Bit Bash 2014

September 10, 2014

I remember meeting Ryan Wiemeyer of The Men Who Wear Many Hats at the Wild Rumpus party at GDC. He had, of course, a hat on, and I, of course, was holding a Choosatron. ABC, Always Be Closing right? He struck me as a reserved individual that didn’t smile a lot. This is not meant as a negative reflection, on the contrary! He had poise, and didn’t waste words, but there was respect. I’m an extrovert so when I meet people who hold themselves with a bit more decorum, I have to calibrate a bit.

We had a great chat, and then about four months later I got an email from him about a festival he was working on called Bit Bash, happening in Chicago at the Threadless HQ. He asked if I would be up for including the Choosatron which thrilled me! At some point in the discussion I realized that being based in Minneapolis was, for the first time, actually CLOSE to the festival about to occur! I mentioned that with the shipping cost of the Choosatron it would be about the same to fly ME there, with more than one Choosatron. He conferred with the others involved and decided that made a lot of sense, and even offered to put me up in his and his (really cool I was to discover) girlfriend Jamie Sanchez’s place.

Fast forward a bit…I was poised to leave for the airport the night before Bit Bash, and my flight was canceled. I spent a stressful evening trying to figure out why, and if I could get on an earlier flight that they rescheduled me on, which had me landing about an hour before the event. If you do events, you know that is a shitty way to show up and setup. Sigh. So the next day, arrived at the airport, and I waited. Delayed. Then delayed again. And again. Oh yeah, and ONE more time. Not huge delays each, but cumulatively at least two hours, having me land an hour AFTER it started. I was not a very happy kitten, anxious bees buzzing around.

Fast forward again to landing and jumping in a Uber cab!

“Take me straight to the event!” I bellowed.

And we took to the streets of Chicago. Well, rather the long slow freeway. Hmm…a funny noise. The driver mentioned it too. Ok, yupe. We broke down on the freeway…what…the…HELL universe?!? I thought we had a good thing going!!!

I had to jump out into the freeway with my luggage while the cabbie waved down another cab, made a deal, and I jumped in. It was occupied. Evidently the deal (of which I had no part) was to pay HIM twenty dollars cash to go wherever I was going in the city. I got to know a lovely woman from Dublin there for an engineering conference, so we chatted about Dublin for a little while, and a maker conference called Prototype I thought she should check out. She got dropped off, and finally…so did I.

Happy people were waiting in line to register, and there I was, a sweating, unhappy looking game developer dragging bags behind him, muttering excuse me over and over and I make my way to the front. They were lovely and helpful, getting me through the throngs of people to the back area where it was finally quiet. I sat down for a few minutes staring into space until I was confronted with practical questions. “Is the space ok? Do you have the power you need?”

I shook myself out of my stupor and got to work. We setup despite the crowd, and Choosatron was official open for business!

Image courtesy of Andrew Ferguson

Image courtesy of Andrew Ferguson

Much of it was a wonderful blur. The entire evening both Choosatrons had lines, which I had never seen. They weren’t just spontaneous lines with people who didn’t know why they were waiting either, they WANTED to play! I was able to relax, come down a bit, and enjoy all the other games while peaking in on occasion to remind myself that people actually enjoyed mine.

Image courtesy of Andrew Ferguson

Image courtesy of Andrew Ferguson

They also had games outside, such as Robin Arnott’s SoundSelf experience, Joust, and a new one for me called Relax Harder. It used a long string of RGB LEDs, and two sets of MindWave Mobile headsets worn by the two players. They would compete by trying relax the most, causing their color of LEDs to take over the bar. It was hilarious to watch how people would psych out the players by yelling things like, “Life never gets easier!”. The game itself is a very clever use of technology for a fun thought experiment.


Of course the wonderful Pizza Pals brought us an amazing DJ set that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention!


I enjoyed socializing with some other devs in the back area, especially John of the Young Horses crew (who made Octodad!). I was looking for a decent drink to calm my nerves a bit since the Blue Ribbon just wasn’t making it happen, and despite John trying to make me and everyone else drink malört, he also revealed a lovely bottle of rye whiskey that he happily shared. By the time most of the Young Horses team were around, I went on a long tangent about my recent engagement with my amazing fiancé, and everything I had learned about rings. They thought it was at least amusing, and hey, I was really excited! More new friends, old friends, fun games, and the night wrapped up. I stayed on Ryan and Jamie’s couch that night.


The next morning Ryan, Jamie, Brice, myself, and a few others went out for brunch at a place that specializes in bacon. We were waiting on a group of people with the only table our size. It was a bunch of late 20 to early 30 somethings with a couple of babies. They were slow…as…dirt, and even after paying their bill just wouldn’t leave. The restaurant kept apologizing to us but wouldn’t just tell them people were waiting, so we stood outside staring at them through the glass, hoping our laser eyes would get them to leave, or at least burn their skulls. My hypoglycemia was really getting to me, so I picked one of them to just start making comments about to make myself feel better. Him and his stupid face, and his giant forehead…it really didn’t matter, I was hungry and he was in my way. It DID entertain everyone else with me though, so there’s a win! We did finally get it and had a lovely brunch.


After that I got to visit Ryan’s cooperative work space, and then head off to the airport and home. Aside from having a horrible time actually GETTING there, and almost starving to death (maybe an exaggeration). In any case, I hope they do it again, and I hope I’m a part of it.