The Future of Toys is in… imagination?

Hot Wheels Logo

Over at BusinessWeek (of all things), there’s an interview with Gary Swisher, “Vice President of Wheels Design” at Mattell, which puts him in charge of the Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and Tyco lines of car and car-like toys. He says some stuff that I think is pretty neat:

In the old days we would introduce technology for the sake of technology. Today’s kids are not impressed by technology—it’s just a given… Having technology is not the feature. The magic that it brings to the toy is the feature.

Well, rock on! Couple that with this comment:

The biggest thing we grapple with is exciting a kid’s imagination. Toys are the tools of imagination.

He also points out that video games have their own value — friendly competition, primarily, but imagination is not among the things they encourage. I think he’s right on about that. Man, I hope the dude’s right. Coupled with The Long Tail, this is a pretty optimistic view of the future of media.

the long tail

The Long Tail
Chris Anderson of Wired magazine talks about niche media and products on NPR. This comes from his book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Buisiness Is Selling Less of More.
He talks about YouTube — many YouTube videos are as viewed as TV shows — and microbreweries, including Anheuser-Bucsh’s massive microbrewery effort and Amazon’s (very interesting sounding) 140,000th favorite album.
This has direct implications for those of us in small publication. He makes an interesting misjudgement, though: that it’s good enough for artists to get recognition on YouTube, rather than getting paid. What he doesn’t see — and this is weird — is that niche products command boutique prices. I mean, would I prefer to sell 10x as many copies of Shock: to make 1.1x the money? Sure! But until that threatens to happen, I’ll keep my prices the way they are, and that’s pretty good money. It makes it worth the effort. It’s already paid for printing and shipping. Now it’s starting to pay for GenCon. It will start to pay me back as soon as it ships and regular orders start.
Artists, contrary to popular belief, like to get paid and eat food.
The challenge Robert Siegal puts forth, though, is a real one: how to make niche creation pay sustainably?

Shock: now in Real Thing format!

Shock: first promo cover
I understand why some women have a thing for guys in uniform. Sometimes that uniform is brown, and sometimes when that uniform is brown, the dude brings you the proof of Shock: Social Science Fiction.
There are a couple of tweaks to do and my editor (i.e. Carrie Bernstein, i.e. my wife) is going to give it a once-over. And I have to lean a bit on my printing rep to do the last piece of the job (it’s supposed to have a matte finish and it doesn’t — it looks kinda nice this way, but decisions are decisions.) Then it ships to Brennan and me, then to you!

Excellent minutiæ

embrio_435625.jpg
Oh, man. Check out this site full of unusual and futuriffic vehicle designs. It’s a huge repository of Minutiæ for futuristic Shock: games.

Hoo fucking ray!

These are the final two illustrations from Shock: Social Science Fiction. I put them here as a way to mark my triumph, for it has taken to the air and is on its way to press as we speak. I should have proofs in a few days. Barring proof-revealed disaster, it should be on the way to mailboxes two weeks after that.

Last chance for pre-order

Shock: cover, unfolded
Shock: Social Science Fiction will be heading out to press tomorrow, Monday. That means that all those who have pre-ordered should be getting your hot orange square sometime in the next couple of weeks. That also means that this is the last chance to pre-order Shock: Social Science Fiction.
The back of the book reads:

Science Fiction with Meaning
The glint of flexing steel skin and the challenges it brings to its owner. An alien language, whispered in a dream telling truths no one wants to know. Towers a thousand miles tall populated by coarse corporate overlords and surrounded by its impoverished workers.
Explore the hopes and dreams you have for science and technology. Plumb the depths as they go awry and turn on their masters.
Shock: Social Science Fiction is a fiction game that gives you the tools to tell those stories, to build a world and people it with the characters that make it work the way you want it to.
Author Ben Lehman’s original story Who Art in Heaven, taken from an actual game of Shock: is included with running rules explanation.
Grab that raygun and put it in the service of your ideas.
For 3 to 5 players.

I can’t wait to get this thing out the door.

Back in the saddle.

Block Island

OK, I’ve mooned over my honey, and now I’m out of money. So I’m back from Block Island and back in the saddle.

I’ve got a couple of graphic design jobs going on — a landscape architect who seems like a really good guy, and a woman whose company makes baby slings. The second is an ongoing, large-scale (for me) corporate identity. The first, I dunno; I’ve only met with the guy a little bit for a tangentially related project.

But, of course, that’s not what I’m hot about (though I am excited to get paid). This is what I’m excited to do:

I’ve got some illos to do for Shock: and then it’s done. I think I’ll do three more. One, I managed to start on our trip to Block Island and needs a few more hours. I’m not sure what to do for the rest.

I’m working on a top-secret project with Clinton R. Nixon (probably one of many over the next year or so). The Eisner-nominated Jennifer Rodgers has already done the cover illo and it’s beautiful.

I’m also working on a collection of Japanese ghost stories with Timothy Kleinert, as a sorta-supplement for The Mountain Witch. This project is exciting to me because I love these stories. They’re sort of a Mother Goose of Japanese folklore, assembled by a relative outsider, Lafcadio Hearn, who eventually became an unlikely Japanese citizen. The book will be largely stories from Kwaidan, his major collection, with some others Tim feels are appropriate and full of Japanese ghost creepiness.

Mike Mearls knows what’s what.

Mike Mearls, big cheese over at D&D, just wrote this very encouraging article over at his Lj. If you haven’t read it, do. Then read the handwringing below where people worry that “Self-Publishing is Good” really means “THE RPG IDNUSTRY SI DOMED!”.

We’re not actually getting married at the crack of Mount Doom.

Sharp-eyed L-Dopan Jeff noticed that the ring in the picture below is really the One Ring. It’s true! I didn’t have any photos of our rings handy, and I liked the little joke.

But now the secret’s out! So here are our actual rings. Carrie and I made these of red gold. She made hers and I made mine, symbolically each bringing our distinctiveness to the relationship.

It’s hard to see in this picture, but they’re proportionate to our sizes. That means her whole ring fits inside my ring. Maybe that means I could eat her in one bite?

rings.jpg

Oh, and I’m getting married.

ring.jpg

(In case anyone doesn’t know, I’m getting married this coming weekend. It’s delayed my Shock: plans for a couple of weeks so I can do the illustrations discussed below. But priorities are straight here. If you’ve pre-ordered the game, I’m sorry for holding onto your money. I promise I haven’t spent it on tequila and whores like I did with my Under the Bed money.)