Encouraging online emoting
Matt Casper '97
Parents who think cyberspace is devoid of useful content for kids probably haven't met Abash, Imp, Bubba, and Boom. They are members of a band of creatures known as Emotes, which feel "human-like emotions," have colorful faces, and live inside the Internet—all thanks, in large part, to Matt Casper.
Casper, a psychotherapist and actor in Los Angeles, serves as the "emotional consultant" on the team behind this highly expressive species, each of whom represents a different emotion and possesses a super power. As a group, the Emotes are designed to help kids understand and talk about their feelings.
Since the first twelve Emotes debuted this summer, there's been no shortage of ways to meet them: on their interactive website (www.emotes.com) and blog; in a series of hardcover picture books; as vinyl and plush toys sold online; even on Facebook. Among other responsibilities, Casper writes the content on the site, which features games and online comics, and has co-authored all twelve of the Emotes storybooks.
The books, which are geared toward children ages five and up, tackle some complicated issues, but always with a light touch. In Abash and the Cyber-Bully, drama ensues after the easily embarrassed protagonist accidentally puts on two left shoes, and pictures of his mishap turn up at school. Casper includes tips at the end of each story on dealing with the problems the Emotes face.
The feedback so far has been positive. Casper says another therapist told him about a young client who was having trouble expressing her feelings. The therapist had introduced the girl to Abash and "there was an aha moment where she opened up and began carrying Abash with her everywhere she went. He became a mascot for
her and a bridge to help her come into herself."
While the Emotes' work is rewarding in itself, it also allows Casper to use his skills as an entertainer. After graduating from Duke with a major in religion, minor in psychology, and a certificate in film and video, Casper moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. He's made appearances in films such as Pearl Harbor, on television's Desperate Housewives, and in dozens of commercials.
But he says he wanted to do more, so he went back to school and became a licensed marriage-and-family therapist. Now, he sees clients and continues to act, even co-starring with the Emotes in video blogs on their website.
If plans for the Emotes pan out, Casper's co-starring role will have a long run. The first three storybooks were released in July, and one new book will come out every month, each introducing another character and emotion. The Emotes crew is already at work developing twelve more Emotes characters after that.
"There are lots of emotions in the emotional spectrum," says Casper, "so there's a lot to cover."