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.
It’s a late thursday night of the day I spent an hour sitting in a doctor’s office to get vaccinated, then observed afterwards. I am exhausted. My arm is killing me. I feel weird in the stomach, and my eyes hurt. None of this relates to the vaccine, as best I can tell, by the way. I’m exhausted because I’ve been working all day, then I had to arrange transport to the doctor’s, then get home, and then, I had to work on rebuilding my bed, because that can’t really wait. It meant that after getting the vaccine — which was convenient and easy and even literally painless — I came homje and had a list of things I had to do before I could tell myself I had the freedom to relax.
And then, eventually, that opportunity arrived, and I had a shower.
Welcome, welcome, welcome, boils ghouls and nondinary fools~! Welcome, welcome, welcome to the press dot invincible dot ink blog where horror and thriller and spooky material is all getting stuffed into the month of October. It’s some lighthearted funny spooks, but there’s also some more deep and heavy horrifying material to grapple with.
What can you expect? Well, I’m going to look at some horror games in the Game Pile; horror movies and manga in the Story Pile. But in addition to that, the remaining posts of the month are going to bubble and teem with nasty, creepy horrors of media, of the way we treat one another, or the way games treat one another. That means we’re going to talk about things that we accept as horrifying in one way, and instead turning them so we can see different horror cut through it. We’re going to talk a little about a beloved (by other people) historical figure. There’s going to be some more talk about assets and game design, and maybe a chat about horror in world building choices, and maybe even a new horrifying group of monster-people for D&D.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to use this as an excuse to drop you into nasty topics. There will still be content warnings and folds, and I hope you can appreciate, if I slip up in this case, it’s a product of a mistake, not out of any attempt to manipulate and hurt you.
The term I wield for this month is deliberately dread, rather than horror, because if you’ve looked back on previous Dread Months, there have been some really good horror movies and series, things that are designed to make you clutch your chest and brace with the horror of them. But there have also been things like ‘oh wow, the Goosebumps movie is better than I expected.’ Then there’s stuff where I have confronted a grim thought or two, like the time I considered how the trajectory of my life matched the trajectory of historical serial killers.
September is over! But if you’re like the majority of people who read this blog (weird), you only check it from time to time, so here’s a post that should tell you things you may have missed this month that you can go check out!
I stay up late a lot these days, which I don’t actually want to do. It’s not always an anxiety thing, it’s not always a social thing. I mean this month I had a friend contact me to say ‘look I had a real bad day at therapy and I’m just coming down from how I coped can you keep me company,’ and the bad day at therapy had been a week ago, and that means I’m up at four in the morning taking care of someone.
But sometimes it’s a much more insidious thing where I don’t want to go to bed until I feel like I’d done something for the blog. Managing work and life is a meaningfully difficult balance, and that means that someitmes, work is going to get done on days that are fruitful and work is going to get missed on days that are not. Still, there’s a sort of passive, droning ‘fell asleep on the couch’ kind of anxiety that can come from not wanting to admit that I’m done for the day, get up and go to bed.
As I write this, it is December. Yep, December, 2020. The aliens hadn’t arrived yet and beards weren’t yet illegal. But I write this as I have done all the easy hit goals for the blog today, and despite the fact today featured two long shopping trips, numerous social events and a bunch of graphic design work, I’m sitting here thinking: I haven’t done enough to go to bed yet.
And so, I am therefore putting this little wad of anxiety at my own productivity into a ball, stuffing it into the bottom of a pipe and then shooting it off into the future. I am doing so by writing about the only thing I can think of to write about that I can write about in this hazy, muzzy fog of tiredness, and I am doing so with the full knowledge that by the time I get around to seeing this on the schedule next year that I will probably forget how mediocre the post was.
It is okay, from time to time, to give yourself some easy ones.
In case you didn’t know, I sleep on a waterbed. Well, prior to these past few days, I slept on a waterbed. Fairer to say that my default sleeping arrangements, typically, were that of a waterbed, and right now as I write this, but well before you read it, I sleep on an air mattress.
And thus, the flourish, the finale, the end of the performance, and tricks month draws to a conclusion. This was an interesting month, as many of the pieces were quietly done throughout the year, and postponed to now; this created a strangely out-of-time experience as, when written, I felt ‘well, I’m going to need to explain a lot about Qanon, I guess,’ as opposed to the relatively mainstream bullshit it is now.
A content warning, though. I am going to talk about Mormonism, Mormon history, and the Mormon church. I don’t believe in Mormonism’s depiction of history, and I do not believe that the historical record of Joseph Smith is somehow corrupted. If you don’t want to hear an outsider speaking frankly about his opinion of Mormonism — and you probably know what that’s going to be like — then I recommend you skip on out.
Who doesn’t love a good Catholic conspiracy theory?
Not one of the conspiracy theories the Catholics have used to shape the way the world views faith and itself, no, those tend to be a bit more… well, they’re the conspiracy theories that we think of as ‘conspiracy theories,’ and they almost all seem to trace back to someone saying ‘Well, Martin Luther was wrong about a lot of things, but as far as it goes on the jews.’
And this isn’t one of those Protestant conspiracy theories about Catholics, which range from ‘they put cornflakes in their bed to stop masturbating’ (kinda true) to ‘they can’t whistle or the pope will hear,’ (definitely not true). It’s about eucharist wafers, and it’s about a conspiracy that, seemingly, some Catholics seem to think exists despite not believing in it.
The Eucharist wafer, if you’re not familiar, is a small bit of more-or-less bread used in a ritual known as the eucharist. During the Biblical narrative of the last supper, a ceremony we mostly document from the one person who definitely makes it clear he was not there, Jesus gives a speech where he offers the disciples wine and bread, saying, and I paraphrase, ‘Come, eat of this, for it is my body and blood, eat it in remembrance of me.’ It’s something Protestants and Catholics share as a ritual.
