Category: Diary

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

Decemberween: Clay!

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

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

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

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

Decemberween: Ex Manus Studios!

This year has been our most active convention-going year. We have gone to almost a convention every two months – and every time, this year, we have done it with the company of Pendix, of Ex Manus Studios.

Now obviously I like Pendix. We’ve been friends for years, almost since high school. But it isn’t just that Pendix is reliable, and kind, and thoughtful – gee, I like a lot of people with those traits. What I want to highlight here is that Pendix is a person who craves to create.

If you sit around Pendix, idly, if there’s a table on hand and there’s just free time, he will have plastescine in his hand, and he will be sculpting. There’s a drive, an energy, a want to create going on there and I really admire and respect that. I work with fast media, I can see the results of what I do, and yet at the same time I can save almost everything I do. Pendix works in a medium that is slow and at times impermanent. If something goes wrong, the entire thing has to be destroyed.

It might just be that the man is patient beyond the measures of saints. I mean, he’s put up with me for years.

There is however, a lesson from him I want to impart: Wanting to create is enough reason to create. Pendix spent a lot of time practicing his craft before he started making models he could sell – I mean, like a decade of just hobby practice, doing things to see if he could do them. Your hobbies grow, and help you grow. They give you skills. And if you want to make things, you can just make them. Maybe one day they’ll take you places, but it’s okay if they never do.

It’s enough to love, for now, the doing of the act itself.

Decemberween: Ettin!

I am loath to be too nice, too quickly. I worry sometimes if this means that my first impression to Ettin was that I was a standoffish dick. In my defence, Ettin likes Death Note and FATE, two things I’ve been noisome about making fun of.

As a peer, Ettin is impressive. He has built community, and interest and fanbase for his work; he’s monetised it successfully, and he’s proven that he’s capable of repeating the success. He’s got good advice for anyone trying to do that and he expresses himself directly, honestly, and fairly.

He’s also done sterling work pushing back against pro-harrassment elements of the tabletop games industry. Without going into specifics, Ettin has tried to get rid of broken stairs in the industry as best he can, even when that involves endangering his own online space and infringing on his own potential for success. No, not everything is fixed, but I at least know where Ettin falls when there comes a time to Say Nothing And Get By or Tell Evil To Go Fuck Itself.

When I approached Ettin with ‘I’m thinking about X-‘ his immediate response was to try and set up a plan. He wanted to enable what I was trying – and even when it wound up not working out with the timetable we had in mind, it was still done helpfully and enthusiastically.

Ettin may have this form of deliberately self-deprecating humour that resists praise, but seriously, I’m glad Ettin helped me out this year.

Decemberween: Ted

How to lead into a discussion of Ted… oh. Okay.

Ted is many things. Ted is an artist. Ted is an academic. Ted is a father, a fishmonger, a mormon, a missionary, and a friend. Ted is a person who, by the sheer mathematics of my own upbringing and perspective, I should not have become friends with. I’m a militant (!) anti-theist atheist (booo, throw rocks at him), and even then part of my upbringing included a section on hunting the cult of Mormon.

I am so glad none of that took.

Ted is a wonderful person. I talk to Ted most weeks. We talk about marking or students or research or applications, or we talk about anime, or, more often than not, he expresses incredulity at the utter ridiculousness of the latest thing I mentioned. Sometimes he consults on Asian history for game design. Sometimes he reality checks me. Sometimes we console one another about the way things are that shouldn’t have to be.

Ted is a good person, noble, and someone I am proud to know.

 

Decemberween: Rachel Stevens

And okay, while I have an older sister, I kinda have a younger sister, too.

Rachel Stevens is a writer and designer, though much more world design than game design. Rachel’s writing work is over on Women Write About Comics,  a website which kind of explains itself just fine.

What I love about Rachel – well there’s a lot about Rachel I love, but one of the things I love about Rachel is she’s an enthusiast. She cares about books and movies and pulp and webcomics and transformer toys and gunpla and about her Vivian and about people being kind, and about fighting Nazis and about – even considering the state of things – doing an okay job.

Rachel is a modern tragedy in that if we had universal basic income, if she wasn’t stuck working the way she is for the work she’s got, she’d be running five goddamn series and making TV shows and graphic novels and videogames and so on. There is no meritocracy where Rachel is doing anything but being able to effortlessly, constantly create the visions of a better future she wants the world to have.

