AKA, Earplay Co-founder Waxes Nostalgic, Philosophic, Also Manages to Introduce Self

When I was nine years old, my best friend Tom and I recorded a “radio soap opera” on cassette tape as a school project. I think we might have written a script for it, five minutes beforehand, which we sort of followed. We made all the sound effects, mostly cars, with our mouths. We were shrill, and goofy, and nine years old. It was barely comprehensible. We had a blast! We followed it up with a science fiction story and a news broadcast.

Tom and I drifted apart after he joined the swim team in high school and I didn’t, and I’m not sure what he’s up to now. I think he might be working in Hollywood. But I’m making audio stories again! Interactive ones, this time, and hopefully with a slightly higher degree of professionalism and polish.

I wanted to say hi. My name is Dave Grossman, and I’m Earplay’s “Chief Creative Officer,” a puffy sounding title which basically means that my main job is to make sure that Earplay stories are good. Good as stories, and also good as things that you play, and it can be kind of tricky to accomplish both at the same time. We do our best. If we screw up, it’s totally my fault and you can feel free to yell at me about it.

I want to reassure you, as a potential member of the audiodience (see what I did there?), that I do have prior experience with interactive stories, in fact I’ve spent most of my professional life making them. Before Earplay, I directed writing and game design at Telltale Games for nearly a decade, and before that I wrote and designed adventure games at LucasArts, including the time-worn classics The Secret of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. I’ve also penned a number of children’s games and interactive storybooks, and designed live-action participatory theater, whatever that means.


Incidentally, somebody told me that Day of the Tentacle was actually a milestone in the history of games, being the first one to use recorded voice throughout the entire experience. How appropriate! I made that one with a guy named Tim instead of Tom, but I probably had just as much fun as I did doing the soap opera in the fourth grade, and for a lot longer. I also did make one or two of the sound effects with my mouth again. In general I can’t advise that as a path to real quality, however.

In the decades (yikes) since that game was published, a lot has changed. The internet grew up and has made two-way communication much easier – the world itself is more interactive now. When I tell stories with my son, he’s sitting right there and I can ask him what kind of story he’d like to hear. Nowadays, we can do the same with you, through our forums, blog, and so on.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask a couple of philosophical questions relating to how people can interact with Earplay stories. If you’re reading this on the blog, we’re including a poll below so you can answer them that way. Comments are good, too. In any case, consider:

  • Is it better to direct a story, or to be a character in a story?
  • Which is more powerful, well-written description, or well-crafted sound design?

These are the kinds of things we think about late at night when other people are asleep. I’m interested in your answers, and whatever substantive discussion may arise, but the good news is that no matter what you chose, Earplay has already got something in the works for you. The medium of interactive audio can be used in a lot of ways, and we plan to do just that.

Good fun coming soon! Stay tuned.