The Skin You’re Virtually In

It’s been a weird few months, and there’s been a big issue I hadn’t spared time to talk about because I didn’t know much about what was really going on and didn’t know what would change. I write in advance, so for all I know, what’s stable is going to be overthrown by the time the article goes up.

City of Heroes is back.

Kind of.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Maybe for good.

It’s on my mind, though, and one thing that’s on my mind is watching friends get back into it, and build their characters, but to build their characters now as the people they are now, and that means for some of these players, it involves confronting a big change in their life.

For some people, we’re talking about a big shift.

See, a lot of the guys I used to play City of Heroes with aren’t guys any more (or never were, really, depending on how they want to talk about their gender). And for a lot of people, the character builder in that game, where you could tailor details about your character, where you could make your girl, and you were expected to make something that was yours was subversive and freeing.

We know that people use performative spaces to perform. We also know that a part of what people do when given anonmity and performance is to play with identity; to play with expressing who they are and what they are.

I talk at times, to students and to friends, about why games matter. One example I give is that games let us practice feelings we’re not ready to deal with yet. We practice grief in losing and we practice joy in winning. We practice being kind and we practice being decisive. Games are the place we make a section of the world where we can deal with enormous, dangerous, powerful ideas that we can be told don’t have a place in our life, that are not to be played with.

Sometimes, games can let you be a cute girl with superpowers.

And you realise that that’s what you wanted, with or without the superpowers.

Games don’t need me to fight for them, not really. Games are well established, they’re financially successful, they have a history of cultural writing and academic consideration centuries long. Some elements of games – the transitory and the seemingly low topics, and yes, the raunchy and the exploratory and the embarassing, the things that maybe make us cringe a little when we say them, like I discovered my queerness by making out with a snake girl in Pocket D?

Those are things I want to fight for, and I want to fight for them because my friends matter and what makes them happy is important.

June Shirt II: Magic: The Gathering Colour Emblems

One of my most popular blog posts is the post, No Magic Colour Is Transphobic, which combines Magic: the Gathering colours and factions with ways those groups can handle and respond positively to trans themes.

A few years ago, someone asked an important flavour developer for the game if there was a bias towards transphobia or trans acceptance in one colour or the other, and the weird thing is I don’t remember the actual answer to that, but it got me thinking about how it’s possible in every permutation or group to make a reasonable, in-character response to the question of gender identity that doesn’t make one colour ‘have’ to be ‘the transphobia colour.’

People have asked me to put those designs on shirts, and I’ve been working on that for a bit over a year. It’s trickier than it looks, and with five colours that can be combined five ways, and designs that can appear on light or dark colours, it means that any given idea for a single colour has fifty permutations which I then have to do across at least two sites, for a hundred uploads.

That’s no fun!

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The Flash: Hetero Habits

I’ve watched a lot of The Flash lately. It’s a cool series, I like it. Amongst its problems though, because everything has problems, there’s this weird way the story accidentally serves as a crystallised minefield of The Heteros.

I don’t just mean ‘oh it’s so straight‘ because it is, I’ve seen three seasons now and none of the major, recurring, important characters are gay or even vaguely hinting at it. This is especially jarring when you remember this series shares space with Supergirl’s sister Alex Danvers and Legends of Tomorrow’s immensely powerful White Canary. These series exist in a world with The Gay, but The Flash basically runs into walls when it starts dealing with relationships, and it’s coincidence that those relationships are a festival of extremely bad tropes that all coincidentally relate to kinda bad ways to view women.

There’s the relationship between Cisco and G_psy, and, you know what, every thing about that character makes me uncomfortable so we’re just going to skirt around this and just say that every single thing the writers do with her makes me wish I had a god to whom I could pray for their souls. There’s a few other relationships – the on-and-off of Wally and Jessie, which has at least the detail that they’re young.

