May 27, 2012

5th Grade Challenge: Meet the Characters

As promised in the previous post, I wanted to roll out the characters and post an excerpt of the story from one of the games I plan to develop. These are characters from the "Project Awakened" series, the game that first started leading me to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. I'm still leaving the official title under wraps, so that name will continue to be a substitute for now.

The story "The Life and Times of Theodore Addison" is a spin-off of the game, a book series that is meant to fill in some of the gaps the games will skip over. I advance my characters through the years, so there will be no "forever young" characters. This isn't the Simpsons. Because of this, and because each game has a specific beginning and ending, I know readers and players would love to know some of the other details of the characters' lives, like graduation, summer camp, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and other landmarks in the characters' lives. That's where the books come in.

I plan to soon release the excerpt on a Google Doc. You can click the tab at the top labeled "5th Grade Challenge" to go to it, but it is not available yet. As it nears finalization, I will release it, but for right now, I'm just not comfortable doing that yet. But what I can do is give you a quick summary of the book.


Summary

"The Life and Times of Theodore Addison: 5th Grade Challenge" is the story of several kids and their teacher. There's a brutal rivalry between the boys and the girls, and as it escalates, the teacher tries to step in to quell the fighting. The teachers organize a contest between the boys and girls to let them duke it out over academics, athletics, and hobbies, hoping to use their preparation for the competition as a tool for showing the kids why they should value each other as the image of God.



Characters


Theodore Addison: A 10-year-old boy genius who just moved to town three months ago. He came into town with a bang, working with his new classmates to save the city from a foreign invasion and helping his best friend Derrick rescue his captured father. Ted used his quirky inventions to help through the mission, and is now enrolled in Derrick's school, hoping to build a new life after ruining it in his old town.

Matthew Addison: Ted's 7-year-old brother whom everyone calls 'Sunshine' because of his adorable and friendly personality. During their adventure, Matthew soothed many of the tensions that arose among the group, especially those directed at his brother.

Veronica Teal: Ted's rival. She's noted for her speed, and helped the group do demolitions during their adventure, using her speed to quickly escape buildings. Because Ted often wore Chicago Cubs clothing, she countered by wearing St. Louis Cardinals clothing. People started to suspect she liked him, but she always said she does that to irritate him. Veronica's very sharp-witted and loves to antagonize Ted and his friends.

Derrick Read: Ted's best friend. An African-American, Derrick grew up with Ted and loved to help him with his inventions. Moving away to another city was difficult for him, but he got to see his friend every chance they got a break from school. During their adventure, Derrick was always good for a laugh, and caught as many mistakes in Ted's inventions as he could, but there were just too many, so sometimes Ted's gadgets would have mishaps, sometimes at the worst possible moments. He also gets tired of his name being mistaken with Derrick Rose.

Diamond Forté: Veronica's best friend. An African-American, Diamond transferred into school 3 years ago, the same time Veronica did, so they hit it off quickly and leaned on each other to make the transition smoother. Diamond used Ted's inventions during their adventure, and they backfired on her more frequently than anyone else's tools, causing her to sometimes berate Ted. She has the same contempt for him that Veronica does, but she eases up a little on Derrick, the only other Black person in her classroom. 

Yaakov "James" Maven: Ted's other rival and associate. A Jewish boy from Haifa, Israel, James moved to America with his family so his dad could pursue his theological studies without persecution. His dad recently became a Messianic Jew, a Jew who believes in Jesus. Yaakov adopted his American name 'James' so he could set himself apart from the other boys also named 'Jacob'. James doesn't have very strong ties with Ted or anyone else in the group or even his class, but he can tolerate Ted and Derrick, so he sticks with them when necessary. He did a lot of the heavy-lifting during their adventure, and was a harsh critic of Ted whenever he messed up. Often a loner, James has a tendency to take himself too seriously to really enjoy being a kid. 

Ron Gibson: Ted's 5th grade teacher. An African-American, Mr. Gibson has taught for 11 years, and is relatively young, about 35. He's known by his colleagues as wise beyond his years, and has an entirely different approach to dealing with his students. Because he rejects the typical disciplinary approach other teachers use, most of his students like him, even though he has a serious and dry nature, and his class rosters often fill up much quicker than other teachers'.

