HBO’s Real-Life Superheroes Documentary

HBO's Real-Life SUPERHEROES Documentary

If you haven’t had the chance you need to check out HBO’s latest documentary on real-life superheroes. Currently there are over 300 registered masked superheroes patrolling the streets in the United States and HBO interviewed and went on patrol with a number of them in their documentary series that aired yesterday.

Here is a trailer.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zxCLbPncGk[/youtube]

The Interview: Ben Gonyo: Gamers Film

Gamers Film logo
Gamers Film logo

Gamers Film

So what is the best way to learn about MMORPG’s the gaming world and the culture surrounding it? The answer is to immerse yourself in their world and ask a ton of questions and that is exactly what Ben Gonyo did in his film Gamers.

Ben spent over two years inside the world of gamers and came back with a wealth of information. Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Ben about his film and what he learned on his journey.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us a little about the documentary film, Gamers?

Ben: Gamers documents my two year journey into MMORPG games. I played the games and documented what it was like. I interviewed more than 100 gamers, critics, super fans, psychologists and developers. Special guests include Jay Mohr, RA Salvatore and Curt Schilling.

Obsolete Gamer: What led you to wanting to do a documentary of this type?

Ben: I’ve always loved games. Once I graduated college and started working in TV I had a lot less time to play. I kept hearing about WOW and what a huge hit game it is. How people are crazy for it. I used to play Warcraft 1 back when it was RTS. So I decided I’d find out everything I could about MMORPG and make a documentary about it. It was a great experience and opened a lot of doors.

Obsolete Gamer: What was the process of getting the documentary made?

Ben: A lot of research and then setting up interviews and shooting them. Also traveling to conventions, getting clearance to shoot and hiring help. Lastly I had to edit it and get permission from all the companies to show their game footage in my film. To my knowledge my documentary is one of the few features that Blizzard has officially ok’d WOW footage in.

Obsolete Gamer: Over two years gathering data on MMORPG games, can you tell us about some of the things you learned about the industry?

Ben: I learned how big the gaming industry is, roughly $45 billion a year. Yet MMORPG games are relatively small at less than 5% of it. But they are the fastest growing outside of social network games like Mafia Wars on Facebook. In addition, MMORPG games are higher risk/higher reward because they take 3-5 years to create and have budgets in excess of $20 million dollars. The business structure is similar to a Hollywood film.

Obsolete Gamer: There are a ton of stereotypes about MMO players what was your overall take on them compared to the people you met?

Ben: MMO gamers are great people. They generally have a good sense of humor and like to laugh at themselves. They also tend to have jobs, which plays against the “unemployed” stereotype. With that said, they are also the first to admit that they probably spend a little too much time with their games. Many of them realize that they play too much, that it’s not good but admit that they really like it and find it hard to stop.

 

 

 

Obsolete Gamer: There has been a lot of talk of MMO addiction, with your research what were the similarities and differences between MMO addiction and other addictions such as drugs?

Ben: MMO addiction is more social rather than physical, like drugs might be. Players like the sense of accomplishment, the easy rewards, the online “friendships,” which are easy to establish yet have little strength in the real world.

The similarities to other addictions is that it interrupts the normal, healthy patterns of a productive and happy person and replaces them with things that are easier yet less rewarding in the long term.

The difference is that players are often not affected physically (save a lack of exercise.) MMO addiction is a little easier to break and most players are able to step away from a game after a year of abuse. They are able to realize that maybe this game is not the best for me and I’ll take a break. Many drug addicts struggle lifelong with addiction.

Obsolete Gamer: What were your observations on the social aspect of MMO players both inside and outside of the game?

Ben: Inside the game, social interaction is the strength of the MMO genre. It is what makes it so compelling. The games can be rather boring without friends to pal around with in game. I talk about this in the film. When my guild disbanded I became very bored in game.

Outside of the game there are often not many social connections. In fact players often cut down time spent with real world social groups and replace that within game social interaction, which can be unhealthy.

Obsolete Gamer: Was it difficult to have people talk candidly to you about themselves considering the stigma of being an MMO player?

Ben: Not at all. People were very open and honest. Gamers are an open group, which made documenting them easier.

Obsolete Gamer: It is the belief by many MMO gamers that larger corporations could care less about the games and the gamers and it is just about profits, what did you discover?

Ben: I disagree with that. Of the companies I spoke with and got to know, I would say these are passionate gamers wanting to create the best game possible. Yes there is a business to be run and I’m sure there are boards that care less about the game and more about the profit but overall developers are gamers. Very few people want to go to the trouble to create a game if they don’t care about gaming. Also some games are going to be failures, it’s like that in any creative field. Overall I think developers do care and take it personally when a game does not live up to high standards.

Obsolete Gamer: What was the most interesting story you came across during your two year span?

