“I’m confused”, my Dad would say. ”What do you do for a living?”
I try to explain that I produce projects on the web, on mobile, through social, supporting TV.
Then I catch him explaining to someone, “She works with computers. No.. not a programmer. No, not in graphic design. Frankly, I don’t know what she does. She sits in front of her computer all day.”
[Sigh.] When did it become complicated? Old media was simple. You worked on TV, Radio, Film. You would be on staff at a newspaper, magazine. You would produce a book. These were simple, absolute THINGS. Actual products. They were created and they were absolute.
Old Media is a THING. A THING that DID NOT CHANGE.
Once it was produced, it was consumed. You would go to the store and buy it. Sit down and watch or listen to it. The producers created the opportunity for you to be entertained by it. It was a wonderful thing. You approached your experience, generally knowing what to expect.
But something changed.
It is simpler than you think. Little ones and zeros were joined to create a virtual space inside a computer. These ones and zeros matured and evolved to change anything on a screen instantly. Don’t like the size of the picture? Change it. Then, these ones and zeros roamed through wires from one computer to the next. From a server in Chicago, to one in Toronto. These tubes became the internet and the internet grew into the world wide web.
Still with me? You continue to consume old media. Analogue media. Its great. But this internet stuff is growing beside it.
So.. what changed?
The ability to change media. You can talk on forums. Each move you make in a video game has a direct impact in front of you. The birth of social media where you can share and contribute to anyone’s media. There is a fancy name for this. PARTICIPATORY MEDIA.
In old media, you would passively consume. In new media, you can Participate and CHANGE the media in front you. It was no longer a thing. A product. But a growing changing media. And… you don’t know exactly what to expect.
HOW ABSOLUTELY MIND BOGGLING!!
So Dad… I make participatory media in this new age of the internet. And yes, I do it with computers.
There was all kinds of kids. Kids that were obsessive about learning, kids who just played for fun… and kids who laughed at my jokes (I really liked those…)
And there was a few occasions where I would get a new student who was.. how shall I put this… not piano learning inclined. The kid knew it, I knew it… but the tricky part was telling the parent it.
The conversation would go something like this…
Me: ”I need to talk to you about George. He is a very talented, sweet, funny kid, but after X number of lessons, I can say that he is not wired for piano”.
Parent: “What do you mean?”
Me: “Piano takes a certain kind of natural skill set. You need to look at the page. Decode it. Transfer that knowledge to your fingers and execute. Not every kid is wired that way. They are not naturally inclined to let that kind of information transfer through them. But rest assured, they are wired for other great talents..”
Parent: “So.. you are saying, that my kid sucks at piano.”
Me: “No. I’m saying, his time would be better spend learning something that is is naturally wired to do. Like the guitar, the violin, or the circus.”
Never an easy conversation, but definitely a necessary one.
How does apply to the interactive space? I was having a lovely dinner with my friend Sasha Boersma who is the coordinator at Centennial College for the IDM post graduate program which we also both teach in. We got talking about, what it takes to succeed in the digital space.
They need to be wired a certain way… just like piano. But, what is that exactly.
They need to be wired to hack.
Now.. hacking has a bad rep. It brings up images of Guy Fawkes mask and illegal activity. The hacking I’m talking about is the kind where you look at a problem and/or a situation and you thrive on the challenge to fix, change, solve, improve in new and different ways.
What are you talking about? Let me give you an example.
I needed to get a flash game up on a webpage in order to distribute it to stakeholders in the same day. Easy? Not if you don’t own a website. The broadcaster’s dev team was too busy to do it, internally we didn’t have access to the FTP site. How are we going to post this? There were no CLIENT resources available. So.. what did I do? Just uploaded it to my personal site. Yes… it says “laurindashaver.com/blahblahblah” when I distribute it, but it was distributed.
Now was this solution revolutionary? Hell no. But it was the nth hack I did that day to keep the project moving.
In digital, you need to have a hacking mentality to get things done.
There are no textbook answers. My students who expect a step by step guide on how to solve problems will be disappointed. There is only your creative imagination and google.com (never under estimate what you can google). And the drive to figure things out.
There are many ways you approach a hack.
- What is the most obvious solution?
- Can’t do the most obvious solution? Ok.. Google an answer.
- 3 ideas come to my mind when looking stuff up.
- Explore those ideas with people on your team.
