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.
This is our second-last unthemed month of the year, and with it came a scattered arrangement of posts, some that had been written months ago and only came out now, cast off into the far future when I could forget about them. It’s also when I wrote about how to handle money in your game design (and how weird it is that it’s how we handle it in real life, almost like life is an unfair game, odd), about how Elite Beat Agents expresses difficulty, and I put out my article on the charming and interesting Magical Land of Yeld.
This month’s shirt is a pie chart reference to a song! The big shakeup in the store is how I took down some Harry Potter themed merchandise which I once upon a time made as meanspirited jabs at a fandom I wasn’t into, but was willing to sell them, because it didn’t matter if their fandom was bad to me, it was important to them. The thing is, now, selling that stuff can be seen as if I’m okay with JK Rowling’s behaviour, and I’m really not.
This month’s video is another short experiment; an unscripted article on Void Bastards, which took me a very small amount of time to make for a game I’d already pretty much beaten. I quite liked doing this, and I’m hoping it’ll work for some of the other games we’re going to look at going forwards.
This month, I hurt my foot, and that snarled up my grading and that means everything’s been done with not enough time, oh no, oh dear, anyway.
I can’t believe what a boring bastard of a thought this is.
It is at the time I am writing this, quite late. It’s late not just in the time of night, but also late in the cycle that our house runs on. There’s basically a fortnightly track, and it all orients around the single event of our recycling being done.
We don’t generate much in the way of typical garbage. Most of our waste in this house is paper and plastic, and since we do that, we buy recycleable whenever we can. In our area, in order to encourage recycling, the non-recycleable waste bin is half the size of the recycling bin, which, you know what, whatever.
If you just organically throw things into the recycling as they need it, though, they pack up and fill a lot of space. When things are being delivered in hard cardboard boxes, if you just stick those boxes in, their basic shape exerts force around them. When people give you paper bags instead of plastic ones, and you just ball them up and throw them away like that, they’ll occupy a lot more space than they would otherwise.
This space is at a premium then.
Fox and I basically have to plan throwing out our recycling.
And what’s more, she’s really good at it.
A box has all these points of stress, it creates empty space and it resists being pressured out of that shape. That’s kind of the point of a box. Same is true of plastic containers, though they often deform a little less easily. This means that the most efficient way to put a box in the recycling is to break it down into panels. Larger boxes get cut into matching shapes, then get stacked at the bottom, then soft paper atop that, then crushed plastic and cans, then anything that’s last minute atop it.
The most amazing thing about this is this means that my living room table, where I would normally sit or set up board games, is, amazingly, given over to the task to organising the recycling as we approach the fortnight end, when it will get taken out and go elsewhere. I am trying to make sure that the food I eat now is the stuff from recycleable containers so we don’t have two jars of the same thing in the fridge or cupboard, don’t have doubles of a type of can.
It is an enormous amount of work, and constant mental effort, dedicated to just making sure I don’t have to sheepishly ask our neighbour if I can put some boxes in their recycling (because they’re managing theirs too).
I write about this not because you should feel sorry for me, or even care that much. I’m writing about it to reflect on how something so mundane as ‘chucking things in the recycling’ is now consuming material space and effort to be done in a manageable way in this time of heighened awareness.
As I write this, I am recovering from having hurt my foot.
I hurt my foot a few days ago. It’s not a particularly big deal but it is a deal. I didn’t drive a nail through it, didn’t need medical attention, didn’t have to cut a portion of it off, didn’t have to walk a long distance on the already-injured foot, I didn’t have to unfold one of my toes and I didn’t have have a piece of earthmoving equipment roll over it, all of which are things that have, previously, happened to my foot.
My response to it the first day was to not really pay attention to it, and then it became unbearable and impossible to sleep with; the result was the next day, I had to stay at home and not do a grocery shop because my foot was hurt so badly and the pain had been exacerbated by my inattention. I sat on the sofa and watched Netflix and generally felt like a bit of a lump. Nothing in the queue got done that day. I was desperate to recover, because the next day (today, as I write this) I had to teach and I didn’t want to let my students down.
This worked, I got a full night’s sleep, I taught all day, and then, because my foot felt so much better, I thoughtlessly flicked it out to stretch it, and immediately regretted my actions.
Now, through all this, I made my situation worse by consistently forgetting that painkillers are a thing; what’s more, these painkillers are anti-inflammatory, which means I forgot things that wouldn’t just help me immediately but also makes the process of recovery better and easier.
It’s just a bit of friction. I need to remember how long it’s been since I had one, then I need to negotiate with myself if I really need it, if the immediate pain is that bad.
This isn’t an interesting blog post, and as it goes up, I’ll probably be fine?
But I kinda use this blog for diary notes, and during the pandemic, being aware of my own dumbass behaviour that makes it harder to do things is important. Productivity is being diminished by every form of friction imaginable, after all.
August, with its theme of magic – which I tend to expand to be about manipulating attention and tricks, so eventually we wind up talking about heists – is pretty hard for me to work with when it comes to games or movies, because I already did The Prestige and Ricky Jay’s TV special, but after that. It’s great (in my opinion) for the other articles of the month, because I can almost always find other stories about the wonderful weirdoes involved in magic, the techniques of magic, the tools magic gives you access to, and that means that I tend to wind up with a lot of articles I’m happy with while Story and Game Piles kinda suffer.
But that’s okay!
By expanding to heists and stealth like I did this year (the art of controlling attention), I got to talk about Logan Lucky, which is great. I got to talk about Breach, which I still really like even after finding out it’s basically copaganda for the cop’s cops. I also got to talk about Volume, a game that I really like, and has gotten a lot better in the five years since its release because the idea of a Britain fallen to classist fascism in an information economy really isn’t very farfetched.
I also wrote about some useful general principles for dealing with people. One of them was confabulation, the way your brain justifies dumb things it does, and that you may literally never realise you were doing, about slugs and loads, and about forces. The forces article even has my favourite line of the month:
The force is not there to set up the trick: The trick is there to hide the force.
This month also was when I slipped out some of the lore of a Scum & Villainy science-fiction setting, with The Synthetic Mystic and the Century Ship. These are going to become important later, but you’ll find out why. Basically, creative content for you to share and enjoy.
I also hammered in on the absolutely unforgiveable Tome of Magic from 3.5 D&D, which is not a good book and full of not good things, but still deserves a tiny star for trying. I did a How To Be about the amazingSumireko from Touhou Project. I love when I get to do something meaningful about Touhou Project, because the Touhou fans mark out in just the best ways.
August, I made another pair of shirts (though like, technically, it’s four shirts), showing both a math puzzle that’s part of a magic trick (in white and black text), and a reference that’s not actually vague, but you know, you could pretend it’s vague (in white and black text).
This month’s video was a half hour attempt to get started on Jane Jensen’s Gray Matter, during which time I talked about trying to make Narrative Adventures work, and the ways that you can have problems if you’re just creating flag-based trigger messes, the Australian side of the Steam store, and
Teaching started up this month, and that’s been great fun to do. There’s been some concerns about managing workload, but I’ve also been trying to dedicate more time actually building and playing things, rather than trying to manage my life so I’m just getting by. Also, with some things opening up, I’m getting to see my family more often, which is nice.
