Category Archives: 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.

New Keyboard

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.

February 2020 Wrapup!

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).

Articles this month have been lots of fun, too! I really like my piece on Poison Ivy, which it turns out was super timely because shortly before it went up, DC Comics tried to No Homo the statue of Harley and Ivy they made and sold, so, you know, weird, cowards. I did an article about ways you can be a high-Charisma character in 4e D&D without necessarily just being a sorcerer, and that was fun to write too. Also, the article I did about how clingy Planeswalkers could be made me laugh and I think the targeted audience thought it was funny. Also, finally, I did a serious piece on the roll to seduce that’s a thing in D&D and discourse around same. It’s a really interesting topic!

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.

Onward!

January 2020 Wrapup!

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! ♥

Cancon Debrief

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.

Customer Feedback

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?

Access Issues

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.

The Haul

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.

What I did get however, is, just as a list:

  • Katamino
  • Purrlock HOlems Furriarty’s Trail
  • Ninja Taisen
  • 10′ To Kill
  • Among Thieves
  • Rox
  • Bang!
  • Aerion
  • Realm of Sand
  • Newfoundland Jam
  • and Sakura Arms

Maybe you’ll see some reviews of these!

CanCon Prep And Experience

Right now, it is CanCon 2020! Yaaay!

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!

Flowers Can’t Bloom All Year

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.

They’re done.

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.

You’re not bad because you’re not creating.

Rapture Ready Pets

Hey, here’s a thing that exists.

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?

2020 Blog Plan

Alright, let’s look forward to 20/20!

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.

December 2019 Wrapup!

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.

Decemberween: Best of Press (This Year, So Far!)

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.


Games

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 also made some videos about games! Particularly, I made one about Mirror’s Edge and Platform Capitalism, one about Skyrim and Gaps In Language, one about Love Is Strange, The Game You Asked For, and one about Abe’s Oddysee and Meatpunk. I’m pretty happy with these (I need to get used to using backing audio to make my voice sound less like a lecture in an empty room), but I’m glad at how I’ve improved and sped up at making these videos.

I talked about three critical darlings this year: Majora’s Mask, Bloodborne, and 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.

First, an article about how 4th Edition’s structure limited it. Then there was an article about how you should give 4th edition a shot (because it’s cheap). Then another article, about making halloweeny heroes for 4th edition, and finally, my favourite so far, the How To Be Hilda article.

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.

Then as a last bit, a bit about what dragons represent in your story and making your setting queer. I’ve been thinking about ways to build on this going forward, so look forward to that.

The Story Pile!

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.

Media Criticism!

This year brought with it a handful of different pieces about longer-form criticism, tools for talking about game making and media criticism. One, I got to codify my problem with TvTropes Criticism, and a longer form response to Chris Franklin’s piece where The DM Is Removed. Inexplicably, my piece on how a game of Scrabble ends was really popular?

I also talked about the role of erotic roleplay in academic studies of people and their relationships in online spaces, which was in response to a year of watching people who I used to respect deciding to mock people for using the internet to have sex.

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!

Magic Stuff!

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!

Maybe!

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.

There were also some other articles! First, there was an attempt to reconsider the problems of Boros in Commander, and a piece on trying to design a small, sharable tinycube for Winston draft.

Then I did some articles about custom magic design: One about why we should ignore the bottom of the deck, and one about how to manage your word counts and why that matters.

And then there was the absolute doorbuster of an article I put out in April, where I spent three thousand god damn words talking about how the discourse comparing a random distribution physical game without a central server was and had the same moral pitfalls as a Gacha game might. Since I wrote it, literally nobody I know has criticised me for it, so I have to assume I just got it right, and now that discourse is over.

And that’s that! It’s a bunch of reading that you, the audience, has deemed to be popular and good! thank you for your attention and I hope you keep reading!

Decemberween: Freyja!

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.

Decemberween – My Patrons!

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.

Decemberween: Fox! Again!

Hey, you know Fox? Fox Lee? @MunchlaxRegrets, short for Munchlax Regrets Nothing? Artist, web developer, game designer, smut peddler and a stack of three munchlax wearing a human suit?

