Monthly Archives: December 2021

Decemberween: You

There’s a want, an intuitive reaching, for the idea of calling this schmaltzy or cringe. To say, oh, that’s embarrassing, or oh, that’s not worth doing as a subject.

At the end of each month I write a ‘wrapup’ of the month. These serve as a guide for reading, encouraging people who only check the blog sporadically for particular articles I think were very good, or which I felt work well when you link them together. The wrapups are also a chance to reflect on my life in the month and have a moment of diarying. You know, hey, here’s what’s happened in my meatspace life, what that might have done to the blog. Ostensibly, that’s what would go here, today, on the blog: What happened this month? What articles were interesting to me in hindsight?

I think that works against the spirit of Decemberween, a festival of looking at the whole year, an exercise in sharing and gentle content. If you want fanged writing, you can go check the rest of the year, and lords knows there’s stuff that got missed up there. There’s an article about Shadowcaster, I doubt you read that.

I did a year-end wrapup for the Story Pile feature, and tomorrow, you’ll see a year-end wrapup for the Game Pile. Which means that this is the most natural place to wrapup the blog as a whole, and maybe the whole year. Point out some faves, tell you how great these articles were, all that…

But I kind of feel it’s more important to make it clear, how much, in general this blog has been driven by people reacting to it.

There’s a joke I made, last year, about Touhou, that it was a ‘fandom that predates Dark Souls – as in, could hunt and feast upon it.’ On Twitter, a long-term reader (hi Dana!) said that it was ‘one of those lines’ that made her get up away from the computer and laugh. And … I think about that line regularly. I think about it because it implies that there’s multiple times I make a joke like that, that that’s something that can form a pattern.

That excites me.

That fills me with joy.

You, the people who engage with this – either a little or a lot, either reading or just talking to me about the things you want to see me write, you are all part of this process. I don’t want to disappoint you, and I don’t want to bore you.

Your time, as always, is a gift.

And I am grateful.

(I am also grateful for those of you who decided that not just time, but money could be given to you, and those people are extra-awesome, but I don’t want to frame it so that you feel like your money is worth more than your attention. Trust me, I want both.)

Decemberween: Other People Watching Haikyuu!!

Do you remember at all, how earlier this year, I talked about how Haikyuu!! is a really good anime about stories, and has really appealing male characters in it that could be important to romantic narratives? I really liked Haikyuu and I watched all of it I could, and then, because apparently I watched a bunch of clips on Youtube for the article, the Dread Algorithm threw some videos at me, suggesting I check out professional volleyball players or coaches reacting to Haikyuu!!.

And I’m a games academic.

So I was really interested.

First up, there’s Coach Donny at Elevate Yourself, and I hope by the time this article goes up he’s finished with season 3, but he at this time has no idea that it’s an entire season that’s one game…

And next up there’s Victoria Garrick, the USC Libero, responding to the anime with a special focus on Nishinoya, the team’s libero.

What I find amazing about these videos is how often these two people who know volleyball pretty well, can look at the anime depicting the sport, and have similar or the same reactions – how they can both give an informed reaction to the same content, which suggests that the anime does a good job of representing something real.

That’s really cool and it’s very interesting. If you liked Haikyuu and wanted to know more about it as a representation of a real sport, this is a way to recontextualise what you watched.

Story Pile: The 2021 Summary

I’m not a movie reviewer, I don’t need a top ten, and I’m not doing anything in a timely fashion. When I write about something it’s almost always because I enjoyed it, or I enjoy talking about some idea in it, or I found something awful and I want to show it to you because it annoyed or disgusted me and I got to wave it around like a gross thing I found in the fridge and I want you to share in my pain or be deeply amused by my performatively flailing it around.

That’s what happens when I watch a movie like Now You See Me 2, which isn’t exactly an article I’d hold up afterwards as a great article. I mean you’re not going to get some sort of thoughtful engagement with the story and its themes, you’re going to get me mad about the way people fail to respect pretendy wizards. Which is fun, but it isn’t something I necessarily can read back, myself, now, without seeing the ways I just fall into a weaker writing style.

This isn’t just a review of what media I enjoyed the most this year. That list is a lot longer and a lot harder to manage, because, well, I like a lot of things. Instead what I want to highlight here is the ten Story Pile articles that I think make for the best reading this year, and why you might enjoy them. Presented then, in no particular order, and with minimal additional work, The Story Pile 2021 Top 10!