Ben: A friend of mine named Alison told me about her close friend Kevin whom she never saw any more. She said that his involvement in WOW put a huge strain on the friendship.

Readers can watch the section for themselves on Babelgum:

http://www.babelgum.com/6002175/gamers-mmo-game-addiction.html

Obsolete Gamer: Was there anything you wanted to get into the film but could not?

Ben: Yes I did a section about Massive LAN in Buffalo, NY. 80 person LAN party in a rented out volunteer fire hall. Great people and funny times. Just did not fit into the film.

Obsolete Gamer: What’s next for you?

Ben: Hoping to do another gaming film in the future. Right now I’m shooting a documentary about a trio of guys that make monster movies in their basement. Hilarious stuff. Already got a TV deal done for that with Doc. Channel. It’s called THE NEW BLOOD.

New Blood Online: www.newbloodfilm.com

Also developing a series of short films at www.LocalLocal.tv


The Interview: Peter Brauer: Second Skin

Second Skin wallpaper
Second Skin wallpaper

Second Skin

With World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm expansion recently released there is no doubt you know someone who is an avid player. Perhaps you know someone who played a lot of Everquest in the past or someone who plays a lot to today’s MMO’s. Pretty much if you bring up MMO’s people will either be into them and have reasonably good things to say or they will talk about how bad it is, how it takes up to much time and can destroy your life.

On our Obsolete Gamer show about MMO’s we talked with a number of our friends and fans about playing these games and the effect on their lives. We were especially happy to speak with Sairys who was featured in the documentary Second Skin along with her guild The Syndicate.

Second skin takes us into the world of MMO’s as they follow various people and couples in their daily lives and shows us how MMO’s can have a positive and negative effect on the people and those closest to them. On December 8th Second Skin had its United States TV premier on Current TV.

Obsolete Gamer was able to talk with Peter Brauer producer of Second Skin about the film.

What made you want to create the film second skin?

Peter Brauer: Juan Carlos, Victor, and I were looking for a feature documentary subject at the time.  We are all gamers.  Victor and Juan had a friend who was a teacher by day and the mayor of a large town in Star Wars Galaxies by night.  He was devoted enough to run home during his lunch breaks to play.  His devotion to the game was affecting his relationships, and they saw rich stories happening in the games.  When they told me about their friend, I had just read Ogre to Slay, Outsource to the Chinese.  I told them about it, and we knew we were onto something big.  We researched if there were other MMO docs, and when we found none we started researching in earnest.

What was the process for selecting people to interview and profile?

Peter Brauer: We started out by driving to the GLS conference in Madison WI where we interviewed many experts, including Edward Castronova and Nick Yee.  On the way we interviewed Liz Wooley who I had contacted for an interview.  At her home we met Dan B chance, who re-contacted us after he left her home.  After cutting a short fund raising reel, we realized we needed to film stories happening in the present and posted a casting call.  With the help of Nick Yee that got reposted to Kotaku, and we got a lot of responses.  Among them was Andy Belford, who invited us into him home and introduced us to his friends in Ft. Wayne.  After filming them for a week we knew we had some thing.  Victor found Heather through a comment on the blog Terranova.  She invited us to film her first meeting with Kevin, and we spent the last of our first round of money filming it.  Once met our central characters, we knew we had fantastic people to follow.

How did you connect with the guild, The Syndicate?

Peter Brauer: Dragons (Sean) contacted us based on our casting call.  He sent us a list of 10 reasons to check out his guild.  Juan filmed in DC at one of their regional meet ups and met Sean.  Then he invited us to their LAN party in Ohio, where we meet a lot more of the guild.  Finally Victor and I got to film their annual convention in SF where we met Syndicate members from around the world.  They were incredibly generous and welcoming.  They hosted a screening of Second Skin at their next annual convention which we all attended.  I really can’t thank them enough for appearing in the film.

How much were you unable to show due to time, length ect?

Peter Brauer: We shot over 400 hours of tape. I think it was 700 pages transcribed.  Honestly Juan had to cut countless characters and interviews to fit everything in 93 minutes.  We shot Nexius Fatale extensively to cover Second LIfe, but realized there just wasn’t enough room in the film.  Nex is only in the film briefly at the beginning in front of the Subway, but we are still friends with him in NYC.  There are too many people to name, who we need to thank for sharing their stories with us.  So basically we couldn’t include most of what we shot.

Do you think showing the addictive side to MMO just adds to the negative stereotype considering there are so many gamers who play MMO and never become addicted?

Peter Brauer: We set out to draw a broad and accurate picture of MMO gaming, and therefore had to show the addictive side.  Though it isn’t that common, it does affect a lot of people.  When I started making the film I got my first WOW account.  I had been in avoiding it, because I was trying to focus on filmmaking.