I don’t talk that much about Fox on this blog; she has her own platforms and her own audience, and she doesn’t want necessarily to be presented to my audience in ways that aren’t in her control. I largely keep myself focused then on sharing her work when it’s relevant here and on twitter. I don’t like talking for Fox, I don’t like feeling I’m talking over her.

Fox has been a part of my life now for longer than she wasn’t. She missed all the damage. And she and I have been spending time growing together and learning about ourselves and working things out. Sometimes small things, sometimes big things. Again, I don’t like speaking for her, but if you’re a fan of her work, follow her twitter feed, or listen to the things she talks about, you might know some of the things I’m talking about.

As with years before this one, I want to take this moment on Christmas Eve to repeat, once again: this time with her, this another set of tomorrows, has been a gift.

Decemberween: Surviving my RPR!

I say that like it’s something I did but I think it’s really just because I’m still numb that I did it. I think back on that hour or two of waiting and talking and asking and waiting and waiting and waiting and I feel sick to my stomach thinking about the mistakes I made. It was weird to enter with so much confidence I downplayed myself in the name of not looking like an arrogant dickhole, and in the process it all twisted around on itself.

My PhD scares the hell out of me, and every time I stand in front of an actual academic and explain it, I feel my grasp on my confidence slipping away. It’s scary!

But this year, I did my RPR, my first major presentation on the Phd to someone who doesn’t know the field and doesn’t know me. It didn’t go amazingly, I missed some specific details and – and –

You know what.

The thing is, the real reason I want to write this.

My supervisor and my co-supervisor went into a small room with two of their peers and went in to bat for me. They didn’t defend the indefensible, they provided context that was meaningful.

I’m not saying my work is bad and my supervisors made it look palatable. I’m saying my work is good, but I’m not yet good at making that clear, and my supervisors did heroic work in standing up for me. It’s a huge deal to me, the way I can feel cared for and respected by these people.

It means a lot to me and I’m very grateful for it.

November 2019 Wrapup!

Quite frankly, I was very proud of myself this month. I wrote a lot of posts, I got caught up on my backlog, I have planning done for next year, and along with that I also wrote some articles that seemed to hit it off with an audience.

First, the worldbuilding articles about orcs and elves, where I discuss the ways I’m choosing to make these two races different from one another and not have to shoulder the idea of being Human Subraces (in a way racists point to as meaningful). I also wrote about Races of Destiny, an article that’s been in the can for a while now about kind of reviewing one of the many 3.5 sourcebooks and giving it a kicking for silly ideas. Of course the best D&D related article I did this month, and which I hope to make a series out of was this month’s How To Be, an article about being HIL-DA, HIL-DA!

I made an article about a truly absurd Atla Palani commander deck, which has been a lot of fun to playtest now I’ve got all the cards. I also put down some words about how much I liked A Wrinkle In Time, a movie of a book that I completely failed to know about until after I’d seen the movie.

Also, with this month I themed the Game Pile entries around ‘games I didn’t actually play,’ which resulted in articles about Skyrim yes, and venting about Doki Doki Literature Club, but also an article about Kingdom Hearts which has pushed me into the space of Kingdom Hearts fandom. It’s really weird to say but I think I’m technically a fan of Kingdom Hearts now, just because Jacqueline Meritt’s video is so good and the thing she loves is so bad. Look, what I’m saying is I can tell you what Norting is now. This also got me thinking about how gay fanfiction is the storytelling medium of a queer youth and how many people learned about sex from these sources, or at least, got an idea of it from these sources.

Basically, lots of articles I’m happy with this month!

This month’s video was about Skyrim. When it started out, this video was going to be about how controlling language was a key way that our cult controlled us, and therefore, there were some ideas like bisexuality or asexuality or feminism that were themselves, blunted and hidden concepts, and how that sometimes that can lead to people having a magical recognition when they finally get acquainted with a word that explains some concept they didn’t know how to grapple with before.

What I wound up doing instead is a more broad vision of talking about language (and therefore, a bit more of Skyrim), and how the game uses its presentation of language to advance your character and transform the world. That’s really neat, and I managed to do it without just endlessly dunking on Skyrim for being eh.

This month, I should have released a Christmas shirt so you can get something that’ll work as a gift. I guess this will work if you have teachers in your life and they’re fed up with marking.  You can get this design on Redbubble (in white text or black text) or on Teepublic (again, in white text or black text).

