Geoffrey Long
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2010: The Year We Make Up

This is one of my favorite times, the liminal space between one year and the next. For most people, this time for intense thinking and planmaking runs from Christmas through New Year's, but at MIT this period is extended through the beginning of February. (Yet another reason I love it so much here at MIT.) According to MIT tradition, January is what's known as the Independent Activities Period, or IAP – originally founded (according to legend) in the 1960s as a way for students to take off and protest the Vietnam War all at once, instead of disappearing for random weeks out of the year. IAP has since evolved into a sort of micro-semester crammed in between the autumn semester and the spring semester, a month set aside for students (and faculty and staff) to enroll in courses they might not otherwise have a chance to take, to go off and tackle an externship somewhere, or to simply recuperate from MIT's normal grueling demands. (Another local legend likens an MIT education to drinking from a fire hose, which is truer than might be comfortable. This is, not coincidentally, why my friend Eitan named his new startup Firehose Games.)

I love this time not just for its interstitial nature, but because of the time it affords for reflection and planning. Years ago I launched a personal initiative called the Personal Improvement Project, or PIP (no relation to Fallout 3's pip-boy 3000, although I'm half-expecting a real one of those to show up at CES this week). This is the time of year when I mourn all the stuff I didn't get done in the previous year, and plan furiously for ways to achieve more of those goals in the year ahead. 2009 was a wonderful year, a crazy year, productive in ways I hadn't planned for, but, alas, rather unproductive in the ways that I had. Read the classics? Not so much. Get out of debt? Yeah, no. Get back in shape? Hells naw. To a certain extent, that's the nature of the universe – life is what happens when you're busy making other plans, man plans and God laughs, yadda yadda yadda.

This year, though? This year things are going to be different.

What Happened?

First, why did things go so wobbly in 2009?

For starters, in 2009 I got married. In 2010, I'm not getting married. This should help. Don't get me wrong – I loved getting married, but I love being married much more. For starters, being married is much cheaper than getting married. Further (and, perhaps, better), it's much less stressful. These are two hallmarks of a good marriage – if being married is cheaper and less stressful than getting married, you're doing something right. (Note that this most likely ceases to apply once kids become involved.)

Second, in 2010 I was racing like mad to prepare for applying for Ph.D. programs at the end of the year. Again, not so much. I finally wound up postponing applying to Ph.D programs for another year, which was an intensely difficult decision to make (at this rate, I won't be Dr. Long until I'm in my 40s), but it was the right thing to do. Being a grad student is a wonderful state of existence, but it's not a very lucrative one, and stepping right into that after just investing a bunch of money in my wedding was going to be a nightmare. So, the whole doctorate project is going to have to be pushed back until the fall of 2011 or even 2012.

Third, I took on a lot in 2009. Not just the wedding (although that was big enough), but also a whole mess of travel (Singapore, Germany, Los Angeles, Brazil, Pittsburgh, Austria, Florida, San Francisco...!), joined the Executive Board of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, took on a whole mess of projects at work (including writing my first video game) and am now in the middle of launching Playful Thinking, a new series of short game studies books published by the MIT Press which I'm co-editing with William Uricchio and Jesper Juul. Woof.

So, yes – all of this meant that life in 2009 was hectic as hell, and didn't leave a lot of time for reading, exercise, and not spending money on plane tickets. Fortunate or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it – but not at all a bad thing!

It's a new year now, though, and I'm reconsidering a number of the decisions I made in 2009. (Not the marriage. I'm keeping that one.) Primarily, this year I'm planning to buckle down and do a lot less traveling for conferences. I may do some more traveling for my consulting work (which is directly tied to the whole paying-off-debt thing) but for the most part I think this is the year I really need to write. On a larger scale, though, if you'll permit me to swipe and modify a line from Hollywood, it's starting to feel like 2010: The Year We Make Contact Up.

