I think I’m probably half the hits for the videos I make and put up on Youtube. I watch them from time to time to check for mistakes, and I try to take notes on those mistakes. Well, part of working out loud is showing you my mistakes and talking about them.Continue Reading →
One of the reasons that Talen Month is segregated away from the other months it is, with the careful buffers of May and March on either side (the M&Ms that aren’t going to try and restrict your access to basic human rights like water), is because I know full well that when left to my own devices, my blog will generally degenerate into me saying mean things about, well, probably Peter Molyneux, or maybe Hideo Kojima, if I didn’t deliberately make it so I have a limited number of complaints every year and those complaints have to land in one spot and it’s months away.
It’s like fermenting, or winemaking, where if I’m going to spend some time to really have a good complain about something then that complaint has to be the best possible complaint and I have to be okay with it waiting until April and it has to be something that lasts. I cannot simply vent my spleen about any random happenstance that bothers me, it has to be something worth the patience. Hating is, after all, an art.
The problem is that complaining is fun.Continue Reading →
You might be surprised to hear this but I am, in my mind, extremely restrained. Oh sure, this blog is full of content of me, every day, just trotting out a few hundred words about whatever nonsense I want to think up. There are nonetheless, a ton of topics I avoid. Particularly, I will often avoid talking about things I really like for entirely petty, personal reasons, since I find that I think that’s hard for you to relate to, and I will sometimes avoid talking about things I actively want to just be mean about or air petty grievances on, for, well, again, the same reason.
My entire article about how Magic: The Gathering isn’t a gacha system was based on being mad at some random’s complaint that he couldn’t make a full-time living playing competitive legacy as a brand new player, for example. It is a beef writ large.
I keep these personal arguments and motivations close to my chest, in part because I think it’s boring, but also because if I make sure I spend time on it, if I hone it, I will have the time to decide if the complaint is really worth one of the thirty limited slots I offer for these feelings during the month of April, my month, the month in which I was born and the month that I use to publish all the stuff that I look at in the drafts folder and think ‘oh, I’m looking forward to writing that.’
It is April, My Friends.
I think about this as I progress along this writer’s path, as I strive to keep examining my own process, and yes, as I seek to generate something like a thousand words a day of varying levels of appreciable quality. I think about how I can tell there are things I want to focus on, things I think will be enjoyable or exciting to write about, and then there are surprises that I absolutely feel i want to share about, and there are things I think that if I write about them, will provide useful insight into me, as a person, so you can better inform yourself about my opinions.
Basically, if Decemberween is when I can relax a little, April is where I want to show off a little.
One piece of poetry that I have striven hard to be able to recite on spec is by Ogden Nash:
Love is a word that often is heard
Hate is a word that is not
Love I am told is more precious than gold
Love I am told, is hot
But hate is the verb that to me is superb
And love jusst a drug on the mart
For any boy in school and love like a fool
But Hating, my boy, is an art
There is in me a mendacity and a cruelty that wishes to, at times, dance about in the moonlight. There may be mean things said this month, possibly about things you think are good, and there may be indulgent appreciation of things. Probably another article about a transformer, or about how important some particular Animorphs book was to me.
For now, I want my love to be as precious and foolish as a schoolboy’s,
and for my hate to be artful.
The seasons turn, the days end, and we come once more to another full month of articles over here on Press Dot EXE. March is gone, and with it I want to take a moment to talk about what I’ve done this month; what writing is here, what you can check back on a whole month of content and see if there’s anything that stands out to me that you’d like to check out.
One of the strangest things about these posts is that they feel to me like a ‘cheat’ – like I’m doing a bunch of work on these posts, when I’m working hard to present the best writing I can on an interesting variety of topics, and then every month you get one fewer post, because there’s here, a menu.
Except then I find out how even the most obsessively interested people looking at my content tend to miss stuff, because the internet is hard and I realise it’s important to take a moment and reflect like this.
Anyway. Hey, here’s a summary!Continue Reading →
Hey, welcome to Smooch Month!
I am not a person given to watch romance movies. Well, no, I am, I think of all sorts of movies as romance movies, because romantic really refers to a sort of simplified emotional language of a media form where the feelings of the moment are what’s meant to make sense and the coincidence or importance of those things in a real space are unimportant and oh my god I am just the most boring guy in the world to talk to when what I really mean is I don’t watch the movies that get filed under ‘romantic’ by the almighty sorting system of Netflix. And since I don’t do it often, I don’t think about them often and that means I have a less well-rounded space for my media diet. And that means that I can run the risk of being someone who has firm opinions about genres I don’t have anything to do with and that means I’m not just boring, I’m an arsehole.
Operating on this principle, then, I try to stake out some time in the year to watch… y’know. Some media that lives in this space. Some stuff that’s smoochy. I chuck it into February, so it gets to be a nice themed month, and then I get to expand my horizons. It becomes part of the game space too – I can make a demand of myself to play around with other genres I don’t deal with much.
Now this does become a wee bit barrel-scrapey. I don’t play a lot of smoochy games, and that’s because, well, most of them are terrible and, as a boy I tend to get positioned, in smoochy games, as one of the worst humans who is expected to also get to kiss a girl by the end. It’s not comfortable.
But this month! This time for sure!
I have been using the Jetpack plugin on my blog for about five years. It comes as a default tool available to free wordpress accounts, you see, and I installed it on my blog when I realised that I really did care about how much or how little attention my work was getting. There’s a long ongoing story that starts with the Long Live The Queen Game Pile review (which, really, isn’t that good, and for all I know the soundcloud has long since been shut down), but which has steadily progressed through a yearning burning nerding over feedback.
I got rid of it because it was doing some things to maintain its own statistics but also in case it maybe sorta wanted to serve ads of its own, or maybe just putting graphics on the page without telling me, but the important thing is that a proper web developer looked at this useful package of tools and recoiled, hissing, like I’d tried to bring a Domovoi over the threshold of the family home it protects.
Jetpack has problems, see.Continue Reading →
Alright, okay, that’s stuff with a central theme out of the way. How do I have more good articles from 2021 that I want to highlight still?
