Lighting Design Simplified: An Introduction

Last week, I wrote about the difficulty of explaining theatrical lighting design to someone who has no background in theatre. Long story short, it’s hard to the point of being almost pointless. But, even as I was writing that post, I wanted to try. Maybe it was just a perverse desire to prove myself wrong. Maybe it was the desire to have my work understood. Maybe I just wanted to see if anyone would be interested in listening to me blather on about my work.

Probably, though, it’s because I can’t help but blather on about lighting design. When I go to see plays, I always try to get there early, not just so I won’t be holding up the show, but so that I can crane my head at the ceiling for 15 minutes and see what’s hung there. My fiance should frankly be canonized for all the times ze’s listened to me go on and on about this stuff.

As I said before, this is the type of thing that needs five words or five thousand, and seeing as I’m already a few hundred in, it looks like it’s going to be five thousand. In the interest of making this as readable as possible, I’m going to try to break it up into multiple posts, each post depicting a step in the process that takes me from when I first read the script, to when the show opens and I get to sleep again. And, so that I’m not simply speaking in abstract terms, I’ll be using a production of An Enemy of the People I recently worked on as an example.
Read the rest of this entry

Advertisements

A New Feature!

As I write more and more posts, I come across more and more terms that may need to be defined for some. So, to keep from having to define these terms every time I use them, I’m starting a dictionary of terms. This All-Purpose Dictionariopede can be found either at this link, or through the one in the nav-bar above.

If there are any terms I’m missing or have defined poorly, either comment on this post, or e-mail me at BobbyArcher (dot) Zombie4Hire (at) gmail (dot) com and let me know.

Player Agency & Death, Part 2

Death, not just for PCs!

So, last week, I started talking about player agency. Again. Specifically, how the scale between railroading and complete freedom was reflected in how PC deaths are handled by the GM. As I said at the end of that post, and as the title of this post would imply, I’m continuing on in that vein today with the other kinds of death that affect and reflect the agency scale. As before, all real life examples assume the disclaimer.
Read the rest of this entry

New Year’s Resolution

Yes, I know it’s April, but I didn’t have a blog back when this was fresh news, so you’ll have to hear about this now.

I’ve gone back and forth over the years with how seriously I take New Year’s Resolutions. Most years, I come up with something around 10:30pm on December 31, and have forgotten about it entirely by January 7. It’s not that I don’t think making resolutions has merit. It’s more that I’ve always had trouble coming up with concrete goals; I’d much rather keep my options open and grab onto opportunities as they come around. This has worked out for me at times, and not so much at others.
Read the rest of this entry

You Do *What* Now?

Since I got my bachelor’s, I’ve been working fairly consistently as a theatrical lighting designer. Seeing as I’ve had a number of other day jobs and supplemental jobs in this time (some of which I wasn’t too happy to have), “theatrical lighting designer” was what I usually described my profession as. With anyone who didn’t have experience in the theatre, this inevitably led to the question, “So…what does that mean?”

I have come up with an answer to this over the years:

“Have you ever seen a play?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“You know how you can see the actors?”
“Yeah.”
“That’s what I do.”

Bad jokes aside, it’s hard to explain what a lighting designer does. Basically, if someone doesn’t have enough theatre knowledge to know what an LD does, then they likely don’t have the knowledge I need to touch on to explain it. Even worse is trying to explain how I do what I do. That’s a hard question even coming from other theatre folks.
Read the rest of this entry

Player Agency & Death, Part 1

Last week, I wrote about Player Agency and the social contract that it implied between the GM and the players. In case that post didn’t make it clear, I find player agency, particularly the gradient between complete player freedom and strict railroading, to be immensely interesting. This one thing effects just about every aspect of this hobby, but generally gets relegated to a terse, binary debate. I’d love to see more open discussion and exploration of how this agency scale affects the different aspects of roleplaying.

Today’s topic

I suppose that’s all just my way of saying that I’m going to keep coming back to this idea until I run out of excuses. Hopefully, I don’t bore my meager readership into non-existence before I run out of permutations.

