There’s a very real chance that the video above and the copy below won’t make sense to you - this bit is especially for you. (The rest of you, skip to ‘The Story So Far’.) For over four years, Xbox LIVE paid host to an editorial service called Inside Xbox. Inside Xbox featured regular video and text content, the majority of which was produced in-house and sometimes in collaboration with the Xbox LIVE community. Shows developed by the UK arm of Inside Xbox like SentUAMessage and The NExUS became global successes by sidestepping marketing guidelines and providing a much more personal and personable service than the rest of the Xbox LIVE dashboard. It even won an award at one point.
Suddenly, in May 2012, Microsoft decided to shut down the UK Inside Xbox operation and release the core team. The gaming media and community were united in their outrage at the decision.
Now, three members of that team - former Inside Xbox editor and host Dan Maher and former Inside Xbox video producers Ash Denton and Gareth Wild - have decided to go it alone and develop a multi-platform gaming show format that surpasses everything that we’ve done before. And we need your help to do it. Read on...
Well, crap. Inside Xbox as you and we knew it is dead and gone, the team behind it disbanded and gifted with an uncertain future. Time to break out the spirits and get deeply acquainted with the cream of daytime TV.
That's the way it went down in a parallel reality, at least.
In this one, things are a little different. As irresistible as sleepwalking in a state of perpetual intoxication is, we decided to pull up our trousers, wipe the mud from our eyes and buy actual socks instead of using Pringles tubes. "This doesn't have to be the end," we said, sighing suggestively. "The community has our back, we still have our motor skills and there's a gaping gaming show-sized gap that we're figuratively girthy enough to fill."
And then we ran into an immediate problem (and it's quite a big one): our erstwhile employers decided to keep hold of all the wonderful toys we used to make stuff like SentUAMessage, The NExUS and other things with obtuse configurations of upper and lowercase letters. Which is fine, but with newfound freedom comes a desire to aim higher.
See, we want to create a show that finally does justice to what we - and you - love, and we really need your help to make that 'want to' become a 'will'. For that to happen, it can’t be an ordinary show - it has to reflect what makes our culture unique and hopefully in the process dispel a few myths held by those who remain sceptical.
Right now the show doesn’t have a name and it barely has a form, but we have a bloody good idea of its ideology, which we've compiled into an easily digestible manifesto. You should read it, and not just because we’re not going to repeat its salient points here.
LINK TO MANIFESTO
So, we have the spinal column - now we need to build the skeleton and then fill it with guts, muscle and skin. We're not sure what they're metaphors for, but they include things like a script (bones), equipment (colon), crew (arse), guests (genitals), contributors (armpits) and that dog from BGT (dog).
And, as anyone who's ever attempted to construct an anatomically correct human being to scale from scavenged viscera just so they'll have some company (put together a pilot for a gaming show) will tell you, it doesn't come cheap.
The idea is relatively straightforward: we want to create a pilot for a show, currently codenamed 'Project Possum'. As some of you may know, it's often the case that you pitch an idea to a channel and, if they like the sound of it, they'll throw some money your way to make it happen and then determine whether the finished article should be commissioned for a full series, or executed, gangland style. We quite fancy turning that on its head or, at the very least, knocking it slightly off its axis.
Right now, crowd funding is helping to make a lot of dream projects happen, and that's because there aren't any middlemen there to determine what they think people actually want. There's no insidious profiling or archetyping going on; it's just creative people working hard to give people who appreciate their work what they want on their own terms.
And that's why we're here. Anyone can approach a TV network and claim that they have a great idea for a show, but few can come armed not only with a complete pilot, but a complete pilot funded by the audience. Like any business, TV networks have to ask themselves questions like, "Who will watch the show?", "Will it attract advertisers and sponsors?" and, "Where's that intern with my SHITTING CARAMEL FRAPPUCINO?" and the more of these questions you can answer for them, the more confidence they’ll have in the idea*.
So, yes, we’re asking for your money, and we know that’s a big ask, but what we’re really asking is for you to help us send a message to people who’ve misunderstood and underestimated the power of a community. You’re the people who saw the real value of our work, not them, and we want to keep working to keep you entertained and involved.
Of course, as with any good crowdfunding exercise there’s something in it for you too depending on how much you contribute. We don’t just want to offer trinkets, though (although we are offering trinkets); we want to recognise your creativity, your opinions, your skills and your capacity to judge what does and doesn’t make for compelling content.
While this is all going on, we’ll be doing what we can to raise funds too, as well as documenting the show’s development to keep you updated on our progress, and hopefully keeping you entertained with a completely new - and incredibly lo-fi (i.e. cheap/free to make) - online show/podcast that we’ve dubbed ‘Homework’.