It is, however, supremely weird.
It’s really one of the sources of dissent between Protestants and Catholics – there’s an idea that this ritual, along with the baptism of infants, was basically one of the things that got the ball rolling on all the schisming and that’s why one of the major groups of not-Catholic Christians that hate the Catholics a lot (except when they’re trying to leverage them for political power) are known as ‘Baptists.’
The weird ritual is a little weirder in Catholic circles because of a belief known as transubstantiation. This idea is that the eucharist, when consumed, literally transforms into actual real Jesus meat and actual real Jesus blood. This belief was used to claim that Catholics were cannibals and tie them to blood libel (and what the hey, we’re back at the Jewish stuff again, that’s weird and sucks).
Transubstantiation is contentious because this idea, that the wafer and wine become real blood and meat is actual Church doctrine. That’s like, inasmuch as there are rules on this stuff, that’s what the rulebook as written says is there. The consensus amongst Catholics in the United States is, however, that this isn’t true; about two thirds of Catholics think that it’s entirely symbolic, just under one third believe it’s not. The church says it’s true, most people don’t believe it.
This makes it an interesting question to ask about on forms, and that gave us this beautiful graph from August 2019.
In this graph, we see that 69% of people (nice) don’t believe that the eucharist becomes real god meat. 31% believe it does. But there’s a breakdown in that; of the 69% of catholics who think that the bread and wine are symbolic, about two thirds of them think that the church also teaches that the wine and bread are symbols. This means that of the entire cohort, almost 45% of Catholics think that the bread and wine are symbolic, which is incorrect, according to the Catholic church itself.
Here, though, is where it gets wonderfully weird.
There is a cohort of 31% that believe that the food they are eating is magically transformed into god meat and blood. This is made up of a body (hah) of around 14 million Catholics, who believe in transubstantiation and who also believe that the church teaches transubstantiation. Yet next to them, in that weird little sliver, is that 2% that believe that it does become god meat… but that the church teaches it doesn’t.
What the heck.
What do they think happens there?
It’s this beautiful little bubble. How do you believe in a core point of doctrine for your church while believing they don’t agree with you, while also believing the weirder thing. Believing that you are secretly transubstantiating with a ritual performed by a priest who you also think is not doing the thing required for transubstantiation to happen, but you’re somehow bootlegging Jesus Bacon into your system some other way?
A little secret community of roughly a million Catholics in the United States.
Qanon has been a surprising opportunity for a lot of people to learn something they probably never realised before: That the conspiracy theory wing of the world was bountifully alive, well, and extremely well-fed, in the existing landscape of Christian dominionism.
Content Warning: Church, Qanon and related subjects, American Christianity, and Conspiracy Theories.
I mean, there’s scholarship on it, and for some of you, ‘no, we can give the concession,’ and there’s a host of opinions. Lots of people I know, atheists even, even active anti-thesists, think that Jesus existed, or rather, say that they think that Jesus was a ‘real person’ and attribute the teachings in the gospels to that person.
I don’t. I don’t see how I have to give that concession. And, like, I think the idea that ‘there’s a real kernel of truth’ to Jesus mythicism is really weird. Why? Because the text that describes Jesus also describes massive sermons memorised perfectly, specific literary devices that would be very unnatural as observed practice, historical characters behaving wildly out of character, an actual zombie apocalypse, and people coming back from the dead. Those things don’t happen, meaning any text that includes those things is inherently suspect. Like, The Walking Dead happens in Macon, Georgia, and the fact that Macon exists doesn’t mean that The Walking Dead is a good text to use to learn about it.
And largely, the thing is… what is there left, then? If you take all the stories in aggregate and just drop the stuff that contradicts one another, and the stuff that absolutely could not have happened, you’re left with a very vague outline that at some point, a dude named Jesus existed. Historically, the best record we have is a hundred years later is people saying ‘hey, Christians exist, and they say this is their backstory,’ which I mean, that doesn’t mean anything. Every religion we’ve ever seen founded with good record keeping has an obviously nonsense origin story, why is this the one we take seriously? Because that’s the only records we have? But those records also have again, total nonsense in them.
There are some academics who have written on the topic*, and they construct a reasonably solid argument for the mythical nature of the Christ story. In 2007, the Jesus Project was kicked off to attempt to settle the question in an independent and authoritive way, only to be shuttered two years later when its own coordinator determined that the project could neither get reliable enough historical information to prove Jesus existed, nor could it in any way verify the idea that Jesus did not. There was also a problem with how the researchers seem to split into people who assumed Jesus was real and people who didn’t, which meant there wasn’t a proper skeptical framework. And when people say ‘we have more proof of Jesus than we do of Julius Caesar,’ it’s kinda this auto-disqualifying position, but it’s seen as the norm to say that.
Personally, I think that the way we give Jesus the benefit of the doubt is a form of religious privilege; that Jesus gets held to a much lower standard of evidence, because well, there’s all this stuff. Look at how much Christian-ness there is around us, surely the history of this church has to be, like, based on something right? And we defer to the experts within the textual space, in the privilege superstructure of the church itself. And like, surely there have to be good sources for this, right? Right? It’s a coincidence I’m sure that in our Christian culture surrounded by Christian media with Christian colleges that have Christian teaching positions for Christian students that there’s a bias towards selecting academics who may think that there’s something to this Christianity nonsense.
One predominant complaint about mythicists that’s used to dismiss them wholesale, tends to be ‘these people aren’t getting hired in academia,’ which I mean, that sounds like a hiring practices problem? Like, the argument seems to literally be ‘we don’t hire mythicists, and none of these mythicists work as professional scholars.’
Anyway, I find the entire idea of a historical Jesus unnecessary, and any historical records we have are so far beyond the life of an actual cult leader that any of the records about his life presented in the Bible are no different than Qanon fanfiction.
