Summer 1985

In 1985, when I was 14, I traveled with a small company of Evita for about five weeks. Of the 25 men in the company, three were straight:: Juan Peron, Che, and myself. Juan and Che bunked together. I will admit to being freaked out when my roommate asked if I wanted to be on top — because, you know, he’d be drinking with the cast post-show and it would be easier and quieter if he didn’t have to climb the little ladder of the bunk bed we shared. I was 14, I grew up in the suburbs, and I was uncomfortable.

The cast members didn’t have to hide who they were, and they were awesome to me the whole time. We played board games, we talked about movies and current events (“Finally, they’re bringing back Coca-Cola Classic!”), and one guy cut my sister’s hair (“Go take a look and see what you think — we can always take more off, but it’s a bitch putting it back on”). I quickly came to understand there was no significant difference beyond age, which was the same difference I had with every adult I met. There was nothing to fear.

That summer set the standard for me, and I’m still grateful. I still think of Fred and Patrick and DC fondly, but I don’t know if the troupe ever considered the good they wound up doing by just being themselves. I also wonder where some of them are now. I remember reading the TIME cover story about AIDS in the green room. It was fresh and new and terrifying, and nobody really knew what to do about it.

But I cringe when I see homophobic people now, because they’re afraid of (and sometimes violently angry about) nothing, and they just haven’t gotten to know anybody different from themselves to demystify the whole thing.

2015

Facebook is the reason I haven’t been blogging much here. I think I should change that, because even though I look back at some of my angrier screeds and cringe, this is still the one and only space where I control everything. I don’t have to hope that my friends see it in their feed, you know? It’s here if you want it.

Anyway, 2015 is coming to a close and as always, I’m taking stock.

April was my one-year anniversary at Ubisoft, and it’s been an amazingly good fit. I still really like working there; I just need to do it a bit less, because as the year went on, I worked 10- and 11-hour days (not in a crunch time) with alarming frequency.

We finally got a house. Originally, Kat and I were hoping to go to Disney World for our 20th anniversary, but we thought more practically about that expenditure and realized we should get serious about owning our own place at last. Staying in my own four walls has been the best vacation ever (and we’re still surrounded by Disney stuff). We apparently had a lot of good house karma built up, because we found a place relatively quickly, had our offer accepted quickly, and got some key renovations done quickly too. It’s always a hassle and there were a lot of steps, but I feel very grateful that it went as smoothly as it did.

I didn’t get the next Palette-Swap Ninja project out this year, which I had hoped to do. Still working on that. It’s hard.

Mostly I want to take naps over the holiday. Hope your naps are happy too, if you celebrate naps.

On Being Willing To Learn…For Fun

I run Jeopardy games at PAX whenever I can. These are custom-built game shows in every sense of the word — handmade buzzers, bespoke software, and custom-created questions by and for the PAX attendees. It’s trivia, so it’s not all going to be stuff that you know immediately — but my question team and I take great pains trying to create content that geeks in attendance might be able to recall with a little hint or some mental effort.

This year at PAX Prime, after one of the questions went unanswered, a contestant (who passed an entrance exam before they were selected) complained, “But I wasn’t alive then!”  Continue reading

How to Prepare for PAX

This originally appeared on the old 1oS blog, but I’m updating and reposting it here, as I think it might still be useful. 

Someone asked me if I had any advice on what they should expect when attending PAX, or how they should prepare for their first gamer convention. I do! And some of this advice is also good for any gaming or nerd gathering (SDCC, E3, etc) and some is specifically for the PAX culture. But I hope you find it all helpful.
Continue reading

Operation House it Going: Welcome to Sunkist Manor

Kat and I have been slowly saving for a house for years. We have moved eight times — as our jobs and offices relocated, so did we — and each time, that sapped more of our savings. We aren’t wasteful; we have expensive interests like photography and guitars, and we generally believe in buying quality. So when we finally got serious about looking for a home this year — in honor of our impending 20th anniversary — I think we were in line for a little house karma.

And so, when we found a nice house in the Laurel Park neighborhood of Richmond, on the border of El Cerrito in the East Bay, we put in an offer and it was accepted in early May. A few weeks later, we had keys!

You may have noticed the house is bright orange. It came that way, a recent repaint. I am not going to change it. I love it. We call it Sunkist Manor. And it has an unusual history.  Continue reading

Operation House It Going

For our impending 20th anniversary, Kat and I want to finally own our own home, so Operation House It Going is underway. We have a mortgage broker, a real estate agent, and excellent credit, but not enough money for a down payment. The SF Bay Area housing market is rough, but we are hoping to find a fixer-upper in the East Bay.

As a game reviewer for 15 of the last 20 years, I’ve been happy and grateful but never rich. Life also throws you financial curveballs, so our nest egg simply isn’t what we had hoped it would be. I’m probably going to sell my Les Paul to reach our goal, but there’s something else that might help, too.  Continue reading

Dan’s tips for social media success

People have asked me if I plan to write a book about being a community manager and using social media to follow up Critical Path. Nope. Critical Path came from leveraging 15 years of experience, after which I thought I’d learned something valuable worth sharing. I’m still a newbie at community stuff.