Hey, July’s down. We’re getting this year done, day by day, people. If you’re still here with me, thank you so much for that.
This month seems to have had a theme of catching up; the writing schedule has been better, in general, with very few days where I fell behind, and there have been some articles that I wrote months ago that I threw forward into July, the ‘infinity away’ year. Also it was time to dust out and finish off some drafts I had been leaving alone for literally years.
Comically, this did mean one article came out just after a major conversation about its subject matter despite being originally written like, a year ago. Oops. That was the Cards Against Humanity article, because every year I teach students about making games, I see more variants on it, and they’re almost always weaker games because of the overwhelming presence of Cards Against Humanity. Which is a bummer!
I also finally did my set on the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise, from manga to the first anime to the second anime to the live-action movie. There’s more, of course – a few more movies and videogames, and man, there’s probably a card game or something – but I finally got my feelings out there about what is, again, probably the best series of its kind that nonetheless has some ways it’s bad.
July’s shirt continues on my theme of Loss-themed shirts! There are two new additions to the Loss Collection: a lettered and numbered version of the same idea. It’s not a complicated design, but I’m very happy with being able to use the simple elegance of it, in a way that works as a design even without being able to see the Loss element to it.
Video? I did put up a small video explaining a Minecraft thingy I made, a Hopper Loader. But that’s not the ‘proper’ video for this month, no no. This month’s video is a game pile video, which you shouuuld be getting to see tomorrow. Keep your eyes peeled.
Personal life, hm, hm, hm, well this is a break month between two semesters, during which time I’ve been doing set up and consultation for my various work arrangements. I’ve felt obviously busy, and dealing with a lot of best practice stuff about health and contamination, which gets more awkward as schools open up and second waves of infections kick off. I try not to talk about the pandemic much here, but it is affecting me, and I’m trying to make sure the content I put here is an escape from gloom rather than an embrace of that feeling. You know how it goes, and I hope it’s been helpful, even as I’ve been doing my best to be honest with you about my work process.
There are two categories of people I try not to make blog posts about. One is my students, the other is my family. They never signed up to be made into Hashtag Internet Hashtag Content, I don’t want to make the storytelling practice that seems to have been inherited from my father (that he called ‘preaching’) into something that exploits the people around me who are themselves living, breathing people who do do not want to be, nor deserve to be, pinned to this page as a moment that will live on in my mind and in the minds of others. Hannah Gadsby talks about this, how her own mother’s homophobic comments are effectively preserved in amber, as part of her show, meaning that even though her mother may have grown past those comments, Gadsby repeated them to herself and others endlessly for years.
(Gosh, I like Gadsby’s work)
Anyway, because of this I have had something repeatedly run into me in the past few weeks that I have resisted writing about, because again: I don’t want to write about these people in my life who didn’t sign up for it, even though they are overwhelmingly common and repeated experiences, which is usually a sure sign for me that it’s time to put some words down.
The good news is that after contemplating the difficulty of writing about this, I had the realisation that this isn’t something that’s bugging me when students and family do it, I’m just being bothered by everyone doing it, and that got me thinking about modes of communication.
Now, I am a fan of the work of Marshall Rosenberg, not because he was right about everything or because I’m an advocate for the fulltime adoption of nonviolent communication, but because he was very good at correctly recognising that our conventional communication model is about victory and it will get that through oppression or manipulation if we can. And as a direct result, I will ask someone the question, in my day to day, what do you want, and the people over whom I have some degree of power – be it infrastructural or social or familial – will seek to find ways to give me the right answer.
Here’s a base example, which in this case I use because the person it would otherwise be with is Fox, and Fox does not have this problem at all, so, if you’re reading this and trying to extrapolate, or if you are Fox and you’re going ‘hang on, I would never,’ I am using this as an example because you’re basically bulletproof. Nyeh. Anyway:
“What do you want?”
“Well, I was thinking that if we did the laundry on Tuesdays, it would get the drying done over the week rather than weekend mornings.”
This frames the answer not in terms of the want of the person saying it, but instead about a shared, perceived value of the result. It’s not that it’s bad to have this kind of plan, it’s that it’s not addressing the question. It might even be that this answer has the answer in it: I want the laundry drying during the week. That’d be enough! It’s the way that when the question is asked, the want is ignored in favour of the result.
It seems like such a small rhetorical thing, but it’s important. It’s important because if I ask you what you want and you respond with what you think I want to hear, I’m not hearing what you want, I’m hearing what you think of me. It’s a fundamentally passive position, and it means I don’t get to know you.
How’s this come up in fandom stuff?
It comes up in fandom stuff when people are unwilling to centre themselves, and their wants, and their responses to things, in the discourse about media.
It can’t be I want this scene. It can’t be I like this pairing. It can’t be I dislike that story trope.
It has to be this scene is necessary. It has to be here is how this pairing is a moral ill. It has to be here’s how my identity legitimises my writing.
This creates extremely weird behaviours. There’s a bit of a canard about the Hamilton fandom being what I will now in a comically understated way refer to as a bit lively when it comes to this. Oh, there’s Miku Binders and Fake HIV and the cannibal mermaids and all that stuff, but I tend to look at it in terms of a kind of pressure cooker. Hamilton takes something that’s very bad (the formation of America by a bunch of extremely terrible people), connects it to something undeniably good (kickass musical theatre), and then leaves this audience in this complex space, unable to grapple with the most important element of their interpretation, themselves.
If you can recognise yourself, if you can recognise your own wants, it will help you realise that you don’t need to prove the value of your loves. You don’t need to approach playing games as if every game is meant to become a career. You don’t need to watch anime because it will make you more cultured.
up late trying to make sure I could get that text done, checking and double checking that everything I’d done had been done up to scratch, some last minute surveying of tomorrow’s notes about the PhD writing ugh got to make the road map got to make sure I’m productive
I woke up at nine.
head hurts but that’s normal how it goes really who doesn’t feel like ass right now but I’ll make sure I can sniff something or taste something because it’s very important, if I can taste things that means I’m probably not sick with covid
I couldn’t see things by ten.
this I understand, this is how I get at cons when I’ve been sleep deprived for a few days in a row, when I can’t sleep due to stress and anxiety, so I start noticing these black patches in my vision the nI have difficulty processing visual information like text, can usually hold it together but hang on why do I need to –
I went to bed.
I woke up at six.
still felt a bit bad
I had dinner, I talked with Fox, I watched Youtube with her.
we had mcdonalds and watched Overly Sarcastic Productions
I sat here in the dark, feeling warm and comfortable and happy.
I met obligations today, even though I wasn’t feeling well, and even if I hadn’t it’d still be okay, it’d be okay to not be productive; but I was able to be, and I should be proud of that, because it was above what I needed to do
And now I’m going to try get some sleep.
it’s okay to have bad days and I need to tell myself that until I can believe it
June’s down! It’s been a bit of a fog right now, in no small part because some of my plans got spiked. One of my plans was to do give aways and spend money sending people my silly pride themed t-shirts that yes, I am proud of, but also, maybe, now is not the time to be making people do competitions for silly queer shirts. Generally, I feel now is a time to keep my head down, to try and promote some uplifting stuff, and not do things that make me seem like I’m trying to take advantage of this moment.