I started playing 13-15 hours a day, and didn’t do much else for a month or two.  I had to seriously check my playing to start making the film.  I don’t regret the time I spent playing, because I reconnected with a childhood friend who had moved to California.  I just had to find the right balance between gaming and working.   MMOs can affect player lives differently depending on how they play.  We tried hard to show people who played positively.

The friendship and fun that the guys in Ft Wayne got from gaming was and still is an very positive part of all their lives.  The leadership and cooperation that Syndicate members learn is also incredible.  The freedom Andrew Monkelban gets from gaming cannot be understated.  But ultimately if a player isn’t balancing the game with their life correctly, they can be brought down by avoiding their troubles in excess.  I hope people can watch Second Skin and see both sides, but a movie about MMO’s without covering addiction would not be complete.

As for the relationships formed by those who play MMO’s what would you say are the differences between those and what would be considered a “traditional” relationship?

Peter Brauer: I see no difference in online relationships and traditional ones.  Kevin and Heather were truly in love with each other before they met IRL.  That did not change when they met.  People can form relationships through nearly any form of communication.  The games are actually a great proving ground for friendship, because you are constantly put in situations where you have to trust and depend on each other.  I would say some friendships online are short lived, and the long term ones normally require meeting in person.  However, I don’t think it’s essential.  I saw time and time again people who gave and received real life support in MMOs.  The friendships people form online have contributed positively to countless lives.

What was your opinion of the friendship and family dynamic of those who play MMO and those in guilds such as The Syndicate?

Peter Brauer: There was an interview we shot with a father and son who played in the Syndicate that we couldn’t include for lack of time.  I wish we could have, because I have never seen a 14 year old boy who was closer with his father.  The games gave the son a place to show his leadership and expertise to his father.  While the dad was the boss about real world things like school work, in the game the son got to boss his dad around.  It made their relationship one of equals and very adult.  When I was 14 I couldn’t have dreamed of relating to my father in this way.  WOW gave them a place to be true equals and ultimately best friends.  We met several other families who gamed together in this way with very positive results.

What was the overall reception to the film?

Peter Brauer: The reception blew us away.  We when first premiered at SXSW we got a lot of attention at the festival and on the web.  The first day our trailer went online 45K people watched it.  180k people watched our premier on Hulu in one week last year.  It was truly an honor to reach so many people.  As for personal reactions, we have encountered just about every response.  Gamers have approached us to thank us for portraying them so honestly.  Other gamers have railed against us for showing too much addictive play.  Parents of gamers have thanked me profusely for helping them understand their children.  The diversity of responses to our film is one of the things I am proudest of.  I think all the different responses to the film are a testament to Juan’s even handed editing of the material.

Did you receive comments or e-mails from fans or companies that stood out?

Peter Brauer: We had one fan see our movie opening night in Portland.  He was a big time gamer and was disappointed that the theater wasn’t packed.  He contacted me that night and offered to personally print up fliers to canvas the city for us.  He told all his friends, contacted bloggers he knew, and attended every screening that week to drum up support.  I am still blown away by his dedication and generosity.  I am so thankful that our movie has touched so many people.  Not every comment is positive for sure.  But at least we have gotten some amazing responses. 

Do you plan to create another documentary within the subject of MMO’s?

Peter Brauer: Right now I am not working on any MMO docs.  Though we will probably re-release our DVD in the future and might add a lot of the material we had to leave out.  After Second Skin Juan, Victor and I got to make several short docs for VBS.TV called the oral history of gaming.  Juan and I got to meet and hang out with my long time idol/hero Sid Meier to make this: http://www.motherboard.tv/2010/4/14/oral-history-of-gaming-game-godfather-sid-meier-and-the-48-hour-game We also made these others about Richard Garriot, Ralph Baer, and Eric Zimmerman http://www.vbs.tv/watch/motherboard/richard-garriott http://www.vbs.tv/watch/motherboard/eric-zimmerman http://www.vbs.tv/watch/motherboard/ralph-baer-and-his-all-purpose-boxes They were a lot of fun to make, and I even got Ralph Baer to sign my childhood Pocket Simon which he invented.

You can purchase the DVD of Second Skin on the Official Website.

Official Viva Amiga Teaser Trailer: Version 1

Viva Amiga web still
Viva Amiga web still

Obsolete Gamer has been working with the good folks over at Viva Amiga on their creation and marketing of their upcoming documentary. Earlier this year we published an article with Zack Weddington of the film.

Now you can check out their first teaser trailer.

The Interview: Judd Saul

Frag logo
Frag logo

Judd Saul

Depending on whom you talk to the term Professional Gamer either garners very positive or very negative responses. Some people look upon professional games as nothing more than nerds with too much time on their hands. Those who have seen the good ones play and win respect them for what they do and maybe even wish they could do it themselves.

What is it really like to be a professional gamer? Many people think they know based on something they read or someone who knows someone, but in reality few people actually know what goes on in the professional gaming world.