Need A Little Time To Make Up

The primary meanings of the phrase "make up" deal with either imagination or reparation, which is why this is such a timely phrase right now – and in some kind of weird micro-macro fractal reflection, this applies not just to me, but for all of us, particularly us Americans. For me it's going to be a year of writing (imagination) and paying down debts (reparation), but the whole world is going to have to use 2010 as a year of great imagination and reparation while we reimagine what the next wave of existence is going to be like, and as we pay off the disastrous debts we've incurred during the previous wave.

Right now, it feels like pretty much the whole damn planet is wondering the same things. What is the post-recessionary global economy going to be like? Is it reliant upon new energy sources and green-collar jobs? Is it a post-oil existence? Will America decline while other countries ascend? Will our new planetary society be more of a global village, will it be more hyperlocalized – or is it, in some weird anti-Venn diagram, simultaneously increasingly both? (Based on what I've been seeing during my travels, that gets my vote.)

Those of us in the media industries are worrying about slightly different things. How will the combination of recessionary economics and new technology change the media universe? (I've been thinking a lot lately about Borders' nosedive and the well-intentioned, if ill-executed, Barnes and Noble nook.) Further, in the 21st century, does 'digital' still have any great meaning? What happens when we push past that – what is 'post-digital', and what will post-digital media, entertainment and storytelling be like? One of the things that excites me about transmedia and comparative media studies is that they may be inherently post-digital; we no longer get so hung up on the explicit divide between the analog and the digital, but examine the unique advantages and affordances of each, which enables us to capitalize upon these features as they increasingly blend together – which sure seems to be the way we're going.

Profitability Sustainability Is King

One thing I wonder a lot about right now is whether the twenty-teens (damn, that sounds odd) will see a shift away from rampant profiteering and ridiculous, irresponsible spending and towards not just repaying our debts, but towards aiming for simpler, more sustainable levels of existence. One thing I've been wondering about for a long time is, simply, How much is enough? How does the cost of living in one part of the world compare to another? (I'm somewhat astonished to see that Boston isn't included in's map of the world's most expensive cities.) How much is a house really worth? How much is a thought really worth, or an experience, or one's reputation? How do we handle value in an experience economy, or a reputation economy? (For some insight into the latter, check out the Whuffie Bank, where you can find me at my usual handle.)

What is a model for sustaining a good, solid lifestyle with a decent amount of enjoyment, a relatively high standard of living, a sufficient amount of thought and reflection, a decent reputation, and so on?

It may be me thinking about these things because I'm in my early thirties now and am obsessing over things like families and houses and careers and so on, but it's clear that the 21st century models of success are not the same as the 20th century models. Do you have to have Gaimanesque levels of success as an artist to have a nice house and writing studio in the American midwest? Do you need to go all Hollywood and make ridiculous piles of cash to "make it"? Plus, what's an unsustainable business model for guys like me now? My model has always been to hit the trifecta of consulting-writing-academic, but given today's hyperaccelerated demands, is that still sustainable?

It's possible that the proper response (the "mind like water" response for you GTD-heads out there) to our current scenario is "less is more", or, to put it another way, "less is more sustainable." On my way into campus this morning, there was an episode of The Diane Rehm Show on WGBH where (I think) Allen Sinai, the chief global economist and president of Decision Economics, bluntly stated that we Americans have to get used to a lower standard of living. I think he may be right – as Trevor Butterworth and his 'slow word' manifesto, the 'slow food' movement, and scores of others seem to be indicating, we are on the brink of a society throwing up its hands and surrendering to the impossibility of the ever-increasing demands for more, more, more. The recession may be an overcorrection to the fiscal irresponsibilities of the last decade, but it may also be a chance for many of us to catch our breath and rethink what "enough" means to all of us. You don't need a McMansion to be successful, but you do need enough to live comfortably and, hopefully, put your kids through college. So what does that cost now? How do you get it? And how do you get it without going insane?

Making Up Is Hard To Do

Anyway, that's what I think 2010 (and maybe 2011 and even 2012) will be all about – more so than ever before, at both the micro and macro levels. How do we make up new answers to these questions, and how do we make up enough for our previous errors and indulgences to return to a more stable and sustainable footing? It's not going to be easy, but that's, again, the nature of the universe.