*The intern was knocked over by a van and killed on his way back from Costa
Because Indiegogo’s American and that, you’ll see that our target’s expressed in dollars - $10,000, to be accurate. In Britland Pounds, that’s £6,461 right now, which still seems like a lot of money, but in a world of surprisingly expensive video production gear and heavy taxation, it's relatively piffling. Of course, we'd love it if we made more than that, because every extra pound means a greater level of independence, better gear, better production values and an increased likelihood of securing additional crew, talented contributors, high-profile guests and Pudsey. In reality, we're asking for the bare minimum, but even that should cover:
- Studio hire
- Equipment rental (more money = potential to buy equipment)
- Guest fees (if they'e feeling charitable)
- Website development/hosting costs
- Other gubbins (props, software/music licenses, explosions)
The whole dollar-pounds thing also means that our reward tiers might seem a trifle steep, but a quick visit to your local bureau de change or online variant thereof should reduce your blood pressure.
PROJECT POSSUM MANIFESTO
1. Gaming should be celebrated
- Be respectful, but remember that gaming = playing = having fun before you get too serious.
- Gaming isn’t daft, but a lot of what happens in games is - maintain that distinction.
- Be cynical if you want, but focus that cynicism on cynical people and cynical decisions.
- Overuse of jargon is intimidating and tedious.
- There are inescapable terms, but remember that visuals can do a lot of the talking for you (e.g. If you show footage of Battlefield 3, you don’t then need to describe it as an ‘FPS’ - even someone who doesn’t game will get the gist)
- Don’t patronise or frustrate the main audience by halting everything to explain terminology - refer people to a jargon busting site/app that can be referred to throughout the show.
- Focus on why you enjoyed/disliked something from an emotional rather than mechanical standpoint.
3. The show never ends
Whatever time of day it is, there’s always something for the viewer to do. Think:
- Talking to the host or guests (Twitter, Facebook, video chat)
- Contributing user-generated content (art, music, animation, photos, video, funny glitches, in-game creations (Minecraft structures, Trials Evo levels, Skyrim mods...), incredible gaming moments)
- Getting involved in conversations and debates.
- Taking part in (asynchronous) challenges.
- Attending events.
- Organising online gaming sessions.
- Competitions that are more than multiple choice phone-ins.
- Extended sections of the show exclusive to online.
- Gaming is about getting involved, so encourage the audience to PLAY.
- Invite viewers to try new game experiences, take them away from their comfort zone.
- Employ two-screen TV (dedicated app, social media)
4. Get fantastic people to discuss the fantastical
- Developers can create incredible worlds, but it doesn't mean that they're all interesting people.
- Tap into the wealth of eloquent, erudite and entertaining writers, critics, musicians, actors, comedians and presenters who will talk passionately and animatedly about gaming.
- Get people to talk together, not in isolation.
5. Experiences are meant to be shared
- Invite guests/viewers to play the same things to fuel conversation and add to the sense of community.
- Encourage the audience to be more analytical about what they play, how they play and why they play.
- Whether viewer, developer or celeb, gaming fans are all gaming fans - it’s a great leveller.
6. Admire the past, but don't rose-tint it
- Celebrate progress - gaming thrives on it.
- Retro has its place (and that place is context and education)
- No more 8-bit homages.
7. Revere artistry and musicianship
- It's often what we cherish most about a game.
- Incorporate both aspects in a relatable way - stay out of Pseud’s Corner.
- Focus on the aesthetic, not the technology - polygons, textures, bump-mapping, etc. all out.
8. The home of gaming isn’t just the living room or bedroom
- Don’t underestimate (or malign) the power and reach of mobile, browser and handheld.
- Reflect the new no-borders nature of gaming with emphasis on on-location shoots.
9. Don’t do what’s already being done repeatedly elsewhere
- Be topical, but don’t deliver news, p/reviews or anything else that you’d find in a mag or on a site.
- Use announcements, news and events to provoke discussions on subjects of wider significance (e.g. Call of Duty Black Ops II = What does it mean to be ‘Triple-A’?)
10. Homage, not parody
- If you’re going to riff on a game, think The Simpsons (when it was good), not MAD magazine.
Why Project Possum?
We know, sounds a bit daft and yes, it is partially related to the marsupial which has a tendency to feign death when under threat (which is sort of symbolic of what we’ve been doing). But! ‘Possum’ is also Latin for ‘I can’ or ‘I am able’, which really embodies the spirit of this whole idea.
Who or what is Explosive Alan?
Explosive Alan is the collective name given to three surviving members of the Great Inside Xbox Cull of 2012. It started life as an Xbox LIVE Gamertag randomly created by the system, but made us laugh so much we figured it’d make for an unforgettable company name too. Our good friend Simon Chong is responsible for the character design.
So what exactly are you doing to raise cash?
Whatever we can - making videos, writing articles, after-dinner speaking - anything that lets us pay the bills, have the odd hot meal and get Explosive Alan Productions off the ground.
I don’t agree with part XX of the manifesto!
Ok. Well why don’t you drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what you don’t like about it and why? We don’t claim that this is set in stone, so if we think you have a valid point we might make the necessary adjustments and additions. You’ll have to be pretty convincing, though.
I want to donate a silly amount of money, but all the premium packages have gone. What do I do?
An unlikely scenario, but if it comes to it, get in touch and we’ll talk.