- Brainstorm more.
- Have a conversation with your muse/god/pet.
- Don’t give up.
- Ask a friend
- Don’t give up.
- This is fun.
- And… it can be solved.
You need to have that difficult question with yourself. Are you wired for Interactive? Are you actively hacking?
What have you hacked for me lately?
Originally posted on Village Gamer.
INplay’s world is made of Lego.
Or that is what Mark Surman, Executive Director or Mozilla Foundation, wants us to see. Not a far reach for the kid creatives in the audience who were looking for inspiration and ideas at this year’s international event.
Mark started the INplay 2012 conference off with his keynote, getting the audience to think about the web as pieces. Pieces that can be hacked, changed, mashedup, and parodied. So, why would we want the web to be in pieces? Because kids expect to play. This includes content on the web.
His project, Hackasaurus, provides tools that make it easy for kids to remix, create and share on the web. The X-ray Goggles tool can see the code behind the Google logo, on the Google home page and through some simple steps, the user can change it to any other image they want and then send it to friends to show their amazing work.
MEEmoo is another example. This framework connects open-source modules, powered by any web technology. So you choose a module, then another one. Then you connect them with this fun, colourful wire. Voila, a new app! The fascinating part was a new app was created in the time it took him to explain what it was he was doing.
His point: the web is made up of digital assets that can be remixed together because the work is modifiable and changeable for self-expression. It’s the joy of learning and creating. Just like Lego.
Co-Creating with Kids
David Fono from Atmosphere Industries walked us through a compelling case study of creating a game for kids, with a team of seven kids aged 8-10. The result was Watchers, a game about online privacy. Two young game creators joined the panel to share key learning points:
- Snacks are mandatory
- No direct “educational” stuff. Boring.
- Turning off the lights and running around can be productive.
- Lots of Breaks
- Make the process “Gameful.” Make it fun. Even the adults admitted they had more fun creating.
- Don’t present classifications. Instead, let the kids create from their own experience.
- If you can make a Zombie with milk and pig feet, anything is possible.
- “Multiple funs”. Just because you think it’s fun, doesn’t mean I think it’s fun. Thus, multiple funs need to be created.
Narrative is NOT STORY in gaming
It is the narrative of the activity, not the story when it comes to gaming. This is a huge shift in thinking for traditional story creatives.
A mobile device is not a phone for a 4 year old. It’s where they play games, create stuff and read books.
A touch screen cuts across all demographics. Kids take to it immediately. In fact, kids are getting so good at eye/ hand coordination that their tests are extraordinary. Just don’t get them to thread a needle. They can’t. Traditional eye/hand coordination activities are dying.
Focus on the user and their experience. If the experience is easy and fun, you’ve got a great narrative.
It’s not always about winning
Björn Jeffery, co-founder of Toca Boca, approaches kid gaming design by creating an environment where they use their imagination and foster co-play. Oh… and there is nothing to win. Their games are designed to be open-ended, designed around a theme and the gameplay is up to the user.
Image their Tea Party app. A child invites a parent to sit down and play. Maybe add a few stuffed friends. You pour tea. Tell stories. Share snacks. It’s just like the real thing, with the play happening between the kid, parent and stuffies, with no mess to worry about. Oh.. and if you do spill your tea in the app, there is a cloth to wipe it up.
The device and the game are simply props. The real interaction and the fun is between people using the screen. Definitely a win, win.
Interactive Design Principles for Children
Carla Engelbrecht Fisher is a game designer with a research obsession. And much to the audience’s delight, she shared some really great insights into how to design specifically for kids.
- Kids’ fingers are not perfect. Make big areas for them to touch, because they are not necessarily accurate.
- Drag and drop is tough. Give them incremental steps as they go along to encourage success.
- Repeat, Repeat, Repeat instructions.
- Immediate feedback is needed. When the child does / touches something, there should be sound, a visual clue, maybe balloons.
- Expect multiplayer chaos. Carla played this very cute and amazing video of 7 kids playing Dance Dance Revolution at the same time.
- Create in purchase gates. Don’t interrupt game play for purchasing prompts.
Families Play Together Online
If you want to create games that trigger deep routed emotion, use the strongest emotional force that humans know – the connection between parents and children.
Technology, by design, rips family apart by putting family members in their own technology silos. Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell games, walked us through the psychology and mechanics that work best for bringing families together.