Because like I said, two days ago, 2021 was full of bangers.Continue Reading →
Alright, so yesterday I established we’re going to talk about some ‘best of’ writing in 2021, but then I went and banged on about some nerd stuff like elves and dragonborn (two things that actually didn’t come up but you’re not going to go check, not really, who cares). Today we’re going to push that nerd crap off the table and instead focus on the much more interesting question of hey, what about making games?Continue Reading →
I wrote some bangers last year.
I sat down at first to give a sort of top ten articles of my own last year, that weren’t covered by specifically the header of How To Be, Game Pile or Story Pile. I tried it, and found that I had run out of slots for ‘absolute banger of an article’ in two months of summarising posts. Then I realised there were whole trends of things to write about and then I realised, hell, this is my blog, you’re here for my content, and unless you’re Vincent or Tab or Kate (hi, you three), odds are good you miss an article or three I write.
We’re going to do three of these this week. A whole bunch of bangers, divided up by the type of writing it is, and why I might want you to go reread it. First we’re going to talk about general content – stuff that I think you should link to other people outside the blog, posts that explain some complex concept in a way I’m proud, but also which doesn’t necessarily fit the other stuff.
And so here, I’m just going to bring your attention to a big pile of things I’d already written that are really good and which I know have escaped your attention, yes you, and today, it’s going to be about the Dungeons & Dragons, DMing and Worldbuilding articles.Continue Reading →
Hey, you probably don’t pay attention to this stuff, but I sure as shit do and I’ve been ignoring it for a long time.
Here’s the TL, DR: I have restructured the categories of the blog. Now there are clear descriptions for each category. The tag system is going to get used too, to group types of blog material like Audio, Video, How To Be segments or major subjects I like to revisit.Continue Reading →
With 2021 behind us, we have some developments and we have a plan to enact.
First up, we’re going to do some things that I think worked. There’s the theme months:
- February is SMOOCH MONTH
- April is TALEN MONTH
- June is PRIDE MONTH
- August is TRICKS MONTH
- October is DREAD MONTH
- December is DECEMBERWEEN
These have proven to give me enough sinew to work with throughout the course of the year and they also help to break up content. One month of spooky-and-grim content is a lot better than you just getting whatever unhappy brain droppings spurt out of my ear at any given point. A month dedicated to paying attention to smooch media is an important thing that I would otherwise completely ignore. Plus, Talen Month gives me time I can feel I have the right to air some fucking grievances without it being the whole purpose of the blog.
We’re going to keep going with the two Piles:
- Every Friday is a Game Pile
- Every Monday is a Story Pile
These features work out well, and we’ll talk more about the Game Pile in a bit.
Something I want to work on further this year is to try and stop using ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as much as I do. These terms are ones I’ve had beef with for a while, and I’ve taken to using them in an almost sarcastic way. You know, I’ll say something like ‘look, if you’re asking if this is ‘good’ thing, sure, it is, but now I want to talk about what’s more interesting.’ And that feels more and more like it’s a concession I shouldn’t be making. I’d rather tell you what I liked and why I disliked it, and give an overall positive or negative impression: “I enjoyed this” instead of “It’s a good show.”
This is gunna be hard. I honestly think that the basic toolbox of ‘this sucks’ is something I need and need to rely on, but that’s kind of the point of setting itself as a challenge. I know already that I have an article that was going to go up in four months that was meant to open with ‘this story sucks’ and like, time to go back to the drawing board on that.
There are a few other features that I have found going well, which I want to treat as sort of ‘hypothetical maximums.’
- A maximum of one article about the topics of The Transformers, 3.5 D&D, 4e D&D, and Magic The Gathering. I like having this constraint because it means that if I get a wild hair to cover a bunch of these, I have to space them out.
- At the start of each month, there’ll be a post showing you the full spoiler and notes of the previous month’s custom magic cards. That way you don’t get a full spoiler of the cards before the end of the month, if you’re following them day to day, Tabs.
- One How To Be post. I still like doing these and I especially like how they show the way that a game system like 4e is still able to do a lot of interesting character designs, and also give you room to see how I would approach asking for DMs these kinds of interesting ways to represent characters.
- One T-Shirt design post. I’m growing to think of these as also including ‘sticker and mask’ designs as well.
- One Asset Brainstorm post. I am trying this out, but a regular feature just looking at some art assets (or even mechanical pieces) would be good practice. These aren’t the same as when I jot down a game idea, this is specifically about looking at tools that I can use and you can use and hopefully inspire you.
- Each month, depending on PhD demands, I’m aiming to provide a single post explaining a diary of work on a game that month. Each month I’ll be changing it up. I meant to do this in 2021, but the game development was somewhat choked by transport restrictions and shipping problems coming out of the US!
- I’m going to try to make a Story Pile about one Anime a month. Anime requires me to slow down a little in my watching – I watch them subtitled after all. I fell out of watching anime for a while there and I really like the art movement, especially given how silly and varied it can be. I watched more anime in 2021 than I had in multiple years prior and it made me remember how much I loved it.
Something that happened in 2021 that you may not realise is that I managed to maintain a fortnightly schedule of posting a video Game Pile. That involved learning a lot about fast production (which I can more readily do when I’ mnot just so exhausted all the time). There were more videos with more interesting varied topics and yes, using other people’s video recording. More chat, more long-form slow plays, and more, I hope, variety without necessarily being boring.
This kind of video schedule is doable especially with a variety of video types. Hypothetically, a regular schedule is part of what helps a channel grow (and it hasn’t worked out that way). It has however been good for my skills and also made the task of making each video a little easier.
I’m still very jealous of content creators whose structure and template lets them do things like appear on camera and talk about things, but we may be developing technology there too.
(It’s the pngtuber avatar, I’ve shown you before.)
It’s Decemberween! Don’t know what Decemberween is? Well, here on Press Dot Invincible Dot Ink, a branding exercise that was, when I did it, funny and clever to exactly myself and Fox and maybe Vince, because they know who ‘Swivel’ even is, I put a theme on the even-numbered months. That gives me a good mix, you know, some months have a theme and that gets me to focus on ideas that work for that theme then, or maybe save things up over the course of the year, and then some months I can just do whatever and you get some really weird random articles like about how water rats don’t exist and also they tear out cane toad hearts.
