Game Pitch: Risk – Sustainability Edition

As part of my studies in the Digital Games Cultures course at The University of Wollongong, I have been assigned a task in which the aim is to develop a board game. I have long considered the classic table-top game Risk to be the ultimate board game, and with that in mind, I have decided to create a modified version with an alternate ideological objective.

Modification or ‘modding’ of games is described by gaming scholar Dr. Hector Postigo (2007) as being the act of making modifications, or “mods” to a game. “These mods can range from changes in the physics of the virtual world to total conversions in game play that can lead to changes in story line and game type. (Postigo, 2007) In a sense, the modification of a board game echo’s media scholar Henry Jenkins’ notion of participatory media, whereby fans and programmers are converging in their roles of creating and consuming content. (Jenkins, 2006) In this context, I will endeavor to actively participate in the creation of a game by modifying a game that is already in existence.

The term ‘modding’ is often reserved to describe the act of modifying digital games, but in this article, the term will be used specifically to describe the reinterpretation and alteration of a physical table-top board game style gaming experience.

Risk is the preeminent strategy game of global domination. In the classic Risk, players are battling to conquer the world by capturing territories and defeating their opponents. A player is victorious once all other opponents are eliminated and all territories captured. The quest for conquest in Risk is interesting because it mirrors the relentless pursuit of conquest and global domination that we have seen throughout the history of civilisation, particularly in the west. Prominent examples include the British conquest of Australia in 1788, the Spanish conquest of Mexico, beginning in 1510, and perhaps most notably the Colombian conquest of North America, beginning in 1492. I note here that I for the purpose of simplicity I have chosen to refer to each of these instances by using post-colonial country branding; no disrespect or insensitivity was intended by doing so.

As much as I enjoy playing Risk, it has always found it frustrating that the game creates a narrative which promotes the notion of conquest. In each instance mentioned above, conquest has resulted in pervasive and (mostly) negative consequences for original inhabitants of the lands. For instance, both Australian and North American indigenous populations were decimated to the point of near annihilation due to British conquest, and the region now known as Mexico has seen a massive exploitation of natural resources and degradation of indigenous culture and heritage. With this in mind, I have decided to create a version of Risk in which the object of the game is to settle on and sustainably inhabit a chosen continent. Many of the original characteristics of Risk will be maintained, but this modified version will embody an ideological shift away from conquest and toward sustainability.

 

Original Risk Map

 

The first step in modifying Risk game is to reformat the map. The reason for doing this is to create more of a level playing field, so to speak. The original map for risk consists of six continents, each of which has a different number of territories, ranging from four in Australia to eleven in Asia (see map above). I have deconstructed the map and reshaped it so that each of the continents now contains an equal number of territories, thus eliminating the disparity between each of the continents (see images below). In gaming terms, this type of modification is known as mapping. The aim of the “mapper” is to design new levels, or “maps,” for a game. (Postigo, 2007)

 

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Designing the egalitarian Risk map

 

 

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Amended Risk map with an equal number (7) territories on each continent

 

The second ideological shift away from the classic Risk is to alter the game mechanics. In the classic version of Risk, the objective is to conquer the entire world. In this new version, players will endeavor to inhabit one chosen continent and create a sustainable environment. Players will still have the option to attempt to conquer other continents, but the incentive to do will be diminished. For instance, a player who has successfully inhabited the continent of South America will find it difficult to then conquer North America, as the characteristics of North America are vastly different to those of South America. If the player inhabiting South America attempts to attack North America they will face foreign diseases, a lack of agricultural knowledge, and military insufficiencies. This challenges are not impossible to overcome, yet will require the South American continent to have first created a sustainable environment on their own continent before they can confidently to attack another territory.

The primary objective here is to inhabit a continent that can withstand attack from opponents, forge a sustainable ecosystem, and maintain the health of the continent. Victory ensues when a player can successfully manage to overcome these challenges and prove to be sustainable for a series of three consecutive turns. Other continents may see a specific continent is coming close to victory and form informal alliances in order to weaken the continent that is close to achieving sustainability. This mechanic is similar to the informal alliances that may be formed in Risk, yet the object is to weaken, rather than to kill.

Other rules and objectives will be teased out further into the design phase and during the playtest phase of game development. This post serves as an introduction to the ideological function of the game. Any suggestions or critiques are welcome and encouraged.

