Here’s a one-part diary, one-part itinerary, one-part aspirational documentation of what I did this past year as best I can explain it and we’ll see how well we go as we go with it. This wrapup is at least in part to look at what I did, but also to try and get a handle on my own feeling of yawning lack of accomplishment. If you didn’t do a lot this year and you get overwhelmed by lists, please don’t read this because it might make you upset. On the other hand if you want a wrapup of the kind of things I do and try to do… well, hey, checkit out.
I got back into writing daily in July, and did so consistantly throughout the year. Part of what let me get onto that schedule better was the use of a Bullet Journal, a tool I found very handy for tracking my progress as I blogged and recorded my mental health and wellbeing. A material object is very satisfying to handle, so I recommend it to anyone struggling with frantic feelings of impermanence.
I finished my honours thesis, and did well enough to get an almost-but-not-quite top rating mark. The research was considered interesting enough to serve as the basis of my PhD, which I then applied for, and my application was approved. This was a really harrowing experience – I thought writing and applying would take a few weeks at most, but it took almost two full months of work.
My Honours thesis is listed under my government name so I’m reluctant to share it as is, but the basic gist was to try and tackle the idea that when critically engaging with games, play is a paratext, rather than text. That is, there is no true textual analysis that can be done of play without recognising the input of the player, but, you can examine the play the player brings if you recognise what the player means to the reading. This wound up forming the basis of my Making Fun videos.
I don’t read enough, I tell myself, so I did my best to read more. When I found myself reading, I made sure to share it and indulge in it, which helped me focus on reading more. Interestingly when you share reading you’re necessarily framing it, which means you’re sort of explaining it, a thing that made approaching some books a lot easier. I’d wind up at the end of a book realising I’d explained it and understood it, without noticing that’s what I was doing.
- The Grasshopper: Life, Games and Utopia, by Bernard Suits
- Alien Phenomenology: What It’s Like To Be A Thing, by Ian Bogost
- Paratexts: Threshold of Interpretation, by Gerard Geanette
- Game Play: Paratextuality in Contemporary Board Games, by Paul Booth
- Understanding Media, by Marshall McLuahn (SUPER dense)
I also read some manga and comics, and some of those I’d recommend are:
- Sense Art Online
- Top 10
I also reread Nation, by Terry Pratchett, which isn’t at all interesting because this is merely one of my favourite books and just one of the best things he ever wrote. Also, one final note to Blades in the Dark, a game book I really liked and makes me very excited.
I made a bunch of twitter robots, which are basically an automated way of playing with text. They seem like they’d be harder than they are – and you’d be surprised once you get past a certain threshold how well they do things you forgot you told them they could do, or never realised. You can look at all of them here.
This year I made a protracted point, as well, to actually watch some TV! That may sound like a really minor thing, but TV these days is such a vast thing that there is some cool stuff there. What’s more, TV you can’t interact with and you can’t be expected to get wrong – which can make it good for relaxation and trying to diminish anxiety. I know I watched all of the first two seasons of American Horror Story back to back while in the grip of The Worries, and you would think that would be distressing but it was kind of the opposite.
This also broadened my palate and gave me more ideas for stories. As a nearly non-stop Youtube watcher as well, I’m already in the market for short, informative videomaking, which I also got into, so longer-form, higher-production stuff – even stuff like just Bob Ross was good to watch.
I also took this chance to catch up on some TV series and movies that are part of ‘the zeitgeist’ that for some reason or another I never really watched. I tried watching more anime, too, which is like TV but you can’t multitask during it, unless you watch it dubbed. And on that note, I watched Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, dubbed, and didn’t hate it. In fact, my thesis and FMA Brotherhood, as well as the work of Sideways, is what convinced me to try making Youtube videos on the subjects that interest me.
What I’m saying is I have a FMA Brotherhood video in me, but we’ll see how I go with this new editing software. Anyway.
I made at least 36 different t-shirt designs this year – holy nerts, that’s a lot more than I expected. My original goal was something like 1 shirt design per month – and thanks to the practice doing graphic design, I wound up making three a month.
In case you were curious, yes, these don’t really sell.
I did a lot of work on my backlog of games. At the last accounting, I have 559 games in my Steam Library, and of them I have marked 229 as Completed. Note that to me, a game is completed when I’m done with it – I don’t need to slog through a game that bored me in the first hour.