Today, I’m gonna belabor the connection between player agency and death. Since I’ll be talking about particular games I’ve been involved in, all allowances and disclaimers apply.
Read the rest of this entry

The Workshop Process

If you’re familiar with the game Minecraft, feel free to jump below the cut right now. For everyone else, a quick background: Minecraft is an indie game that’s pretty unique even among indie games. For one, its art and play styles have already gained a huge amount of notice and praise both among gamers and the gaming press despite the fact that it’s still in beta. But that’s not what I’m interested in talking about today. What’s really got me interested is its development process.

Back in May of 2009, a guy named Markus Persson started developing Minecraft. Once he got the game to a rough, but playable state (known as an alpha), he made it available to the general public for €9.95, or about half of the cost of the finished product. This served two purposes. First, it generated revenue to help continue developing the game, and second, it gave him an army of alpha and beta testers. It’s not the path that video games, even independently created games, usually take. Open alphas are rare to the point of non-existence, and charging players to take part in beta testing is also deeply rare. I can’t think of a single title, either independent or out of a studio, that has tried this before.

So, how’s it worked out for him? Read the rest of this entry

Protips: Attending the Theatre

Before I start with my post, a story:

Last weekend a production of An Enemy of the People that I had worked on closed. As it happened, I had volunteered to be the House Manager for the final performance (for those who are unfamiliar with what a House Manager is, I was in charge of the ushers and generally responsible for handling audience needs). It’s usually not a hard job; the box office and bar are run by the space‘s staff and the ushers come from the Saints, so everyone pretty much knows what they’re doing and I’m just there to make sure nothing goes wrong.

This performance in particular was a little more work-intensive than usual because we had sold out and had people on a waiting list before we’d even opened the house. Fortunately, I had plenty of help and we got almost everyone in who wanted to see the show. Some of the people who’d reserved tickets didn’t show and we got those seats to people on the waiting list. Then we let most of the rest of the waiting list take seats in the aisles and in places with low visibility. In the end, we’d packed in as many people as we could without endangering actors and only had to delay the start of the show by 5 or 10 minutes to do it.
Read the rest of this entry

Disclaimer

I’m planning on posting about role-playing games that I’ve participated in in the past (both as a player and as the one herding the cats). Specifically, I’ll be posting about things I enjoyed and didn’t enjoy. As the people I game with are my friends and some of them may wind up reading these posts, I’d just like to make a disclaimer:

With the exception of one disastrous game that I ran myself when I was about 10, I cannot recall a single instance in which I did not enjoy the games I have played. I also cannot recall a game that was perfect (especially the ones I ran myself). Every game had its good points and its bad. In an individual post, I may only mention bad things about a session or campaign. If so, it is because I am writing about a specific quality of the game or of role-playing in general. Please take as written that there were good parts of the game that outweighed the bad. If there hadn’t been, I would have stopped playing. I enjoy thinking and discussing ideas about role-playing, but I don’t want to do it at the expense of the friends I’ve made in this hobby.

Also, while I’ve left character names intact, all player names have been changed in the interest of protecting the privacy of my friends.

Player Agency & the Social Contract

There’s a column on the Escapist that I’ve been following pretty much since it started appearing there: Check for Traps. The guy behind it, Alexander Macris, has some really neat ideas about running a game. I’m currently (very slowly) designing a campaign using a lot of his advice. There is one of his ideas, though, that I think may be a little more complex than he’s made it out to be.

This idea is his Agency Theory of Fun. Don’t worry, I won’t make you follow the link if you don’t want to. This theory is Macris’ answer to the prevailing opinion that the Gamemaster’s job is to make sure everyone has fun. He argues that many GMs are afraid to give their players real choices because, if things go poorly, it could ruin their players’ fun. But that has the unforeseen consequence of making none of the players’ choices matter, which isn’t fun.

In its place, he states the GM should prioritize their role as a judge, arbitrating the rules of the game fairly and consistently. By risking the various catastrophes a bad roll can cause, the players’ choices have meaning, and making meaningful choices leads to fun.

Frankly, this is the type of game I love to play in, but it isn’t for everyone. I’ve met some people who would absolutely hate this style of game. And there are reasons beyond fun maintenance why the other type of game gets run.
Read the rest of this entry