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MTG: December’s Custom Cards — No-Effort-November

I’m a firm believer in, as a content creator, No Effort November. Use that month to belt out anything that wasn’t that hard for you, or use it as the catching tray for content that you wanted to get done this year but didn’t have time to make it work in and won’t really fit in the jovial tone of December.

With that in mind, my December cards, the ones I’d be working on in November, are all the cards I came up with through the year, couldn’t find a place for or fit into an existing theme and therefore got dumped unceremoniously in a file labelled ‘2021, misc.’

There’s no theme. No coherence. They’re not colour balanced. I was tempted to post them without art, to really hammer home on No Effort.

Anyway, after the fold, a bunch of cards.

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Decemberween: Fox, 2021 – The Art Gremblin Rises

Hey, it’s Christmas, so you know I gotta talk about this.

Fox has been doing a lot this year. In addition to you know, coping while she works under a pandemic conditions, doing work that can be enormously straining and tedious, she’s also been just doing a lot to improve our lives around us. She’s been interested in improving our life infrastructure – fixing problems, fixing things that are causing small problems. This can be things like storage containers, or improving our rice cooker situation, or even just dedicating a mind that normally does con prep to managing food storage.

Bear in mind, I’m the one who does the bulk of the cooking for us.

Fox has also done a rebrand this year. After years of using a Munchlax plushie as her avatar, she’s now moving on to make an identity she can own more directly. She made a pngtuber avatar for herself (and then made me one too!), and now she uses it to do art streams.

And look: People with thousands of followers talk about the problems there. They talk about what it’s like to have an unreasonable loud presence in your life that you can’t communicate with. But there’s a very different problem at the other end, which is not to say a big chat isn’t a problem, but that it’s hard to hear those complaints when you’re showing up and streaming a little bit, every week, to very few people.

Fox has been streaming her art. She’s basically looked at the problem of not doing enough drawing, and decided to make a practice out of it, that involves practicing in public, and being okay with not getting attention.

And that’s cool. It’s cool to do hard things for no external reward. It’s cool to try something so hard even when it’s hard.

And I’m so proud of Fox.

Every day is a gift.

Game Pile: City of Heroes Homecoming 2021

Last year I ran through some of the recent changes that have been happening in City of Heroes Homecoming, a free MMORPG I play that lets me make superheroes that kick Nazis in the face. I love this game, I like playing it, and I like using it to make characters. You may have seen me post about that.

What’s happened since last year, then, for this MMORPG with no paid developers?

Well, we’ve had two major releases, known as ‘pages.’ These are sorts of releases that are meant to build up to form what would, back in the day, have been ‘issues.’ These are fan-developed expansions that involve adding new class material, new content, new powersets and even new systems designed to make old content feel ‘right’ while addressing balance problems.What I prioritise for these guides is information about things you can make and do.

Like, there are some really cool systems at work here: There’s been a system for guiding you around for exploration badges, and another system for letting you share thumbtacks in a team, and while those are genuinely interesting and cool systems to see introduced to an old engine that works on what we all know as ‘spaghetti code,’ but while those things improve user experience, and definitely have a chance to encourage less-enfranchised players to explore things they hadn’t, they’re not the same as the bread-and-butter of an alt-reckless game with a lot of ways to play superhero dress up dollies: More stuff for new characters.

The big additions on that front this year have been the Travel Revamp and the Bunch of Rocks update.

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Decemberween: Nixie 2: The Nixie-Ing

Decemberween posts vary between two choices: Either hey, here’s a cool thing that you can partake in right now, and go check that out, and it might be a useful thing to fill the time you have in December where you may want something that isn’t going to stress you out, or, hey, here’s one of my friends, and how great they are, because they make me happy and my ability to be happy is already an extremely weird thing so I’m going to treat this as the proper Christmas season miracle.

So let’s talk about my disrespectful internet daughter, because she is great, and she is sweet, and this year she’s doing something that’s really impressive.

Now, you may remember that earlier this year — if you’re a real Nixie fan — Nixie and I did a long form chat on Ai: The Somnium Files, which we did before knowing that the sequel to Ai was going to be announced. We talked about how we learned about the game, about how we connected, and what it’s like to know or care about Content Warningy media. We also talked about specific characters, and how character archetypes can make life easier for writers, but also how things that broke archetypal structure could resonate with us.