But life is good. And even if things get crazy, life gets better. Here's to a wonderful 2010 for each and every one of us. Onward and upward!


Strange Little Beast: On Newly-Owning a PSP.
It's been something I've waffled over doing ever since I first joined up with GAMBIT. Should I? Shouldn't I? It's a lot of money, the ROI is somewhat questionable, but... But... Finally, yesterday the stars aligned, the proper slot machine tumblers of fate finally clunked into place, I was in the right place and the right time, and I found myself slapping my credit card down to buy a shiny new Sony PlayStation Portable, AKA the PSP.

What were the factors? I'm so glad you asked.

Research. I've been considering the PSP as a great platform for transmedia extensions for a while now, but the release of Assassin's Creed II: Bloodlines as a PSP-only narrative bridge between the Assassin's Creed and Assassin's Creed II console games clinched the deal. Throw in the PSP-exclusive Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core and the upcoming Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and this reason hit #1 with a bullet.

Timing. Call it a near-miss of synchronicity: not only do I turn 32 on Sunday, but yesterday was the PlayStation's 15th birthday. This is making me feel both old and nostalgic; the fact that I can buy Final Fantasy VII at all for the PSP is awesome, but I vividly remember being a freshman in college and having my socks knocked off by my friend Kurt's shiny new copy of Final Fantasy VII. What can I say? I wanted to give myself a birthday present, and so I gave Sony a birthday present of my money.

Curiosity. Discovering the existence of a cradle for the PSP made me imagine using the PSP as an always-on Internet appliance. I've been looking at things like the tiny little Mimo USB-driven minidisplays and the new Chumby One as small Internet-enabled devices, functioning as simple kiosks for things like Flickr and Twitter.

So now I have my very own PSP-3000, courtesy of the PSP 3000 Limited Edition Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines Entertainment Pack. It's a strange color, described by Sony as 'pearl white'. This is something of a misnomer; I was expecting something kind of irridescent, like, well, a pearl. It isn't. Instead, the thing glitters. It's not that bad, especially when it's in a relatively low-light situation, but when the sun hits it just right, the sucker glitters like goddamned Edward. (Yes, I went there.) Again, it's not that bad, but I'm admittedly considering buying some kind of leather sheath for the device to man it up a little.

I haven't gotten to play the game very much yet, but so far my expectations for this device as a pocket computer have been coming down on the wobbly side. It's not entirely Sony's fault; I've been a heavy iPhone user since its initial release, so many of my expectations for what a portable device can and should be have been notably skewed – but when I started playing with the PSP, I realized that I had completely taken for granted that I'd be able to obtain some kind of dedicated Twitter app for this thing. Not only is that only apparently not the case (at least without hacking the device and installing some alternate form of OS, perhaps) but the experience of typing on this beast has been so utterly execrable that the very thought of attempting to write on this thing for even 140 characters at a time makes my ass twitch. Even attempting to pull up the Twitter site on a PSP is a groanworthy undertaking – not only is the browser astonishingly slow, but the wi-fi connection must be reestablished every time you launch it. This makes sense at some level – switching the wi-fi on and off as needed is a logical way to extend battery life – but asking me which of my established networks it wants me to to connect to every time is ridiculous, especially when the two choices are the network here on campus and the network at home. One simple bit of automated checking would have removed this annoyance: if one network is available and the other isn't, don't ask.

Another aspect of this thing which is distinctly odd is the sensation of having a spinning piece of physical media in the back of the device, and almost no on-deck storage. Again, this is almost certainly the result of being an early adopter of the iPhone and a very, very late adopter of the PSP, but I was somewhat amazed that I couldn't install my copy of Bloodlines to some kind of internal drive and then retire the Universal Media Disc (UMD). True, I can't do that with my Nintendo DS, either, but for some reason I thought of the PSP as a more forward-thinking device. Ha.