References:

Postigo, H (2007) “Of Mods and Modders: Chasing Down the Value of Fan-Based Digital Game Modification.” Games and Culture 2: 300-13.

Jenkins, H (2006b). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press

Fake News, Anthropomorphism, Milo & Otis

It is common knowledge that the Australian media loves a rumor. Whether it be a messy celebrity break-up or financial abuse allegations from a former MP, the press can always find a way to spin a story. It’s understandable in some respects, as we all know a bit of juicy gossip is sure to lure readers. Frustratingly though a sometimes inability to confirm sources or fact check correctly is one of the needlessly untrustworthy elements of the fourth estate.

Spinning rumors or unconfirmed reports are not, however, confined to the tabloid papers or celebrity gossip magazines. Examples exist where defenseless animal actors have been pulled into the crossfire. One of the more prominent examples of this practice in Australian media history regards the story of the loveable main characters of the 1986 film ‘The Adventures of Milo and Otis’.

The film, which follows the adventures of a young tabby cat (Milo) and a pug dog (Otis) as an unlikely duo of best friends who become separated and each finds themselves on a tear-jerking and hazardous reconciliation adventure. Both protagonists are acted by real animals and the entire adventure is narrated in order to give the characters a human voice. The use of narration this film constitutes a classic example of anthropomorphism, as the animal charters are “imbued with humanlike intentions, motivations, and goals”. The practice of anthropomorphism, while interesting, is not uncommon, with countless examples of the practice present in modern media texts. What is perhaps more interesting are the rumors of animal abuse that have surfaced since the movie was first screened in the late 1980’s.

 

Throughout the film, there are various scenes in which the characters are placed in dangerous situations. Examples include a cat actor being placed in a wooden box and pushed over a waterfall, (see video below) and a pug actor entering a physical confrontation with a bear. As the movie was produced in a time before the realistic computer generated images for which we have become accustomed it is understandable that questions were raised as to whether the animal actors were treated humanely during the filming process.

 

 

Shortly after the film was released, rumors began to emerge that raised allegations of animal cruelty during filming. Brisbane newspaper The Sunday Mail reported at the time that Animal Liberation Queensland founder Jacqui Kent alleged the killing of more than 20 kittens during production, among other abuses. Animal abuse of any kind is a shameful and inexcusable act, yet in the case of Milo and Otis, the anthropomorphized nature of the animal actors made it easy for newspaper readers to empathise with the characters, and consequently to conjure a sense of outrage. The reason for (at least part of) this outrage is that anthropomorphized animal actors act as powerful agents of social connection when human connection is lacking. In the case of ‘Milo and Otis, rumors’ the human narration of the non-human protagonists allows the viewer to feel a sense of connection and intimacy with the adorable cat-dog Rumors

 

of animal abuse during filming are troubling, even sickening, yet from the perspective of a media observer what is perhaps more troubling is that in this case the rumors were reported whilst they remained unsubstantiated. The American Humane society is documented as stating at the time that there is no available evidence to suggest that any animals were harmed during the production of ‘The Adventures of Milo and Otis’. It is, of course, the role of the press to investigate a wide range of potential abuses, but more important is the responsibility to uphold the truth, and report the facts. In this case, however, it seems that the adorable and relatable nature of the characters in question has resulted in the facts of the story being placed secondary to a moral panic regarding unsubstantiated claims of animal cruelty.

 

These rumors have persisted well into the 21st century, with articles surfacing as recently as January 2017 that reference the Daily Mail’s original assertions. There is even an active Reddit forum from 2014 dedicated to the topic. This story shows not only the power of the media to spread unsubstantiated claims but also the role that anthropomorphism of non-human actors can play in providing assistance to the dissemination of such rumors. It is interesting too to note that the ‘Fake News’ phenomena have emerged recently as an apparently new trend in (mainly digital) media reporting, yet the case of Milo and Otis shows that perhaps this problem is something far older than Facebook.

Project Proposal: Virtual Reality

I’m coming to the end of my time as a digital media student, with less than one semester of full-time study remaining at the University of Wollongong (UOW). Over the past little while I have spent considerable time stressing out about what I am going to do with my life, and whether or not I have actually learned anything of value during my time at UOW. Luckily for me, I was coerced into creating this blog at the commencement of my studies, and throughout the past few years I have proceeded to publish any and all of my work here. As a result, I (and anyone else for that matter) am now able to look back and see what I have learned.  It seems that I have learned quite a lot and that my understanding of the media is much greater than when I commenced my bachelor degree. Still, the feeling remains that I have much more to learn. In a vain attempt to try and boost my skill set before I graduate I have decided to use the flexibility afforded by the course framework to train myself In a skill that I believe will prove both interesting and beneficial to my future as a media professional.

