The inside of C. Michael Hall’s mind is a fascinating place, where science fiction, fantasy, collectible card games, comic books, and roleplaying games all gather to meet and mix.
“All of that sort of swirls together into this perfect maelstrom of geekery,” said Hall, a 2011 alumnus McPherson College in Portland, Ore.
That maelstrom in his head often pops out a wonderful new creative work. Most recently, the result of his internal hurricane is “Vampsylvania.”
Vampsylvania is a card and dice game designed, developed and drawn by Hall featuring the most delightful little undead vampires. The full-color artwork is a perfect mix of cartoon charm and classic movie monster campiness – where Charlie Brown intersects with Eddie Munster.
“It was really an outgrowth of pushing myself to do new things,” Hall said. “My goal was to make something adorable. I wanted it to be really cute.”
Each player takes on the role of an enthusiastic “newbie” vampire. There’s just one barrier to their reign of “terror” – they’ve unfortunately turned undead near the most vampire-savvy village in existence.
“You’re a bad guy of fairly limited competence when it comes right down to it. The shtick is that this is the town that’s completely prepared to deal with you,” Hall said. “While you’re competing against each other, there are times where you have to begrudgingly help each other. I thought that would make for a really fun social dynamic and gameplay dynamic.”
Hall was able to secure enough crowdfunding in less than 24 hours to produce and sell Vampsylvania. Since then, he has been able to secure more than double his original funding goal, with weeks still remaining in the campaign.
Hall said a number of his experiences as a student at McPherson College were important inspirations that led to Vampsylvania. He became more deeply interested in theories of game design in classes taught by Dr. Kerry Dobbins, assistant professor of history. Dr. Dobbins uses the Barnard “Reacting to the Past” curriculum in many classes. The series uses an immersive game over several weeks to help students better understand historical events.
Next, MC started an entrepreneurship initiative while Hall was attending. While he wasn’t directly involved in the initiative, Hall thinks just being exposed to the concepts may have planted a seed that led him to try independently funding and producing Vampsylvania as an entrepreneurial venture.
Most relevant to Vampsylvania, while at MC, he partnered with the director of library services to create the art for “Library of the Living Dead” – a unique guide to the college’s Miller Library, which used a classic zombie story to introduce students to library resources.
That experience led to a whole series of commissions to create similar “Library Comics” for other institutions using the same movie-monster, science fiction and fantasy tropes. These included “Monster Clash” (2011) for the Wilton Library Association of Wilton, Conn.; “Supreme Librarians in Metaspace” (2012) for the School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University; “Sundown at the Library” (2012) for the Graham Library at Coffeyville Community College in Coffeyville, Kan.; and “Secret of the Pirate Library” (2014) for Independence Community College in Independence, Kan.
That work culminated with the publication of “Information Now: A Graphic Guide to Student Research,” on which he was a co-author. The full-length textbook published in October 2015 by the University of Chicago Press is written as an engaging graphic novel. It covers how to engage students in “information literacy.” Among the methods are, of course, graphic novels and comics (and, yes, for the nerds, geeks and genre fans, that is very “meta.”)
Hall said that now he is working hard on developing two more games and writing and illustrating a full-length graphic novel.
“This is something people are going to seeing from me a lot in the near future,” he said.
His perfect storm of ideas, it appears, is far from spent.
Learn more about Vampsylvania at vampsylvania.blogspot.com and about all of C. Michael Hall’s work at www.cmichaelhall.blogspot.com.