In fact, for a brief little while after first popping the UMD into the device I seriously considered taking the thing back and getting a PSP Go instead – and this is despite the litany, or even cacophony, of utterly disastrous reviews that have been lambasting the Go. As Ars Technica's Ben Kuchera so devastatingly advised Sony, "when your older, cheaper hardware is better and more able than your new offering, you need to fire some designers". Ouch.

So why was I even considering swapping the PSP-3000 for a PSP Go? First, I'm a design junkie, and the Go's slider-style industrial design is very sexy. Second, I'm also a digital downloads enthusiast – I can't remember the last time I bought a CD, and my physical Netflix discs have been sitting on the shelf gathering dust ever since Netflix Streaming arrived – and the PSP's digital-download only model is, in the abstract, incredibly attractive to me. Plus, the PSP Go is smaller, and as I noted in an earlier post, recent health issues have made me start to seriously reconsider how much junk I'm willing to carry around on a daily basis. If I'm going to add another device to my satchel, it'd better weigh as little as possible.

Still, the naysayers on the Go have me convinced. The fact that Sony's digital download versions are more expensive than the physical versions is a deal-killer, amplified by the fact that I can't buy heavily-discounted used UMDs and rip them into playable digital versions the way I might buy some used CDs and rip them into perfectly servicable MP3s. Sony also backed off on a planned trade-in program swapping physical media for digital versions, so UMDs and the PSP Go will apparently never get along – and since Crisis Core isn't available on for digital downloading yet, then 25% of the games driving me to buy a PSP at all just went away. (That number jumps up to a full one third given that Birth by Sleep isn't out yet.) I'm clearly a Square-Enix fan, as 75% of my PSP game wishlist are Squeenix games, but God knows I'm not the only one. Sony's managed to get Squeenix to put FFVII on their digital download service and (I think) the Final Fantasy-themed brawler Dissidia (itself a chimera of somewhat dubious genetics), but until Squeenix commits that all its future games will be available for downloading, then owning a PSP Go makes no sense for me.

As it is, this strange little device represents a fascinating new toy to tinker with over the holidays. I'm looking forward to taking it on our honeymoon so I can whack some Templars while en route to Florida, and I'm holding out hope that when I really start tinkering with it I can hack it to do some of the other things I thought it might be able to do out of the box – but I can't shake the feeling that in this post-iPhone environment, Sony is really missing out by not making those very functions stock. I'd pay a couple extra bucks per function if Sony enabled app downloads on their PlayStation Network, letting me set up my PSP as a kind of Chumby lite. I'd also jump at the chance to buy the PS2's Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II on it the same way that I can get Final Fantasy VII, but apparently they're not available yet – or if they will ever be made available at all.

This drives home one of the negative affordances inherent in games as opposed to books, music or (now) even movies: books, music and movies all convert fairly well to portable versions which can be stored on one's laptop or phone, but console video games are almost completely locked down into one's living room. The PSP offers a function called 'remote play' which was, I believe, designed to address that somewhat, and the screen-to-screen interaction between Assassin's Creed II on the PS3 and Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines on the PSP is what drove me to switch to the PlayStation versions of the franchise from the Xbox 360 version I have of Assassin's Creed – but there is still such a very long, long way to go before I can be playing Uncharted 2 on my living room couch, pause the game, run out and jump on a bus to work, then pop open my PSP and continue the game from where I left off. Even taking greatly reduced graphics and other concessions to the form as givens, I feel like this is where we're heading. The fact that we're not there yet is slightly annoying – especially as games are attempting to become bigger and bigger components of the media diet of increasingly over-busy adults.

At the end of the day, I'm still fairly happy I bought my PSP, and I'm still looking forward to playing with it. That said, I'm looking forward even more to playing with what comes next, in the hopes that it will do what I hoped this device would do – and, with a little luck, the PSP2 or whatever it's called will arrive before it has an entirely new set of unrealistic expectations set for it by the rest of the market.


Waker wins the Bytejacker Indie Game of the Week!

Woo-hoo! Waker, the game I wrote for GAMBIT this summer, just won the Bytejacker Game of the Week competition, beating out two really impressive other games, Station 38 and Alchemia – and by a pretty wide margin to boot. Check out what the players themselves had to say at the 5:05 mark of the video clip!