In the move Frag you get to step in the world of professional gamers to see the truth of what it takes to not only make it, but make it out alive. Here is the synopsis from the official movie page.

Exploited, abused and sometimes abandoned most gamers fail to reach the top, but like all sports heroes exist.   FRAG is the true story of professional video gaming outlining the evolution of the 1980’s arcade game competitions to the elite tournaments of today for millions of dollars around the globe.  Much like the dream of becoming a professional athlete, young cyber-athletes dedicate long hours to achieve their dreams.  They spend hours training and preparing themselves for tournaments knowing their future depends on it.

FRAG sheds light on the struggles these cyber-athletes face while breaking into professional video gaming and maintaining success.  At a young age, professional video gamers are faced with making adult decisions impacting the rest of their lives with sometime little or no support from their families.  Deeper below the surface, you will see much more, an underbelly of corruption, money and drugs.  FRAG pulls back the curtain on one of the biggest sports industries in the world, one that’s just evolving and you know nothing about.

Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Judd Saul executive producer of FRAG and get some insight into the world of professional gaming and the making of this documentary.

Obsolete Gamer: Frag is a documentary about pro-gamers, what made you want to tackle this specific subject?

Judd Saul: I have always been a gamer ever since I was a kid I have owned every major console from the Atari to the PS3 and Xbox360. And I can’t leave out the PC, Duke Nukem through Quake Live.

After starting my production company, I did a lot of corporate gigs and some minor TV stuff. I got bored with it. I wanted to do my own project and I wanted to do a film on a subject I was familiar with. At this time, I ran across news of pro gamers getting paid to play. After feeling somewhat jealous, I decided to research and it was quite clear to me that this is a story that needed to be told.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us a little bit about the development process behind the film?

Judd Saul: Well, I believe you start at the top to get information and work your way into the industry. At the time, the CPL was the biggest league in the business. I went to a CPL tournament in Dallas and started to meet some of the key players involved in the pro gaming industry. We started to collect information and decided that we were going to film what was going on around us and let the story tell itself. But as I was 1/3 into filming, I decided to bring in director Mike Paisley. I realized that I was getting to close to the industry to make an objective film. I needed to bring in an outsider who was not a gamer. What we realized is that we wanted to make a film that was not filtered. We wanted to make a truthful raw film about what we saw and experienced.

Obsolete Gamer: How long did it take to research and film the movie?

Judd Saul: It took a good 2 years from start to completion. 1200 hours shot and condensed to 90 minutes.

Obsolete Gamer: What is Frag’s definition of a Pro-Gamer?

Judd Saul: A gamer that gets paid to play. Whether it’s being sponsored or winning prize money.

Obsolete Gamer: What did you learn about the people who try to become pro-gamers?

Judd Saul: To be a pro gamer takes a lot of tenacity and risk. Like any sport, if you want to be the best and actually get paid to be a pro gamer, you have to practice, and you have to sacrifice. And most people including friends and family will ridicule you for trying. The best gamers have overcome adversity to get to where they are. But at the same time, most of them lack business sense and get into contracts they should have never signed.

Obsolete Gamer: What about those who do not consider gaming a profession or a sport, what has your experience in creating the film taught you about opinions such as those?

Judd Saul: Well, I will say this. I have been playing games all my life. I definitely do not consider myself a noob. But when I play someone like Stermy in Quake and lose -3 to 50, there is an obvious ability over another. I still cannot grasp the incredible hand eye coordination and strategy it takes to be that good. Pro Gamers athletes. They are intelligent, creative, and have the ability to process and react to more information than the average person.

Obsolete Gamer: What is the profile of a pro-gamer if there is one?

Judd Saul: There is not one general profile for a pro gamer. But there are profiles for certain types of gamers. This is going to get me in some trouble and spark some debate, but  what the hell.

MMO gamers are different from FPS players. And PC gamers are way different from Console gamers. I won’t get into it, but really, everyone knows what I am talking about.

Obsolete Gamer: What separates the “great” video game players from the “professional” ones?

Judd Saul: Discipline, Diet, and Focus on the strategy of the game.

Obsolete Gamer: Tell us about the lack of support these pro gamers sometimes deal with regarding their parents, friends and loved ones?

Judd Saul: Gaming is a new way of life, and it’s hard for some parents and loved ones to understand that. Even the most successful gamers still have rocky relationships with family. In fact, when we asked gamers about it, they would shut down and refuse to talk about it. It was like pulling teeth to get them to talk about it on camera. We even tried to get interview with some parents but they refused. (In hind sight, we should have done the Michael More ambush technique, but we didn’t)

Obsolete Gamer: What was one of the secrets of professional gaming that struck a chord with you?

Judd Saul: Well, when we really dug below the surface of the glamour and the sponsorships, we found that most gamers were basically gagged by contracts. They couldn’t speak about problems of not being paid with risk of never being able to compete again.

