Category: Diary

Don’t expect too many of these. These entries are where I am both trying to document my emotional and mental state in a way that’s useful or meaningful to others. It’s not enough to record what I’m at, I’m trying to record them in ways that’s worth sharing, to make clear the struggles that can come as a part of the work of creative endeavours and research. It matters to me that you can identify me as a person, not just as a dispenser of advice – and that means occasionally, sharing about how I’m doing.

The Origin of ‘Talen Lee’

Okay so here’s the sequence of events. This is a story I shared on my CuriousCat a while back, but that site is kind of a pain in the butt to search through if you’re not directly checking. Consider this more archiving.

When I got onto the internet, I bounced around trying to find places to be, mostly Christian Network places and Christian IRC channels and Local Christian websites (augh). Eventually, I found through newsgroups, the alt.fan.eddings group dedicated to the fantasy novels of David Eddings. I had read some David Eddings because a friend in church had already vetted it and thought I might like it.

Anyway, in the Eddings fangroup, almost everyone, except gilmae, had handles based on the characters from the books, and when I arrived and hung out there, I didn’t have ‘a name’ yet. Also, this was back when you didn’t release your real name or real information on the internet, a thing I was … stunningly responsible about, now I think about it? Wow, hang on that’s weird. Anyway, point is, to fit in, the group discussed, in newsgroup posts, what my handle should be.

All they knew about me was that I was fourteen, and they… weren’t, and the only Eddings character who existed who was both male and young was ‘Talen,’ a thief who in the first books was like, ten, and in the second was fourteen. He was also often referred to as ‘Boy’ and they liked that. Anyway, so that’s where Talen came from, and it wasn’t usually taken anywhere on the internet, so I used it as I went around.

Eventually I hit on places where it was taken, particularly the Wizards of the Coast forums, where I needed something to add to the name to make it usable, but also where I really, really didn’t want to be that dickhole with numbers after his name, or something that would date it immediately like MewTwoCrusher (sorry MewTwoCrusher, I didn’t realise how long-term important Pokemon would be), and I wound up smacking on the surname ‘Mist.’ I’d like to say there was some story behind that but I really think it was just… kinda cool. I want to say this relates to a period in an #animorphs channel on the Chee Database, but I’m not sure and it may relate to a grand project to re-fanfic the entirety of Final Fantasy 6 (yes really).

Anyway, fasterforward to another forum, another shakeup, and I’ve been dating this stack of hairy trolls named Fox Lee for about two years, and this time, rather than ‘Talen Mist’ I used ‘Talen Lee’ instead. She’d recently asked me to marry her (we wouldn’t for another few years), and I thought it was, because it was something that mattered to me, worth making into part of my identity, because… I’m a huge dork and I didn’t expect to ever break up with Fox, which okay, turns out to have been a safe bet.

Anyway, at that point I had ‘Talen Lee’ and it is mostly never taken anywhere. But even more interesting is that it flies under ‘real name detector’ because it’s just real enough. It is an Asian name, which I am occasionally selfconscious about?

So there you go. That’s your lot. My name is shaped by my past, in a way the name I was given never was.

Preferences As Weakness

If someone is using your preferences to attack you, then they’re just being an asshole. If they’re using media you like as a way to belittle and hurt people in general, they’re being an asshole. If they’re pursuing you to make you answer for something you like, they’re being an asshole. Continue reading

Failing (Early, Often, Paradoxically)

I normally sit down to write something for this blog after I’ve gotten my day’s PhD work done. Today, that work was almost entirely smothered under work for marking, because marking is important, and when I do try and write without some burning need already in place, I tend to survey three things:

  • My incoming directory
  • My twitter feed
  • My bullet journal

Today, all three of those things are blank, because my day has gone away in a cloud of trying to mark a lot of students’ work in a timely, respectful fashion while still organising all the normal operations of the day like feeding and walking the dog. It’s been a rough one, and that means I haven’t actually done one of the things I’m finding I enjoy, and that’s readings.

One of the books I just finished reading is Jesper Juul’s the Art of Failure, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned elsewhere in the blog by this time. It’s a really neat book, pretty short and breezy and doesn’t require a lot of specialised knowledge. Juul is pretty good at that. You could probably knock it over in an afternoon if you weren’t taking notes on everything.

