Last week I had the pleasure of traveling to Bogotá, Colombia, to attend and present at Campus Party Colombia 2011, a fantastic industry event that evolved out of LAN parties. The place was packed with thousands (tens of thousands?) of gamers, most of whom stayed up all night playing multiplayer games and then sleeping in tents provided by the event. It's like a summer camp for gamers! In the past few years, though, they've been adding on game development features, with the government and Colombian companies trying to spur some interest among young people in building games. I assume they realize (correctly) that a strong interest in making videogames will lead to a flowering of many related industries, including many that are good for business.
I could write a book about my adventures, but I'll just stick to the highlights. Two were getting to see Captain Crunch (John Draper) and Nolan Bushnell. I didn't get to meet CC, but did hear him speak (he sounds like Dennis Hopper). Somebody asked him what he thought about Anonymous, and he replied with something very witty: "Anonymous? I've heard of them. That means they're not good hackers." Haha!
I also got to meet Nolan Bushnell, though I don't think he was feeling well (or maybe he was just paranoid). Apparently he flew in just for his talk and was flying out immediately afterward. I somehow managed to shake his hand, and he remembered who I was from my involvement with Gameplay Forever, but he wasn't in the mood to chat. It's kind of odd considering how his talk was mostly motivational, the old "back in my day I had nothing but got filthy rich and by God if you got the cajones you can do it too" kind of thing. It would've been nice if he'd stuck around and helped judge the campus jam contests (more on that later), but I guess time is money and all. He seems to think the future is "haptic" and "augmented reality," oh, and robots. Lots and lots of robots. C'mon, Nolan, didn't you learn anything from Chuck E. Cheese? I'll say one thing for him, though, he's got a great voice--a deep, sonorous one that really makes anything he says sound profound. Did you know he had 8 kids? No wonder he's interested in new ventures; that'd put a strain even on a millionaire!
Probably my favorite event was the Campus Jam, which is an event in which teams of guys compete to make a game in three days. I was one of the judges along with Kristof Berg (creator of Game Seeds), David Arcila, and some other folks from the Campus Party. I was really amazed at how the games turned out; at least two were nearly commercial quality! We had a hard time picking the winner; one of the games looked really fantastic (sort of like Darwinia), but the gameplay wasn't as fun as the other, which was a four-player arena-type shooter in the style of Smash TV. The latter was undoubtedly the most fun, though not as original in concept as the former. In any case, even the "worst" game was impressive considering the time constraints and lack of "professionals" on the teams.
Indeed, I'm so impressed by the Campus Jam that I'm thinking of trying something like it at SCSU when I go back. Towards that end, I intend to learn some basic game development programs like Unity and Stencyl and such, so even people who have no training or experience can have the thrill of making a game. I think that's a very liberating experience for anyone, particularly kids who don't have a lot of confidence.
Still, as fun as the Campus Party was, the real thrill for me and Elizabeth was getting to explore the city. David is the nicest guy I've ever met. He ran himself ragged trying to make sure that the two of us (and Kristof) had a great time, and his knowledge of the local culture was amazing. I've posted lots of pictures on Facebook if you're interested. I really enjoyed going up Monserrate by aerial tramway. At the top was the most amazing view of the city you'll ever see, and a beautiful church to boot! Then there was all the authentic cuisine...Mmm, ajiaco! David made sure we got to try lots and lots of Colombian foods, many of which consisted of fruits I'd never heard of and all manner of sausages and soups. I even got to sample some of the local brew at the Beer House Factory! However, in Colombia I found myself more interested in the coffee than the beer.
The only negative part of the whole trip was the insane lines at the airports getting into and out of Colombia. We had to stand in line for two and a half hours to get through customs! I don't know why the line was moving so damn slow, but I hope they can get that worked out. I really feel sorry for people who had to go to the bathroom and lose their place!
If we do ever get to go back (or visit another country), I will definitely spend some time with Rosetta Stone learning the language. Most people seemed to understand basic English, but it would've been chaos without David there to translate for us. I studied Spanish in high school and college, but it's a joke. Indeed, I feel that I should write the university and demand my money back for those wasted hours, all of which (of course) were required. I probably learned more Spanish in those five days in Colombia than I did in years of Spanish classes! You can tell I'm a real noob to travel, because it never occurred to me that our cell phones wouldn't work in Colombia! D'oh! I knew we were in trouble when we landed and I had no connection or even WIFI. I'm not sure frequent travelers do; maybe buy one of those prepaid cell phones?
Hopefully, my presentation will be available soon at the Campus Party website. I'll be sure to let you know when I find it. Again, though, I wish to thank David, Mauricio, Vanessa, and everyone else who made this experience so amazing. I hope we'll meet again!
i think we all should know 2 languages.. in the us it might be a good idea to learn spanish soon. I keep thinking about giving it a go, but hard work for somethhing that isnt... required seems to go against everything I know :) been to a few other countries but gotta admit some of those (colombia) scare me a bit.. as Americans are not very well loved, if Arabs are type cast as Terrorist, us americans can be put down for Evil for "any reason we can think of" and lazy.. the second I cant argue with. Nice to know all the "dont go there if your american" stuff is just type casting too. More pictures! or didnt you take more?
Check my Facebook page, Clok. Lots of pics there.