The real tricky thing for me is the way Barry and Iris interact. The big tension of Season 3 is Barry getting a vision that Iris is going to die, then solving that. Part of how they solve it involves a lot of commitment and speeches and it involves Barry and Iris advancing their relationship. That advancement, however, results in them talking about that relationship, talking about their feelings, talking about how they view their relationship. What follows then is a really strange, weird way they talk about their relationship as being permanent, as being destined and enduring.

That is weird and messed up when you’re talking about characters who have been friends since they were ten, and one of them was engaged to someone else.

I think about this a lot, particularly in the framework of the relationships that are designed to fit a mould, and it’s telling the way that the series’ lack of diversity plays into the kinds of relationships it shows. It’s not like they can’t do interesting or fun characters – but every time a woman winds up in a romantic relationship, that relationship is a very classically heterosexual, very classically patriarchal design.

It’s not like it’s an inherent problem of hetero writing. It’s just that when you write to easy and simple things, when you write to the simple archetypes, there are a handful of extremely basic ideas that just sit there. And when you use them, they stand out, big and obvious, and make it clear that you weren’t thinking about relationships, not thinking about romances, you were thinking about narrative chunks that have to bump into each other.

I’m not saying queer media can’t objectify women or reduce women to objects, indeed, it’s a whole different problem. But for all that I like The Flash, it’s still a story where for all that it does good, fundamental narrative fun with cool characters who engage me, when those characters try to engage with one another on a whole axis of human experience, the writers turn to three basic plots that were bad when I was a kid and show they haven’t thought about them at all.

MGP: Making Queer Games With Queer Mechanics

Starting January 2016, I made a game or more a month for the whole year. I continued this until 2018, creating a corpus of 39 card or board games, including Looking For Group, Senpai Notice Me, and Dog Bear. Starting in 2019, I wanted to write about this experience, and advice I gained from doing it for you. Articles about the MGP are about that experience, the Monthly Game Project.

I looked for some board games to talk about this month. One thing I was told a few times was there were games around, but they didn’t have ‘queer mechanics.’ This put me in bit of a quandrary, because I have no idea what that could mean.

One of our most popular games, Senpai Notice Me! is a small card game with art, editing, and design by Fox Lee, and colouring and design by me, Talen Lee. This card game was originally conceived for YuriJam2016, where the aim was to make a game that was about the relationships between women. It didn’t have to be erotic, it didn’t have to be romantic, it just wanted to be primarily about the relationships of women to women.

When thinking about queerness in tabletop games, there are a few problems with what that queerness means and how it can be represented. In games like Eldritch Horror, there are gay characters, but players don’t necessarily ever do anything mechanically that relates to that gayness. In Fog of Love, despite being entirely about relationships, there’s no inherent need for gender to come up with the way the game plays, meaning the game is about as queer as the players think to make it.

In Senpai Notice Me! the fundamental frame is a queer relationship, and the main play experience is about becoming the person Senpai notices, or being the kind of Senpai who can notice everyone. It’s also, regularly, played by boys who are not necessarily queer in any way, building cute outfits that show off the personal style of a character mostly represented to them by a random assortment of cards.

I also made, for GaymerXAus, the super-obviously queer game Queer Coding, which was a communication and con game. This game was not made to be super complex or intricate; I wanted to make a game that screamed queerness as loud as I could. It was a tiny project, too, made quickly and with only art assets I was able to make myself.

While both of these games are absolutely trying to be queer games, if you take away the themes and graphics chosen for them… they’re not. They’re just mechanics. There is nothing fundamentally more mechanically meaningful about arranging the letters of the word ‘queer’ than there is any other word with a repeated letter. Senpai Notice Me! could be about collecting weapons to slay a dragon, or just assembling the best gun collection to impress the real veteran, or an anime collection, or all sorts of things.

I think about this any time someone talks about a game ‘not having queer mechanics.’ That’s always kinda weird to me, because what does that even mean? My mechanics aren’t queer, but the games I make are games that reflect me, so it seems they’d likely have some queerness in them. What about Lesbian Chess, where the two queens can’t take one another because they’re dating?

In the end, I tend to give up on this conversation because there isn’t really a way to do ‘queer mechanics’ as much as there is a way to generate queer or unqueer fictions with your games.

