2,500 ladybugs delivered!

Ladybug delivery day. I’d forgotten. Got a phone call this morning.

mom: “Hello? Jon? Hi, it’s your mother!”

me: “Hi mom!”

mom: “Normally I wouldn’t call you in the morning, but um, I think I got a package of yours. It says it’s live ladybugs.”

me: “Oh. Happy Mother’s Day!”

mom: “…what?”

me: “I ordered that for you. It’s a box full of live ladybugs.”

mom: “…WHAT?!”

me: “Yeah! Have you looked at them yet?”

mom: “No, I’m just looking at the box. I haven’t opened it yet. There are LIVE LADYBUGS in here?”

me: “Yep! Two thousand five hundred live ladybugs.”


At this point she breaks into hysterical, spastic laughter and manages to choke out a “Jonathan, WHY would you send me twenty-five hundred live ladybugs for Mother’s Day?” to which I quickly chirped, “Because I can!”

I stayed on the phone while she read the instructions. “Two thousand five hundred ladybugs is enough for a 2500 square foot garden. JONATHAN, WE’RE IN A 900 SQUARE FOOT APARTMENT!” and she started laughing hysterically again. “WHAT am I going to DO with these?!” and she read further about how to keep them alive and said “Oh, no, you have to keep them refrigerated so they’ll live. David, honey, can you clean out the refrigerator and put these in there please? Oh dear, oh dear.”

I explained to her that I ordered them on the internet and opted against ordering the full 70,000 live ladybugs and also against five giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and she started laughing again, the mad laugh of a normal woman pushed to the brink of insanity. “THANK you for NOT sending me seventy THOUSAND live ladybugs OR giant cockroaches!”

me: “So what are you going to do with them?”

mom: “I.. god, I don’t know. *more insane, confused laughter* I guess I’ll go around the apartment complex and let them loose in the bushes? Or take them over to your brother’s house and released them? I have no idea!”

me: “And that’s the fun of it. See, since I moved out I get the feeling that you don’t have enough to do. Above all else, I like the idea that through the power of the internet, with VERY little effort on my part, I can create a problem in your life that you have to solve. Now, really, did you have ANYTHING else to do today before you got the ladybugs?”

mom: *long pause, then the laughter kicks in again* “Well, no, I guess not.”

me: “There you go. Have fun! Let me know what you end up doing with them, and take pictures if you can. Love you, mom! Bye.”

mom: “What? You’re just going to –”



Been focusing on reading more lately, since I actually have time to. I find that one helpful anchor point of sanity during crunch is FORCING time into my schedule to be able to read or relax or do something constructive besides work. I’m getting out of my post-crunch funk a LOT faster than last time. I’m getting better.

Reading more of Nobodies to Somebodies which is now released and even more worth reading. Nearing the end.

Also bought an autographed copy of Winning by Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. Why autographed? Well, because I’m a whore, that’s why. I’d like to say I didn’t start giggling and do a happy little dance as soon as it was delivered to me at work, but I’d be lying.

But before I do that, as soon as I finish Nobodies to Somebodies, I’m going to finish reading The Motley Fool Investment Guide : How The Fool Beats Wall Streets Wise Men And How You Can Too which has been recommended to me by several people. I’ve read it off and on but crunch usually kills my interest in reading.

My interest in investing has been rekindled by a reader of my blog that contacted me last week. He’s an investor and loves Warren Buffett as I do, is a huge video game fan, and likes what I say well enough to invite me to join StockArena.com, a fantastic investor’s discussion board, and a hell of a lot more. I’ve been digging into it for the last couple days and getting a feel for it, how it all works and where to start. It’s full of unbelievably knowledgeable people and fantastic analysis, advice and commentary, and an intelligent moderation and reputation system that has cash rewards for the best posters.

In short, it’s a fantastically valuable resource I intend to contribute to and use as best I can.

Going to dive into investing as soon as I knock out some outstanding debts, like the Dell Inspiron 9300 notebook I picked up in March. Fantastic machine with a BEAUTIFUL 17″ screen that’s completely replaced my desktop PC. My only regret is that it isn’t faster (1.6ghz) but considering the amount of cutting-edge gaming I do these days (hint: none) it wasn’t practical to do more than that.

That’s all for now. May update this post again later today.

Ah, time… how violently you kick me in the brain.

Ladybugs due for delivery this Wednesday. Word on the street is, females lay 10 – 50 eggs every day, so assuming half of the ladybugs my mom gets are female and fertile, she could be looking at 60,000+ brand new ladybugs within a month. Tee-hee. Can’t wait for the reaction and how she takes care of this problem. Stay tuned.