There were some articles I was happy with: The Speed of Crowds, which was meant to coincide with Games Done Quick, talked about the way that speedrunning was collaborative orchestral art. Holding On To Pride wound up being, it seems, very well-timed to suggest that folks had to be kind to themselves, and why Pride even matters at all. And the somewhat basically named Post About Being A Cis Boy explored how being aware of trans women’s experience did not require some mystic spiritual insight. I was also fond of my article about Burnwillow, who remains a character I think about from time to time when discussing the way we make limited assumptions about what things like trans and cis mean.
There were lots of shirts this month – I’d been banking designs so I could do them all in Pride Month like Last Year. That means we got four designs, one of which was about thirty designs, one of which was a much smaller nine and two more classic designs: Diceheart, This Shirt Says Trans Rights, Pronoun Stamps and Gay Wrath Month.
Here’s this month’s video, about Lore Finder! I really liked this game demo, and I’m really glad it dropped when it did, so I could spend my Pride Month game watching a nonbinary person bicker with their parent and turn into a tentacled slimebeast.
June was a month in which teaching came to a conclusion (for now) and my workload got weird (for now). I got to mark student projects, which I do genuinely like doing, because students are great. It was also a month for articles about Pride Month.
Pride month articles were great for everything but the Piles. I hit my limit real quick on the non-Pile articles, and I have been bubbling to see the reactions to this month’s how to be for… some time now. The Story and Game Piles – well, I figured what I’d do is save up all the really queer games and movies from 2019 and early 2020 and pick the best of them to Pile in Pride Month. That just didn’t seem to happen, though, which was a real bummer.
What’s more, I save some slots month to month so that when I hit the themed months, I can do things based on the reactions to existing articles, and uh, you know what hasn’t much happened this month? Everyone has other stuff on their mind.
Okay, so some time ago, someone posted in my CuriousCat asking:
I first became aware of you and your tweets from your “Amerimanga cover” posts, and also apparently you’re a cis man. The ways that repressed trans feminine people can express their gender feelings is an easy enough thing for allies pick up on, but I’m curious if you have more of a relationship to queerness than just knowing people.
I provided an answer, which I’m now going to reframe a little bit, for archival purposes, and also, to flex here where the word count isn’t so weirdly limited and maybe clean up some typos I was realllly embarrassed to not notice the first time around.
Martha, another month trails by in the grasp of this strangest of years of my life. We stand here at the precipice of June, with a word pit opening beneath me and my reaffirming in my most sincere belief that students, are good. I look forward to seeing you again upon my return to public transport.
Hey, that was fast. May just whizzed by, perhaps because we’ve all gotten really good at frittering away our home time. In fact, my home time has been preeeetty stretched so I kind of feel like I haven’t had much free time, as much as I’ve mostly been doing things to destress. Still had some time for some blog experiments, woop woop.
What’s wild is that I don’t feel like I did a lot of stuff this month, like somehow there are fewer articles, but I check the scheduler and yep, sure did do one every day this month. I’ve been rebuilding the backlog, and if you track this kind of thing, I had one day this month where I didn’t write at least one article. This is good. I did write about How To Be A Gardevoir in a D&D game, which was received really well. I ventedatlength about Deep Space 9 and even included a page of memes which did absolutely stunning numbers.
This month’s video was going to be one of two. I made a tiny video explaining something I made in Mincraft, which made the video making process fast and easy and I was very happy with it. One practice run, one run at the video, boom, it got made.
I was going to do a Lets-Play-And-Chat, but it didn’t line up with any of my friends, time-wise, and I got under a crunch for work at the end of the month. So be it, that sucks but this is why we build contingencies. Pretty happy with what I did regardless.
Yeah, apparently this was something of a mystery! A point that was made by Ettin when this came up is that to get to my Youtube channel is like, five not intuitive steps.
Based on this, I’m doing some minor updates to places around the site. My About page now mentions my Youtube channel, there’s a button on the sidebar – this button! – that takes you to my Youtube channel, and… and…
I’m kinda not sure what else to do?
See, one of the worst things to have in your brain is a negative feedback loop that interprets silence as disinterest from people who are too polite to sayanything. I know for a fact a lot of my friends don’t read my blog, and that’s something I’ve kind of had to become okay with. That becoming okayness however has not actually fixed the brain problem, because it means that I kind of intuitively see everyone I know who doesn’t read the blog or listen to the podcast or follow the twitter as disinterested and actively not interested in stuff. The idea they might not have noticed or not checked it out right now or the presence of being advertised on a miserable hellsite full of sadness might be diverting their interest in me talking about videogames doesn’t seem to latch into my head.
Okay, okay, hold up, this one might be a walk of an intro.
Do you know the story of Ananias and Saphira? It’s a Biblical story, a story that gets loved by grifting preachers and people who want to scare the shit out of kids. During the early days of the church in the book of Acts, when the church was going full communist, there’s this little cautionary story about Ananias and Saphira, a couple that sold everything they had, gave most of the money to Peter to build the church, and held some of it back.
When they brought the money to Peter, he looked at them, asked them if this was all the money, they said yes, and Peter said ‘no it’s not,’ and they died.
Now, I’m simplifying the story (it’s done in two incidents, there’s talk about whether it’s about lying or it’s about greed, but whatever, it’s Christian myth, it sucks ass and none of these people existed), but this is a story that sometimes gets brought up with a giggle pointing out that this would make Peter a level 17 wizard, minimum, or a cleric with the war domain, because this was a Biblical appearance of the spell Power Word: Kill.
April 2020 continued as a strange month in this strange year. Quarantine continued – I left the house maybe five times all month, each time for grocery travel. I have seen my family only at a few arm’s reach and I’ve been doing all my work over the internet. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve stopped my phone being on silent all the time and answer it now. What a wild month.
This blog, themed around me centric media was a hard one to do but we did get there in the end, even if there were two points where posts almost didn’t go up on time – closer than I’d like to be, to be quite honest. Obviously, in a month like this, most of the articles are favourites – either topics I’d saved up for the rest of the year or burning opinions that inspired fast shots form the hip.
Still, I really liked my pieces on Bleachand the Ur-Quan. The Ur-Quan article was something of an experiment, too – I wasn’t sure if a deep dive into the lore and storytelling of a game universe like that would appeal. I’d love to do more of that if people liked it. I weirdly went in on Star Wars twice this month, with an article about how bad Sabacc is (very) and how good Ewoks are (very). I talked about my beloved helicopter boy Blades, from the Transformers universe because apparently I’ve just become a parody of my own interests.
And this month’s video was, in hindsight, really easy to make! I got a good handle on how to make this kind of video over all my time practicing and I may find myself doing more stuff like this – long rundowns of character groupings. At least if you enjoyed them, please do let me know.