December has an obvious theme of ‘The Holidays’ if Im being vague, or ‘Christmas’ if I’m being 100% honest with my personal background and cultural space. Christmas runs out as a theme for me real quick because Christmas being so very Christian means I get kinda mad about it, and mad about the people who are defensive about it, because they suck and it sucks.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m gunna talk about some Christmas movies! Because when else am I gunna do that?
But Decemberween, the point of it, is instead to focus on freely available cool things I want you to know about. It’s a chance to celebrate my friends, to talk about how proud I am of them being extremely cool. It’s also a chance to show off things I’ve collected through the year that are neat, but aren’t like, individually worth an article. It’s a time for deep dives, or podcasts or youtube channels I like.
What you can expect this month is games that are free, games you can share with people, games you can get into now when you’re dealing with a family situation, or games you can play over the internet, conveniently. Don’t expect any big deal articles on game design or media studies or anything weird until, you know, at least after Christmas.
Let’s have a bit of a break, okay?
But! I promise that nonetheless, this month is going to be about stuff I think is nice, or cool, and good, and people I want you to know about and who do cool things you could spend some time investigating. That’s a Decemberween promise.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but all the Story Piles in September were about Nicolas Cage movies.Continue Reading →
I like magic.
I am not an expert in magic; I am not particularly good at magic. There’s a handful of magic tricks I know, and they are, I think, good tricks for the kind of skills I want to have. Once I understood how magic happened, as someone who believed in real actual sorcery I started to see the world unravel around me. It taught me that people around me who seemed to have powers were just liars. Then when I realised that, I realised the techniques for convincing people of these tangible tricks were also good for intangible tricks.
It became a covert interest of mine, growing up. Reading books on magic, books of how to execute tricks, and then the history of magic, and the techniques of masters and things you could do to cheat at poker and manipulate people. I realised that I lived in a world not haunted by gods and monsters but rather everywhere I went, I found nothing but lies told by evil men to steal money.
What I learned then was that the way the world was, the secrets I was told were, themselves, just another set of lies meant to control me into seeing the world in a particular way. There were no old mansions full of created demonic life, destroyed by fervent hunters; there were no conspiratorial anti-god operations of Jewish people, ardently dismantling the works of Christians to try and repatriate them to Israel; there was no false or secret history of missing coins that showed the truth of the Bible. It was all, again, just lies.
I am very interested in ways people are controlled through lies.
Welcome to tricks month; we’re going to talk about magic tricks and the ways they control our attention. We’re going to talk about conspiracy theories, both widespread ones and small, insular pocket ones. We’re going to talk about the kinds of ridiculous things people actually believe, as horrifying as it can be, and we’re going to talk about the ways these systems connect to what you may think of as ‘normal’ and maybe even creep you out a little with the boundaries of your reality.
You may think you live in a sensible world with weirdos out there, but the weirdoes are right here.
We’re going to talk about ways to manipulate attention, components or problems in magic tricks, and I’m going to share some magic trick work I really like. There’s going to be some interesting history of cards and there’s going to be some thinking about how we use these lies and mistruths to hide reality from one another – and ourselves.
This isn’t about drafting in games.
This is about the process of being creative, and part of how I sustain this blog working the way it is. Undeniable, part of it is practice – just writing every day means that writing every day gets easier. Some projects need a lot of writing, and there are some days when this blog is getting a thousand words out of the ten I wrote in a day. But that’s also my luxury – I am in a job where a lot of what I do comes down to communicating, either in words to one person or on paper to a group.
Still, I have days where it’s hard. Yesterday was difficult, and there have been other days when it’s been difficult. Today, though, I was able to pull up this article, this little stublet, and go: Oh hey, dang. I can work from this. I can belt out a few hundred words on this idea.
A few days ago, I was struggling to write. So what I did was pulled open the blog draft box, and I wrote ten little stubs. Just a single sentence of ‘write about this thing, at one point, in the future.’ And then, a few days later, when I was struggling again, I checked it out. I looked at the ideas I’d put there. Some of them, I went: That’s dumb, or, hey, I have a better version of this already, or this will be a lot of work. Some got changed, some got deleted.
This one got expanded.
This is about practice. This is about spending the time and effort to make sure that you can look at what you do and be satisfied with an ‘enough.’
This is enough.
Explaining to you how I got to enough is enough.
And it’s enough for you too. Don’t beat yourself up for modest goals.
Hey it’s Pride Month! Hey everyone, it’s Pride Month, get a load of this here Pride Month!
June is Pride Month in the United States of America, to commemorate the anniversy of the Stonewall Riots in 1969 (nice, but not nice, but nice). It’sa month that the United States uses, and therefore, the entire English-speaking Internet uses, to talk about queer causes, queer ideology, and inevitably ask ‘why isn’t there a straight pride?’
So this blog is going to be about Pride Month stuff this month!
The plan is that this month we’re going to talk about queer stuff in general, some stuff about language, some queer games and some queer game design ideas. Note that this isn’t necessarily smoochy stuff – so we’re not necesarily going to be focusing on media about say, gay relationships, per se, as much as we talk about queerness in media in a bunch of different ways.
Particularly, this tends to be a time where I’ll talk about things that people outside of LGBTQ communities might think of them or understand them, ways things are communicated, or the way queerness in media and culture gets represented. I’ll probably wind up talking more about gender stuff and fundamentalist stuff than I’ll talk about necessarily romance this month.
Expect some fandom studies, some queer indie games, some not-queer not-indie games that get called queer games, and some reflections on things like you know, how we celebrate and share the works of one another.
It’s Pride month, remember that every day we live is one we’ve stolen from a system that seeks to make us no more.
When allocating theme months, some are very easy. Pride Month wasn’t chosen by me, and Decemberween has to fall in December, because it’s in the name. Smooch Month ties to February, when people are marketing Valentines Day nonsense, and with all the spooky stuff we do in October, it only fits it naturally to get Dread Month. What this means is that of the six even numbered months in the year, four of them are already stitched up just fine. August gets Tricks month, because I like tricks, and I think it’s worth talking about them but I feel that if I talk about them all the time, the topic would run thin. Plus they’re kinda referential and you know what fuck you we do Tricks month because why not.
And that means there’s just April left.
And April is the month with Anzac day, a nationalistic holiday that makes me mad, and Easter, a religious holiday that also makes me mad. It’s also the month with my birthday in it, so… well, guess this gets to be Talen Month.