Beginning to emerge from my crunching stupor. Finished everything on my task list last night, and to my surprise, I was able to go home before midnight for once. So I’ve been taking as it easy as possible and relaxing today, hoping nothing crops up, and in the meantime I’ve been paying all the bills I’ve studiously ignored all month.

On a note of disturbing relativism, I’m becoming acutely aware of how much my internal sense of time relies on arbitrary structures, such as a “weekend.” I had a total of one day off in the last month, and excepting that, not having weekends to indicate what time of the week or month it is it feels like the entire month I just went through was just one very long, continuous, neverending week. Sort of like that last sentence.

I never know what day of the week or month it is, and all the time I’ve put in at work destroys the sense of the passage of time on a day-to-day level as well. “Thank goodness it’s Friday!” I’ll hear someone say, to which I reply with a very startled “It is??!”

In my head, I don’t even remember the month of April. It’s just gone, like it never happened, except that our game has a HELL of a lot more art in it than in March. 🙂 That’s probably for the best, because I’d rather forget it ever happened and move on to thinking about what to do with my time, instead of not having it.

That’s hardly a complaint, though. They told me at the interview here that they’re going to crunch like mad for this project and future projects, and that when they say ‘Ready At Dawn’ they damn well mean it. They also said that some of the guys here actually live here during crunch. I mean that literally. At least four people here spend the night at the office for up to a week at a time, sleeping maybe four hours a night before getting back to work. That’s hardcore, and I respect the hell out of them for that. I especially respect the founders of the company because they work as much or more than *anybody* here. You know they’re serious.

So yes, I knew what I was getting into, and it’s a price I pay gladly for a job working on a *kick-ass* video game with amazing people.

And in other news, I’ve been forcibly making time to read and have any anchor point of sanity that I can. I’m still passionate about business, and I managed to finagle an advance copy of Nobodies to Somebodies: How 100 Great Careers Got Their Start from a blog I frequent called 800-CEO-READ. It’s an online business bookstore and review site, and has absolutely fantastic reviews and resources. I highly recommend them.

Anyhow, Nobodies to Somebodies is a fantastic read so far. The author approaches over 100 high-profile successful people in business, non-profit organizations, politics and more and interviews them, and weaves it into what is essentially an analysis of the transition from a nobody to someone successful, with a series of relevant and fascinating anecdotes gleefully sprinkled throughout.

The author does his best to come away with a series of methods of how people made the leap and is weaving a pattern of success to examine and understand better. I’m still only partway through it, but I love it. I’m such a sucker for business famous success’s biographies, and even aside from that it’s a highly compelling read. It’s definitely worth a purchase once it’s released. Again, wicked mad props to 800-CEO-READ, yo. Read their reviews and buy their books. They’re on the bleeding edge of the latest and greatest in business books.

Aside from that, I’ve been enjoying reading Business 2.0, a magazine I recently discovered. For biz magazines, it’s decent. It’s mostly light, fluffy reading, but enjoyable and inspiring overall for stories of how this company or that CEO pulled off something impressive. There’s an article about four tightly focused and well-positioned companies that are successfully competing with Wal-Mart that was surprising and interesting, if not particularly thought-provoking. Definitely worth subscribing to if you like that sort of thing.

I’ll finish off this post by saying that Kung Fu Hustle is one of the best movies of the year, and if you liked Stephen Chow or Looney Tunes, you should see it.

Thousands of ladybugs for mother’s day? Oh, Jon, you didn’t!

A more light-hearted post.

A few months ago I ran across a website where you can order all kinds of beneficial insects for your garden and have them shipped to your front door. My first thought was, “Man, what a great idea! It’s amazing how the power of technology and the Internet has brought us to a point that we can remotely fulfill practically every need imaginable.”

Then I looked more closely and saw that you can order them in batches of 70,000 or more, which is absolutely staggering. The fact that someone can order 70,000 of anything is pretty funny to me, especially if they’re alive.

And so my second thought was “What if I shipped 70,000 ladybugs to someone at random?”

The idea bobbed around in the back of my brain for a while. Every possible scenario of what someone would do with 70,000 ladybugs went through my head and I never stopped finding it hilarious. Every step of their thought process was a riot. “Hey, Jon sent me something!” then “Why’s the box buzzing?” then, when they open it, “AAUAUUGUGHHHH!!!”

However, I never acted on it, and the idea fell by the wayside.