My personal life is just very stressful. There’s a lot of work that needs doing, there’s not a lot of boundaries between types of work and there’s a real challenge keeping the days of the week straight. I don’t want to accidentally miss the day in the week when I need to put the recycling out, for example.
Those of us who get through this are going to do it by being careful and being caring. So that’s what I’m trying.
When you talk about conspiracy theories, or false information, one of the unfortunate side effects, because of how our brain processes information, is that outlining the thing first creates the impression that it’s true, and then the disproving has to be satisfactory to that. Even if you do a perfect job debunking the introduced idea, our memories filter away in different order, and the thing more easily brought to mind seems more true. It means you have to be careful how you introduce the outlandish, for fear of leaving people with the impression of the wrong thing having a kernel of truth.
With that in mind, there’s a not insignificant number of people who believe the United States government found a giant in the invasion of Afghanistan and are covering it up.
This month has been hard. Last month was hard. Really this whole year has been hard and it depends really on just how long you’ve been paying attention that it’s been hard.
One of the things that’s been hard for me is writing. I don’t like giving that much up, of a sentence – I try to always stay ahead of the curve, I try to make sure that at the best of times you have no idea how much or how little I write from day to day. Well, today I’m coming off four days of not even being able to commit an idea to paper. That’s bad. Normally even if an idea doesn’t work when I start on it, I put it in a hopper and it becomes an article, later. Eventually. I can get some work done. Tiny steps are steps.
But it’s been hard to even do that.
Part of this is just presence. I’m surprised by this, but I find I write really well when I’m alone. When I’m not alone, people in the house impose their own needs on the house, which is totally reasonable, and we’re all just trying to get along right now. It makes recording audio harder, that’s an easy one. Oh, and it also means our neighbours are around more, and so are their pets, which means Elli, our pet, is more prone to causing fuss, which means that recording can be interrupted by the dog.
There’s a surprising amount of work I do when it’s quiet? waking up of a morning, putting on some relaxing audio and reading books for an hour or two, which surprises me as how much of a boring bastard I’ve become and how much I enjoy that, It’s also meant that time when I could churn out a few thousand words in a morning is now down to taking all day to write maybe half that. That’s really rough, especially as someone who prides himself on his productivity, his ability to create in any circumstances and dealing with pressures.
Also I have to be available to take opportunities. Sometimes, I get the chance to go to the store for an emergency supply when a friend is driving past our house and willing to do the pickup/dropoff for us. That means that I may have 2 hours of uninterrupted time to work, but that time is taken up, in part, by not being available to work. Just in case.
Here’s another thing, though: Everyone around me matters so much more than any piddling thing I’m writing. I started on an Ikoria set review until I realised I barely wanted to talk about four cards, because I kept getting distracted talking to a family member about things that they were interested in, things that mattered more. Every evening now I’m talking about playing board games or sharing videogames with Fox, because uh, every night now we are keenly aware of spending our time together.
This sucks, nobody is working well, and I’m just wanting to make it clear I am not immune. This is awful.
And now, saying that, I’ve been able to belt out 500 words. I’ve been able to get something done. And that’s… a start. That’s something. With that in mind, I pick myself up, and I start work on the next thing, because the next thing is what’s next.
Hey it’s April and that means I’m giving myself carte blanche to talk about shit that isn’t super important but that matters to me because I really need to be focusing on something right now, and this is an infamously problematic topic, so hey, let’s talk about the marginalisation of atheism.
On a small bummer, also I put up an article – which I was very proud of – about Hatsune Miku’s song Odds n Ends, which didn’t get a lot of attention or reaction. The Vocaloid contingent must not respond to things the way the Touhou Project contingent do.
This month’s shirt is coincidentally well timed, and to my surprise, has the shortest time between releasing the shirt and someone buying it of anything I’ve made: It took a day before someone bought a shirt of this design.
This month’s video is kind of a packing peanut. See, I had two other videos in mind, and a third in script stage – but none of them could be easily or conveniently made, which meant that it was extremely hard to get them done in the time frame I needed. Which means you get this, a half hour tour of my current big Minecraft project: A great big hole in the wall keep.
Personal life… well.
Classes started up again, and two weeks in, we decided to shift to online classes. Then the conversation about whether or not we do that became compulsory, and then things got real. I’m already a creature inclined to spend weeks at a time in my own house – just the way I prefer to be – and the effort of going out to do other things ran into that.
I can’t do much to help, but I can try to avoid giving anyone else stress. I won’t talk much about the situation here, because I think the last thing I should be doing is giving you all more reasons to feel anxious and distressed. We’re going to do our best to cope, and we’re going to do our best to take care of one another, together, all the time.
For anyone not aware, Kenny Rogers was a Country Western singer whose career started before you think and was still going up until just a few years ago. In a way he was one of your pop-crossover one-hit wonders, thanks to a duet with Dolly-mother-freaking-Parton called Islands in the Stream, a song that gives her every opportunity to show off how awesome she is and how he can manage to Be Next To Her, which you know, when you’re dealing with the incandescent strange sun that is Dolly Parton, a woman who at that time in history was somehow managing to be a gator-wrangling country firecracker in the visual aesthetic of what can only be called Escaping The 80s Big Hair Bimbo Chic, it’s not so bad.
It’s not that he was a great man or a good man and I don’t say that because I’m thinking that there’s some well known fact about his life or how he stiffed the KFC Colonel out of reparations money or something weird like that but it’s just that these days I don’t feel comfortable sticking my neck out for any famous person I primarily know for having committed the act of being rich in their lifetimes. It’s entirely possible the dude was really great in his private life, but I don’t know that and I don’t feel like looking it up and picking over his moral character in his life through the pinhole of wikipedia now the dude’s died and I need to make that call in order for my Death Take to be apprporiately woke. What I can tell you based on observing the guy is that he had some fucked up boomer-ass opinions about women and relationships and the way he spent his later years pumping out Christmas albums and getting plastic surgery to stave off the Being In His Seventies suggested that he wasn’t particularly super happy with the enormously comfortable life of someone who owned multiple restaurants and was married for twenty-three years.
And despite all that, what’s super weird is that Kenny Rogers dying means a lot to me for no good reason. The internet has conditioned me to see every single thing in terms of a listicle and so with that, here are Three Things About Kenny Rogers I’ve Been Thinking About All Day as I Process the Death of a Fascinatingly Mediocre Successful Person.
3. The Gambler
This song is one of Kenny Rogers’ most famous, and I mostly see it invoked as a punchline. It’s a song about using a game to look at your own life, as a metaphor, and consider the lessons from a poker table that you can bring to bear on problems in life in general, and you know what startles me relistening to it again, after all this time, all over again?
This song gets poker right.
It’s so utterly baffling to me that this cheesy little song of a riverboat ridin’ ramblin’ man who generally never reached higher levels than an emotional sentment of I heart you and sometimes love, but hard? managed to convey in a song an actual meaningful metaphor based off a game that doesn’t break if you know how the game is played.
2. Coward of the County
Oh and content warning here! Sexual assault, misogyny, toxic masculinity!