There is a problem with my position though.
You see that *?
That * is where I would normally talk about and share excerpts from those scholars and why I find them compelling. And I used to be happy to do that. Except now… I don’t. Rather than swerve this little piece all the way into the ditch, though, I’ve put an explanation for those things down under the fold. Basically, the scholars on this subject that helped me build to this position – where I now don’t feel I need their writing to do it – are people I’m not comfortable mentioning in public, because of Content Warning bits.
It’s not necessary? Like, I don’t think that you need these scholars to serve as the undergirding for dismissing the idea of Jesus. If you don’t think the Bible is a historical text, and I don’t, because of all the stuff in it that is fictional, then literally all that we have is ‘Christians say they followed a dude with an extremely common name, who came back from the dead,’ and like… that’s just repeating a clearly fictional story. I don’t need any of the people with degrees to tell me that that’s not convincing.
I don’t know what a historical Jesus gets you anyway? Like, if you don’t believe in the miracles or the ahistorical bits, or the fictional bits that can’t work, or the teachings that are in many cases inconsistent, or the weirdly threatening culty bits, or the ability to see the future, and you say ‘well, I do think there was a guy, in this time, in this place, who had a cult, and that became Christianity,’ then I’m left wondering what’s left of that that matters?
I am not an expert in magic; I am not particularly good at magic. There’s a handful of magic tricks I know, and they are, I think, good tricks for the kind of skills I want to have. Once I understood how magic happened, as someone who believed in real actual sorcery I started to see the world unravel around me. It taught me that people around me who seemed to have powers were just liars. Then when I realised that, I realised the techniques for convincing people of these tangible tricks were also good for intangible tricks.
It became a covert interest of mine, growing up. Reading books on magic, books of how to execute tricks, and then the history of magic, and the techniques of masters and things you could do to cheat at poker and manipulate people. I realised that I lived in a world not haunted by gods and monsters but rather everywhere I went, I found nothing but lies told by evil men to steal money.
What I learned then was that the way the world was, the secrets I was told were, themselves, just another set of lies meant to control me into seeing the world in a particular way. There were no old mansions full of created demonic life, destroyed by fervent hunters; there were no conspiratorial anti-god operations of Jewish people, ardently dismantling the works of Christians to try and repatriate them to Israel; there was no false or secret history of missing coins that showed the truth of the Bible. It was all, again, just lies.
I am very interested in ways people are controlled through lies.
Welcome to tricks month; we’re going to talk about magic tricks and the ways they control our attention. We’re going to talk about conspiracy theories, both widespread ones and small, insular pocket ones. We’re going to talk about the kinds of ridiculous things people actually believe, as horrifying as it can be, and we’re going to talk about the ways these systems connect to what you may think of as ‘normal’ and maybe even creep you out a little with the boundaries of your reality.
You may think you live in a sensible world with weirdos out there, but the weirdoes are right here.
We’re going to talk about ways to manipulate attention, components or problems in magic tricks, and I’m going to share some magic trick work I really like. There’s going to be some interesting history of cards and there’s going to be some thinking about how we use these lies and mistruths to hide reality from one another – and ourselves.
July has ripped on by (and I say that because I have been on holiday, and am writing this quite early in the month, truth be told). I could say any old bollocks and it’d just be seen as me being quirky. Actually, I shouldn’t joke because the current thing is a lockdown that I have seen referred to as potentially extended to Christmas and uh fuck that.
June had four Game Pile articles this month, which is the usual number. We have two text articles, and three, count ’em three video articles:
I made a video of me playing (and failing to beat) Hurtin’ Hermits, a minigame from the Hermitcraft server.
I considered the works of Raven Software in light of their 1992 game Shadowcaster.
I reconsidered the blind eye I’d turned to problems in Shadow Warrior when I looked at Shadow Warrior 2.
Gen:Lock, a web animation anime that kind of has no right to be as amazing as it is.
This month I also started on the project We Are The Night, which I kicked off by making a post that just explained the idea. Part of the point of making in public is making sure that you’re aware of not just the things that are done, but the way things get worked on – and sometimes that just means things stop, and that’s okay. That also led to a followup post later in the month. We’ll see how regular those posts are. This public making continued as I worked on redeveloping The Botch for a print-and-play environment.
I wrote a sad article, because I don’t like being unduly negative about Magic: The Gathering about how I’m not interested in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, which is a bummer to have written. While I was in a D&D mood, though, I also talked about The Hexblade back in 3.5, a class that’s kind of still misbegotten in 4e, and the Swallowers, a kind of jokey memey heritage of friendly non-evil Beholderkin.
As I write this, we are in extended lockdown. I had a PhD timetable written up in January, that was, based on the information presented by the government in that month, expecting that I’d have my COVID vaccine right now. This lockdown is being treated as if it’s the fault of dirty poors transmitting their viruses around, while rich people go about their days unaffected by the rules that the rest of us live under. It’s possible by the time this article goes up, things change.
But for now it’s going to be a darkly ironic note, since I’m seeing it more likely I get my vaccine in 2022.
If you’re, like me, in the Balance Of The Remainder category, you can pick up stickers or shirts and laugh hollowly.
According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.
Well, that was Pride. As we gear up to put down our Pride and pick up our Wrath, what came by on the Press dot Invincible Dot Ink blog?
June had four Game Pile articles this month, which is the usual number. We have two text articles, and two video articles:
Secret Little Heaven. In the comments from this, I saw someone refer to the idea of the word ‘trans’ being ‘cringe,’ and that’s how I learned there’s a way to disappear someone from your comments section.
Some interesting queer games. This was part of my effort to use this month to platform some games I can’t or won’t play during a time when that’s important. If I can’t bring myself to enjoy or engage with other small-scale queer games, I should do what I can to promote it.
