Category: Making

Articles in this category are about tools and ideas about making things, and my belief that you can make things.

Decemberween: Ex Manus Studios!

This year has been our most active convention-going year. We have gone to almost a convention every two months – and every time, this year, we have done it with the company of Pendix, of Ex Manus Studios.

Now obviously I like Pendix. We’ve been friends for years, almost since high school. But it isn’t just that Pendix is reliable, and kind, and thoughtful – gee, I like a lot of people with those traits. What I want to highlight here is that Pendix is a person who craves to create.

If you sit around Pendix, idly, if there’s a table on hand and there’s just free time, he will have plastescine in his hand, and he will be sculpting. There’s a drive, an energy, a want to create going on there and I really admire and respect that. I work with fast media, I can see the results of what I do, and yet at the same time I can save almost everything I do. Pendix works in a medium that is slow and at times impermanent. If something goes wrong, the entire thing has to be destroyed.

It might just be that the man is patient beyond the measures of saints. I mean, he’s put up with me for years.

There is however, a lesson from him I want to impart: Wanting to create is enough reason to create. Pendix spent a lot of time practicing his craft before he started making models he could sell – I mean, like a decade of just hobby practice, doing things to see if he could do them. Your hobbies grow, and help you grow. They give you skills. And if you want to make things, you can just make them. Maybe one day they’ll take you places, but it’s okay if they never do.

It’s enough to love, for now, the doing of the act itself.

Decemberween: Ettin!

I am loath to be too nice, too quickly. I worry sometimes if this means that my first impression to Ettin was that I was a standoffish dick. In my defence, Ettin likes Death Note and FATE, two things I’ve been noisome about making fun of.

As a peer, Ettin is impressive. He has built community, and interest and fanbase for his work; he’s monetised it successfully, and he’s proven that he’s capable of repeating the success. He’s got good advice for anyone trying to do that and he expresses himself directly, honestly, and fairly.

He’s also done sterling work pushing back against pro-harrassment elements of the tabletop games industry. Without going into specifics, Ettin has tried to get rid of broken stairs in the industry as best he can, even when that involves endangering his own online space and infringing on his own potential for success. No, not everything is fixed, but I at least know where Ettin falls when there comes a time to Say Nothing And Get By or Tell Evil To Go Fuck Itself.

When I approached Ettin with ‘I’m thinking about X-‘ his immediate response was to try and set up a plan. He wanted to enable what I was trying – and even when it wound up not working out with the timetable we had in mind, it was still done helpfully and enthusiastically.

Ettin may have this form of deliberately self-deprecating humour that resists praise, but seriously, I’m glad Ettin helped me out this year.

Decemberween: Ted

How to lead into a discussion of Ted… oh. Okay.

Ted is many things. Ted is an artist. Ted is an academic. Ted is a father, a fishmonger, a mormon, a missionary, and a friend. Ted is a person who, by the sheer mathematics of my own upbringing and perspective, I should not have become friends with. I’m a militant (!) anti-theist atheist (booo, throw rocks at him), and even then part of my upbringing included a section on hunting the cult of Mormon.

I am so glad none of that took.

Ted is a wonderful person. I talk to Ted most weeks. We talk about marking or students or research or applications, or we talk about anime, or, more often than not, he expresses incredulity at the utter ridiculousness of the latest thing I mentioned. Sometimes he consults on Asian history for game design. Sometimes he reality checks me. Sometimes we console one another about the way things are that shouldn’t have to be.

Ted is a good person, noble, and someone I am proud to know.

 

Decemberween: Rachel Stevens

And okay, while I have an older sister, I kinda have a younger sister, too.

Rachel Stevens is a writer and designer, though much more world design than game design. Rachel’s writing work is over on Women Write About Comics,  a website which kind of explains itself just fine.

What I love about Rachel – well there’s a lot about Rachel I love, but one of the things I love about Rachel is she’s an enthusiast. She cares about books and movies and pulp and webcomics and transformer toys and gunpla and about her Vivian and about people being kind, and about fighting Nazis and about – even considering the state of things – doing an okay job.

Rachel is a modern tragedy in that if we had universal basic income, if she wasn’t stuck working the way she is for the work she’s got, she’d be running five goddamn series and making TV shows and graphic novels and videogames and so on. There is no meritocracy where Rachel is doing anything but being able to effortlessly, constantly create the visions of a better future she wants the world to have.