This song was on a Kenny Rogers ‘best of’ compilation I listened to when I was a kid in the 90s. The album had a lot of songs I remember more for a crooning part of the chorus than anything of their content, and Kenny’s music is extremely samey at the best of times.
Anyway, uh, so, hey, this country song with a lilting tone and a back-and-forth beat is uhm, it’s about a gang rape? It’s about a woman who’s gang-raped by three men and how massively it traumatised her.
I mean, that’s not what the song is about. That’s just a detail in the song, a song that is otherwise about the classic story of a seemingly humble young man who refuses to fight people thanks to a promise his father asked him to make (and maybe he made it) finally being pushed too far because the worst thing that could happen to him was his girlfriend being gangraped. God, I try to repeat phrases like that to numb them of all their sense but you know this time I think I’m not going to do that. I didn’t realise at the time that that’s what ‘they took turns’ would mean. It was never explained to me, so that detail just… hung around until some twenty years later I thought back and went: Hang on, holy shit.
Anyway, this song is really fucked up and it fucked me up directly, because of a whole laundry list of personal traumas. Not the least of which was that my father made me promise that no matter how angry I’d get, I’d walk away from trouble and let people hurt me because that was the Christian way. I mean, it’s not like fighting would have fixed anything (because I tried that too) but the song kept hanging around in my mind with the idea that at some point, something bad would happen to me, and then that would be the point where God would make me a just and noble avatar of his anger and maybe it’d all be a good story, then, rather than a story about thirty years of crawling.
There’s also the fact that Tommy’s dad died in prison, something about which I had complex feelings. After all, Tommy’s dad wasn’t… around. He asked his son to meet a moral standard, and then… he left.
That was oddly comforting, a fantasy to have.
The whole of this story really impressed itself on me, as an idea of something I thought that should happen in my life. That’s pretty messed up.
1. Six Pack
Hey that was a bit dark, what about this? How about something unrelated? Well, Kenny Rogers was one of a number of country music ‘stars’ who moved into making movies that we can lightly refer to as ‘mid day TV fare.’ Six Pack was an attempt to make a kind of dad movie about a wannabe Stock Car racer with a broken heart bringing back his career from the brink and collecting a bunch of kids on the way.
This movie is definitely in that calibre of ‘good enough to be pirated on Youtube.’ It’s the kind of movie where even the people who own the copyright for it aren’t going to bother pulling it down because it’s not like they’re making profit off it some other way.
This movie was one of the first non-Christian non-kid-targeted movies I can remember watching. It wasn’t good, it wasn’t great… but it was there. It was a post on my personal timeline.
None of these works really matter to me now. None of them are good, I don’t recommend them to anyone. The place I was in, the person I was, the person who listened to these stories and who loved them and who thought that they were meaningful is gone, and I’d like to think I’m a much better person than I was then. I’m out of a space that was bad for me, and I would not recommend any of these works of stunning mediocrity to anyone.
Right now I’m typing this blog post on a new keyboard. This is the keyboard that comes with my new laptop, which is a combination multi-family christmas and birthday present. This is, by dint of being purchased new, and now, now the most powerful computer in the house.
This has brought with it a bunch of infrastructural thinking. I have to set up a new laptop and that means managing logins and synchs and wondering just how badly I need this thing that I have to set up if I want to keep using it. It’s not a bad time – not really a bad thing to do a single big infrastructural audit. Do you need what you’re telling yourself you need? How many directories are full of accumulated nothing? How many look unsorted, but sorting them would be unnecessary?
Software changes and updates are interesting, because they’re these kind of virtualised things. Updating and changing them, that’s a matter of restructuring ideas in my head. But fixed to this computer is the new keyboard.
And that is what I have to just learn to use.
There’s one big change in this keyboard – some keys are going to be rarely used, which means using them will involve calling up a check in my mind. But some keys are used so much they’re basically being put together intuitively out of impulse action. That’s where stuff gets weird. Because on this keyboard, the ctrl key is split into two parts; one is a ‘function’ key and one is a ‘ctrl’ key.
And the ctrl is on the inside of the pair.
It’s remarkable how difficult this is proving to adjust to.
Smooch month draws to a close, and you know, while I found it very hard to produce content this month, the last few days rounding out content for it was a lot of fun, especially when I got the video made and uploaded (which is typically the last thing I do each month, to give myself as much time as possible to react).
This month’s shirt is dedicated to Karen. And Casey. And a demon who knows who she is. Really a lot of my friends seem to be happier with the idea of biting or punching me. Weird.
Annnnnd then there was this month’s video! Which was a really, really big one and the size of it made it hard to mix up techniques. Still, I was very happy with the kind of content, the fact it was asked for by friends on twitter, and that I had fun talking about a lot of different and interesting things while just approaching the idea of hey is this Fire Emblem character hot?
And personal life stuff? I got to spend a lot of time with my family, who I love heaps; I got to spend time with Fox, who I love heaps; and this month, the summer rains have hit and that means the oppressive heat is sometimes mixed with gentle, sprinkling rain.
I’m doing okay. And okay yes part of that is punching through this month’s difficult workload elements (Smoochy games are so hard y’all), but now I’m looking at two months ahead of me and they’re pretty exciting.
New year, new set of blog posts, new planning tools, and how have they gone? This month, I spent more time on blog posts for longer, which made it so some blog posts were kinda longer than I really expected them to be. There are fewer 400-500 word posts, and a lot more 1000 worders. I am real happy with the article about Sidekicks, which even gets to do a funny Sonic The Hedgehog thing, I liked my article about Overwhelm, where I learned a valuable lesson about difficulty in games, and for just being funny on its own merits, I liked my article about the Taco T-Shirt Cannon.
This month’s video was a stilted little half hour of me running around playing a little bugge and trying very hard not to cough in your ear… and it turns out I didn’t render it correctly. Don’t worry, I will be fixing this and reuploading, but thanks to CanCon, I haven’t had that time to work.
Shirts! I had a lot of great shirts this week, with three different Allstar Themed designs:
It was CanCon month! That eats a ton of time and space! Then, I took the great opportunity to be sick for a week! While we were getting ready for CanCon! That was a terrible idea!
Still, we’re here, we’re okay, and things are not as bad as they could be, so let’s keep going! ♥
CanCon2020 is over, and with it, a time to decompress, to take a deep breath, and to recover. It’s also a weekend full of short stories.
We talk about our games a lot over the course of the weekend. Commonly, people buy games on day 1, take them home, play them, come back and talk about them, and in many cases, buy more, which excites me a lot. Several of our games have stood the test of time, in my opinion, and players are likely to talk about liking them. Now, I know that people are inclined to be kind in person, and I understand that, but it’s still easy to be and stay mad if you feel wronged.
Basically, I haven’t, it seems, pissed anyone off.
There are still ways our games can be improved, and there are some details on that front.
One weird thing that happened was we sold most of our copies of Cafe Romantica, a game we simply did not expect to sell well at this con and which I almost left most copies at home. It’s a great game and I’m a fan of it, but it’s surprising to me that this weekend, it did well. This is something about our current line up I have to grapple with: That a bunch of our games are doing their main job of being part of a selection for people to browse. I only sell one or two copies of some of our games, and I don’t need all of our games maximally available at all times, but success is a matter of rolling lots of dice, and so, more games is more dice.