Games games games, well, we have four major notes about games this month.

First, this month my Nsburg tourism game, the Pipesm’n Conspiracy, was mentioned once more on Mail Time by Loading Ready Run:

That’s cool! I’m really hoping this means that next Desert Bus I might be able to (say) donate five or ten copies of the game to be distributed to other donors? That’s my aim. It seems to me best as a raffle prize. It’s a smol game!

Second, I was able to do a bunch of ‘mask’ prototypes for a few of my games! That’s where I get some cards, and scribble on them and I even shared some pictures of it, particularly for my game of feckless, useless Roman nobles, currently temporarily known as Desidia. Desidia is now at the state where I am so comfortable with the playtest, I can construct the game on the spot, which means after my testing, what I need to do is construct some playtest or print-and-play copies for my patrons. Which is cool! There’s also some work on this hero drafting game, which was poleaxed for a little bit as supergroup drama happened.

Third and finally, though, Fox did a bunch of work on some characters that are going to be a part of a thing for fans of LFG!

Now, on the personal life front, well… November is a month with Desert Bus in it, which I love, and the ceremonial rewatching of everything in desert bus that we missed, which I’m not quite so fan of because it eats a lot of time. It’s also exam and final assignment season, which means in the start of the month I have all my free time consumed by trying to gauge student work, double checking the work against one another, talking with other tutors, negotiating with myself about marks, about whether I’m doing the right thing by my students, about doing the right thing by the work, if I’m preparing them for the future, and also avoiding sounding too mean.

I legitimately worry if the way I mark students during the semester is too different to the end of the semester. My mid-semester marks are about guiding them to produce better work at the end of the semester, and then I have to look at what and how they’ve taken that on board. Which means they can get five posts of feedback telling them ‘hey, have you thought about or tried this?’ and then an end mark of ‘good grief, what is this.’

I worry I’m too mean! I worry about being mean. That worries me that I worry about that.

Anyway, it’s back onto the reading horse this month. Maybe a little break for crimmus stuff, but broadly, I expect to be doing more daily reading and writing, which is great because I like doing those things and it’s one of the things my patreon subscribers are paying me for.

This month however, I did have an answer for everyone who asked how I was doing: I’m tired. I’ve been tired all month. I haven’t been sleeping great, or enough. I haven’t been doing things to help me recover. And I’ve been feeling so bad at how bad a job I’ve been doing at being a friend because of it.

October 2019 Wrapup!

And with that, spooky month draws to a close! Well, then, what happened during?

This month’s blog posts had a sort of mini-event feel to it. I’d planned to play some horror videogames and watch some horror movies and mostly found myself unhappy with the results, but I did get to finally put my thoughts out there on the fantastically terrifying Tickled.

I did a series of posts about me and my own experiences with trauma; stories about the first time I drowned, stories about the histories of serial killers and stories about the relationship I have to horror. Most importantly, though there was my reflection on the way ‘God’s Vengeance’ is more horrible and horrifying than anything a reasonable person would conceive of.

In other, lighter news, two different 4E posts went up and got a great reaction, one about running it, and one about making horror movie characters as D&D heroes.

I didn’t wind up making a deep dive video about Bloodborne. I think that I can still turn this article into a video, maybe for greater access, but the footage of Bloodborne I tried to record off my PS4 just wasn’t available, so that was a bummer. In the end, though, I feel that the article is really good in no small part because I think it’s worth calling out the way that games are forgiven their sins if they are deemed to have Proper Goodness.

Also, I finally sat down and told the story of Acephale in a way that’s suitably creepy!

After the blog posts, though we had my video on Blood, which was fun to record and also pretty quick. I like making these videos about games as I play them, with a certain degree of freedom to discuss. I think that I’d like to maybe try doing them on-and-off.

I’m also finding I have more video ideas than I have video article ideas. I’ll deal with the way the scheduling works in the new year, but for now there may be a bit more casual chat game videos coming up.

T-shirts! I made a pair of spooky designs for November, both based on the Hunter’s Mark from Bloodborne. I like them! The Hunter’s Mark is one of those bits of iconography I love from games and I really appreciate the subtle joke of ‘I’s in the ‘Inside’ being marked differently.

