Recently, I got lost while walking and asked someone for directions. His answer was that I could just Google it.
Why has Google become a go-to rebuttal? Who wants to go spelunking through dozens of search results in the deep web to find the answer when I can talk to someone in real time?
Why does it seem like we’re either (1) embarrassed to talk to people about our problems but anonymously post them to Facebook, Quora, and Yahoo Answers for advice, or (2) too busy to direct our attention toward another person’s problem?
I understand that Googling will help me make the most informed decision possible, but I worry that this response is emblematic of some greater issue. I worry that we are cultivating a society where people are afraid to ask for help IRL, in real time.
If we can’t talk about our problems, what kind of meaningful conversations can we possibly expect to have?
If you’ve ever heard of Rooster Teeth, then you might have heard of the epic three-day convention in Austin, TX this past weekend they held called RTX.
'Where video games meet the internet.'
I bought a three-day pass and intended to take full advantage of my free time to explore the convention, meet other Rooster Teeth fans, and listen to discussion panels by some of the greatest web series creators, including Burnie Burns and Freddie Wong. What I learned after attending RTX was that there is no excuse to not go out there and make something.
RTX itself was hard to describe while experiencing it. Imagine being surrounded by people all the time with shirts that say, “Hey! I like x, y, and z.” Well, you like x, y, z, too, so why don’t you be friends? It makes introducing yourself and meeting people extremely easy and satisfying because everyone is passionate about something. I don’t think that situation happens often enough. Usually we struggle when first meeting someone to find commonalities and understanding. At RTX, I chatted up two Rooster Teeth fans about their plans for the weekend, recommended them a couple of eateries, and even discussed the games they played recently.
It was also an uncanny experience because although the convention itself was constellated by sixteen-year-old fanboys sitting on the edge of their seats (my former self), my current self is really a twenty-one-year-old film school graduate who wants so desperately to be up there as a speaker giving the panel. So, there was a disparity between my desire to engage in conversations with the creators and my current reality as just another fan walking around the exhibit hall. I still consider myself a fanboy, but I found that by going through the convention, I had become more interested in the process behind creating stories than in consuming them.
Burnie and Freddie’s Rocket Jump team had a lot to say about making videos and telling stories in 2013 that inspired me. Matt Arnold quoted Pixar’s writing philosophy that “a story is never quite done” but we still have to ship it (sort of like this blog post :D); he mentioned that YouTube is only another platform like Netflix and Hulu for people to view content; Burnie stated that the difference between Hollywood movies and making videos on YouTube is simply the vernacular and validation of accolades (Webby vs. Emmy).
I never put it together before, but these ideas were instilled in me when my professor handed me a Canon T2i to tinker around with on my first day in Production I class at BU. We are part of a new generation of storytellers with easy access to the means of making stories.
In addition to going to panels, I had the opportunity to talk with independent game developers in the exhibit hall. Stoic is a group of three friends from Austin who had broken away from making AAA games and used Kickstarter to fund their personal project The Banner Saga. Everywhere around me, I saw creators fueled by the desire to learn everything themselves and cut out the middlemen — and the fans who were excited by what they broadcast out to the world on their YouTube channels (I also caught a glimpse at the dangers of broadcasting stories with ambiguous messages to a younger generation of kids who may or may not be numb to such morality because that is what they are used to, but that’s for another post.)
Heck, even Joss Whedon’s film Much Ado About Nothing exemplifies this spirit of ‘just doing it’. He shot the movie in his own home in twelve days with his best friends as actors. There’s a scene where everyone is at a party in his living room and dancing and getting drunk and the camera swoops across a piano where everyone is gathered around listening to his brother Jed and his wife sing. Then he took a bus with all of them on it down to Austin for SXSW and ate Gourdough’s donuts before the screening.
I want to do that.
There is no one way to make something. There is no excuse to not make anything, either. You grab a camera, a group of friends, buy them a pizza, and make something. Why it took so long for me to conclude these things baffles me, but I’m glad I came to the realization anyway.
I feel nostalgic almost every time I listen to classical music because I imagine my fingers moving up and down and strings, the bow floating back and forth between the fingerboard and bridge, and my eyes glued to the conductor’s baton.
When I was little and living in Long Island, NY, my dad took me to Nathan’s on Sundays, his one day off every week. There we had a simple father-son ritual: two hot dogs and fries.
As soon as I wolfed those down, I made a mad dash to the arcade as if I was being chased by someone with a chainsaw.
My dad would unfold a crisp, twenty dollar bill for me. The coin machine sucked it up, and then I’d hold out my hands in ectasy as a waterfall of coins cascaded down into them.
One of the games we loved to play was Space Invaders.
For those of you who are noobs, Space Invader’s premise is that you move a laser cannon back and forth across the bottom of the screen and shoot rows of descending aliens as they (and the music) eventually get faster and faster. Every time I played the game and tried to protect my shields from the impending alien collision, a red saucer flew across the screen at the top. It was fast, and you had to shift your eyes from fighting the aliens to up top in order to hit the saucer (which gave you an astounding 100 - 300 extra points). And every time that saucer flew across the stage, my dad shouted at me like another one of my friends (I was maybe 12 around that time), “Shoot the saucer! Shoot it! Now, now, now!”
But if I focused on the red saucer up top, I would inevitably crash and burn with the rows of aliens. So, I always wondered why he was emphatic shooting the red saucer.
Where am I going with this? Right now, I am reading a book about game design. Inside, there is a section on a term the author calls ‘triangularity’. It essentially describes the player’s decision to go for either a low risk/low reward scenario or a high risk/high reward scenario:
"It [the saucer] poses no threat and it is quite difficult and dangerous to shoot. It is difficult because it is moving and far away, and dangerous because to properly aim at it, you have to take your eyes off your ship to look at it, and you risk getting hit by a bomb. However, it is worth between 100 and 300 points! Without the flying saucer, Space Invaders gets quite tedious, because your choices are few — you just shoot and shoot and shoot. With the flying saucer, you occasionally have a very difficult, meaningful choice to make — should you play it safe, or take a risk and go for the big points?"
I wondered at that very moment if the red saucer was a metaphor for achieving one of my dreams, and that having my dad by my side screaming at me to forget the tedium and concentrate on a harder challenge at hand was a way for him to tell me that I should always aim higher. Up and up and up on that scoreboard that hangs somewhere, hazy but always distinguishable, in the distance above the horizon.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Going for coffee and spotted a TEDDY BEAR with a red mask dangling above Metropolitan Ave. Could be a cool opening to a short: tilt down from a wire in the air to a teddy bear hanging from it.
(1) Shutter Speed: 1/160
(2) Shutter Speed: 1/100
Used an 18-55mm. variable prime lens that opens to f/5.6 on my Canon T2i. Would’ve liked to have used a telephoto lens to get an even closer shot.
It appears that J.J. Abrams will be “crossing the streams,” so-to-speak, directing both the new Star Trek and Star Wars films. Obviously the inevitable conclusion of this is a weird franchise orgy with Star Destroyers fighting Klingon warbirds.