Also, and this is a tiny but somewhat sour point: Playing games with queer fictions don’t magically make someone who is a jerk about queer people into a nice person. We can’t transform people with singular queer works. Maybe for some people, the media we create can be a catalyst, but you’re asking to make lightning in a bottle, there. It’s instead better, safer, and nicer, to make sure you create fictions where queer people (and all forms of marginalised people, but hey, one thing at a time in this post) don’t have to feel like they’re an afterthought.

Excerpt: The Nyarr

This is an excerpt from the Nyarr, a race expansion I’m making based on my 3.5 D&D work. This is an abridged excerpt of some details about the Nyarr – their general physical look, their interaction with that thing called ‘gender,’ and some writing about what it’s like to be a Nyarr.

The Nyarr are meant to be a culture you can jam into a game that players can easily pick up if they want to play someone without the same Genders Stuff as a conventional setting’s conventional cultures have. In the same way that people sometimes are drawn to things like the Girdle of Gender Change, the Nyarr are a nonbinary race of cool-looking nice monster people.


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Story Pile: Love Live

Up front: I’m not going to talk about Love Live or its actual stories. Sorry. I tried. I really did. But I kept getting caught up on what I can’t help but think of as Love Live’s Boypocalypse.

This one’s not going to be a happy chat about lesbians.

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Sheith!

Y’know, I’m not actually big on shipping Sheith.

This isn’t because it’s a bad ship or nothing. It’s

You know what, let’s be really quick here for the normals that might wind up reading this. Shipping, which started with the Starsky and Hutch fandom in the 1970s, is the idea of members of a fandom pairing two characters together in a (usually sexual) relationship. This usually, but not always, serves as the basis for some kind of creative media outside the series or book or story that explore or express that.

So you know, if you watch say, Power Rangers and hope that the pink ranger winds up with the blue ranger instead of with the green ranger (and ho boy do I have some news for you on that front) you are, in that time, ‘shipping’ those characters in your mind. If you want to talk about that pairing, you’d refer to that pairing as a ship; ‘the pink ranger/blue ranger ship.’

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Game Pile: Billionaire Banshee

Videogames do a lot of work automatically, which means that there’s a lot of ways that two very similar games can be meaningfully different, and so exploring them is challenging. What’s more, communicating that difference can be challenging, too; I could tell you that Titanfall 2 and Dishonored 2 are both followups to successful games with alternative movement schemes and a buddy that becomes part of your mission flow, with a setpiece level including alternate timelines, but if you know videogames, you know those points of similarity are way less obvious than the points of difference. After all, in one of those games, you’re running around with a gigantic mecha and the other is a steampunk stealth game.

This is because there are layers of systems and hardware that sit between you, the player, and the game you’re playing, layers that are not only not under your control but are very specifically developed and defined by someone who isn’t in the room with you. This means that videogames get to be very complex in a way tabletop games aren’t when it comes to the immutable, consistant set rules of the game. Tabletop games get to be way more sophisticated on all the levels of players playing them, though, because the rules are dynamic, and under the control of the players all agreeing to play the game the right way, together.

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I Like: Benjamin Wheeler

I have a really sour love of Canadian Highlander. It’s a really interesting format whose first impressions in the online space were presented in a way that I felt was really dickish and condescending. Yet, thanks to the neverending presence of a bunch of very entertaining professional comedians playing the game, I’ve come to really enjoy the format (though not enough to investigate playing it myself).

One thing that’s made me really appreciate the game is one of the North 100 podcast’s hosts, or rather, the newest host, Benjamin Wheeler.

Canadian Highlander is a format where duals and fetches run rampant and that makes it economically unfeasible. Ben has talked about budget in the paper format, but also shows ways to make it accessible on MTGO. It’s cheaper, and also, because we get a one-sided take on very thoughtful engagement with the game, Ben digs deep into complex combo lines.

I like these streams; they’re long, Ben’s taste in music amuses me, and occasionally you get Keifer Content, where his husband like, vapes the screen full of fog. It’s fun, it’s funny, and technically, queer MTG Media, so hey, it counts this month.

