Analoging Into 2018

The start of a new year is a fun time to lay down some new initiatives. Call them resolutions, call them whatever you like, but I find that writing down something like this in the new year helps to focus on what you want to prioritize.

The biggest thing for me is something that I began doing in recent weeks. Over the past few years, I’ve found myself trying to digitize most of my media consumption. Leaving Japan marked the biggest push in that I got rid of most of my belongings — meaning all my books, games, CDs, etc. — and since being back in Canada I’ve felt like keeping that “luggage-less train” going.

I don’t want to suddenly start buying lots of physical goods, but I have been wanting to start rebuilding my board game collection — I’ve bought a few things here in Montreal, but mostly small 2-player card games — and in terms of books, I’d like to start building a nice reference collection of game-related books (like the nice coffee table style retrospective books I’ve drooled over in recent years).

I also want to write more. With a pen. On top of taking lots of notes in a notebook/notepad again — something I used to do a lot, but did digitally instead in recent years — I picked up a paper agenda for the year, something I haven’t done in years (I got this one).

I also want to get back into doing personal projects. It’s something that was a big part of my life in Tokyo, but then with the big move and change in career, it was put aside to better concentrate on this new personal journey. But as I wrote recently, attending a few events have rekindled my interest in being part of that sort of thing, and so we’ll see what happens — among other things, fingers crossed on a relaunch of the PechaKucha Night series in Montreal happening.

As for this site, following my return to blogging in 2016, I think it’s time to find a new thematic focus for the coming year. As much as I still love so many aspects of Japanese design and culture, it’s no longer my everyday reality, and I’d like to write a bit more about things that are part of my current “world.” I’m not quite sure what that’s going to look like, but it’s something I’ll be exploring over the coming weeks and months.

After living/studying in China in 1997, I moved to Tokyo in 1998, which impacted the following 15+ years of my life. Twenty years later, in 2018, I’m in a very interesting place professionally (I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow to continue on the various initiatives I’m involved in there, and seeing what else I can do to shake things up), and I’m excited to push myself even further on various fronts.

GameLoop & GCX

Today was an enjoyable day, taking in Montreal’s annual GameLoop “unconference” — “unconference” in the sense that as a group we crowdsource the sessions for the day, with each session then acting as a salon-type discussion.

After leaving Japan and moving to Montreal, it’s taken a while for me to decide to start attending this sort of event again. It was a big part of my life in Tokyo — from running the PechaKucha Night series there, my PauseTalk series, and then other types of talk events and workshops I organized throughout the years (and then there are all the events that I attended as part of the audience).

But after the move, my new goal was to concentrate on my new career path (working in the games industry) — you could also add to that the lack of knowledge I had about the creative scene here in Montreal. Then, a couple of months ago I finally decided to check out one of the events organized by the Mount-Royal Gaming Society, Art-UP (also prompted by the fact that my friend Renaud Bédard was one of the presenters), and it not only scratched the itch I had to experience this sort of event, it also made me want more, both in terms of attending and in terms of organizing.

It prompted me to reach out to the person (Nicolas Marier) who was organizing the long-in-hiatus PechaKucha Night series in Montreal, and not only did we hit it off on our first meeting, but it looks like things are brewing in a positive way to reactivate the series.

I then attended the Canadian Gaming Expo, with a day of talks that I found to be hugely inspiring (mostly revolving around indie game studios) — and it was nice to see a few of those presenters as participants in today’s GameLoop event.

It’s good to be bathing myself again in this sort of knowledge sharing — something I try to participate in and push at work as well — and I’m hoping that I’ll get to have a hand in organizing and supporting more events here too.

Interactive Story and Video Game Art

A few years ago I had the great pleasure to include game developer and academic Chris Solarski in one of our PechaKucha Night events in Tokyo — where he did this presentation about his book Drawing Basics and Video Game Art. He has a second book out now, Interactive Story and Video Game Art, which I’m sure is just as great.

Shiny Shoe’s Mark Cooke

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I first met Mark Cooke when he was living in Tokyo, working at Grasshopper Manufacture. He now runs his own studio in San Francisco called Shiny Shoe — the name coming from a particular pair of sneakers he used to have, that I remember him wearing when he presented at a PechaKucha Night in Tokyo — and you can hear more about his trajectory and what he’s up to these days in this interview podcast produced by Autodesk.

PKN at TDW 2016

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I’m sure we’ll soon get a full album of photos, but here’s the big traditional crowd shot that was taken at last week’s annual Tokyo Design Week edition of PechaKucha Night. Since leaving Tokyo, it’s always bittersweet for me to see these, as our TDW event was always one of the big highlights of the year, and I have quite a few memories of dealing with all of the extra work that goes into producing an event like this — compared to the monthly events at SuperDeluxe that are a cakewalk in comparison — as well as being in the back and running the slides on a laptop, with presenters coming in last minute to request changes or to fix something. Good times.