I got help from Rachel this year. In Sector 86, I asked her to name all the spaceships. Not all of the names she gave me got used – you might know if you recognise them – but here’s the sheet of initial notes she gave me.

Hey Rachel. I love you, and you are wonderful, and you matter. Thank you for being part of my life, you gigantically hopeless lesbian with teen tiny hands.

Decemberween: My Nephews

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

My older sister has a pair of sons.

Those sons, my nephews, are great.

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

On the other hand, they love games.

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

Then I went home and I made those games.

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

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

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

This Exists: B.O.B.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Augh I’m listening to it again.

And

just

so

fucking angry.

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

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

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

Oh yeah, Abstinence!

Fucking hell this fucking group of fucking dickheads.

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

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

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

Bubble-ical Discipline

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

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

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

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

Which they’re not.

Know why this stuff is all garbage?

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

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

Learning to Share

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

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

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

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

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

Setting Your Own Goals

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

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

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

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

It’s hard.

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

Roads Unbent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Belies

I’m fascinated by lies.

I’m fascinated by the lies we tell ourselves, and I’m fascinated by the lies we tell one another. I’m fascinated by the stories we tell one another which we know aren’t true, but we admit that up front and what we say is a shared lie. I’m fascinated by the lies we tell ourselves in huge swathes that only some of us believe. I’m fascinated by lies with data and lies without data. And I’m even more fascinated by the tools and systems we have that enable us to affirm truth in this billowing spectrum of nonsense and fluff.

I don’t hold it against the liars. I’m one of them. I lie to myself (I can handle this, that won’t be so bad, I don’t care that she thinks that about me). I lie to you (I am certain that the Tiberan empire does not exist) and I even lie to my mother (I’m fine!)!

Rough Days Happen

Yesterday was rough.

Yesterday, we did Day 1 of 2 at LFG. At that event, I did some win-and-plays of my games; I spoke to a lot of people; I crewed a booth, I worked hard, and then, at the end of it all, we checked our newly made sales sheet and found we’d sold… one unit.

It was a real demoraliser – I’d spoken throughout the day with people about funding and advancing my projects and getting into the next step of game development and becoming a professional or a consultant. Overwhelmingly, money and the future were on my mind. It was as if at times the sign of my coming doom that, yeah, one sale.

All day.

It hurt. I came home in a funk and had a hard time sleeping.

Then, today, we got up, we went in, we rolled with it, and we sold a lot more. We made up for it, and we came out ahead and we made contacts and hopefully, we’ll be able to move on. We made table costs, we made a little more, and we came out of it with tools and opportunities and, I hope, fans.

I understand it’s a little embarassing or shameful to talk about your sales or your successes or your failures. I’m not sure why; it seems that that works best to ensure nobody has a good idea of if they’re doing well or not. More than that though I think it’s important I share with you, if you’re reading this, that I have bad days. Sometimes I’m up to two anxious.

Sometimes, I feel, it’s very important to share a simple truth: There are rough days. And even they don’t get less rough because the next day is Good Enough.

Avoiding A

The a key on my keyboard is a little bit hinkey right now. It depresses fine for a few minutes or so, then it starts to sit, sunk down and lower in its space. What this means, what this does, is small. It’s almost imperceptable.

But it, holy fuck, it’s annoying. It’s annoying because I’m so used to the experience of typing on this keyboard that that single thing being wrong, that tiny little error, a glitch of the brain, a missing step that I somehow don’t fall over, just itches at the edge of my consciousness.

It’s so irritating.

Deadpool Reaction: Frozen Cokes

Yesterday I watched Deadpool, which is to say, I went to a movie theatre, which surprised me as much as anyone else. It was a decent, fun movie, and I think I may have some more thoughts on pulling it apart, but you know what really stood out to me?

The movie theatre wanted to charge 740% of the bloody price of a frozen coke down at McDonalds!

The Siege of Summer Continues

It’s one thing to write a thousand words a day. It’s trickier to write a hundred good words in a day.

I’ve been producing work for a friend’s website, which, hypothetically, will be paid, though I find myself completely apathetic to that. I’m working on games, but feel like I’m pushing a rock down a drain. I can light up enthusiastically when I’m trying to engage someone, particularly my teachers as it is their care and fostering that has helped create these products.

I work, I toil.

I bear up.

I hope you’re doing okay. You deserve to do okay.

D&D Day 3

And that’s that. I have barely a word to say about our big three day game, because I am very tired, but there it is.

