I'm writing to you from a plane back from the land of beers and beards, Portland, Oregon* where I attended my first XOXO Festival. It is a showcase of independent artists, game designers, storytellers, radio hosts, filmmakers, and yes, there were many software developers.
Emotion was on full display and I felt more loneliness, sadness, anxiety, and grief than I'm used to feeling at events like this, but also more joy, awe, admiration and inspiration. AND I learned about so much fabulous work that it'll be the focus of my next three of these newsletters. THREE.
The hosts, who are both named Andy, won't do another one next year and the future beyond that is uncertain. In the meantime, you can watch all the talks from the last three years online. Also, the third newsletter in this series will by my favorite talks from this year once they're available.
* Also, you can SEE a VOLCANO from inside Portland! a VOLCANO!!
Rose Eveleth produces a podcast called Flash Forward with a brilliant structure: imagine a possible future world, explore how humans react in hilarious detail, then bring on an expert to see how close we actually are to that future. What would happen if the whole world went face-blind? If we suddenly had a second moon? What would the Buzzfeed headlines be if everyone had the option of finding out the exact date they would die?
At XOXO she walked us through a choose-your-own-path storyline from a recent episode, and it was fascinating. I can't WAIT to listen to every single back episode.
We also saw the world premiere of Ordinary Women, the latest project of Feminist Frequency's Anita Sarkeesian. They are befriending librarians and digging deep into history to compile detailed, compelling profiles of badass women throughout history. Not only are the stories beautifully written and carefully researched, the animation and production are incredible. They screened the video for Emma Goldman, a total BAMF political agitator who pissed everyone off, and Murasaki Shikibu, who wrote the first novel. Like, the first novel EVER, in all of human history.
They'll be releasing more videos monthly. Don't miss them, they are lovely and will stop you in your tracks. I'm especially excited for the pirate in the south China Sea who commanded a huge fleet! So many women get their work credited to men around them or written out of history. The Ordinary Women team is writing them back in.
I've been thinking more and more about playing. Not playing as in a board game or video game, but the open-ended, joyful, exploratory, creative play of fingerpaint and Minecraft. I was talking to Kirk Hamilton, wonderful human and former coworker from my teaching days who now gets paid to play video games, and he immediately said "have you tried Tilt Brush?"
Less than an hour later I was at the XOXO VR meetup with a helmet on my face, painting up a storm. It's an incredible experience that feels like...well, a superpower. You can draw in three dimensions, and you can paint in paint, or light, or even fire. I drew a house out of smoke and walked into it! If you every have the chance to try it, jump on it. In the meantime, here's a clip to give you a pretty good sense of it.