Nier Automata, which I promised back in February. In hindsight, I think my big problem is that this game promises me a lot it doesn’t deliver – like the freedom of movement and scope of the story is at odds with providing me one very small invisibly-walled city.
Asphalt Among Ashes. A really cool little journaling game I found by clicking the links in someone’s twitter bio.
I had a lot more fun with the Story Pile, though.
The Owl House. Let’s check out a cool queer thing Disney made, then kick them in the teeth over not doing it sooner.
The Old Guard. Let’s check out a cool queer comics movie, then kick the movies in the teeth for this being exceptional.
Zombieland Saga. Completely unironically, an anime that I love even if I don’t think it’s very good.
What about this month’s Pridey articles? Well there was a weird runaway in this month. My article ‘Being Asked If I Am An Egg‘ got a lot of attention, including from people I did not know and had never heard of. Some of them went ‘she sounds like an egg.’ That was kinda annoying, but, you know, take it in stride.
This month’s shirt is some candy hearts, showing things I like a lot – the Pride flags, and sincere attempts that maybe look a bit crap. You can check it out here.
Anything going on in the real world? Well, thanks to a COVID outbreak in Sydney and a possible vector into a suburb near me, my suburb is in lockdown. We’ve been told to shelter in place for two weeks, shopping for essentials only, meaning that I got to watch the toilet paper in the aisles empty out again.
We also use he/him pronouns for our dog, because the complexities of gender are unknown to creatures without language, and without any way for him to self-identify, we just use the usuals. He is, of course, a very good boy.
Elli is very important to our lives. He was part of the decisions we made about where to live; his needs are part of our daily routine; we feed him in the mornings and we feed him in the evening. Our house has structures in place that are designed to give him spaces to be, and things to interact with and ways to make his wants and needs known in our house. We have changed the ways we enter our house in part, because of how it relates to our dog.
Point is, a dog in your life is a force that changes the way you live.
Elli is a lovely dog, and Elli is a cute dog. He is long and elegant and skinny and awkward and he transforms readily between a tiny little snuggly bean and an enormous, splayed, haunted bike rack.
And one of the weirdest things to me is just how much people misgender him.
They call him ‘she’ or ‘girl’ when they hear us call him “Elli,” and then after being corrected, they’ll call him he or boy, and then, usually a few minutes later, they’ll call him her again. And that’s weird.
Like, there’s not a powerful gendering force around dogs or anything. Elli isn’t wearing clothes that code him femme. He’s not a feminine looking dog, in any particular way? I mean, he’s not pink or particularly frilly. He’s just a dog.
That implies to me that the thing that drives it, the thing that makes people think they should misgender him is entirely his name. His name which has one syllable different to a common masc-coded name, is enough that people will assert a femininity there, and that femininity is entirely based around that same syllable.
Genders are social. There is no reason anyone should gender this dog except how they observe him being spoken about socially. He does not care about getting his pronouns wrong, but we do, because those aren’t his pronouns. And it gets under my skin particularly because it’s just this core evidence that people don’t listen to the immediate when it comes to gender. The pressurs from outside, the general trend, are more important than the specific answer they’ve been given.
But what makes this even weirder, is that people apologise for misgendering Elli. They recognise that what they did is a mistake, that they did something wrong, but they won’t, usually, argue with me about it. There’s a clear embarrassment, which is even weirder because Elli doesn’t care. They didn’t hurt his feelings. They didn’t really hurt my feelings watching it, though I probably did feel that they were a little silly.
(Don’t get me wrong, someone did once assert ‘nah, it’s a girl’s name’ and kept misgendering him, and that was one of those reminders that I probably shouldn’t waste my time talking to them)
Anyway, Elli is in my life because of Fox. And it’s Fox’s birthday, so Happy Birthday, Fox.
Hey it’s Pride Month! Hey everyone, it’s Pride Month, get a load of this here Pride Month!
June is Pride Month in the United States of America, to commemorate the anniversy of the Stonewall Riots in 1969 (nice, but not nice, but nice). It’sa month that the United States uses, and therefore, the entire English-speaking Internet uses, to talk about queer causes, queer ideology, and inevitably ask ‘why isn’t there a straight pride?’
So this blog is going to be about Pride Month stuff this month!
The plan is that this month we’re going to talk about queer stuff in general, some stuff about language, some queer games and some queer game design ideas. Note that this isn’t necessarily smoochy stuff – so we’re not necesarily going to be focusing on media about say, gay relationships, per se, as much as we talk about queerness in media in a bunch of different ways.
Particularly, this tends to be a time where I’ll talk about things that people outside of LGBTQ communities might think of them or understand them, ways things are communicated, or the way queerness in media and culture gets represented. I’ll probably wind up talking more about gender stuff and fundamentalist stuff than I’ll talk about necessarily romance this month.
Expect some fandom studies, some queer indie games, some not-queer not-indie games that get called queer games, and some reflections on things like you know, how we celebrate and share the works of one another.
It’s Pride month, remember that every day we live is one we’ve stolen from a system that seeks to make us no more.
May is over, and we are now in the last part of the first half of the year that is 2020 Bonus Round. What’s been happening on the blog?
As the Game Pile has matured, there have been a lot more articles about games that are contemplative or not about just plowing through my Steam archive. I’ve come to abandon the idea that every game in my Game Pile should be talked about – not because they don’t deserve it, but because there’s a lot of stuff where I don’t have anything interesting to say.
I did finally make a video about Hyperintertextuality as expressed by Hyrule Warriors, something I’ve been intending to do for a few years now. The video itself was reasonably easy to make – I wish I’d dedicated a little more time to it, to trim out some sections of the background imagery that aren’t interesting. There’s some menu-ing in the video that I would have cut out, and in the later half I might have made more diagram overlay if I’d thought about it more.
