Troy Had a Company

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

This is the third of an inadvertent series of articles. The first one described how Marble Hornets had formed the nucleus of an intriguing YouTube microgenre. The second discussed how, as their various imitators ran the whole Slender Man thing into the ground, the brains behind Marble Hornets – Troy Wagner, Joseph DeLage and Tim Sutton – had stepped up the professionalism stakes by running a Kickstarter for a home media compilation of Marble Hornets, as well as a Patreon for supporting future endeavours by their new production company, THAC (the name being an acronym for Troy Has A Camera, the YouTube account where the trio posted their more light-hearted non-Marble Hornets work).

The decline and fall of THAC is a somewhat convoluted story, and to a certain extent this article is going to boil down to a summary of egregious Internet drama. This isn’t the sort of thing we usually put up here, but in this case I think it’s justified. First off, having told the beginning and middle of the story, I think it’s genuinely worth telling the end of it, particularly since it’s a classic example of how going into business with your friends and trying to monetise your hobbies can backfire catastrophically.

Secondly, Troy is still soliciting money for THAC projects via Patreon, and since some of the story involves a certain amount of unethical behaviour surrounding money – genuinely unethical behaviour, not “ethics” in the GamerGate sense of “Succeeding Whilst Female” or “Aiding And Abetting a Woman” – I think it is important for potential backers to be able to read a summary of what has gone down here so they can make an informed decision as to whether or not to back Troy’s activities. This is particularly the case because a lot of the information here is spread amongst a bunch of forum posts, and also needs a certain amount of context to properly understand, so I think there is genuine value in collating all of this information into a single article.

Continue reading “Troy Had a Company”

Kickstopper: Monuments to Marble

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

This Kickstopper I’m kind of revisiting old ground; a while back I wrote an article about Marble Hornets and its most prominent imitators, back when they were still a reasonably hot new thing on Youtube. Now it’s half a decade later and the whole Slender Man thing has gone beyond cliche, and the original Marble Hornets web series has come to a conclusion and run a Kickstarter. Is this the last gasp of a spent force, or the beginning of something new? Only one way to find out…

Usual Note on Methodology

Just in case this is the first Kickstopper article you’ve read, there’s a few things I should establish first. As always, different backers on a Kickstarter will often have very different experiences and I make no guarantee that my experience with this Kickstarter is representative of everyone else’s. In particular, I’m only able to review these things based on the tier I actually backed at, and I can’t review rewards I didn’t actually receive.

At the end of the review, I’ll be giving a judgement based on my personal rating system for Kickstarters. Higher means that I wish I’d bid at a higher reward level, a sign that I loved more or less everything I got from the campaign and regret not getting more stuff. Lower means that whilst I did get stuff that I liked out of the campaign, I would have probably been satisfied with one of the lower reward levels. Just Right means I feel that I backed at just the right level to get everything I wanted, whilst Just Wrong means that I regret being entangled in this mess and wish I’d never backed the project in the first place.

Continue reading “Kickstopper: Monuments to Marble”

Something New, Something Cold

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Original content on YouTube is, like original content on the rest of the Internet, 99% complete idiocy and 1% genuinely interesting experiments with the format. One particularly interesting development in recent years has been the rise – on YouTube and on the internet as a whole – of Alternate Reality Games, inspired by “the Beast” – the viral marketing campaign for AI. ARGs are narratives that use the entire Internet as their canvas, sprinkling chunks of story all over the web rather than concentrating everything in one place; the gameplay mainly comes in deciphering where the next bit of story is hidden.

The thing that has stopped me getting into many ARGs previously has been the sheer difficulty that seemed to be pervasive in the genre. The Beast, for instance, included puzzles where you had to know lute tablature to solve it, and it’s not uncommon at all for ARGs to expect you to decrypt a bit of code hidden in the source code of an apparently empty page on a website that’s only online on Tuesdays. The difficulty comes about because ARGs from The Beast are usually written for collectives – rather than expecting one person to solve the story, they depend on groups of people getting together to work on stuff, and so the more obscure the clues are the more people need to pool their brainpower to solve it and therefore the more important it is for people to get involved with the game’s online community and the stronger that community will be. But the upshot of that is that many ARGs are simply punishingly difficult to progress in unless you are either a cryptographic genius or a regular on places like unfiction.com and other hubs of the ARG-playing community.

Recent months, however, have seen an emergence of what seems to be a far more story-oriented variety of ARG, with the rise of Marble Hornets and the thematically similar EverymanHYBRID and TribeTwelve. Although all three have included puzzles to varying extent, they haven’t been absolutely vital to following the story, which has progressed mainly on a small number of YouTube channels, with the odd Twitter account and tumblr blog providing inessential but fascinating side information. What the creators of all three ARGs have in common is that they are much more interested in storytelling than obfuscation through cryptography, which ultimately makes them very accessible – simply follow the relevant Twitter accounts and YouTube accounts and keep an eye out for interesting links thrown out in the comments and in response videos and you should be able to follow along. The unfiction forums file them under the “Chaotic fiction” section, which is a good term for it – rather than the narrative being told in a particular order and brought together in one single place, it’s fragmented and scattered all over the landscape for people to hunt down and collects scraps of it.

The other thing they have in common is that they’re based on the idea of the Slender Man.

Continue reading “Something New, Something Cold”