Moleskine entry: August 5th, 2009
Today’s date is August 5th but I need to go back a bit and write up some things that have happened since July 24th. Friday July 24th to be precise. I woke up at the Upper Hideout, some 8500ft up in the Big Horn Mountains in Shell, Wyoming. I’d been without internet and mobile signal for the best part of four days and I was very much looking forward to getting back to civilisation.
I love my girlfriend very much and, aside from Sam making sure that she was cc’d into an email that he’d radio’d back to base, she hadn’t heard from me and of course, as anyone might be, I thought there might be a certain amount of worry. I had work to do; photos to upload, videos to edit, posts to submit but the emphasis, the excitement was all about speaking to my love.
So, at 10am that morning we saddled up for the last time and headed down the mountain. Taking in valleys, hills, canyons and viewpoints like such we had yet to see.
But the ride down is not why we’re here. It was the arrival back down below that is of interest. I dropped my steed at the barn and raced back to my room to jump online and get to work. I’m not entirely sure what order things happened but, upon opening my MacBook it became very clear that something had definitely happened.
But my plane is coming into land, damn. I’ll have to return to this another time.
Short entry I know, but I need to get a move on.
Moleskine entry: August 5th, 2009
Lucozade Energy Challenge number three begins. It’s about 9pm at the time of writing, the plane is taxiing to the runway and we’re very nearly on our way.
The task this time round is white water rafting on the Zambezi river. First stop: Cape Town, South Africa. From there, onwards to Livingstone, in Zambia. After that? God knows.
Wherever we end up, I can not wait.
The challenge is different in oh so may ways from those that have gone before. First of all, this is the first challenge that we’ve had any official Lucozade presence with us. Sam and I both report into our respective agencies who, in turn, report into Lucozade/GSK. Their main contact there? A guy named Nick.
I first met Nick during the final stage of my interview process for the gig that I’m writing to you from now. An Aussie and all round nice chap, he’s a welcome addition to the team.
Speaking of ‘the team’ I’ve already mentioned Sam and I are back on the case, this time however we’ve been joined by four freshl graduates from Scotland. Kenny, James, Wullie and Stuart. All good lads and all, it would seem, on the trip of a lifetime. Our first video is already in the can and I think after a small amount of coaxing, they’ll be talking and playing up to the camera in no time at all. After all, the more personality and energy these guys have, the easier my job gets.
We’re flying over Brighton now, crossing the English Channel. At last my mind has found peace. I mentioned that this trip was different; we’ve had a longer gap between this and the the last. Ten days in fact.
Quite possibly the longest ten days of my professional life.
Moleskine entry: July 31st, 2009
Just one entry today:
“Never again will I stand in a room and not be listened to. This will not end well.”
Moleskine entry: July 27th, 2009
262 new emails in my personal inbox.
178 in my work inbox.
Something has happened. A look, a search and lo, some rather vexed ex-employees have attempted to ‘blow the lid’ off the operations at SVHQ.
On retrospect, I’ll maybe look back and wonder why the company’s founder and masthead kept quiet throughout. For one normally so passionate, up front and inspirational – all was quiet.
Rather naively it would seem, I took it upon myself to get the fire out, fast.
Moleskine entry: July 26th, 2009
Sam and I scored well on this flight.
Two seats back, in the middle of the plane, I spotted two empty rows of four. Heh. As soon as we were airborne and the seatbelt signs were switched off, we leapt to action and staked our claim on the free space. Nice.
I spent the entire flight stretched out and completely horizontal.
I also spent a long time in deep thought. Taking in the events of the last couple of days. Drifting in and out of sleep, dreaming of home.
See this is why I love flying: alone time, rest, thought and much relaxation. Hurtling through the sky, wrapped in 200 tonnes of metal at 600mph.
I am at peace.
Moleskine entry: July 25th, 2009
It’s been kind of invigorating. Refreshing.
I’ve been up in the Big Horns trekking, riding and herding as part of challenge two of the Lucozade Energy Challenges, although (I’m certain now), this much you know. What you probably don’t know however is that the powers that be have gone ahead and equipped me with some rather spiffy kit.
Including, amongst others, a sat-phone.
This thing worked FINE in Namibia. In fact, the photo above was taken and uploaded on the spot in the middle of the Namibian desert, this place in fact.