What did I learn?
One thing I got to do a lot this weekend was explain my games to people in terms of things that make the game good for them. This meant being honest with people about player counts and game complexity – kid games have a whole range of design needs, and if you were looking for a dense, complex game, most of our games aren’t quite there. Social deduction, planning ahead, drafting games, all sorts of talk about people who may or may not be aware of the kind of things I’m talking about – there’s a lot to be done explaining and understanding games, then doing it again twenty times in the day.
Some holes in our collection though:
All our adult-targeted games are reading heavy. Our kid-aimed games are reading light, but if you have reading difficulties, our card games that are aimed at adults are hard to play.
We have one cooperative game. Still haven’t fixed this, despite it being Fox’s and my current favourite kind of game to play.
Lots of social deduction games, not as many ‘watch a system work’ games.
Handling The Heat
CanCon this year happened on a very hot weekend, but not the hottest; we’ve had worse days. The main thing that happened this time was we planned our day to minimise the amount of times we left the building; one trip to another building, at the start of the day, then minimal leaving afterwards. We had stocked up on water, we stayed in cool locations, and we made sure our transport was done in as few trips as possible. Even then, it was still awful dealing with things like getting into a car that was full of stuffy air and heated metal fittings.
That said: I need to get a hat. I felt the sun on the back of my neck and side of my face a lot, I should do something about that. Also also: I got a haircut before I went down and that was a really good idea.
I did buy some games, including a ‘mystery box’ game box, which was a cool looking pile of games in a mystery booster. That means there are some games I got that I was planning on getting, some games I got I was not planning on getting.
First, when I was interested in the storage solution for Star Realms, the day after I wrote that, Star Realms held a kickstarter for a deluxe box. Then I looked at that and realised: No, I don’t want that. Instead I decided to buy a $12 Ultimate Guard deckbox, which will do fine for my base copy of Star Realms. I’m not here to all-in on it.
I did see some of those games, and in the light of having them, didn’t want them enough. That’s okay! I found something else instead, and that’s the glory of Ding-And-Dent and Bring-And-Buy. There’s stuff that just I wouldn’t have thought of.
For anyone not familiar, CanCon is the Canberra Gaming Convention, the largest tabletop gaming convention in Australia, and certainly the largest one conveniently available to us. It’s three days of tabletop gaming, with no entry fee, a huge hall of tables for a whole host of games, and in the convention centre in the middle of a, well, let’s call Canberra a city. It’s air conditioned, infamously, on one of the hottest days of the year, and you can turn up and come play board games at the game library, you can play Magic or Warhammer tournaments, you can shop or play with your gaming group and it’s all great fun stuff.
We’ve been doing CanCon now for… I want to say three or four years and I thought I’d talk a little bit about things that CanCon entails for me.
First, CanCon happens two hundred and fifty kilometers from my home so obviously I don’t commute it, especially as someone who doesn’t drive. It’s three days, so, unlike most of our cons, we lodge in Canberra for the days in question. This is nonstandard for me and it means that I have to do a lot of preparation for existing outside my normal work areas. A big part of this means trying to sleep, since I’m a restless sleeper. I don’t just listen to ASMR videos because I like getting weird questions about ‘is that a sex thing?‘ but also because the soothing sounds helps me sleep. And oh lord, sleep is important this weekend. Sleep is so important this weekend, because over three days an hour of sleep debt just gets carried and there’s nowhere for it to go.
We need to take stock with us to Canberra, no mulligans. This means that any stock we don’t have, we don’t have, so if someone comes looking for a particular game, that is it for their chance to see it. But every single gram of weight we take with us has to fit inside the car and that has to fit in the car with us, and it has to last us three days. That’s not nothing, too. That means we plan ahead and we pack up tight and we try to get our stuff right… but there are still problems.
Part of it is timing. CanCon happens early in January. That means if we have new games that want to come to CanCon, we need to order stock of them before CanCon and we need to order stock of them to meet the demand at the biggest con. Which we literally do not know because nothing else compares to it. That means a stocktake and a projection, and because of shipping times, that stocktake needs to happen right before Christmas, which is also scary as heck, because then we’re investing in stock at the time when our personal funds are you know, dealing with Christmas.
Another problem is that sometimes we overstock of a game and understock of another game. Not anything ill-intentioned, just woops, we packed a lot more Crowdfund This than we did of The Botch Is Back, and one of those sells better than the other. What do? Nothing, you just gotta lump it. It’s a weekend. It’s the work.
Right now, the die have been cast. What mistakes were made ahead of time have been made and there’s nothing to be done about them, and that’s okay. Now it’s time to sit at the table and let the day unspool, meeting people and talking about games and seeing what they find fun and interesting.
If you’re in the area, swing by, look around, maybe you’ll get to see me, and be disappointed in real life!
At this point, according to my very vague stats on the matter, I have been releasing a daily blog post for some time; in 2015, I blogged every day all year, it dropped off at some point in 2016, and I think from 2017 onwards, I just blogged daily and didn’t stop. I have remarked in the past about how I do things on this blog; I have backlogs and themes that help me keep producing. I’m one of those people who likes working on lists, so if I have a bunch of things that need to fit a theme, working on that theme can be very satisfying, and when I don’t find that engaging, I can work on another space afterwards. Part of just maintaining this blog well involves maintaining my engagement with the process.
But if I decide, tomorrow, that I don’t want to write, that’s okay and that needs to be okay.
A turn of phrase I’ve been using with friends who have achieved something then immediately found themselves lacking in satisfaction is – well, okay one thing I say is try gratitude journalling, which none of them have, but after that is flowers can’t bloom all year. Now, one of my friends, a botanist, helpfully pointed out that there are in fact some flowers that bloom all year, mostly in equatorial spaces, but then they went on to point out that one of them technically isn’t a flower, because flower has a fairly specific range of qualities.
We talk about creativity in a lot of numinous, wonderful ways. We describe it in terms of it being enriching and engaging and helping us grow and handle and process and develop and practice. What we sometimes avoid talking about with creativity is the urge, the need to stop.
You don’t need to be constantly creating. I seem to feel, right now, in my life, like I always want to be – I have dozens of creative projects ongoing and I find the task of organising them is lots of fun, and that means I keep wanting to keep cycling from one thing to another thing. But for some of my friends, they try out a creative effort, they make something…
And that’s it.
One day I’ll be done.
One day, I’ll not want to do anything more, and maybe I’ll take a break or maybe I’ll stop.
I don’t like bringing this up often because I think that our general condition is one where people are encouraged to never start, to never try, and to hate themselves for never completing. I hate hate hate it when I make some actionable, tangible advice about overcoming the mental roadblocks of making and realising your projects, some asshole comes along and says ‘or maybe I could repeat the advice everyone is already parrotting.’
Instaed what I want to make clear is it’s okay to stop. It’s okay to stop for a time and it’s okay to just stop.
Okay, now you may read this and have some questions. Meet me after the description.
