Looks like my last blog post was December 2019 and now it’s September 2020 – it’s been quite the year so far! This post will be an update on what we’ve been up to and how we’re doing. The short of it: we’re happy, healthy, and super busy.
Enduring the pandemic
We quarantined pretty early at the beginning of March and have barely left the house since. It’s been a relatively smooth adjustment, all things considered, though we went from almost never cooking in February, to cooking pretty much every meal. I can’t say my cooking skills have improved much but Avital makes an excellent risotto and our Instant-pot was one of the best panic-buys of the year.
We’re deeply appreciative of our house and, after traveling a ton last fall, it’s actually been nice to stay home and enjoy it. This summer we made a few upgrades that have helped: we built a large pantry to support our new cooking-filled lifestyle, and we bought some patio furniture so we can safely have folks over for socially-distant hangouts.
Though it’s nearly seven months into the pandemic, we’ve adapted well to changes and new routines and I’m optimistic we can keep it up for another year, if need be.
However, we’ve been pretty bad at proactive social reach out and we’re trying to get better. If it’s been a while since we caught up, reach out and we can find time for a video chat or patio hang!
Work, work, work
Back in January, I started advising Remotion – an early stage startup focused on helping remote-first teams stay connected through quick video chat (and much more). Once it became clear that the whole world was going remote, I jumped in as a full-time consultant to help them launch their public beta. The launch went well and I loved working with the team so I ended up joining full time.
Since then, I’ve been running their business operations and growth initiatives and it’s been both fun and meaningful. I think our product is fantastic and so does Avital – her company was in the closed alpha test before I started consulting! If you’re on a team that uses macOS and you’re looking to better have quick chats to solve problems and be more creative, give us a shot! I’d love your feedback…
Avital has also been incredibly busy; in early March she completely reinvented her company from in-person experiences to virtual events. She has a great blog post about how her team navigated the crisis and she’s due to write a follow-up post soon. They did a fantastic job of iterating their way to a new business model and are currently thriving. It’s been awesome to see them pull through the initial crisis even stronger than they were before.
Games and more games
A bit to my own surprise, 2020 has been very productive on the game design front. I’ve released four games so far, two serious and two consumer oriented.
Premise: Setting, Character Plot
I started working on Premise way back in 2016. Then, it was on the backburner for a couple years as I prioritized larps and other types of games but my interest in it returned and I published the game in February.
Premise is a quick and collaborative storytelling game where players build a world and its characters by simultaneously expanding on each other’s ideas. At the end of the game you reveal the final creations which are inevitably weirder and more interesting than what anyone would have developed on their own. I’m very happy with how the game turned out and you can check it out on Itch.io.
Imagining Health Futures
This summer I had the fun opportunity to team up with Jason Morningstar to create Imagining Health Futures, in support of UNICEF’s Office of Innovation. We created the game to help UNICEF explore how adolescents think about the future of health care and health related issues.
The game is designed to be run with 3-6 teenagers and starts with some worldbuilding of the year 2035 and continues with them creating characters that are their age in that year. Then, the participants see their characters through a series of crises and obstacles, many that relate to health. The game ends with each participant creating an in-character artifact (e.g. a video blog) that captures their experience.
Last November, Mike Masnick and I teamed up to create Threatcast 2020 for the Mozilla Fellowship in Media, Misinformation, and Trust. It’s a game that explores how bad actors might use technology to manipulate the 2020 presidential election. We were hoping to run it a bunch this year but the pandemic ruled out in-person events; ironically, a major pandemic was a theme of the original version last November! This summer we were able to adapt it to run online and it went very well!
We’ve run it twice in the last two months for experts in policy, technology, and governance and it’s been fascinating (and scary) to see the ideas that came out of it. If you’re interested in learning more, check out my thread on Twitter or the podcast we recorded.
Dawn of the Monster Invasion
My submission for this year’s Golden Cobra Challenge is Dawn of the Monster Invasion – a silly spoof and pastiche of the monster movie genre. Players recreate a monster movie through 6 rounds of speeches + Q&A. You can play it online at monster.diegeticgames.com.
I created a custom web app to run the game and it contains the instructions and all player materials. The view is synced between all players on the same webpage, to make it easy for groups to play together over video chat or conference call.
The app was a lot of fun to code and it’s part of a broader web framework for storytelling games that I’ll be sharing more of soon. I’m very excited for how it’s shaping up!
Three more months of 2020
Despite, or perhaps because of, the ongoing crises, this year has gone by incredibly quickly for us. With just over a month until Election Day and two more months of wildfire season, we’re not expecting 2020 to ease up any time soon.
However, we’re confident in our ability to make the most of this year and emerge stronger and happier than ever. We’ll continue with our mix of intense focus on our day jobs and fun and meaningful side projects. I’ll try to blog a little more between now and the end of the year, but no promises. I hope you and the people you care about are holding up okay and, again, please reach out if you’d like to reconnect!