The Legend of Eric: Communications Princess

The book

Here is what the book looks like.

I just finished reading Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal.  McGonigal makes the argument that certain aspects of our lives, our jobs, and our future as a civilization could be improved using game mechanics.  As a gamer myself, the thought of this intrigued me.  If you’re not a gamer, I would still recommend giving this a read as it doesn’t only make the connection to video games, but rather games in general since the basic principles still exist.

I won’t get into every detail.  The book ends describing how games can actually get us to start thinking about the future and solving real world issues.  I was more interested in why people are often more satisfied playing games than going to work when a game also involves using our brains and completing a task.

McGonigal argues that when we play games we are voluntarily working.  We as humans actually feel better when we’re doing something rather than lounging around and taking in a movie or television show.  There are many traits that differentiate games from work.  Good games have very clear goals and rules.  Good games provide instant feedback that tell you exactly how you’re doing.  Good games make you feel that you are part of something far greater than yourself.  Jobs can be vague without a clear direction and little feedback to show you how your actions contribute to the organization as a whole (not my job necessarily, but for many this will ring true).

The game

Here is what the game looks like.

Again, I won’t make this a book report.  I’ve just been thinking about it a lot lately, especially because I’m 23 hours into the 2006 Wii game, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.  In real life, I’m a young professional tasked with communicating core company initiatives internally through video production and various web-based tools.  When I come home from work, I am a hero tasked with finding a series of powerful artifacts that will allow me to defeat an evil god-like bandit from consuming the land of Hyrule in the Twilight Realm.  In real life, the projects I undertake will help the company I work for improve somewhere down the line with a few key metrics that might reflect the work I’ve done.  In my hero life, if I fail my quest the entire world is doomed.

I’m probably selling my job short in this post.  The truth is that what I do is quite exciting.  But referring to work in general, wouldn’t it be awesome if it functioned more like Twilight Princess?  What if after every project you completed you were instantly shown how your work has positively affected the company or the world?  What if every goal was a simple and meaningful as finding powerful artifacts to prevent the end of the world?

It’s certainly something to think about. In the meantime, you should consider having a look at this book.

What do I do, exactly?

I used to write every day in a blog that I created coming out of college.  That was when I first entered the professional world.  At the time there was a very large disconnect between my work life, which was dominated by performance appraisals, tax returns, conference calls, and career development; and my personal blog where I literally wrote an entry about buying a plunger after I clogged my apartment toilet for the first time.  I tried to keep the two as separate as possible.

It’s not as though this blog is going to be a professional blog.  It’s not.  However, now that a few years have passed, I am more comfortable combining my personal life with my professional life in a public way.  This job is now a big part of who I am as a person, just as who I am as a person is a big part of my job.  That is a long way of explaining that I can talk more about work now, so long as you know my thoughts on this blog are my own and are not reflective of the company where I am currently employed.  The company where I work would never clog a toilet.

Here is the LinkedIn-friendly description of what I do; I’m a Marketing and Communications Manager of a global manufacturing company.  My focus is internal communication as it relates to our thousands of employees worldwide.  I’m usually tasked with creating promotional campaigns for various company initiatives.  I specialize in the production of company video projects and I am a community manager on our internal social networking site.  Most recently I’ve been tasked with managing a Social Media Marketing Specialist as we make our communications push externally.  She and I formed our brand new Creative Communications Department because, as we’ve told our colleagues, we are creative millennials and we are entitled…to a title.

It’s an exciting time to be in this department.  It’s like being in the film industry during the rise of the “talkie” or being in television during the rise of the…television.  With social media on the rise for over a decade now, the way people communicate at work is changing drastically and my team (both of us) get to be on the front lines of that. It’s not an easy task by any means.

We are faced with some tough questions.  What are the benefits to using Twitter in a business to business company?  Why use social media internally?  What is the value of inserting humor in company videos?  Where is the home button on my phone?  How do I find iTunes on my Blackberry?

I love my job and every day is a new challenge.  It’s nice to be able to talk a little bit more about it on a public blog.  I hope to be able to share more about my career as time goes on. Also it will be nice to go back and find this post at any point when I forget what I do.