I wrote about Usurper, a game that I can’t in good faith recommend because I can’t give you an opportunity to buy it, and therefore, I had to look at as a game design teacher. I also looked at Pixelmon, a mod for Minecraft just because Fox is playing it. Finally this month, I got to look at Hard Wired Island, a game made by a couple of friends of mine that I was planning on skipping entirely.
See the thing with Hard Wired Island, is, I don’t actually think I want to play the game. It does not interest me. It has never interested me. I backed it in the kickstarter to support my friends, and figured that was it. I was going to let this game that did not interest me let go, and that be that. Except then Discourse started around this game and it was fucking boring. The discourse was ‘hey, is this huge book with lots of work and well paid contributors worth its price tag of about as much as a D&D book?’ and like… even if you don’t think it’s worth it, that conversation is really dull. That conversation wants to reduce the things the book is saying to a kind of word sludge, like alphebitising all the text in it and determining ‘too many es.’
Thus, a conversation about the game that isn’t about its price tag.
Weirdly, it was a sour month for Story Pile stuff. I talked about Moneyball, which seems to be a movie about a pretty cool moment that decides to centre itself on just a total dickhead, on Tenchi Muyo, the Star Wars Merchandising of anime, Toy Story being boomer reconstructionalism and The Detectorists, which sucks. And I also talked about BNA, focusing on the way that media chooses to create villains. My take didn’t land for everyone, though; I still like the series, but it’s definitely possible to read the narrative of a secret shadowy culture of elites pulling all the strings as playing into antisemetic tropes.
Thing is for me if you mention ‘posh elites who pure breed themselves for superpowers’ my natural inclination is to see European Royalty, not Jewish stereotypes.
This month I made a shirt because I wanted it. It’s about a pair of Pokemon I really like – Gligar and Gliscor.
I hurt my leg late this month, which sucked basically all the energy out of a whole week. That sucks! It does mean that I feel like this month just kind of blipped past me, which I may be a sign of something else going on – like as you get older, you start to notice the time flowing faster?
I’m writing this on the 25th of March. Scheduling means this isn’t going up until May. But cast your mind back to those days, we were so innocent, so youthful, everything was different back in March and oh god I hope that’s not true. Point is though, this is the first time this blog has needed a timely post and not been able to just bump things for it. Wild, huh?
Thing is, this week has been rainy. In fact, in my area, it’s been raining for two weeks, and specifically it’s been raining nonstop for ten days up until yesterday. From me, now, the 25th, not uh, whenever you’re reading this.
If it’s raining, there’s stuff that doesn’t happen. People aren’t going places as much. If I go to the store, it’s because I’m getting a lift with a friend or getting the bus, and getting the bus in the rain sucks. Still, things need to be done because they need to be done so they get done but some things you can’t do.
Today, it was sunny. It was bright. It was twenty eight degrees. So if you were like any normal person, like, say, us, you did a load of laundry, first thing in the morning and you bolted out to get it up, on the line, in the blazing morning sun. You got your stuff drying as fast as possible after almost two weeks of not being able to get a load of underwear clean. And it’s Australia, so it’s sunny as hell when it’s sunny, and that means that you wind up, right, with a nice, reassuring warmth that says yes: The laundry will get done.
And at like, noon, today, suddenly, a peal of thunder
The heavens opened.
And for twenty solid minutes there was just a vertical river of a rain that as far as I can tell, served no greater narrative purpose than to ruin the day of every single neighbour we have who was sensible enough to do the clever thing and put their laundry out to dry during this blessed wellspring of warm sunlight. And the thing is, the thing is, it’s not just that your laundry got rained on for twenty minutes – it’s worse. It’s worse, because when it was raining you had no idea it would pass.
If you saw this rain, you’d look at the sheet of water out of the sky and your struggling t-shirts and go: well, fuck, I guess I need to get out there and rescue whatever dryness they have. You bolt out in the water and splash around in the water that’s puddling in the backyard under the line, or the mud, and you’re not dressed for this rain, because it’s a hot day up until exactly this point. And it sheets down over you and you get the laundry in off the line and bolt inside and then you look at the laundry and
let’s face it
It’s soaking wet.
You didn’t save shit.
And then, like, maybe two minutes after that? The rain stops. The sun comes out. And the rest of the day is warm and sunny.
Thus ends Talen Month, a month which is, surprisingly, tricky to actually fill out. It’s often tricky because it kind of behooves me to make it a month of bangers. There’s no room for the ‘eh, it’s not that good,’ kind of stuff, or ‘unexpectedly meh’ kind of coverage. I’m trying to build the structure for this month over the rest of the year – any time a real favourite idea comes up, I put it in the hopper and plan on hitting it hard in April.
If you thought ‘hey the articles this month were kinda big,’ well, they were. A typical post on the blog ranges between 300 to 1200 words, with only a very few big beefy entries that crest 2000 words. This month, the average was 1200, with a full 15 articles over 1000 words. That’s even setting aside the extra media entries – three videos and a podcast, which don’t fit normal word count stuff.
This April had a lot of stuff in it! And that stuff’s real good, in my opinion!
April is a month with five Game Piles, and it seems that this month the subtheme was ‘oh hey, remember that?’ In addition to this, I talked about One Must Fall 2097 and how its design was influenced by the keyboard. I talked about Heretic and how it iterated on the Doom engine. Then I talked about Ai: The Somnium Files with Nixie, which was fun. There’s another Game Pile going up tomorrow, and it’ll be about Syndicate Wars. Yeah, Syndicate Wars, no doubt a game you’re all thirsting to hear my opinions about.
I warn you, it will not be erotically charged.
There was also an article about Final Fantasy VI, which got inexplicably linked to on Critical Distance. I mean, I’m grateful and glad, and I hope it holds to the principle of the site to maintain a list of thoughtful writing about videogames, but also, I guess I’ve now enshrined ‘girl hot’ as a type of proper videogame critique.
