An Interview with Sharktoberfest Writer Steve Johnson, Conducted by Dale Ryan
Just in time for October, Hex Games has released Sharktoberfest, written by Steve Johnson and illustrated by James and Lindsay Hornsby. I’d never really given much thought to shark movies before, but reading the book I was struck by how much time Steve has clearly put into analyzing the genre. I wanted to know more about this project came together, and Steve was gracious enough to answer my questions.
1. Sharktoberfest is an adaptable adventure that allows players to recreate the thrills of a shark movie. Why shark movies? What makes the genre compelling?
Steve Johnson: Shark movies can be compelling in a lot of different ways, but I think Quint’s line from JAWS about a shark’s “lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes” is the thing that separates shark movies from other monster-type movies about real animals. Most of the other familiar big, scary critters in the real world are mammals, so even though they’re terrifying, we kind of understand them because they’ve got the same basic instincts and biological drives and in some cases even mannerisms that we do. If a lion attacks someone in a movie, there’s a sense of emotion and purpose behind it--it’s scared or hungry or protecting its territory. Sharks are completely alien to us, so they’re easy to portray as cold, emotionless killers who live to cause senseless destruction.
An interview with Steve Johnson and Leighton Connor, conducted by Jeffrey Johnson
I remember back in the olden times when if you wanted behind the scenes information about movies or games you had to settle for the little snippets in Starlog, or on E! entertainment TV and piece the whole story together bit by bit. Every now and again, you’d get really lucky and there’d be an interview with George Lucas or Dan Aykroyd or something. These days, we have to settle for the 2+ hours of behind-the-scenes extras plus commentary from the cast and crew on the DVD. Where’s the adventure?
While I feel some entitlement to moan about how much easier kids have it these days, the fact of the matter is I love DVD extras. It’s awesome hearing about how the guys from Pixar went on a road trip and hammered out the stories for their first four major movies. It’s inspiring to see the development of the sets and artwork for The Lord of the Rings. It’s hilarious to hear Mr. Lucas claim that he always had a plan for the Star Wars prequels. So, if the movies can do it, why not games? Games are about story and visual development. Even better, by talking about how they are developed, why some decisions were made, who inspired them, and what it’s all about, maybe it’ll make it easier to add your story to the experience.
The making of Hobomancer, a game about a secret society of magical hobos, was the
result of a lot of late night talks at conventions, during car rides, and over e-mail. A labor of love years in the making, it was finally released in 2012, and stands as one of the biggest books that Hex has produced.
Editor's Note: This article was originally written in the late 90s or early 2000s, so I've cut out an introductory bit that's no longer relevant, which is why the thing starts a little abruptly. I've left the dated references in so you can make fun of how old I am, though.
What follows are the four major stages of game evolution, as I see them. This evolution can be seen not only in individual gaming groups, but in the changes in games on the market over time. Right now, the gaming industry is right on the verge of the final stage. On a microcosmic level, only a few groups ever make it to the final stage. Regardless, I think the final stage is the purest, most perfect style that anyone can hope to achieve. Sort of a gaming Nirvana.
The Awesome People Hanging Out Together blog, as the name implies, features pictures of awesome people hanging out together. The blog basically just posts pics with absolutely no context, so you've got to guess at what brought them together. Why not make the reason something that you can use in a game? Unless otherwise noted, the famous people are the PCs (in some cases you may have to fill in some more characters for the remaining players--be creative).
As you've probably already heard, Warner Brothers has just picked up the rights to do a new Dungeons & Dragons movie. It's being produced by the guy who directed the terrible Jeremy Irons D&D movie and the screenplay's by the guy who's penned such thoroughly...uh,...filmed and released?...movies as Wrath of the Titans and Red Riding Hood, so you know it's going to be...in English? Anyways, I posted the story on Facebook, and a genius named Ryan Wagner pointed out that what they need to do is a live-action movie of the old D&D Cartoon with Ralph Feinnes as Venger and a stop-motion Tiamat. I agree, and since I haven't done a WWPHITM Wednesday in years, I figured I'd fill out the rest of the cast.