Obsolete Gamer: Was it difficult to get candid answers from both pro-gamers and their sponsors?

Judd Saul: Yes, it was. In fact memos were sent out across the industry telling gamers not to speak to us. (I found out after we were done shooting) But we still got them to speak out because of their frustration.

Obsolete Gamer: Enlighten us about the corruption involved in pro-gaming?

Judd Saul: Do you remember the movie Semi-Pro? When Jackie Moon gives the homeless guy a BIG CHECK for making a half-court shot, and he takes home the big check and learns he can’t cash it. That’s pretty much sums it up when it comes to pro gaming.

The heads of the different gaming leagues court the sponsors and promise them a great return on their investment and brand exposure. The Leagues make out like bandits, the sponsors after a while learn that their brand exposure is far less than what they were led to believe, then they pull out leaving the gamers hung out to dry because the same sponsors that sponsor the gamers, are the same sponsors that sponsor the leagues. And the leagues are the ones that usually negotiate the contracts for the gamers. At the end of the day, the gamers get paid (if they get paid at all) pennies on the dollar for every dollar brought in.

The other problem is that the gaming organizations/leagues who becomes a pro gamer and who doesn’t. The creation of “gaming organizations” has hurt pro gaming. These are groups in which someone usually with some money and some legal sense comes to the table and says, “Hey, if you sign with us, we will make sure you get paid and we will keep track of your sponsors”. The problem with a lot of these groups is that they get gamers under contract, they don’t pay what they promise and they usually enslave the gamer. If the gamer doesn’t like what’s happening they get kicked out, cock blocked from sponsors and in most cases they are not able to compete any more. I won’t name names, but I know of a gamer who has won over $300,000k in prize money and was only paid $2500 per month for 2 years, and he never saw another dime. Yeah, he got to be a pro gamer, but in my eyes, he got screwed.

I want to be clear; there are some good teams and some great sponsors out there. But for every good one there are 5 bad ones.

Obsolete Gamer: Was there something you wanted to put in the film that you could not?

Judd Saul: In hindsight, I wish I would have confronted some of the bastards of gaming directly. But, we couldn’t get interviews with them.

Obsolete Gamer: What was the biggest challenge you told that pro-gamers face?

Judd Saul: Protecting themselves legally is one of the biggest challenges. The leagues and gaming organizations hold the cards. The gamer has no power.

Obsolete Gamer: In your opinion what is the future of professional gaming?

Judd Saul: Pro gaming will get bigger, and become more main stream. To get it to where it needs to go is going to take a lot of money and someone with a pure heart to take charge. They are going to need to care about the sponsor and deliver what they promise to gamers.

Obsolete Gamer: What was your most memorable moment while filming?

Judd Saul: There are too many moments that have left an impact on my life. But the best thing was being thanked by gamers for getting the truth out.

Glen VanDenBiggelaar: The Amiga Lounge

Amiga 500
Amiga 500

The Amiga Lounge

Many of us at Obsolete Gamer are fans of and owners of the Amiga computer so any chance to talk about the culture and community is a joy for us. In addition we are profiling stories on the Amiga in an effort to assist the Viva Amiga team with their upcoming documentary.

Glen VanDenBiggelaar is the owner of The Amiga Lounge where he shares his love of all things Amiga including his own experiences, collecting, and building of the commodore Amiga. We were able to get a great look into his corner of the Amiga world.

Obsolete Gamer: How did you come to create the Amiga lounge?

Glen: The Amiga lounge came from a need to research the Amiga when I decided to jump into the hobby. Before the Amiga, I was collecting and restoring the TRS-80 Color Computer and built www.thecocolounge.com website . Like the Amiga lounge, I had an on-line store and such, and during that time I was getting frustrated with the limits of the Co Co. One day, I was having breakfast with my best friend and his father, I knew that he had been a veteran at Xerox for over 30 years and he always had some fascinating story about Xerox and computers, and he suggested I look at the Amiga. I then found out he was one of the first people to have a Commodore PET in Canada, and later one of the First Amiga’s in Canada, going right to Commodore to get them. He passed away a few years back and left me all his Amiga’s in his will. Tons of books and software and such. The blog started out as a “Blogger” site, but when Google decide to take away FTP transferring to the blog, I then decided to expand the site to try to make it a “one stop” site with all the information I could find in one place instead of surfing all over the net and book making hundreds of sites.

The “Commodore” pages came after I read the book “ON THE EDGE- The Spectacular rise and fall of Commodore”-by Brian Bagnal. I instantly fell in love with the history of the company and started collecting the other Commodore Computers. I started with the “Ugly Stepchild” of the Commodore line- the TED Series and also fell in love with it. People tend to jump on the Plus /4 as a pile of crap and never really gave that computer its rightful due; they just compare it to the C64. It was never meant to compete or replace the C64, but nobody cared and it died a quick and horrible death because of that. I then got a PET in and so forth, so the website just grew and grew. I still have a ton of work to do on the Non – Amiga pages, just time is not there.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about your personal experience with Amiga computers?