What I tend to use this month to do is either deep dives on subjects I care about or contentious topics that I’m only really getting involved in because I want to indulge the elements of myself that wants to pick fights. This may mean you get a month long examination of the Infinity Engine games starting with Baldur’s Gate 2 and ending with Planescape Torment, but it may also mean you get to see me yell at strangers on the internet in places I don’t go about their incorrect opinions on Magic: The Gathering as a ‘gacha game.‘
That said, you don’t need to be afraid of the idea that I’m about to present you with a raging analysis of Undertale, or She Ra. Neither of those ideas seem interesting to me right now so they’re just going to go by the wayside this month. Thankfully, both of these topics seem to have matured a little and nobody’s treating me like a failure to enjoy those media is a failure of me as a person. Thank you all for that.
What about stuff that’s coming? Well, this month, just to gear you up, I’m going to talk about some anime I love; I’m going to talk about Animorphs, I’m going to talk about music I’m fond of and how it upset people. I’m going to talk about watching sports! I’m going to talk about two different book series that impacted my life immensely by the same author. And I’m going to talk about a beloved videogame character when the time comes to talk about the How To Be entry for this month.
Oh heck we’re doing it again!
It’s Smooch Month! It’s the month where I set some time aside to look at media that focuses on the intersection of lips, on stories where the reward is seeing the hot characters kiss, where the building, establishing and furthering of relationships is very important.
That kind of dispassionate phrasing aside, Smooch Month is when I go out of my way to try and find media to engage with and talk about that are about stuff I normally avoid! I’m not going to be so bold as to call it romantic media – because, well, romantic media is media about feelings and this is kind of media about specific feelings.
Last year when I did this, I ran through some truly dire movies – I checked out a bunch of stuff on Netflix that came up under ‘Romantic Comedy,’ and I picked out the dreadful Tall Girl to focus on. Smooch month was also when I got to talk about Crazy Rich Asians, a movie with a game in it that I really liked. What I can promise you this month is you’re going to see some more stuff like that, as well as some games I’ve been requested to check out.
So tune in and stay smoochy.
No, that sounds terrible. Don’t do that.
Hey, uh, some of the 2020 plans got a bit weird didn’t they? Phew! Good thing that all of those things are exactly over and now it’s 2021, all the problems that 2020 had are over because we tore the tab off a new calendar.
First up, there are theme months; months when I’ll try to use the theme to focus topics. This means that you’re less likely to get a lot of stuff on this topic all the time. This is going to break down as follows:
- February is SMOOCH MONTH
- April is TALEN MONTH
- June is PRIDE MONTH
- August is TRICKS MONTH
- October is DREAD MONTH
- December is DECEMBERWEEN
I also plan on producing content in the following forms, each week:
- Every Friday is a Game Pile
- Every Monday is a Story Pile
You may think: Hang on, these don’t show up on those dates. Yeah, because you live in America. These are Friday and Monday, my time. So nyeh.
Let’s talk about types of topics though. Each of these articles types are going to be ‘lightly capped’ at one post a month. This is to enforce a degree of variety and make sure each of these things have room to breathe.
- One Magic The Gathering article a month. With the rate of releases of MTG content, I prefer to make sure that my posts on this matter aren’t trying to keep up with the ‘proper’ pace, but instead be pieces that take my ways of playing Magic seriously.
- One 4th Edition D&D Themed Article. There’s still lots in 4e D&D that deserves some attention. I know I have a thing about forced movement and smart targeting coming up on this one.
- One 3.5th Edition D&D Themed Article. The awkward ugly cousin of 4th edition, I still have a lot of fondness for dumb things it could do and ways we can do better than what it asks of us.
- One How To Be post. These are fun breakdowns of how to approach a character and I try to build them in blocks so the middle section of ‘how do I get at the mechanical core of this idea with the tools I’ve got’ is readable for anyone.
- One T-Shirt design post.
Now, on to game design and posts about that.
Originally the plan for game making for me was a new thing each month. This meant that each month needed to fit in playtesting and graphic design and printing and prototyping and that worked out okay when I was primarily a student doing Honours, and had some blocks of free time and reason to hang around at the university doing random pickup games with strangers. Since then I’ve had an experience I don’t want to repeat, where someone comes to my table at a convention and asks me about the games I’ve made, and I have to introduce them, in a tiny window, to thirty games.
The notion that face-to-face sales and personal play is important made me feel that more time on fewer games was a way to go. Having a new thing at a convention means you have a conversation, but you don’t have a big backlog to go over. I had low-key the idea that I would try and make at most, two games per convention in 2020; that a single new game to launch at an event was a better idea than having to explain twelve different games to someone who hadn’t seen me in a year.
This meant in game development terms I had four major events in mind: CanCon, Comic-Gong, MOAB, and SMASH! We know there won’t be a CanCon this year, so that’s out, which is a bummer, and the odds are good even if the pandemic dies down and conventions come back, it’s exceedingly unlikely we’ll have those same cons springing up, out of nowhere, this year, at the same size as they would have been. This has put game development on hold, which
Yeah, that’s been a bit of a thing.
I do seek to present some more pieces on examining game ideas and structural ideas I’ve been working on on this blog. I find this kind of stuff really exciting and interesting, and being able to go back over the games I’ve explained later results in moments of ‘ohhhh wait, that’s how I should do it!’ I do want to keep doing posts like that. This year, I don’t know how those gaming events are going to happen, and so, I’m going to operate on the assumption that they’re not, but that I do want the tools to be available. I’m going to spend this time I’m working on building apparatus to make a game making process, documented and clearly explained in about three months.
There! That’s the plan!
Obviously, a normal wrapup each month is ‘hey, here’s the best stuff I did this month.’ Except I didn’t do the normal kind of article this month – it was largely easily-accessible media that you can check out during this month, praise for my friends, and at least one embarrassing story where I look like a cowardly dipshit.
Each year, I look at this chart now and I have a weird moment. Like, hey, this is cool. This is a long, dedicated, protracted practice. This year the schedule has at times gone up to 60 and down to 16. Given the year, that seems pretty reasonable. The average blog post is 913 words, and I get about 100 views a day. I’m at the point where WordPress Dot Com is offering me ways to monetise the blog.