In it, Juul talks about the paradox of games. He suggests that games are things we fail at, usually, and we don’t seek out failure, but we do seek out games, despite the fact we’ll fail at them. By contrast, the students I’m dealing with are examining the design side of things with the principle of fail early, fail often.

I see the word ‘fail’ a lot.

Juul’s position is interesting, as I sit up late and muse on it, because it presents a very binary view not just of human experience, but of human consciousness. That is, that humans are a single perspective agent, which has singular motivations and good, clean judgment. Some parts of us don’t believe we’ll fail. Some parts of us want to fail, to get falsifiable information. Some parts of us want to fail because we’re curious. Some parts of us are constantly redefining failure as we play.

This isn’t really addressing Juul. It’s more musing on what the book doesn’t do.

And not doing something is not the same thing as failing.

Just like how today, I didn’t read any books for my PhD. That doesn’t mean I failed my PhD today. I hope.

Setting Limits

You know how these things are kind of strands out of time? Because I write so far in advance, nothing I write is actually timely to my personal experience.

Anyway, I’ve been sick for the past three days. Three days ago, I was so sick I did nothing really all day. At night, I put out a draft, did a bit of a glance over of some of my research material. The next day as I recovered, I tried to do a bunch of contributions to my students’ work, and that was all I had in me. The next day, the Friday, I had to go do a presentation to a group of students, which I did, as best I could, and now I’m writing that now, which is now a month ago.

I didn’t get any other work done, not really. I didn’t do anything fascinating or clever. I didn’t hit my normal goal of 2 drafts or schedules a day. I didn’t record or edit podcasts or video, didn’t really generate anything on my current projects, like the Clout box, I didn’t work on my little ship game or the Pipesman conspiracy and I feel

so bad about that.

And right now as I write this, I am bundling up those feelings and just trying to throw them away. Because it’s okay to not be able to create. It’s okay to have times when the urge isn’t there, because you’re in too much pain, or your head is full of goop. It’s okay.

And I need to be okay with that.


I wrote this a few months ago. The day it goes up, today, I am recovering from another cold.

Damnit, this isn’t supposed to be timely.

Dream Journal: Tent Revival

I had a weird nightmare last night –

I say last night, based entirely on when I’m writing this. You know I load this blog ahead of time so it’s no secret that I’m not writing this literally right now. I actually really like the distance it gives me when I write about something emotionally entangling. With the knowledge I’ve written about it, I can talk about it dispassionately, but nobody I know is going to react to this text now when I’m raw about it, and nobody’s going to read my blog like tea-leaves trying to work out my mood or whether or not I’m okay.

Anyway, it was a really weird nightmare because all I can really remember is the end. I was at a revival church meeting with my parents. Big white tents, sunny day, and like, there were tubs of soda drinks, and bags of chips and lots of things that normally make me happy – indulgent things, the kind of free food nobody checks up on you about or tut-tuts about you having too much.

Then the organ started to play and everyone filed to sit down… and I realised I didn’t have any paper or pen.

And that was… strange. It was deeply strange to wake up, with the lurching feeling of horror from that. Every time I went to church I took notepaper along, ostensibly to ‘take notes’ but realistically speaking it was to draw things, write things, or just play in paper space while I listened. Really, the main discipline of church was being taught how to sit quietly and not cause a fuss – you don’t actually learn much. Sermons are often really basic, really bad demonstrations of ideas or points, they’re much more about setting a tone and a style, and part of that means they have to be boring because if they were fun or exciting or interesting or easy it’s not ‘serious’ enough.

To be caught without paper and pen means staring down this boring demonstration of information by someone who is interpreting a book and if you’ve read the book as well you know what they’re leaving out. It means you’re going to be bored and angry and you will be so for eleven billion hours.

 

Comic-Gong Wrapup

Today, I was bustling my hump at Comic-Gong. This is a local fandom convention, and the first year that Fox and I felt, with our finances as they are, that we could get a pair of tables.

The day starts at nine and ends at four. It really starts at seven, and really, really, starts at midnight the night before when you have to start making cuts of what you get made. And then you get three hours of sleep because you push yourself all night to try and get things made.