Today at work I restored my old bookmarks to a new version of FireFox and saw the ladybug order page, and the idea was rekindled. Even better, I realized that Mother’s Day is this week. 🙂

The box of 70,000 seemed unnecessarily cruel for my mother, who’s a dear, sweet woman, so my sympathy got the best of me and I shipped her 2,500 live ladybugs instead. It’ll be arriving at her doorstep later this week.

I love that technology lends me the ability to create a problem in her life. 🙂

I’ll post more as it happens.

Warren Buffett. Decidely not smorgasbord nomenclature!

Been quiet lately. Went through a month or so of crunch that’s killed my desire to do much of anything lately besides playing World of Warcraft.

Her’s a quick plug to my buddy Rich Carlson of Digital Eel. He’s an indie game developer with his own company and several critically acclaimed titles under his belt, and quite a funky and interesting guy on top of that. He’s living the dream of the true indie game developer and enjoys his life to the fullest, and I couldn’t be happier to see someone that has actually made it exactly where they want to be in life. Check out his blog and his games!

I’ve been gradually breaking out of the stupor by reading Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist. It’s the biography of Warren Buffett, king of investors and last I checked the second or third-richest man in the USA behind Bill Gates and Paul Allen of Microsoft. It’s fascinating. It shows how he started from nothing and did his best to squeeze all the irrationality out of the stock market to make it work for him. It’s an amazing read, really inspiring, all the more so because I started reading it when I was first getting interested in investing. Nice to come into it having a role model.

The most interesting part of his character to me is how ordinary he is, despite his wealth. Perhaps the book used qutie a lot of creative license but for all intents and purposes he seemed like a normal guy without any expensive tastes. Making money was just a game to him, at which he excelled. I loved in particular how he’d zig when everyone else zagged, in ways no one understood until later. He’d stop investing when the market was at its best, dodged a couple stock market crashes, then stepped in and made an absolute killing when they were at their worst and everyone else was too scared to invest. Hearing how cool, logical and calculated he was in comparison to most everyone else is amazing, and inspiring.

I’ve moved onto Jack: Straight from the Gut which is the autobiography of Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric and his climb to the top and what he did while he was there. I’m still getting into it. It’s interesting, not as good as Buffett, but still inspiring. I suppose I’m developing a fetish for biographies of successful businessmen. Well, if I’m going to have heroes, why not them? 🙂

Aside from World of Warcraft, which I enjoy, I’ve been playing the demo of Capitalism 2. It’s an extremely complex business simulator that’s also used by some business schools to train their students. Harvard, Yale and Duke are examples.

The game has a single player campaign mode, in which you can set out to achieve business goals they set for you. In the demo (which is all I’ve played so far, the full version is due to arrive any day now) there’s Entrepreneur mode and Capitalist mode.

In Enterepreneur mode, you have to build up a supermarket business that generates a certain amount of revenue and profit in the allotted time. Basic, but good for learning the interface.

In Capitalist mode, you’re a technology startup that’s made a major innovation in palm computing. You raised $50m through an IPO, you have one R&D lab and 40 years to dominate the computer industry and generate $400m in revenue per year.

It’s pretty challenging, given how fast you have to act not to go bankrupt. You have to set up more research and development studios to develop new technology you can utilize or license to competitors, build factories to start manufacturing the products you’re researching, build mines and oil wells to get the raw materials the factories need to mass-produce the product, then build retailers to sell the product.

There are many ways to approach the game, such as becoming a pure R&D powerhouse that sells technology to others, or skip retailing and sell to your competitors, or buy up your competitors and other businesses to generate cash to fund your own retailing operation. It’s extremely open-ended, very realistic (as far as I can tell) and ridiculously fun if you’re into that sort of thing.

I enjoy games like Tropico for its financial economy management systems, and this is just an ORGY of goodness along the same lines. The best part is that the game is a couple years old and only costs $9.90 from GoGamer.com. I keep checking the mail every day, because I WANT it!

In other news, I’ve somewhat given up on taking notes in books. Since I’ve done it I’ve increased my reading comprehension and retention dramatically just by getting used to what to look for and pay attention to. At this point it’s only been slowing me down, so I’m more selective about what to note. When I do note it, I just write down the key takeaways of the book into my pocket notebook, where I write down all my thoughts.

It’s an interesting occurrence because I never anticipated having my memory improve and making notes unnecessary. I always had very little faith in my ability to retain knowledge without writing it down and took for granted that I could actually improve it.

See, I considered taking notes a cop-out, just a very cheap hack to patch up the retention problem. Why? Because it was easier than trying to actually get brutal and fix it. Imagine my surprise and unexpected pleasure at finding I could have it both ways. 🙂

I’m all about self-improvement, and doing it unintentionally is totally new to me. I’d like to figure out a way to go to bed and, when I wake up, I’ve mastered a foreign language. I’ll see about that.