I didn't encounter anyone who seemed to dislike me or America, really. I'm not exactly a poster child of blind patriotism myself; I certainly would agree with anyone that the U.S. has made many mistakes or that the typical American is anything great. We like to talk about our freedom, etc., but I bet the typical American couldn't name more than two or three items from the Bill of Rights. I think our founding fathers would be embarrassed to see what we've been reduced to today. When you think about what we could have if certain privileged people weren't allowed to be so greedy and hoard so much wealth, it's really enough to make you feel sick. One thing I'd love to see is for inheritances and "estate taxes" or whatever to really be raised. That'd help eliminate the problem of people having huge advantages just because they're lucky enough to be born into a wealthy family. I think people should have to earn their wealth, not have it handed to them.
Matt, this is wonderful, I would hardly know how to arrange a trip like this.
If your phone had worked, you would be getting a big ass bill in the mail soon, just for turning it on.
I have to admit, when I heard you were going to Colombia, I was absolutely terrified for you! I didn't want to say anything to contribute to whatever nerves you might have been having about traveling abroad, but I'm sure you've already heard the stories of Americans being in danger in Colombia.
Anyhow, your travel experiences are very exciting to read. One thing I've learned in my travels is that most people, wherever you go, are generally "good," in that they aren't out to harm you, and will welcome you if you're not being a jerk. Yes, there are some places I've been where some people hate you just for being American. Turkey was one of the worst places I've experienced for this, and even there, most of the people were generally at least tolerant, and in many cases friendly, with Americans. Still, I'm not exactly dying to go back there.
I think one of the least friendly places I've been to is right here: the good ol' USA. This is a very hostile country internally. I often think that instead of the bald eagle as a national symbol, we should have a middle finger instead.
When you think about what we could have if certain privileged people weren't allowed to be so greedy and hoard so much wealth, it's really enough to make you feel sick. One thing I'd love to see is for inheritances and "estate taxes" or whatever to really be raised. That'd help eliminate the problem of people having huge advantages just because they're lucky enough to be born into a wealthy family. I think people should have to earn their wealth, not have it handed to them.
I'm not sure I should even be touching this, being that political/philosophical battles are very exhausting, and pretty much everyone on AA leans further toward the left than I. But I do think that what a lot of "class envy" boils down to is the desire to punish achievement. Yes, there's a lot of privileged, silver spoon people out there, but a lot of rich people not only earned their wealth through hard work and "risk-taking," but are the ones who employ people. And our government has a very poor track record with tax money, so I don't think soaking the rich with taxes will solve anything major.
I don't believe that just because someone else has money, you can't earn some too! It's not like there's a fixed pot of money, and nobody else can get some more outside the pot.
Of course, I don't think big money is necessarily a great lifestyle. I've known "rich kids" who are miserable, because they'll never live up to their parent(s) standard. And of course I've known "rich kids" who are just outright scumbags who you hope to see get their comeuppance someday.
No joke, I once stayed at one of my mother's friend's house back when I was a teen, and they were so rich that they actually had a high-school-style gymnasium in their house! I'm talking a full basketball court, bleachers, and a stage in the back, just like my high school! It was unbelievable excess in my opinion, but maybe it was for a purpose I don't know about. The father owned at least one hospital. He had two teenage kids, a son and daughter. And you know what? They were all very good people! The son was going through a rebellious stage, smoking cigarettes and dressing in "punk" fashion, but he was actually very likeable and smart (and he turned out alright in the end). And the daughter was very polite, humble, and smart. The family did a lot for their community, much more than the drunk-ass poor people that bad-mouthed them have done. Ok, I didn't actually hear any poor people rag on them; I made that part up. But I can imagine it.
I am opposed to rich people who are criminals, who bend or break the rules in pursuit of wealth. Of course, who isn't? But these types are the ones who hurt the economy in the long run and fit the "filthy rich" stereotype.
Wow, that's all I'm going to say (for now) on this. I think a lot of "left/right" issues are very debatable, and there are a lot of shades of grey to sort through, making it difficult for me to be a hardliner on anything.
I don't have anything against people like Bushnell being rich, though truth be told (as always) the majority of his wealth came at the expense of the saps who worked for him, earning peanuts against his millions. I guess that's just the capitalist story; get some saps to work for you for peanuts and get rich off of them, then move on to a poorer, stupider country when those workers start organizing and demanding a larger share.
Meritocracy is obviously (to me) the only valid form of government. I guess that's why I liked school; it was the only place where you could be rewarded for your own achievements rather than just those of your parents, family, natural good looks, etc. True, they rewarded physical achievement over all else (footballers be damned), and of course poor kids like me were always unpopular because we didn't have the right clothes and so on. But many of the teachers (at least the ones I liked) didn't seem to take that into consideration and instead were very supportive.
Still, I think you'd have to be a genuine idiot to think that a kid from a wealthy family didn't have a huge, unfair, and unearned advantage over poor kids. True, he might be such a good-for-nothing, stupid dumbass that he'll end up on the street begging for change even with parents who do everything for him, but that's unlikely. Chances are the dolt will get private tutoring, constant support from sycophants, attend an ivy league school, drive a nice car, date beautiful women, etc. All that and the kid not only takes it for granted, but probably a total prick. Meanwhile, a poor kid who wants to make something of himself has to work three jobs, accumulate huge debt paying for school, then gets out and guess what--no family connections, no daddies or uncles to "get him on," and what then? A life of running here and there, desperately trying to make ends meet, just hoping to God that one of those corporate assholes will feel find him valuable enough to be exploited and he'll spend the rest of his life making that #$@ rich. A poor but honest, hardworking man has the whole deck stacked against him from birth.
Meeting Bushnell, or meeting Captain Crunch. I think I would have to go with Captain Crunch. :)