Anyway, Nixie went back to school this year.

That’s really cool! And she’s been hardworking and focused on her homework and doing her best with the online teaching format she can! She’s been reading her books and she’s been getting her work done, and through it all she’s been wonderfully honest and sincere about it. Sorry, I can’t talk, I’m busy. Here’s some of my homework, what do you think? Thank you for your thoughts, but I am going to focus on this myself.

Nixie is really great. Now, you may be surprised to know that she isn’t already some kind of educationally pedigree’d person! She’s after all, a relative expert on a lot of things, and willing to share that knowledge, in sometimes remarkably approachable, clear ways for people who normally think of people like her (tiny internet gremlin girls) as being ‘outside’ of those conversations. You might know that as Miss Nixie Is Typing.

Lords knows I do.

You also might not realise it, but Nixie is one of those people who can be considered part of the editorial staff here on Press. I talk to her about ideas for articles, and sometimes she has some reaction to the idea, and that’s encouragement I need to go ‘oh yeah that’s cool, let’s do that.’ I watch some anime or play some games on her advice, just because her aesthetic preferences all go outside of my default.

Oh, and she’s one of the few people I know from my real life who have had the temerity to sass me in front of my students.

Consider: Nixie. Won’t you?

Decemberween: Caelyn, Agaelyn!

I am once again asking you to pay attention to my cool friend Caelyn.

During a year of Everyone Doing Things Is Finding It Harder To Do (remember when I released a game a month for two years? Christ), Caelyn has been Doing The Things. She’s streaming game development regularly, but what’s more than that, she streams talking about character writing. She’s doing these little chats about conveying character voice through dialogue and that’s really cool. If you’re at all interested in that kind of thing, you should go check out her streams.

Cae is also the creator of the Hindren, something I wrote about earlier this year, if you need a reminder.

And by ‘her streams’ I of course mean Grahu-Robufu, Learned Snapjaw’s streams:

It still blows me out that things like vtuber rigs are possible right now for like, commission and stuff (more on that later). What would be really cool, now I think about it, is for if this smart and cool and very cute friend were to write about that process, what it means to her, and maybe to do it while demonstrating clear character voice and characterisation, like, maybe on some really big popular website people look at and I direct students to for examples what the hey, like say, Polygon.

Oh, Oh, I’m just getting an update: She did that!

Decemberween: Lord Ravenscraft

Oh boy it’s another Decemberween post, is Talen going to share another link to his Youtube history for the year giving you an avenue to look at some really interesting media focusing on a specific narrow thing that ties into his personal interests and millenial media context that you wouldn’t think to look at before?

You betcha, and this time, it’s about Animorphs!

Along with Lady Knight the Brave from last year, Lord Ravenscraft is one of those Youtube channels that appeared out of seeming nowhere, with Algorithm’s blessings. He’s made twelve videos as of writing and he has almost 50,000 subscribers. The creator has a background with the Lifehacker grouping of websites, and now this Youtube channel is his current platform that I understand also pays his bills with things like sponsorship deals and all that. Like, whatever, it’s fine.

It’s wild to me, though, because this channel is in some ways a much… better respected… version of things I like doing. Long form explainers on things like the structural values of a piece of long form media, or an examination of cheats in videogames, or the way games are used in movies.

It’s wild to me.

Anyway, success is random, I’m jealous but it’s okay to be jealous. Great channel and long form videos on things I think are interesting. Go check it out.

Decemberween: This Year’s ASMRtists

And here we have another year of looking through my history at the ASMRtists that I found useful for concentrating on my studies and winding my brain down after a long day of focusing on student work. Last year, I tried to platform specifically some artists of colour, because, as was very true, there’s an algorithmic reinforcement of racism.

There’s a little natural turnover when it comes to ASMR, and I’m not going to recommend anyone whose work I consider a little too risque. Here though are some artists who I added to my subscriptions this year.

First up, we have Atlas ASMR:

I believe Atlas is a New Zealander who lives in Britain, which speaks of a remarkable willingness to tolerate bad weather. A lot of his video focus seems to be on the deliberately odd, with conceptual pieces normally that focus on telling short form narratives dealing with awkward but soft spoken dudes. I find him generally pretty easy to listen to, but also varied enough that I don’t fall into concentrating on his work as if it has a long form narrative.

