and praise, the cat is difficult to “draw out”.

Indeed. Highly scientific analysis. It goes on. Great stuff.

I can’t help but read these pieces out loud in an old school BBC newsreader’s voice.

Do also check out some classics from 1996 on INTERNET TV.

the internet is made of cats

Yes. Yes, it is.

to share or not to share

Well, not apparently if you have blog instead of The former does not permit plugins. Well, that’s annoying. So just trying this bookmarking app. It might not work.

Update: um. It’s rather large.


new simon’s cat

A new cartoon from one of my fave fellow feline lovers.*

*I warned you this blog would not be catless.

small notebook or big arse?

Large hands.

That’s the question which distracts me when I look at this ad for the new Vaio Tiny Machine Whateveritsactuallycalled.

I think they have digitally enlarged her hands too. They look enormous compared to the rest of her. [Via Popgadget.]

patents are weird

Aren’t they? I mean, how can Google file on an idea like this? This is not a new idea: people have experimented with annotations on YouTube in a similar way to enhance storytelling for a while. In fact, YouTubers play with annotations all the time. They just don’t call it a “game”.

The Met Police made a choose your own ending game on YouTube using annotations in June 2009, and I think the idea has some potential for formats. Although, this example did not take you on unexpected journeys through other video content on other profiles.

But patent the system? Hmm…

PC World picks out what may be an interesting bit of the patent application:

Google’s proposed system also includes new sensor technology like speech recognition and a video analysis module capable of recognizing objects and automatically assigning annotations to them. Suggested applications include providing links to relevant products and services (so that users might click on a plasma TV and open a new page comparing prices and providing relevant background info) or tying game elements like text boxes or title cards to unique human faces.

But, again, in my early days as a tech reporter, this kind of system was the promise of iptv. If anyone feels like going through the patent application in detail, do let me know if there something I am missing here.

oh and btw…

… I have decided to be a right twat and not use capitals in my post titles. Because I can.

New Year, new blog

2009 was rather a tough year for me. If you scroll down a couple of posts from here you will see why. Blogging took more of a back seat than it ever did for me in the last 12 months as a result of events, and I am quite sad about that.

But as they say out with the old and in with the new. As well as kick starting my new fitness regime (er, soon, soon), my clear out of wardrobes (5 bin bags so far), and a promise to see more of mates, I decided a new change of clothes and breath of fresh air was in order for Kittenfluff in honour of the new decade (like it?). A proper domain name was required too.*

I will make a concerted effort to ensure this blog is perhaps a more useful reflection of what I really think about things around me in 2010, but I fear I will still be posting the same old crap.

But really, it’s the kind of crap I like so I make no apology for it. Cats included.

So: here’s to a better decade and a better blog.

*I was surprised it was free, but there we go: “kitten fluff” as an entity really is underrated you know.


ha. ha ha.

Is a penis really necessary on a cake decoration?



Well, is it? Really? I did not make these, although I *did* make the cake.*

They were from Tescos and even my seven year old niece noticed their strange bulges.

My personal favourite is the one in the centre but the one on the right looks very pleased with his, er, package.**

*I have not made a cake for many years and forgotten how easy it is to think it is easy and how hard it is to make it not hard.

**They all look ever so demented.

My Mum: 1943 – 2009.

You can shed tears that she is gone,
Or you can smile because she has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her,
Or you can be full of the love you have shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her and only that she has gone,
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty, and turn your back,
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

It’s the end of the world!

See? It may be 9 years late, but here it is, finally.

Happy new year one and all.

My cyborgian self

Digital Operational Construct Trained for Online Exploration

Get Your Cyborg Name

Via @willradik.

History changes

What? Did something happen last night?

Check out my Flickr to see how I watched it after MASSIVE TV ARIEL FAIL.