The Corey Feldman Story

Have I ever told you the Corey Feldman story?

When I was in my early teens I was a child actor. A handful of commercials, a small walk-on role in a movie, nothing major — but I auditioned for a few different roles that probably would have sent my life in a very different direction. I tried out for the part of Tom Hanks’ best friend in Big, and I auditioned for Stand by Me for the part of Teddy, which wound up going to Corey Feldman.

The weirdest one was the day I got a call for a movie called The Lost Boys, and instead of going to a casting agency, I was told to report to Warner Bros. HQ in NYC. That was really unusual, because you would normally go to a little office with a video camera and a rotating parade of kids who were there to read a scene or the commercial script and then go — revolving door stuff. But going to the Warner building? I asked my agent and she said, “I have no idea, but it must be good news or they wouldn’t call you to HQ, so let me know what happens.”

So I go there, up this giant elevator several floors, into this executive’s office. I sit in this giant leather chair, and this exec says, “Well, we cast you in this movie just from your headshot — you have the look we want. But the role calls for twins, and we found a natural set of twins that look enough like you that we don’t need you. Thanks, but sorry.”

My reaction was “Okay, I understand” but I didn’t. I had not auditioned for this part, and I didn’t know I had been cast in anything; neither did my agent or manager. I guess WB thought someone told me and they needed to manage the awkward situation directly. So I got called to WB HQ to be fired from a job I didn’t know I’d gotten — or maybe just un-hired?

Later, I went to see the movie and there were no twins…but there were the Frog Brothers from the comic book shop, and they were about my age. And who was one of those brothers? That’s right — Corey Feldman.

For years I had this grudge against him for stealing parts that should have been mine; my friends would then send me news stories about his various dramas in the press and say “See, that could have been you!” In retrospect, I’m glad it wasn’t.

I have no idea how my life would have turned out had I been a Frog brother. Maybe the same — there are tons of people who do one or two roles and then go back to a normal, obscure life. But I still think The Lost Boys is a fun film, and I still crank the radio whenever I hear “Good Times” by INXS & Jimmy Barnes.

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.