 

As was the case last year when I attempted to learn JavaScript, I have again chosen to research an emerging digital media technology that I believe will be prominent in the media landscape of the future. After deliberation with both university staff and the Twitterverse I have decided, somewhat hesitantly, to attempt to create a virtual reality (VR) experience using Unity software.

 

I was inspired to create a digital artefact using VR because in 2017 we are living in the moment where VR is about to become mainstream technology. This is partly because the falling costs of producing and consuming VR are making it possible for more people to access the technology. Technologies such as Google Cardboard are emerging which is far cheaper ($15.00 AUD) than the typical console devices like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The high price of headsets combined with a high barrier to entry makes the Rift and the HTC Vive a hard sell for a lot of people. As the price is coming down it seems the uptake of VR technology is becoming ever more widespread. I feel that If my prediction of VR becoming mainstream is correct then it will be important for me, as a media professional, to have a better-than-introductory understanding of the technology.
I plan to learn-by-doing as I research VR.  I am to create a YouTube series that documents me attempting to create a VR animation in Unity. VR allows people to create and experience entire computer-generated worlds, but in this instance I will be attempting something much more simple (given that I am a beginner). I will simply be attempting to create a virtual beer bottle sitting on a virtual table.

 

I have chosen to attempt this creation in the Unity platform in Unity as my preliminary research suggests that Unity is the industry standard VR design software. On top of this I found that Unity is free to download which is highly beneficial for a struggling uni student such as myself. As I am totally inexperienced with Unity software I am hoping that I am able to learn to use Unity and create this project in an 8-week time frame. All successes and failures will be documented and I will be creating a series of YouTube vlogs to document my experience. The blogs will serve as a diary of my research, as well as providing viewers with an opportunity to learn with me as I undertake this endeavorur. I will attempt to upload the videos to my blog on a fortnightly basis, with a brief description current progress. My end goal is to have published a series of videos that can be used as tutorials for budding amateur VR enthusiasts, whilst simultaneously documenting my research methods and creative process.

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At this time, I have gone as far as downloading Unity and making initial sketches to try and visualise my VR beer bottle. My next post will contain the first YouTube video and will  also include details and links for people wishing to begin creating VR for themselves.

A Sometimes Lack of Selfie-Respect

Over the past week I have spent considerable time wading through my vast swamp of thoughts pertaining to the art of the selfie. This process begun on Tuesday as I was reading an in-depth journal titled ‘What Does the Selfie Say? Investigating a Global Phenomenon’ (2015), in which authors Theresa Senft & Nancy Baym attempt to uncover the meaning(s) behind the suddenly pervasive and ubiquitous act of self-generated photographic portraiture. I took this initial encounter to be somewhat of a defense of the selfie. The authors appear concerned that a moral panic has arisen in the debate around selfie culture, and that there is an unwarranted concern amongst the public that selfies have become symbolic of the narcissism and self-absorption present in our modern, increasingly digital, society.

At first, it was intuitive to me that selfie culture is narcissistic. The act of capturing a self-styled image itself does not intrinsically appear that way, rather, the selfie culture becomes narcissistic when images are shared with the public via the various popular social media channels. I took the publisher (and subject) of the selfie to be acting in self-interest, parading themselves in the public sphere, and seeking validation for their efforts. These thoughts, however, were just my intuition, and I found no evidence to suggest these ideas held any merit. What I did find is the new art of the selfie is complex, multi-layered, and that there is no single meaning behind the selfie phenomenon.

This conclusion left me feeling a bit lost. In all honesty, selfies are not something I really care to know about. As a media scholar, I generally think there are more important topics that deserve my attention – the recent media storm surrounding US President Donald Trump, for instance. My interest was not seriously piqued until I stumbled across the work of Berlin-based Israeli artist/ satirist Shahak Shapira, titled Yolocaust, – detailed in the video below.

