Chasing Unicorns
Issue: Volume 40 Issue 6: (Nov/Dec 2017)

Chasing Unicorns

Not long ago I was asked to attend THU, which stands for Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn. A strange name for a conference, but I had heard the name before (it definitely sticks with you). I checked out the Website to learn more, but honestly, I was just as light on the details afterward as I was prior to my search.

THU is a gathering for artists and animators. It also touted some excellent speakers and relevant topics. There were big-name sponsors listed on the site. And, it was in Portugal, on what appeared to be a tiny peninsula. That much was clear. The haziness came with the various descriptions. First, the name. What was the meaning behind it? Then came the comparison: a cross between Burning Man and a TED Talk. Another confusing element was the list of so-called “knights,” along with mention of “warriors” and “the tribe.” Was this some kind of fantasy role-playing game?

When I inquired about more details, I was met with responses along the line of “It’s hard to explain. You have to experience it for yourself. But, you will love it and be inspired.” I admit, I was intrigued – enough so that I was in. (The location, Portugal, helped seal the deal.)

Now I get it, and I understand the vague and confusing words. It’s sort of a conference, but one unlike any I have attended before. It was more of an experience than anything else, set up so that each individual walked away with something unique to that person. That is the intention of THU’s founder, Andre Luis. It is also meant to inspire a person to evaluate their professional and personal lives, affirming their direction in life.

Seriously, this is not me regurgitating marketing rhetoric. I am speaking from the heart. The weeklong event was transformative, renewing my passion for the industry and my place in it.

The experience centers on the tribe – a diverse group of people with similar interests, and everything about THU is meant to improve the digital entertainment industry and create better, more prepared professionals for this job market. I now realize “tribe” is a perfect word to describe those attending, or experiencing, THU. We are all creatives of some sort, drawn to the event by our passion for the industry – from students, to artists, to entrepreneurs. And THU shows that each of us has an important role to play within the industry.

From my perspective, THU tries to emulate a Utopian society, where each person is an important contributor within the tribe, and all are created equal. There are no egos here. Sure, there are students hoping to make connections and obtain jobs. Yes, the warrior attendees are there to learn and make connections. And, the knights are sharing their knowledge and experience with others. But here, all the groups interact on a level playing field. The tiny peninsula, reached by ferry, ensures this. No one has special seating or privileges. Everyone is treated equally; some just have more experience than others. And everyone is encouraged to interact with one another.

And it does happen. You just never know who you are sitting next to in a presentation, or who you are chatting with over a drink in the Oasis, where THU-goers gather for sustenance, inspiration, the sharing of art and ideas, camaraderie, and fun. There is no judgment. Everyone is encouraged to be themselves, let their guard down, and be open and accepting of others. There are not many rules, but one is to make sure no one is alone (the other: don’t be an asshole). Everyone should be welcomed into a group. It took me only a few hours after arrival to learn this. I walked down to the Oasis for lunch and I didn’t get more than a few steps from the food counter before someone started up a conversation and invited me to her table.

The bottom line is that this is unlike any industry event. And whether you are new to the industry or at the top of your game, it will recharge you and re-ignite your passion and commitment professionally and personally. It’s definitely something worth experiencing, especially if you want to be inspired.