Ok, so I've been getting a lot of questions from people about the name "Falling Piano Games". One person even asked me, "what do you have against pianos?"
Just to be clear, I don't hate them at all! The name comes from those old cartoons like Tom & Jerry, Popeye, Roadrunner and so on, where for some unexplained reason, a piano would sometimes fall out of the sky and land on some cartoon character. I always thought that was hilarious, and I suppose the cartoon artists thought so too.
At one point, cartoon network even used a falling piano as part of its signature:
So there you have it. I love pianos. I don't push them out of buildings. But sometimes, they just fall from the sky, for no reason at all.
I had the privilege to attend a cohort experience session at Dunman High on Monday afternoon, where every Sec 3 and Sec 4 student got a chance to play Guardians of the City. And I received the ultimate reward for a game designer - I saw the kids enjoying themselves and having a lot of fun playing the game. That's all that anyone can ask for -knowing that you made something that brings joy and laughter into people's lives. I'm really grateful to have been given a chance to walk this journey.
As I mentioned, Lego was always a big part of my growing up years. I'm very grateful that my parents bought me mostly generic sets, forcing me to have to use creative ways to make things. Nowadays, Lego has a bewildering array of specialised pieces, which actually requires less creativity to build stuff, in my opinion, because you can almost always find exactly the right shape you need for what you want to do. I don't blame Lego, it's had to innovate to stay ahead of competition, especially in light of the many Lego clones from China that have sprung up over the years. To continue to appeal to today's kids, who have so much choice of toys and electronic devices, Lego has gone towards doing specialised pieces and tie-ups with movies and comics.
Back when I was a kid, though, you didn't have so many pieces to use. Special pieces were very rare, and you had to think of creative ways to use them to make what you wanted. An example would be the standard Lego "operating handle" that was used to simulate the levers that a worker would grasp when operating heavy machinery.
These were highly sought after pieces, because if used differently, could become laser turrets on a spaceship or anti-aircraft platforms on a naval vessel. In fact, many years later, these appeared on the smaller Lego sets in very much the same fashion.
Lego would be my way of bringing my imagination to life. Whatever I was currently interested in, I would go build it using Lego.
A particularly funny memory for me was when I was about ten years old. I had just watched "The Empire Strikes Back" on TV and fell completely in love with the Rebel base on the ice planet Hoth. I went back and built a complete base that took up a quarter of the floor of my bedroom. There was just one problem - the standard Lego "base plate" was green. So it looked like my Rebel base was located on a nice pasture in the middle of summer. The only thing lacking was for Maria and the Von Trapp children to come waltzing through singing "Doe, a deer, a female deer".
I decided I would not be defeated by the limitations of my small Lego collection. I had a brainwave, and went to my bathroom to fetch a bottle of talcum powder. By the time I was done, I had run out of talcum powder, but my Rebel base now looked like it was properly built into the snowy hillsides of a frigid world. I was ecstatic. I spent several happy days replaying the battle of Hoth in my bedroom.
Until a few days later, my mum happened to walk in and saw talcum powder EVERYWHERE on the floor. She went ballistic and scolded me. I was forced to clean up the mess. But at some level, I think she was also a little impressed.
I never managed to get a photo of that Hoth base, though the memory remains vivid. Just for old times' sake, I did a very small AT-AT walker scene just for this blog, complete with crashed Snowspeeder.
And yes, that's really talcum powder there. Specifically, St. Luke's prickly heat powder, also known as the famous SAF-issued "Snake Brand" powder.
You know, the more I think about it, I was really a pain to raise as a kid. Thanks, mum and dad, I owe you so much, not least for your patience and understanding!
Hey everybody... the first shipment of the official version of Guardians of the City has arrived! If you want a set, just drop us a note at email@example.com!
Ever since I was a kid, I've always loved making stuff. Creating things was always more fun for me than just playing with things already made by others. Perhaps it was the Lego that my parents bought me from young, which allowed me to make anything my imagination demanded. I didn't need a new toy gun - I would make my own. I didn't need a new spaceship toy - I would make my own. It was natural, then, that in school, I spent a lot of time making my own things. When I was thirteen, I created a basketball card game where a few friends and I each took an NBA team and used dice to simulate matches against one another. Obviously, being the creator of the game, I picked the dominant team of that era for myself, the 1988 Los Angeles Lakers.
Around that time, I also started to draw comics for my class newsletter. The art was, frankly, awful, and the humour even worse. But I think that was about par for a 13 year old. You had to start somewhere, I guess.
When I was 14, I started to bother with colouring, and that made a lot of difference in the quality of the artwork. I began to draw my own full-page war comics in journals that our teachers made us write on a regular basis.
My obsession with Transformers continued, though.
That same year, Iraq invaded Kuwait and touched off Operation Desert Shield. After several months of military buildup by Coalition Forces, Operation Desert Storm began, the recapture of Kuwait. During those intense few days of fighting, I updated my class with daily hand-drawn battle briefings on our bulletin board wall.
When I was 16, for my GCE "O" level art paper, I had to design a paper-cut art and make it for submission. Given my interest in warfare and military technology, I chose a scene from a theoretical World War III invasion. This is the draft of the design, before being enlarged and made into paper-cut art.
To be continued - Making Games
So here I am, at the start of a new journey in my life. Everything has happened so suddenly that it has surprised even myself, but in hindsight there was a certain inevitability and divine orchestration about it all. And as I stand at the brink, taking a leap of faith, I've decided, let's just enjoy this journey while it lasts. If I'm going to ask people to have fun playing my games, I should at least try to have fun making them!
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more"
- Henry V, Act III, Scene I
I've learnt over the years that I don't have any real skills except the ability to play games. So I guess it makes sense that eventually I would gravitate towards making my own games.