And that is all for now.

Time to start a new tradition.

What I’m reading now: Ten Day MBA: A Step-By-step Guide To Mastering The Skills Taught In America’s Top Business Schools

Excellent read so far. Up to the chapter on Accounting. The first feature that really struck me about this book is that it focuses on direct application of knowledge instead of theory like everything else I read.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a healthy respect for theory and high-level concepts. I’ve just read so damn many books like that and while I’ve still learned a lot about that very fine slice of knowledge, I don’t always know how to apply it to my situation.

Thinking further, many of the business books I’ve read — particularly the books on marketing — are tailored toward the extreme newbie beginning idiot. Again, this is fine, but I feel like I’m ready to move on, and for a long time, despite all I’ve read, I’ve still felt unsure on how to actually APPLY said knowledge.

I did manage to apply what I learned about marketing when I was the marketing guy at Liquid Development, but that really ranks somewhere between the logical result of months of preparation and simply ‘tarding my way into success. Put simpler, two parts preparation, one part dumb luck. Or is that how it normally goes? 🙂 In any case, I still felt like I was flying blind and that the books I’d been using as my guide were only telling me part of the story.

But Ten Day MBA is different.

I’ve read a good deal of books on marketing. In fact, I spent about eight months solid where that was all I read. But until I got to the chapter on marketing in Ten Day MBA, I didn’t know how it all fit together. And now I do. It’s like a breath of fresh air. FINALLY, all the high level concepts, theory and different pieces are drawn together into one large, beautiful, coherent picture. The author, Steven Silbiger, just whips out Da Knowledge, rattles off a beginning-to-end step by step walkthrough of marketing as a clearly defined PROCESS. Everything I had learned to date suddenly fit together with this vital, beautiful piece of information.

I GET IT! I really get it!

I knew from the first ten pages that this book was going to be a winner. See, part of my process of reading and learning involves extensive note-taking. I don’t always trust my retention of information, especially when I’m reading as much as I do, so I have to — you guessed it — brutalize the information into my brain! For this reason, I never read a book I want to learn something from without a pen and a Post-It notepad at my side.

  • First I read everything very carefully, very critically, making sure I grasp each concept as it’s presented to me individually, and then again in relation to the whole.
  • Next, when I encounter information that I know I want to retain, I get my Post-It notepad, write down in my words what I just learned and why I find it significant, then I peel off that Post-It and stick it to the page and move on. I repeat as necessary.
  • Finally, when I finish a book, I open it up again and go through each note one by one and transcribe what I wrote and what the passage in the book was, except organized in a way that makes sense to me. I use a program called Mindjet’s Mindmanager which is a mind-blowingly terrific program for organizing and creating a branching hierarchy of data.

    What this means to me is that I can organize the book into different topics and subtopics and organize the information in a very clear-cut and precise way that’s meaningful to me. If the book lists, say, ten principles of branding a product, I’ll want to create a new subtopic called “Ten Principles of Branding” and transcribe and summarize each of the ten principles into one neatly indented and numbered list.

    Once I transcribe all my notes and re-write everything into text that means the most to me, that I understand, I’ve actually read the important parts of the book at least three times over.

    And not only that but I also have an extremely well-organized and custom Cliff’s Notes of all the books I’ve read that I can refer to at any time and even share with friends. Writing it down is the MOST important part of the process to me because, in my opinion, it doesn’t exist unless it’s written down.

    THAT, my friends, is how I retain knowledge.

    And back to my original point: I knew Ten Day MBA was going to be a terrific book because I stuck a note on at least every other page for the first 75 pages of the book. When I read a book of about 250 pages, even if it’s an excellent book, it will have perhaps 30 or 40 notes in total. Ten Day MBA is destroying that record easily, and it’s such rich reading that I have to break my reading time up into smaller segments just so I can properly absorb it all.

    I’ve always wanted a book like this that’ll give me an all-around overview of managing a business. The main subjects the author touches on is condensed knowledge from the MBA course he took at a top business school (he won’t say which), and that subject breakdown is this: Marketing, Ethics, Accounting, Organizational Behavior, Quantitative Analysis, Finance, Operations, Economics and Strategy.

    So far, it’s all information I can learn AND use. There’s so much here. I’m having a freakin field day with this book. If this subject is up your alley, GET IT!

    That’s all for now. It is late and time for bed.