It’s a rough night. It’s a rough night because when you’re the smallest of producers, when you’re not a proper business yet, and your entire stockpile is just a set of small card boxes, you’re left with this weird paranoia for everything. Should I stock this? what if it doesn’t move and I wasted the space? Should I not stock that? What if someone comes by and there’s exactly one person who really wants it? What if someone was holding out for this one thing?

Still!

There’s a chance that you were one of the people I spoke to today. In which case: Hi! I’m super glad you’ve taken some time checking this out. I make games, I talk about games, and I believe in your ability to make games.

I hope you enjoy what you find here!

You can check out the pages for our games at the main Invincible Ink website!

Talen’s Birthday!

It’s my birthday today! This doesn’t mean much.

I worry about my age, a lot. I keep seeing people my age doing more and being more successful, because they started earlier, or they had better support growing up, and I know those years I lost to restarting my life were more deleritous than I want to think about.

I do however, think right now, in my life, I’m doing a lot of things I want to do for my sake. I’m enjoying what I do, and I’m doing it for people who value me. I am able to put up boundaries between myself and people I dislike and do not trust, and I am able to build those connections with people who matter to me. I have seen my sister more now in this past four months, I feel, than I had in the previous four years. I have spoken to my parents, I have confronted my emotional problems, and I am doing what I can to take care of myself.

This time last year I did a rundown of every game I’d made on my birthday. This year, this would be a woefully unwieldy list. Maybe the urge will seize me as this day grows nearer. Maybe I’ll get a bright idea. Or maybe I’ll just keep on going and enjoy myself as best I can with this day where I will be going to a classroom, talking to students, hearing them talk about games, caring about games, and watching them learn and uncover ideas of how humans interact with things, what they engage with, what matters to them, and how they can show me that through games.

That’s pretty cool.

Sodom Me, So Do You

The story of the city of Sodom is barely worth recapping, but in case you’ve never heard it, basically there was this place that God didn’t like that was basically named Doomedsville, and the only good people who lived there were shown in one incident how they were too good to live there, before God told them the town was hecked and they left. I’m glossing over some plot points, but it’s honestly not important, because what’s really remarkable about this story is what it’s about.

See, right now, if you ask people, it’s about the sexual immorality of the city, the way that the people of Sodom used to stick their hoo-hahs into butt-holes and that’s why it was a sign of what a problem things could be. That’s why God hates gay marriage.

Except those people, these days, are also opposed by people, equally certain of their familiarity with the religious texts of the now, who want to assert to you that, in fact, the sin of Sodom was their failure to show the messengers proper comfort: That the story of Sodom was a place that failed to respect people enough, and right, and therefore, God loves gay marriage.

This is not, in any way new.

Back during the 1930s, the city of Sodom was a story about a failure of the people to care for their travellers and interlopers, brought up as an example of people who weren’t in the proper spirit of Christian Charity. In the 1940s and 1920s, Sodom and Gomorrah were known to be about the vile practice of race-mixing. In the 1890s, Kelogg was certain that Sodom and Gomorrah were a story about the foulness of indulgent humanity who ate fancy food.

Now this is no secret to anyone familiar with Christian movements: Everything in the story is just a justification for today’s latest problem, and nobody wants to read any further than the destruction of the city for their metaphor.

The Fear of the White Slave

The stories we tell, and how we tell them, shape our worldview. This isn’t ‘media programs you,’ not a satanic panic fear-of-the-demons-in-your-media, but something slower, more grinding, more insidious. There’s an acretion of the world around you as you pass over it, little bits of the everyday. Making everyone’s clothes show ads, we thought, would be about making sure you were always showing off the #brand. Turns out that it mostly just meant people saw ads on clothes as normal and not worth noticing any more.

It’s hard to turn that kind of ubiquity into money in a pragmatic one-on-one sense. It’s difficult to monetise a brand if the main job monetising it is to be everywhere all at once, you need a certain scale for that to have an impact. You need to be Pepsi, for example. What you can do with it, though, is reinforce an idea of what’s normal, and thousands of sources doing it all the time can do a lot to shape that idea of normal.

It’s Marketing Whiteness.

CW, gunna talk about slavery and fundamentalism and whiteness and dismiss the historicity of the Bible, which just gets some people up in a dander.