Where in the world is Geoffrey Long?

For those of you wondering why I've been so silent lately, especially when teh Intarwebs have been so wonderfully flush with transmedia storytelling news, I have two responses:

  1. I'm in Singapore. I'm currently on the other side of the planet from my regular home base in Boston – seriously, Singapore is a 12-hour time difference from Boston, which keeps things kind of simple but the jetlag is utter hell – and have had my hands full with GAMBIT-related things. (Such as, for example, the launch of Snap Escape, which is now live on Facebook).
  2. I just launched the new It was an unfortunate scheduling quirk that September 15th, the long-ago announced launched date for the new Interstitial Arts Foundation website and its attached brand-spanking-new Annex of short interstitial fiction happened to fall during this trip. Although I still believe in my heart of hearts that I can work from anywhere, there were some definitely odd things working against me on this one – not the least of which was getting reliable quasi-high-speed Internet connectivity from my hotel room. It's not easy to redesign a Wordpress install in public when your FTP connection keeps breaking every 5-10 minutes. Oy vey.

I will have plenty to say about the recent transmedia storytelling developments once I get back to Boston and things settle down a little bit. Until then, be good – and if you're in Singapore, come hear me talk at the Students Day at the Games Convention Asia 2009 conference on Saturday!


Introducing Waker!
I've been working with the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab for a while now, primarily as its Communications Director but also occasionally as a researcher. This summer I had my first chance to write a game with this group, and now said game – Waker by Poof Games – is up and available to play for free on the GAMBIT website! As the game's developers described it on the game's page:
Waker is a puzzle/platform game set in the world of a child's broken dream. As the Waker, the player uses both mind and reflexes to solve puzzles, creating platforms to form a safe path through the dream worlds. Forming the paths, however, is the trick - it is up to the player to figure out how to create each path, and to manipulate the Waker and the world to travel safely through each level. With dynamic obstacles and three difficulty modes, the game offers continuing challenges even for experienced players, while allowing beginners an easier path to the end.

Waker was developed in tandem with Woosh, its abstract variant. Waker offers the same gameplay as Woosh, but also includes a rich narrative and a story that is reflected in its art and cutscenes.

I am thoroughly honored to have been involved with this project for multiple reasons. First, Waker gave me a chance to work with my friends Sara Verrilli, Kevin Driscoll, Scot Osterweil and Lan Le, as well as befriend a bunch of other folks from Singapore, MIT and RISD. Second, the game is absolutely beautiful, thanks to the hard work of Brandon Cebenka, Rini Ong Zhi Qian and Steven Setiawan. I loved the aesthetic of Waker, from the graceful, fluid animation of the cat-monkey creature to the textures to the gentle glow scattered throughout the game. I loved the dreamlike sensibility of the world, and the basics of the storyline that Brendan and the others had sketched out before I was brought onboard was completely up my alley.


I was invited to join the project when it was decided – at the last minute! – that the story needed to be fleshed out some more, so I rewrote the story in an evening, met with Brendan and the others the next morning, did some super-fast re-rewrites and then jumped into the recording booth to do all the voiceover work myself as well. Mercifully I managed to nail the John Hurt-esque narrator's voice that had popped into my head while writing the thing, so I was thoroughly happy with how well that turned out.

I'm also thoroughly grateful for the opportunity to write a GAMBIT game (complete with the apparently all-too-true-to-the-industry "Can we have this tomorrow?" experience) and for the not-very-true-at-all-to-the-industry experience of being able to perform the role I'd written. If you're half as much of a fan of Neil Gaiman's Sandman or Mike Mignola's Hellboy as I am, I recommend that you go and give Waker a shot. (Hey, it's free and it runs in a browser window – what's stopping you? Go! Play it now!)


Please let me know what you think of the game! You can also see what people are saying about the game already at Free Games News and XSp, and follow new reviews for Waker and the rest of the GAMBIT games as they appear at the In the Press section of the GAMBIT site.