  • Time Management

    Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is time management. I had to learn how to manage mine carefully when I was looking for a new job. Liquid Development needed me back in production to help meet milestones on a project, so they took marketing away from me permanently, and that was something I wouldn’t do. I was forced into working on art from 9 to 6, then coming home and working on art tests from 6 to 3am. That got me thinking, what can I do to manage my time more efficiently?

    The first place to start was to find out what I was spending most of my time on at work. My morning routine is usually to come in at 9, fire up ICQ (for friends), Yahoo (for work) and MSN (for Dea). Then I’ll drink my coffee and browse the news for about 15 to 30 minutes, then begin working. I began paying attention to every distraction around me and was stunned to realize how much time was spent on non-work.

    These are the biggest culprits I’ve found:

    1. IM applications. I get messages from people constantly and that distracts me from my work. And it’s SO easy to think “Hey, I wonder how X is doing” and just send him a message.
    2. Web browsing. I use Opera, and I can have as many windows open at once as I want without cluttering the taskbar. Nice feature, but makes it way too easy to get distracted browsing something.
    3. Music. Fiddling with my playlist or trying to find the right album to play gets in the way.

    The worst part of these distractions is that they not only occupy my attention, they occupy my mind and kick me out of the flow of working. Since I needed to reach a new level of productivity so I could focus on each task one by one and bust it all out like a machine. The more I considered it the more I realized that the tasks I had before me were almost entirely mechanical work. I was spending most of my time texturing characters, and I’ve reached the point where that’s a simple mechanical process. There are small elements of design in it, but almost without exception it’s something I can look at, know what I need to do to do it and just do it. Fatigue isn’t a factor.

    So I worked up a plan to solve all these time management problems and worked up a few other little schemes to increase my productivity. This is what I came up with:

    1. Close all Instant Messaging apps while I work. There’s no reason not to. I know it’s a distraction and I get amazing amounts of work done simply from doing this.
    2. Close email apps and web browser. These are undeniably distracting, and made a huge difference in my output.
    3. Turn off music and listen to audio books. I do like music, and it helps me concentrate sometimes, but playlist shuffling and switching songs doesn’t occupy my brain like it should and my mind wanders and I become tempted to use IM or web browse. It ties into the mechanical process I mentioned earlier… my mind doesn’t need to be completely focused on my task because I know instinctively what needs to be done and how. So a large part of my mind is left dormant. If I put on an audio book, that part of my mind is fully occupied and I can work freely and without distraction, and literally lose myself in my work. It also removes the need for playlist shuffling. This is the biggest productivity boost I’ve found.
    4. Turn the TV off if I’m at home. I’m in a 1bed apartment now, and I have a TV four feet on my right. Dea almost always has it on and I fucking hate it because it’s so distracting. If I can help it, I tell her to listen to music instead of TV and I turn it off and can focus.
    5. Use a stopwatch to time my tasks. This not only helps me achieve better productivity but it’s also a way to measure my progress. Since the tasks I have are mechanical processes, the variables of time are minimized and I can quickly and reliably estimate how long X or Y will take. It’s extremely interesting to measure my performance at a certain task, both for comparing my time to previous tasks and for seeing how accurate my internal sense of time is. I’ve begun pondering how far I can take this concept, and try and set performance records for myself like athletes do.
    6. Drink coffee, avoid alcohol. I get a wicked head-buzz from coffee that makes me feel like I can do anything and conquer the world. I do my best reading and thinking when I’m buzzed. Conversely, alcohol destroys that part of my brain, and even if I have a single drink at 7pm one night, sometimes my concentration is shot for half the day the next day. It’s sad, but I know that’s the cause now, so I can act accordingly.

    I’ve done all these things and watched my productivity increase dramatically. When I’m in that flow I can bust out a full character every two days, which feels pretty awesome. I also had some other ideas that I’m going to experiment with when I start at Ready At Dawn. It’s near-Draconian discipline, I know, but since I’m starting fresh in a new environment, why not experiment and see what works?

    1. Only ONE Instant Messaging client, for work colleagues only. Not even Dea gets this one. I know the people I’m working with will be busting ass as hard as I am and won’t bother me with trivial BS.
    2. Only ONE email account, for work mail only. I won’t have my GMail tray notification open, which is another distraction.
    3. No web browser bookmarks. I’m tempted to go through the full cycle, and if I keep no bookmarks at all (except for work-related bookmarks), I’m less likely to be distracted.
    4. Time blocks. I’m going to try setting hourly goals for myself and push my performance forward with the stopwatch like an athlete does.
    5. No disruptive music. Stuff like Mindless Self Indulgence, Slipknot, Atari Teenage Riot and GWAR really break my concentration and makes it hard to work. If I’m listening to any music I need to make it softer more concentration-conducive music like Mozart, Crystal Method or Frontline Assembly.