 

 

Shapira was displeased by the manner in which young attendees were behaving during visits to Berlin Holocaust memorial. The artist was particularly unhappy about visitors publishing selfies that appeared to depict insensitivity toward the suffering of Jewish people during World War 2.  In retaliation, he decided to Photoshop some of the selfies he was dissatisfied with into real, powerful wartime photos that depict Jewish suffering during World War 2. The resulting Yolocaust project raises consciousness about how we should behave when visiting places that are designed to commemorate those affected by the atrocities such as the Holocaust.

instances, however, it does seem appropriate for Shapira to raise questions about appropriate conduct when taking selfies in sensitive situations. I can personally relate to the themes present in Shapira’s Yolocaust project as I have taken selfies (pictured below) when visiting various Holocaust memorials during my time in Poland.

 

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My brother Tom (right) and I (left) pose for a selfie during our trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in July 2015

 

The photo above is a selfie that my brother and I captured during our visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in Poland in 2015. The photo clearly shows us appearing stern-faced as we pose for the photo. I am seen clutching my SLR camera, which shows that I had attended the camp on that day with the intention of capturing photos. I believe there is a clear distinction between this photo and those depicted in Shapira’s Yolocaust project. The first is that unlike the photos in the Yolocaust project we do not appear to be enjoying the experience of visiting the holocaust memorial. Second, this blog post is the first time this selfie has been made public, and the sole purpose of this publication is for the purpose of an academic inquiry.

My introductory exploration into the world of the selfie found that context is all-important when deciding to capture and to share one’s selfie.  Shapira’s Yolocaust project highlight an apparent lack of respect being shown by those visiting the Berlin Holocaust memorial, whereas the selfie of my brother and I show’s the discomfort we were experiencing when visiting the Auschwitz camp to pay our respects to those who died during World War 2. My key finding was the context of a selfie may be depicted by something as simple as the facial expression of the person pictured, the caption of the image, or the decision of where to publish the image, if at all.

 

References

Senft, TM and Baym, NK 2015, ‘What does the selfie say? Investigating a global phenomenon’, International Journal of Communication, vol. 9, Vancouver

One Night Only at the Cinema

This week I took myself along to see the new Suicide Squad movie at my local Greater Union cinema in Wollongong. Unlike my previous cinema-going experiences I decided to this time channel my inner Marshal McLuhan and focus my attention primarily on the medium of the cinema, rather than the big-budget, cookie-cutter messages projected on the theatre’s walls. The aim here was to try and understand how cinemas are still desirable in the twenty-first century, and perhaps, to better understand my own bitter thoughts and feelings towards the silver-screen medium.

I was hesitant about paying money to go and watch a movie, particularly a Hollywood box office title such as The Suicide Squad. The $12.50 price of admission, coupled with my many previous underwhelming experiences with big budget US films, almost always persuades me to stay away. I still recall going to see the much hyped US comedy Nacho Libre in 2006, and falling asleep after the opening sequence. I was 15 at the time, but the overwhelming disappointment I experienced from spending $10 to watch Jack Black perform is a feeling that still haunts me ten years later.

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He sure is. Image courtesy Nacho Libre, Paramount Pictures

While reflecting on my disdain towards both Jack Black and the thought of spending money to go and see a film that I may dislike, it became clear that the cost of admission poses a significant constraint on my ability and or desire to attend the cinema. As I sought to understand the financial constraints attributed to the cinema experience I became aware that it may be explained by Torsten Hӓgerstrand’s 1970 thesis on Time Geography.

Hӓgerstrand devised a time-space path to demonstrate how human spatial activity is governed by limitations, or “constraints”. The time-space path was comprised of three categories of constraints: capability, coupling, and authority, each of which contains characteristics that explain the limitations on human movement due to physical or biological factors. The financial constraints imposed upon my cinema going experience can be attributed specifically to Hӓgerstrand’s authoritarian constraint. The authoritarian constraint specifies that an area is controlled by gatekeepers that limit access to particular individuals or groups (Schonfelder and Azhausen 2010). In this instance, the cinema plays the role of the gatekeeper and the cost of entry serves to limit access to people who are willing to pay the price of admission. This financial-authoritarian-constraint of associated with attending the cinema was difficult to overcome as I am still yet to recover from being ripped off by Jack Black in 2006.