Making Settings Queer

You think because I’m doing Pride Month I’m going to shut up about Dungeons & Dragons and my own setting? Of course not. Let’s talk about putting queerness in a setting, some ways to do it and some ways I don’t want to do it.

Specifically, one thing I don’t want to do in my setting is make queerness something’s property. I’ve talked about how sometimes players make Tieflings into queer metaphors and why I don’t like that, but understand in this case I’m not talking about this as a player. If your tieflings or orcs are The Gays to you, then you go on with your bad self, I ain’t here to tell you nothing. But as a world builder, as someone constructing this setting that will be handed to maybe people who are one of the less cool types of queer, or maybe even not very queer.

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Is Blacklist Queer?

I have a love-hate relationship with Blacklist, the NBC tv series that basically exists because James Spader is a charismatic man who looks good in a variety of neat hats. It isn’t a good series. Not really. I don’t think you’ll lose anything by being spoilered on plot points from late in the series, but I also don’t think you should be sinking hours and hours of your life into watching this show to keep up with what I’m talking about.

Still, it briefly opened the window for a queer angle that would have been amazing and exciting and then it didn’t do it, which feels like an enormous own goal. But I need you to understand what I’m talking about, so let’s put that in your hand, and you can meet me after the cut, if you want to.

Spoiler warning for the general plot and some specific details about Raymond Reddington’s identity in The Blacklist, and also some cissexism and transphobia from a show I don’t think that much of.

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Story Pile: Atomic Blonde

At its core, Atomic Blonde is an excitingly familiar type of movie. It’s one of those Sunset Noir stories I like, with contrast-driven high-society low-life all outlined in the bright nimbus of neon colours. Where much of Sunset Noir works around the tension between the extreme wealth owned by powerful criminals, existing in spaces without what we think of as a normal safety net, a society that doesn’t have the protections of society, Atomic Blonde uses that contrast to show us a spy thriller, set in Berlin, 1989, a week before the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

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June is… Pride Month!

The month of the sin I’m probably the worst at, it’s Pride Month!

I don’t know how clear it is when this blog posts go up and are removed from context, but I don’t feel like I make a big deal of whatever queerness I have. I mean hell, I just referred to it as ‘whatever queerness I have.’ Like, I’m really reluctant, even with the way ‘gay pride’ has been so uselessly broadened, to think I belong in ‘the gay community’ or refer to myself as any kind of ‘gay.’

Still, I am a bisexual dude, and while I talk about media from queer perspectives time to time, I am not just giving information based on reading and listening, but also from my own experience.

This month I am going to write about Queer Media, I’m going to try and foreground some Queer Games, going to make some more Pride-related shirts, and maybe talk some about queer takes on non-queer media, and what ‘Queer Media’ even means. I’ll try to keep a lid on this, try not to get too overtly and ridiculously salty.

Once again, I promise I will not talk about Undertale, Steven Universe or She-Ra. I dunno, maybe if someone wants those takes, they’ll pay for them.

Game Pile: Dixit

Been a while since I just straight-up gushed about a good game I liked, hasn’t it?

Dixit is a 2008 card game where players take turns trying to connect a chosen word by the active player (the storyteller) to one of a number of cards with dreamlike images on them. Complicating things is that the storyteller starts by picking their card in secret, then announces the word, then each player contributes a card of their own in secret. The cards are shuffled, then revealed, and the players have to choose which of these cards they think is the storyteller’s chosen card to represent the chosen word. If you’re the storyteller and everyone picks your card, they all get points and you don’t; if you’re the storyteller and some but not all the players pick your card, you get points and they do too.

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May 2019 Wrapup!

  • Blog posts

This month’s blog posts featured a few ideas I was glad for the practice to do; I took to my old D&D setting, Cobrin’Seil, and went over the names in that space and the way we talk about the characters and nations there (parts 1, 2, 3, 4). I also tried more rapid-fire Story Pile videos, which I liked a lot because there were plenty of things I’d watched that had maybe a bit of a point to them, but which definitely didn’t warrant a larger article (parts 1, 2, 3, and 4).

