.

I honestly can't imagine myself doing anything else. I love innovation, and the internet is where it's happening.

Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

I come from a very "classic art" background, with both my grandparents having been accomplished artists. I get my competitive creative drive from that, since a strong value was always placed on creative out of the box thinking. 

Due to my parents work I grew up traveling, and in foreign countries. It inspired me to think different because I was always an "outsider" looking in. Every culture has a certain set of standards for what they consider normal, and "that's just how you do it", act it, think, etc... I never really had that. As soon as I got used to being a certain way we moved and the last way was "just not how you do it here". 

It always kept things exciting and the mind young. You eventually see how silly it is, and how people are (for a lack of a better word) "constrained" by beliefs, or "intellectual status quo". In a way, even the alternative crowds in countries / cities always had these "regional quirks" that they didn't notice. You notice because you're an outsider. Such observations come in handy in marketing work. It's a lot of fun getting to know (or becoming part of) a user base so you can cater to their demands.

As soon as the internet became accessible (at that time it was very "unheard of"), we jumped on it. I often tell people that I "grew up online". 

The global culture was the culture that I could relate to, and I see myself a citizen of. 

The dot-com boom had a strong influence on what I wanted to do with my life. 

The internet has been a very life changing evolutionary leap in human consciousness (I believe), and I had the pleasure of experiencing this first hand. I've been into IT ever since I can remember.

Because of my classic art background, I started exploring new mediums of creative expression ("re-defining art"). Naturally I fell in love with games. 

BlueSuburbia was my first foray into this, where I was making "artificially intelligent" art -- music video, meets interactive poetry, meets artificial intelligence. The site adjusts to user choices and changes accordingly (branch outcomes). I still re-interpret that model with my ARG work (Alternate Reality Games).

I was drawn to games because they touch on absolutely every aspect of creativity.

They are the multidimensional platform where all arts merge to make something truly powerful. 

I became engrossed with the creative independence the gaming platform gives me. 

Having grown up on the internet, I draw heavily from the high speed electronic culture, merging iconic taboos with memes to make an experience akin to a surrealist paining you “must survive” up against idly “looking at“.

What do you do for inspiration?

Daydream. 

Growing up I had a lot of time to myself and my imagination. I developed a habit of inventing complex worlds, alien realms, alternate realities, and epic fables in my head. The sky is the limit when it comes to imagination, and the mind is where all that happens. 

Reality is a matter of perception, and it's in exploring alternative version of it where the best ideas come from.

Everyone is crazy. Some more than others. That's what makes us amazing.
I mean, that's what art, or innovation are. They're the climax of complete irrationality.

So I take good care of my madness. It's really something when you start experimenting with what's real or not, what you believe or not.

I look for beliefs and wear those like clothes, since I don't like the idea of getting caught on believing anything. I believe everything, and the beautiful thing is that you find correlations between beliefs, and then new philosophies come out of those. I often toy with the idea that the universe is multidimensional levels of consciousness accessible through perspective. You see these levels through other people. So when you talk to people you're an inter-dimensional traveler. I could get engrossed forever exploring people, their point of views, and trying their point of views on for myself. It's unbelievably inspiring.

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

That's a tough question... I don't necessarily go to places anymore for inspiration, I try to be part of what's happening. You get your best understanding of user bases, audiences, and successful communities through participation. Places ranging from 4chan, to jayisgames (I browse a lot through "affiliate" links for sites like that), to reddit, to random google searches (open directory searches are my favorite), to stumbleuppon, to digging through comments in "shared" articles (from facebook, twitter, etc) to see what people link to in comments. I often find comments more fascinating, and insightful than the article. Read those before reading the article.

I put a strong emphasis in understanding how people think about what and why. 

While doing this I come up with ideas for my ARG, or game work -- interpreting the internet as a game mechanic. 

There's a wealth of ideas and inspiration gained through participation.

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

It's usually my most recent project / release, since I pour absolutely all I learned from the previous endeavor into that, and then raise the bar. I see every new thing as an opportunity to outdo myself.

How many hours do you work each week?

I'm always working.

How do you relax or unwind?

Years ago I was told I need to make friends. I took it literally and started making one which I named Minibyte. I've since fallen head over heels in love with chatbots and linguistics related AI (simulating "intelligence"). Other than getting my head into tinkering with frameworks, I experiment with AI.

If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?

