If you were a documentary maker, and you went to a major television network, would they necessarily give you the money to make a quirky film about a largely forgotten videogame? Would a major publishing company give you the cash to make an off-the-wall horror game where you fight off monsters using mobile phone apps? The answer in both cases is: probably not.
That’s the great thing about crowdfunding, and something we’re reminded of every week – it gives everyone a chance to make what they’d like to make, all supported by the people who want to see it. This week’s selection includes those examples listed above, plus a worthy cause involving a replica TARDIS, and a stop-motion animation from a highly talented artist.
Man Vs Snake
One of the best videogame documentaries yet made, 2007’s The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters captured the dedication, obsession and rivalry that classic arcade machines like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man can still inspire. Andrew Seklir and Tim Kinzy’s Man Vs Snake tells a different classic gaming story with similar themes, this time about Timothy McVey, who at 14 years old, managed to stand in front of a Nibbler coin-op and score more than a billion points.
For years, that score remained the highest score ever acquired on a ‘Golden Age’ arcade machine, until an Italian gamer named Enrico Zanetti stole the crown. Man Vs Snake picks up the story just as McVey attempts to get a new high score, and follows him as he prepares to spend a further 40 or more hours standing in front of a game and unable to go to the loo. Aside from that central rivalry, there’ll be interviews with retro game celebrities like Walter Day and Billy Mitchell (who you’ll probably recognise from King Of Kong), and snippets of archive footage that give a taste of what gaming was like back in the 1980s.
The filmmakers behind Man Vs Snake are editing veterans behind TV’s Battlestar Galactica, and their knowledge and enthusiasm for the games of yesteryear is plain to see. After all, only a true retro gaming geek would know what Nibbler was, let alone choose to make a documentary about it. They’re looking for just over $53,000 to get the project finished, and it looks like an entertaining addition to a small yet growing library of great gaming documentaries.
U55 – End Of The Line
Remaining on a videogame theme, here’s a survival horror game that puts a modern spin on the lore created by HP Lovecraft. Set in an underground station in Berlin, it gives the player little more than a mobile phone with a dwindling battery, which is just enough to illuminate various horrible things slithering around in the darkness.
The pitch video above gives the developers a chance to explain their concept, but it’s the gameplay footage below that gives the best flavour of what they’re up to.
The best horror games create suspense rather than stick weapons in the player’s hands, and this certainly looks like the case in U55. Rather, the mobile phone becomes your only weapon, and as well as using it as a flashlight, you’ll be able to download apps to expand its uses; we can only guess what uses a translation app or an app that makes animal noises will have, but it sounds like an unusual, potentially innovative idea.
“Your primary tool for surviving in the darkness is your smartphone display,” the developers explain on their Kickstarter page. “That’s it – no assault rifles, rocket launchers, magnum revolvers, or grenades. What good would those be against entities from realms beyond our understanding anyway?”
Quite right, too. The game will also employ an innovative and potentially horrifying use of binaural sound to create disquieting and dreamlike states of mind – though these will be optional, just in case the effect freaks players out a bit too much.
Effective Evolutions are looking for a minimum of $115,000 to get their game going, and with a decent budget behind it, U55 could be an unusual and terrifying interactive nightmare.
Build a TARDIS
Every so often, we stumble on a crowdfunding project that not only serves a worthy cause, but also fills our Geek remit. Alan Hoyle’s campaign is a new example. He’s aiming to raise the tiny sum of £900 to build a replica TARDIS – complete with infra-red censors, so it’ll light up with a wave of a Sonic Screwdriver – which he’ll take to various children’s hospitals and schools across the UK.
It’s a totally non-profit enterprise, and part of a Northumberland-based outreach called Aspire 2 Achieve. You can find out lots more about the project on its Kickstarter page, and it’s a cause well worthy of your consideration.
Crowdfunding has allowed artists working in more niche forms to get their projects going, and stop-motion is just one discipline that’s benefitted from the platform. Greg Simkins’ I’m Scared is one such project, and it’s a simple tale of terror about two brothers who are afraid of the dark. Although details are understandably thin on the ground, you only have to look at the pitch above to see that it’s got a great pedigree in terms of artists and directors.
Certainly, if the makers can get the texture and liveliness of Greg Simkins’ art into the finished short film, it could be a great little film.
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