But I can tell you the one thing that I know works wonders, but many people and brands get wrong. And I can sum it up in three words. Continue reading

Farewell Activision & LA, hello Ubisoft & SF

I’ve got a new gig! In early April, I will start at Ubisoft as Community Developer for Studio SF, the team behind Rocksmith & Rocksmith 2014.

This is awesome for several reasons. First of all, anybody who knows me knows I define myself with the words “guitars” and “gaming.” I think Rocksmith 2014 is brilliant, it’s a perfect personal fit, and I’m thrilled I get to work with the dev team. Since Los Angeles and I never got along, I can’t wait to get back to the Bay Area; I’ve missed my friends, real sourdough bread, and weather. My friends who work at Ubisoft speak highly of it, and I’m a sucker for a good pun in Latin.

I leave Activision very proud of what I was able to start with One of Swords and I’m extremely grateful for the unusual amount of trust Activision placed in me for the last four years. I’m thrilled that 1oS will continue, particularly [REDACTED DUE TO NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT]. But if you’ll allow a quick look back, here’s two One of Swords features of which I am particularly proud:

Interview: Pitfall! creator David Crane
David Crane is a key reason I am a gamer today. The chance to talk to him on Pitfall!’s 30th anniversary was a personal thrill — he was one of my boyhood heroes.

The Secret Skylanders You’ve Never Seen
This look at handmade prototypes was one of the times I really felt like I got to share inside access. It’s a story that would not have happened through another outlet.

After 215 episodes, the One of Swords Podcast has come to an end, but Kat and I plan to launch a new podcast soon. Follow @DanAndKatTalk on Twitter and we’ll post details when we have something to share. UPDATE: We’re live.

That’s it. Thanks for all the support. I’m coming home.

The Universal Truth of Ellen Page

Twenty-five years ago it was “Be excellent to each other.” Forty-five years ago it was “All you need is love.” Guess it was time for another reminder. Tucked within Ellen Page’s speech was a universal truth:

“You’re here because you’ve adopted as a core motivation the simple fact that this world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another. If we took just five minutes to recognize each other’s beauty, instead of attacking each other for our differences. That’s not hard. It’s really an easier and better way to live. And ultimately, it saves lives.”

That transcends any discussion of who or how you love. And this is really the core of my entire life philosophy, which I always just summed up as “mutual respect” but I’ve since realized needs to be more active. It’s nice enough to be neutral, but when you can spread positivity, you have more of a chance of making a difference.

Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining linguistics

Language is alive. Language evolves. Words gain different contexts, alternate meanings, new layers of subtlety.

But just so we’re clear: “Gay,” when used in a negative judgmental context, is still something to avoid. Saying something undesirable is “gay” still draws on its use as a homophobic slur in modern society.

“But ‘gay’ also means jovial and carefree,” I hear the collegiate-dictionary crowd cry. “This is a word that has already been transformed by its alternate meaning. ‘Faggot’ used to only mean a bundle of sticks, too.”

Yes, true — do the language historians you hang out with on Xbox Live use them in their original, archaic contexts often? When these words are used today, it’s with the modern homosexual connotation, or directly derived from it. These words have gained immense power through this association, which is what makes them so desirable to the powerless. When you hear a kid calling something ‘gay,’ he is almost certainly unaware of the light-hearted definition from the 14th century; when he uses the word ‘faggot,’ he’s clearly — if only from the pejorative force with which he’s saying it — not talking about a bundle of sticks from 1550. He only knows the modern American English definition of “gay” established in the 1910s, still in use in his society — and he was introduced to it as an insult, so he’s using it now as a cruel shorthand.

“But I just use the word ‘gay’ to mean something is stupid or bad,” I hear you reply. “It doesn’t mean I hate gay people.”

Well, maybe “hate” is too strong a word for trickle-down linguistics, but…it’s definitely negative, by your own admission. And there’s an entire group of people who self-identify as gay, and have engaged in decades of social activism as they try to establish tolerance and acceptance for everything related to that word. Now that same word just happens to be your new way to say something is not up to your standards or worthy of your respect. Do you really expect me to believe that you are unaware of the relationship here? How ignorant should I assume you to be?

We can play “what-if,” though. Think of any other word that a social, ethnic, or religious group uses to identify themselves or their culture and consider using it in casual conversation as a word that means “bad.” You can’t even choose your word without knowing its modern context. Now consider how offensive (or, depending on how far your imagination goes for this assignment, potentially life-threatening) it would be to take that word into a room of strangers and say “and by that, I mean worthless.” Hell, if you did it with the name of any given sports team, you’d piss someone off.

I suggest that the best way to say something is stupid or terrible would be to use words like “stupid” or “terrible.” But if you want to use words like “gay,” I accept your choice to do that — but you then accept the responsibility that comes with using it. You are always accountable to those with whom you speak, so don’t expect that using a slur as a casual expression will go unchallenged, and don’t play dumb when you inevitably are called out for it.