Sunday, 16 November 2008

What's More Compulsive Than Twitter..?

On Saturday, FP hosted an event with Urban Vinyl designer Jon Burgerman, signing his latest range of toys. With him, he brought rolls and rolls of his Burger-doodle wallpaper - a mobius meandering of pen and mind and curiosity that leaves the victim with one thought...


Suddenly, you're a four-year-old with a fistful of melting crayon. It's compulsive; one look at that paper and you relinquish all control. You sell your mind to the Overlord of Burgertown and his Posca Pen minions... your wrist belongs to Them now.

Jon spoke of the amount of blog-coverage his wallpaper had received, but I didn't really hear him over the noise of dementedly focused scribbling. Goaded onwards by his tales of kicking a Blue Peter presenter (with love of course), FP staff reached for more colours and shaded fixatedly inside the lines.

Surrounded by the Heroes of Burgertown, Jon watched his mind-controlled minions with gentle perplexity. Here is an artist who has created the single most appallingly mesmerising thing since Sid Meier’s ‘Civ’ – a compulsion that has spread onto the web like a… well, exactly like a virus…

More dangerous than Civ, more compulsive than Twitter – this thing is the words ‘Viral Marketing’ given form.

It’s not wallpaper. It's OCD by the metre.

The image in this post belongs to Jon Burgerman. I was too scared to take my own.

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Friday, 7 November 2008

Expo-sed: The Fans of the Future

A couple of weekends ago, I left the FP rocket behind and attended the MCM Expo at ExCel as a prospect of the UK Garrison and their alter-geeko, Reel-Icons.

And it nearly blew my mind.

Thirty thousand – thirty thousand! – CosPlayers, dressed in everything from luminous orange fur to full Devil May Cry regalia, armed with weapons of latex, cardboard and spray-paint, all high as kites on their own explosive energy.

The weekend directly following the affable, family-atmosphere of NewCon 4, Expo’s colossal attendance and critical mass has thrown my previous post into sharp relief.

These kids are the future.

From eight- and ten-year olds through all ranges of teen into early-twenty-somethings, they’ve embraced the expansion of Japanese culture into Western fantasy and made it their own. They have no need of Real Ale; they’re drunk on Free Hugs and an overdose of Yaoi. Lured by the prospect of the first-ever CosPlay Masquerade Ball, they aren’t passively reading books – they’re realising their part in a vast, interactive fantastical community.

There was a smattering of non-CosPlayers – there for signings and to meet the very sharp and funny Michael Hogan, aka Saul Tigh – but they seemed a tiny percentage, lost in the frenzied game-playing, Pikachu-cuddling mass. And perhaps it illustrates the point: these kids aren’t only moving away from the humble book, they’re leaving behind the comic and the television as well.

Why read it, why watch it – when you can live it? When thousands of friends uphold your knowledge that you are Cloud Strife?

And leads into a final comment: a question mark.

On the Saturday night, there was an incident in the ExCel car park. Nothing to do with the MCM Expo, it was related to a concurrent event. On the Sunday, Security had erected a bag-scanner in the front entrance – and were x-raying all luggage brought in by the attendees of the event in question. Massively ironic, when you consider the ludicrous mock-weaponry flaunted only meters away.

The juxtaposition of the two iconised the sharp contrast between fantasy and reality – and brought me up short at the fine wire between escapism and obsession. We all need release – read, write, watch, dress up, play games – it’s necessary and it’s human.

But as technology swells to encompass our imaginations and the fantasy becomes all-consuming, we need to remember something.

This world is the real one.

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