Hey, sometimes when you write something every day, it’s just a reminder of why you didn’t write something more or greater.

D&D Day 2

Today marks day 2 of the 3-day D&DAthon and it was so exciting I had to have several naps. I’m serious, we have these long sprawling combats of people shuffling cards and squinting at their cool powers. I’m playing a leader – a bard, in fact – so most of my goodness happens on other people’s turns. Particularly, I can do a lot of off-turn malarkey which needs to watch for its opportunity. Twice I’ve gotten so tired and dizzy I had to flop down on the sofa and have a sleep between my turns – and that’s because twenty minutes between turns is quite a thing.

This is something to consider for game: The amount of mental load your players have to go through to keep playing is a serious problem. Try to make sure when you design, you design something that minimises the amount other players have to disengage, and where the mental load can be tracked easily.

Cars!

Just spent the day playin’ D&D with some friends, and boy howdy did that day vaporise thanks to transport issues and broken watches. Hey! If you’re doing a big gaming weekend (I’ll be busy tomorrow, and the day after, with same), just a thought: don’t have a car stop working. That will be a bad idea. I don’t know how you make cars healthy, so like, feed them the best car food you can, you know?

David Bowie

You know what it’s like to walk into a world where David Bowie has existed your entire adult life and you have no idea who he is?

The man’s like a fucking space alien.

I grew up in a media bubble which means my actual appreciation of media as having some sort of continuity and inter-related field of study. So imagine if your first encounter with music is jumping from church praise songs to, around 1997, suddenly having access to popular radio and media, which you listen to in your room, with headphones, for fear of being found out.

Now you might think this means I learned a lot about trash, and boy howdy did I. My knowledge of pop music started in 1997 and that was not a great time for Australian pop. And somehow, in the intervening years, I never actually went that far back. I never really got ‘into’ Bowie. He was part of the landscape already. I could literally never experience his songs new, see his impact new.

But he was everyfuckingwhere.

When I learned the man had passed, I tried to think about what he’d done that I really knew. Oh he was in Labyrinth. Oh he made The Man Who Came To Earth. Oh he was in The Prestige. Oh he was referenced in The Venture Bros. Oh he was responsible for that song in Elite Beat Agents. Oh he was in Shrek 2.

In his lifetime, David Bowie became part of the landscape. Fluency in him didn’t just become important to understand the world at large, but he became osmotic. And that’s just from me, from someone who is as close as you can come to not having anything to do with the guy as possible. For a lot of people, for my friends, David Bowie is the Michael Jackson of the queer set – an ideal of concepts and values that has underpinned their entire lives since it was introduced, something so fundamentally ur to their modern now that they don’t even realise he had formed it. The people who are all fucked up and sad right now because he’s gone but don’t know why because it’s not like they listened to his music all that much.

It didn’t impact me much, but I get that it did.

Unlinked Chains

Yesterday, I got news my grandmother is okay, and has been moved to a ward where she can be visited. Fox and I talked about it, and I decided to skip seeing her because I didn’t feel very good. I mean, despair washes out of you.

That same day, I did some chores, dragging myself around the shops. I headed to the bank and deposited a cheque I’d received, as a Christmas present, from that same grandmother.

Then I came home, and felt really bad about that.

I’m still not sure why.

 

Words Didn’t Words Good

A few years ago a friend invited us over to watch the Professor Layton movie, which we watched subtitled. I wasn’t having a great time of it health-wise, I’d not slept all that well. I remembere as we watched this movie that some point midway through… I want to say the first act of the story, before the obligatory ‘that’s very odd, Luke’ moment of the narrative, that I’d started having problems reading the words of the subtitles.

Like, really had a problem.

This was really a scary experience – words, which are generally pretty important to me, were suddenly squirming past my grip. It wasn’t just that I was having a hard time making my eyes focus, the words were literally not attaching to meaning in my head. It was like drowning, feeling my world unravel. I reached for words to say what was going on –

“I don’t feel all that good. It okay if I lay down, [friend]?”

“Oh, sure.”

And I went and lay on a bed for an hour and tried to sleep.

That feeling passed, and it’s never come back. But it’s a feeling I remember when I look at words that don’t mean anything. When programmers tweet at one another in my mentions and I’m just so confused by the words. When I look at a card in a game I’ve never played and look at the words.

I wonder if this is part of why I try to make wording on cards clear and jargon-light. I wonder.