ASMR Jas joined the subscriptions, but I haven’t really got a lot to particularly remark on. She does a lot of what I understand to be ‘classic’ ASMR of late — a person, usually a photogenic woman, addresses the camera, and uses a variety of contexts to do a small number of soft sounds that can yield the ASMR response.

JubileeWhispers does a range of both roleplays, but also a bunch of game reviews and examinations. Which can be a weird thing I enjoy where I’m too tired to write or think hard about things but I don’t want to just turn off my brain, so I watch someone playing a game I can take notes on without feeling like I’m about to get jolted by something that requires me to think particularly hard.

So, this is one of your classic ‘pretty lady does ASMR’ channels, and while there are definitely plenty of them, part of doing these posts is being honest about new stuff I’ve added to the collection lately. In this case, the thing that stands out in my memory is this specific video by Lizi. I haven’t watched most of them — just this one video repeatedly, because I find the attitude of the ‘sister’ who is clearly being roped in to help with the project very funny.

It’s very in-jokey? Like you need to listen to a bunch of ASMR videos to really get any reason why it’s funny to see a Russian Twin being so unimpressed with her sister’s ASMR video.

Minor caveat here: This creator sometimes creates ASMR in other languages and I have no idea how safe that language is. If she was dropping slurs in Russian I wouldn’t be able to give you a useful warning.

Now finally, we have a creator who I debated putting here. It’s a little complicated.

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Game Pile: Print N Play Extravaganza!

Okay, it’s really near a gift giving day, or a family gathering day, or something like that and you kind of think ‘I should have brought some games with me’ and now you realise you’re out of luck on that front because shipping timing sucks and so does everything else right now. This is also me pretending you’re travelling to visit people this Christmas, because, well, ha ha, but hey, you may be one of the people reading this blog who just… doesn’t Christmas.

That sounds nice. I hope you have a great december.

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Decemberween: People Make Games

At some point in the past ten years I became a fan of board game semi-employment project turned full time job Shut Up & Sit Down, featuring Quinns Quinntington and Matt ‘Jammsponge’ Lees. But if you’ve looked in the secret bonus content of those board games, you may notice an occasionally weirdly young looking face that has gone unaging for the ten years he’s been showing up, and it is that fellow that is Chris Bratt. What’s he do, aside from roll dice in Matt’s living room? Why, he works (worked? I dunno, time, whatever) for Eurogramer, and now he is part of the team over at People Make Games.

People Make Games is a great, informative channel about games that treats them not as commercial products but as human things, made and designed and played by people. It’s, you know, that thing, I do, except they’re focusing on things I can’t do – like interviewing important figures and going to Peter Molyneux’s house without shouting at him about guillotines. And look at that, since the pandemic lockdown, they went and acquired themselves a Quinns of their own!

They’ve done an introductory video on Blaseball, the game of Baseball Without Mercy, Baseball Perfected, Baseball As She Is, And Always Will Be. I’m not an expert in Blaseball, but I have a bunch of friends who are very into it, and I love watching them reacting to the game every weird-ass season. It’s a wild game and a great cultural space and people get to partake of it in a way that only works with the metaphor of real baseball team and support to work with.

I also quite liked this long-form dig into a game made by Halfbrick Studios that sort of had to be scrapped, and the interesting question of whether this is a function of the game, or the culture of the space and the people within it. Like, this whole message of this narrative could be ‘there are some types of games that corrupt the experience of people around them’ like haunted objects, but maybe the ghosts that haunt those games are in us, and the people who aren’t willing to lose when they’re not having fun.

And then there’s what’s probably? the big one this year? As I write this?

Basically, there’s a videogame platform and company that’s bigger than Ubisoft, and its player base are mostly children, as are most of its developers and designers, and that sounds wild but it sounds even wilder when you throw into that the statement ‘and the children aren’t being paid for their work.

Oh and because a few days ago this post needed an update, here’s a followup:

People Make Games is a great channel with some long, slow, thoughtful thinky-ready-processy kind of games talk there, that doesn’t approach things the same way most people in the game space do. I really like their work, so go check them out.

Decemberween: Tring Shoe Repair & Key

I do not know anything meaningful about shoes. I am not a fan of shoes, I am not big into commentary on shoes, I am not informed about them as a fetish nor as a consumer product. Shoes, in my life, are things that go on the part of the body I look at the least of all the parts in front of me.