If you haven’t noticed, this year I’ve done more writing about running tabletop games in general and more about D&D in specific. I try to limit myself to two posts about D&D a month – my current method for doing it is to pull a book from each edition out of my bookshelf at random and see what the book reminds me of, and then share those thoughts.
- Oaths, Pacts and The Moral Failure of Trying
- 4e: Claw Gloves
- When D&D Got Horny
- Power Word: Kill
- Utopian D&D
- Murder Hobos Are A You Problem
- In Praise Of ‘You Meet At An Inn’
Magic: The Gathering Stuff
This was a rough year for The Greatest Game or whatever. Lots of bannings and the delays on schedules, cards being kicked out for being racist, an entire mechanic getting rebalanced because it was too strong, lots of problems. Still, I wasn’t playing in those spaces so I didn’t really follow that, and instead focused on custom card design this year.
- MTG: Stop Designing White Counterspells
- MTG: White Ramp
- MTG: Reimagining The Nephilim
- MTG: MTG: Dinobots (Not The Transformers) Commanders!
Game Dev Posts
Despite the great wheel turning slow, and the PhD crawling along, I have still found some time to talk about game development, and some of those posts made it into the top of the heap, or I had a personal reason to want to put them forward.
Posts About Living
There’s not really a good term for these, is there? There’s a bunch of posts I’ve written about emotional issues and about the way we look at our lives. Often these are about queer culture, and about the way we live as queer people. I don’t have a ton of experience with the things we consider ‘queer culture’ – so instead I make do with looking at how we relate to media, and how that media relates to my queerness, and maybe your queerness.
And it turns out that queer folk have slightly weird life experience that relates to odd social behaviours, too! And thinking about that sometimes gets blog posts made.
Then, when all those other categories are covered, what else do we have going on this year? Well, here’s stuff that got decent hits, sorted for the ones that I personally think are the most interesting.
- Top Five Pokemon Gym Leaders That Show This Game Is Incomprehensible For People Over Five
- Just How Bad Is The US State Flag Problem?
- Poison Ivy
- 5 Things That Actually Happen In Ranma 1/2
- The Giant of Kandahar
- JJ Abrams’ Mystery Box
- What’s Fanagement?
- 10 SCPs That Suck Ass
- 10 SCPs That Talen Actually Likes
As for what we’re going to do in the coming year…? Well, check that out tomorrow. Thanks for reading this year, thanks for being part of my year, and I hope I’ve made this year at least a little bit better. For you. This year. Year.
Holy ding dang doops, we made it.
It is now December. That means it is Decemberween. Decemberween, for those of you unfamiliar, is a month-long celebration where I try to spend an entire month just praising people I know, things I like, and stuff you can check out for free or cheap, during this time when you may be isolated from your normal resources, or looking for things to safely fill free time.
This year, I am operating on the assumption as I write this that ‘normal’ Christmas isn’t going to happen. Some of us are going to be lucky and have only small, minor family gatherings, where we have a natural reason to avoid interacting with the people we don’t want to interact with, because, yes, it’s Christmas, but maybe, hey, how about a discord call instead? I assume this December, you’re going to run the risk of being time-rich and energy-poor, needing things that you can use to keep people occupied or share with others that aren’t demanding. It’s a month for softness, for kindness, and for finding things on Netflix that may make us go ahhhh instead of aaaaaaaaaaaaa.
If this year has done much for my life it’s made it clear to my family how much ‘the internet’ is just life; that the friends and family I made on the internet are friends and family, and they matter to me and connect to me, and that they are all people on the end of those lines. Let this year be a thing that has drawn us together.
Decemberween is an exercise in gratitude and open sharing. It’s about showing you things that influenced me and I enjoy; it’s about sharing with you things that you may not realise I like, the works of friends that have sustained and enheartened me. It’s a time to be grateful and to hold close to those of us who got here.
Some of us didn’t.
Some of us might not make it much further.
So let’s spend this month doing our best to not be angry and to instead try to share and be happy with one another, our friends and families across these internet spaces. There’s a very real purpose for things that help you recharge, re-energise, and do good in the world, a line I learned summarised as you need spoons to make shivs.
Woo~ooo~Ooo~Oooo it’s trick-or-treating niiiight. Which it wouldn’t be wiiiise to dooo~oo~oooOOO~~ because of the globaaal pandeeemiiiiiiic~ You know now I think of it, it is a little weird to not see more Zombie fiction set on Halloween where they have to work trick-or-treating into the plot somehow. Anyway!
It’s Halloween and it’s the end of October, so it’s time to run down what I got done this month in amongst many other things.
First of all, articles. We did some interesting and different stuff this month, didn’t we? First, there were my readings of Hp Lovecraft writings with some critical response afterwards; I read Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn, aka ‘My Ape Grandma’s Grandson Was A Racist’, The Colour out of Space, aka ‘Space is scary and hicks don’t know when to be afraid,’ Nemesis, aka ‘hey, not so much racism this time,’ and The Statement of Randolph Carter, aka ‘behold the ancient days of a century ago.’ These were fun to do and reasonably easy, so if you want this kind of stuff, I’ll consider doing more readings on theme months.
I interviewed Erik the Bearik about Brinkwood: Blood of Tyrants, and that was lots of fun. I vented for a bit about ‘ghost hunters‘ and ‘real mystery‘ media, where I pulled my punches and avoided swearing about exploitative nonsense. I also wrote some companion pieces to my SCP Wiki video (and we’ll get to that), where I listed some SCPs I dislike and some I like.
I also did something special this month with videos! Since I’d been doing a lot of experimenting with video this year, I figured I’d bring them together and do five ‘different’ kinds of video.
For Halloween Forever, I talked about the game and about my relationship to Halloween as a cute, fun thing to be enjoyed. This was done by playing the video, then unscriptedly talking about the way the game made me feel. This was really easy to do!
For the SCP wiki, I made a simple video of a series of animations with minimal visual data, but with useful, clear iconography. This works well for representing text media, so maybe this is how I’ll tackle text adventures going forwards. This was also scripted pretty thoroughly before I made the video.