I honestly can't imagine myself doing anything else. I love innovation, and the internet is where it's happening.

What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?

My favorite part of the job is the hardest part. Pitching out of this world insane ideas and outdoing myself by implementing them. Programming tends to be the biggest challenge because I'm consistently re-inventing the wheel, and trying new models/approaches to find the solution that best and most effectively fits the challenge at hand.

Integrating something complex and flashy with social networking API's are my current favorite. Syndicating information from the "real world" into the "fictional world" the marketing campaign, IP, or product is creating.

I keep talking about finally installing Red5 media server (or similar software) to experiment with how all that would fit in with an open source streaming platform. It's great if you pull in just text and media, but if you personalize it (as in real-time using people / community) then it creates something seriously engrossing.

What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?


Almost four days (short bursts of sleep ensue out of necessity), but I break my own limits often. Being both a programmer, and designer it's the problem solving mixed with the creative synergy that grows out of that, which is hard to walk away from. Once I get my head into something I can't let go.
I'm a workaholic and love it.

If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?

The dot-com bubble. The fast paced, innovated, responsible, and all at the same time unbelievable irresponsible businesses that where made possible by that environment. It was sort of like this primordial soup of what we have today.

Anybody could come up with an idea, pitch it, and end up with investors throwing money at a company with the most absurd idea/ideas/business strategy fueling it.

I think it was that highly tolerant behavior toward genius mixed with stupidity that made what we have in present day IT possible. It set the groundwork.
If it happened any different I think the web would be less exciting, and less socially relevant today.

What software could you not live without?

Flash.

In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?

The most recent was the Source engine. I'm getting more into game development, and attracted to solutions that are free, or open source. Flash's move into 3D is a very exciting development.

I can envision the Flash platform becoming a serious full-on game development tool.

In the meantime I've been familiarizing myself with other platforms for game development. The primary reason is to find new solutions, models, and ideas, for online marketing. I like the idea of software like Iggy, Scaleform, Fuse-Software's Vektrix, or everyone's old friend gameswf, because they allow for mixing platforms. It inspires about a hundred and one ideas.

I mean, imagine playing through an ARG, and then tying that progress into a 3D game, and then throwing the person back into an ARG. A lot of companies are into expanding their IP outside of their main product (like the 3D game). I think tools like the above, that allow for interoperability between platforms are an amazing start. Imagine augmented reality over a movie. Like, hold up your phone to the movie you're watching and it augments parts of that movie, initiating a crafty marketing campaign, etc...

Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?

I can't mention any new ones as I think many aspects of the industry have lost their charm, or have gotten too big for their own good. I was a big fan of guys like 2Advanced, Gmunk, Terrorpilot, Abnormal Behavior Child... or turned to places like Pixelsurgeon, Surfstation, Flashforward, etc. for inspiration. I don't think it's necessarily the lack of "experimental", but more because it used to be a smaller, more dynamic community. It was easier to find outstanding work, or one-man technical superstars who would totally blow your mind.

I'm looking at gaming companies, and indie game developers today. Especially the demoscene.

Who is your target audience?

Currently it's gamers. It's a group, and creative platform, that I'm very passionate about. It's a thrill to see how that translates into online media.

What area of web design lacks the most?

Augmented websites.

I'd like to see more mobile phones being hooked into what already exists in websites (entertainment related, like ARG, geocaching) in a manner that they would augment what's on the monitor. There's more entertainment value to be had, I believe, in platform specializing content (so each experience is truly different, and unique to the user). If you make it unique they're most always bound to play it over again, and it establishes stronger loyalty (fan base). People tend to share what they find if they get content delivered to them that's unique. It ends up sparking community participation, and creating a stronger community.
It would be fascinating to see what would happen if you merged desktop with mobile (using the two platforms hand in hand). Imagine people browsing the web using their phone to pick up "hidden" clues (augmented) throughout popular sites, and this being tied into an ARG.

Crowds coming for an "experience" are very curious, and playing detective games with them has always been a blast... as well as a surefire way of establishing a strong fan base / following.

It would be great to translate things on a website in a layered way that the phone would pick up on. It's one of the things I'd like to get into more. That way you could have mechanics, and activities "hidden" or only accessible to those who play with their phone.

Augmented reality seems to be undergoing some fascinating developments, and it's certainly the next step for game-like advertising.

What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?

BlueSuburbia Version 1 (Flash 5 - 6 I believe)
I started working with Flash when it was still called Future Splash.
I've been with it since.

Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?

I have a lot of creative undertakings ranging from fashion, jewelry, welded sculpting, writing, to on demand confections. When I see something creative I learn how to it's done and do it myself. It keeps me, and my insanity on its toes.
Everyone is a genius. You just have to be in denial of your limits and it'll grow.

What was the last digital effort you saw (or were a part of) that used social media in a way that really made sense. Why?

The iDGi web presence. The client approached me wanting to promote their IP online, so I put together the strategy plus implementation.

The idea was to tie in the ARG with social media, and consistently syndicating content from the "real world" into the "fake world", blurring the line between reality and fiction. I built the online presence around existing social media models, and I think it went in a brilliant direction.

Wordpress, or other CMS out of the box web design platforms, are a great starting point for creating your own "hub" that will send to places like Facebook, Twitter, etc. You keep everything localized and send out from there. Then your flashy web campaign branches out from that basic framework. After you have your initial set up (you need to stay flexible at the beginning) it's very important to keep a close watch on the community that's forming around your product, and customize what you're building according to them, and their speculation.
Often people's speculation about "what's happening" is more inspired that what you can come up with.

Your community is your best creative asset.

Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?

I think they'll become more transparent, and the emphasis is going to be in a more mobile direction. This opens a lot of exciting doors for how to approach advertising, entertainment, and content delivery in an experimental sense.
I strongly believe that games play a big roll here. Casual games, especially. Their success is primarily credited to their casual, non committal nature. I'm investigating ways of reeling in a broader range of consumers using similar models.

Approaches that are flexible enough to seem "epic" but function "casual".

Do you think Flash is here to stay?

Yes.

There is perhaps a shift in web use these days. We are seeing a decline in the purely experiential sites in flash with huge production efforts, to a relationship with clients based on tools and services, that many times have simple interfaces. How do you see that trend developing? Will Flash suffer?


I think it will just serve to make Flash better. I don't see it as so much of a decline, as most industries have made the shift to move online (ranging from full on production, to commerce, etc) and, as this continues to grow, it's creating a wider demand for how to approach "web design", or promoting a product.

Although a lot of my work is very "experimental" I think that experimental is a tool, and needs to serve a functional purpose.

What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?

When I started this (internet related) was not being taught in schools. I was frequently told by professors, or professionals, that the internet is a niche market, and that there is not future in it. Today they're into web design.

When Amazon started they where laughed at, so was Google. Any successful dot-com story, as well as technological innovation, was often ridiculed at the beginning.

I firmly believe that passion, ideas, stubbornness, and your pioneering spirit will get you where you want to be, not necessarily your paperwork.

If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?

Don't give up, and learn the hard stuff.

How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?

Reverse engineer the most complex of what's out there. If you see something that totally blows your mind on a technical level, assign yourself the task to re-create that. Take on the hardest.

If it's intimidating I usually volunteer to do it.

How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?

I live online.

There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?

My dream project is usually the one I'm doing. I'm going to hit the books and research augmented reality, and non-Flash game development in order to delve into that... like an ARG, but extend what I've already done / is out there.


Links

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The Tetrageddon team.
The Tetrageddon team.

Human face study. 
Self portrait.
Human face study. Self portrait.

Infant face study.
Infant face study.

Welded metal sculpture. Seamonster impression.
Welded metal sculpture. Seamonster impression.





Shockwave game (part of a recent ARG I created). You play through a series of 'brains', to restructure a friendly AI.
Shockwave game (part of a recent ARG I created). You play through a series of "brains", to restructure a friendly AI.

Unlocking your unique password for the entire ARG (grants access to locked areas).
Unlocking your unique password for the entire ARG (grants access to locked areas).

The desktop 'haunted' by a mysterious AI named Henry.
The desktop "haunted" by a mysterious AI named Henry.

'Angel' poem from BlueSuburbia.
"Angel" poem from BlueSuburbia.

Haxed by Megahurtz
Haxed by Megahurtz

They Came From My Inbox. Dodge the mouse trying deleting you. A game all about playing Spam.
They Came From My Inbox. Dodge the mouse trying deleting you. A game all about playing Spam.

BlueSuburbia Trailer

Haxed By Megahurtz (Gameplay Trailer)

Space Com: Chapter 1 The Big Gib (Gameplay Trailer)

They Came From My Inbox (Game Trailer)

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