So those are the characters. I look forward to getting more information to you about the book, its story, its release date, and things of that nature. Until then, I appreciate your anticipation of the book. God hasten the day I can get it into your hands.

May 9, 2012

Testimonial: A Special Day

May 9th is a special day in my book. It was this day, 8 years ago that I conceived a game idea that changed my mindset and even pushed me towards God.


For privacy's sake, we'll just call the game Project Awakened. Now, if you've read one of my blog entries from earlier, you would've seen that I originally wanted to work for Nintendo and make games as an American subsidiary. I was great at creating ideas based on already-existing franchises like Mario and Pokemon, but for the first two years I had no original games. I was very proud of some of my ideas for Mario games, yet there was a void that I had nothing of my own. This was something that never worried me, though, because I knew an idea would come in its own time. I had a history of good ideas coming to me naturally; I never had to force anything.


Some assumptions I had about the game before I conceived it: 1) I knew that this original game would become my proudest work, even more than my previous ideas. 2) I knew that this game would acknowledge God somewhere in there, I just didn't know at what capacity. Now, why I had these assumptions built in, I don't know, but I've got a sneaky suspicion God put that there.


The conception of Project Awakened led me to become a more knowledgeable Christian as I began to really work on the game and its spiritual themes. But more importantly it challenged me to become more committed to my walk with Christ. It was because of this game that I myself was reawakened to God. I was the first fruit!


This course of events tells me that God was in control of my plans and goals and visions the whole time, and that He will use whatever He desires to bring me closer to Him, even my own creation. It told me that I was a co-creator with God, a partner with Him as He does His work in reconciling the world to Himself. It tells me that I, too, needed to be saved. Like a prophet who hears God's Word, it convicted me first. It also told me that God embraces our creativity and welcomes our multiple ways of spreading His Word. Too often we think of preaching the Gospel as having a megaphone out in the street or passing our tracts or speaking from a pulpit. How about through lyrics and a good beat? What about through dance? What about through a video game? What about through a TV series?


As I began to really cultivate the game and shape it, I realized how creative God is. And if God is creative (as we look around the wonderful world He's made), surely a video game is nothing to Him. So I thought I should consult Him on game ideas and what could make this thing excellent. After all, why shouldn't a game that represents God be superior in its execution? God knows what He's doing; maybe He's got a better approach than I or anyone else can come up with.


As I saw the great ideas He poured into it, I then turned my attention back to all the other game ideas I came up with, from Mario and Pokemon and Zelda and Metroid. I submitted them to Him for approval. Was there anything He was displeased with? And I found out that as I invited Him into the creative process, some games did get the ax, true. But most others were enhanced. And so I learned to trust God in game design. Looking back, that seems like an obvious thing, but at the time, I also had the major concerns that 1) Christian games are inherently low-quality, and 2) God may or may not approve games as a ministry tool, and that maybe they should stay separate.


That's what church culture sometimes does to people. Unintentionally, they can make you to feel that you aren't serving God unless you're opening your mouth directly to spread the Gospel. But I remembered the evangelism efforts of one man, Jack T. Chick. I remember reading his comics when I was a kid, and I remember them building a foundation for my understanding of God, concerning salvation specifically. I looked up his bio and found that Chick was too afraid to talk to people about Jesus, so instead he drew comics and distributed them. And they got read! This innovation for Christ impacted my life and the lives of many others to this day. Perhaps my games can do similarly.






Project Awakened has become a tremendous part of my life. And it's been a vehicle for God to both minister to me directly and to others. Currently there is a book, "5th Grade Challenge" that is based on the game. I'm currently seeking to have it published within the next year, and for readers' sakes, I will post an excerpt in the coming days. But I wanted to first take this time out to thank God for His faithfulness to me, His planning the events and inspirations of my life, and for His using me to minister to others. I count it an honor.
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You can follow my personal spiritual journey at http://jwmfridge.blogspot.com