For Scarlet Hollow, I made a very quick series of pan-and-scans over stills from the game, which worked out well for explaining the ways the game worked. This was lightly scripted, but I did do a fair bit of editing to get the right flow down. This meant I could promote the game on kickstarter in an appropriate window, instead of holding things up. This also helped overcome my big problem with visual novels, where I often feel like I’m ‘wasting’ the medium to use video and voice to talk about a primarily textual medium.
Finally, Ai: The Somnium Files is like one of your more typical ‘essay-ish’ type videos, though not using the game to make some greater point. I scripted it out, read it, then used a loop of gameplay visuals which I overlaid with graphics to present more information about the game. I was able to weave in video footage and some captioning, which worked out okay, and I liked it.
I think I just talk faster than most video essay people. This video script is 2200 words, and the video is about ten minutes – but a typical audio reading, according to audiobook resources, is around 150 words a minute. Ostensibly, this should mean that this video should be about 15 minutes if I just read slower.
I’ll have to work on that.
For Gloomwood, this was much simpler to make. I recorded myself playing the game, as is, the first time. Everything is here – me messing up, me learning game mechanics, me exploring how the game worked from record to end record.
Aiba is a real sweetheart of a character, and I’m really glad to have gotten to play this game. When I make shirts and stickers, it’s often as ‘merch’ of my interests, and so this time I’m glad to be able to make merch of my love of this game.
And finally, personal life stuff? Well, October was busy – I’ve been marking pretty much every week of the month, and the marking has taken up a lot of time. I have a lot of students this semester, and they’re under a lot of stress, which has meant there’s been a lot of late-night mix-ups, or two AM calls from students worrying about how to get things working.
October was nonetheless a lovely month to catch up with some movies and shows I really liked, it was a wonderful experience in video making, and I enjoyed my recordings as well. Let me know if any of the content this month stood out to you as a fave and I’ll see what I can do going forward.
For the month of October, my Story Pile, Game Pile and general posting will be wound around the theme of dread month. Copying from last year, the reason I’m using dread is because I don’t want to exclude some things: It’s not a horror month; criminal history and real world cult stuff isn’t really horror. It’s not a death month, because, well, death isn’t actually a universal element to the things that creep us out. And sometimes, there are things that are the aesthetic of ghosts and ghouls and scary things but isn’t actually very scary, because it’s being used to some other end.
Halloween isn’t a thing here, and more than normal, this is going to be a year where Halloween isn’t a thing. That sucks, and it sucks that people are going to miss out on a ritual that is renownedly fun. That means for us, this month, being a bit spooky, and indulging in spooky movies and sitting inside and shivering to the chill of scary games and scary media is going to be even more important, because it’s a way we can share the kind of fear we can control.
Bring out yer alive!
This is our second-last unthemed month of the year, and with it came a scattered arrangement of posts, some that had been written months ago and only came out now, cast off into the far future when I could forget about them. It’s also when I wrote about how to handle money in your game design (and how weird it is that it’s how we handle it in real life, almost like life is an unfair game, odd), about how Elite Beat Agents expresses difficulty, and I put out my article on the charming and interesting Magical Land of Yeld.
This month’s shirt is a pie chart reference to a song! The big shakeup in the store is how I took down some Harry Potter themed merchandise which I once upon a time made as meanspirited jabs at a fandom I wasn’t into, but was willing to sell them, because it didn’t matter if their fandom was bad to me, it was important to them. The thing is, now, selling that stuff can be seen as if I’m okay with JK Rowling’s behaviour, and I’m really not.
This month’s video is another short experiment; an unscripted article on Void Bastards, which took me a very small amount of time to make for a game I’d already pretty much beaten. I quite liked doing this, and I’m hoping it’ll work for some of the other games we’re going to look at going forwards.
This month, I hurt my foot, and that snarled up my grading and that means everything’s been done with not enough time, oh no, oh dear, anyway.
One of the things that drives this blog is a direct pipeline from my day to day experience. Part of what has made scheduling blog posts in advance with a full plan such a great thing for me is that it means that if I have a single incident on one day, that inspires me to write something, that written work isn’t going to happen for weeks or in some times, months, meaning that I get to write about topics over the whole year, then they’ll come together in a particular period, looking like a coherent theme was sought out ahead of time.
Here’s another thing, though: If I have a schedule it means that, by default, any immediate need to say something can be put on a page, and left alone for two weeks. It gives my thoughts time to breathe, and this becomes very important when I’m talking about things that upset me ore things that I find myself extremely excited about. I have deliberately slowed myself down so I don’t have to be the Hot Take Time Machine, and that means that my opinions don’t get the benefit of riding the Attention Cycle, but they also don’t have me locked into fast, quick impressions of things where I look like a dumbass a year later.
There’s this joke that pretty much all blogs start the same way with this dickbrain, who is a dickbrain, but in this case, the dickbrain is me, and the blog scheduling tool lets me keep a reign on my own dickbrainness.
This means that blogging periods are sometimes symptoms of what was inspiring me a month ago. You’ll see trends and streaks, if you can divine the tea leaves of my me-ness. Complicating this, though, is what my life is doing.
As I write this, I’m coming off a period where some of the things that normally fizz my brain and stimulate my writing aren’t happening. I don’t just mean isolation, though! I mean that normally, university semester means travel, reading, listening and looking at things around the place. What I’ve been left with instead is time spent on private projects – things that involve people who didn’t sign up to become part of my #internet #content #machine.
What follows then for me is a challenge of divining where I can draw a line between what was on my mind and what will seem was on my mind later. What I can’t share, and what I shouldn’t share, and what subjects can be said to be brought up by people in private spaces that aren’t necessarily going to be seen as big ole subtweets.
This is part of the path of managing this kind of writing: it matters enormously to me that if I’m writing something, it’s because it’s something I want to write and because it’s something I think you, the audience, will want to read.
There you go, some process stuff! How it all comes together! As of writing this, back in June, I have already a chunk of writing planning for later months done, some actual articles – and some things that are slowly brewing as I consider if it’s worth going into the topic, or holding back for another time.
And just like that, poof, August disappears!
