How to embrace the negative and invent a positive reality

Posted on July 17, 2012 by


The theme of this post involves how a voice talent can use his/her creative abilities to embrace a negative situation, in order to invent a positive outcome. Not surprisingly, it all begins with customer feedback, be it spoken, written, or none at all. In 1996, I worked in a place called “XSNY” in Times Square, NYC. It was the very first “Virtual Reality Arcade”, and those things we used to call a cyber-cafe, before mainstream usage of Internet at home. XSNY introduced new technology to thousands of tourists a day, and I worked as an arena host, and DJ inside it. I walked around with a microphone showing tourists and NYC-locals how to use the technology involved.

There existed one game, “Future Baby Pictures!“, that promised to take a picture of a man and a woman, and print out a picture of what their baby will look like. The cost was $8. This game never worked as planned. Here is what happened with the game itself:

Embracing The Negative:

  • High cost
  • The picture of the child always looked deformed and scary
  • The game was taking up real estate, and I had to sell it as part of my job
  • This game was a common source of complaints because it did not work, and it was expensive
  • I liked the job I had except for this one game

What was done next?

Inventing the Positive:

  • Lower the cost slightly
  • Use humor and irony to describe the pictures. Maybe change the name of the game to fit the feedback.
  • Sell the new idea with conviction.
  • Explain the new idea well-enough so that people know what to expect from it.
  • The process of listening to feedback, embracing it, addressing how people feel, and making something new from it they can enjoy.

In short, I re-invented the game as “The Ugly Baby Contest”, lowered the price of the machine, and garnered attention by focusing on what the machine actually did best, not what it claimed it could do. At first, the owner was obviously upset with me, but money has a funny way of talking to people. The original game was pulling in $5000 a month. After the changes, it pulled in $50,000 a week. Why? All of those who once complained now focused on the good time they were having, and not the cost or proclamations being made to show what their child will look like in the future. Friday nights especially, adults and teens would spend all night collecting pictures of their possible family of the future, and laughing about it. We held contests displaying photos, giving away prizes for taking part, and making the customer the star of the business. Was it the original intention of the game itself? No, but when the game took on a new life of its own, customers felt more like they owned what they were paying for, and were able to embrace it.

Moral of the story…When you deal with negative results time and time again, embrace the life your creativity has taken on, listen to what people have to say, ignore it enough to not take it too seriously to the point you paralyze progress, and use what you know to invent a positive situation.