Heh. I still get a grin on my face just thinking about that whole experience. I've got a new GAMBIT project in the works for this fall, so I'll keep you posted!

Update (9/1/09): Flytrap Games just published a really funny writeup of the game titled Agile Spirit Cat Required for Mental Roadworks. These guys really got what I was going for:

Dreaming is more hazardous than most people suspect. Every time you sleep, a path forms behind your dreaming self to guide you back to the waking world.

On occasion, however, that path breaks, leaving the dreamer to stand forever stark naked in front of the sixth form girls while Billy Connolly plays the banjo. Or whatever private delusions are appropriate to your particular mental setup.

Fortunately, a ruptured dream path can be repaired by a Waker - a sort of Druidic cat entity which puts us in mind of the mog from Coraline. As one such Waker, players of Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab's latest puzzle-platformer must collect "wisps" to restore a lost soul to consciousness.

I am, as they say, well and thoroughly chuffed. (I wish we'd thought of that Billy Connolly nightmare. That would make a thoroughly horrific bonus level.)

Update (9/2/09): Waker is getting even more press! Lewis Denby of Resolution magazine in England makes the following observations:

This odd little pairing is more than a bit interesting to talk about. Woosh and Waker are puzzle/platform games developed by Poof Games for Gambit, which is a collaboration between MIT and the Singapore government. Woosh and Waker are part of an experimental, educational project, to see how players respond to different presentations within videogames.

Launching each game doesn't immediately throw up too many similarities. But dive into the game proper and you'll realise they're both exactly the same in terms of the mechanics and level design. The difference? One presents an anthropomorphic character and introduces a story. The other sees you guiding a bouncy ball around the same platforms, only with a backdrop consisting purely of abstract art. There's no plot to be found.

It is, of course, very interesting to consider which side of the fence you fall on. Do you prefer the abstract visual beauty of Woosh, or the more evocative, story-driven presentation of Waker? Do you prefer guiding a living character, or a blissfully unaware rolling ball? But what's particularly brilliant for the player is that both are excellent, seriously clever games. Try them both out, and have a think about the difference in your approach to each one.

Meanwhile, Bart at gives the game a one-line notice, but a user calling itself Lichen Fairy says this in the comments: "The ending is beautiful. The game-play can be a bit frustrating at times but I love the story." Thanks!

The game has even been picked up in Italy, where a post from describes the game as follows:

Benvenuti nel mondo dei sogni... Waker, sviluppato dai ragazzi di Poof Games, vi proietterà in un mondo onirico, nelle sembianze di un waker, una sorta di guardiano del dolce dormire simile a un gatto. Il vostro scopo sarà quello di ristabile il continuum del sogno di una bambina, permettendole così di risvegliarsi da un sonno ininterrotto. Dovrete intraprendere un viaggio lungo tre mondi, ciascuno dei quali è formato da molteplici sottolivelli che garantiscono un'esperienza non certo da mordi e fuggi.

Or, if Google translate is to be believed:

Welcome to the world of dreams ... Waker, developed by the young people Poof Games, we will project into a dream world, in the form of a waker, a kind of guardian of sweet sleep like a cat. Your goal will be to restore the continuum of the dream of a child, enabled it to awaken from a sleep uninterrupted. You will need to undertake a journey across three worlds, each of which consists of multiple sub-levels, offering an experience not by hit and run.

This is awesome – and they're still coming!

Update (9/2/09, again): Perhaps the biggest and best review of Waker just went live – check out Daniel Archer's glowing profile at JayIsGames!

Waker is a project born from GAMBIT, Singapore-MIT's game design lab, and the multidisciplinary input shows. The art and animation invoke the phantasmal in such a way that it's not hard to believe that this idea could have been hauled from the same place dreams come from. Little touches breathe life into the Waker and the world, like the blinking of one eye at a time should you let the creature sit still for a few moments. The music is softly whimsical, the same way a child's dream should be.