Continue reading

An Open Letter To The Mother Of That Screaming Kid On The Bus:

I had to try to remember to write this. I even noticed when I’d forgotten about the whole thing. I got off the bus, noticed the lights, ran to it, crossed the street and headed into the food court, where I thought, hang on, what was I thinking about? It took me a moment of concentration. Then out into the produce aisle at Aldi, I thought more about it and tried to remember what I was planning to write about – then remembered it. I had to work at it, I had to try.

I don’t remember what it was they chucked. I don’t remember your shirt, but I remember it had something written on it. I don’t remember if you had glasses or not. I’m writing this after trying to commit this moment to memory to write this piece. It’s going to go into a scheduler and it’ll get put up in maybe a week, maybe a month, depending on if anything bumps it, whatever. By the time this goes up, I will not remember you or your kid or the baby or any of it. It is a comforting amnesia, a thing that our brains do, pushing unpleasant things out of the way where we don’t need to deal with them.

I need to you to understand that: Because I need you to understand how I looked.

I know I looked uncomfortable. I know the screaming kid made me uncomfortable. I know that’s how I react to that sound. Your kid was screaming, and I mean screaming, I think, or maybe it wasn’t that bad, it’s hard to remember now, but the thing is, there was a screaming baby. Or small kid. Jeeze, this is hard to remember.

I know that sound makes me deeply uncomfortable. Me, I have a bad reaction to that screaming, and I know my problem solving for that tends towards aggression – I tend to shout at little kids or get mad at them when they behave badly, and I know there’s a part of my brain that thinks ‘hitting a kid will shut them up,’ and I don’t like struggling with that feeling. It’s just this little subroutine going on in my brain, over and over. Either way, I know I didn’t look happy. I know you and I made eye contact – that I sure remember.

And I remember feeling guilty, because I knew, in that moment, you almost certainly thought I was thinking you’re a bad parent, because that’s what I know people think and say and mutter to one another about people with screaming kids.

I just wanted to say : It was a fraction of my day. It was barely a moment. It didn’t matter. And I hate that I know this minor incident, this nothing event led to a person like you, doing a hard job and trying to decipher the behaviour of a small and loud bundle of person, thinking a person like me – multiple people like me – were mad at you. I don’t know about anyone else, but I knew in that moment that I was going to forget about this. That it was okay. That the screaming of a child wasn’t going to impose on my life for a long time, just annoy me for a minute.

I get it.

I wish it was easier on everyone, but it’s hard on me for a small amount of time.

2018 Going Forward!

Let’s mark out some clear, distinct, achievable goals.

  • One completed game design a month.
  • One t-shirt design a month.
  • Daily blog posts, with weekly entries for:
    • a Magic The Gathering article
    • a Game Pile article
    • a Story Pile article
  • A video a month

That seems doable to me. What makes this complicated, though is that I’m also going to be doing a PhD. So… that might transform my workload. We’ll have to see.

So why do I bring this up? Well, first, laying it out like this is a good way to make sure I have a plan. I’ve found making something of what I do accountable is important. The other thing is, I’m going to spend January looking into launching a Patreon, which will be about:

  • work-in-progress stuff on game designs
  • group sales of games where if I can get 20~ people interested, I’ll send out bulk copies of games without postage
  • voting and contributions directly on future game content
  • raising money to hire artists!

There. That’s it. Stated. A plan.

I can’t necessarily weasel out of this easily. Weasily? We’ll see.

The 2017 Self-Examination Roundup

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.

Continue reading

Decemberween: Sav Ferguson

Yes, Christmas is passed, but that doesn’t mean we’re done with Decemberween. C’mon. Decemberween is a spirit, Decemberween lasts all the way to July.

Also, one thing this exercise has shown me is how few people I like and respect keep good online portfolios or presences. How many of us treat our twitter page like it’s our dang home page? That’s weird. Anyway, SAV FERGUSON!

Sav is a game developer, writer, radio presenter, and – albeit I believe amateurly – philosopher, who I met I think three times before finally, at GaymerX AUS 2017, we finally had a moment where I could finally remember who the hell I was talking to, because my memory is garbage.

A few weeks later, a Event in Games happened, and it hit close to my knuckles – and I angrily spat about how the people talking about it had no idea about the experience, because it was something I lived, and nobody I knew was talking about it from that perspective…

And Sav popped up and said ‘yeah, I know what I’m talking about.’