Nonetheless, I have spent quite a lot of time looking at the fairly calm and restful video type that is Tring Shoe Repair & Key Shop’s videos explaining and demonstrating a variety of different things that go into the process of caring for, repairing, and maintaining shoes.

Look, these videos are not amazing. They are not exciting. They are about watching someone basically doing their job, which involves dozens of things I don’t understand, and showing a variety of different ways that that job is done. It’s about showing you something you recognise in an everyday kind of way, and coming to learn about how and why they work the way they do.

It is an interesting channel, it’s very low impact, and there’s some interesting stuff about how a shoe works, and the tools used to take advantage of them.

Decemberween: (Most Of) Eternal Glories

This is kind of a four parter. First of all, the common linking source for this group is The Eternal Glory podcast.

This podcast is hosted by three dudes, Phil Gallagher, Brian Coval, and Bryant Cook, who on the About page are posing in their finest ‘Substitute Teacher Resume Picture’ which it turns out is kinda appropriate since Phil and Brian are teachers. I don’t know if Bryant is or isn’t, sorry Bryant. I guess I know which of the three content creators I’ve been paying the most attention to.

These three dudes have a podcast, where they talk about Legacy as a format, looking at things like what I’d call stratas of the format; not necessarily the ‘up to date let’s have discussions about it immediately, the latest and hottest decks’ but rather sort of long-form conversations about things that decks and families of decks can do in Legacy.

You might have heard me refer to Legacy as ‘a bad format nobody plays.’ I stand by that in general – certainly when we’re talking about Magic in general, Legacy is not a format that we should be trying to promote because it’s inherently limited, and even its most accessable form (Magic: The Gathering Online or heavily proxied play groups) is kinda shaky as hell. Yet despite that, I have watched a lot of Legacy content this year, and it’s all entirely from paying attention to this podcast and two of its hosts.

Phil and Brian are both teachers who have become kind of full-time content creators this year as the lockdowns continue. They make interesting videos based on donations – you pay them some money, and give them a Legacy deck, and they’ll show it in play and talk through changes. It’s a pretty great system and it means that I get to see a lot of cards in Legacy that are some people’s favourites. Sometimes they’re tiered cards, sometimes they’re just things from the random wildness of Legacy in action.

Legacy isn’t a ‘good format’ in that it’s hostile to new players and complicated in a way that even a complicated game like Magic: The Gathering isn’t. You kind of have to love it for its own sake. And these people do, and I can enjoy their love, which they show and communicate honestly and well.

They all have youtube channels; I can’t speak to Bryant’s, but I can speak to Brian’s, which I follow, and Phil’s, which I regularly comment on. Watch a video on the commute to work, or before bed on a night, make a funny comment about something funny in the video, and that’s all.

There’s one from Brian I liked, and Phil playing my favourite Legacy deck (which is ridiculous to say):

I have had some sour experiences – Phil’s audience seem to want to negotiate about whether or not I should use words they don’t understand? – but they’re great channels I enjoy watching.

Oh and this isn’t to say anything bad about Bryant’s channel. I just don’t know anything about it.

Decemberween: Robert Miles’ Youtube Channel

Look, this is a subject that is a little spooky. The idea is AI Safety, which is the question of ‘how do we make AI in a way that won’t go disastrously wrong.’ You may know this idea from other concepts like Roko’s Basilisk and the like, where people tend to reinvent calvinism. Those people, typically, are goofballs, at the best.

Also, AI Safety is one of those Big Word Dangerous Complex problems that can get a bit anxiety instilling. Like the idea of human immortality, there’s a possibility that the idea of the conversation around it just inspires a sort of doomy feeling. Don’t go exploring it if it upsets you.

But if you find the idea of the ways AI gets weird and treats incentive systems strangely, and how hard it is to make things that can be ethical when we can’t communicate ethics to ourselves, Robert Miles has a bunch of really fun videos with a lovely, charming and simplified aesthetic that breaks down some of these complicated problems without being a total weirdo about it.

Check him out!

 

Decemberween: Puppet History!

Man, I watch a lot of educational media that’s not quite kid friendly?

Puppet History is a project by the spooky boys formerly of Buzzfeed Unsolved, Shane Madej and Ryan Bergara. It’s a pretty straightforward bit: A history lesson about a real thing that happened, but presented to a pair of adults with swears and honest recognition of how ridiculous some stuff is. It’s one of my favourite things, where ‘real things and learning’ are not framed as the opposition to ‘fun.’