I got help from Rachel this year. In Sector 86, I asked her to name all the spaceships. Not all of the names she gave me got used – you might know if you recognise them – but here’s the sheet of initial notes she gave me.

Hey Rachel. I love you, and you are wonderful, and you matter. Thank you for being part of my life, you gigantically hopeless lesbian with teen tiny hands.

Decemberween: Oh, Cae!

I have this friend – Caelyn – who is an absolute sweetheart. She’s thoughtful and smart, and willing to share her experiences and her storytelling whenever. Her stories, the things she wants to tell are often about change, in some way, but the content of the stories aside, she has this wonderful sense of technological possibility. Cae spends her time, when she’s working on things, testing the limits of what she can do with a form. Sometimes that’s just a document, sometimes it’s Twine, sometimes it’s moving things from format to another. Sometimes she’ll write fanfic of games, and sometimes she writes games that are fanfic – and she does it all, with this endless, wonderful sense of exploration

Cae is a good friend, but even that aside, she is creative. She makes things I like to try out and look at and even those things she makes that don’t click with me hard – because hey, let’s face it, I am still always going to be a Cis Boy Who’s Never Had An Attack Of The Genders – are always worth experiencing because they are interesting. Cae is a person who tries things, and when they don’t work perfectly, looks at what she got out of what she tries.

Cae is great and you should check out her stuff:

Bullet Journal Module: Project Tracker

If you’re at all like me, your Bullet Journal is a tool you use to put your actions in a greater context, and perhaps to either make yourself feel good about what you’re working on, or make it possible for you to know where you should be focusing your efforts next. I’ve got plans that work literally month to month, but I wanted some sort of module I could use going forwards as I use Bullet Journals more, so I could always look back a month or two and double check if what I’m doing is part of my plan.

With that in mind I devised this module with different tracker methods in it:

This tracker is set up so I can use it to mark weekl breakups – like the Podcast; it has enough room to give a short note for them. It can also be expanded across a spread in two larger sections, twice as wide, to allow a lot more room for notes on individual entries.

This is just the design version of the module. Don’t look into it, since I made this months ago and I don’t use it yet for my Bujo. But it’ll probably go in the front of my next one.

An Example _Plan – Encoded

 

Going through my drive and cleaning up, I found this outline for a possible print-and-play scenario game. I’m putting it up here, not to build hype for a project I’m not going to make, but rather to show you an example of the process I go through for _plan files.

Oh and if you’re curious, I label them as _plan files, because it means they show up at the start of the directory.


Continue reading

Thanksgiving Day 2017

For Context: A few years ago I learned that there are elderly people who write Thanksgiving day letters to unparented/unfamilied queer youth who feel alone and isolated during the holidays. This is my attempt to contribute to this genre. I apologise if it is too short or too long – this is something I do rarely.

It is very possible you might find this embarassing or cringey. You are not obligated to listen to this at all but I hope it gives you some comfort during the holidays.

Audio Download

If you like the header image, and would like a larger version, here it is.

The Comedy of Space Quest: Juxtaposition

I’ve been playing a bunch of the Space Quest games lately. Probably not going to Game Pile them, because really, they’re not actually that good and I don’t have anything that feels that worthwhile to say about any individual element in each game. The whole, however, deserves mention.

There’s a very specific type of joke in Space Quest. It takes this very simple form when you look at an object:

This is either a quadrilateralising hyperdimensional retronetropic core refolder disjunction entity, or one of those cheap end tables from Ikea.

Super detailed thing you couldn’t possibly recognise, incredibly mundane and obvious thing. That’s it. This is a joke the game series overwhelmingly uses. When I noticed this today, I went back and double checked a bunch of stuff in the games and realised that it was really core to a lot of how the games’ universe worked. They’re almost all about high-tech problems and low-tech solutions, about complicated plans running into a total dunderhead. Even the games’ very basic premise is obviously about juxtaposition: Your main character is a space janitor. The reward you receive for saving the galaxy in the first installment? It’s a golden mop.

Now this is mainly notable to me because I feel like this is how I structure jokes. I feel like this is the first place I learned this habit, the way I could recognise jokes working. Put the complex next to the simple, put the highly esteemed next to the practical. Contrast and compare and let there be an inherent comedy there.