April 19, 2017 scottcjones

Vancouver, British Columbia. Saturday morning in September 2016. Low clouds. No rain yet, but it’s coming. Cloud cover so low and dark this morning that the city feels boxed in and claustrophobic. As soon as I step out the front door, rain begins to fall. I fish my umbrella out of my backpack and press the button on the handle. FWAP! The unfolding nylon sounds like an oversized bat taking flight.

Then, raindrops—as big as nickels—start falling. They fall menacingly, with bad intentions, threatening to shred my umbrella to bits, pounding everything, myself included, down, down, down.

I stalk towards the Rogers Arena across town. Rogers is where the Canucks play home games. It’s where I gave a Tedx talk in 2015, so the Arena and I have some personal history.

I’m attending a media event this morning. For those who don’t know, a media event is a high-strung, phoney party that’s designed to promote a product. Media events contain the following ingredients: artisanal sandwiches, soft drinks, giveaways/freebies, awkward moments, sometimes sublime moments, too, and interview opportunities. I’ve been going to these dreaded gatherings—dreaded because they are designed to be fun though rarely are—for more than a decade now.

Today’s high strung, phoney party at the arena is to celebrate the release of a video game called NBA 2K17.

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March 14, 2017 scottcjones 2Comments

The latest episode of Heavily Pixelated is a celebration of Mass Effect, specifically how the original trilogy of games helped one gamer understand herself better.

Buckle up — surprises are ahead.

February 14, 2017 scottcjones 6Comments

I was invited on a media trip to Orlando, Florida several years back, to promote the launch of a tennis video game. Publishers were still making tennis video games back then for some strange reason. This was the summer of 2007. I know the actual date because people had iPhones on this trip, literally for the first time ever. (iPhones hadn’t existed prior to this.) I recall sharing a cab with a woman who let me diddle the dead husk of her depleted iPhone. I grabbed it, and proceeded to make faux computer sounds—BEEP, BOOP, BEEP, BOOP—as I pressed the nonexistent buttons on its cold, dead face. It was the first time I had touched an iPhone. Considering its inert state, it wasn’t terribly thrilling for me. The woman described her one gripe about the device: the first-generation iPhone held a charge for a comically brief amount of time.

Yes, iPhone battery life would improve. Yes, video game publishers would soon stop making tennis video games after this. The world always keeps turning, I guess.

At the event’s “press conference,” a worn out Maria Sharapova stood behind a podium and half-heartedly attempted to say a few nice things about the tennis video game she was there to promote. I observed the proceedings from the second row. I asked no questions.

Something else happened on that trip. Something I’ve never been courageous enough to speak about before.

This story is about that something.

Enjoy.

January 21, 2017 scottcjones 4Comments

I worked there for six months, maybe a year. It wasn’t the worst job I’ve ever have (note: I’d find the worst job soon after this). People were pleasant to me, if a little distant and condescending. I wasn’t a New Yorker and they obviously knew this; I felt like they enjoyed knowing this. The investment bankers who stalked around the office like werewolves enjoyed knowing it; the secretaries, which was the group that I was technically a part of, enjoyed knowing it, too.

I answered telephones, directed calls, set up appointments, signed for packages, and ran an old, knucklehead computer. And I operated the velobinder. The velobinder was the office equivalent of a medieval torture device. It was a large, blank-faced machine with a long, thin slot on the front of it. Within seconds of switching it on, the machine would give off a hot, burning smell. I’d carefully feed stacks of paper into the velobinder’s dark slot. The slot heated up to a high enough temperature to melt plastic. The velobinder’s job was to fasten stacks of paper together, to bind them, with the melted plastic. I had to hold the papers very still for maybe five or 10 seconds in the slot when operating the machine. If I moved at all, even the slightest bit, the velobinder would throw a fit and not do what I wanted it to do.

The day of the office Christmas party I put in more of a workday than I’d expected to put in. I sat at my desk and went through the motions, trying to look busy, trying to distract myself. I had a tough time concentrating. I felt restless and impatient. What I was feeling was genuine excitement. I hadn’t been this excited since I was a kid.

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January 20, 2017 scottcjones

It was 1997. I was living in New York City. It was the holiday season. The office Christmas party was coming. To say that I was looking forward to the party would be an understatement. I was excited about it, excited like a kid about to walk into an amusement park. I wanted to experience the whole thing: drinking too much, eating too much, kissing a woman in the copy room who hopefully looked like Shirley Maclaine in The Apartment, etc.

I wanted to experience the gamut of joyous, ribald activities that I’d seen in office parties on TV shows and in TV movies for decades. I wanted to be the old drunk, tired of it all, getting drunk alone in his dark office. I wanted to be the sales guy wearing a tiara for some bizarre reason and doing a strange dance to Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” on top of the conference room table.

At office Christmas parties, you were a grown-up—a tax-paying, job-having adult. Yet these parties were rare occasions when you were allowed, even encouraged, to act like a child again. It was OK to let yourself backslide a little at office Christmas parties. It was OK to regress.

