While most know about Columbine High School from a horrific school shooting they watched on TV, I was unfortunate enough to be a student there that day. It took a deep toll on me, and for years I struggled. While I tried to get my bearings, I worked on some amazing projects. I helped make the documentary Bowling for Columbine a reality – that strike that opens the film is mine. And, I wrote a book on the entire thing that I’m proud of.
But none of that paid anything, so I had to take jobs. I dabbled in lots of odd jobs, including building websites for bands and fandoms. My own even. Reviewing video games on the side. This led me to my first real job, building pages and content for WhatTheyPlay.com. Quickly I made a giant leap to doing the same type of work for StarWars.com at Lucasfilm.
The next 5 years at Lucasfilm would take me from creating Webby-award winning websites to creating backstory for the Clone Wars Animated Series. I even have an entry on Wookiepedia. During these years, I led the charge to bring Lucasfilm into the world of Cloud Deployment, brought Star Wars to social media for the first time by creating and managing their first Twitter account, and tried with everything I had (but sadly, failed) to prevent a Star Wars / Angry Birds licensing deal.
With all this work I got the attention of the team at Lightstorm Entertainment, James Cameron’s production company. Jim was ramping up to make more Avatar films, and they were building a team to lead the charge. After being flown to Los Angeles for an intense set of interviews, I was brought on to lead everything digital for the entire Avatar franchise. The next four years of my life would be transformative, as I would learn how to build worlds, while massively upleveling my business and marketing acumen.
Meanwhile, Starbreeze Studios (a game developer out of Sweden) was preparing to rebuild their studios, and asked me to head their US headquarters. I’d touch all of their licensed properties (John Wick, Scarface, and more), but even better, I would be fully in charge of their global Virtual Reality (VR) efforts. Here was my chance to show off everything I’d learned about building worlds, and also flex my development chops after not touching a dev environment for years. White collars make creatives rusty.
Enthusiastically, I dove right in, building pieces of content as varied as Ape-X and John Wick VR. I led user experience for the custom-made VR headset and hardware Starbreeze was developing, and oversaw the design and construction of the largest VR theme park in the world on-site in Dubai. But – I couldn’t shake something. As a panel expert, I’d given many talks about VR and it’s transportive power, and here I was making VR experiences where you shoot people in the face. The games were fantastic, but it just wasn’t…a complete fit.
Then I was lucky enough to meet the founders of iNK Stories. Navid and Vassiliki had an idea for an immersive experience where the viewer would watch a war crime committed in full VR, with all the surrounding horrors of war. The idea was fantastic, and they are some of the best at what they do. So when I said I wanted it to be bigger, I think they were shocked. I wanted to build a multi-room, seamless, full walkaround experience where YOU experience being in a city being bombed firsthand. Where you have to pull a little girl out of rubble yourself.
Nobody had ever created this type of experience. And there were reasons. Some of it seemed impossible. We didn’t care – we pushed to make it work, and we succeeded. Taking Sundance by storm, then winning Tribeca Film Festival, followed by a Lumiere Award for Most Immersive Experience. Things I assumed impossible for a game maker came true.
But, my son turned 6 months old and I realized I’d spent most of it working. With some discussions with my wife, I stepped away from Starbreeze for a much-needed sabbatical. I was lucky to be able to take a bit of time to just be a dad. In the next year I spent my time changing some diapers, going on walks, and writing. In this time, ViRvii was born. I had written much on the concept of Metaobjects, the idea that Data is a multiplicity, and if we can see the gregarious aggregate, we can find out own patterns. And we can enjoy exploring again.
As the Covid-lockdown hit California in early 2020, I created the Quarantine Collective. To date, it has attracted over 2,300 scholars, hobbyists, students, and doctoral-seekers to a single place where we discuss Deleuze, Guattari, and dozens of other philosophers. It’s my passion.
And in all of it, the lesson I’ve learned is that what you’ve read is the story of becoming Brooks. Which I’m still doing. And I’m excited to see what the next adventure is.
All content is owned by respective license holders. My own work is my own, what I did for them is theirs.