While the writing sets up the game quite marvelously, what with the Wakers and the Dreamtime and associated fantasies, the story starts to fade as the game progresses, being delivered to the player in short injections between one world and the next. It's a tad disappointing to have the developers weave all this vibrant lore about what happens when the lights go out, only to have it squeezed into the cracks. It would have been nicer to see the story dovetail with the gameplay more smoothly, but there's still a lot more creativity at work here than your average puzzle game.

...While the game might be short for those who attack it head-on, it's certainly a trip worth taking, and the dazzling visuals coupled with the imaginative tale of the Wakers marks this game as one of the most innovative puzzlers to date. Now don't let me keep you, for there's already a child lost in the slumber, hoping for someone, anyone to show them the way home.

Well? The Waker is waiting.

You can't see it, but I'm throwing devil horns in the air. It's true that the story only appears in little bits between the worlds, but given the time constraints and the massive workload on Poof's shoulders (they made not just one game in eight short weeks, but two! Two, people! Two!) I can safely say that Poof kicked ass. Way to go, guys!


April: The Month That Got Away. (Kinda.)

Rabbit rabbit!

OK, now that that's out of the way... Great Caesar's ghost, what a month. Alas, the 2009 30|30 project didn't work out, as I'd feared - still, eighteen poems is better than I fared last year, when I petered out at thirteen (yet still not as good as the first year I did it, when I scored the full 30). Besides, I probably could have pulled it off if it hadn't been an utterly insane month otherwise.

Ah, April 2009. Seriously. Where did you go?

On the first weekend of April, my friend Ken came to town, and on Friday night Ken, Laura and I hung out with our mutual friend Ryan, then jumped in the car on Saturday morning to see Aaron and Josh and Amy and Laura Marx and Rob and Laura+Rob's new baby, Scott. Much fun was had by all until late, when we returned to Boston for more Rock Band and general tomfoolery, and I returned Ken to the airport on Sunday.

On the second weekend of April, my parents came to town, both to visit me and Laura and to join us in attending the big Joss Whedon event at Harvard on Friday night. That accomplished, we got up early on Sunday, jumped in the car and headed for Portland, Maine – which was, as always, awesome. We poked around there for a while, then headed north to Freeport to see the home of J. Crew, then traveled further north to crash for the night in a motel outside of Bangor. On Easter morning we got up, traveled into Bangor so I could check "see Stephen King's house" off my lifelong to-do list, and then headed down Route 1A, curving down the coast until we reached Camden. In Camden the four of us stopped for lunch and the best clam chowder, fried shrimp and blueberry dessert I've ever had at this little place called Cappy's. Seriously. If you're ever in Maine, you must go to Cappy's.

Heading into the third weekend of April... On Thursday, April 16th, the Comparative Media Studies brought Chris Claremont to town. Those of you who don't know Chris Claremont's work should know that he is the creator of a huge chunk of the X-Men mythology, including - to quote Wikipedia - "Rogue, Psylocke, Shadowcat, Phoenix, Mystique, Emma Frost, Siryn, Jubilee, Rachel Summers, and Madelyne Pryor", as well as "Sabretooth, Avalanche, Strong Guy, Multiple Man, Captain Britain, Mister Sinister, and Gambit". Those of you who do know Claremont's name will understand how tickled I was to be able to serve as a tour guide of sorts for he and his wife (the lovely Beth Flesicher), running them down to Million Year Picnic for an impromptu signing and then bringing them back for the Colloquium lecture that evening - a long interview with Claremont about his career, which I co-moderated with Henry Jenkins and Lan Le. (There's a podcast of the event available if you're interested.) We hung out at Henry's until late that evening, listening to stories and talking about the industry, and then the next day I hung out with Chris and Beth for a while at the GAMBIT lab. While we didn't name the GAMBIT lab explicitly after Claremont's ragin' cajun, having him hanging around the lab was still extremely cool.