Independently of these sets, I also made this piece on the remoteness of a storyteller in a videogame, which evokes the same basic problem of the self-driving car. I also put together a thesis about normality, or normality in game, and how I want to work for it and work towards it. I also touched on a weird thing in Game Studies, where Wittgenstein comes up a lot.

The video this month hit our first irreperable problem! The original video is still going to happen, but since it failed, I instead put this together in a rush:

This month’s shirt is this absolute banger:

This month saw Comic-Gong happen, and with that came out two new games – Hook, Line & Sinker and Freight Expectations! These games will be going up on the invincible ink website soon, and there’s a print-and-play version of Hook, Line, & Sinker over on my patreon for you if you wanna check it out!

Another cool thing about the game work is… something… I can’t… talk about. But it’s cool! Trust me, it’ super cool!  Here’s hoping it works out.

We had an election. It didn’t go well.

May Shirt: SPITE

This month, our shirt design is something I made as a single badge for an article, and thought was so neat, I decided to make it into a shirt.

Here’s the design:

And here the design is on our friendly gormless supposedly unisex Redbubble model:

And here’s the design being modelled by the Teepublic ghost:

And here, amazingly, is this shirt being modelled in black by Sasha L H, who bought it because I told her not to, and vol took a picture of it and it’s really cool like holy heck.

This design is available on a host of shirts and styles. If you like the look, I can see about making the individual badges into stickers.

You can get this design on Redbubble or on Teepublic.

Rebuilding Cobrin’Seil Part 4: The Everywhere Else

Back in 3rd edition, I created my own D&D setting. It wasn’t very good, but I’m still very attached to it, and want to use it as an object lesson in improving. I also want to show people that everything comes from somewhere, and your old work can help become foundational to your new work.

Content Warning: Some of the old text is going to feature some unconscious cissexism and sexism, and I know there are a few unknowingly racist terms that I used.


Alright, so previous bandaids were about my decisions that were thoughtless and badly thought out, like ‘Kyngdom’ as a name, or barely scrubbing the name of Cimmura. The thing is, Dal Raeda, the Eresh Protectorate, and Amenti represent what are some of the best designed pieces of the setting, the places where I had good, fundamentally usable ideas.

The rest of things is where it all gets a bit soft, and also where I did some things that are uncomfortable, and now with the benefit of experience, I realise are pretty damn racist.

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The Top 5 Reasons You Should Make A List Article

Hey, you notice how much of the internet is lists?  Ever wonder why?

5. They’re Approachable

Lists are really easy to get into reading. People can tell – usually – that a list numbering system clearly indicates a form of escalation, it’ll always be easy to collect things with a common theme that causes people to wonder how you link things together, and it creates natural break points for readers to stop reading.

People intuitively seek sequences, and so if you present them with the knowledge they’re going to experience a sequence, they kind of mentally ‘sign on’ for it and they sort of get locked in to engaging with it. It’s a great way to connect an audience to your work.

B. No unilateral disarmament

As long as Buzzfeed and other major news sources are using this model to get people to pay attention to stuff, and operating with my idea that getting writing is important and it’s worth doing, the listicle is going to be here, and while there may be some case to be made about them simplifying media forms, I don’t see why people with barriers to creativity should be the ones told they need to give up on the most accessible and popular forms as if it’s somehow their job to drive the form of all online journalism forwards with the weight of their very souls.

3. The List Forms Its Own Context

When you make a list, everything in the list is in the list. This means the list forms its own context, and each thing in the list can inform everything else in the list.  Which means that if you present five list items about (say), the best octopuses, you’re knowingly just comparing the octopuses in the list. That means it’s easier for you to organise your thoughts, and you can put the list objects in direct contention with one another.

