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Media Consumption: Three Rings' Daniel James

This week’s Media Consumption, a weekly column which seeks to find out what our favorite game designers have been listening to, watching, reading, and playing, speaks to ...
This week’s Media Consumption, a weekly column which seeks to find out what our favorite game designers have been listening to, watching, reading, and playing, speaks to Daniel James, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Three Rings Entertainment. James is a believer and something of a pioneer in the world of online gaming, starting in 1989 with game design for Avalon, back when it was exclusively a dial-up service. Other accomplishments include designing Lands of the Crown for On-Line, producing Persistent Worlds for Codemasters, and designing and writing an online game based on Tolkien lore called Middle-Earth through its three years of development, starting with its initial contract negotiations, purchase by Sierra, design house shift to Seattle, and its ultimate cancellation in 1999. Today, James designs and maintains Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates, a surprisingly successful merger of simple puzzle games, online community, and swashbuckling pirates. Sounds: ”We have had a very quiet office recently, I refuse to get an iPod, and I rarely drive, so I listen to music mostly at home,” says James, “often thanks to my girlfriend and her subscription to the excellent Rhapsody radio music service. Mostly I have no idea what's playing; you can just set it to ‘Boards of Canada Radio’ and it plays stuff that people who like Boards of Canada like.” “I should also represent for the local and groovy SomaFM.com,” he continued. “Internet radio is wonderful. On the weekends I like to go dancing, particularly to what they call in San Francisco 'breaks'; dance music that's very heavy on the bass and 'funky' drums. Pirates lub bass. Yarr.” Moving Pictures: The last movie James saw in theatres, like many of our Media Consumption victims, was Batman Begins, which he says has “not a patch on Batman: Year One,” the 1986 comic by Frank Miller that the movie was loosely based on. “Howl's Moving Castle, now there is a fine movie,” he continued. “I am a huge Miyazaki fan. One day I will have a giant pet Totoro, it will be my friend and take me on adventures. For reals.” Other recent favorites include Sin City and, courtesy of a recent subscription to Netflix, Sean of the Dead and The Seven Samurai. Words: “I'm reading a book called Secrets of Word of Mouth Marketing,” said James. “It's actually a pretty good. It is a sign of my 'development' as CEO that I am reading business books. Either that or it's the medication starting to work.” James is also a regular reader of both The Economist and Adbusters, recently discovered the Neil Gaiman short story collection Smoke and Mirrors, and just re-read both volumes of the Alan Moore graphic novel, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. “Captain Cleaver will one day commandeer the Nautilus,” he added. “Just you wait, Nemo!” Games: “I've been looking at a lot of Flash games and animations recently,” says James, ever-adherent to games of the online nature. “I look back fondly on the days when me and my schoolmates were hacking together games on my BBC Micro, and some of the Flash stuff harks back to that youthful creativity; except this time, 'the kids' have instant access to meritocratic global distribution." James recommends both Miniclip.com and Newgrounds.com for interested readers, adding something of a motto for the appreciation of Flash-based games: “Often raw, often bad, all cool.” [Frank Cifaldi is a Las Vegas-based freelance author whose credits include work for Nintendo Official Magazine UK, Wired, and his own Lost Levels website.]

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