Glen: My experience with Amiga’s has been great. Back when I was doing the CoCo, everyone had heard or seen a CoCo or new someone who had one, so it wasn’t very awe inspiring. The Amiga on the other hand is a completely different story. If I am talking to a person who used the Amiga, a flood of stories come out at the wonderful things they could do with it. It sounds corny, but these days, a computer is just looked at as a tool, like a hammer for example. No one is truly fascinated at what the box can do for them, or the joy they had discovered making Music Demos or such. The users have such fond memories of the machine, that it is almost legendary. For those people that have never heard of the Amiga, they are usually fascinated to hear that some  of their favorite movies or TV shows (computer animation) was done on the Amiga, and always say why didn’t we know about this back then. The best part is showing of the CDTV or the CD32, for even the diehard video game collectors, usually never seen or heard of them. Everybody seems to agree though, that the story of both the Amiga and Commodore is fascinating and sad that certain “forces” are doing their best to re-write history and erase Commodore and the Amiga from it.

Amiga 1000
Amiga 1000

Obsolete Gamer: Besides your own blog how active have you been in the Amiga community?

Glen: Besides belonging to a Few Amiga Forums (just no time to Cover them all), I belong to the local user group AMICUE. AMICUE doesn’t really focus on Amiga’s anymore; it’s more of a small social club that its members have been going to for years. I am trying to bring back life to the club, by bringing Videos of new Amiga’s, interviews with the creators and trying to get companies like AMITRIX to make new hardware again for the Amiga. So far, it’s a slow, hard battle, as most members got rid of their Amiga’s years ago. I always feel I can do more though. If work and money were not a driving factor in my life, I would push Amitrix to make more hardware, or create a company and make it myself. It was always my goal for the online store, to put the stuff I can’t use back to the Community, and the (small) profits that I make, all go back into the community, by buying more stuff from the Amiga Vendors. I COULD make tons more money on EBay, but I feel that the greed on EBay actually hurts the Amiga Community then helps it.

Obsolete Gamer: What is it like to be an Amiga collector?

Glen: I consider myself a “Computer Historian” as I am fascinated and could actually teach some computer history. Being an Amiga Collector is a perfect “spring board” for that, as EVERY Amiga or collection I have obtained has a long and detailed story. Most people that used Amiga’s back in the day have gone on to be brilliant computer programmers, famous artists and musicians and what not. I am really kicking myself for not keeping better records of the history of the machines I get in, because most people have no time to talk about them when they bring them in to me.
I usually wear an Amiga shirt about once a week, and I get a lot of people asking about it-sort of remembering it, so being a collector, and letting people know it, you become an unofficial ambassador of the Amiga

Obsolete Gamer: Do you have a collecting story you’d like to share?

Glen: I have so many, but I guess the best I can share with you, is not really a collecting story, but the fact that a few of the original designers, engineers, and programmers, the people that were actually there, have contacted me and taken the time to share stories and corrections about my site. This may sound crazy, but a nobody like me, getting a phone call from these guys really kind of justifies what I am doing, because at times, I just feel like a mad man ranting and raving and collecting stuff that everyone moved on from 20 years ago.

Amiga 3000
Amiga 3000

Obsolete Gamer: Which Amiga is your favorite?

Glen: Oooh! Tough question. Owning EVERY Amiga model except an A4000 tower system at one time or another, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, my LEAST favorite is the A500. Die hards will scream at me for this, but as one of the highest selling models of the Amiga, by itself, it is a rather useless machine. You can pick up A500’s all day long for next to nothing. To make them useful, you need some sort of expansion. Be it a hard drive or an accelerator, and those or worth their weight in gold. The same can be argued for the A1000, but the A1000 looks at least like a real desktop and has cool features like the way you can side the keyboard under it. The least popular I can see in the community is the A2000, but the expansion cards are cheap and easy to get.
My personal favorite at this time, is my A3000 tower. The tower is huge and lots of room to work on inside. it weighs a ton though. One of the best things about it, is right out of the box, you can hook up a VGA monitor to it. No paying an arm and a leg for a VGA adapter.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about your Amiga store?

Glen: Sure! The store came out of the need to clear some Amiga stuff out to the Community. I did not want to part take in the greed fest that eBay provides. My goal is to someday open a museum where everyone can come for free to use and play with the Amiga, and the store was a way to get rid the excess (who needs 9 A500’s). any money raised in sales and donations to the website go right back into the Amiga community. The PayPal Account is NOT linked to any bank account, and I use that money to buy more Amiga stuff that I need and don’t have, from other Amiga manufactures, distributors, re-sellers and hardware makers. You would be surprised, but there are tons of small time hardware makers, making new stuff to make the Amiga more modern. One of the biggest is Amigakit from the UK.

