Entries Tagged 'Brands' ↓

The magic of gaming and imagination

As a mom of two kids and an early adopter, I’ve brought my kids into the digital fold pretty early. I watched the ebb and flow of Webkinz and created accounts on Club Penguin. I encouraged my kids to learn how to take photos and try editing videos with iPhone and iPad apps.

For all of the hardware and software I love to play with, I’ve never been much of a gamer. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I get aggravated when and if I don’t catch on quickly to a game. Instead, I’d rather edit a video or photo and post something to a blog. But my 11-year-old son loves gaming. Not only does he love it, he loves building in it. From Lego Wii games that encourage you to earn all of the characters to earning upgrades to his Skylanders characters to building new worlds inside Minecraft, he wants to do it all. Of course I also make sure he gets outside to play and participate in sports. But it’s fascinating to see how he’s evolving and growing in this digital world.

One of the biggest technology on his radar is Disney Infinity. It’s a new game that comes out August 18th and both of my kids spent the whole summer saving for the game. The whole summer. But it’s finally pre-ordered and they are giddy.

They’re extra giddy because while I was speaking and attending a conference in Chicago, I had a chance to attend a small Disney Infinity lunch party. Attendees had a chance to learn about the game and talk to some of the programmers who helped build it. I will be honest. Few things get me geeked out like a chance to learn about a game my son has talked about non-stop for months. He stalks the Disney Infinity YouTube channel. He reads everything he can about it. He has me equally excited about this game. And as I said earlier, I don’t regularly play games!

Here’s what so freaking cool about this game: There are physical Disney characters that you play and earn upgrades when you play the games. Each character has its own game. But beyond that, there is the Disney Infinity Toy Box. It’s a “sandbox” concept where players can build their own worlds and games inside the existing games. The toy box feature is what has my Minecraft-fan son extra excited. During the lunch, I had a chance to see how there are so many more terrains and tools you can use to build when you compare it to the box options inside Minecraft.

Another really cool feature of the Disney Infinity Toy Box is you can share the things you build with a community of other toy box creators. You can download other’s structures as well. Disney Infinity fans will be able to build and hack each other’s work. That is so cool and reminds me of Scratch. (My son loves that programming tool as well!)

There are many additional elements that will include a reason to start trading another Disney item – the Power Discs. The discs give your toy box a different background or theme or other cool things. While I attended the Disney Infinity lunch, the programmer who I spoke to turned a Monster’s University theme into Finding Nemo. That was super cool. The opportunities are endless. The games and adventures and fun can go on and on. Infinity for real.

A few extra facts: Disney Infinity is available on Xbox 360, PS3,WiiU/PC and 3DS. Starter game packs cost $74.99. Additional game pieces and discs range in price from $4.99 to $34.99.

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I was invited to attend the Disney Infinity event in Chicago as part of The Big Toybook event. I was not paid or required to share my experience. Each attendee received one Disney Infinity game character. I do plan to continue to share future experiences now that the kids have invested their own money into the game!

Being brave and reaching out to brands

As a person who has written in the blogosphere since 2004, I’ve watched bloggers big and small jump into the water of brand relationships. For most of my career, I’ve worked as a journalist and it just didn’t feel right to be a part of that side of blogging. But I have a new career, a new outlook and a new level of bravery.

Did you know a part of working with a brand means you have to be a bit brave? You have to be willing to take a risk in case a brand says no to your pitch. That fear of pitching and not doing it all of the time has held me back a bit. Which is really funny since I have pitched story ideas and reached out to sources to get information and interviews for years. Reaching out to make contact with a brand is not much more different than a journalist pitch. It just has a different purpose.

Let’s rewind to this past month. I knew I was headed to Chicago for a number very big events at one time: Building my daughter’s newest prosthetic arm, putting together a large meet up for my blog readers and speaking at a large blog conference all at the same two week period. I had a lot of driving, coordinating and planning to do to make it all happen.

I stopped and thought about it… And realized in my years of blogging, I have not pitched many ideas with brands. But, I’ve built relationships by talking to communications directors, social media managers and so many others. It was time for me to be brave and ask.

I had a seven hour drive, many, many appointments to attend with my daughter and a very exciting meet up to coordinate that spanned between Navy Pier and Millennium Park in Chicago. I decided to take a risk and reach out to a communications manager at General Motors and some of the managers at the Chicago Children’s Museum and Navy Pier.

I pitched the idea of using a loaner GMC vehicle to get us to Chicago, go to our many appointments and even help us with transportation during our meet up. Having a 2014 Acadia with the bells and whistles was such an amazing experience with all of the other stressful things going on with us during our almost two-week trip. My daughter, Jordan, enjoyed her videos in the back using the monitor. I listened to XM radio or our iPod during the trip using the navigation screen. Once we were in the Chicago area, the GPS system got us around the suburbs and the city. As I learned how I could turn certain GPS settings on and off, I figured out how to get around the city with and without the freeways and tollways. Add in front seat coolers on hot days and the fun sun roof (one in the front that opens and one in the back that is huge and Jordan LOVED to look out), our adventure was so much easier to make happen with our amazing loaner.

Our meet up included 45 adults and children with links to the limb difference community and my other website, Born Just Right. We had so much fun and it was so much easier to be able to have a vehicle for transportation. The transportation also helped so I could take my daughter to her many appointments. We were able to bring a suitcase full of activities so we could hang out in an appointment room working on art and playing games as we built a new prosthetic arm. We were able to buy her a bike to work on her new prosthetic bike hand. She actually balanced on a bike for the very first time! Without a large vehicle like the Acadia, we could have never purchased the bike during our visit.

There are many more stories about how the car made a difference and I plan to write a review about the car itself. But I wanted to be sure to write about bravery. I asked. If I hadn’t asked, our trip would have been a little more stressful. I would have relied on Google Maps a lot more. I would have visited fewer spots in the Chicago area. And I know I wouldn’t be writing a post encouraging others to be brave. You don’t know what is possible without asking.