Meet Dave Grossman, Creative Chief

AKA, Earplay Co-founder Waxes Nostalgic, Philosophic, Also Manages to Introduce Self

When I was nine years old, my best friend Tom and I recorded a “radio soap opera” on cassette tape as a school project. I think we might have written a script for it, five minutes beforehand, which we sort of followed. We made all the sound effects, mostly cars, with our mouths. We were shrill, and goofy, and nine years old. It was barely comprehensible. We had a blast! We followed it up with a science fiction story and a news broadcast.

Tom and I drifted apart after he joined the swim team in high school and I didn’t, and I’m not sure what he’s up to now. I think he might be working in Hollywood. But I’m making audio stories again! Interactive ones, this time, and hopefully with a slightly higher degree of professionalism and polish.

I wanted to say hi. My name is Dave Grossman, and I’m Earplay’s “Chief Creative Officer,” a puffy sounding title which basically means that my main job is to make sure that Earplay stories are good. Good as stories, and also good as things that you play, and it can be kind of tricky to accomplish both at the same time. We do our best. If we screw up, it’s totally my fault and you can feel free to yell at me about it.

I want to reassure you, as a potential member of the audiodience (see what I did there?), that I do have prior experience with interactive stories, in fact I’ve spent most of my professional life making them. Before Earplay, I directed writing and game design at Telltale Games for nearly a decade, and before that I wrote and designed adventure games at LucasArts, including the time-worn classics The Secret of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. I’ve also penned a number of children’s games and interactive storybooks, and designed live-action participatory theater, whatever that means.

dayofthetentacle

Incidentally, somebody told me that Day of the Tentacle was actually a milestone in the history of games, being the first one to use recorded voice throughout the entire experience. How appropriate! I made that one with a guy named Tim instead of Tom, but I probably had just as much fun as I did doing the soap opera in the fourth grade, and for a lot longer. I also did make one or two of the sound effects with my mouth again. In general I can’t advise that as a path to real quality, however.

In the decades (yikes) since that game was published, a lot has changed. The internet grew up and has made two-way communication much easier – the world itself is more interactive now. When I tell stories with my son, he’s sitting right there and I can ask him what kind of story he’d like to hear. Nowadays, we can do the same with you, through our forums, blog, and so on.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask a couple of philosophical questions relating to how people can interact with Earplay stories. If you’re reading this on the blog, we’re including a poll below so you can answer them that way. Comments are good, too. In any case, consider:

  • Is it better to direct a story, or to be a character in a story?
  • Which is more powerful, well-written description, or well-crafted sound design?

These are the kinds of things we think about late at night when other people are asleep. I’m interested in your answers, and whatever substantive discussion may arise, but the good news is that no matter what you chose, Earplay has already got something in the works for you. The medium of interactive audio can be used in a lot of ways, and we plan to do just that.

Good fun coming soon! Stay tuned.

Dave


By | 2016-10-23T23:34:46+00:00 October 23rd, 2016|Team|

Responses

  1. Hi Dave, my name is Stacey. Nice to meet you. To answer your question, I personally think it's not a matter of what is better, but putting the elements together creates more possibilities. I believe that a good description and good sound design actually go hand in hand. As far as directing a story, well, I like that, but also being a character in a story is good also. Maybe if we worked on options that would allow both of those things. Also, I wanted to say I played all the stories you have so far, and I would like to see what happens next both in the demo story, and the Code Sygnus story, and of course any other new stories. Thank you so much, and I look forward to hearing more.

    Stacey

  2. Good evening Dave,

    First I would like to say I love this entire idea! Growing up as well into my early adulthood I have always enjoyed the choose your own adventure story books.
    As an avid reader I always enjoyed the control I had over choosing the direction in which my story turned. Be at in the damp core doors of a Nazi controlled castle as I played the role of a French underground spy or exploring the ancient ruins as an Indiana Jones type archaeologist it was always a thrill to have the option to choose the direction in which the storyline went. Additionally it was a thrill to have so many various endings to the story it felt as if I had a dozen books wrapped into one.
    Your company has managed to bring so many aspects together into this one very accessible app I can't even begin to explain how excited I am to see the new storylines coming in the hopefully near future.
    As a assistive technology instructor at a central Florida not-for-profit agency serving the visually impaired, I am excited to be able to share this app with my clients.
    Keep up the great work and keep those stories coming!!!

  3. dave says:

    Gee, maybe I should actually respond to the comments on this blog post, that would be nice! Sorry for the delay. I hope you'll all be pleased that the main reason for it was me working on a full-length Earplay story.

    Anyway, hi, Stacey, nice to meet you, too. As a creator I'm in agreement with you - many elements work together to make a good experience, and if you neglect any of them it can be problematic. But individuals do often have preferences, caring more about one aspect than another, and the intent of the questions was to explore that a little bit. You seem game for anything and everything, which is great! I'm glad you're enjoying what we've put out there so far.

    Dave

  4. dave says:

    Scott,

    I too loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books back in the '80s, and have a number of them on my office shelf right now. I like to think what we're doing here gives the audience a more focused experience where you get to role play more and don't fall into random traps all the time, while still capturing that same magic of exploring possibilities. You can tell me if we're pulling that off!

    Also it's nice to hear from people in the visually impaired community. We're not unaware of the particular appeal of an Earplay story there, and we find we can get some good insights into user interface challenges if we pay attention. You keep up the great work as well!

    Dave

  5. dave says:

    Aha, I see that @justkurt has distinct opinions on the questions posed. Thanks for those! I'm curious whether anyone wants to champion a different viewpoint.

    Also I hope you like DotT! As I recall it's pretty fun.

    Dave

  6. dave says:

    Yep! There are some challenges there, but it's totally worth working them out.

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