And then we talked about it and dissected the discourse going on around us.

Now I want you to understand how hard that particular exchange is for guys. Because I had just effectively challenged him – heck to you, you don’t know what you’re talking about – and he very legitimately shot back, saying that actually yes I hecking do. We could have just clashed against each other and stopped – but Sav’s more mature than that, and we were able to find our common ground and talk about a deeply troubling thing. I was impressed, genuinely so, especially in the middle of a time when everyone around both of us was shouting about a thing that upset us.

The most recent game release from Sav is That Boy Is A Monstr, a game about being queer and dating on a website. Check it out.

Decemberween: Fox

Awww, yeah, yeah, yeah. Duh.

Of course I’m going to spend some time this month talking about Fox.

Fox Lee, my partner, is an artist, designer, writer and web developer. She manages our websites, writes ad copy, edits rulebooks and creates entire games on her own. Fox has made a free otome game, which is great, and I recommend you go try it.

This year, we released a game called Cafe Romantica, and I want to underscore of this 120-card, big card game, I did so little of the total product it is dizzying. Fox did the art, the backgrounds, the card faces, the wording structure and wrote the rulebook – even up to the night before the game launched.

Fox is great. Fox works hard, Fox holds work to a high standard, and Fox is often sharply contrasted with my positions – where I’ll work hard to get a product finished, she’ll hold things back to make sure they get done right. I love Fox, and you should check out her great work so you can send us money for how great she is.

Obviously I had to put this one up here, today, on Christmas Eve – because Fox sharing her life with me is the greatest gift I’ve ever received.

Decemberween: 0xabad1dea

As with Rachel and Clay before them, I once more turn to point to someone I know, and love, and care about, who hasn’t had a fair shake.

Melissa Elliott, two ls, two ts, is one of those people who, if the 17th century wasn’t just the most awful, would have been one of those academic thinker types we sit around now wondering where they find the time. She’s done infosec research, drawn comics, built a twitter brand, built videogame AI, done some work on videogames, reverse engineered some things, won a My Little Pwnie award for her work in information security –

er, specifically for writing a silly song –

and  she’s written a gaslamp fantasy novel, which is part of a series, as well as a web series I’ve spoken about on the blog before.

Now, none of these are raging successes, by the standards we use to determine success. This is in part because none of us grew up in cultures that value artistic expression, and I know that moreso of Melissa’s upbringing because she and I shared a particular horrorshow that was American Fundamentalism. This is not an experience and a place that, let me tell you, does much to encourage the creative efforts of young women.

I am grateful this year that Melissa has been part of it – the whole way. I feel like a walking firework alongside her, where she needs some degree of quiet, some emotional space, and I, with my big loud idiot elbows smack into spaces that can distress her without even trying – but despite it, she still shares with me what she makes, and what she wants, and what she’s interested in, and that means a lot to me.

Incidentally, she hates card games, and that’s okay – because when I share what I do with my friends, I don’t do it because I want them to feel obligated they should like them.

Decemberween: Can I Pet Your Dog?

The mighty Maximum Fun podcasting network may host the entire McElempire, with both MBMBAM and their related shows of which there are roughly a fifty hojillion fold (and I like that, that’s cool), but there is one show I found from an ad in My Brother, My Brother and Me, and it’s Can I Pet Your Dog.

Can I Pet Your Dog is almost impressively nothing. It is a short podcast of two people talking about their dogs (in early episodes, they did not both have dogs). They are not exceptionally or exquisitely funny. I mean, they’re funny, but it’s not uproarious comedy; I don’t find myself quoting it or recommending it (except here, I guess).

Can I Pet Your Dog is, however, inoffensive, sweet, and comforting. It is funny without reminding me of gross comedians; it does not feel I’m about to stray into realms of vile jokes or random political stuff about this person or that person and how dare they. It is, when I do find the time to sit down and tune in, a balm of comforting, simple, pleasures of owning a dog.

Decemberween: Clay!

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m fond of someone I record a podcast with. To counter the claims of nepotism, I want it known that I love Clay despite him routinely making fun of me for being related to a ventriloquist.

Now, Clay’s situation is such I feel reluctant telling anyone how great he is. I don’t feel comfortable waving my arms in the air and shouting about the glory of this wonderful friend, this thoughtful man who has had to learn twice as much as I did in half the time with worse handicaps.