Games we didn’t get tons of work done on! I did a bunch of playtesting of games I had already underway, but this month has been heavily focused on teaching, which means a lot of my creative time is spent exploring things that my students might be interested in, so I can meaningfully comment on it.

And finally, personally? I have felt really tired and groggy this October, which means a lot of work I’d have gotten done just melted away in hours of playing picross in bed while I tried to muster the energy to stand up.

FOYMO

Let me tell you about one of my little fears.

It’s a little fear, not because it’s small to me. It can be all consuming, to me. But it’s a little fear because it’s a sin that can be measured in dollars and cents.

I sell games. I sell my writing, too, on this blog, here, on patreon and still don’t know why you pay for it but I’m so grateful. But I sell games, and those games are typically made out of cards that are printed and I hand them to people and they give me some money and they go away. Overwhelmingly, our sales are face to face, in conventions, and to people who talk to me and buy the games based on talking to me.

I am scared, so scared, that one day someone is going to come to me, having bought the game, and say ‘Yeah, you know what, this game is really bad, and you wasted my time and money.

Everyone’s so nice. Even the responses we’ve gotten about some of our games that don’t work is it’s too easy for me, or we didn’t use that rule, or he outgrew the game quickly. These are the little cuts, the little things that make me wince because I feel like I did someone wrong. Like I guided them into a bad purchase. And I fear that everyone who bought a game, or who I sent a free copy of the game, is just quietly being polite.

It paralyses me in improving and upgrading our games, too. I want to revise LFG and Burning Daylight and even Middleware, but I feel like doing anything to make the games that are already purchased ‘wrong’ would be a sort of act of violence against those people who trusted me with their money and time. I am ultimately afraid of making my game better so the people who bought the game before hand are left with a version of the game that is missing something.

I have a Fear Of You Missing Out.

But First…

There is a joy in horror.

There’s a truth to it that horror is a space that draws the marginalised. There are a variety of reasons for it, many socioeconomic, many infrastructural, and almost none that actually have anything to do with demonic forces or actual witches, no matter what Alex Jones types want you to think. There’s a not-insubstantial body of people for whom horror in fiction and media directly relates to and catalogues horror in their own lives.

Continue Reading →

September 2019 Wrapup!

I knew, ahead of time, this month would not be full of bangers. It’s been a busy month, with time spent on marking student work and time spent on a major component of my PhD. That means that the month of September was just not a time for writing to be done, certainly not writing I wanted to do. I still met my goals and made sure that every day something got added to the queue, but in a month of intense, terrifying writing when dealing with confrontational unreceptive audiences, I still put out some articles I liked: My three pieces on Pokemon Go and my fondness for Gen 5 Pokemon, for example, my rip on Titans for being bad (it is bad, boom gottem), and the Pop Stars article that was necessary to set up making fun of an album cover.

Technically, this is a two-video month. I put up a video of me showing off a Minecraft base I made, but only one person saw that, so it’s a bit of an unrelated non-factor. The other video this month is a bit of a voice-overy one that wants to connect Speed Running, Algorithms, Big Data and Neoliberalism, so what better to do than talk over Mirror’s Edge?

This month is also my first time dealing with my new upload speeds from my new ISP, which has meant that suddenly I get a few extra days of time to work with video. This time around, thanks to these improved speeds, I was able to download another person’s video (and used it with permission, don’t worry), to make making this video a shitload easier. Rather than needing to capture the video myself, I can use games I’ve already played and didn’t record (like Mirror’s Edge, which I at first played almost ten years ago) and instead focus on the writing, knowing that there’s video on hand that can be available if I ask for it.

So hey, my infrastructure has improved and my videomaking has been able to improve with it.

I’ve also taken on some advice from Chris Franklin, aka Campster, who noted that an hour or two of video essay is pretty wasteful and self-indulgent, and I realised that I don’t need to make a video an hour long to convey some very important, interesting points. That gives us ten minutes to run over the idea of Platform Capitalism and Speedrunning, as told by Mirror’s Edge.

Anyway, this month’s shirt is this Byleth inspired pair of designs:

I’m not a Fire Emblem person, but I did watch as for a chunk of August and September just kinda seeing my friend network dissolve under the presence of a Fire Emblem game releasing. I made these shirts for no greater reason than I think the iconography on the chest of Byleth is kinda interesting, but after extracting them I gotta say it’s kind of a rip how boring the dude set is.

