DIY Dizzy NYC
Anyway — hey! Went to New York yesterday. Did some shit. Came home. Passed out.
That’s the short version.
Long(er) version? You want more?
You needn’t ask twice, loyal initiates into my Evil Wizarding Order.
We took the train into the city from Edison, NJ, which required getting to Edison, which required getting into a car at 6:30AM, which required waking up at 5:00AM. This wouldn’t have been so bad had the power not gone out at 11:30 PM, necessitating us to wake up and reset the alarm. By the time something like that happens, I’m awake. Like, awake-awake. Which means I was suddenly unsleepy at midnight. This is actually a faintly good thing, because when I reset the alarm ever-so-groggily, I set it to 5:00 PM, which would not have stirred my torpid body at the proper hour.
Thankfully, I have this weird magical power where nine times out of ten, I awaken five minutes before the alarm is supposed to go off. Edit: I am an Evil Time Wizard.
Also thankfully, this sleepytime SNAFU was the only real problem to hit over the next 24 hours.
Train into NYC went smooth.
Got to DIY Days.
Caught the Ted Hope keynote, which was a great kick-off — though it perhaps lacked in the madness and excitement of DIY Philly’s Douglas Rushkoff opener (“The male ejaculatory arc!”), it was a great reminder that “DIY” needn’t be wholly accurate. You don’t need to do it all yourself; you have a community.
Then: Brian Newman, who put forth the great theory that innovation is brought about by cutting edge technology pairing with cutting edge theory. Also: beware innovation driven by people in suits. Also: he warns us that we better pay attention to ACTA, a thing you’ve never heard of because people don’t want you to hear about it, and we need to get in on this discussion or possibly get fucked as creators.
Then: Hey! Holy shit! Guy “The Dread Pirate LeCharles” Gonzalez!
Then: Jeff Gomez, whose personal story is so incredible (it bounces wildly from “happiness!” to “tragedy!” and is currently landed on a very prominent square of happiness), and who has a very different take on things than Brian Newman. Newman warned us about suits, but Gomez has done all his work with suits and for pre-existing properties (like Avatar). Also: oh, yes, Jeff is a D&D dude. Gamers shall conquer the world.
Then: some people talked about toys-as-storytelling devices, but it really just didn’t come together for me. Feels more like they’re trying to sell me their Talking Bear rather than trying to convince me of the story-power of toys. Further, they seem to appreciate the Teddy Ruxpin route: “Toy tells a story!” Except, what I want my kids to do with toys (erm, the kids I do not possess) is “Tell stories with toys!” This thought leads eventually into my own Once Upon A Playtime talk, but more of that, later.
Then: augmented reality with Ethan Rublee. In the third dimension. Ethan showed us how the sausage is made in regards to all the Wacky Shit you can do with augmented reality, and it was awesome. Global made local! Hacking the Wiimote! Virtual Play-Doh! Plus, he showed us a snippet of an Android app with which I am very familiar, since it (ahem) might be tied to a certain (coughcough) film property I know intimately…
Then: some mumble-mouthed shithead stands up and starts talking about telling stories with games… oh. Ahem. Yeah, that was me, wasn’t it? I think the workshop went well, tried to make it somewhat… y’know, workshoppy (most workshops end up as monologues, as someone pointed out). I think it went well? You never know. It was a bit of an odd setup, and the audience formed a distant ring, leaving a radius of seats around me totally empty. As if I had the bird-flu, or breath that could drop a water buffalo at ten yards. Got some good questions. Outed some more D&D players. Got a little push-back from Andrea Phillips, who so vehemently disagreed with me, she threw a brick at my head. It hit me, and I started bleeding, and anytime someone came to help me, she waved them away with a burning torch. “Let him bleed out!” she screamed.
Okay, no. That didn’t happen. She very politely took issue with some of my statements, which is totally all good and reasonable, and then afterward came up and talked to me some more — once again, very politely — and introduced herself properly, at which point I realized who she actually was, and was embarrassed for myself because she’s not some neophyte, but rather one of the minds behind some very prominent ARG projects. (Perplex City, anyone?) Hopefully will get to catch up with her again so she can school me on The Do Of The Alternate Reality Experience. I am an eager novitiate.
Then: I wanted to catch David and Anita’s presentation on transmedia design, but hey, fuck it, Super Secret Literary Agent Stacia Decker was in the house.
So, we headed out with Stacia, wandered around the city. We ate Peruvian food (no guinea pigs were harmed in the making of this blog post) and then had artisanal cocktails at Mayahuel — mezcal? Absinthe? Resposado tequila? Jalapeno-infused? Ginger? So much goodness going around. Mezcal is fucking awesome. It literally comes infused with this deep, rich woodsmoke. I don’t mean that in a vague, “I get hints of pipe smoke and the suffering of children” way. I mean, it is an incredibly smoky-tasting drink, as smoky as good barbecue. Pair that with the lovely weirdness of absinthe, and it’s a good time.
Stacia rocks. My manuscript is in the bestest of hands. Really enjoyed hanging out with her (and getting to meet her in the first place), and wished we didn’t have a train to catch.
But we did.
We caught the 9PM train back to Edison. The train station was like a sweltering hot box jam-packed with a mighty cattle rush of passengers, and the train was pretty dang scorching, too (mmm swampcrotch) — but, we made it back, and drove home and got in the door sometime around 11PM.
So long, long day.
Brief thoughts on DIY Days in general:
Very transmedia-centric. Some people “get it,” and some don’t, I think. Jeff Gomez listed some principles for transmedia and these I agree with wholeheartedly. Though, I wonder how these standards apply to some of the work he’s done with big brands (Disney, Coke, Mattel)? Maybe they don’t count as true transmedia. Seems to me that transmedia works best when it’s applied to original properties. Trying to duct-tape a transmedia veneer to a pre-existing property run by a large corporate entity is perhaps failing to utilize those principles Jeff highlighted.
Also: sometimes people say “storytelling” but what they mean is “brand-building.” (Fred Hicks had a good response to this.) I don’t really like that. I feel like that waters down what we do as storytellers. I’m much more comfortable with referring to something as a “narrative,” I think, which is close to, but not the same thing, as storytelling. I don’t believe that “brand” or “product” are dirty words, mind you, I just don’t want to mix chocolate and peanut butter. Leave “storytelling” alone.
Secret theme running through many presentations: “local.” Locavore movement applies to your audience, to your funding, to your experience.
Some occasional railing against the gatekeeper models, but I don’t know that — outside Ted and Brian — we saw much of how to move past that model. Translation is that the NYC DIY Days felt much more “pragmatic” than earlier iterations — less Blue Sky Thinking, and more Situation On The Ground. That’s a good thing, I think. Sometimes it’s tempting to delve so deep into theory and revolution we forget that you still need to know how to do shit.
That’s it for now, I think.
Good stuff. Great day. Lovely meeting all the people I met. Also, thanks to Many New Twitter Followers. I will attempt to entertain and inform. I hope you’re comfortable with profanity.
Tomorrow I’ll post the rough cut of my workshop presentation from yesterday, just so you have it. Just so you can throw things at my head, like bricks. You know you want to.