    I’m wondering how much of those I’ll keep doing after I start. Since I haven’t made any memory associations with RAD yet, I think if I start out feeling like it’s a place to work and NOT fuck around, I’ll be able to maintain productivity long term. It’s too easy to get distracted at Liquid Development, and I’m so used to fucking around there that it’s really hard to change those habits.

    That’s all I’ve got for now. Going to read a few books on the subject and see what else I learn. In reading Sam “Wal-Mart” Walton’s quasi-autobiography, I read about an efficiency consultant that Japanese companies have utilized heavily in maintaining insane levels of structure and productivity, and I found that interesting. I’ve packed that book away and the bookmark that I wrote that consultant’s name on is inside it, but as soon as I get to CA I’m going to dig it out find out who it is and start absorbing his wisdom.

    Thanks for reading!

    Take notes, improve your brain!

    Haven’t updated lately. Been busy. Took over duties as a marketing director for my company and still keeping up with sales and reading.

    Finished lots of books lately. Wrapped up the 48 Laws of Power, Patton on Leadership, How to Be a Rainmaker, How to Be a Marketing Superstar, and What Were They Thinking? Basically just leadership, sales and marketing.

    I’ve always had trouble remembering details of what I read shortly after I read it, so I decided that I’ll use Post-Its to use as bookmarks and to write notes on as I read a book, and then go back later and transcribe and edit down the bits of book that I liked and found immediately applicable. My knowledge retention has skyrocketed since I started doing this.

    It’s terrific. I end up reading the books two or three times, and I get to 1) remember more, 2) have a short, personalized summary of the book so I don’t have to buy it (unless it’s ALL good, like Patton and 48 Laws), and 3) I can share it easily with my close friends.

    There’s so damn much going on in my head since I started doing this that I’ve started having dreams about sales and marketing and what I’m going to do when I go back to work on Monday. I seem to have trouble finding time to absorb all the information I require these days.

    Another note: If you’re in sales in any company, sign up on www.linkedin.com immediately. It’s basically Friendster for business except immensely useful. Network like crazy and start getting everyone you know on your connections list, and then start using it for sales. It’s incredible, even simply for getting a name for making phone calls. I can’t imagine operating without it.

    It’s interesting finding out in so short a time how often I engaged in losing strategies like not socializing with people, closing myself off from the world and not being bold and proactive. Most people wouldn’t recognize me anymore. 🙂

    That’s all for now, getting back to transcribing Patton on Leadership.


    Well, I found out yesterday that due to my success at GDC and my knowledge of the game industry, I’m being promoted to an Accounts Manager Sales Representative. Since the company I work for, Liquid Development, is an art contractor and sales are very important, this is a pretty cool deal. I’d never imagined that being a geek and learning about video games could be good for my career. haha

    It looks like I’m going to be voluntarily devoting slavish amounts of time to books on sales, marketing (yay!), communication and psychology. I find it interesting that after only having been here 5 months that I’m already apparently on the management fast-track or however that goes. I’m still not sure if I’m even gong to be doing art anymore!

    Six months ago, if you’d have told me I was going to be where I am now, I’d have laughed and called you crazy. And yet, here I am. How improbable, and how promising. 🙂

    My only real concern is that if I ever go to another company and want to simply be an artist, that my quasi-managerial experience will make me appear overqualified. I suppose that’s not something I need to worry about for now, though. Right now my only concern is that I may not be learning fast enough or kicking enough ass.

    I’m REALLY excited about finally being in a position where my mind will be fully engaged! I’ve been on such a reading kick lately that I’ve actually been passing up drinking in favor of reading. Now, I enjoy my alkymahol, but reading is my lifeblood.

    In the past, I’ve only felt productive when I’m working on something artistic. I’ve always been driven to feel productive to the point that I feel a little guilty when I’m doing something else. Lately, though, I’ve made a transition so that I only really feel like I’m making progress if I’m reading a book and learning something new.

    That’s been a strange adjustment because I’ve always resisted forms of work or effort that don’t show tangible results. Even in school, I HATED studying because I felt like it was wasting time since I wasn’t writing out the answers and actually finishing my work. I’m not sure what changed in me, but I think I like it.

    It seems that every time I’m about to make a change in my life – a mental or attitude change – my mind automatically and seamlessly makes the transition with little or no effort. If I’m not ready to do something, it’s a massive struggle, but when I finally am, it’s simple. It’s odd, as if there was some sort of set pattern in my life unlocking new features as I progress.