It’s been a month to consider my branding, the way my Youtube Channel presents itself. It has been pointed out to me that my Youtube Channel doesn’t really do anything to encourage someone to engage with it, I don’t do calls to action, and I don’t give the channel a clear identity. That’s something to work on.
We only got one Magic: the Gathering article this month, but it was an article of custom made Sultai monsters. On the other hand, I did flaunt my ass by showing some of my D&D worldbuilding from years ago, and updated it to now, examining the Gods of War in Cobrin’Seil. We also looked at The Ardent from 4th Edition and the Fochlucan Lyrist from 3.5. Then we learned how to be Rock Howard, and how to do an unarmed character that doesn’t completely suck ass in the context of a game all about hitting people with weapons.
There wasn’t that much in the way of game-making or politics this month, though I did reserve some time to talk about the fundamentally punitive way games are structured in common discourse around D&D.
This month’s shirt was a reference to Only You Can Save Mankind which also creates an interesting little weirdo totemic item, a sort of memory of what it meant to be one of the people penning these ‘important’ things on ‘important’ technology, that have all passed by and stopped being meaningful useful any more.
Beyond that? It’s been a busy one. Teaching, PhD research, and blogging, and it’s been weirdly hard to get to sleep this month. Daylight saving shifted, which normally means I get more time with my friends on the internet, but weirdly, it just hasn’t worked out that way so far.
It’s my birthday today. I have turned an age that doesn’t feel right. I still think of myself as an Outsized Boy, inappropriately aged since I have this early period of my life when I stepped blinking out into reality while completely confused about things like ‘how do I even be a human?’ Like the first seventeen or so years of my life were ripped away from me, leaving me with this ridiculously inappropriate ‘age’ while all my cultural touchstones of my ‘childhood’ started in the late 90s.
It is also my birthday here, in Australia. Over there in America, it’s not quite there yet. You’re a day out. This is the kind of time delay that means all sense of immediacy and engagement with my birthday can both drag, and flicker past. I’m not writing this on my birthday, after all.
But March is over and we’re moving on to April! March lacks a theme, which means that anything I wrote in February and went: Hey hang on, this doesn’t relate, got bumped. And thus, I present to you something you can read that directs you to other stuff you can read, that’s all fun and good.
What did we get in the Game Pile? Two videos, and two text articles. The videos were on Second Sight, and how meritocracy is fake and Games Journalism is fundamentally broken, and on how Minecraft doesn’t have anything like Goblins and how that’s? interesting? I also tackled the digital Rootboard game and how it isn’t quite the same thing as the physical game, but how that can be a good thing, and finally, I took some time to take down Genewars, a 1996 RTS. Man, 90s RTSes are just a genre for me to poop on huh.
The Second Sight video was something I was pretty proud of, especially because there’s some techniques in that that I was afraid would look dumb and bad and it didn’t. The process of turning a 1500 word article into a video produces a video of about that length, which I think is good, since it means that there’s no reason to just list a series of things that happen in the game and to instead try to focus on what the game is trying to do.
In my efforts to not just become an anime review blog, I wrote about some deliberately oddball stuff. I talked about Chess, a really good musical that fits almost too well into modern discourse about what gamers think matter. I briefly talked about Until This Shakes Apart, a new album by Five Iron Frenzy I’ve been listening to in parts to repeat for months now. I got a single anime article in with The Ascendance Of A Bookworm, which I love a lot and will still use to tease Nixie. I talked a little bit about the way medium influences content with the book series of the Muddle-Headed Wombat. And finally, just a few days ago, I talked about complicated feelings around the series Black Books, which was made by a dreadful dickhead.
What else do I recommend you check out this month? Well, there are two pieces that were put up as part of a sort of ‘Hi, I like you and I like knowing what you like’ Birthday celebration: my article on being Edelgard in 4e D&D, and my article on the Hindren in 4e D&D. These were both little hat-tips to friends near their birthdays, and it seems they were well received, but they also were just, you know good content for if you’re into 4e D&D. While we’re talking about building in other games’ spaces, I wrote about how I use ‘pushed’ when talking about custom magic cards and how Competeitive Commander is essentially building its own game in another game.
Next up, here’s this month’s T-Shirt. Thanks to 2020 I never got to show students my original Naruto-style did you check the subject outline, but I wore it to class this year and they loved it, so it inspired another, updated version of the same idea. I expect I’ll make more on this theme.
March has featured some illness, which in our current situation kind of slowed things down more than I expected. I have two classes going this semester, and they’re both exciting and interesting and I’m talking to students who seem to be split into ‘let me pass and let me out’ and ‘I am genuinely interested in this,’ which is a good split to have. An important piece of PhD documentation got completed and handed in and now I’ve been working on the research part of that, which is exciting. I’m basically finding I have a little more time than I thought I did – that the kind of administrative work of the research project is less arduous than the work I’m enjoying doing, which kind of stands to reason. I even participated in a twitter event with other educators, about games, and got to get them to read ‘Gamification is Bullshit,’ which is
Weirdly, I know I said this last month, but another friend had to bow out of a game I was running. In this case, it wasn’t mental health, it’s that they’re a parent to a two year old, and time in the evenings has become precious. Oh well!
February is over, my Twitter avatar is going to change, and our Smoochy Month is past! Back to regular posting tomorrow, but let’s give you a reminder of what happened this month and what you may have missed!
What did we get in the Game Pile? This Smooch Month’s game roundup was Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Arcade Spirits, Monster Prom and Leather Goddesses of Phobos. Its the nature of Smooch Month that the Game Pile is a special struggle, but I hope that this gives you an interesting variety to read – particularly, I’m very proud of the Arcade Spirits review. It is huge, and it’s thorough and I think it touches on some ideas I struggle with as a critic of the genre. Some angst about my place in the world, you know?