But wait, there's more! After Claremont left, Laura's friend Emily came into town from New York City, and we had a blast hanging out with her - and then, on Saturday morning, we tossed Emily in the car and headed north to Maine again! Laura and I had had so much up there with my folks the weekend before that we decided we simply had to share it with Em - so back we went to Portland for lobster rolls and blueberry sodas, and then up north again to Freeport and a trip to the L.L. Bean mothership. We'd planned to hit Camden as well, but time ran out on us, so we settled for blueberry pie at an inn in Camden and then rocketed back down the coast to grab dinner at Legal Sea Foods at Burlington (not as nice as Cappy's, but still a good sight different from Em's usual fare).

Right. That brings us to the week of April 20-26, which was pretty much spent preparing for the Media in Transition 6 conference. This was a Very Big Deal, since not only was I presenting a new paper ("Play Chapter: Video Games and Transmedia Storytelling", which can be downloaded at for the interested), but I was also moderating a plenary panel on the Future of Publishing which I'd assembled for the event. Although my friend Kevin Smokler (Bookmark Now, had to bow out at the last minute, the lineup of the panel was still a real dream team of speakers: Bob Miller from HarperStudio, Jennifer Jackson from the Donald Maass Literary Agency, Gavin Grant from Small Beer Press and Bob Stein from the Institute for the Future of the Book. I couldn't have asked for a greater group of speakers, nor could I have dreamed that the resulting conversation would go as smoothly and as perfectly as it did. Again, there's a podcast of the event up, although I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that a video version will eventually surface somewhere. In addition to the wonderful panel, I also had the chance to reunite with some old friends - including Jonathan Gray, Jason Mittell, Ivan Askwith and Ksenia Prasolova, although I'm still bummed that I somehow missed Bob Rehak in all the chaos - and met some great new ones, including Geoff Way and Burcu Bakioglu, both of whom are doing some intriguing new research into transmedia storytelling. The conference was amazing, and I'm still coming down.

All of this brings us to this weekend, which is technically the first weekend in May - and later today I'll be loading up a massive timeline of Boston-area video game companies and their creations onto a projector as part of GAMBIT's contribution to the Boston CyberArts festival. A big hat tip to Josh Diaz, Philip Tan and Kent Quirk for being my co-conspirators on this project, as well as to Mike Rapa for hopefully helping out with the technical side of things. I'll let you know how it goes!

So, yes - add to this my continued involvement with the Interstitial Arts Foundation, some possibly very exciting new developments with several writing projects, and preparing for even more crazy stuff coming up in the next few weeks, and "busy" doesn't even begin to describe it. So, again, eighteen poems in the midst of all of that isn't too shabby. I may try and bang out the remaining twelve poems over the next little while to round out the project, but I already have other projects crowding the plate for this upcoming weekend - including some other writing projects and preparations for such upcoming events as the retreat for the Convergence Culture Consortium the weekend of May 7-8, and somewhere this weekend I'm determined to catch Wolverine. Because, hey, I'm a huge nerd and that's how I roll.

May you live in interesting times, indeed. I'm hoping to do a better job of keeping up with this journal in the next month, but, as always, we'll see what happens. Do keep in mind that even if things are pretty quiet around here, I'm likely to be blogging over at the IAF or at GAMBIT, and I'm fairly active on my Twitter account. Stay tuned!



This is a tiny little thing, but I was thinking this morning about how the GAMBIT website uses funny terminology for each of its sections. Back when Philip and I were first designing it, we wanted to name each section after a component of the gaming experience, so "News" became "Updates", "Careers" became "Join Game", "About Us" became "Campaign" and so on.

This came up because a graduate student writing an article on us pinged me to ask some very basic questions, which would have all been answered by a quick trip to our website. Initially I was irritated because it felt like said student simply hadn't done her homework, but then I wondered if perhaps our funny naming conventions weren't part of the problem. You couldn't simply type in "" and go to our people section, or "" and go to our games section.

Or could you?

Ten minutes later, the GAMBIT site now offers logical redirects at:

Trying to anticipate everything people might type in is a fool's errand, of course, but this is a nice start. Of course, a working search function would be nice too, but that's coming up fast on the to-do backlog.

...Pation. (Didn't want to leave you hanging, did I?)