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Apr 23rd
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An 8-bit Epic

ae3'Samson's Quest' revels in a 1993 that could have been

I hate graphics," Christopher Rosenberg says, explaining that his disdain for the ultra-real renderings found in many of today's most popular videogames is likely directly linked to the many hours of his youth that he spent playing 8- and 16-bit Nintendo and Super Nintendo consoles.

"Some of my earliest memories are of playing Zelda II on an NES console," the 24-year-old Los Altos resident says. It is a time of great nostalgia for Rosenberg, though he doesn't always accurately recollect his childhood.

"You know how when you're so young, everything has sort of a dream-like quality?" he asks. It often occurs that when Rosenberg attempts to remember the early '90s—the era in which his forthcoming film, Samson's Quest, is based—he pictures many objects not as hazy and ephemeral. Instead, he sees them as a mosaic of tiny pixels.

"The landscapes in particular," he says, "I sort of remember them in an 8-bit pattern, even though it was reality."

Rosenberg aims to create this feeling with Samson's Quest, a tale of love and videogames, set in "an alternate 1993,” which will be shot in Santa Cruz. That is, if all of the 8-bit enthusiasts chip in.

Rosenberg, like many web-savvy artists these days, has turned to Kickstarter—a social networking site for fundraising—to cobble together the $19,000 he says he needs to make his film.

It's slow going. The day GT caught up with him, Rosenberg’s Kickstarter campaign had 27 days left to raise the money, which, if you ask him, is "almost nothing" when it comes to making a feature-length motion picture. If the entire $19,000 isn't there by July 16, the money which has been pledged will be returned to the donors, and Rosenberg will have to start again. And he plans to.

"We probably won't make it this time," he shrugs. But not to worry—unlike the hero in his story, Rosenberg has more than a single night to complete his quest.

The film centers around Samson, a twentysomething romantic, struggling to win over his crush: the unapproachable tomboy and videogame professional, Olga. In an attempt to woo her, Samson has strived to become a worthy gamer. One fateful afternoon, after borrowing a console and game from his muse, Samson and his friends accidentally delete Olga's saved game.

The rest of the story follows Samson as he frantically struggles to beat the game in one sleepless night, with the help of various friends.

In designing the sets and selecting the wardrobe, Rosenberg aims to stick as closely as he can to a very specific 56-color palate: the very same collection of shades and hues used by early developers to construct the worlds found within Nintendo games.

Rich Vreeland, better known as Berkeley, Calif.-based chiptune artist Disasterpeace, has agreed to score the film "for incredibly cheap" if they end up raising the money.

Getting Disasterpeace to sign on to the project was a coup, Rosenberg says. Vreeland's notoriety within the world of chiptune—a genre consisting of a wide variety of styles of music all performed using the buzzing, lo-fi, 8-bit tones familiar to anyone who has played early videogames—has helped Rosenberg reach out to circles he would otherwise not have access to.

The cross-collaboration doesn't end there. Samson's Quest will also utilize indie developers of lo-fi games. The way Rosenberg describes it, the characters in the movie are meant to be playing one epic game. But, in reality, they will actually be playing a series of games. "Whenever we show footage of the game that they're playing, we want to show footage of these indie developers."

Those developers, in turn, are helping spread the word about the Samson's Quest Kickstarter campaign within their own social networks.

Throw in the Grecian pixel artist, Helm, who has contributed art for promotional Samson's Quest T-shirts, and Rosenberg's film is an international project.

It may seem like a lot of work for a film that hasn't even shot one frame of footage, but if all of the people involved in the project are anything like Rosenberg, it will be worth it.

"I feel like it's something a lot of people in my generation grew up doing," he says of videogames. "It's this piece of cultural heritage that isn't really reflected in narrative fiction, and I wanted to find a way to do that." And besides, he quips, "I'm a hardcore nerd." 

For more information about ‘Samson’s Quest’ and to donate to the project, visit http://kck.st/L3EOiq.

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