As Rachel, Clay is someone who makes me sure the world would be better if people like them just had the freedom to make things, to tell stories, to care about the things they care about and not deal with malarkey like the right change for the drier and washer.

Three years ago I was told it was important for men to foster stable, emotionally mature relationships so they didn’t rely on women to take care of them. I tried that, I joke, then it turns out they were all girls. Despite all that, standing out from that, there’s Clay – who has had his own path through life from similar spaces as me, making him one of the few people I know who can get a lot of the things I normally need to spend so long explaining.

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: My Nephews

I don’t do a lot of information leaking on the internet. I don’t put things out there that can connect you to People Around Me. If I take photos of people it’s either at an event with their permission and permission to share, or it’s without identifying marks. I have been, therefore, pretty careful about giving out information about my family as much as I can. It may be news somewhat to some of you that I have an older sister.

My older sister has a pair of sons.

Those sons, my nephews, are great.

They are not remarkably great. Alright? I have to level with you. They do exactly what kids do, which is they shout and they jump from idea to idea, and they don’t listen to you and they’re prone to forgetting what they’re doing in that way that, let me tell you, I would be super annoyed if a coworker did it, I mean just my word how irritating. Their fashion sense is also just awful, and they haven’t read any of the classics. Shout out to my sister for having the stamina to support the little goons.

On the other hand, they love games.

I have told this story and will tell this story many times more, but I’m putting it here. There are three games in our catalogue that I made explicitly because I went to my parents’ place and hung out with my nephews and they learned I made games. We talked about it, we talked about what that meant, and they talked about things they thought games should be about, what games should do.

Then I went home and I made those games.

Some games I couldn’t make. I couldn’t make the game called GOOD COP, LOLLY COP – which conspicuously, came about when I told them we couldn’t play GOOD COP, BEAR COP, because they were too young and wouldn’t understand it. But these kids are part of my life and I am happy to be part of theirs.

This year I made a protracted plan to try and visit my family every month – at least once. I didn’t do it every month – but the point we knew was we tried. We knew we wanted to go every month, we knew we expected to. There was one embarassing day when I turned up at my parents’ place and nobody was home, and I just piled into the bus and went home.

This year has featured an effort to draw together tighter the love and the need of my family to be connected. To shoulder the people closest to me and to know they are willing to shoulder me. There are unfortunate choices ahead of us, but I’d rather face it together.

This Exists: B.O.B.

I said I’d say something about this and I never did, and this sucks and it’s in my head and now I’m going to share it with you. For as there are good things in this world, there are dark and miserable reflections, and with Christian Replacement Media on my mind, let us speak now of some of its worst examples.

In the late 90s there was a ska boom. Ska music got on the radio. There was also the peak era of South Park, as a generation of teenagers tried to convince their parents that they didn’t care about your opinions, dude and they liked edgy, powerful, dangerous media like this thing about children talking to poop.

Two media trends, two chances to capitalise and milk money out of other Christians? Well, of course it was time for the Christian Replacement Media machine to get involved and get involved hard.

“What,” you may be asking, “the fuck was that.”

That, my friend is the evil mirror to Five Iron Frenzy. It is the fundamentalist-enough Christian alternative to South Park’s visual aesthetic branding and opposition point to the radio’s sinful Mighty Mighty Bosstones. It is a musical Waluigi, an entity created entirely in opposition to values rather than expression of values. It is ash. In as much as art can be, it is sin.

By the way, boy, the people on the Mexican border really had a problem that they weren’t getting enough Americans telling them about Jesus. Mexico’s a country with a real problem with Christianity, right? Let’s set aside the Anti-Catholic and patronising probably-Racism of Mission Trip To Mexico and instead examine what I feel is probably their worst song, Homeschool Girl.

Public school is full of drug addicts, boring, and lies to you. But Homeschool girl, well, she’s super great.

Augh I’m listening to it again.

And

just

so

fucking angry.

It literally exhorts how good she is at preparing him stuff! It holds up how smart she is by how many grades she is ahead except because she’s homeschooled that doesn’t mean anything, since the person telling you that isn’t a fucking teacher! This is literally propoganda for a lifestyle that I know’s inflicted tremendous harm on people!

