A day at the Electronic Arts Headquarters

standard September 3, 2009 3 responses

The invitation came via email and I accepted post haste. What’s not to say yes to? A day touring the Electronic Arts headquarters? Playing some of the newest and hottest games? I might not be an inveterate gamer, but sign me up anyway. I know fun when I see it!

We started with a long round of game testing.

Wait. That’s not true. We started with a yummy lunch. Where I got to chat with Renee of Cutie Booty Cakes and Design Mom. And I realized that I had missed out on a ton by not making it to the first day of the event. And also that I was the only local blogger in attendance. (Shortly after Techmama showed up so I didn’t feel so alone!)

After that we were brought into a room lined with large screen TVs each displaying a new game that Electronic Arts wanted to show off.

I spent a bit of time trying out Charm Girls Club, which you totally need to get if you have a pre-teen girl’s slumber party planned in the near future.

Then I watched some Harry Potter action. The graphics on this game are amazing. It’s like watching a movie. I didn’t stick around long enough to see if the game was any good, but the DS version is quite entertaining.

I spent the bulk of my time playing what has to be the most awesome game ever. Electronic Arts collaborated with Hasbro to bring to life some of our favorite childhood games and some more modern ones – Operation, Jenga, Bop-It, Pictureka, and Connect 4. There’s just enough of the games to make them feel familiar, but they’ve been modernized and given video game attributes that make them fun and new and nothing that kids will sneer at. Family Game Night 2 comes out in October, but the original version is sitting in my bag, waiting to be tested out this weekend.

The other game that caught my eye was My Sims Agents. There are just no words for how cute the game is. And for a cop show lover like myself, it’s like video game crack. Cannot wait until it comes out.
After plenty of gaming our wonderful hosts decided that clearly we needed a bit more gaming. So they had organized a fun treat – a game truck! A truck! With video games in it. So fun. OK. Maybe a bit claustrophobic, but fun.
After all that our thumbs needed a break and our feet needed to move so we took a tour of the main campus.

This is the main lobby.
With a Starbucks INSIDE.
And this is the outdoor maze that employees can walk.
You know, when they need a breath of nature.

We also saw the full basketball court, spied the gym and one of the cafeterias, hung out in one of the many game rooms, and were all in all awed by the facilities. But, as I kept reminding myself (and refraining from voicing out loud), most of the Silicon Valley companies that offer so many perks to their employees do so because they expect a ton out of them in return. Then again Electronic Arts was just named a “Fit Friendly” company by the American Heart Association, so maybe they do let their employees leave their desks to run around once in a while.

All joking aside, one quick tour around the EA campus and it’s obvious how passionate these people are about games and gaming and it shows in the product. It’s going to be a great holiday season for gamers!

Tiger goes RAWR

standard August 13, 2009 1 response

“That was awesome!”

It’s late. We’re piling into the car after a long afternoon and evening at the circus. The girls are rarely up this late, but excitement is keeping them going, little eyes shining bright in the dark.

“My favorite part was the chocolate covered pretzels.” C declares from the back seat.

“Oh yeah? Not the tigers? Or the elephants?”

“Oh. Yeah! Those were neat! I also liked the dancers! In the pretty tutus!”

“I liked the dogs. Those were funny.” I interject.

“Yeah! The dogs! I liked when the dogs jumped.”

“How about you baby? Did you like the circus?”

Little L’s bright eyes are closing. They flutter a bit and she replies, speaking around her pacifier.

“Tiger goes RAWR!”

Moments later both girls are fast asleep, a hint of smiles visible around their pacifiers as we head home and the circus disappears behind us.

BlogHer – (almost) final recap, because enough already

standard July 29, 2009 9 responses

I could go on and on and on about BlogHer, rambling for weeks about a conference that lasted all of three days, but there’s already so much about it all over the blogosphere and frankly I think I might need to move on. You know, if only so I can unpack.

That said, there are quite a few things that I wanted to touch on, so I’m going to attack it all Amalah style and go with a nice long bullet point list.

1- The issue of the wifi

I’m sorry, but if you have been informed that you will be hosting 1600 bloggers in your hotel, and you promise free wifi, it shouldn’t be too much to ask that the blasted Internet connections work! It’s not rocket science.

I was at BlogHer as a liveblogger. My job was to take copious notes during the sessions that were assigned to me and upload them every 1 minutes so that people in other sessions could peek in and see what was going on. During my very first session everything went well until I tried to upload the first 15/20 minutes. Then the wifi crashed, taking with it my post.