II. You Can Couch the Bummer

Ordering a list is pretty arbitary. Sometimes you’ll track a number value, like ‘biggest failures’ or ‘largest sheep by volume’ and then you can just order the list by that, but a lot of the rest of the time, you have to order your points in your list. With a lot of these topics, there are some things that are fun and  some things that are interesting, but crucially, there’s going to be something in the list that’s the least good, or the sort of thing that feels like a total bummer.

The list format lets you build to these things, when they are important, but they also let you structure your story in such a way that the whole article doesn’t just fizzle out on a depressing, end note. Then when you move on to the last entry, it gets to be funny, lift the mood, and maybe be the natural crescendo of the article. It even gets to be the easiest part of the article, because at that point you’ve got all that other work laid out!

1. The end gets to be a punchline

Penguin!

Making Normal

I’ve been thinking a lot about normal.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about normalcy, intersectionality, representation, mediocrity, names, branding, a Games Studies academic book, and what it’s like to leave a cult.

The usual, really.

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Game Pile: A Swindle Apology!

Hey friends! I’m really sorry about this! There was going to be a video here, but thanks to Audacity being Audacity, I lost two and a half hours of audio that was going to be the foundation of our video. That’s a super bummer, and maybe we’ll get it next month.

For now, here’s a video. It’s not much, but it is an apology, an explanation, and a game!

(The game is the Swindle)

Rebuilding Cobrin’Seil Part 3: Framing Spaces

Back in 3rd edition, I created my own D&D setting. It wasn’t very good, but I’m still very attached to it, and want to use it as an object lesson in improving. I also want to show people that everything comes from somewhere, and your old work can help become foundational to your new work.

Content Warning: Some of the old text is going to feature some unconscious cissexism and sexism, and I know there are a few unknowingly racist terms that I used.


The standard D&D place write-up is bad.

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The Negative Space Of Sasquatch

Have I done anything super weird lately? This seems a perfectly fine time to do something super weird.

Okay, so Bigfoot is pretty weird right?

Now there are three paths to go with talking about Bigfoot, around me, with one route – the easy route – talking about Bigfoot Fucker fiction, you know, the people who find Bigfoots sexy and sell stories about it on Amazon, because when the gates are left open, you get literally anything walking in (and that’s a good thing). Then there’s the next route, where we talk about the intersection of fundamentalist American Christian faiths and how the Mormons think Cain is real, and Bigfoot, and chugging around America looking for people to give weird salamander-ass visions to.

Those are both weird topics but I try not to point out things that Mormons believe because to most Mormons, it is not in any way meaningful to their doctrine, and it’s a bit meanspirited to point out goofy things in a church’s books when the better conversation is about the things that church is doing right now. Besides, there’s honestly something kinda charming about goofy doctrine.

What I want to talk about when it comes to Bigfoot specifically – the modern, American derivation of similar myths of Sasquatch and Yeti – and the supposed place the character occupies in the public lexicon, is that Bigfoot is a kind of cultural pareidolia, an attempt to fill what looks like a somewhat obvious blank spot in the list of Things That Exist.

Bigfoot seems to me to be a compelling myth not because of what it is but because it’s easy to conceive of where the thing should exist. It’s a fascinating creature because in our hierarchy of humans and animals, it’s one of the most obvious options for a really-humany-animaly thing. We know animals exist, and we know there are, well, gorillas that are ‘not humans, definitely animals’ and there are animals that are more animal than that, and

What’s more, Bigfoot is a kind of myth struck from its original source. The idea of the Bigfoot isn’t actually the same myth as the Sasquatch from which it supposedly derives; it’s a story of a thing in English, and the mystery of it is almost always framed through European lenses like modern science and discovery of the ancient, undiscovered land. It’s a lot like the way that Africa and the idea of mysterious tribes of magical gorillas got treated back in the 1890s, by the Burroughs/Lovecraft/Howard crowd of authors.

Basically, I guess, Bigfoot is a colonised myth.

Wittgenstein’s Outsized Example

Today – so months ago – I spent some time reading Wittgenstein. If you’re not familiar with Wittgenstein, he’s one of those philosophers you’ll find if you do a sort of ‘greatest hits’ compilation of the 20th century. Definitely important and all that, contributing to the logic of mathematics and language.

