Friday, November 25, 2011

Tony's SOUPer Debut

I am blessed to have more than a fair share of hugely talented and creative friends.  Last weekend was a rare opportunity to "travel" into the working world of one of them, into a bit of the creative sphere of a friend.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  My friend works at a JLOOP: a brand & interactive agency located in Long Beach, CA.  The advertised focus of the Saturday night event [through a few email invitation reminders] was a celebration of the company's 10 year anniversary.  The added bonus for the group I attended this outing with was that the celebration was also a soft-launch of a project that my friend had been working on for several months now, an iPhone game called "Tortilla Soup Surfer."

The game features a tomato surfer named Tony [example image to the right] who is riding the wave of tortilla soup inside the bowl of a little boy: Juanito.  As Juanito tilts the bowl to slurp his soup, the wave begins.  Extra points for collecting chili peppers, performing tricks, and staying in the tube.  Not only is the game fun and addicting [like a good bowl of soup is] for us, but it had the additional bonus of featuring accidents that branded it as something out of my friend's artistic vision.  The original type used to inform you of a "gnar"ly job done or a "sick" trick executed screamed his aesthetic.  The decor at the top of the bowl was reminiscent of pottery he bought for his parents on a trip to Mexico.  Without knowing the creator, the game is great...but knowing the designer makes it that much more awesome to see it come to life. 

The process getting to this day deserves mention as well.  Watching the progression of the game development in stages  [via his tumblr account and him showing us short demos of the work-in-progress on his iPhone - if you've ever been to the Reina Sofia in Madrid and seen the photo exhibition that followed Picasso's progress & editing process of Guernica...the experience was essentially a modernized version of that] has enabled us to "travel" into an innovative arena most of us would never experience otherwise.

Before going, some of us wondered if the meet & mingle would be a bit...well...awkward.  We considered that we might feel like fish out of water since most of us aren't designers, making that world foreign to us.  Our fears were put at ease from the moment we stepped through JLOOP's office doors.  We, surprisingly, felt comfortable and part of the crowd.  This wasn't just because 'we knew a guy,' but the vibe itself felt like a family.  All the employees we met were friendly and welcoming...and then of course there were all the party festivities that made the night the enjoyable occasion it was.

Since this party was also a soft-launch for "Tortilla Soup Surfer," the food was themed appropriately : taco bar with all the fixings & the taco stand man assist in the principle assembling, tortilla soup[don't Tonys were harmed in the process of consumption] , and plenty of chips & guac.  Mini cupcakes were passed around on trays for dessert [not exactly themed appropriate...but well received nonetheless and I'm quite certain Juanito would not bat an eye having a cupcake after he finished his soup].

While there was much meet & mingling occurring, there were also activities provided such that those wall-flowers among us [ah-hem] would have something to facilitate them from social anxiety and potentially awkward small talk.

First and foremost, after the 8:30pm announcement of Tortilla Soup Surfer, there was a running posting of the top scores of the game.  Creative profile names abounded...

Next there was the avatar-creation board.  JLOOP's website is accented with chibi-like figures that mimic the look of their employees.  So, all guests of the event were invited to create a JLOOP avatar of their own.  Just like paper dolls, there was a pile of stickers that allowed guests to construct a JLOOP version of themselves to stick to the wall.  An example of one is here:

 Then there was the instagram clothes line.   They had a small photo printer that was synced to print out any photos taken on the instagram app with a hashtag to JLOOP.  The photos were then hung on a close line creating both a "party favor" of sorts and also a collage of the evening's events & attendees.  As an aside, this is ingenious for a wedding [note to future brides-to-be]: you'd save a bundle by using this idea in lieu of a rented photo booth.

That night is something my group of friends has been talking about ever since.  It was a fun outing, but mostly just an incredible blessing to share in a public exhibition of a friend's hard work and creativity...I mean we've always known him to be talented, but it is great to have a larger group recognize this and share in the enjoyment of it as well.

Taking a trip away from your own desk, cubicle, 9-5 into the working realm of another is like traveling to a different state or country: it is a different cultural microcosm.  If you get such an opportunity to get a glimpse of the working territory of someone else and to see bits of themselves reflected in a creative medium of choice, don't pass it up.