Week 47: It’s not what it seems

What happened this week? The days are blurring, in that office working way. Sleeping patterns have been a bit shot to shit again this week. I made <<- this little robot that freaks out when it gets too much light. It’s just like me.

  • I think there were meetings on Monday and Tuesday but it’s all pretty hazy, to be honest.
  • Wednesday was our company ‘away day’. We went to a windowless basement in Shoreditch all day, had discussions about company matters, and listened to each other talk about things. I did a talk about storytelling, because when I arrived here a couple of months ago I noticed all sorts of things were being described as ‘storytelling platforms’, including, sometimes, some of the things we make here. So I wanted to see whether it would help to nail down the common elements, to see if we need a definition, and what that definition might be. The discussion that followed was quite surprisingly heated; several people who don’t work at my end of things were horrified to see story being used in this way, just as I was when I first started. It became clear to me that the more you start to confront and unpick terms in this business, the more they unravel, so it’s absolutely best to ignore the issue and avoid any effort to retrofit meaning. Easily the best talk of the day was by Duncan, loosely about how things aren’t what they seem. He has one of those massively expansive associative horizons, and you never quite know what cocktail of excellence will be served up next. It reminded me why he’s so fun to work with, and made me feel a little sad we never finished off a couple of game projects we’d started to develop over the years.
  • Thursday was good. Toby came in to the office to talk to us about his company’s ace, massively (or passively?) multiplayer Oyster card game, Chromaroma. I’ve known Toby for a while through all our mutual people, but in the usual conference madness we don’t get to chat much, so it was good to catch up. We talked a bit about his ideas, which are often quite similar to my ideas, hacking stuff, making things, those old tourist signs with the lightbulbs, all that good stuff. THEN, after work, I went to see a preview of Ali Cook‘s new Edinburgh show, which was on at our village theatre. I’ve interviewed Ali twice, once for the podcast, once for WIRED. He is a really nice chap and quite inspiring – both as a close-up magician and just as someone who’s really good at something. I mean, what’s better than that? I was even summoned to the stage to help with a trick. Magic!
  • Today Duncan and I are lunching with a representative of one of my favourite places, The National Museum Of Computing that’s based at Bletchley Park, who is interested in an idea we have for a thing they could install there. Really looking forward to that.

What else?

1. Appreciation is just as good as enjoyment, and money is just one kind of support. Creative and digital people worry about two things for their projects: getting fans, and getting funding. But I think there are other, incredibly valuable ways to support people that have a significant impact on the maker’s success and confidence in their projects. You can help people a great deal by appreciating without actually understanding or wanting to be involved. You can back something up without being a fan. There’s even a certain grace to that… The internet is awash with extreme adulation, and it’s unbelievably tempting to buy into this exciting “all or nothing” approach. If I can’t LOVE it, I’ll IGNORE it. But we can encourage and support through a sort of managed appreciation. It’s emotional in a different way – it’s considered. It’s quality over quantity. It says, “I think this is valuable, even though I don’t want to do it.”

2. I want to be a builder. My experience of trying to frame storytelling as something we can use as a practical tool on Wednesday may have failed spectacularly, but it did bluntly remind me how far towards the practical, craftsperson-end of things I am. I suspect many writers aren’t builders so much as influencers – it is more important that they are understood than that they understand, and quite right; maybe that’s the point. But right now at least, I don’t want to host, explain or persuade. I don’t even really want to inspire! I just want to make things that make sense.

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