#MeshCon 2013: all round geekery

Monkey HatI drank the #MeshCon cool-aid this year and it was awesome!

This is my fourth (possibly fifth) year attending the Mesh Conference.

Mesh continues to be my favourite digital media conference. It’s where I go to hear new ideas, find out what’s next, meet interesting new people and most importantly to be inspired.

Like any conference coming up on a decade Mesh can be hit and miss. I am nostalgic for the early years.  I loved the focus on breakout sessions and workshops and the “unconference” feel of early Mesh. In the first few years I came away feeling like I had learned as much from participants as I did facilitators and presenters.

The later years formats have focused more on large plenary sessions that feel a bit too much like talking heads. The breakout sessions sometimes lean more towards a presenter selling the audience on their digital product or service instead of sharing their knowledge and experience.

Mesh logoThe number one thing that will make or break a conference is meeting the right people. Who are the right people? For me, they are the people who inspire me. The people who I hear what they are doing and think ZOMG! That’s so cool! These people bring out inner my fan-girl-geek and I love soaking up the amazing things that are happening and being made to happen by these innovators.

I am personally really glad @MikeRiverso was able to attend this year. He’s volunteering at Mesh. I know Mike through the Toronto Area Gamers. I am totally envious and very proud of Mike. He is doing what many talk about and few do. He left a job he didn’t like in tech to do stuff he wants to do including shows with his improv comedy troupe, going to as many social media-tech-PR conferences as possible and taking a new degree in PR to re-direct his career focus. I think it is truly inspiring to watch someone really take action to change something they are not happy about in their life and transform that into something amazing and creative and positive.

Firefly RPGMike introduced me to Daniel Solis, who for some inexplicable reason  never made it onto my radar (someone please get this rock off me that I’ve been living under!). For those of who are thinking who the heck is Daniel Solis? He’s a game designer and…. AND…. he’s doing the art direction for the new Firefly game!!!! So, there went any professional decorum I might have tried to keep about me a quasi professional conference and my inner fan-girl took over.

Screen shot 2013-05-15 at 11.06.33 PMDaniel and I went to the afternoon workshop on 3D printing… cause 3D printing! It was my favourite session of the day. The best part was the transformation of the room right at the beginning. Like good attendees we had all taken our seats at our tables while the facilitators seemed to be setting up some 3D printing demo. After a few minutes they realized we were waiting for them and told the room that if we wanted to go over and see the machines we were welcome to do so. It was like someone had just opened the toy box. The whole room came to life as everyone huddled around to get a look. To make it even more spectacular they gave us take home souvenirs.

@LiavKoren did most of the presentation for the 3D printing workshop. I don’t know if he and Daniel knew each other in advance but following a failed attempt by Mike, Daniel and I to approach the climbing wall (we all decided we weren’t dressed for it) we ended up back inside with Liav when Daniel uttered those magic words want to play a game? 

Daniel had brought his prototype for Suspense Card Game. I’ll review in another post, it’s good, I should buy it, so should you.

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Apparently starting up a table top (or floor top in this case) card game in the middle of a tech conference is a good way to draw attention. Jeremy Toeman @Jtoeman joined us for the next game Daniel introduced us to Koi Pond Card Game, also amazing, also deserves it’s own review. Also must remember to buy this!

This was the point in the conference when I realize that I’m playing awesome games with three of the conference guests that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise met if I wasn’t such a gaming fan-girl. Totally awesome experience.

Koi Pond

Throughout the game attendees and conference organizers dropped by to hear about the game and there were lots of photos of this strange non-tech activity.

Tweet pic from mesh organizer Mark Evans
Tweet pic from the meshcon twitter account
Tweet pic from Daniel for Suspense!
Tweet pic from Daniel for Koi Pond

Eventually we did get up off the floor and join the last of the networking session with mesh. I met more awesome people including Clint Tam who filled in on Koi Pond when Mike had to leave, Mary Margaret Jones, and new people many of the names I forget (I’m sorry, I suck with names, I hope to see you again tomorrow) including someone who has a dice-based drinking game (email me!).

This, for me, is what mesh is about. Not necessarily the games – yes, in this case the games! – but about connecting with people who have energy and ideas around all this new creative stuff, about leaving after a LONG day and feeling positive, energized and ready to go out into the world and do crazy good stuff.

Tomorrow is day 2 of the conference. Hoping to be able to see Justin Edmonstone again, Linda Williamson, and Elena Yunusov (it doesn’t feel like mesh without Elena). Also very excited to see Corey Reid for the first time on a panel and hoping to hear more about Maker Faire Toronto.

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CodeAcademy

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A few months ago I decided I would start to learn code. This decision came from a few different places. In January 2012 I was approached by a recruiter from Ubisoft for a production coordinator position. It was the first time I was cold-called by someone offering me a job opportunity and it was incredibly flattering. More importantly it sparked an idea in the back of my mind. I love gaming. I spend most of my social time gaming. Why had I never considered gaming as a career path?

Splinter Cell Black listI came close with the Ubisoft job, one of the final two candidates. While it would have been amazing to get the position, given the shit storm life was about to rain down on me that year I’m glad I didn’t get it at that time because I now know I would not have been at my best.

With everything that has happened in this past year the need to focus on the things that I enjoy and find meaningful has resurfaced. I am not sure if this means gaming. What I do know is that I enjoy making things. I enjoy having a tangible, or semi-tangible, product that I can show as the result of my work. I have an intense interest in technology, digital media, new media, social media, interactive technologies and, yes, gaming. I love building teams and facilitating large group projects. I’ve developed an odd skill set to take a bunch of artsy-blue sky creative types and bring them together to produce fun and sometimes meaningful things.

I have no plans to become the next game designer at a AAA. My interests lie in how to make productions happen. How to go from the concept to final delivery. I love figuring out all the fiddly bits that need to be lined up to go from concept through to end point. Flow charts, critical paths and logistics planning are my zen. I enjoy putting in place the structure and managing the chaos that creates the environment and possibilities for those who do have the design and creative skills to work together to create something amazing.

Games for changeThe brass ring for me would be to find an intersection of interactive technologies, digital and social media, gaming, public policy and social justice. Gaming for social good if you will. That’s a big idea that is probably a long way off. For now, learning code seems like a reasonable starting point. I know I don’t have the 10,000 hours to become the world’s greatest coder, but it is a basic skill that I can acquire as I think about how to fit together the pieces of the things I enjoy doing into something I can put out into the world.

I’m proud to say I’ve finished the HTML and CSS modules on CodeAcademy and am working my way through JavaScript.

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