Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Are You Ready for the PiranhaPocalypse?

Some people are meant to meet. Take for instance Trisha Williams and Joe Unger. When she was a comic book loving, high school kid in Fargo, North Dakota, and he was an undergrad student working at a local games store, they never would have imagined that they would become future life and business partners. In fact it took a long time and many, many miles before Trisha would realize that Joe had been her clerk at Omni Hobby and Games.

After graduating high school, Trisha left Fargo and earned her undergrad degree in Illustration in Minnesota. Then her love of doing art, creating comic books and playing video games led her to The Guildhall at SMU in Texas. There, she became the second woman to get a Masters Degree in Interactive Technology with a specialization in art creation for video games. 

In the meantime, Joe also moved to Minnesota, where he got his Graduate Degree in Marketing and Communications. Stints working as a marketer, starting an online magazine covering travel and games and being a full-time game writer in the pen and paper industry working on games like “of Savage Worlds followed.

Finally both Trisha and Joe found themselves in Arizona. As Joe recounts, “We were working on a massive multi-player online game called ‘Deadlands’ under Superstition Studios… That studio collapsed when the economy went to hell.”

Trisha moved to Seattle and became a professor of Game Art and Design at The Art Institute in Seattle. After getting divorced from his first wife, Joe moved to Los Angeles, where Joe says, “we rekindled a relationship romantically rather than professionally.”

Ultimately, they decided to take their partnership one step further. They started their own company called Pigeon Hole Productions.

And it sounds like a perfect pairing. “Trisha and I have very complimentary skills,” explained Joe. “Design and production are really my passions. I really love that — putting it all together and managing the people side of things. Trisha’s expertise and awesomeness comes in being an amazing visionary and artist and Creative Director. So our skill set worked out to be that we could work on the same thing together and compliment each other rather than compete with each other.”

Of course, a lot of people warned them that they might run into trouble if they teamed up professionally. “We got a lot of, ‘Oh, are you sure? Two creatives shouldn’t work together,’” conceded Trisha. And I was like, “I think that’s the only way I can work together.” We had long-term relationships with people that were not creative and they did not last.”

Not only are they making it last, but they’re doing it differently. After meeting Sergei Gepshtien from the Salk Institute at the World Building Institute at USC, they started to collaborate with him on a game based on his study of how people perceived games and made decisions in interactive games.

While that enterprise is still under wraps, it’s impacted the way they view all of their projects. As Joe remarked, “That relationship for the last year really changed the way that we wanted to go about our own personal products and passions as well.”

Trisha already had the established web comic Gamer Girl Pinups on Tapastic. But now she and Joe have launched a Kickstarter campaign for a spinoff called PiranhaPocalypse.

According to Trisha, “We said, ‘Hey, web comics are these great ways to interact with people that we can get out there and say something every week. What if we brought games to comics in just a small way?'" So they started to develop “something that’s fun and really interactive” The result is a playable web comic.

Since it’s a totally new format, Trisha has come up with a way to describe it to people, “Imagine you’re reading through a Charlie Brown comic strip, where Snoopy is sitting on top of his little dog house, pretending to fight the Red Barron. So, same comic, except there would be one panel inserted in there where there’d be 60 seconds where you actually got to play the panel, you actually got to be Snoopy and play the part out where he’s imagining fighting the Red Barron. You survive or get shot down, or however the game ends, and then you move onto the punch line of the comic.”

She continued, “Every week there would be an update and it would be slightly different, just like every week you read a different comic strip. It’s the same characters and it’s the same universe but the game would be reflecting the changes in the comic.”

Which Pocalypse users will see is up to Kickstarter supporters. While Gamer Girl Pinups’ pet piranha Kratos will be involved no matter what, backers will choose which three “Pocalyi” make the final cut.

The final results will be posted on a website and as long as a user has Internet access, they can play it on whatever device they choose. There’s Tanooki in BotPocalyse, which is described as “Robots and Tokyopop are Tanooki's weaknesses. Kratos will twist her joy to create a perfect mash up of electro-wonderland and ultimate destruction. Did we mention robots?” according to the campaign page. 

There’s also Eve from the land of ice and snow in SnoPocalypse, Nessa in ThronePocalypse, Tru in ZillaPocalypse (“in the spirit of sliver-screen giants like King Kong and Godzilla”) and 9key of PunkPocalypse, And for one lucky person who backs the top tier, they’ll get to brainstorm with the Pigeon Hole Productions team to come up with a brand new Pocalypse level.

Other rewards include the opportunity for supporters to get their names in the credits, collect custom made vinyl characters from Munky King Toys and sport wearable gear from 5&A Dime in San Diego.

At the end of the day, everyone wins because the four-part PiranhaPocalypse web comic will be hosted alongside Gamer Girl Pinups on Tapastic for free. So anyone with Internet service will be able to enjoy it on a platform of their choice. It’s a good thing for comic book fans and gamers that those two ships that passed in the Fargo night so long ago, found each other. 

To find out more about Pigeon Hole Productions visit their official website and go to their Kickstarter page to pledge today. To listen to Joe's Pinball Rules Podcast, click here.

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