So let’s face it. As a parent, playing with a child, it can get… um…. boring. My friends call it death by Candyland. So creating an app that attracts both the child and the parent requires something for both of them. It is a shared experience around a theme that both kids and parents care about.
One way to do this is to provide an experience that a family can do together. Jesse showed a video where a child was driving a car collecting words for the parent to unscramble. The child sees the word correctly, runs into it and then the parents sees it on a different part of the screen to unscramble. The more words the parent unscrambles, the more boosts the child gets for driving their car. The trick here is that the word is on the screen before the parent has to unscramble. Therefore, the thinking is that the parent knows what the word is before it arrives in their unscrammbler. Yet, since the scrambling area is on a different part of the screen, the parent doesn’t see the word. They are appearing too quickly. The team learns quickly that to achieve ultimate success the child has to say the word out loud. This is true cooperative play.
Self Publishing. Not the scary. Really.
If an app is in the app store, does anyone know it’s there? How does one self publish and then get users to purchase?
The panelists of this session agreed on how to get noticed and get sales for your self-published game.
- Make sure your game is world class. If it’s not great, nothing will help it.
- Remove all obstacles to getting the game. Make it easy and simple.
- Create a demo video and place it on YouTube.
- Do community reach, long term. Create a Facebook fan page and talk to your audience. Often.
- Be free. Temporarily. Get people to try it and encourage them to talk about it.
At the end of the day, it’s about Play
The common theme this year was play. Playing with Lego, playing with kids and families, making it fun and easy for kids to play.
As for the future, it’s unclear. Participants all agreed there is one, but technology and the industry are moving too fast to accurately predict.
For me, the conference sparked a lot of ideas and I made a ton of new connections. But after sitting down for 2 days, my only request is that each day at 2pm, we should have turned off the lights and run around.
So.. I’m investigating my options right now and I’m sure it means I will leaving dreamhost shortly.
Stay tuned… new look, new host, new posts… with same old me.
Is so easy. You get busy and then one day passes, then 2, them 30. And before you know it, you are one of those blogs you HATE. The ones where there is nothing new posted for about 3 million days. Crickets sound. Cobwebs collecting in the corner.
What happened? I didn’t show up.
Its like the friend who stops calling. Doesn’t come when invited. And you get pissed off because you take it personally. What did I say? What the hell is wrong?
But its not you, its me. I didn’t show up.
Why? Oh god. I could give you three million reasons. I was busy, my computer has been a pain in the ass, my personal life took over, I was focused on starting other things.
At the end of day, for this relationship to work. I have to do my part. I know that. And I didn’t.
I will do better.
Thank you so much for all your positive feedback about my last post, The Extremely Personal Post. It reminds me that when I struggling through crisis, the first question every professional asked me was “Who is your support network”? You can’t and shouldn’t do it alone. So.. thank you all for helping. And if I can help in anyway (got 2 amazing ears and can buy you decent coffee) let me know.
The one bit that I got the most feedback on was challenging my personal beliefs. Now.. strangely enough.. this is not just a personal thing, but also equally applies to your work. My business partner, the fabulously talented Jessica Zwaiman Lerner, and I are working through a business plan. Well, she is and I’m supporting. Through this process we are breaking down our assumptions. Here are some learnings we have experienced so far.
1. There is a difference between what you do and defining it as a business.
Both Jessica and I come from the media world. We talk like TV people, because we were raised and trained as TV people. Our world is filled with stories, characters, dialogue, connection, visuals, etc. What does this has to do with building the business? Its the product, not how we are going to make money. We need to separate building the product from figuring out how the product will carry a revenue. This means shifting from the language of the creative to the language of the financial when necessary. Not easy.
2. We know alot. Not!
Jessica and I are not new at this. We are both seasoned professionals with 20 years experience each. But every time we approach something there are gaps in our understanding. But we have the maturity to say “we don’t know” and trust our networks to help us and some good old research. The temptation is to think you know more than you know. Then your assumptions get out of whack and your plan starts to loose its ground. I want to start a drinking game with a shot for every time one of us says.. “I don’t know.”
3. Trust your Gut.
When something is right, it feels right too. While we are filling in our gaps, researching, picking brains of people smarter than us, we are percolating. And as the problem presents itself, if we listen to ourselves carefully enough, Voila… our gut reveals the answer. Now.. everyone says they follow their gut. But do you really? If something is nagging you inside.. do you speak up and say… “something isn’t quite right.” I sometimes ignore that feeling and always to my detriment.