August, with its theme of magic – which I tend to expand to be about manipulating attention and tricks, so eventually we wind up talking about heists – is pretty hard for me to work with when it comes to games or movies, because I already did The Prestige and Ricky Jay’s TV special, but after that. It’s great (in my opinion) for the other articles of the month, because I can almost always find other stories about the wonderful weirdoes involved in magic, the techniques of magic, the tools magic gives you access to, and that means that I tend to wind up with a lot of articles I’m happy with while Story and Game Piles kinda suffer.
But that’s okay!
By expanding to heists and stealth like I did this year (the art of controlling attention), I got to talk about Logan Lucky, which is great. I got to talk about Breach, which I still really like even after finding out it’s basically copaganda for the cop’s cops. I also got to talk about Volume, a game that I really like, and has gotten a lot better in the five years since its release because the idea of a Britain fallen to classist fascism in an information economy really isn’t very farfetched.
I also wrote about some useful general principles for dealing with people. One of them was confabulation, the way your brain justifies dumb things it does, and that you may literally never realise you were doing, about slugs and loads, and about forces. The forces article even has my favourite line of the month:
The force is not there to set up the trick: The trick is there to hide the force.
This month also was when I slipped out some of the lore of a Scum & Villainy science-fiction setting, with The Synthetic Mystic and the Century Ship. These are going to become important later, but you’ll find out why. Basically, creative content for you to share and enjoy.
I also hammered in on the absolutely unforgiveable Tome of Magic from 3.5 D&D, which is not a good book and full of not good things, but still deserves a tiny star for trying. I did a How To Be about the amazing Sumireko from Touhou Project. I love when I get to do something meaningful about Touhou Project, because the Touhou fans mark out in just the best ways.
August, I made another pair of shirts (though like, technically, it’s four shirts), showing both a math puzzle that’s part of a magic trick (in white and black text), and a reference that’s not actually vague, but you know, you could pretend it’s vague (in white and black text).
This month’s video was a half hour attempt to get started on Jane Jensen’s Gray Matter, during which time I talked about trying to make Narrative Adventures work, and the ways that you can have problems if you’re just creating flag-based trigger messes, the Australian side of the Steam store, and
Teaching started up this month, and that’s been great fun to do. There’s been some concerns about managing workload, but I’ve also been trying to dedicate more time actually building and playing things, rather than trying to manage my life so I’m just getting by. Also, with some things opening up, I’m getting to see my family more often, which is nice.
I love magic. This is something a lot of my friends don’t know, because I think it’s embarrassing to love magic, because I have never, ever, ever pulled off a magic trick that actually impressed people. Oh, I’ve done stuff that they can’t work out, but the people around me are always, consistently able to go ‘well duh, you did a trick I don’t understand, big deal.’ Which is true, but it’s also a bit of an anticlimax.
This August, we’re going to talk about magic, and by that I mean tricks. We’re going to talk about ways to fool people, magical tricks, what people do in the back of their minds, and the connected fields of deceit and thievery. Basically, there’s three types of people you’ll see fooling around with playing cards – rogues, tricksters, and cheats, and this is a month to celebrate and enjoy all three.
Expect some heisty movies, some shared sources on magic resources I like, and a few conversations about the ways you can use ideas from the classic field of magic to make or relate to games!
And I dunno, maybe we’ll talk about mages and wizards and magic systems and card games I guess.
Hey, July’s down. We’re getting this year done, day by day, people. If you’re still here with me, thank you so much for that.
This month seems to have had a theme of catching up; the writing schedule has been better, in general, with very few days where I fell behind, and there have been some articles that I wrote months ago that I threw forward into July, the ‘infinity away’ year. Also it was time to dust out and finish off some drafts I had been leaving alone for literally years.
Comically, this did mean one article came out just after a major conversation about its subject matter despite being originally written like, a year ago. Oops. That was the Cards Against Humanity article, because every year I teach students about making games, I see more variants on it, and they’re almost always weaker games because of the overwhelming presence of Cards Against Humanity. Which is a bummer!
I also finally did my set on the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise, from manga to the first anime to the second anime to the live-action movie. There’s more, of course – a few more movies and videogames, and man, there’s probably a card game or something – but I finally got my feelings out there about what is, again, probably the best series of its kind that nonetheless has some ways it’s bad.
I also finally penned that piece on Brolonialism, which has been waiting for years; I put out some thoughts about how ‘cancel culture’ isn’t really a thing, looked at tackling the Nephilim from Magic: The Gathering, which is maybe a month old at this point, and even did a writeup of my character Moonheart, from City of Heroes. Also, because I try to keep myself to one 3rd ed D&D article per month, I spent this month banging on the Spelldancer, one of the most hilariously broken loops you can have in a game that normally abhors loops.
July’s shirt continues on my theme of Loss-themed shirts! There are two new additions to the Loss Collection: a lettered and numbered version of the same idea. It’s not a complicated design, but I’m very happy with being able to use the simple elegance of it, in a way that works as a design even without being able to see the Loss element to it.
Video? I did put up a small video explaining a Minecraft thingy I made, a Hopper Loader. But that’s not the ‘proper’ video for this month, no no. This month’s video is a game pile video, which you shouuuld be getting to see tomorrow. Keep your eyes peeled.
Personal life, hm, hm, hm, well this is a break month between two semesters, during which time I’ve been doing set up and consultation for my various work arrangements. I’ve felt obviously busy, and dealing with a lot of best practice stuff about health and contamination, which gets more awkward as schools open up and second waves of infections kick off. I try not to talk about the pandemic much here, but it is affecting me, and I’m trying to make sure the content I put here is an escape from gloom rather than an embrace of that feeling. You know how it goes, and I hope it’s been helpful, even as I’ve been doing my best to be honest with you about my work process.
Time to time I’ll have someone ask me questions or suggest topics and while I’ll give everything a go, sometimes I have to use complex topics I don’t understand to launch off into spaces I do. That’s why Fullmetal Alchemist is a great place for me to talk about Paratext, but not so much a place for me to talk about guns.
Here then is a short, non-comprehensive list of things I don’t know much about
- Cars. Pretty much all cars. I know the basics of how a car works, in that there’s an air-and-fuel engine that makes tiny explosions that drive some pistons and then the rest is just controlling that and making it work well, but that’s all I got.
- On that front, competitive car racing. Grew up surrounded by it, met some very important people in it, no clue how it really works. I have a tiny bit of knowledge about one thing in NASCAR and that’s it.