Respect your players! Feeling like you can’t understand something right in front of you is really awkward feeling and it’ll disengage people from play! Recognise that you, the designer, have been living with and living in this game’s space for ages now and so ‘it’s easy’ is not an acceptable response when someone tells you they’re confused! If someone is outside, and you’re inside, do not get snippy at them for failing to learn what you already know. Have some empahty for the context and understanding required to really get in.

Random Observation Of A Racist Stranger

So I was at the supermarket and like, I don’t record people, certainly without their permission. That doesn’t mean I don’t get to listen and repeat what I hear, such as when I was at the supermarket in the Meat Area, which is right next to the vegetables. While I inspected some apples, a mother held up a package of meat, in which there was a broader than normal cut of meat, showing more of the bone. If you’re not familiar, this can show a darker segment of bone than more thin ones. Either way, point is, there was a chunk of bone in this meat that the woman couldn’t quite tell if it was good or not.

“Is this dark bit in the bone,” she said, pausing, “okay?”

“You won’t see that shit on the pork, you see?” her husband responded.

Now, you don’t have to be a dialogue writer to have a mental reaction of what? But she held it up and pointed at the bone, in the middle of the packet. “This, I mean?”

“Nah, the Arabic squiggly shit. They don’t bother putting it on the pork.” he said.

Ahah.

See turns out this gentleman was mad that the package of meat his wife was holding had, up in the top right of its label, a small mark in Arabic script. It also had a note in Korean Hangul, and two characters in Chinese on the label – I know, I checked – but the important thing, the very important thing to this man was not what his wife asked and what she’d said… but that someone had written Arabic text anywhere on the packet.

I’m mad about a lot of things but wow, I thought, that was some remarkable pettiness expressing itself as rage at a label on a packet of meat so intense you could ignore your wife asking you a question. Twice.

Coming Content

I’ve obviously been working on other things than this blog.

I’m thinking of writing some articles about making games, and about the rapid prototyping and tools card games and print-on-demand design gives me and can give you. Would you be interested in that? Or would you more like to hear specifics of the kind of work I’m doing? Would you care much about me talking about the games I’m making and why I like them and what about those games interest me?

Another thing is more of the Hotline Miami 2 talk, and talk about videogames with less of the deliberate care and positivity that we use in Downloadable Concept?

Man, Photons, Sir, Ma’am, Y’all

Yesterday, editing the podcast, I caught myself saying five-man dungeon. It’s a common phrase, used in World of Warcraft discussion. It grows from a common phrase for crewing things – man the cannons – and basically it means the same thing as five person dungeon.

I thought about this turn of phrase, as yet another little bit of everyday sexism that’s worn into my mind, and where the alternative isn’t just unfamiliar, it’s linguistically kinda worse. Without trying to sound like a whiner on this, five-person and five-man are two terms that have distinctly different flows; the consonant stop in the middle is a distinct thing and it shapes the term differently. This isn’t to say I want to keep using five-man – I corrected myself both times.

I also kept in that I made the mistake.

There’s a strangeness that comes from hearing yourself, played back, regularly. My podcasting compatriots don’t hear it, unedited, the same way I do. They don’t hear the raw audio, over and over again. I’m not responsible for anyone else’s manner of speaking, but I am responsible for my own. My language is not just embedded with the signs of the typical intersectional overlay of kyriarchic bullshit that we all deal with but I have an extra bonus layer coming from my fundamentalist upbringing. Even the way I swear, explicitly a rebellion against that kind of thing, reflects that upbringing. I learned to write and read under an American regime, then had Australian corrections amend it in some superficial ways dating back from before modern spelling. I learned to spell ‘waggon’ and ‘gaol,’ words of no practical application in the modern day but as strange curiosities.

I feel a need to be honest about these mistakes. I mess up. There are others I don’t catch. Editing audio – especially hours and hours of it – is really hard. There’s stuff that slips through. Sometimes, hugely embarassingly, sometimes not.

Lemme tell you about socialised speech.

You learn a lot of how you talk from the things around you. A lot of kids learn slang and shorthand from one another. Swears and other language, things that have meaning that they share with one another. I didn’t have many friends – I very rarely ‘socialised’ with other kids. Not just awkwardness, but also the divides and factionalism in our church, and the, you know, violence. Common public media wasn’t okay either – and any words that were ‘wrong’ were met with a pretty consistant punishment.