It also involved me considering via the Leather Goddesses that next year, I should write about procedural rhetoric and do articles examining other Game Pile games based on their romances. After all, it’s not like when I wrote about Mass Effect I ever spoke about how those romances felt to me.
Story Pile wound up being very anime this month. No idea why, but it means that we got Story Pile videos on Always Be My Maybe, a funny romcom movie with a killer cameo and hilarious ending rap track, Haikyuu, an anime that deserves attention for its dedication towards making a range of boy characters who are actually romantically interesting, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, and The Quintessential Quintuplets.
There, that’s some reading for you if you wonder what I hope you noticed at the end of the month.
Next up, here’s this month’s T-Shirt, which is an attempt to make a nice candy-heart themed shirt with some messges that I think are nice, and sweet, and maybe the kind of thing you can give someone.
Personally, I am pretty happy with this month. I was worried that January would be a frantic burst of energy thanks to a rollover of a date, but this February was the recommencement of things like PhD meetings and University planning. That meant that I was weaving workloads together, and while yes, there have been days where I’ve been exhausted and just dealing with life in this situation, I’m still hitting goals and meeting obligations. Some days, not much gets done, but enough does get done. That I’m happy with.
Another small thing is a friend told me they had to quit a game we played, because it was proving too much of a problem with their productivity and mental health. It was a bummer, but I was able to tell them that I would miss them, but I would always rather they leave and do what’s best for them rather than them spend their time feeling bad about wasting time they weren’t enjoying spending. I hope we find another way to keep spending time together, but if we don’t, we don’t, and that’s okay.
I also had a lot of fun this month hanging out with a couple of friends on discord. It’s just been a time to actually use this mic setup, watching friends play games while I do written work around them.
There are some other articles I like a lot that I put this month. I reflected on the funny story of the The Beaver Drop. I put out a long form article on an idea I have for developing White in Magic: The Gathering, with The Case For White Copying. We talked about D&D with both a piece on The Paladin’s Plight and a piece on The Cleric Archer. I also ruminated a bit on what we say when we wear a mask right now, with What Does A Mask Say? I also spent some time to finally put down some thoughts about one of my favourite arcs in the Haruhi Suzumiya idea space with this article about the Endless Eight.
In fancy-pantsy academic making and writing, messaging and signalling studies, I talked about Fuzzy Games , which relates to my ongoing studies, Practicing Practice which is how I approach helping students engage with making, and an oblique interrogation of interfaces with Does the Audience Play?
I feel like overall, this month, I did a lot of work – the articles are longer than usual. But I also was able to bring my backlog back up to a healthy 32, rather than the lower number it was languishing at. This is really heartening, and because I have a full year of possible slots in front of me, any time I get an idea that relates to a theme, I can throw it forward into the future for that theme.
Hey, uh, some of the 2020 plans got a bit weird didn’t they? Phew! Good thing that all of those things are exactly over and now it’s 2021, all the problems that 2020 had are over because we tore the tab off a new calendar.
First up, there are theme months; months when I’ll try to use the theme to focus topics. This means that you’re less likely to get a lot of stuff on this topic all the time. This is going to break down as follows:
February is SMOOCH MONTH
April is TALEN MONTH
June is PRIDE MONTH
August is TRICKS MONTH
October is DREAD MONTH
December is DECEMBERWEEN
I also plan on producing content in the following forms, each week:
Every Friday is a Game Pile
Every Monday is a Story Pile
You may think: Hang on, these don’t show up on those dates. Yeah, because you live in America. These are Friday and Monday, my time. So nyeh.
Let’s talk about types of topics though. Each of these articles types are going to be ‘lightly capped’ at one post a month. This is to enforce a degree of variety and make sure each of these things have room to breathe.
One Magic The Gathering article a month. With the rate of releases of MTG content, I prefer to make sure that my posts on this matter aren’t trying to keep up with the ‘proper’ pace, but instead be pieces that take my ways of playing Magic seriously.
One 4th Edition D&D Themed Article. There’s still lots in 4e D&D that deserves some attention. I know I have a thing about forced movement and smart targeting coming up on this one.
One 3.5th Edition D&D Themed Article. The awkward ugly cousin of 4th edition, I still have a lot of fondness for dumb things it could do and ways we can do better than what it asks of us.
One How To Be post. These are fun breakdowns of how to approach a character and I try to build them in blocks so the middle section of ‘how do I get at the mechanical core of this idea with the tools I’ve got’ is readable for anyone.
One T-Shirt design post.
Now, on to game design and posts about that.
Originally the plan for game making for me was a new thing each month. This meant that each month needed to fit in playtesting and graphic design and printing and prototyping and that worked out okay when I was primarily a student doing Honours, and had some blocks of free time and reason to hang around at the university doing random pickup games with strangers. Since then I’ve had an experience I don’t want to repeat, where someone comes to my table at a convention and asks me about the games I’ve made, and I have to introduce them, in a tiny window, to thirty games.
The notion that face-to-face sales and personal play is important made me feel that more time on fewer games was a way to go. Having a new thing at a convention means you have a conversation, but you don’t have a big backlog to go over. I had low-key the idea that I would try and make at most, two games per convention in 2020; that a single new game to launch at an event was a better idea than having to explain twelve different games to someone who hadn’t seen me in a year.
This meant in game development terms I had four major events in mind: CanCon, Comic-Gong, MOAB, and SMASH! We know there won’t be a CanCon this year, so that’s out, which is a bummer, and the odds are good even if the pandemic dies down and conventions come back, it’s exceedingly unlikely we’ll have those same cons springing up, out of nowhere, this year, at the same size as they would have been. This has put game development on hold, which
Yeah, that’s been a bit of a thing.
