Dazzle, Jim Mott's new app

Dazzle, Jim Mott’s new app

My friend Jim Mott came by a little while ago to discuss painting, “Tim’s Vermeer,” marriage, money, the uncanny behavior of birds, and an app he invented and created with the help of his partner, Bruce Campbell. A few days later, as a follow-up, he introduced me to a spot on the southern shore of Lake Ontario where you can see a dozen kinds of warbler in the course of an hour. They congregate there, biding their time before flying across the lake into Canada, maybe waiting for it to warm up enough to justify the effort. I photographed half a dozen warblers, a thrush I’d never seen before, a screech owl, a Lincoln sparrow and a couple catbirds. It was my first “birding” excursion, aside from climbing out of my TV-viewing chair to get a shot of a bird on our birdbath in the backyard.

The bird talk wasn’t completely unrelated to what he came to demonstrate: the game he made, called Dazzle, which is for sale on iTunes. It was designed with a couple disparate things in mind: the markings of a black and white warbler–which we saw in the woods a few days later–and the nautical camouflage used in World War I, called dazzle. Playing the game is simple: you try to rotate diagonal black-and-white squares to either match up colors for yourself or avoid matching them for your opponent. Points are assigned based on the number of matches. The level of simplicity is somewhere between Tic Tac Toe and Minesweeper. The game offers a virtual roll of dice to determine which square you have to rotate, and you can either play against the app or against another person.

“One of the things I like about it is that you can do something else intelligent, like have a conversation, while playing it,” he said.

Since Jim’s project, as an artist, is to take money out of the picture when it comes to art–traveling around the country and staying with people overnight in exchange for a painting of their surroundings–this app represents a very minor equivalent to a grant application or tenure for other artists. In other words, income not related to art sales. He created it to inspire the competitive urge, but also to give players a chance to get fascinated enough with the patterns they’re creating to quit caring who wins. That would be a nice principle to see applied to a lot of other activities. I bought it. It’s fun. Better yet, it’s like a donation to a Kickstarter campaign, without the Kickstarter.

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