4. Working with an amazing someone
I think working with someone really challenges your thinking and brings out the best out of you. But if that partner doesn’t support you, understand where you are coming from and doesn’t challenge your thinking.. then how is 2 better than one? My dream for years was to work with Jessica.. and now that we are knee deep in it, I realize how we can accomplish so much more as 2 than as 1.
5. The world is changing
Between the economy, the way people consume content and the way people stay connected to the world is changing. its scary and unsettling. But there is something that never changes. People. They are the constant to whom if you do something in these challenging times to make their life better, then you’ve got something. I remind myself what is the ultimate goal. I am SHOCKED frankly at how easy it is sometimes to loose sight of it. I’m going to have to tattoo it to my hand.
So there you have it… Have you had any assumptions lately that were challenged? Or new learnings that you can share? Would love to hear them.
July 30, 2011
I am the CEO of my life.
Frankly, I was shocked that as soon as I read the post, I HAD to write my comment. It was like I had no choice. I had to state my position because I have finally figured it out.
Figured what out?
That I’m ok.
Let me give you some background.
3 years ago I made the most difficult decision of my life. I decided to end my marriage of 7 years. Not an easy thing you can imagine, with 2 very young kids in tow. But it was the right decision. And I did it. This was just the start of 3 years of crisis.
It went from a separation, to getting laid off, to my mom being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour, to her dying a year later, to my dad suddenly suffering from mobility issues.
How did I cope?
Ok.. being honest. I didn’t. I survived.
Have you ever been in a position where you just deal with what is screaming in front of you. Because you have to. Because it is the right thing to do? I think we all have. You do what needs to be done and you move on.
The problem in my case, is that it was 3 years of this. Living in crisis. It becomes the new normal. You don’t panic, because you are always panic’d. You live on the edge. Its like everyday is the last day before a big project is due. Because this was my normal, you don’t question it. You do it. What needs to be done. Everyday.
God, I hated living like that.
Now… let me ask you. What is your day to day level of stress like? Really think about this one. You may not have the crisis I have, but at what grade of panic do you live? Don’t cheat yourself. Answer honestly. Can’t answer this one? Ok.. let me tell you how my life is now.
I have upgraded from surviving to being happy. This is my first written proclamation of this… so I’m living it up. What this means is that things are easier. Its never easy, but its easier. I cherish my time with my kids. I enjoy my friends. I love my work. I find myself coasting in a state of bliss. My bliss is:
- Goals are clear
- Balance between opportunity and capacity
- Concentration deepens
- The present is what matters
- Control is no problem
- Time is altered
- Loss of ego
Yes. I stole this list from somewhere.. wish I noted the source in my theft, but I didn’t. But it is now my list. Instead of wandering, I am focused. Instead of praying for the night to appear, I’m surprised when it does.
I think the real testament is that I’m comfortable being me. That I am my true authentic self in all situations. Well, as best as I can. When you strip away all the layers of crap and find yourself.. its like. Hello. there you are. Wanna hang? Nice to have you around.
So, I ask myself.. how the hell did I get here.
It wasn’t easy. Once I found myself out of crisis. I wanted to start to focus on me. It took someone outside of me to point out… um.. Laurinda… you operate at high anxiety… all the friggin time.
So I made the commitment to stop.
What I discovered is that anxiety wasn’t my problem. It was the beliefs that I held about myself was the problem. And I worked hard at changing all the ones I logically new were stupid, but my emotions didn’t get that memo. This was a daily battle of identifying when I thought of the belief. Finding evidence that said… hey.. that isn’t true. Building new evidence on what was true. And believing it… and I have found… I believe in me. More and more.
Why am I sharing this?
Because of Janet’s post. Because I believe that I’m not alone and that you may be experiencing something similar. And because I had to. People who know me, know that I am straight forward and don’t hide much. I’m human. I’m proud. And I care.
Please share your thoughts below. Tell me I’m crazy, I don’t mind. Because of you, I learn and grow. I hope to help too!
#Trust30 is an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your now, and to create direction for your future. 30 prompts from inspiring thought-leaders will guide you on your writing journey.
My one sentence, which I will tweet out to a friend is:
My internal disappointment bells are ringing so loud, my ears hurt.