I do seek to present some more pieces on examining game ideas and structural ideas I’ve been working on on this blog. I find this kind of stuff really exciting and interesting, and being able to go back over the games I’ve explained later results in moments of ‘ohhhh wait, that’s how I should do it!’ I do want to keep doing posts like that. This year, I don’t know how those gaming events are going to happen, and so, I’m going to operate on the assumption that they’re not, but that I do want the tools to be available. I’m going to spend this time I’m working on building apparatus to make a game making process, documented and clearly explained in about three months.
Obviously, a normal wrapup each month is ‘hey, here’s the best stuff I did this month.’ Except I didn’t do the normal kind of article this month – it was largely easily-accessible media that you can check out during this month, praise for my friends, and at least one embarrassing story where I look like a cowardly dipshit.
Each year, I look at this chart now and I have a weird moment. Like, hey, this is cool. This is a long, dedicated, protracted practice. This year the schedule has at times gone up to 60 and down to 16. Given the year, that seems pretty reasonable. The average blog post is 913 words, and I get about 100 views a day. I’m at the point where WordPress Dot Com is offering me ways to monetise the blog.
If you haven’t noticed, this year I’ve done more writing about running tabletop games in general and more about D&D in specific. I try to limit myself to two posts about D&D a month – my current method for doing it is to pull a book from each edition out of my bookshelf at random and see what the book reminds me of, and then share those thoughts.
This was a rough year for The Greatest Game or whatever. Lots of bannings and the delays on schedules, cards being kicked out for being racist, an entire mechanic getting rebalanced because it was too strong, lots of problems. Still, I wasn’t playing in those spaces so I didn’t really follow that, and instead focused on custom card design this year.
Despite the great wheel turning slow, and the PhD crawling along, I have still found some time to talk about game development, and some of those posts made it into the top of the heap, or I had a personal reason to want to put them forward.
There’s not really a good term for these, is there? There’s a bunch of posts I’ve written about emotional issues and about the way we look at our lives. Often these are about queer culture, and about the way we live as queer people. I don’t have a ton of experience with the things we consider ‘queer culture’ – so instead I make do with looking at how we relate to media, and how that media relates to my queerness, and maybe your queerness.
And it turns out that queer folk have slightly weird life experience that relates to odd social behaviours, too! And thinking about that sometimes gets blog posts made.
Then, when all those other categories are covered, what else do we have going on this year? Well, here’s stuff that got decent hits, sorted for the ones that I personally think are the most interesting.
As for what we’re going to do in the coming year…? Well, check that out tomorrow. Thanks for reading this year, thanks for being part of my year, and I hope I’ve made this year at least a little bit better. For you. This year. Year.
It has now been four years of this little exercise in using December as a month to focus on my friends. This year, I’ve been focusing in particular on one friend, who has been with me, and who I have seen, every single day of this year.
Once again, on the day closest to Christmas, I want to talk to you about Fox.
2020 has not been a fun year. One of the elements in that for me is that in the context of our early warnings about COVID19 was that the disease presented an increased risk for three categories of people; elderly people, pregnant people, and people with a pre-existing respiratory difficulty. What this meant was that even when people around me in Australia were umming and aahhing about whether or not this was a problem problem, I was locking stuff down and creating plans for how to minimise my contact with everything.
Fox has asthma, and that means that for me, the potential risk presented by my passing this disease (that I probably? would survive? even if it sucked immensely?) to her was unacceptable. I think this year, Fox has literally only left the house a dozen times or so, and a number of those trips were to the doctor.
I have spent this year in more constant, everyday contact with Fox than I have any time in my life. There is no time I’m leaving the house for work, nor she for work. It’s a time when you’d expect – I mean, based on media – for this to be a thing that works us raw and makes us even more tense about our relationship, all those little things that never get a chance to cool down, building up in a pressure cooker.
And I have yet to feel it.
I know there are ways I’m not easy to live with. I forget details when there are four or five things to do. I might be able to knock over one through three, but four or five gets lost and once again, there’s another bread tag on the countertop (sorry). But through the whole time, I haven’t ever felt ‘oh god, Fox is such a pain in the ass.’ I’ve noticed the tensions and the stress and the sadness and the pain and all the things we’re having to do because we’re afraid and we’re being cautious.
Aauuuup hot damn! November’s done with and now we’re sailing on into December! That’s some good news! Why is this article coming up now with two days more in the month? Shut up, that’s why!
First up, articles from November! What did I have going that I was proud of? I got to show off the excellent Commander Keen 4 and apparently continued what is now pretty much going to be a Commander Keen Retrospective (no, you probably won’t get that, who cares, whatever). I presented an examination on the character of dril, a post that was beaten out by CNN of all people. I also was pretty happy with the interesting question of my Wallet Game worker placement idea.
I mean as I write this the government just announced a rule saying that travellers coming to Australia need to be quarantined for a fortnight. I also spent three hours on the phone today talking to my supervisor about teaching, and then another hour going over my readings. Then I spent another hour getting discord game running technology going.
I have done stuff today.
Last night, I recorded an hour of a podcast, with research and tasks and all that stuff. It was hard and it is going to be hard to edit. It’s going to go up soon. By the time you read this, this podcast is probably out.
But I haven’t written much.
I think there’s a lot of good reasons to think that I shouldn’t be producing right now. Undeniably, as someone who doesn’t handle apocalypses well after the ones I already survived, it’s going to be hard to handle this one. I could just stop writing and nobody would judge me for it. Maybe patreon numbers would slacken, but you’re all so nice I don’t think that’s the case.
What I’m going to do is put this thought down here, and throw it into the future. Months from now, this time in March, when things were, I bet, ‘not so bad.’
Writing every day is hard and some days what you write isn’t that great. But we’ll look at this again, in a few months, and see what we think of it as a little time capsule.
EDIT: I wrote this like, four months ago, I think and boy I did not expect how long this week was going to feel.