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Greater Union Cinema, Wollongong Australia. Image by E Jurkiewicz

Authoritarian constraints are not, however, the soul limitations that governed my cinema going experience.  Hӓgerstrand’s Capability Constraints were also involved, albeit to a lesser extent than the financial restrictions imposed by the cinema gatekeepers. Capability constraints are described by Schonfelder and Azhausen (2010) as “limitations on human movement due to physical or biological factors”. Put simply, a human cannot travel instantaneously between two locations, so a trade-off must be made between space and time in order to facilitate an experience. Given that the Greater Union Cinema in Wollongong is located approximately 300 meters from my house I was relatively unperturbed by sacrificing my time in order to facilitate a trip to the cinema space. To put this in context, the time it takes for me to walk from home to the cinema was approximately 3 minutes. This is significantly less than the time it would take to (illegally, or legally) download a movie at home. Given the location of my house in comparison to the cinema, the capability constraint’s in this instance can be viewed as almost insignificant.

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Greater Union Cinema has both an expansive and expensive candy bar. Image by E Jurkiewicz

The third, and final, Spatio-temporal limitation at play during my cinema-going experience was of Hӓgerstrand’s “coupling constraint”. A coupling constraint refers to the need to be in one particular place for a given length of time, often in interaction with other people (Schonfelder and Azhausen, 2010). Greater Union Wollongong was relatively empty during the Monday afternoon screening of The Suicide Squad. The cinema was scarcely filled approximately 10 other people, all of whom I was sharing the space with. I don’t mind being coupled with other punters as I seek to be entertained; this phenomenon is fairly familiar to me as a fan of live sport and music. Going to the movies, however, offers a sense of intimacy that does not occur when watching a Carlton game at the MCG. Perhaps this is due to comparatively small audience afforded in the cinema space, or perhaps because the theatre is cloaked in darkness. Whatever the case I do not find the coupling constraints at play during a movie screening to be advantageous, quite the opposite in fact. At home when I watch a movie (or Simpsons re-run) I am afforded the freedom and autonomy to control my viewing experience. Sometimes I like to get up and have a drink or use the bathroom, at which time I can pause the movie and recommence when I am ready. This luxury was relinquished as I sat, coupled with a group of strangers in the cinema. This issue is unique to the cinema yet other forms of entertainment not devising solutions that accommodate viewers. Live sport, for instance, overcomes this issue by offering breaks-in-play where spectators can attend to their beverage and bathroom requirements without missing out on the show. For me, the coupling constraints at play during my cinema experience detracted from my overall enjoyment of the film.

In the end, I had a pretty good time at the movies. It is fascinating to see my cinema-going experience has a time-space path embedded within it. The Suicide Squad lived up to my underwhelming predictions and after the film was finished, I was back home before the credits had finished rolling. Overall the experience was relatively positive and has even assisted me on the path to overcoming my post traumatic-Jack-Black stress disorder.

References


Schonfelder, S & Axhausen KW 2010, ‘Time, Space and Travel Analysis: An Overview’, in S Schonfelder & KW Axhausen (eds), Urban Rhythms and Travel Behaviour: Spatial and Temporal Phenomena of Daily Travel, Ashgate Publishing Company, Surrey, p.29-48.

Gojira’s Nuclear Anxieties

Earlier this month I wrote an autoethnographic account of my experience watching the original 1954 Japanese film ‘Gojira’. My account included several themes that I peeked my curiosity during the initial viewing, and since watching the film I have spent some time researching Gojira in an attempt to better understand my observations.

My initial observation was the antiquated cinematographic techniques on display. This observation was hardly surprising given the film was released in 1954, at a time when colour movies had been invented, but were not yet mainstream.

My second and perhaps more interesting observation is the apparent nuclear paranoia on display in the film. I detailed this observation in my previous post by stating the following: “I found the repeated references to nuclear energy surprising given the film was produced less than a decade after the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during world war two, in 1945. Gojira’s thematic preoccupation with nuclear energy shows that the filmmakers still harboured anxieties and curiosities about nuclear energy, and the popularity of the film amongst a Japanese audience tells me that the county’s media consumers could relate to the concept.” This “nuclear paranoia”, as I put it, was worthy of further study. I was initially unsure of whether I would be able to find any scholarly sources relating to my observation so I basically just typed the terms ‘Gojira’ and ‘Nuclear’ into Google Scholar. Success! To my surprise, I watched as a plethora of relevant search results appearing before my eyes. Maybe I’m on to something here?