Sometimes you can think about the impact of a piece of art in terms of what it made seem normal, what it impacted, who it really influenced. And I am sadly certain that there are people, right now, homeschooling their kids, who are doing it in part because when they were young teens, they heard this song and it helped to form what they thought of as ‘normal.’

Hmm, let’s see, other countries, homeschooling with some overtones of sexism, what about –

Oh yeah, Abstinence!

Fucking hell this fucking group of fucking dickheads.

Okay okay, not going to talk about the lyrics or message of this media – the pain of having had sex? the fuck, you’re doing it very wrong – but I’m going to talk about how boring this ska music is. It’s very competently arranged, but very poorly mixed, and if you listen to all this stuff in a row you’ll be struck by how all BOB songs more or less sound the same.

All their album is up on Youtube, if you give a shit to go listen to it. I think their least obnoxious track is I Saw Pastor Dancing, which is just intensely cringey.

Oh and if you’re curious: Yes. I owned this album. And I owned it instead of owning All The Hype Money Can Buy.

Bubble-ical Discipline

Did I really choose that title? Is that what we’re going with? Mmh, well, okay.

If you’ve spent any time on the internet delving through the Youtube archives of people telling you about things you’d never heard of that suck, chances are good you’ve run into the ouvre of Christian Replacement media I was raised in. you’ve seen attempts to make Christian musicals, you’ve seen the Christian animations, and you’ve probably even come across the Christian superhero stories. Which suck.

You’ll see this kind of media absolutely everywhere but only once you puncture into the social space of the Christian media sphere. There’s an actual suggestion when you’re inside it that you should buy this stuff and wear the branding because it’s a good way to get people to notice you, it’s a starter of conversations and it makes sure people recognise that you’re Christian, Not Ashamed, in your pursuit of the attention of the heathens, moving about in their space and being a better person than them. That is absolutely not what happens. What happens is you go to a youth camp and see everyone wearing the same general genre of t-shirt showing off Christian bands, Christian branding, Christian media franchises and that’s all. And some of it is pretty lazy – I mean, seriously, Jesus  Reese’s is as far as that idea got.

There’s a lot of this stuff, and I know I’ve spoken in the past about the absolutely awful band Bunch Of Believers – wait, I haven’t? I haven’t subjected you, my readers and friends to that particular flavour of garbage? Well, heck, I’m going to have to work on that. Anyway, the point is, this stuff exists and it’s almost always derivative and it’s extremely weak in its execution. Often anything that calls for a thoughtful interpretation or even something where there’s a clear, useful connection to existing media, it’s not taken. Heck, it’s sometimes missed so widely you can be left wondering if the people in question are trying at all.

Which they’re not.

Know why this stuff is all garbage?

There are two basic reasons that the Christian Replacement Media is low quality. The first is it’s an industry; it wants to churn out things with as little effort as possible to scoop up as much purchasing power as it possibly can from the networked church system of industries, and it wants to do that as cost-effectively as possible. People aren’t buying clever or good, they’re buying in-group markers. The other reason, though, and it’s the reason that makes so many of those tv shows and the like look so bad is because they’re often aiming for an audience that has no idea about quality. They’re not dealing with audiences who have seen and tried a lot of things – they’re dealing with some audiences who have only really experienced the Christian media landscape, people who are dismissing non-Christian media out of hand, and people who are trying to insulate their family – usually children – from the harmful influence of Things That Exist.

These things exist to suck because they literally do not want you to have anything better to compare them to.

Learning to Share

Let me tell you something that’s just the dopest hecking poop.

Today, Fox and I got talking as we had lunch, offhandedly, about Scythe. Specifically, about a random component of Scythe. Then the discussion was about how messy the box might have to be to need that, then suddenly we’re discussing the problems we see with Scythe – not with playing it, but with being cautious about even wanting to design a game like that.

Then suddenly we were chewing on the problem, as we chewed on our sandwiches. One idea – what about units with stacks of tokens on them, attacking them flipped tokens, what if you had to move pieces by hand, what about dice rollers, what about dice rolling work pools? What about –

I came home, I sat down, and took notes and detailed out some ideas and checked the progress and release on some games, and then realised I had four or five really good ideas I could use for games, for other games, for ideas that could be the basis of games in general.

Find someone you can talk to about games. Find a few someones. Find people where you’re not going to be thinking I can’t share this idea with them or they’ll steal it. Let go of that. Find a place to talk about games where you’re not defending your ideas, where you’re not going to have a reddit-style well actually argument. Find a way to share ideas, and you’ll find it fosters and creates and nourishes you and helps you make, and it makes you happy.

Setting Your Own Goals

I’m job searching right now, working on finding some work leading up to the new year. It sucks, trust me. Today – when I wrote this, not when this goes up – I did a bunch of things.

  • I did a preliminary rulebook for Sector 86
  • I contacted a number of businesses about job opportunities (five)
  • I cleaned up the house
  • I brought in the laundry
  • I wrote three articles for the blog (which is why this is so far ahead!)
  • I developd a schedule for posting MTG stuff to my blog
  • I had lunch
  • I walked the dog
  • I gave the dog his worming tablet
  • I made a slow-cooked dinner for Fox
  • I updated my blog’s opening presentation, which is like, a resume element
  • I set up a twitter for a new podcast that’s coming
  • Tried to do more work on my PhD submission

And despite all that, I’m sitting here, at six pm, fizzing quietly, and wondering to myself… have I done enough today?

I’m not feeling great these days. I’m riddled with anxiety and I’m stressed and I’m feeling unproductive. But when I sit down and write out a list of things I did today, it always is that I ‘waste’ a lot of time doing things.

It’s hard.

You have to get into the habit of determining what your goals are. You have to be able to set yourself limits and say today I’m done with this.

Roads Unbent

I grew up – okay, let me start that again.

I lived, from the age of four to the age of fourteen, in a suburb of New South Wales called Engadine. Engadine is where I learned how money works, how to read, what a library was, how to talk to a doctor, about family restaurants and VHS tapes and watched the Beta cases slowly disappear off the shelves. It’s the place I walked with my mother as she went to a business to pick up an actual physical paycheque and hand it into an actual physical bank. It’s the place I tried a paper route.

To say I ‘grew up’ there is a misnomer, though. Because in Engadine, I was in an environment that deliberately sought to stifle what I learned of the world, watching a small number of years left in the world tick down. But Engadine is still a big part of my life, and time to time, we pass through it on the way to Sydney, from where I live now.

Engadine has a KFC and a McDonalds on the highway, meaning that on a long con drive out of Sydney, it’s a place to refuel and restock, and also, crucially, a place where you’re not going to get caught up in a brutal Sydney snarl of traffic if you stop for a while and sit down.

Dad used to say Engadine had a lot of flat ground – it was just all vertical. The terrain of Engadine is all hills, homes perching on uneven backyards, with the biggest flat areas being the football pitch, the mall, and the public pools, which sat across from the school I went to. We would cross the road and do sport on the big field, or in the public facilities to play hockey.

I really do love the public works part of Engadine, in hindsight. There were so many things that were available to me that I didn’t know, or didn’t appreciate. There was a walkway to the Train Station that went under the road, so as a child, I could safely make my way to the station without having to go up a huge number of stairs or some other way cross six lanes of highway.

When we revisit Engadine, though, the thing that blows my mind is how little it changes. Storefronts have changed – different businesses have come and gone and I’m sure nobody there remembers me, nobody remembers what I did or who I was, some nondescript little church kid with a bowl haircut reading Pratchett novels in the foyer. But the shape of Engadine is the same.

I think a lot of this is because of the roads. Engadine’s roads are all… pretty much the same? The big Woolworths is probably a Coles now, the NeoLife offices aren’t there any more (because the bastard who ran them is dead), but the businesses and the people have to follow the shape of the roads, the roads that are laid out on the land as best they can be.

I remember when I lived there I was genuinely confused as to how there were any other places in the world. How would you get there? The first time dad drove us out onto the highway and I saw that that little road I thought went nowhere in fact went everywhere, it blew my tiny mind.

But Engadine is still Engadine. It is older and it is different and it is dressed differently, but it is still a place named for the people who we took it from, wearing on its roads the scars of a culture that should never forget what we did.


This blog post and subject was suggested, as above, by @Garlicbug on Twitter. If you’d like to suggest stuff you’d like to see me write about, please, do contact me!