- Firearms. I’ve never handled one. I think I may have handled pieces of one at some point but I genuinely think I’ve never been closer than five feet away from a gun, and that was probably on a police constable’s hip. Any conversations I have about guns are going to focus on culture around them rather than the devices themselves.
- Modern military operations or aesthetics. There’s a real space for people like me who know their asses from their elbows talking about ‘real soldiers’ and whatnot, but that ain’t me and if you see me commenting on it, odds are good it’s because I’ve read something someone who knows about it is saying.
- Makeup. I have applied it once or twice to other people and experimented with using it to hide injury. I do not know anything meaningful about it.
- Recent anime. I’ll check out some stuff that gets recommended, but only once it’s all done and nothing that needs a hundred damn episodes. I want enough familiarity to talk to people at cons, not enough to go all Mothers Basement on things.
- Driving. See also cars: I don’t drive, don’t know how to drive.
- Code. I have opinions about how people should talk about code but I don’t know how to do anything more complicated than Twine or Wiki coding.
- Ways to divert the flow of history by killing, meeting or changing single events. I just don’t know this stuff. I know there are some people with firm opinions on it, and I think it’s a good idea to consider the ways that individuals have diverted history through accident, but I am by no means an expert.
- Islam! I have some broad, general criticisms of religious institutions as institutions, but if you asked me to provide specific criticisms of Islam, I wouldn’t know where to begin, and it wouldn’t, I imagine, be interesting at all.
- Oh and while we’re at it, Judaism! Everything I know about Judaism is filtered through a fundamentalist Christian background. I may know more than you expect, but I don’t know anything about Judaism as she is lived today. I may know some things that are meant to evoke jewish-ish-ness, but you can fill a barn with what I don’t know here.
- Stand up Comedians! Lots of these guys blur together, for me! And I do mean guys!
- Music. I can tell you how music and lyrics make me feel, but I am clueless about how to make music. I don’t know how to sing well, I just know how Choir drilled me.
- Game Theory. This is a wing of mathematics, and I don’t know much about it. I do Game Studies, which looks at games as cultural entities. There is some interesting stuff with ‘Game Theory’ but it’s mostly about the idea of rational actors responding to incentives, like much of economics, rather than anything to do about how political agents move.
- Carpentry. Not a clue. There’s this thing that Ian Bogost has talked about, with using the term to refer to doing philosophy through making stuff, but actual joinery and stuff? Not a clue.
- Yu-Gi-Oh. It looks like a game that has nothing meaningful in common with the games I play, but looks like it does if you don’t know either game that well.
Because I think it’s worth taking stock and thinking about what you’ve been asked. I want to be able to hold on to the ability to say I don’t know and not have that be a wound against me. It’s nice to feel like an expert, it really is – and I try to limit that to when I’m dealing with students, who I actually have an authority over and where my expertise is what they’re literally paying for.
Everywhere else, it’s important to hold on to your own capacity to be a dumbass.
June’s down! It’s been a bit of a fog right now, in no small part because some of my plans got spiked. One of my plans was to do give aways and spend money sending people my silly pride themed t-shirts that yes, I am proud of, but also, maybe, now is not the time to be making people do competitions for silly queer shirts. Generally, I feel now is a time to keep my head down, to try and promote some uplifting stuff, and not do things that make me seem like I’m trying to take advantage of this moment.
There were some articles I was happy with: The Speed of Crowds, which was meant to coincide with Games Done Quick, talked about the way that speedrunning was collaborative orchestral art. Holding On To Pride wound up being, it seems, very well-timed to suggest that folks had to be kind to themselves, and why Pride even matters at all. And the somewhat basically named Post About Being A Cis Boy explored how being aware of trans women’s experience did not require some mystic spiritual insight. I was also fond of my article about Burnwillow, who remains a character I think about from time to time when discussing the way we make limited assumptions about what things like trans and cis mean.
There were lots of shirts this month – I’d been banking designs so I could do them all in Pride Month like Last Year. That means we got four designs, one of which was about thirty designs, one of which was a much smaller nine and two more classic designs: Diceheart, This Shirt Says Trans Rights, Pronoun Stamps and Gay Wrath Month.
Here’s this month’s video, about Lore Finder! I really liked this game demo, and I’m really glad it dropped when it did, so I could spend my Pride Month game watching a nonbinary person bicker with their parent and turn into a tentacled slimebeast.
June was a month in which teaching came to a conclusion (for now) and my workload got weird (for now). I got to mark student projects, which I do genuinely like doing, because students are great. It was also a month for articles about Pride Month.
Pride month articles were great for everything but the Piles. I hit my limit real quick on the non-Pile articles, and I have been bubbling to see the reactions to this month’s how to be for… some time now. The Story and Game Piles – well, I figured what I’d do is save up all the really queer games and movies from 2019 and early 2020 and pick the best of them to Pile in Pride Month. That just didn’t seem to happen, though, which was a real bummer.
What’s more, I save some slots month to month so that when I hit the themed months, I can do things based on the reactions to existing articles, and uh, you know what hasn’t much happened this month? Everyone has other stuff on their mind.
Welcome to the month of June, where it’s Pride Month!
You weren’t aware? This is why all the corporate icons have got rainbow flags for exactly no more than the duration of this one month. Pride Month, the Month where we’re all allowed to have some Pride and answer questions like ‘uhh when’s straight pride month,’ because fuck you.
Hm, maybe a bit confrontationl.
Pride Month, thanks to the fact the English Speaking Internet Is Kinda American, set in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, an event kicked off by a trans woman throwing a brick at a cop, and the event oriented around it is because a bisexual woman chose it, and that seriously is as much as we need.
For this blog, that means it’s a time to talk about Queer Stuff! last year it was fantastically hard, because lots of queer games are alienating and lots of queer media falls into the same problem space as Smooch Month media. We’re going to talk about queerness, in games and media, and that mostly means me trying to promote stuff I like, talk about queer subtextualisation, the importance of fanfiction, the way media relates to queerness, and the way I relate to that queer media.
There’s also going to be some shirt giveaways, unless something dire happens to my finances in this month. Fingers crossed.
Also, as seems to be traditional, my current plan is to not talk about:
- Steven Universe
We’ll see what the month has coming for us!