i took the family to IKEA today, as a weird potty-training reward for my youngest. The store offers free child care in a room with a ball pool; we told Izzy that they wouldn’t take kids who weren’t potty trained. Before a week was out, she was pooping on the can like a champ. But this isn’t the story about a 3-year-old’s bowel movements.
And this isn’t a picture of a 3-year-old’s bowel movements (though you wouldn’t know it.)
This is the story of how Izzy was two inches shy of the height cut-off, so we dropped Cassie off at the ball pit and took Izzy secretly to get a frozen yogurt cone to stop her from crying inconsolably. i was wearing my “I Am an Evil Lemon” shirt, one of the fine items we sell for fans of Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure. The cashier looked at it and said “cool shirt!” This was exciting to me. “Do you know what this is?” i asked. “No,” he said.
Oh. What a let-down.
i said “It’s from this game i made with my daughter.” His face brightened up. “You were on the news!” Then my face brightened up as well.
The World Over
What i found remarkable about the exchange was that he was a young guy, supposedly part of a generation that didn’t watch teevee any more – and especially not the 6 o’clock news (or the nation-wide morning show Canada AM).
But that didn’t beat my experience a week ago. We had rented a cottage in Haliburton, a patch of cottage country three hours Northwest of Toronto. The map to that area of Ontario has exactly one road running through it; the rest is very very green, and spotted with lakes. The village closest to the cottage was a place called Gooderham, which i hesitate to call a “one-horse town”, because i got the feeling they likely had to borrow a horse from the next town over. The only commercial buildings in Gooderham are a diner, a gas station, and a convenience store.
Three hours Northwest of Toronto? Not convenient.
We went in to buy marshmallows, popsicles, and snow cone syrup – you know, all the camping staples – and i was wearing my Evil Lemon shirt. As with the IKEA story, the guy behind the cash register remarked at my shirt. “That’s a strange shirt,” he said. “Oh – it’s from this game i made with my daughter,” i replied.
And then, this guy who worked his parents’ convenience store in the middle of B.F. Nowhere in Ontario, three hours Northwest of Toronto, and three months after the fact, said “Oh – you were on the news!”
i’ve had people write to me to tell me how they’ve shared the game around. You’ll remember the teacher who dressed up as the Ponycorns game and went to an anime convention. At the cottage, we spent some time with an old friend of ours, who is also a teacher. Before school ended, he shared the game with his high school students, who went absolutely nuts for it. Come exam time, his students (unprovoked) doodled ponycorns fan-art on the backs of their papers:
IMPORTANT NOTE: My friend does not teach art.
Tiny Voice, Enormous Head
Many people ask me how Cassie is handling her notoriety. A few weeks back, we wanted to have brunch at a place downtown. The waitress politely told us it would be a five minute wait for a table. Cassie looked up at her and said, in a rehearsed manner, “Hi! My name’s Cassie. i’m five years old. i made a game called Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure, and almost everyone in the whole world has played it.” Then she waited, expectantly. This, of course, was all to my utter horror.
“Cassie … are you trying to get us a table more quickly?” i asked. Then, to salvage the situation with humour (as i am wont to do), i chuckled uncomfortably and said to Cassie (for the waitress’s benefit) “No, sweetie – this is how you do it: you say ‘DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM??'”
i’m not sure the waitress appreciated that approach either.
Every so often, i’ll catch Cassie smugly saying to her sister “i’m the famous girl”, and i’ll bark at her from another room “KNOCK IT OFF. You’re NOT famous.” She just continues colouring, and humming to herself contentedly.
We’re far from having created a monster, but my wife and i do have to issue occasional reminders about humility vs. conceitedness. We told Cass that “almost everyone in the world” had played her game, only to help frame it for her. She wouldn’t have appreciated the scope of the game’s virality if we had said “GREAT news, sweetie! Your game is huge in Michigan, and in select parts of Western Mexico!”
Still, the fact that folks remember us from the news remains a thrill. It’s a far cry from getting mobbed in a shopping mall by squealing preteen girls, but hey … we can’t all be Wilford Brimley.
This November, i’ll be talking about the whole roller coaster ride of creating a viral game, and the steps we took to maximize our exposure and reach during the peak of the craziness, at the Screens festival in Toronto for my presentation “Ponycorns: Catching Lightning in a Jar“.