PechaKucha + Aichi Triennale 2016

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It’s good to see that my PechaKucha family is still going strong, and I loved seeing in the latest Japan newsletter that they’re going to produce a special PechaKucha Night as part of the Aichi Triennale 2016 (on September 22 in Nagoya). Pictured, an image from the presentation by performance arts curator Akiko Fujii.

Tee Dee Double You

If Tokyo Design Week takes place and you’re not there, does it really take place?

Apologies for the ridiculous statement, but as this year’s edition of Tokyo Design Week kicks off, it indeed feels incredibly strange to see it happen from afar. Even though in recent years I’d grown a bit disillusioned with a lot of what I’d see on display, there’s no denying that it consistently played a huge part within the evolution of what I did while based in Tokyo.

I got my start by blogging about art and design in Japan (more specifically, Tokyo) and I can indeed recall attending Tokyo Design Week (or rather the collection of design-related events that took place at that time, not specifically under that banner) during my first few years in Tokyo, and how it contributed to my enthusiasm for Japanese design.

Later, as I started carving a path in writing professionally about design – first for a now-defunct site called Tokyo Q, and then for The Japan Times through my monthly “On Design” column – I’m fairly certain that Tokyo Design Week (or more specifically at the time, “Tokyo Designers Week”) was the first major event for which I had a press pass to cover.

It didn’t take long before my desire to place myself more closely inside this scene had me collaborating with my good friend Jesper Larsson on showcases/exhibitions for Swedish design, that were part of the Swedish Style events that used to take place during TDW. It was incredibly exciting and satisfying to play a direct role in helping designers to take part in the week-long design festivities, and it also led to some fantastic connections with all manner of creative people. And who could forget those fantastic parties at the Swedish Embassy during TDW – always the best.

The last phase of my relationship with Tokyo Design Week was the most direct one, and it involved the annual PechaKucha Night that we produced for them in the big dome, which would end up being the biggest event of the week. It still doesn’t feel natural to see posts about this week’s PechaKucha Night at TDW, and not being the one who has to make sure that we have all of the presentations from our presenters, that all the tech is in place for the night itself…

So yeah, this time of the year coming around without a Tokyo Design Week to take in or to take part in is a bigger shock than I expected.

This Is October

This is this, and that’s that.

A bit of an update on the various things I’m involved with, starting with the very happy announcement that was made a week ago that PressPause is coming back for a second season, starting on Thursday, November 6 (at 20:00). We – me and my fellow organizers, Daryl Cole and Ryan Ruel – wanted to take some time to reconfigure things, in order to produce something that would work better in light of what we experienced with season 1. I explain it more in detail in this post on the PressPause site, but in short, we want it to feel more inclusive to people who can’t really commit to spending a lot of time on producing an actual finished game, but who still want to get a taste of what it takes to make one. We’ll still have lessons – and homework for those who want to put into practice what they learned – but we’ll also have a speaker each time, and we have a nice ending in mind that we’ll talk about more next year.

So if you’re interested in the making of games, and more specifically using Unity as a tool to make that happen, then please join us. You’ll find updates on the PressPause site, and you can now follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or subscribe to a newsletter.

As for PauseTalk, I apologize again for cancelling this month’s edition due to the typhoon. The typhoon business was actually all done fairly early in the day, and so there wouldn’t have been a problem, but I had to make the decision the day before, and didn’t want to take a chance – especially that we tend to get a lower turnout even when it’s just a rainy day. 

PauseTalk Vol. 82 will instead happen on Monday, November 10 – yes, it’s on the second Monday of the month instead of the first, to avoid clashing with the holiday and the end of Tokyo Designers Week. Hope to see a nice turnout then.

Although I’m not involved in producing PauseDraw, I’m really happy to see what’s happening with the series under the leadership of Luis Mendo, Adrian Hogan, and Eiko Nagase. After a summer hiatus, they were planning on restarting last week, which was also cancelled because of the typhoon, and so instead it’s happening today (Sunday, October 12). Follow them on Facebook or Twitter to stay updated on upcoming editions.

Lastly – but certainly not leastly – is our big Tokyo Designers Week edition of PechaKucha Night at the end of the month. As with the past couple of years, we’re having a big event under the dome on the TDW grounds, in a space that can hold up to 1000 attendees. I think we have a great lineup planned – with a possible surprise or two – and I’m especially happy that we got the creative director and lead dancer at the Robot Restaurant to present – should make for a fun presentation. It happens on Wednesday, October 29, and you’ll find the rest of the details here.

Oh, and I don’t mention it much here, but I do still write my monthly “On: Design” column for The Japan Times, which now gets published on the first Saturday of the month. The latest edition was published last week, and can be read online here.

So yeah, a big October (and start of November) with lots happening. Add to that much cooler weather and you have the makings of some nice times here in Tokyo.