Obsolete Gamer: Did you have a favorite game on the Amiga?

Glen: I try a new game every week (I literally have thousands of floppy disks to go through), but “Lemmings” is still fun, and frustrating. My biggest problem is the controller. Most Amiga joysticks are (please forgive me) pure and utter crap! Trying to play “Golden Axe” with an Epyx 500XJ stick is horrible. The closest that I can find tolerable is the Amiga CD32 pad. I have yet to pick up a Sega Genesis pad, I hear those work well.

Amiga 4000 in box
Amiga 4000 in box

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about the Amiga RV Tour?

Glen: Not too much yet. I have been planning a RV trip across the USA and Canada for about 4 years now, to tour the Silicon Valley and visit all the major Computer HQ’s. But the technology to broadcast it live, steaming video feed over the net did not (and probably still doesn’t) exist yet. Coupled with the fact that nobody cares about a lone computer geek’s trek. It did not seem a feasible or sane thing to do.
But, with my love of the Amiga, and wanting to do something to raise awareness of the retro- computing hobby, the Idea evolved into one, that could not only promote the Amiga Community, Give me a chance to “save” Amiga’s and Commodores from the dump.


It also give the opportunity to promote (or create) a whole new untapped technology field. Soon, a lot of baby boomers and such will be retiring and want to hook up their RV, camper and such to the internet, so they will not have to rely on “hot spots” and such to keep up to date. This is a chance to for some company (like Cisco for example) to showcase a new technology that hooks the internet up “anywhere”, not relying on the cell phone companies (as this will be traveling both in the US and Canada) through Satellite or such. Some very smart Company could use this as a test. Also, Looking at the big picture and expanding on the above Idea, a computer company could create a “modular” computer system -let’s say in a shock proof case that could just “plug-In” to the RV. One would only need a TV or Monitor, keyboard and mouse actually on board and the camper could have a full computer system “on-board” and easily upgradeable. The possibilities from this trip are truly endless from a Corporate, or technology point of view.

I know from a recent weekend camping trip, that people were amazed when we had just hooked up an IPhone and networked a few laptops together, and had Wi-Fi out at the camp ground, and we were checking e-mail from fireside.

What I can tell you is we are at least a year away, and depending on actually outfitting the RV, it might be 2 years. The plan is to leave here (Edmonton, Alberta, and Canada) in October 2011 or October 2012 (to avoid the Canadian winter here). Besides the 4 or 5 Cameras on the RV, I will have a hand held, and I have already started making the documentary of the whole thing. Once the tour is complete, that Documentary will be put together and edited on an Amiga Video Toaster unit and the sales (about $10 each) will go to help recoup some of the cost of the Tour.

Obsolete Gamer: What would you like to see covered/talked about in an Amiga documentary?

Glen: I would love to see a “where are they now?” feature of all the people behind the Amiga. Dave Haynie and Bill Herd pop up every so often, but what about everyone else?

We’d like to thank Glen for the interview and if you have a story or website that profile the Amiga sent us an e-mail and let us know.

Zack Weddington – Viva Amiga

Viva Amiga logo
Viva Amiga logo

Viva Amiga

Sometimes it goes beyond classic gaming, when we talk about certain companies, they and the products they release, are considered classics themselves. What makes a company a classic is the multifunctionality they brought to the industry and the Amiga computer did just that. It was more than just a computer for many of its fans. Unfortunately, in today’s world either you had one and know exactly how awesome it was from the hardware to the software to the community or you have no clue.

There are websites and fans by the thousands that still discuss and even use Amiga computers today. Perhaps it can be considered a cult following, but like anything truly a classic there will be those who wish to preserve its memory. In the past there have been attempts to create a video documentary on the Amiga computer and its impact on the industry, but in the end they fell short. Zack Weddington and Viva Amiga plan to change that with their upcoming documentary on the Amiga.

Viva Amiga is currently working on a documentary about the Amiga computer and its impact on the industry, the marketplace and even pop culture. The film will cover all aspects of the system from business to gaming and everywhere in-between. One of the most important points that Zack states he is going for is the human factor. It is the real life stories from people who made and used the system.

A great product supported by a great company and revered by an awesome user base is what creates a complete classic and it is the people that make that happen. On the Amiga Film website you will be able to track the progress of the film and submit your own stories and experiences with the Amiga system. Obsolete Gamer is also collecting information on our forums and will support the film in any way we can because we are after all fans ourselves.

In an effort to bring more awareness of this film to fans of the Amiga system we conducted an interview with Zack Weddington from Viva Amiga on the upcoming documentary.

Zach Weddington – Viva Amiga
Zach Weddington – Viva Amiga

Obsolete Gamer: What made you want to do a documentary on the Amiga computer?

