Questions from eyeO

As a speaker this year for the eyeO festival, (yaaaaaay!) I was asked a few personal questions for a biography and other festival-y shenanigans. I thought my answers (constrained to 175 words per response) were interesting enough to post on this blog that nobody reads, so here we go:

What's your approach/inspiration?

"Wouldn't it be funny if...?"

Ask yourself this question, and fill in the blank. I call this joke-driven development, or JDD.

Notice how many great inventions and artworks have an almost joke-like premise. Your sense of humor can find the absurdities of the world and subvert them. JDD makes you laugh, then makes you think.

Kid yourself! JDD usually results in really weird constraints, and constraints force you to be more creative. It's easier to think outside the box when the box is already inside-out.

Even more than that, JDD keeps you playful. Or at least, keeps you from taking yourself too seriously. You're not going to make wildly creative discoveries if you're not open to happy accidents, meandering thoughts, and odd combinations.

Repeat after me. "Wouldn't it be funny if...?" Ask yourself this question, and you might be surprised by your own answers.

(Such as "wouldn't it be funny if I wrote a response where the first letter of each paragraph spelt a dirty word?")

Any advice or hindsight?

Once upon a time, I sliced my thumb open in a Safeway.

I had just started living on my own, an 18-year-old in a foreign country. I was "independent" - or rather, incredibly insecure about people thinking I was incapable of taking care of myself.

So instead of calling for help, I wrapped my wound in paper towels, strolled out the store, and took the hour-long commute back home. My adult roommate noticed the blood everywhere, and kindly asked, "The fuck, why's there blood everywhere?!"

I didn't wanna disappoint the grownup. I was an independent adult, which meant never ever asking anyone for help, right? "Tis but a scratch!" I laughed, then fainted from blood loss.

Point is, don't be afraid to ask for help.

The "lone genius" myth hurts a lot of us creatives. It almost cost me my life. For the sake of your professional career and personal sanity: reach out. Get a mentor. Join a community. Make friends. Standing by yourself is fine, but you know what's better? Standing by each other.

What's in your toolbox?

Every ten years, 99% of the atoms in your body get replaced.

I started off in comics. 8-year-old-me had lots of fun drawing The Very Violent Adventures of Mr Smiley, The Immortal Masochist.

But wait... if comics are just pictures in space, isn't animation just pictures in time? I picked up Flash, and started learning how to make silly animations of sliced-up smiley faces.

But wait... aren't videogames just animations the player co-creates? I used Flash's limited programming ability to make my first few games, mostly about killing your immortal masochist character again and again.

Because "Games" is such an interdisciplinary field, I could then expand to learning more about code, design, storywriting, psychology, education, and so on, and still counting.

Every ten years, you will be a different person -- different personality, different beliefs, even different atoms. You will die, and be re-born, over and over, like good ol' Mr Smiley.

So, don't limit yourself to a single toolset. Expand your toolbox, choosing breadth over depth. Always be learning.