Game work, not much has happened, but it’s been a big month (see below), but it is now the time when I start working on some games for University. Which is going to be interesting because I don’t honestly know how this projects outwards going on. I have a plan but is it going to work? Who knows.

In my personal life, this has been a very demanding month in terms of my University time (where I have had to meet the needs of my PhD) and my family time. The backlog of articles this month got as low as twelve at one point, but it did get brought back up, and we should be good to go into October, a month with a theme.

Not Our Crisper

I’ve been thinking about the crisper in our fridge.

You know, the fridge with a broken light, where, no matter what, for some reason, I keep going and expecting to have the light turn on in the middle of the night. It’s a decent fridge, and I’ve never really had a problem with anything about the fridge does. It’s never occurred to me to fix the light but it’s also never occurred to me to consider whether or not the fridge is, you know, good for my purposes.

The fridge is atmospheric to me. It is passive. It is background storytelling, it is a wall texture in my own personal level 0, my own travel hub. I don’t even think about changing the fridge, or doing things to make the fridge better. I fill it, I empty it, I clean it, it’s a fridge, right?

Well tonight is the first night I realised that for six months, or more, I’ve been loading vegetables in the crisper drawer, and playing tetris with it. That I’ve been fussing and turning and trying to make capsicums fit in this side and the carrots can lay flat on the bottom or they can prop up on the side. Then there’s the two lettuces, and the cabbage, that just sits up there, up on top.

I don’t talk about eating as much as I talk about food prep. It may just be this is one week, where it’s really obvious to me, where hey, I need to fit a lot of vegetables here. But it was enough to make me notice a thing that’s normally functionally invisible to me: My crisper draw is too small. Not so much that I’ll change the fridge. Just… a little bit of a weird thing to notice.

I at no point noticed that in my plans for cooking and preparing food, the thing I’ve been doing is consuming enough vegetables that my storage for them hasn’t been suited to task. It’s strange, it’s a kind of progress. Yet at the same time it was a kind of magic trick played on me, or rather, that moment of noticing this change in my life was itself, that same sensation. Startled.

A magic trick is essentially, constant and perfect control over perception. Controlling your own perception, recognising its boundaries, and sometimes you can change it without even noticing it.

The Coming Week’s Coming Tension

It’s postgraduate week at my uni.

That means this week, I have a really important thing due.

oh heck.

The long and short of it, for reference, is that I’m basically at some point in this week – depending on a schedule – presenting for the uni, proof that I haven’t spent this past year of PhD work just picking my nose. The document involved for this is – as I write this – in iteration four, and each iteration is about the length of a book, and each iteration has been refined individually many times and even completely restarted at least once.

It is a big task. I have to get up in front of people who can say whether or not I get to continue doing this! If I’ve been wasting everyone’s time! I am going to stand before a crowd and be judged.

Anyway so if I’m a bit twitchy this week, that’s why.

Carthage

I have a strange love for losers.

I mean, I make fun of the Confederate flag waving assholes, and it’s worth remembering that that’s good, because they’re losers, and they should always be forced to confront that they’re losers, and they lost because they were bad at winning, and this is just a long aside to dunk on the Confederacy. But not all losers are that kind of loser. Sometimes you lose not because you were wrong, or because you were on the wrong side, or because you’re bad, but you lose because the bad people had more stuff. They had more money and more people and they didn’t even realise they were the bad people, because they were removed from the bad things they did.

I think about the people that lose against empires.

I think about Carthage.

I think about Carthage, and the story of Hannibal, a general who tried audacious things and succeeded. I think about bloody battles in the desert by mercenary armies. I think about the strangeness of a country whose big sin was not really doing enough for military infrastructure and how it was the victim of an empire next door that was. I think about how you can win a dozen fights in a row, but if your enemy can handle losing, and you can’t, then it doesn’t matter.

Carthage is on my mind because while history tells us that Carthage lost, there were a lot of times and places in Hannibal’s campaign that he won. There’s a lot of people who were living their lives and having what they thought of as important conversations about the future of Rome and their campaigns for political office and governorship or whatever, and then Hannibal happened to their territory, and they’re just gone.