Zack Weddington: I had started going to the Vintage Computer Festival East every year with my good friend Mike Lee, where I got to see all kinds of great old computer systems on display. I saw presentations by people like former Commodore Engineer Chuck Peddle who designed the MOS-6502 processor chip which ran almost every console in the 1980’s. I was a huge Amiga fan back in the day as well so I think all that was kinda rattling around in my brain when I was just driving around in my car one night. That’s when the idea stuck me, and I called my friend Mike right away, who thought it was a great idea. He became one of my partners on the film.

Obsolete Gamer: There are still a ton of not only fans, but users of Amiga computers today. Is the film more for them or mainstream even for those who may not have used or even remember the Amiga?

Zack Weddington: The film is being made “for the fans”, most definitely, but we are also hoping to attract viewers who have an interest in technology and geeky topics in general. We think the film will be interesting to people who have never even heard of the Amiga, because it is the stories of the people involved with the Amiga which really drive the film. It’s also gonna have a hell of a lot of eye candy and awesome animation done by me and my other partner, David Kessler, a fellow video artist.

Obsolete Gamer: What is your own background and experience with Amiga computers?

Zack Weddington: It’s a pretty good story, I think. I was a passionate user of the Amiga. Back when I was about 12 or so, I started seeing computer graphics on television. Things like the Dire Straits video “Money for Nothing” with the blocky characters, Crest toothpaste commercials with those bouncing blue toothpaste blobs. I was really entranced by 3-D CGI. I asked my father how those were made and he told me they were done on a computer. From that moment on, I wanted to learn how to do 3-D computer animation. So I begged my Dad to buy me a computer, and he did. An IBM PS/2. A great machine for the time, but of course, you couldn’t do any serious animation on it with just a16 color pallette and no video output of any kind. So I was disappointed.

Months later I was walking through a bookstore in a mall and saw the Amiga 500 displaying a 3-D raytraced animation by Dr. Gandalf. It was a photorealistic animtation of one of those “infinite motion” desk toys with the silver balls that swing. I was amazed by the reflections and shadows in the animation. Here was a desktop computer that could clearly do the kind of animation I wanted to create, and it was even cheaper than the computer my father had just bought me. I convinced my Dad to let me sell the PS/2 and get an Amiga instead. He thought I was nuts, but of course it was the right decision. I went on to create tons of animations with my Amiga and make a career for myself doing this kind of stuff.

 

Dave Haynie – Viva Amiga
Dave Haynie – Viva Amiga

Obsolete Gamer: Now on your website you state the film is for fans and users of the Amiga and you are looking for ideas and thoughts, how has the reception been so far?

Zack Weddington: The reception has been great. People are very supportive and excited about the whole thing.

Obsolete Gamer: As for user submitted content what kind are you looking for?

I am looking for animations people made, “demo scene” type stuff, music…any kind of media that you might think has merit and think represents what a person could do with the Amiga. Anyone who has content they want to submit should email me at vivaamiga@yahoo.com for now.

Obsolete Gamer: Have people in the industry been receptive to your film?

Zack Weddington: The only people that really know about the film right now are the Amiga

community and former Commodore people. I’m still kind of slowly leaking out details of the film. I’ve got some connections with the G4 network that I plan to take advantage of later on, but the film is still in the early stages of shooting. Lot of work to do before I begin plastering the film everywhere…

Obsolete Gamer: When you speak of focusing on the “human side” what is your vision as far as that?

Zack Weddington: People who designed the Amiga, who worked at Commodore, who wrote for Amiga  magazines….people who really cared about the Amiga and what it made possible,

these are the kind of people that appear in the film and tell their personal stories. It’s the stories of the people who made the thing possible as well as the story of the machine itself.

 

Bil Herd – Viva Amiga
Bil Herd – Viva Amiga

Obsolete Gamer: When do you hope to launch the film?

Zack Weddington: We’re looking at sometime in late 2011 or early 2012. It’s a lot of work.

Obsolete Gamer: What can we as fans of Amiga do to help?

Zack Weddington: At the moment, just stay in the loop and check out the website , blog, and Facebook. I’ll be asking for some favors in the fall.

Obsolete Gamer: As far as gaming, what was your favorite Amiga game?

Zack Weddington: Well, back in the 80’s I was an arcade maniac. I spent probably 8 hours a week in arcades at least, so that’s where my favorite games were located. I was a SEGA fanboy, used to just sit and watch OutRun in “attract mode” just to try and figure out how the amazing graphics were done. Being creative types, me and my friend Josh used to spend hours making our own games with the “Shoot Em Up Construction Kit” on the Amiga. You could design your own sprites and backgrounds for your own vertically scrolling shooter games. It rocked.

In addition to tracking the progress of the film on the Viva Amiga website they also have a FaceBook page where you can leave comments and receive updates. Obsolete Gamer will also be following the films progress as well as bringing you articles and stories on the Amiga. We can always use your input and you can submit questions and comments via our forums.