I remember reading Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and seeing Zaphod Beeblebrox use the word ‘photons’ as a swear. He used it like the word ‘heck’ or ‘dang.’ It was a good word, it had that nice ‘t’ in the middle and it wasn’t a word, as far as I could tell, that was rude at all. It had something to do with laser guns, I think? And so I used ‘photons’ when I was hurt, when I was frustrated, when I fell off things or when I touched my chest and felt the bruise spreading. “Ah, photons.”

Then one day, my dad grabbed me, by the side of the head, and yanked me out of the flow of traffic. He looked me, very seriously in the eyes, and told me to stop saying that.

“Is it a rude word?” I asked, terrified. Had I been doing A Wrong?

You know what you really mean,” he growled, and that was all the explanation I got.

I was lost. I was confused. That… what did I reall mean? Was Photons a dirty word in another language? Was it in the Bible somewhere? This prompted a little research project that took me six months before I finally gave up. The guilt of the action wracked me.

Another source of my language flowed from the god-awful media I had access to. There were these strange 1970s nostalgia pieces my dad and mum kept, the videogames that slid in, but ultimately, what I read and saw was from that particular Christian media bubble. I read a lot of fundamentalist Christian literature, and the ‘cool’ edge of that (trust me, you’ve no idea). Narnia, But Written In 1990 America To A Word Count.

One of the hallmarks in that kind of story of the protagonists? The character you were meant to emulate?

He called people sir.

Oh, he called women ma’am, too, that was definitely part of it, but the sir thing stood out. When I left that media bubble and called teachers sir they looked at me confused. When I called strangers sir on the street, they gave me the same look. When I called a woman a few years older than me ma’am, I got a filthy look.

As a teenager, it was weird. As a young adult working service industries and low-skill jobs, it was old-fashioned. Now, in my life, a ‘sir’ at the wrong time can be an act of violence.

This is scored in deep on my mind. This is etched in my brain. It leaps out of my mouth barely passing my conscious mind, and not doing so sets me on edge because those terms are tied to respect in my life, they are tied to politeness and in refusing to do them, I am in some way, preparing a defensive or offensive posture. They are words meant to reassure that have stopped working, but my urge to be kind, my want to be nice to be people tries to re-apply these broken tools.

I’ve taken to using ‘y’all’ a lot. It has the nice side effect of also being a word that can be used to obliterate ‘you guys’ or ‘guys.’ That sort of substition is something my brain can handle. When the ma’am comes up I can replace it with y’all – “How are y’all” somehow sits right in place of “How are you, ma’am?” Of course, now, I’ve traded the chance of upsetting strangers and misgendering people for instead, a familiar conversation with people who want to know why I’m using it. It inevitably results in someone cleverly pointing out that they are not multiple people. My efforts to expunge harm have instead exposed me to pedantry, and boy hoy howdy do I love me some pedantry. The concern about it usually comes from people who only deal with me in text, and what’s weird there is it’s not like any of them have any idea how I do talk, or how I should talk.

That in particular is weird, because I don’t talk like an Australian.

I mean I barely ever say the word ‘c*nt.’

I think about this sort of problem a lot. And I think any time someone retweets or shares a tumblr post that ends with “THIS ISN’T HARD PEOPLE.”

It’s hard for me.

Visit, Record, Edit, Proofread

Holy shit that’s been a day.

Let’s see, wake up, check notes, design cards, get a visit from my parents, go out with them, discuss and plan for Christmas (“Everyone is skint,” “Figured as much?”), have brunch, check out furniture stores, come home, record podcast, download second track, write out proofreadable rules, edit podcast, prepare dinner, box an idea for Fox’s RPG system and then

 

remember I hadn’t blogged anything today.

Hi! How you doing?

The Poll’s The Thing

I’ve been using Twitter polls to get ideas for what I should write, see what people care about seeing my write. This has proven a fruitful exercise, where the longer articles I’ve produced lately have been the result from some feeling or implication that people are interested in a topic, maybe looking forward to seeing what gets said.

Today, I didn’t really get one – the winning entry in the poll was ‘idek.’

So this is what ya get.

I dunno.

Not Much To Show Today

I meant to sit down and write my review of The Swindle today, but instead, I got caught up doing university work (1000 words of script for Transfer-san so far), and uh, playing The Swindle. Also, the first four things I went to write today were about how I feel paralysed about what I can talk about, and I knew I couldn’t then post them, because, again, feeling paralysed.

Have a good’un, folks.