Just forgotten.

This is what I’m thinking about, when I’m thinking about this card game I’m making. The different things nobles can do, these little festivals and parties and politics and territorial disputes and fights over who has the best land or best marketplaces, all while quietly aware that you can’t change the future.

That Hannibal is going to happen.

The idea for this game, the idea that I’m working with, is that of a stacked deck. At the start of the game, players get their cards, then the deck gets loaded; you shuffle up and deal out stacks of cards. Into each stack, you shuffle one of a number of cards, then you put those stacks on top of each other. Now you have a deck of events that everyone draws from, to play their cards and live their lives, and then one point, near the end…

Hannibal happens.

Jesus And The Widow’s Mite

Time to time Jesus comes up on the timeline and I watch as people who are generally well-meaning people try to harmonise together the Bible and the oppressive behaviour of Christian hegemony. There’s usually some sort of deference to a Gandhi quote, some sort of next-levelling smugness of well Jesus was great, Christians are bad. Maybe you’ll see something like Jesus was a leftist or Jesus was an ally or a truly amazing take Jesus was more of a trans person and on the one hand I try to file that under ‘fanfiction’ but then people use it to discuss real world political behaviour of a culture that has probably a third of the world’s resources and is using them to kill people.

It’s basically an attempt to make Christians feel ‘not so bad’ about being part of a great big dreadful machine, which is not something I see typically extended to things like heterosexuality or cisgenderness.

It annoys me, personally, because Jesus isn’t a cool guy who’s being mangled by his followers.

Jesus is a total dick and his teachings are full of confused morals and justifications for evil. The only reason people treat him like he’s good is because we treat his story as if he’s meant to be good and interpret his positions that way. There’s a constant decontextualisation of Jesus – that’s what Sermons are for! – that turn his positions into whatever we need them to be, and want to pointedly make sure you don’t relate what he said today to what he said yesterday, because if you do, you might go ‘hang on a second, fuck you Jesus.’

For example, the story of the Widow’s Mite. Now for the purpose of this consideration we’re going to treat Jesus like he existed and did the things that are kind of fundamentally necessary to the Christian narrative of Jesus. He didn’t, and he didn’t, but let’s just pretend for now. Treating this text as a text.

The story, which appears in Mark (the first draft) and Luke (the second last draft), tells of a time when Jesus and his disciples were rubbernecking in the temple and watching people do their weekly donations to the temple’s upkeep. Rich people came in and dumped large amounts of cash, and a poor widow came in and gave a ‘mite’ – one of the smallest currencies they could give. Jesus turns to his disciples and says:

3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:

4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.

Then we nod and tap our chins and we move on to the sandwiches and coffee after church.

Now think about this in the context of the fact that Jesus is meant to be the perfect human sacrifice that redeems us our sins. Remember that Jesus is God in this interpretation of the faith, that he talks to and experiences the voice of God, and that he is aware of God’s plan.

When Jesus submitted himself to torture and death, that was a bad weekend out of an infinite life and he knew he was going to survive this. We’re told it’s an important, meaningful sacrifice, it’s meant to be the ultimate sacrifice, but in this case, Jesus is the wealthy, giving a meaningless fraction of his wealth (time), and it wasn’t going to bother him a week later. It was performative, it was literally done so he could show off to people millenia later for whom he had done nothing.

If it costs you nothing, Jesus, what does it mean that you’re giving it up?

August 2019 Wrapup!

With August over, it’s also the end of Magic Month and it’s time to look at how that worked out.

I am pretty unhappy with the way Magic Month played out, because while I was able to find a bunch of youtube resources on the subject that I enjoyed, a number of them went away over time, meaning I had to pull articles that were originally going to point to wonderful tutorials. I also just couldn’t find that many games that related to magic, the kind of magic I wanted to, and that meant the game pile games kind just wound up being about how hard it is to do magic in the first place. In games, it’s much easier to just fake stuff.

I don’t think Magic Month was a total bust, though: I still loved getting to talk about Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice, and my article on Thimble Riggers and the challenges of dealing with people who believe in actual, real ghosts. Also, I did some writing about a character from City of Heroes,  which was unexpectedly popular. The world building is the main reason I shared it.