    It was like that when I learned to walk, and then when I learned to speak, then when I started texturing, then when I moved out on my own, and now again when my brain feels like it’s ready to absorb information as fast as my mind can process it. I’ve never understood how or why that happens, but it seems that there’s fuck-all I can do about it, so I may as well get used to it. 😉

    Funny thing of the day: I’m paying my parents back gradually for old cel phone bills and such, and in the first check I sent to my mom, who’s a fanatic Christian psycho, in the Memo field I wrote the check as being for “Greased Spikes and Suckling Pigs for SATAN WORSHIP.” She emailed me back saying how hurt she was that I would do that and how it was disturbing that I thought that was funny and all that. I think it’s funny that she didn’t realize that her response made it THAT much funnier. 🙂

    That’s all for now.

    Game Developer’s Conference 2004 breakdown, and a little introspection.

    Time for another long-overdue update.

    Since I last posted I’ve worked on eight more titles for Liquid. Starting in mid-February, I’ve been contracted out to work inhouse with another local Portland company called ResponDesign. They’re working on Yourself Fitness, an X-Box fitness game meant to be an interactive personal trainer. I’ve been designing the interface for the game among other small ingame models. It’s not the most glamorous work, but it’s interesting to work at another company and get to make actual design decisions for once!

    Two weeks ago, as Liquid was preparing for the Game Developer’s Conference, they told me that the guy that was going to go was too busy art directing one of our projects, and that they’d like me to do it since I showed an interest in business and marketing. I responded with an immediate “YES!#!@$&!@*$” and got to work with planning it. My job was to carry out the marketingadvertising plan they’d already set up and hire a dozen people to execute the plan.

    Liquid is notorious for having a strong, loud, and somewhat annoying presence outside of GDC. Last year we picketed against bad art and held a protest, waving homemade signs about and chanting. The year before we hired a bad preacher to preach against the evils of bad art. This year we had a bit of a problem organizing the event due to the distance, since we used to be based in San Jose and now we’re not.

    The plan this year was to hire twelve people to dress up in black military boots, black pants, a Liquid t-shirt and a red beret, imitating Guardian Angels, a volunteer organization dedicated to helping keep city streets and subways safe. While they were dressed up, they were going to do the S1W dance from Public Enemy’s music videos, just because that’s damned funny. Their primary mission, however, was to hand out our Liquid fliers advertising our services.

    I hired six men and six women that responded to my job posting on Craigslist.com and met them all outside the Game Developer’s Conference in San Jose on Thursday morning. I gave them all their shirts, their berets, the fliers, their marching orders, the songs I’d had written for them, and we set out to work.

    We all had a blast. The weather was light and cool for the first half of the day, and everyone was in high spirits. I bought them all water and Gatorade to start, and in the first hour I held an impromptu meeting with a potential client and was photographed and interviewed briefly for Animation Magazine. Lots of people wanted to take pictures with us and gladly accepted our fliers.

    For lunch, one of the people I hired had found a local Mexican food place with a burrito lunch special, and we walked over there and ordered $100 worth of burritos and drinks. We got lost on the way back and had to hitch a ride with a complete stranger in the most disgusting vehicle I’ve ever seen in my life, but we got back to the convention center without incident. I got everyone free candy and cookies and answered all their questions about my job, the conference, the game industry and all that.

    After the lunchtime rush, we’d passed out about 3,500 of the 5,000 fliers we had. Things were going well, and then it started raining. We floundered about for a bit but quickly developed a strategy to keep people out of the rain and near areas of heavy traffic. I got everyone hot chocolate and coffee and candy to keep warm and sugared up, and spirits were still soaring.

    I sent one of our people into the conference itself with a spare badge we had for one of our team members that couldn’t make the trip, and I had her spent two hours loading up on all the free shit everyone had inside the conference. We managed to move the last 1,500 fliers before the self-imposed cutoff time of 5pm, and then we filed into the San Jose Marriott and divvied out all the free stuff between us. Everyone got a t-shirt or candy or some other fun little novelty, and everyone was happy. After that, everyone dispersed and I went and crashed in the hotel room for a bit.

    Later that night I went out to dinner with two of my bosses from Liquid. We were eating with the president of the FASA Studios of Mechwarrior fame, and had a great meal in a nice Italian place. Afterward, we went over to Microsoft’s X-Box party and he managed to get us in without an invitation (since half the conference wanted in but had no such invitation) and we had a fucking BLAST.