And here we have an absolute bumper. Partly because my thesis required a lot of game design and partly because I cannot resist the joy of merely making, I spent a lot of time this year creating card and board games, including our first proper release of a board game.
I planned to make a game a month for 2017, based on 2016, and that arc follows here, but.
- January – D-73C7, a hidden movement game on cards
- February – Chin Music, a memory game of punching
- March – Pie Crimes, the prisoner’s dilemma, with cake
- April – Dragon’s Favour, a voting game of hidden roles
- May – Queer Coding, a cooperative communication game
- June – Fabricators, an economy game of 3d printing futuristic factories
- July – You Can’t Win, an impossible trick taking game
- August – Cafe Romantica, a handsome boys builder game
- September – Good Cop, Bear Cop, a hidden identity accuse-em-up
- October – Sector 86, a space station builder
- November – Escape Code, a bluffing conversation game
- December – C-QNS, a pattern matching number game
In addition to this, there were some extra games we released, Push Pins, Nobeard’s Treasure, Skulk, Camp Osum (Alpha) and Yes Chef. In my thesis I had to complete preliminary design for two more games, Mystery Machine and The Coins Of Tarim, and I did prospective work for Kinksame and pushed through stage one of The Comissioner’s Game. I also put out a prototype concept for a VHS-style wrestling game. So far none of these games have proven to be world-beaters, but I’m happy with all of them, in no small part because I love the process of making them. There are stories about each one, stories about how they improved or changed and that may wind up going up over on the main Invincible Ink website.
I also collaborated more and made more games solo. I made D-73C7 entirely on my own (and incidentally, that number is 881,607, in decimal), and continued this with some of our games – Fabricators and You Can’t Win, for example, were entirely solo projects. Yet at the same time, this year featured Skulk, which has art by Alex Zandra, Sector 86 uses some of our first paid stock art, and Cafe Romantica is a game whose entire visual aesthetic is made by Fox.
In addition to this, games that were complete in 2017, but not released include LFG (releasing Cancon 2018), Black Jack’s Dungeon, Bag O Pipes, Domains of Meh, and Winston’s Archive. There were also revisions and second editions for Crowdfund This, Murder Most Fowl and Chin Music. As I write this, in another window, I have a document open for what I’m hoping might be yet another complete game, which I’m super excited to get my hands on.
I attended six conventions this year – Cancon, Comic-Gong, SMASH, MOAB, GaymerX and LFG, with varying degrees of success. Cancon was an absolute corker, as was Comic-Gong, with GaymerX surprising us with their interest in our ares, and MOAB and LFG a bit more low-key. Still, contact was made with vendors and FLGS, so here’s hoping going forwards there will be more.
I tweeted a lot, and had a handful of tweets go viral, including a new Most Viral tweet of mine, about Vincent Price. This year that was less annoying – the new twitter feature ‘mute this conversation’ does its job.
This year featured a few big changes for me. One of them is that I spent some time this year making the conscious decision to minimise my interaction with people who actively make me feel bad, and to instead focus my emotional energy on improving the lives of people I really care about. Something in my family life has come up that I simply cannot deprioritise – it’s too important – and that means that I’ve had to ask myself if the emotional distress of a stranger is really my business, even if I do want to live in a world where people will randomly be kind to you. I acknowledged that there are some people, even queer people, who are just jerks, and I don’t need to spend my time listening to and ceding to them, because they are not immune to basic social consequences. I still take the hit when I can, as my privilege armours me pretty well.
I’ve taken to offering random instances of kindness to people, as best I can, to simply tell people hey, here’s a reminder the world doesn’t suck so bad, and being okay when they drop it.
I admitted to some of my trauma. I opened up and shared with some people about my stress. I watched as my parents recognised that their best intentions have had problems in both my life and my sister’s life and started to learn how to forgive them. And I started to face things about myself that make me miserable and sad and feel inadequate, and start to try and develop a framework for them.
Here’s the big thing: A member of my family is getting divorced. It is not a nice divorce. There are kids involved. Abuse is involved. This sucks. This straight up sucks on toast. There is no cutesy way around it.
Tune in tomorrow.