Every attempt I had to make a video this month kinda fell through. I have one more trick up my sleeve, but at least for now, enjoy this last half of my previous video – playing out a very conservative The Swindle.

But then, at the last minute, I finally concocted a solution! It was pretty intimidating, but it also taught me a tool I can use and hey, that’s part of why I’m so dedicated to using this video software. Process, right? Anyway, that means I made a second video this month, about the card game Solitaire:

This month’s shirt was born out of the most basic spite – I told my class I’d get this shirt, and so, I made it.

If the subject outline is unclear, tell me how, tell me where. I want to make good subject outlines! I want them to have the information in them that you need that we don’t have to change!

Game work? Well, that’s been subsumed into the PhD this month, despite having a prototype game idea I’m working on. Keep an eye out for a thread on that.

This August has been also part of a major process for me in the PhD. There’s a part of the process known as the Research Progress Report, which is due for presentation in September, which means it needs to be done by August. This was a real work, because it was both building up enough words and then going back from too many words. There was a lot of reading and revising and struggling with a task and managing that task around the time I had to send it.

This is also a month where my backlog of written articles really dwindled – fact is, the RPR took a lot of my effort. Just straight up, it was more important than this blog. I was able to meet both demands, I didn’t miss anything – but I know that throughout these weeks, I have been focusing more on one thing than the other.

This may mean you get some more lists and popcorn style articles. Strangely, though, I’ve noticed a positive response to some of those! I know I’ve said in the past that listicles are a good structure to use, especially when learning how to do things, but I don’t do them very often. I think part of it is that I just don’t have many things I have lists of. I’m more inclined to do single deep dives on things.

Also, a key on my keyboard is failing. Can you guess which one?

Thimble Riggers

As you can tell, this month, I’ve been thinking about magicians.

I’ve been thinking about magic, a thing that’s still happening and living and still being part of shows and performed in goofy tricks in lunch rooms and a thing that’s part of a long tradition that reaches back oh so far. What we call magicians these days we sort of generally recognise as stage magicians, and there’s a well accepted folk wisdom that anything they do isn’t supernatural it’s just often doing things you’d never consider. It’s a trick, right. We call them magicians, and leave the magic undefined. Sleight of hand is magic, mind tricks are magic, communication tricks are magic, prop effects are magic and optical illusions are magic.

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July 2019 Wrapup!

July’s over! Yay!

This month’s had quite a lot of that good Tabletop Gaming Content, with posts about The 3.5 Book Of Vile Darkness, about the process of making a game like Halls In the Mark, the way that D&D gatekept through complexity in Owlbear Traps, the view of violence in Vampire: The Masquerade. Far and away, though, the most popular article of this month has been The Dwarves Wrote The Histories, where I talk about the way that dwarf mechanics in 3.0 and 3.5 D&D paint an unspoken one-sided history. Also popular was The Dragon As State, where I talk about how dragons represent things and we can use that in stories.

This month’s video is half of a two-parter; I plan on uploading the other half next month, because even if it’s not in-theme, it’s still a thing I started, so I want to finish it. One of the problems with this kind of content is that I know it’s not very high demand compared to things like the Meatpunk and Heterotopia essays, but it’s much, much easier to make by comparison, and it’s good practice for free speaking, instead of scripted stuff.

Now, part of this is a function of how much of my writing time is dedicated to the big job of my uni work these past two months. That’s going to change a bit but not as much as you might think.

This month’s shirt, UWUNIONISE is a tribute in part to my friend who is very squishy and lovely but also extremely good and tough, and the plight of the tech worker striving to unionise

This was the month of SMASHcon, which is an Australian anime convention that has nothing to do (inherently) with Super Smash Bros, but that didn’t stop all the questions I got being about that other con that’s a different time and in a different country. Great SEO from our parties, I guess.

That meant we got Con Prep into Con Crud. This month also saw writing on my PhD intensifying, and meetings about the next semester. It’s all been a bit of a blur, and my general mood has been pretty down. There’s been a lot of people who need someone, if only for a few minutes, and it’s been extremely wearying. Also, despite the fact I normally sleep better in winter, I just haven’t been getting to bed at good times this month.

Sorry, sometimes it just sucks.

June 2019 Wrapup!