    The theme of the party was “1950’s risque” so the place was adorned with all manner of 1950’s furniture and drapes, all the video screens were playing film noir style video of 3D characters, and all the event staff was dressed up to fit the era. There was a cigar bar where you could get free hand-rolled cigars, there were about six open bars with tons of drinks, there was a lounge converted into a “Bank vault,” there was a casino with fake money being handed out to play to win X-Box t-shirts, there was a massage parlor upstairs, a balcony with a view of the dance floor, and there were two live DJ’s playing badass techno music with several video monitors playing clips from famous 1950’s film noir movies synced perfectly to the music. The production value of everything was absolutely terrific, I had a great time and so did the other 200+ people that were there.

    On Friday, I finally got to go into the convention itself and mill about finding things to do. I met up with some people I knew from various game industry messageboards and killed time most of the day. In the evening, I met up with another friend and his friends, and we all drove up to Electronic Arts in Redwood City to meet yet another friend and take a tour. We went out to eat at a nice Chinese place first and then took the grand tour. I got to see some of the preproduction art for the Godfather game (which looks terrific), the character art from 007: Everything or Nothing (also terrific), and, most importantly, the actual models from the Lord of the Rings movies. They are, as expected, FUCKING AWESOME. It was quite a treat to get to see them all. 😀

    That was all I did there, really. Since I got back I’ve been working on more interface crap for Yourself Fitness and working on a character model for fun in my spare time. Also been doing a lot of reading. I’m finishing up Influence (a really interesting book on psychology), Patton on Leadership (a terrific book on business management), and A Short History of Nearly Everything (a fantastic book on the history of science). It’s keeping me pretty busy and thinking of everything…

    I’ve realized now that eventually, sooner than later, I’d like to run a business. Liquid’s giving me an opportunity to learn more about business and act in more of a business capacity, which is fantastic, but I want to run a game company someday. I’ve spent the last few months reading books on business and marketing and advertising, and that’s stoking the fire.

    Reading has also gotten me to thinking about the way I present myself and deal with people. I realized that being shy, passive and too normal are all losing strategies, so I’m working on breaking myself of those habits and being more interesting. I want people to remember me and my name, and I’ll never accomplish that if I’m ordinary. It would seem that my goal, then, is to be remarkable. At GDC, I sequentially broke every last social hangup I had, about being shy and passive and all that, and really got out of my shell and started kicking ass, and I loved it.

    Lately I’ve also realized what a handicap it’s been for me not to be more social. I make a point to participate more on message boards, talk to my friends and family more, and to try and go out and meet new people. I can establish a large network of contacts very quickly and easily, and have fun learning new things and enjoying talking to people. It’s really invigorating, and I’m irritated that I didn’t start doing this sooner. At least I woke up and realized what was happening, and now it’s one more losing strategy I’m destroying.

    Another thing I’ve come to realize is how VITALLY important good communication skills are. I’ve been reading books on learning to write and how to communicate effectively, and I’m going to be moving on to reading books on sales soon as well, since that’s good, persuasive communication in action. I think I’ll post in my blog more to assist in my writing ability. I kind of crapped out this entire post here, but I’ll be refining everything more later.

    It’s remarkable how unsuccessful I used to be. I was shy, self-conscious, quiet, unassuming and unwilling to take risks… how great the benefits of boldness and being confident and outspoken are! If I could go back in time, I’d kick the shit out of myself and teach me the right way to do things. I’d be a lot farther along than I am now… not that I’m doing that badly now, I suppose.

    I also started working out again, which is helping boost my energy level and self-confidence. I used to be really into working out before I moved to Portland, but I had to stop for a while since I didn’t have enough equipment or money to keep me fed all the time like I needed. I’m still nowhere near where I was before, but I’m working my way back up quickly, and I’m feeling great while I do it. More people should exercise. 🙂

    Something else I’ve decided to try and do is learn everything I can about the game industry as a whole. I’m collecting various news sources to be able to build a large picture of what’s going on in the industry, who’s where, what’s what, why things are the way they are and where it’s all going. I figure it’ll come in handy someday.

    I’m also going to spend a month or two going back over the last 20 years of video games and playing all of the great classics I missed out on my whole life. Should also give me some great ideas for the games I’ll be making eventually. All the better to dominate the world.

    Incidentally, Gevalia (www.gevalia.com) makes some fucking kick ass coffee. For some reason, whenever I drink it, my mind kicks into overdrive and I feel as if I actually could take over the world if I wanted. They must lace it with crack, or something. Whatever it is, I’m hooked, and won’t touch Folgers again.

    Holy shit, I just wrote a goddamn novel, didn’t I? Well, that’s all for now.

    Art outsourcing and production for the game industry