There is a content warning, I guess. I’ve seen some complaints about the episode on Hatchepsut, where a human who existed three and a half thousand years ago across multiple cultural barriers, reads very clearly as trans to some people with things like changing name and (maybe?) getting statues made with beards, but the Puppet History lads still refer to them with their prior name and gender. I’m sympathetic to both sides of things, where almost all our sources on the individual are filtered through English Pith-Helmeted Mustached I Say Whot Whot era of exploration, but also I can equally understand why when dealing with a historical figure who didn’t use the same languages for ideas like we did and where we don’t even know what we can say about their language, it can be… tricky to simply say ‘he’s trans, dude.’

If you want to check it out, stick it on the TV and just let it play while you do other December stuff around it, here’s a playlist.

Decemberween: Urban Planning Youtube!

I don’t know why I became a weirdo into educational video material in my adult years but then I think about the times I’d spend in the mornings when I was home sick from school watching Zardip’s Search For Healthy Wellness, a Canadian TV show that was much cooler in my memory than it really is, and I didn’t think it was very cool at the best of times. But still, this year I’ve learned a lot about urban planning and it turns out there’s an entire Youtube subculture of people talking about that.

During this time I’ve learned about the idea of Gadget-Bahns and Stroads and AM/FM problems.

Here are some videos from each channel to serve as a sort of ‘serving suggestion’ of the style and tone of some of these sources I’ve enjoyed this year. First up, there’s the fairly gentle ‘boring urban nice’ style of Not Just Bikes.

There are two basic styles of videos from Not Just Bikes. There are videos about the infrastructure and urban planning that’s happening in the Netherlands (the place the documentarian lives now). This is basically a sort of ‘hey, here’s how things are done in this country in a way that normally would get ignored by people, because they’re so normal nobody highlights them.’ This is about the really boring common bike you can get the omafiets (and why I want one).

The other kind of video on the channel are where he looks at the kind of infrastructure in other countries, mostly America, and how that’s garbage and sucks and it’s bad. This video explains what a Stroad is, and if you’ve seen one you might be filled with the same deeply unpleasant feeling I have when I look at yes, these stroads and man I hate stroads and I didn’t even know what a stroad was.

I also watched a bunch by a guy called Adam Something. He’s a lot sassier and mean, a little less genteel, ‘look at interesting things,’ and um, a lot more ‘let’s make fun of Elon Musk’s stupid ideas.’

A body of his videos are about tackling the technofix mindset of expensive projects to try and ‘fix’ problems with existing systems without just, you know, fixing those systems by financing them and addressing their problems.

Now I will give a sort-of content warning on Adam Something: I have a memory of hearing him say something in one of his videos was ‘r*tarded.’ But I couldn’t find it when I went looking for it again, and I couldn’t be sure. Adam Something is also from a different cultural extraction — so I don’t want to say I know how he knows that word is socially considered in English?

But either way, I think he may have said that once and that’s non-ideal but I can’t find him saying it across his videos. If you think that’s going to stand out and upset you, stick to Not Just Bikes.

Decemberween: Lego Transformers

No no no, not those. Not the officially purchased ones. Not the licensed toys where you can construct a big special transformer that uses specific pieces that were picked out to make a branded character. No, those are cool, and that’s fine, but they’re not intriguing to me the way the work of IX RollOut IX is.

See, what RollOut does, is Rollout makes transformers out of lego. They make Transformer OCs out of lego. They make transformer OCs, out of lego, and that lego is the standard pieces, without special decals. It is –

You know what, here, just check it out.

Okay, so this being Bumblebee, from the movie, that’s not really what I meant, but the idea is still there. This is making transformers. I – I don’t know how to express how mindblowing that is to me. Transformers are something I’ve loved for years, but after a childish period of drawings of extremely ugly cars and being unsatisfied with my own ability to express the materiality of a transformer with drawing, I kind of abandoned the idea of ever making what was, ultimately, transformer OCs.

Oh I conceived of them, but transformers are just so impossibly challenging to even concept, the idea of being able to make them just blows my mind.

These creations just excite me.

Now, I don’t have any lego – at all! – so I can’t exactly go and get experimenting with that! But it’s so exciting to see this creative play experience getting to make articulated expressive transforming toys.

How freaking cool is that?

Decemberween: iCarly

Pause to take a drink while you wonder what the hell I’m talking about.