The theme months are proving to be really challenging – so far the only month that’s felt easier for having a theme is April, where I got to voice basically whatever I wanted and gave myself license to be a bit mean or spiteful. This time around, Pride month has been a challenging time of finding things to talk about that weren’t The Same Thing over and over.

Blog Posts!

Still, there were some articles I was proud of; I liked my piece on the Stunticons, I liked musing about queer mechanics, and I spent a bunch of time considering just what I meant by ‘queer media,’ too. I liked my review of Billionaire Banshee, and so did its creator! My feelings are still up in the air about the huge post about Final Fantasy Crysal Favela Nibilis, but I’ll give it this: I had to do a lot of research to make it happen.

Video!

The video this month was a lot of fun to do. I didn’t want to make it so simply, but thanks to coordinating time and audio needs, here’s what we got: Fox and Talen talking about character design and the dateability of various Planeswalkers in War of the Spark based on their Japanese art!

Shirts

Shirts, well it was a big month for shirts. Without filling this post up with a bunch of pictures, I’m just going to link to the many different shirts I made this month. Something I did this month that I’m pretty proud of is a giveaway contest; I gave stickers and shirts away this month, for each of the shirt designs I released.

What effect did this have? I have no idea. Hopefully it’s good, but I don’t really know. I like these designs, and I kind of wish they were being bought more, but I also recognise that not many people have a lot of money to spend on Redbubble shirts.

Games?

Game work this month has been bored in with a laser-like focus on my PhD work. Sorry, folks. It’s been getting some partial inference – I’ve been playing this little Carthage game idea. There are also some more pieces on Hunter’s Dream going up in the next month, which are a bit more long-form and detailed about problems and solutions.

Personal Life!

In my personal life? This month has been really weirdly difficult. Not difficult because I’ve been experiencing pain or trauma, or anything in particular has been really impacting me? But I haven’t been getting sleep, and I haven’t been productive. My backlog this month has dipped down to as few as 24 articles ahead. There were numerous days when my PhD readings were all I could manage to do, and I don’t know why.

I think I might just be really sad in a weirdly generic way. I don’t know what to do about it.

One thing that I did this month was mark my students’ final dossiers, and you know what? Students are really good. I keep saying it, but it is still something that makes me smile. I’m lucky, my students are in a position where mostly they don’t have to try and fool me into thinking they did or get something they didn’t. We don’t do exams or quizzes the way that other subjects have to; the project they make is about demonstrating to me in a clearly communicated way what they did and what they’ve learned. Every time I do this, I find it so rare to find a student who was blowing it off. I even had one student who tried to blow it off, but they got caught up in their project, they focused on what it meant, and suddenly they’re producing this insightful study! It’s great!

Also, this month – and May – I did a flag thread that took most of my nights, and it wasn’t that fun to do. It was a lot of work and a lot of the content was very generic, so I felt like I wasn’t doing a good job.

I don’t have any smart or clever addition here? I’m just… really tired. And I want to be honest about it.

May 2019 Wrapup!

  • Blog posts

This month’s blog posts featured a few ideas I was glad for the practice to do; I took to my old D&D setting, Cobrin’Seil, and went over the names in that space and the way we talk about the characters and nations there (parts 1, 2, 3, 4). I also tried more rapid-fire Story Pile videos, which I liked a lot because there were plenty of things I’d watched that had maybe a bit of a point to them, but which definitely didn’t warrant a larger article (parts 1, 2, 3, and 4).

Independently of these sets, I also made this piece on the remoteness of a storyteller in a videogame, which evokes the same basic problem of the self-driving car. I also put together a thesis about normality, or normality in game, and how I want to work for it and work towards it. I also touched on a weird thing in Game Studies, where Wittgenstein comes up a lot.

The video this month hit our first irreperable problem! The original video is still going to happen, but since it failed, I instead put this together in a rush:

This month’s shirt is this absolute banger:

This month saw Comic-Gong happen, and with that came out two new games – Hook, Line & Sinker and Freight Expectations! These games will be going up on the invincible ink website soon, and there’s a print-and-play version of Hook, Line, & Sinker over on my patreon for you if you wanna check it out!

Another cool thing about the game work is… something… I can’t… talk about. But it’s cool! Trust me, it’ super cool!  Here’s hoping it works out.

We had an election. It didn’t go well.