Anyway, the thing is, Wittgenstein has this really weird relationship to game studies in that it seems traditional for everyone to write in their earlier stages a discussion of what a game is. This discussion inevitably brings up that Wittgenstein, in his book Philosophical Investigations, used the difficulty of describing ‘games’ as an example of the ambiguity of language.

And then, for sixty years since, academic writers and game scholars have taken issue with this half-page of text, the single example he offered as a stepping stone on to other topics. In fact, in some cases, they get downright personal about it!

Now here’s the thing, the thing that means me here, in the year of our Luigi is so frustrated by this: Wittgenstein didn’t really care much about games.

It was an example! It was just a language example of a grouping of things that we can all intuitively tell are connected and reasonably share traits, but don’t necessarily have a checklist of clearly and easily defined commonalities! And while sure, you can take issue with that framing, and I mean, Bernard Suits’ definition of games is the one I use but it’s still really stunning that it comes from arguing with Wittgenstein as if Witty was being Very Firm about Games, and not about language!

Imagine being so good at examples, being so renownedly smart, that years later people were building books around addressing an example of yours to tell you you were Actually Wrong. And then other people would come along after them, to disagree with them and you to try and make a point that you were definitely wrong but the other person saying you were wrong was also wrong.

And this is on a topic you kinda don’t care about!

Basic Trick: Writing Structure

I’m doing a lot of writing these days.

Every day I write, every day I take notes, and every day, some of those notes get cut apart and rearranged and they don’t get used. Anyway, one thing I’ve been doing for when I have to write is giving myself a writing template.

I use google docs, wordpress, and Word to do most of my writing. Word is useful for stuff that only needs to live on my computer and which I want to export to PDF with some control – things like rulebooks. Google docs is for anything collaborative where formatting can be handled later. And WordPress – well, back when I was writing a book on this blog, I wrote each chapter in Word and then transplanted it to this blog, with a filter to turn it into html. Since then I’ve learned to use the editor for the blog itself, which is just useful enough that it does most of what I need.

Still have to look up the code to centre Youtube videos.

Anyway, this means a lot of structured writing. Writing where I need to make sure certain things have to show up, or show up in a particular sequence. Writing on my blog tends to be less structured; it’s often more of a flow, where I just start off the top of my head, find a subject, and then it goes. I try to make sure I put something on my blog every day. Some days, I don’t have anything much to say – yesterday, I wrote four articles all at once, and I just don’t want to slip into nothing for today. Something every day, every day. Right?

And so, here’s a basic piece of tech for writing when you write to a structure, and this is good if you want to write an essay but also for writing a story. What I do when I’m writing a story is make a table of two columns. In one column I put the plot beat, the story part, and I put them all in an order I can use. Then, in the table next to it, I flesh that out. Maybe I write prose straight into it. Maybe I write that incident and break it up into new lines of events.

Here’s an example, using lorem ipsum text filled in in the side.

IntroductionProin a volutpat lacus. Mauris semper elit nisl, et venenatis enim malesuada ut. Nunc et tortor erat. Pellentesque euismod nulla accumsan, tincidunt magna quis, fermentum quam.
Meet WizardFusce mollis dolor nec quam tristique, venenatis hendrerit arcu malesuada. Quisque massa lacus, consequat id nibh vel, facilisis pretium metus.
Deal W/HatEtiam nec posuere eros, pharetra imperdiet lorem.
GrapefruitsSuspendisse sodales lectus et ipsum varius ullamcorper.
PunchlineNulla a nibh consectetur, cursus sem id, varius quam. Pellentesque vitae luctus mi, sed venenatis nunc. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

The thing with this kind of structure tool is it’s useful for me as a simple tool that gets me thinking about what I need. It’s a rudimentary basic, it’s getting into the guts of a story and making sure that I get things in the right order, and then I can refine it, make it flow together better afterwards. But a lot of the time we need to get started on things, and this is a good tool for priming that pump.