 

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Screenshot from Google Scholar

 

Nancy Anisfield, writing in the 1995 ‘Journal of Popular Culture’, appeared as the most relevant source of information. Ainsfield uses the opening page of her article to acknowledge the nuclear themes present in the Gojira film. The author states “Godzilla films equate the monster with the atomic bomb” and that the Japanese versions, (including Gojira, 1954) symbolically repeat the trauma of Hiroshima, establish the monster as an archetype of Japanese horror. These paragraphs by Ainsfield serve as an explanation of my observations about Gojira. The film is directly tied to the fears and anxieties of the Japanese people following the 1945 U.S nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 

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Gojira’s ‘mushroom cloud’ semiotics.  Image credit: Gojira (1954)

 

Anisfield’s claims regarding Gojira are echoed in a research paper titled Godzilla and the Japanese after World War II: From a scapegoat of the Americans to a saviour of the Japanese by Yoshiko Ikeda, associate professor from Ritsumeikan University in Japan. Ikeda claims fears and anxieties of atomic bombs are depicted in many scenes of the Gojira story. The author exemplifies the films nuclear anxieties by highlighting the scene in which a fisherman’s boat is attacked by Godzilla, showing complete devastation. In the scene, a strip of paper at a seafood store advertises: ‘We don’t sell atomic bomb damaged tuna’. Ikeda then states Godzilla’s “violent destruction of the city is designed to provoke a series of war memories in the minds of the audience.” This sentence, in particular, confirmed my initial suspicion that the film included nuclear paranoia because the theme would have been easily relatable to Japanese media audiences.

By researching Gojira I confirmed my initial assumption that the film deliberately included themes relating to nuclear catastrophe. The filmmakers used the tragedies of World War 2 to produce scenes that were relatable to the audience. I found this surprising at first but this particular line by Nancy Anisfield helped me to see the silver lining in a seemingly dark plot:
“Humans made the bombs. The bombs created the monsters. The monsters punish the humans. After enough punishment, the humans are left in peace. For me, this sentence by Anisfield’s also explains Gojira’s standing as a masterpiece of Japanese cinema.

Two Walls

Just off Keira Street in downtown Wollongong, a kaleidoscopic mess of urban art murals sprawls across the back wall of the local Youth Centre. It’s a Friday afternoon and Anthony Jones is standing in the open with his back to the wall and a mask across his face. His right hand grips a full can as he chats to a bunch of local kids. “The Fact that I was able to turn this into an operable business that supports me full time, that’s my biggest achievement,” he proudly remarks as his young students listen intently. Painting walls is finally paying the bills for the artist formally known as Peske.

 

It wasn’t long ago that a young Anthony found himself staring at the walls of a prison cell, wondering where it all went wrong. “I had a fairly long stint. I was in there for fifteen months.” One year and three months. A long stretch with plenty of time to stare at the cold, blank walls and reminisce about the many mistakes made during a misspent youth.

 

It all started pretty early on. “I was from a young age a fairly troublesome kid, I caused my parents a fair bit of grief.” Hanging around with the wrong crowd in Wollongong got Anthony’s parents worried. They thought a fresh start might change his attitude so he was shipped off down to Melbourne to live with his Aunty.

 

He arrived in outer-suburban Melbourne at age fourteen and started hanging out at the skate park in Croydon with a kid called SED.

 

“That was when I started rubbing shoulders with graffiti artists.”

 

SED was the same age and seemed happy to show him the ropes. “He took me around Melbourne and showed me all of the hotspots; the laws, subculture.” Anthony was instantly hooked. “It was very graffiti orientated…, tags, throw ups, pieces, we literally did it wherever we could”. He felt at home in the graffiti subculture and quickly made a name for himself under the pseudonym Peske.

 

“It wasn’t law abiding but that’s where it all starts.”

 

Defacing property became a daily routine for Peske and SED. Their misfit band of counter-culture-graffiti-artists would roam the streets, touching up walls with a can of spray paint in one hand and a can of beer in the other.“ I can see how people could see that its defacing property and I can see that on the same token its total artistic freedom, there’s canvases everywhere,” says Anthony.  Despite this, it wasn’t all fun and games. Anthony’s parents were shocked when his new love of grog and graffiti followed him back to Wollongong.

 

Anthony was out left on the streets of Sydney.

 

“I moved back up and my parents couldn’t cope… I was in refuges around Sydney. I was probably in around fifteen different refuges, I was in there for a max of two months at a time and for a huge chunk of that time I was just on the streets. I was just couch surfing… I was still painting and doing my thing in amongst all that.”