Glasshole, Pain in the Glass, Kiss my Glass, Tight Glass…

I tried Google Glass today.  My friend decided it was the right time to be an early adopter.  I decided it was the right time to mooch off an early adopter.

I only wore it for a couple minutes, but I was quite impressed.  In that short time frame I recorded a video, snapped a photo, sent a text message, and found directions to the nearest Italian restaurant, all using the power of my voice and a head jerk motion that slightly resembles a nervous twitch.

I didn’t wear it long enough to really get a feel for it.  I still have my concerns over what the world will be like when this is officially released in consumer form.  These concerns were only fueled today when I discovered that the product is pretty fun and works quite well.  I can envision a dinner with friends five years down the line where I’m physically smacking this technology off someone’s face.  Until then it’s too soon to tell how this might affect the way we live our lives.

My new text-reading face.

My new text-reading face.

Ignoring My Bathroom Buddy

I used to have an imaginary friend who lived in my bathroom mirror.  His name was William.  Between the ages of 4 and 7 I would converse with William while going about my important business.  We’d talk about life, what we were planning on doing over the weekend, and how our friends and families were.  Sometimes our conversations turned to the existence of God and the role of parents in violent media consumption, but as a preschooler these were rare.  Mostly I shared whatever thoughts were at the top of my head and William usually just listened.

It wasn’t that real people didn’t listen to me, but real people talked back and I needed a chance to organize my own thoughts without interruption.  The bathroom in my house provided a nice place for that. Real people never followed me in there (minus a few emergency situations where I forgot to put the seat down and fell in). It was, for the most part, just me and William.  As I grew up I probably would have found it creepy that there was somebody in my mirror watching me use the toilet, but unfortunately this phase didn’t last.  William died of Ebola in 1994.

So bathroom time became time to think privately, regardless of whether I was taking a bath, shower, or brushing my teeth.  In fact, I’ve done some of my best thinking in the bathroom. Many school projects were conceived in the showers of my various college dormitories.

Then along came smart phones and tablets; portable devices that cured us of all boredom and turned pooping into an intellectually or socially stimulating experience.  Now when you go to the bathroom and forget your phone, you have no idea what to do with yourself except the thing you originally went to the bathroom to do, which is enough for most people.

For awhile bathroom time became Facebook and Twitter time.  It gave me a chance to break away from stalking my friends on my computer to stalking my friends in a smaller room on a smaller screen.  Then I started using bathroom time to read articles online and further stimulate my brain instead of staring at the wall in front of me. But unless you’ve hit your mid sixties, you’re usually not in there for 20 minutes and therefore can only make it through the first paragraph before you’re back out in the world again. After a couple years of bathroom browsing, I started missing William.

I began making it a point to purposely forget to bring my phone to the bathroom with me. After all, if William was still alive today, it would be rude to ignore him. I’m connected to devices a lot, but just because they’re portable doesn’t mean they need to go everywhere. William serves as a daily reminder to take time to just think, whether it be in the bathroom where I do my best thinking or while lying in bed in the morning before work. Sometimes it’s just nice to be alone with your thoughts. William would probably agree. Why did he have to break that vial in the CDC headquarters?

Busting Point

I overlooked a crucial resolution for 2014 which was weight loss.  But I want everyone to think I’m a hipster and that goal is way too mainstream for this blog.  The last thing I want to do is be that one additional fat guy in an overcrowded gym because it’s January.  I’d rather be the only fat guy in an empty gym because it’s March and everyone else has surrendered to the Burger King.  

Unfortunately I have no other option.  I’ve reached busting point.  That’s the point when my belt is officially on it’s last notch.  It’s the point where I start to “Hulk out” of my polo shirts.  And I’m not referring to the muscular, green Hulk that we all know and love. I’m talking about the fat, sad Hulk who eats his feelings.

“You won’t like me when I’m gassy.”

I’ve taken on the task of losing weight.  Not just a little weight, but 30 pounds of the stuff.  I’m essentially shedding over 3 large babies worth of my fat.  