Okay, look.

It’s a December where we’re not necessarily going anywhere. You’re gunna have some time off, hopefully. You’re going to start scrolling through Netflix until you find the boss screen, and after that, you’re going to start trying to find whole new channels on youtube to watch because everyone else is taking a break, and you may be kinda fed up with people wringing lore explainers out of the Rankin Bass tv specials or whatever.

What if, instead, you watched a grown adult explaining in absolutely incredible detail, the entire narrative, structure, and phenomenon of the story of the Nickelodeon TV series, iCarly?

What if I told you it’s all there, and it’s, in total, eight hours long?

Part one, and:

Part two.

I didn’t watch iCarly. I did not know, before this series, that iCarly was like, a distinct thing. I mean it was cable TV, and I don’t think I’ve ever been friends with anyone who had cable TV. I don’t think I’ve known anyone with cable TV. Cable TV is not a thing in Australia the way it is in America. Turns out there’s a complex and really weird collection of what I can only really describe as ‘live action star vehicle shovelware’ media produced on channels like Disney and Nickelodeon and just thanks to the kind of structural power you can have if your audience is functionally captive and meritocracy is fake, these series are really important to people who are right now turning into a generation of the internet’s voices.

Oh but wait, we’re not done, we’re not done, because at the end of the iCarly video, he promised to cover the followup series, Sam And Cat, but the problem is Sam and Cat is a spinoff of iCarly but also Victorious and well, Quinton could just dive in and go without talking about Victorious, but that would be quitter talk and now we have a five hour video on Victorious.

But, and this is absurd, this and we’re not done yet, is that thanks to a creator called FD Signifier, I got recommended a video by a effervescent words-doer and chaos gremlin, CJ The X, about the specific performance of one character in the series Victorious, Cat Valentine, who is played by an (at first) seventeen year old Ariana Grande who is now, as it turns out, somewhat important.

I watched all these videos.

That didn’t make sense to me, because I never saw iCarly, let alone that it crossed over with Victorious and from what I can tell, it’s really mediocre and you kind of need nostalgia to hook into you to keep you watching past the arch presentation. There’s this thing with kids media that’s, like, it’s typically made with no meaningful view of quality. It’s like this weird thing where we go ‘well, it’s for kids, so it’s okay that it sucks ass.’ And I say that as a lifelong fan of the Transformers.

And Quinton does have that nostalgia.

Quinton does a relentlessly self-reflective, courageous examination of this series and how he reacts to it. It’s funny because, let’s face it, it is funny, but it’s also watchable and sincere and sweet and seeing him connect to this work, and explain why he connects to it is really, really engaging.

I watched these videos multiple times.

And yes, they are eight hours long together.

I think, maybe, part of this is because I find Quinton genuinely interesting as a media commentator. I know I recommended you check out his work last year, in general, and… well yeah. I still like it and I like this really long form dive. He makes eight hours of iCarly analysis really interesting. And then five hours of Victorious. And then CJ the X adds ninety minutes. Point is I have lost basically a day of my life to this franchise I’m not interested in and it’s just because these people make it interesting.

Decemberween: The Cathode Ray Dude

Do you want a twenty minute video of someone hooking up an original Nintendo Entertainment System to a proper amplifier to see how its demodulator unit broadcasts?

This video is from someone who I’m mostly familiar with as Gravis. Gravis, the Cathode Ray Dude, is a nice person who’s interested in the history of videography and this particular period of technology. How we made things before everything was digital and everything could translate things onto the internet.

This is also an interesting thing because I’ve kind of been aware of Gravis for a long time, on twitter, thinking of him as, like, a ‘step-follower?’ I don’t follow him, he doesn’t follow me, but thanks to sharing mutual followers, we’ve spoken regularly enough that he stands out in my memory of ‘oh that guy? yeah he’s cool.’

Then I found – this year! – that not only did he have a youtube channel about cameras and broadcasting and mechanical-digital media overlap, but uhh, that I found that super interesting and compelling.

This is a really beautiful kind of educational media. It’s storytelling through devices, but it’s also humanised through someone just sharing their very genuine interest in things. If you want something chill and tech-based that you probably don’t know already, and from someone who isn’t about to drop slurs at some random point? Check Gravis’ stuff out.

Decemberween: The Sporadic Phantoms Podcast!