For those of you who don’t want to click the link and check it out, it’s a link to After the Rapture Pet Care, a website that offers a paid service (a small one-time payment of $10) to arrange for volunteers of non-Christian religions to promise to take care of your pets after the rapture. The rapture is this belief in some types of Christianity that Jesus will return, take all the living Christians (sometimes) to Heaven with him and then the world will spend its time ending in a few different cycles. It’s a weird belief and it’s part of how the people in charge of the US government are ruining the world.
But let’s not dwell on that, let’s talk about the idea of pet care and rapture preparation, because this thing opens up my mind to one particular question that I imagine you might have now.
Is this a parody?
Well, here’s the problem. It is possible the people who made this website don’t believe it. It’s possible the people who pay money for the service or for the merchandise don’t believe it. It’s possible that nobody involved in this process is doing it seriously and it’s all a joke. You could categorically assert that nobody like this really exists, so the website is a joke about the idea of what if it is. That could be a funny joke, but then the question that follows that is okay, how many people are serious?
How many people have bought into it?
And now the thought that festers for me: How many people didn’t have anxiety about their pets after the rapture until now?
You need to know that these people really exist. They do. They’re all around you and they’re very typical and they’re not even that exceptional. They’re conspiracy theorists on a cosmic scale, with nothing ever able to prove that their idea is foolish. And when they do exist, you’re left looking at this website and thinking: Even if it’s a joke, how different would this look to the serious veresion of what it is?
Currently, this blog is a daily blog. Every day, there’s an article, with each week featuring a Story Pile article and a Game Pile article. Story pile is when I look at a piece of media (like a TV series, a movie, an album, or something sometimes more obtuse), and Game Pile is when I look at a game. I also release, each month, a Video on Youtube, and a t-shirt design.
That’s it! That’s the basic plan.
Now, what I’m going to be doing this year is laying out our schedule of theme months. Every even numbered month is going to have a theme, all concentrated into one spot. I like theme months, they give me something to focus on, and our themes this year are 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
Last year taught me that forward planning is valuable, and now I’m trying to do that with an even longer view. There are articles that came out in 2019 that in hindsight, I would have wanted to put at a different time of the year – to put them in a theme month that fits them best. That means that right now I’ve made a few articles that are sitting way down in the hopper. I’ll share how I plan that out later, but for now, expect a bit more cohesion.
There are also a few types of articles I like doing but I want to space them out in the interest of not just repeating myself endlessly. There’s room for one-and-two parters like I did with 2019’s orc-and-elf articles, but I want to keep the blog varied rather than just burrowing down into one topic for a long time. Twitter is really good for those momentary obsessions, the blog is where I want to tidy it up.
Here are the things I expect to do once a month, maybe pushed around a bit to avoid landing in theme months:
One Magic The Gathering article a month. You might see two, if I’m feisty.
One How To Be article. These take some planning and research.
One Jimmy Buffett album article. These are super easy and I don’t wanna just spit them all out at once.
One 4th Edition D&D Themed Article. This is stuff like overviewing specific books or character classes or things 4e did that differentiate it from 3.5, or things you should borrow for your characters or your own games.
One 3.5th Edition D&D Themed Article. It’s super easy to dunk on old books which I can now critically regard, and I don’t want to be too mean but I do love going back and looking at weird or dumb 3.5 game rules or flavour problems.
If this sounds okay to you, great! And if you’d like more of any of these things or less of them, let me know. I want this blog to be approachable and fun and engaging, and understand these are not the only things you’re going to see.
Overall, the thing that most likely gets an article type reiterated on is positive reactions. Someone once told me she didn’t read the magic articles I wrote, and because I had no other responses on that front, I just… didn’t write any magic articles for a bit. Then someone said they really missed them and boom they came back.
If there’s content you want, ask me for it, because odds are really good I’ll respond and try and do more of it.
Decemberween is over, and with it a month of gratitude and promotion of my friends and things my friends have done. I don’t think of this as a time to go back and say ‘hey, check out these previous posts,’ especially in this case. Just click the Decemberween 2019 tag and check them out. ♥
This month’s video is hanging out with me and Fox playing Minecraft. This was a really hard video to record, because Fox and I are in the same room, and her mic and my mic are different beasts. There were some possible alternatives – we record one audio track through one of the two mics, but our two computers are very distant. Turning up the gain to get us both would involve getting more background noise, and clearing that out would make us sound really distant.
Shirts! Well, don’t worry, I absolutely did make shirts this December (I mean, c’mon, I have a hard time stopping). But since the Decemberween slots wound up taking up all this month, I decided to bump talking about them to January. Basically, there are going to be a fairly large number of January shirt designs, and if you wanna go check out my Redbubble or Teepublic store, the designs are there right now.
This month, there’s been some work done on LFG and the upcoming card game Die Rich, which will hopefully happen in January! Looking back on games this year, there were two major releases – Freight Expectations and Hook, Line & Sinker, and we did our first time selling games in a standup store, which I’ll talk about more next year when we have the whole thing summarised.
On my personal life front, though, it is now Summer. That means that the temperature is higher in the mornings, and Elli, the dog, will hug close to me of a morning, forcing me to wake up earlier. This means if I can’t sleep, or if I get to sleep late, I can’t catch up in the mornings. This sucks! It’s also full of fire and fear! That also sucks! And existential anxiety! That sucks too!
It’s also Christmas! Which is a time for stress out of the wazoo! But it’s also a time when there are people I can share my time with, time where I can hold out my arms, lift, and care, and hug and love… and that’s pretty nice.
Oh and bonus detail: My arm and back are really messed by my sleep patterns? Don’t know what to do about that.
I did say that part of Decemberween would be giving you stuff that cost very little to engage with, right? Well, how about this very blog, where there’s a bunch of stuff that you might have missed?
I get readership statistics on my blog, which I can break down to teach me all sorts of interesting things. One interesting thing is that even a mild bit of interest from Reddit explodes my statistics, and also that the most popular thing I’ve ever done is probably always going to be the No Magic Colour Is Transphobic piece. Magic content gets more attention, reddit-friendly content gets more attention, it do be like that though.
Here’s a curated list of the top stuff that I wrote this year, sorted by how much I like them. Note that this year has featured three hundred and sixty five articles, so this is going to give you a long list of maybe thirty of the ones I like the best out of the ones that audiences have indicated they like the best.
Okay, so what are some of my game pile articles that I liked? Well, I wrote about Kingdom Hearts, after watching a video on it and I think the ensuring research was so fascinating I might be able to be considered something of a fan of it? Look, there’s a nonzero chance I’m going to buy this game to talk about it more in depth.
Easily my favourite, most self-indulgent piece this year was my two parter discussing Exalted and Exalted: The Infernals. Not only were these articles extremely fun to write and read, I’ve seriously considered turning them into long-form videos. They’re about one of the most bombastically excessive, beautifully evocative and dizzingly incompetent Roleplaying Game sourcebooks and settings I’ve ever seen. Bonus, it has probably my favourite joke of the whole year in it.