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December 15, 2016 scottcjones 2Comments

Thanks to some timely string-pulling on the part of Dr. Ali, I was moved out of the bustling community cardiac recovery room and relocated to a standard-issue two-person room further down the hall.

Instead of five roommates—the constant chatter, the beeping machines, and the public attempts to defecate into portable space toilets—I would now have just one person to concern myself with.

This person was an older man. His hair was a dull, militaristic grey, shorn close to his pumpkin-shaped skull. He wore heavy eyeglass frames that made him appear curious and frustrated at once. He looked like an unemployed owl.

The unemployed owl would not have been out of place—not at all—in the background of one of my grandmother’s fading Moose Club Polaroids from the 70’s.

When I initially walked into the room I found him sitting in the chair next to his bed, eating his dinner. He was hunched in a primal position over his tray, elbows planted firmly on the portable table. He held his face about six inches above the tray. This strange intimacy with the tray was presumably done to maximize his tray-to-mouth eating speed. The man ate so fast that his plastic fork clacked against the plastic tray like a cuckoo clock: tock, tock, tock.

He introduced himself as Donald. Or Harry. Or Bernard. It was something like that. What his real name was didn’t matter to me.

I would come to know him only as Wombat.

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December 5, 2016 scottcjones 1Comment

I head to Montreal for the Montreal International Game Summit, a.k.a. MIGS. I stay in a fancy hotel. I speak French poorly. I try to wax poetic about Montreal. (I try to wax poetic at least once or twice a month. Everyone should.) And I talk to the keynote speaker at MIGS, Adam Boyes.

Adam is Canadian. He worked at Sony for the last four years as the VP of Developer and Publisher Relations. Not too shabby for a kid from Canada, eh? When Adam would take the stage at the Sony Press Conference at E3 each year, Canadian gamers’ hearts skipped a beat. (Mine did.)

Adam left Sony, somewhat abruptly, earlier this year. When I heard he was leaving Sony, I thought, Has this guy lost his damn mind? Wake up, Adam! It’s Sony! That’s got to be an amazing place to work! You can probably get whatever flavour of Vitamin Water you want in the office kitchen!

He has an explanation. Because Adam always has an explanation. Enjoy.

 

December 2, 2016 scottcjones 7Comments

It’s winter here, albeit a mercifully mild winter so far. I put on a jacket yesterday, then walked out of the house—right out the front door—without realizing that I’d left a pot of soup simmering on the stove.

My girlfriend noticed the simmering soup. She shut it off and told me about it when I returned.

My response was this: “Really? I did that?” I was surprised, of course, and embarrassed. And I was stubbornly skeptical, too. Even though I knew she was telling me the truth.

My brain is soft and cloudy now. What parts were damaged, and what parts still work, is ambiguous—and will always be ambiguous, thanks to the limited science we have on brains. During my brain’s softest, cloudiest moments, when something vaguely dangerous happens (like leaving soup simmering on the stove), doom settles in, wraps its arms around me, whispers in my ear, This is only the beginning. This is only going to get worse.

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November 10, 2016 scottcjones 2Comments

I was in Manhattan a few years back to attend New York Comic-Con at the consistently underwhelming convention center out on the Hudson River. (Does NYC deserve a better convention center than Javits? It does.) I was there to work a gauntlet of red carpets. My cameraman and I would interview all the SyFy Channel bottom-feeders, cut-rate VOD horror movie “stars,” and without fail,  Kevin Smith.

The director of Clerks is positively ubiquitous at New York Comic-Con. He’s on every red carpet, even if he has nothing whatsoever to do with whatever it is that’s being promoted.

He simply shows up and starts talking about himself. Or Superman. Or both. (Usually both.) Smith always wears his hockey jersey, always sweats profusely and talks fast, and always, always finds a way to squeeze his swollen ego into every damn camera lens in the godforsaken vicinity.

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October 22, 2016 scottcjones 3Comments

Hello, folks. I’ve unofficially/officially changed the name of the show. Brief Conversations with Interesting People has now turned into Heavily Pixelated.

Q: Will this be the last name change, Scott?

A: I honestly don’t know.

A thing like this is always sort of evolving, I guess.

Q: Why “heavily pixelated”?

A: Pixels are often used in media to obscure things (see: a streaker at a baseball game). But, in the realm of video game people? Like me? Pixels can do the opposite. Pixels can simplify and clarify things.

I also like the rhythm of the name. I like the music of it. Say it again, out loud this time. One more time. Now count the number of syllables. (Note: you’re entitled to throw a series of haymakers in my general direction the next time you see me. I probably deserve it.)

Anyway, my friend Steven did a terrific job with the editing and the music in this. I’m especially fond of the opening theme. Every step Steven takes at this point feels like a good one.

This is my favorite episode. It’s centered around a used game store/collector’s paradise/competitive gaming dojo called A & C Games. A & C is in downtown Toronto. http://www.acgamesonline.com/ It’s huge, about the size of a small cornfield. A & C used to be a convenience mart that evolved into what it is now.

As always, if you have thoughts about how I should refine future episodes, please share. I’m need feedback.

Finally, thanks for listening. Sweet of you to do that.

Enough talk. Here we go.

[Answer: 7 syllables.]