Once I do I am going to buy myself a new computer.  That’s the pot of gold at the end of what is going to be a exhausting, sweaty, rainbow. But I think I’m ready. This isn’t the first time I’ve challenged myself to lose over ten pounds and succeeded. I just need to learn to keep it off. Here’s hoping I do this time.


A Resolution

This year I need to try to lose my technological ADD.  Over the course of 2013 I’ve found myself overwhelmed by the amount of stuff begging for my attention and the plentiful amount of time I don’t have attend to everything.  Even now it’s taking everything in my power not to give up on this blog and check Twitter for something relevant to me, but I refuse.  I have to stay strong.

I love technology, but having two phones, a laptop, and a tablet can be exhausting. These devices can do everything and that’s as much a blessing as it is a curse.  I can’t sit down and read anymore without checking Instagram periodically.  I can’t listen to music without browsing articles on Buzzfeed.  Even when I mindlessly browse the internet I get distracted by fifteen other areas of the internet I wasn’t originally intending on mindlessly browsing.  It sucks.  It’s ruining my attention span.  The other day I wrote TLDR on a Papa Ginos menu.

My two favorite joys in life are absorbing and making creative works.  I love getting lost in a video game, movie, book, album, play, article, drawing, photograph, cereal box crossword puzzle, etc.  There’s something incredible about digesting somebody’s story, feelings, or ideas through the form of art and media.  The world is full of these stories, feelings, and ideas.  Countless more appear every day.  It’s inspiring.  It fills me with a sense of wonder of excitement.  It overwhelms me.  It really overwhelms me.  There is just so much shit and I want to absorb all of it.  All. The. Shit!

It’s not possible to do so and that makes me sad.  But I would rather take in as much as I can and take it all in as best as possible.  When I watch a movie on my couch, I want it to have my full attention.  I want to feel what it wants me to feel.  I want to truly enjoy or hate it.  I want to lose myself in it.  I don’t care if it’s Casablanca or Ernest Goes to Camp.  I just don’t want to half-ass it.  I want to work on avoiding distractions.  I’ll still be active updating and checking social media, but there will be a time and a place for that.

As I type this my phone is on the other side of the room.  It’s a good start.  I feel naked which is sad considering I’m holding a laptop and the television is on, but it’s a good start.

Hello World

I’m going to try blogging again. Consider it a New Year’s resolution of mine. I was going to start it last Thursday, but I’ve been staring at an empty blog template every day since then. I was waiting for inspiration. That was my excuse. It was a poor excuse. I should really know better by now.

I had a scriptwriting professor back at Ithaca who used to say, “Inspiration will fail you.” It wasn’t to demotivated us. It was an expression to keep us writing a little each day even if we felt as though we had nothing. Genius comes from that kind of practice. How are you ever going to pull something clever from your brain if it’s blocked by other crap? You need to relieve that mental constipation first.

I like the way she said it better.

I hate making my first blog post be about me starting to blog again. It’s bad luck as far as I’m concerned. I had a decent blog on another platform that I kept for almost two years before it faded away into oblivion. It was easy to write in when I had just moved to Ohio and had no friends, but once I started meeting people, it felt wrong to write about them on the internet behind their backs. So I just kind of stopped.

I tried to start over a few times. Each time I did an introduction blog like this one and I think that was bad luck because it never actually lasted. I ended up with a series of posts titled, “This time I’m Actually Going to Start this up Again!” I even tried a few spin-off blogs that failed. So if anybody is actually reading this, I can’t guarantee it will last. But I’m hopeful. I guess we will have to wait and see.

I’m not even entirely sure what I’m going to blog about. I just like to have a platform to share my thoughts even if nobody actually reads them. It makes me feel like I’m making my mark on the world. Also I’ve always enjoyed personal creative projects. It’s important to keep an active brain. Everything good I’ve done at work has been a result of a personal hobby that I’ve taken into a professional environment. This can really only be a positive experience.

So there it is. My blog. Or at least a post introducing my blog. It might be the only one I ever do, but it’s a start. Was it gold? No. But maybe it’s just a little crap to make way for the great stuff.

Happy 2014!