I spent the rest of the hour frantically taking notes in Word, trying desperately to get back online, and texting the volunteer coordinator to ask her what I should do.

It wasn’t pleasant.

And that’s pretty much how the rest of the weekend went. So, dear hotels, especially the Sheraton, when bloggers descend, you might want to consider beefing up your wifi. Just a thought.

2 – The grabby horribleness

I can’t tell you how many women went around saying that they had just come to BlogHer for the stuff. To them I say: Get a grip. Or figure out your priorities. Because if you came just for the freebies, then you could have taken the $600 or so that you spent on your weekend in Chicago and gone on a kick ass shopping spree. You would have gotten everything you wanted and cleared the air of the nasty, grabby, envious, jealous air that you poisoned the rest of us with all weekend.
Oh, and also, grow up. If you’d been a toddler you would have spent the weekend in time-out.

3- The support and the love rocked

Do you know how amazing it is to meet someone and have them gush about how cute your girls are or how much they love your writing? It really doesn’t get much better than that.
I loved seeing bloggers meet for the first time and hug like they’d found a long lost friend. It embodied what the blog community means to me.

4 – I make no money with my blog and that’s so much more than just OK.

No doubt this deserves a whole post to itself, but oh well.

I earn no money with either of my blogs. OK. That’s not true. I earn a couple dollars a month. Nothing that’s going to help pay the bills. I could bust my butt and find a niche and write posts chock full of SEO terms, etc, etc, etc. But, uh, I don’t wanna. So there.

I want to keep writing what I want without worrying about how it’ll make the search engines react. I started this blog as a space to express my innermost thoughts and a place to work through my days. It’s going to stay that way, even if it means I’m unpigeonholeable and uncategorizable, and, oh yeah, completely and utterly unlucrative. (And I make words up. Because I’m cool like that.)

5 – People don’t always look or act the way you’d imagine

I have blog friends who don’t know me because I read them, but don’t really interact with them. I have twitter friends I chat with every day. I even have virtual friends I IM with on a regular basis.

This weekend I got to meet, and hug, quite a few of those. And uh. Well, it was an interesting experience. Some of them weren’t the age I expected to be. Some of them spoke faster, or slower than I expected. Some of them were bigger, or smaller, taller, or shorter than I had expected. I’m not saying any of it was bad or good, I’m just saying it’s fascinating to meet people and realize they look nothing like what you had expected them to look. It takes a bit of adjustment.

Also I wonder how I didn’t match up to people’s expectations.

6 – What I learned

Well, because I was liveblogging I didn’t get to attend all the sessions that I wanted to attend, so I learned a lot about writing Op-Eds, which I have about zero desire to do, but uh, if you’re a woman and you’re into that, go for it! It’s a very male dominated field and it could use some great female perspective.

Women have a tendency to undervalue themselves. And we should stop. Also, women don’t tend to think they have any expertise in any field. We should stop that too. We’re all experts in something.

Social Media can work for you. You just have to be smart about how to use it. Check out the popular posts on Social Bookmarking sites to figure out which one will serve your blog best.

If you want to see transcripts for all the sessions click here. And if you search around the BlogHer site I bet you can find video of the sessions too.

There’s one more thing I want to cover about BlogHer, but it will have to wait because this cold isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse, and I need to go sleep some of the fever off so I can make sense when I do tackle that last topic.

BlogHer ’09 Day -1

standard July 24, 2009 3 responses

After getting up at the crack of pre-dawn this morning, getting to the airport, possibly, maybe, I’m not saying, cutting in front of a million coffee hungry people in the Starbucks line, I met up with one kick ass tweeter at the airport gate and a couple awesome bloggers in the plane.

We arrived in Chicago in record time and then took almost as long to get to the airport. But that was so fine because it was all chatter all the way.

I’ve met so many fun faces and seen so many new people. It’s been just a taste of the rest of the weekend.

There’s been some major ugliness in regards to swag hording and grabbing. Stuff that has soured many BlogHers and shed some unflattering light on others. But I have to say that, as I sit in my hotel room chatting with my sister and no swag in sight, I’m fine with it. This weekend isn’t about swag and hyper promotion, it’s about the people, the bloggers, and the community. We just have to keep reminding ourselves of that.

Tomorrow more shmoozing and lots and lots and lots of live blogging! Stay tuned!