If you want to go into this completely blind, understand that this is a really good drama/ARG podcast about a group of well-intentioned environmentalists based out of California, as their initial exploration of a logging company leads them to confront local politics and the intersections of big companies, greenwashing, and forms of new age group therapy, in the ways this can be abused.

You want to check it out, hearing just that? Go check it out.

There’s more, of course, but I’ll spare you until after the fold. I liked this podcast a lot. If you want to know why, well, that gets into spoilery stuff.

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Game Pile: Your Own Fake Artist

Okay, we’re going to talk about bootlegging games.

A Fake Artist Goes To New York is a fantastic game. I do not hesitate to recommend, if you want, to spend the money buying a copy so it can live on your shelf and easily and conveniently bring together all the components you need in your life. I think it’s a great game design and has a great aesthetic and I heartily recommend that you play it ‘properly.’ Buying a copy shows support for the creators and also gets you a nice box which organises everything neatly for you. It’s even quite cheap, considering the price Oink games used to command, and it’s domestically available in Australia too, so you don’t have to wait months for it like you used to, and it’s not being choked by the same international supply problems that are impacting the board game industry in general.

But.

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T-Shirt? Some New Year Masks

In my current understanding, kids will need masks in the new year. Masks are also a good thing to have in your life as something you can wear for when you’re feeling generally low-key ill, like if you have a cold, wear a mask to keep from spreading it, that kinda thing.

I made my own mask this year based on a dumb joke, and then realised wait no, this whips and I’m going to keep using it when I’m out in public in general, because it’s not bad to be careful. Here, then, for your new year purchasing purposes, are three masks I made for me or for family members.

I’ve been wearing these masks from redbubble for about six months. I find the adjustable straps nice and comfortable, but also nice and durable: I’ve had other masks snap over time dealing with my big weird head.

My first mask, modelled on Matt Trakker from all-purpose advertising yawnfest, M*A*S*K:

This should not be seen as an endorsement of M*A*S*K and more just me signalling to a general audience that I am old.

One of my niblings still needs to wear a mask to school, a fact that has him bummed out. So I asked him what kind of masks he’d like to have – and this is my attempt at a g-rated version of Scorpion’s mask from Mortal Kombat. Like I don’t think a teacher is going to get mad at anyone for this, there’s no blood spattering.

And finally we have a mask that represents the passive okayness that you can only get out of a Snorlax.

I don’t know if you order one of these masks now you’ll be able to get them in time for Christmas. But I do know that you should have them in time for the new year and the subsequent new school term, which you may need or want if you have a kid in your life who is bummed about needing a mask but might be a bit perked up by the mask seeming, like, kinda cool. Maybe. Maybe they think this is cool? Hell, I don’t know what the kids think is cool.

Decemberween 2021!

It’s Decemberween! Don’t know what Decemberween is? Well, here on Press Dot Invincible Dot Ink, a branding exercise that was, when I did it, funny and clever to exactly myself and Fox and maybe Vince, because they know who ‘Swivel’ even is, I put a theme on the even-numbered months. That gives me a good mix, you know, some months have a theme and that gets me to focus on ideas that work for that theme then, or maybe save things up over the course of the year, and then some months I can just do whatever and you get some really weird random articles like about how water rats don’t exist and also they tear out cane toad hearts.

December has an obvious theme of ‘The Holidays’ if Im being vague, or ‘Christmas’ if I’m being 100% honest with my personal background and cultural space. Christmas runs out as a theme for me real quick because Christmas being so very Christian means I get kinda mad about it, and mad about the people who are defensive about it, because they suck and it sucks.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m gunna talk about some Christmas movies! Because when else am I gunna do that?

But Decemberween, the point of it, is instead to focus on freely available cool things I want you to know about. It’s a chance to celebrate my friends, to talk about how proud I am of them being extremely cool. It’s also a chance to show off things I’ve collected through the year that are neat, but aren’t like, individually worth an article. It’s a time for deep dives, or podcasts or youtube channels I like.

What you can expect this month is games that are free, games you can share with people, games you can get into now when you’re dealing with a family situation, or games you can play over the internet, conveniently. Don’t expect any big deal articles on game design or media studies or anything weird until, you know, at least after Christmas.

Let’s have a bit of a break, okay?

But! I promise that nonetheless, this month is going to be about stuff I think is nice, or cool, and good, and people I want you to know about and who do cool things you could spend some time investigating. That’s a Decemberween promise.