 

Anthony recalls ringing his dad at two o’clock one morning from a payphone in Sydney, begging for cash. “The way you’re going, you’re going to end up in gaol,” his father warned.

 

A cocktail of drugs and alcohol mixed with an aggressive temperament was a recipe for disaster. His father could see Anthony spiralling out of control. “The spin-offs of things they were doing ultimately landed me in big trouble.” Soon after the strong warning from his father Anthony realised that his graffiti habit wasn’t getting him anywhere. “I was thinking about it one day and it was after I had gone out painting and I saw my stuff around and for the first time I realised that it wasn’t really doing anything for me anymore, it wasn’t aligned with what I wanted to be or what I wanted to do anymore…you’re sitting there painting fences and it seems a little bit childish.”

 

It was a long time coming—vandalism, drugs, alcohol and now a serious assault conviction. For Anthony, the slamming of the cell door came as a rude shock—the kind of shock that snaps you into gear.

 

“I looked around and I thought, are you a gangster Anthony? Are you a gangster? I want to know, are you a gangster? Because if you are then this is the place for you, and this is the rest of your life, right here: you’re looking at it. These concrete walls and the barbed wire and all the fences, this is you man, sign up,” he said. “If it’s not you, then something needs to change, it needs to change right now and it needs to change in here. Because if you can start making a change towards a better future inside then you can mould who you are mentally and also physically to be able to come with what’s going to be put before you when you get out.”

 

The now fit and rakish Anthony Jones spent the remainder of his sentence steeling himself for a second chance at life. “Fitness played a big part when I was in gaol… I went in and I was all skinny and malnourished and now I had all this access to food and a large amount of time and I was drug free- so I was training.” Anthony was sporting both a healthy body and mind when he finally got to experience the pure, unadulterated joy of redemption.

 

“It was the most amazing experience of my life.”

 

Those first couple of months out of prison were the most important. “I needed to formulate some sort of game plan, on how this was going to be lasting change.” The first step was severing ties with all his old friends and joining the local gym. The transformation was clear for all to see: gaunt drug addict to bushy-tailed gym goer.

 

His positive new outlook and fresh love of fitness landed Anthony a job as a store manager for a supplement company in Albion Park. One day his boss approached him, “I know that you used to do graffiti,” he said. Anthony was initially shocked but his boss’ revelation was quickly followed by a request. “Would you mind doing a mural piece in Woonona, in our new store?”

He hadn’t picked up a can for five years but the request made Anthony curious. He was keen to give it a shot.

 

“I went out and painted the mural.  I was there for a couple of hours and the boss said, here’s the money for the materials and here’s a little bit extra for your time. I jumped in my car and I put the money on my passenger seat and I was driving home and it was literally the craziest moment—I just got paid for doing something that I love, for the first time”.

 

It all of a sudden seemed like a no-brainer. The same creative outlet that once led him astray could provide a source of income and a platform for Anthony to express himself creatively.

 

He ran with the inspiration and formed his business, Urban Art Australia.

 

“Fundamentally what we do, we paint murals, that’s what we do,” he said.

 

After just two short years Anthony’s business is supporting him full time and his murals can be seen vibrantly sprayed on homes and shopfronts all across the Illawarra region. Business is booming and Urban Art Australia has gone a long way to shaping Anthony’s second chance at life.

 

albert

 

Local Wollongong Youth Worker Claudia Boiano knew Anthony when he was young and has witnessed his transformation first-hand. “Anthony was able to turn his life around from being a troubled young person to a fully functioning adult that wants to give back to his community through his skill in art,” she said. Claudia and Anthony have recently facilitated an aerosol art workshop at the local Youth Centre and Claudia gladly remarks on the impact Anthony is having on the lives of young blokes in the area.

 

“He was able to articulate to the young people positive and encouraging lessons that also provided a safe environment that allowed the young people to express themselves in a creative way.”

 

The kid who grew up on the wrong side of the law is now showing a new generation of young people the right way to operate.

 

As he winds up his latest workshop out the back of the youth centre, Anthony explains his process to the students who are now hanging off his every word. “I try to get up and think what did I do yesterday that I can do differently today, to get more out of life, to get more out of myself, and to give more to the people that are around me”. The artist formally known as Peske, who got dirty with a spray can from age fourteen, has finally cleaned himself up.