It wasn’t a proper Game Pile article, but back in June I did break down the enormous and preposterous Fabula Nova Crystallis in a summary fashion (and missed some important details and context, by the way!). I may still hate how excessive and extra everything Final Fantasy is trying to do has become, but you gotta respect the completely wasteful and foolhardy development process, or don’t!
I talked about three critical darlings this year: Majora’s Mask, Bloodborne, aand Braid, and one of those games got a real kicking. I looked at a bunch of visual novels as well, and of them, my favourite, DoraKone still stands out to me as being worth sharing and suggesting you check out.
Finally, at the start of the year, I codified a new direction on kindness and cruelty with my view of Risk of Rain. Be kind with energy, be cruel with purpose (Exalted).
Dungeons & Dragons!
Oo boy! Lots of stuff this year, and some of it surprisingly well received. None of my Hunter’s Dream work cracked the metaphorical top twenty, but that doesn’t matter that much. What does surprise me is that double digit groups of people wanted to check out my takes on 4th Edition D&D.
There was also some setting stuff I wrote about, things that are more generally applicable than just my 4th edition treatment, which mostly focused on, weirdly, races. There’s an article about how Dwarves relate to goblins (dwarves are bad, yo), my article about how I and only I get Tieflings right, and the twin pair of articles about Orcs and Elves.
The most popular Story Pile this year was my piece on Touhou Project as a storytelling canon, which it turns out, was one of those social groups that click links a lot, especially if it’s saying that they are doing something good. I don’t imagine ‘Touhou is hollow and everything meaningful to it is created by the fans’ would fly well!
I took a month to go in on the new Voltron series, a project I greatly relished, and still hold that series out as an excellent and positive franchise that more people in fandom should look to, and that more writers and creators should embrace because of its positive attitude towards fandom. Hunk sucks though.
I finally sat down and pulled apart a retro anime series called Geobreeders, because it’s one of those things that kind of just hangs around the back of my mind, a weird and remotely removed unimportant anime series that was nonetheless composed mostly out of the mind of a lone creator’s personal obsesssions. I went in on one of my favourite characters in Young Justice and even talked about my favourite Disney movie, Lilo And Stitch.
Finally, I explained not anything about the story but about the presence in the culture of the immense anime titan Neon Genesis Evangelion. Mixed in amongst this there’s also a little slip about the Gen 1 Transformers, The Stunticons Are Gay.
There was also two other points of spite: One about the term Owlbear Traps, and one being The Tail Of Spite. These are both short pieces on problems with how gamers treat one another!
At the start of this year I said I wasn’t going to write about Magic regularly. This is something I’m glad I did, but also it’s kinda funny that this year would have been the best year to write about it weekly because there was always something going on to write about. There were four major set releases over the course of the year, there was a banning, a whole new format introduced, major story related stuff happening, announcements and special projects and all of that and hey, we may have gotten rid of Nicol Bolas! For a bit!
Still, I did write some stuff about Magic, and I even collaborated with Fox on a two hour long video where she basically passed her opinions on which members of the cast she wanted to do smooches on.
This is going to be an annoying one. Not because she’s annoying (though, I mean), but because Freyja’s not someone with a central like, place for her stuff. This means that this doesn’t get to be a comprehensive easy linking to some website or something, and instead, I have to point to her twitter. Which is extra silly because her twitter is three times the size of mine and there’s literally no help I can offer her there. This isn’t really a promotion, I guess, not really – I’m not extending reach or offering her anything here.
But I wanted to say something anyway.
Freyja has had a big year. It started in February and has continued for the ongoing eleven months, and during that time there’s been a kickstarter, vindication in a major TTRPG scandal, and a whole lot of discourse. She’s had a few medical problems, quit an abusive job, started relationships and on top of all that, she’s changed her name officially to Freyja Katra Erlingsdóttir, which is, as I understand it, not common.
And during this year we’ve talked about vintage anime, Hermitcraft, practical solutions for cleaning objects, editorial oversight and yes, indeed, the explosive way in which AM LESBIAN happens in some spaces. It’s funny, she’s someone I’ve followed and unfollowed a bunch this year, not because I’m actually upset with her, but because the nature of twitter is one where there really are only a few ways to moderate the flow of what happens. And with that kind of thing I feel it’s worth putting a statement here, in this year, about this person, this lovely lady and her utter exuberance.
This is a year that has asked a lot of Freyja, and she has risen to the occasion and exceeded it.
Something else that Freyja has done, and I don’t know if enough people have paid attention to this, is talk about the ways that media around us help us practice the identities we want to have and the ways we want to share our identities. Catra is the most obvious one – a character that gave Freyja the metaphor she needed to understand something phenomenal about herself. But she’s talked as well about the ways that folk stories have given shapes to national identities and the way that fascists tell themselves stories about the person they think they are, and even the way that various Youtubers have been useful lessons for ways to express herself.
Now, I’m not saying I’ve acquired another sibling (I don’t think), that’s not what this is about.
But the important thing is, I wanted to put, somewhere this year, that I am so, so proud of her.
I launched my Patreon early in 2018, after arguing myself around on it over and over again. There were some ideas I had for it, which did not pan out well, and this year I committed to a much simpler schedule: Micropodcasts for people who paid for them, my blog schedule as normal, one video every month, a major game each year, and as many minor games as I could make.
Largely, it’s seen as polite to keep Patreon stuff ‘in Patreon’ and behind the scenes, and I think I fall into that because it involves money. Also, I don’t ever want to be the kind of person who monitors who is and isn’t my patrons, and just accept at the most base level that anyone who is my patron on patreon is doing it because they like what I’m doing and they’re not doing it as part of a benefits package, and maybe because they want to be part of conversations about my commercial production and being included in the games I’m making as I make them.
That’s it, though, and I think this is important to mention: My patreon patrons are extremely, extremely hands off. I have never had anyone contact me to tell me they’re upset with the money they paid, I have never had anyone tell me ‘as a patreon supporter, I-‘ and I’ve never had the conversation space of my patreon turn into a serious fight over anything, ever.
Largely, the people who are supporting me on patreon, it seems, are doing it because they want to, and their doing so has allowed me to do some things this year I would not have been able to bring myself to do.
What kind of things?
Well, being able to purchase a large number of my own shirts for a gimmick at work where I wore a different Loss Shirt every day, which I’ve already covered. It’s not that I couldn’t afford that, but that I could not bring myself to spend ‘important’ money for what was basically a goofy joke only the internet could appreciate.
I spent over two hundred USD on other people’s creative efforts this year, and some of that did not result in anything getting made. I basically sent some people some stuff, and because my patreon patrons were supporting me, that was able to promote the creativity of others with a safety pad. Some vulnerable people who are shy and did not have a lot money were able to try out creative endeavours without the ability to fail, because my supporters were willing to trust me to distribute some money for that purpose.
Also I got to speak to a lot more artists with the confidence that I could drop some money right there on them, so the conversation didn’t feel like I was wasting their time. That was all really valuable.
My patrons have given me freedom and comfort, even if this project isn’t paying all my bills and I appreciate the way they aren’t making the things I do into this sort of tense, ‘monetise everything I do’ kind of heckscape.