However, for some unknown reason, in the good ol’ US of A, it failed. Nothing. Nada. My glorious sock-rockin’ sat-phone, was… useless.
Which meant in turn, I was non-contactable for four days.
Say it again. Four days.
Say it one more time, and this time say it with me – out loud: Four. Days.
‘Liberating’ doesn’t quite do it justice.
At one point, we were sat by a lake some 10,000ft up, the air was thin, the horses were thirsty and the winners were discussing going for a swim. The sky was clear, the water freezing and the surrounding landscape, breathtaking.
Just pausing – for a moment – to take in what I was experiencing.
Four days with no signal. Four days in the mountains. Riding horseback every day, we rode down from 8500ft on the last day, Friday, and it took five hours.
I couldn’t tell you the total of how far we travelled or for how long. All I know is every day we were saddled up by 10am and we only got out again for lunch and then again at the end of the day for dinner and rest. I never thought I’d enjoy it so much.
Incredible really, incredible.
I wrote every day, trying to keep a personal journal as well as an official, Lucozade one is no easy task. But when there’s nothing to distract you except maybe the odd passing moose, you’d be amazed how one can focus the mind.
Perspective is a wonderful thing… and the view from here, is amazing. I know what things are important to me now. Not that I didn’t know before I guess.
But as I said, being up here sure does focus the mind.
Or ‘How we can expect developers to make games more social into 2010 and beyond‘
Some time ago now I spoke at an event in Marlow called ‘Six Degrees of Social Media’ – I talked through couple of social media for business case studies (mainly those of my own), and made it clear to the attendees that if there was a place for an online outreach programme within their business, then they should do it.
Obviously, the explanation was a bit more detailed than that, but you get the idea.
Anyway, after the talk (and subsequent Q&A), I remember getting into a lengthy conversation about how you could use hidden elements within video games to drive the gamer’s experience further into other mediums. The result of which would, in turn, either unlock further gameplay features or maybe, just simply expand the online world within which you’re playing.
Which brings me to Batman: Arkham Asylum
Arguably one of the best games to be released this year, Arkham Asylum is not some lame attempt at a movie tie-in, oh no. Instead what we have here is a well thought out action adventure game set inside Gotham’s very own institute for the criminally insane. With an original (and remarkably well-written) story, Arkham is a game that stretches across many different genres taking inspiration from such games as the Grand Theft Auto series, Ultimate Spider-Man and even Eternal Darkness.
One of the best parts of the game is that of the character of The Joker. Maniacal, murderous and just plain hilarious, the clown-faced villain is always with you – - he’s taken over the asylum you see, and as such has access to both the asylum tannoy and video screens. At one point, towards the end of the game during one of the Scarecrow sequences, a Joker ventriloquist dummy appears on screen and happens to mention a very specific URL.
The script is from a cut scene and as such, I can’t go back and replay it. But I think it goes something like this:
“If you think you’re going crazy and are in need help, then why not try www.ithinkimgoingcrazyanddressedlikeabat.com/idiot – BAH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!”
See that URL?
Yes. That one.
The puppet says it so quickly (and so quietly), that if you’re not paying attention, you miss it. In fact, I did miss it the first time I played that section, but thanks to a rather unfortunate turn of events, I was forced to play through a second time.
Miss it again, I did not.
This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is – believe it or not – a user-generated ‘Easter Egg’. Possibly even the first ever UGC easter egg at that! In the website-owner’s own words:
“Many of you have written to say hello, and many more of you have written a few encouraging words… all the emails I’ve gotten have been positive and friendly. You’re a wonderful bunch of crazy bats!
The number one question seems to be, “Are you affiliated with Rocksteady or Eidos?” The answer is “no.” I’m just a fan who found this URL like any of you, except that when I went looking, the domain was still unregistered.
The number two question is, “How come Rocksteady or Eidos did not register it first?” The answer is, “I have no idea!” But I’m glad they didn’t, as it’s given me a chance to virtually meet and greet a lot of great people!”
Anyway – to my point…
One of my colleagues over at 1000heads recently blogged about the excitement born out of the ‘easter egg‘, the notion being that just by being ‘in the know’ about a hidden secret within something like a DVD or a video game (or even a fast food menu), you suddenly feel like being part of something incredibly exclusive.
Including such things in the video games of the future (given that we’re now talking about a multi-billion dollar industry), is only going to become more and more commonplace as we move into 2010.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait