Category: Meta

Things That Didn’t Work

Hey.

You know how I write something every day?

Some of those things aren’t good enough to share. Some of them aren’t funny or interesting or engaging. Some of them are just a bit short. I know I’ve had my word counts creeping up this year – I mean, a thousand words is pretty typical. It’s weird, because as I write more, I find myself feeling obligated to do more research, and while that’s great for sinew, it does mean it’s a little hard to write anything light.

Here’s some stuff I didn’t write, or if I did write it, you can’t prove it.

  • A full write-up of the Halflings from 3.5 D&D which mostly just rearranged sentences as I tried to make them sound interesting and couldn’t
  • A review of Mirror’s Edge from 2009
  • A short story about a tower being climbed by some adventurers, with the big twist being that the staircase was a screw that drove the tower down into the eart, to literally no meaningful end
  • A short story about mind controlling chip tunes with a ‘but jake was a zombie!’ twist at the end
  • An entire outline for a 3.5 Race book meant to focus on orcs and gnolls
  • A review for ‘ozechoc’ an out-of-production chocolate milk powder
  • Writing from back when I had to schedule caching youtube videos overnight
  • A step by step guide to breaking the stat cap in Quest For Glory 2
  • An autopsy of a supergroup collapse from almost ten years ago that nobody cares about any more
  • A discussion of just how weird a human Mitt Romney is and why it’s supremely weird that he’s taken seriously
  • A long list of insulting things I’d called Tony Abbott in one pre-discord group chat
  • Spreadsheets for organising superhero powersets
  • New spreadsheets for ensuring an interesting gender spread across different character roles
  • An analysis of the 4th Edition D&D characters I’d played in weekend games and their comparative threat value
  • A bunch of posts that just talk about how great my dog is

Sometimes, you gotta clean out the cobwebs.

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?

Levels of Expertise

I’ve found that this past year, the average length of blog posts have, according to WordPress’ stats, gone up. It used to be my blog posts were around 300 words per day, now they hover around 900. A modern professional blog can usually maintain that pace per author, and usually employs a rotating staff to make sure that hopper is always full.

Now, this is something I thought about, and wondered if I was saying more stuff, but I think the main thing that’s changed over time is not so much that I’ve been saying more stuff, but that I’ve been providing more context. Back when I started out, I had this feature I used quite a bit – ‘if I were Peter Molyneux’ based around writing fantastic game concepts to relate to puns. The idea was that if I had Peter Molyneux’s industry clout and could get nonsense games made on the strength of seeming visionary, I’d make a bunch of silly things that I could imagine being fun or cool.

That was fine, but you had to know who Peter Molyneux was, and why I titled the post that. You had to know what I thought of Peter Molyneux, and all that.

Now there’s a power to that, a freedom and a flexibility. It’s pretty cool – it expresses my voice. Maybe if I was using the blog to tell jokey jokes, it’s a good idea, but I tend to use twitter for that sort of short form. What I want this blog to do is to give meaningful context and process to people who don’t have access to that, and that means sometimes, the posts have to get big and sprawling to explain three or four related ideas.

At the same time, I don’t actually think it’s a good idea to keep going for a thousand words a day on this blog. Chris Franklin gave some useful advice about how anything that takes too long is either best reserved for a format that encourages deep readings (like books), or split up so the ideas are given their own foundational space. Three hours or fifteen minutes, I know what I’d rather use of your time.

August Is… Magic Month!

No, not Magic: The Gathering. And honestly that would be harder. And kind of terrible?

This August, the theme is Magic, but not magic the way it normally works. I want to talk to you about stage magic, about attainable magic, about performers that play with expectation and with conception.

Now, here’s a thing to think about: Just how much stuff do I have to be paying attention to in the space of ‘stage magic nonsense’ that when confronted with things I want to spend a month talking about in bits and pieces, how much of a complete dork am I that I thought ‘oh hey! Stage magic! I notice a lot of things about stage magic!’

I mean when it comes to writing about magic, magic is in so many things I write about or care about, because magic – sorcery, wizardry, that nonsense, is all about the direct manipulation of the human body and the mind and things like ‘expressing wants as powers.’ That’s all nonsense, though, that’s magic, which is interesting in its own way, but it’s nothing compared to the challenges of stage magic, which is magic that has to simultaneously be human executable while also being seemingly not.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to start talking about how-to guides and breakdowns of things that I am absolutely not qualified to talk about. Instead, I want to talk to you about the real and the magical and the ways we tell stories around things that you perceive as real, and the ways that we are fooled. There’s a long history of the seemingly impossible, and how it has been a useful, important thing in my life.

And hey, I need to make sure you don’t ever think I’m not a massive dork.

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.

A Dead Week

I simplify talking about this blog as “I write something every day.” And I do that, generally speaking, but it’s not like what I write, every day, goes into this blog. For example, in May and June, I did a flag thread on twitter, which was a huge amount of research and work, and a lot of that work was writing work. That all got put onto twitter, and that work didn’t show up on the blog here.

Now, there was something that went up every day, because I made a backlog on my blog. I’m happy with that. This week – which is back in June – I have been sick. And like, surprisingly sick. One part of that has been difficulty sleeping, and difficulty composing complex thoughts. Bonus: This is the time I’m revising a most important part of my next stage of my PhD, which means if I have 12 points of brain-think each day, those 12 points are going to get used on my PhD, sorry, and that means nothing much else happens.

I’ve been trying to prioritise and one thing that that prioritising means is that at the end of the day, if I need an extra six hours of sleep, those extra six hours are going to happen before another blog post. Which does mean that now, as I start to feel better (he says, hoping), I need to climb back in to the backlog.

It’s easy to get the impression from me that I’m this endlessly productive super-beast, which I’m just not. I have my setbacks too. I’ve just set things up to make these things less obvious.

I know some of you are just starting out working on writing. It can be really scary to look at what other people are doing, and think they’ve always got on top of it, they’re always fine. I’m not fine right now. I’m not producing as much or as easily as I want to be. And now I am recovering.

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.

June is… Pride Month!

The month of the sin I’m probably the worst at, it’s Pride Month!

I don’t know how clear it is when this blog posts go up and are removed from context, but I don’t feel like I make a big deal of whatever queerness I have. I mean hell, I just referred to it as ‘whatever queerness I have.’ Like, I’m really reluctant, even with the way ‘gay pride’ has been so uselessly broadened, to think I belong in ‘the gay community’ or refer to myself as any kind of ‘gay.’

Still, I am a bisexual dude, and while I talk about media from queer perspectives time to time, I am not just giving information based on reading and listening, but also from my own experience.

This month I am going to write about Queer Media, I’m going to try and foreground some Queer Games, going to make some more Pride-related shirts, and maybe talk some about queer takes on non-queer media, and what ‘Queer Media’ even means. I’ll try to keep a lid on this, try not to get too overtly and ridiculously salty.

Once again, I promise I will not talk about Undertale, Steven Universe or She-Ra. I dunno, maybe if someone wants those takes, they’ll pay for them.

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.

April 2019 Wrapup!

I feel like this month whipped by especially quickly, perhaps because I had so many deadlines I was desperately trying to manage. It was however, lots of fun to do, and I want to do this kind of thing, give myself this kind of freedom more often.

Blog Posts

I knew going in that this month, as the month I gave my self permission to be salty and let out some topics that’d been cooking for a while, I’d have some corkers ready to go.

First of all we have the steadily brewing article tackling the idea that Gacha games directly map onto Magic: The Gathering that led to a host of articles last year about how corrupt and dangerous and bad Magic: The Gathering was, and wasn’t it like making children gamble? This is a position that’s pretty widespread amongst the so-called intellectuals of the gaming space and so I finally let some of those thoughts out. Since the article was written, nobody has come around to really argue with me on it, so I guess I’m right, and that means the whole conversation is done.

I also went in to the elbows on Exalted, a game that disappoints me as a game and disappoints me as a setting, but in some fascinating and strangely damaged way I can’t help but see the game it wishes it was and I wish it was that game, too. I first described the game at core, then went in on the Content Warning Fest that was the Infernals.

I also needed to invent a term, Narrative Adventure, to describe the category of all those games that reach from Zork through to Bandersnatch, so I wrote a long-form article about it that was, once, going to be a video, but editing together so many different videos seemed a bit of a bore and I wanted something easy this month. Maybe I’ll go back and turn that article into a video essay.

Video Work

Here’s my second attempt at play-and-talk gameplay. This one took some work – I actually recorded about seven versions of this video, because each of them was a different exercise in mic levels and trying to not sound moist. Still, this type of video is really fun to do.

Don’t worry, I don’t intend to go on like this endlessly! If I get more comfortable with this model, and get more subjects and games to play, I might do more of this. Any requests?

T-Shirt(s)!

I did a fair few shirts this month but the focal ones, the ones I consider ‘this month’s’ shirts are my Etoile Island sports team shirts which conspicuously tell Nerva and Grandville to get stuffed and also kind of disrespect Booty Bay.

You can get these shirts on Redbubble or Teespring (Mercy, Port Oakes, Cap Au, Sharkhead, St Martial).

Games!

Hey, I finished up Hook, Line & Sinker! I got to place an order for it! I also finalised the printing for my shipping (as in boats!) game, Freight Expectations, and I wrote a bit about that and how to write a rulebook using Unit Operations.

Also, this month, I put out a set of articles explaining the translation of game design from the videogame Bloodborne to my 4th edition game expansion, Hunter’s Dream. You can check them out: Parts 1, 2, and 3.

Personal Life!

As I’m writing this paragraph, it’s a week before my birthday, and I’m making decisions about how to handle a document that needs to be done by the end of the month, and orders for a convention that’s happening at the mid point.

The thing is? The way things feel right now, I kind of feel like I won’t have anything interesting to say about my personal life this April. It’s a full schedule. I wake up, I read and I write, I go to uni to teach, I come home, I write for the blog. It’s a time when I need to keep myself focused so there’s not that much going on in my life.

I did however get news this month that wonderfully, my friend’s daughter can now, if put on her belly, drag herself around in a circle. That’s super cool.

Making Big Things Small

It’s easy to make bigger things into smaller things.

Sometimes when I talk about a movie or a book or a tv series I’ll do it in a way that makes the content of that thing pretty insignificant to some other point I want to make. You don’t learn a damn thing about how to play Hyrule Warriors from me, but if you read the book you know some fundamental postmodern theory. In that, a big idea is crunched down into a smaller thing.

This has presented an awesome and dreadful problem for writing about two things I wanted to write about this month. First, the Animorphs series, a set of 64 books published over 7 years, and which mean an awful lot to me. It would be hard, if not impossible, for me to write an article about that series without discarding the enormity of what that series means to me. Animorphs is, to me, a very important series of books, and the importance of them involves a lot of quietly glossing over, let’s say, weaker bits, and the Very Different Time.

But if Animorphs is too big to talk about in one article, there is a vastness to the impact on my life of the work of Terry Pratchett. It is an embarassment perhaps to those of you who believe people shouldn’t be getting valuable life lessons from young readers’ books about gnomes and wizards, but I owe an enormous amount of my actual human character, the metaphors for my own existing to the work of this man. Do I discuss every book, one by one? That’s too much for a month – hell, the task of rereading every Pratchett book over the course of a year asks for a book a week, which is a pretty heavy task.

I could have filled this month with my favourite Pratchett books. With weeks of discussion of the Animorphs. But even then, doing that would feel, in a weird way, like a waste. They deserve more and better. They deserve to be enjoyed and approached without being a way to understand me. These works are, in my mind, a sort of holy writ: Not because they were rendered by the divine, but because they were so clearly not, and they gave me tools I needed to make me.

We’ll talk about some Pratchett stuff this month. I couldn’t not. But narrowing it down to two Pratchett books to talk about would be a hard task, to give you perspective on this.


Funny-odd not funny-haha but maybe funny-snort-through-the-nose-at-the-momentary-irony is that the role of someone who shows you the big things in small things is sort of the purpose of this blog. There are so many huge interesting things out there and so often we hide them from ourselves and think they have no relevance or interest to our lives. It is not even that I am capable of doing this to everything, or that I should be your font for all lineages of the vast, it’s just that I love to do it, love to show the vast in the small like it’s a kind of personal magical trick.

And when I sit down and seriously talk to myself about the excellent, the truly wonderful work that I love so much I cannot help but share it, I find myself lost.

There is simply too much that is too good.

April is… Talen Month!

Since my birthday falls in April, this month’s theme, for our Story Pile and Game Pile is going to be me-centric media. Expect this month to be full of stuff that matters to me, things that I’m talking about because I want to talk about them, and for some reason or another I’ve chosen not to.

How’s that different than normal? Surely everything I put on this blog is out there because I wanted to. Not really: There’s a bunch of stuff I haven’t written about, because I think it’s a bit too niche, a bit too specific, or reveal or relate to something really specific about myself. This isn’t like Decemberween, where I spend a month non-stop listing good things I like and hope you will try. This is going to feature some of the awkward faves or the painful drags, times when I take a game I have a beef with to task, or maybe talk about how a tv series handles fascist cults from the perspective of someone who’s been in one.

Last year, I did an in-depth read of the Infinity Engine games I loved, and in the process talked about modding communities, and the way Planescape Torment informed my development and maturity.

Expect something like that.

And we’re going to look at some stuff that’s ugly. Some stuff that may not uplift you or may not make you happy, and which I would normally leave alone because it exposes too much of me, of who I know I am.

That said, here’s a real quick lightning round. You may be afraid I’m going to go in on any of these topics this month, and you might have to avoid my blog for fear of Dealing With These Topics, I have no intention of talking about Undertale and its associated media, The World Ends With You, or the New She-Ra. Maybe if someone wants to pay me to write about those topics, I will, but for now, I think these topics just aren’t generally interesting enough to warrant the potential emotional harm that my (admittedly sensitive?) readership want.

I will try to CW some stuff this month, but broadly, if you like Ranty Talen or Talen On His Bullshit, this month is going to try and be that. A month to give myself permission to kick things I like down the stairs and not worry too much about anyone being over-sensitive about But What If Talen Says A Mean Thing About A Videogame I Bought.

Smoochin’ Algorithm Blues

This isn’t the kind of thing I wanted to do for Smooch Month, but I figure it’d be just a kind of lie if I wasn’t willing to admit it. Finding stuff to Story Pile for Smooch Month has been really hard.

Normally when I approach a topic it’s easy enough to start because I want to talk about things I find interesting. That means I have things already in mind for interest. If I wanted to talk about overrated RPGs, for example, I’d think ‘are there any games I think are bad but are critically acclaimed, oh, TWEWY, FFT and Undertale and that’s most of a month’s content done right there, no problem.’ When it comes to Smooch month though, I explicitly wanted to get out of my comfort zone.

Part of why is because I don’t watch a lot of smoochy media, because it mostly makes me unhappy, or reminds me of being unhappy. There was a time in my life, I, no joke, seriously sat on the verge of tears because of an anime opening theme subtitle, and the series it was from was DearS, which, if you don’t know it, good. It’s bad. Don’t watch it. It’s real real bad. Avoid it. Anyway, the point is, the times in my life when ‘romantic’ media hit me the hardest were some supremely messed up times, and that meant I responded to some dreadful garbage, movies that today I think of as actively bad, things that spoke to a person I’m not any more, and am supremely grateful that I’m not.

That meant that I’m both starting pretty fresh and, since ‘boy grouses about genre he doesn’t like’ is supremely dull, I wanted to take the chance to watch some Smooch Media that I could both talk about and maybe connect people to their new favourite thing but also broaden my tastes and horizons.

First I asked friends. I got some good suggestions, but not things I could use – Australian Netflix and Stan, after all. I wanted to avoid anything that needed shipping to make it good – so the Tangled series was right out, even though I like it a lot. I wanted to avoid movies that treated their audience like they were stupid, which meant a lot of rom-coms I knew were gone (Sarah Michelle Gellar has starred in some bunk). I also didn’t want to just watch action movies that had a romance in them, because it felt like cheating. No. This was about Smooch Media! That’s when I started looking at lists online, google searching ‘good romantic movies,’ and, well, that’s when I ran into the maw of the algorithm.

Did you know Kristen Stewart’s done a Tragic Lesbians Movie About Theatre? I did. It’s called Clouds of Sils Maria. Not going to talk about it here, it’s depressing as hell and is really more about the transient nature of fame and the disposable vision of women. How about Snow White And the Huntsman? Well, that’s an action film, and it’s really bad too, which is maddening because how hard can it be to make Snow White not garbage? Also didn’t write about Blue is the Warmest Colour because it’s really steamy and gay and that makes me really uncomfortable and exploitative. I read all of My Dragon Girlfriend, too which is also super steamy and gay, and that made me feel even more intrusive because it wasn’t a multimillion dollar international production. Mixed in amongst all these movies and series, though, there were all these things that the Algorithm thought I’d like, things like thrillers and horror movies and suspense movies which were all masquerading as Smooch movies, with the general message of Maybe Don’t.

This subject has been really hard to cover! And part of that is that when you ask the internet about ‘romantic media’ you get ten thousand answers that aren’t very helpful.

February is… Smooch Month!

Smooches are pretty cool.

They’re not a universal positive; not everyone is pro-smooch, and not everyone is interested in smooching media.

It used to be that there were two things I had to remember in February: Valentines’ Day, and my grandmother’s birthday, the day beforehand. But Fox and I don’t really do Valentines’ day, and my grandmother passed away last year, which means that now, for me, February is a sort of nonspecific month of romance.

I was tempted to do a silly ‘romantic universes’ themed month, and maybe you’ll see that come up (that’s a teaser, folks). Still, I considered whether or not I should check out my lineup of loved media, of games I’d been meaning to play, to see if I could see a thread of games or media about people doin’ smooches in a fun and sexy way, and I was kinda despairing to notice that I largely did not. In fact, of my very small collection of Actually Bought Permanent Media (like, DVDs and stuff), I owned almost nothing you could consider a proper romantic movie or series.

this is here to generate a weird and funny preview image on twitter

That seemed, to me, like a fine time to take the bull by the horny. This February, we’re going to talk about games and media that falls under the broad common heading of romances. And no silly buggers: I’m not going to cover Shrek Cart and talk about it in the context of how it’s technically about a romance because Fiona existed in a movie.

Buckle up! You’re going to get to see an awkward bisexual dude with a wonky dating history talk about games and shows with cute people in them, and the Vicarious Smooch-Want those media are going to try and instil in us.

2019 Going Forward!

2018 I set down some achievable goals, and I met them mostly. There were some complications with some of it, but I largely feel I met the goals. Particularly the largest, hardest goals were met.

So here’s this year’s clear, distinct, achievable goals.

  • One t-shirt design a month.
  • Daily blog posts, with weekly entries for:
    • a Game Pile article, on (my) Monday mornings
    • a Story Pile article, on (my) Friday mornings
  • One video a month, released near the 20th.

There’s not going to be Magic articles this year, at least not on a regular schedule and I’ll go into why later in the week. I intend to make each month themed, maybe with a description of what the theme is at the start of the month, but we’ll see. You might notice there’s also not a monthly game release, too, and we’ll get into why on Patreon.

Now, off the blog there are going to be a few commitments throughout the year that I already expect. The biggest one is my PhD needs what’s called an RPR – Research Progress Report. RPR is basically a stand-up presentation where I stand in front of a room full of my peers, my PhD Supervisor, other academics in the field, my sub-supervisor, and try to justify the past two years of reading lots of books and talking about board games.

It is terrifying.

Just imagine standing up in front of a room full of people tacitly asking the question well who do you think you’re fooling. And everyone in that room is an expert and it’s going to be awful. That is the big thing this year, study wise. Maybe that’ll effect the schedule on the blog, we’ll have to see!

Last year had high-productivity points and low-productivity points. Right now as I write this the future log is only 15 articles long; throughout 2018 there were points where it was 60 posts, which I don’t mind – after all, I like being able to take some days off. Still, this year is going to feature a lot of reading and writing that doesn’t get to go on this blog, and we’ll see how that works out.

Announcing: Decemberween 2018!

I liked Decemberween last year. Just as how I try to spend October being spooky and April being self-indulgent, I wanted to spend December just celebrating things. December is a month of minimal-bummers, positive boosting and just straight-up gratitude and encouragement for the people around me. It’s a time to reconsider the things that have happened around me, boost other people’s projects and work in a non-urgent way, and reflect, hopefully, on the things that have happened this year that are good. I won’t be talking about my projects this month, downer topics or weirdo theories until the new year.

Game Pile, MTG, and Story Pile articles will continue – don’t worry about that!

Queued Down

Well this is weird.

See, one of the things that this blog has been doing now for over a year now in its Daily Blog Adventure, is pretty much posting constantly, thanks to coordination from a bullet journal system I’ve gotten very comfortable using. Story Pile posts are usually a month or two out in advance.

It may surprise you that these Story Pile posts are in some cases very thoroughly researched. I double check the things I want to talk about. Sometimes I cut them down, sometimes a whole point of an article is removed because I simply don’t want to be mean. I was pretty harsh, I feel, in my final assessment of The Punisher series, but that final assessment was mild compared to the positively blistering rage I had for the series. I was genuinely offended that The Punisher wanted to try and represent itself as a series that could have an opinion about the question of gun control. That had chunks of talk about American attitudes towards guns and about what it means when you esteem a symbol of violence more than the lives of children, and… I cut it. I cut all of it because it wasn’t really that important. I don’t think everyone who watched The Punisher is watching it to make something of it, I think most of them watched it because they liked the character in Daredevil or somewhere else and they were curious.

Earlier in the month, my queue ran out.

Not entirely. There were still a lot of queued posts. I just haven’t done much in October, in part because it was the final month of the semester, and its closing argument was marking every student’s work as quickly as possible. This is non ideal. It also means that over the course of four days, I have been reading roughly two books worth of text, then double checking that to existing media and texts I know, conferring with other tutors, then providing feedback in a way the student can grapple with.

Simply put, I’ve been pretty fried.

Then I look at the things I could Story Pile About. I was looking forward to the end of October and the Spooky Month because it meant I could Story Pile about anything again. I could write about whatever cool thing seized me. I had a list! I have a list! There’s Netflix shows and movies and albums and books and I have really, really enjoyed reconnecting with older stories as I share them with my nephews. But important to all this is that my Story Pile posts are actually pretty hard to just hammer out. Even when I’m talking about something I know well, I still need to spend time referencing it, still need to spend time checking it out.

That’s something I hope you appreciate. I don’t shoot from the hip with my Story Pile posts. They’re meant to be interesting and thoughtful. To some extent I want to be able to justify what I have to say about a piece of media even if I’m being a sassy jerk.

Minecraft, MMOs and Word Counts

I write every day.

Well, okay.

I wrote every day. I write every day, most every day. Sometimes things will interfere with that. These past two weeks, the thing that’s interfered has been being sick.

Oh don’t worry, it’s not now now. This is back in September. September I got a flu so serious it knocked me flat out and resulted in a giant pile of just forgotten paperwork. I got things done, but there were all these small things I was on top of that I’m not on top of right now, as I write this – in October.

During this time I did climb back into feeling okay, and started looking at my dwindling backlog of writing. It sit usually somewhere around 30 to 40 posts. As I write this, it’s dipped down to 27 – but I was really riding high when I got sick, nearly 45 posts, all on schedule. I’m very happy with my blog productivity, and I’m happy with how often I write.

While I was sick, I reinstalled Minecraft. And that resulted in something… interesting.

See, back in 2017, I thought that I had to stop playing MMO-like games because they were sapping my creativity. I’d spend a lot of time on grinding and building and learning lore and all those things to roleplay in these spaces, and that work was, in general, pulling me away from my blog. I kept anxiously shifting to writing tasks or creative work, because I was afraid of all the time I was losing to playing the MMOs, and I found myself in this awful loop of just refreshing two or three websites endlessly in a loop for hours at a time, to make sure I didn’t miss opportunities to RP that I might enjoy.

Right now, I have Minecraft open and I have basically been running around in a small loop for most of the afternoon. It’s 3AM now. That’s not sensible. That’s not healthy. And part of it is that I kept breaking my attention from the tasks I wanted to do to run around in Minecraft, move near a farm or set up a thing or check what I was doing, and that, that’s where I put a handle to the problem I was having with MMOs. The problem I was having with my blog.

October has a theme of spooky games. I, as I write this, still haven’t got my final spooky game lined up and writte up. This is really late for me – I’m usually a whole month ahead of time, so I’m a bit bummed out that I haven’t done a good job there. Even as I sit here writing this I feel the urge to tab across and double check things, to see if I missed things, to see if there’s something important I need to do.

I realise that the problem isn’t that MMOs are failing me or that Minecraft is too addictive.

I’m just anxious.

And I’m so anxious I’m losing whole days on the same simple mental loop.

This sucks.

October 2018 Wrapup!

October! The spookiest of months!

This month featured a strong theme through the Game Pile and Story Pile of spooky stuff. I mostly avoided horror videogames; I’m not really qualified to talk about the fundamental problems of games like Outlast and nobody is going to listen to me on things like Outlast 2. Instead, I looked at tabletop games and, then, because I’d tried to make a video about it, a tiny complaint about SOMA.

Note to self: Maybe do one on The Infernals sometime.

The articles I wrote this month that I was the most proud of were Your Worst Fan, which was about how even bad people who are stupid jerks will interpret media, Christopher Hitchens Was Just Good At Being A Dick, which is kinda self-explanatory, an article on Voice Acting I’ve had in the queue since July, and of course, my review of Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning, a middling book of pish.

The video this month was on Comstockery, an an effort to talk about some of the horror in media studies that has nothing to do with murders as we understand them. Lots of other media studies folk wanna talk about horror and the greater tools of storytelling as applied to it, after all. It seems to me that the horror experts are best served talking about horror in a big way – but I know me some messed up puritanical deviants.

October’s game is on the way, coming over the ocean in the form of a game that is still not quite properly named. There’s a print-and-play game up on my Patreon I made this month, which might get expanded (I hope) depending on playtesting and feedback.

The October shirts are these Eat Trash, Live Free shirts. You can get them on Redbubble (Raccoon and Ibis) and on Teepublic (Raccoon and Ibis).

October’s theme proved challenging. I had to coordinate what I was doing, which I recognised curtailed some of my common behaviours – pull open a window, dump text in it and throw it in the queue. It shaped my consumption habits for a month, and my horror game consumption just dropped off because all my attempts to play horror games got boring. I felt like I just didn’t have enough interesting things to say about horror, too. Horror’s a thing I feel you sort of need to build a corpus of expertise around to avoid saying anything pedestrian. You don’t need me to introduce the concept of The Final Girl, for example.

Also there are some horror games I played this year that I didn’t think to save my writing about until October. That would have been much smarter than what I did.

Anyway, onward!

September 2018 Wrapup!

September. Another working month, which is nice, but also the month where my PhD Action Progress Report or APR was due. This is a big scary document that opens with HAVE YOU FAILED THIS YEAR? and kinda gets rougher from there. Also, I’ve been doing some lecture appearances at uni, which is pretty cool!

This month, only one video got made – and well, I made it in August. It was about the comedy special Nanette and the limits of media forms.

As I write this, in September, I haven’t done much video editing at all, which worries me a bit. I have a big thing planned, but thanks to a schedule thing for October, I don’t know if it’ll go up until November. If you liked Meaningless Heterotopia, this one is more in that vein – longer form.

I do kind of want to do more Lets Plays with commentary, so you might see one of them, with a solo commentary track rather than necessarily doing it with Fox again. Not that I don’t love Fox to pieces, it’s just easier to do things on my own, and I really liked my Commander Keen video.

What game got made in September?

Well, as of writing this, it’s The Pipesm’n Conspiracy, and it is flying its way to Canadia to become part of the grand festival of comedy and charity that is DESERT BUS 2018 OH MY GOD I DID THE THING. And the rest of the month has been nervously fretting for it to arrive.

The September shirt is Voregoisie, Because the Rich are Made of Meat. In black and white.

August 2018 Wrapup!

August! Start of a semester, a new class, lots of process work and not a lot of work on game development. It’s the first month I’ve felt really uncomfortable with the amount of gamedev time I had going on, and I’m not happy making you wait. In blog posts, I liked my review of Luke Cage Season 2 that examined characters in terms of what isn’t normally admitted in media, an article summarising the ways infrastructure fails ‘Asia’ in board games, and how we can start pushing against that, this treatment of Glory In The Thunder as an example of textual frame of reference, and I was really happy with this graph-full examination of choices I’m making for Boat Game.

Not one, but two videos this month. One of them was an academic experiment I liked a bit and want to do more of, and one was a format choice.

First up, I played Space Quest I and Fox and I talked about it. This is like the Let’s Drown Out format I really liked before Yahtzee just became incredibly intolerable. This is half made up of explaining a game to someone who’s never played it (with appropriate complaints), and half made of conversation about related design decisions. Plus I like hanging out with Fox.

This other one is a bit more of a heavy lift but I really liked doing it once I had the play of it clocked. I might do this for other old DOS-era games, with games like Traffic Department and Blake Stone in my mind.

Neither of these videos got the traction that Meaningless heterotopia did, but they do different things and are a bit easier to make.

This month’s game release was or is or –

At the time of this blog post, it’s not launched. Sorry. Postal holdups keep me from being able to pull the trigger on it. The game is called Clout and it should be available as a print-and-play in a few hours for my Patrons unless something grabs me from another source.

And this month’s shirt? Egg in black and white. I don’t honestly know why I did this design beyond I just found it kinda funny.

I’m working again, which means that I have another thing chunking into my time, which is largely not game-related. That’s a bummer, but on the other hand, it means more money to do things like hire artists? So that’s cool.

Hypothetically?

July 2018 Wrapup!

I blogged every day, so that’s that goal met. The most notable blog posts of July included the four Kamen Rider essays, which I really enjoyed writing. They were originally going to be a video, but I realised the scope of the editing was just beyond me without source material, and I’d have to go hunting on Youtube for video I could use. I also liked my post showing the day-long process of creating the engine for a boat card game, and the surprisingly positive hindsight view I have of Rise of the Eldrazi.

Next up, the video! This month’s video was Meaningless Heterotopia, a 20 minute long video essay about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, a game that has nothing to say despite being convinced it has absolutely got something to say. This video was quite a bit of work, but I did it almost a month before it got released. Notably, this video got made because I already had made video of the gameplay experience, which has taught me about when to record video footage, and how ‘play experience’ cuts together into an interesting video.

I think in hindsight, with a few mistakes notwithstanding (there’s a point where some animations are out of sync), I learned a lot making this. The biggest problem is that in my efforts to keep the video moving, to avoid still images, I shot through a lot of things way too fast. It’d have been better to space out my speech more, if I’d given the text on screen more room to breath.

That said, it hit almost 400 views in a few days and is at 600 views as I write this, which is a huge improvement over Ziggurat. Thank you so much!

This month’s game release was Domains of Meh, which went up on DriveThruCards. It’s a little trick-taking army game, and had to get made between a bunch of other stuff, so I’m pretty happy with how it worked out. The Nyarr is almost good to launch too, I’m just waiting on the last of the artists to get back to me. Working with other people has a time frame all of its own!

Here’s this month’s t-shirt: BAD BEETS.

I also had to get back on unemployment benefits in anticipation of work not coming through, which meant I got into that bureaucracy for just long enough to be reminded of how much it sucked.

Also, my grandmother died.

June 2018 Wrapup

What happened in June? Lots of things!

First up, June’s blog posts! I had a lot I was really proud of here. First of all, in the academic blogging, I wrote about how autoethnography is important to help erase base assumptions about the perfection of objectivity. I wrote about Hyrule Warriors and how it contributes to some of our worst feelings of awful nerd garbage. I also wrote two posts exploring Arrested Development, split between the old and new versions, and even two fun history posts about The Winged Hussars and the Saigo Rebellion.

We did hit an interesting milestone, though. As of tomorrow’s post (which is a Story Pile post, hence doing this today), I will have posted daily on this blog, non stop, for an entire year.There have been some hiccups, but they’re all scheduling problems – times when a blog post was in the queue and didn’t happen. Beyond that, here is a grid of dots all nicely lined up.This month’s shirt design was a little bit of an afterthought – I haven’t been playing around with shirt designs too much. Still, it was the ten year anniversary of the infamous loss meme, and I felt it would be a nice easy thing to commemorate. Also, it made Ettin laugh, which really is all the incentive I need to do something silly these days.

You can get this shirt on my Redbubble. I would be deeply surprised if anyone did.

What about the monthly game content? Well, here’s where fingers are crossed and breath is held. As I write this, I’m waiting on the last bits of art from artists for the Nyarr. Any collaborative work is slower and more complicated than anything else, but, here’s hoping in the next few days I can come back and change this to indicate we got this launched within June.

This month’s video project, on the other hand, was a video exploring Ziggurat, a wonderful game I got for free, and how it had a fundamentally different philosophy to Hexen, the game it’s most compared to.

The big lesson of this game was how ‘play overlaid with spoken essay and visual aids’ could come together reasonably nicely! With a little more forward planning I think I could really make something of this style.

It was the last few weeks of teaching and marking for the first semester, which means as of right now I’m not employed, which is a bummer. If you have any work for graphic or game design or the like, let me know!

I also did a bit more academic blogging, and got through some more books, or chunks thereof for my PhD. There’s been a sort of restructure for that, meaning that I’m doing more longer reads of the works to keep pace with my supervisor, so instead of trying to do a surface impression of a host of books I’m instead able to give in-depth reading on chapters at a time.

June is also a month of birthdays! Fox had one, as did one of her family members, and one of mine. During this, I had a few cooking experiments, which I’ll write about later when I’m more comfortable with the experience of what I did. There’s a certain silly incestuousness of recipes, really – I got the recipes off the internet, why should I retell you about them? Did I do anything major to change them? Probably not worth it. Still, if I find something I think is worth reading, I’ll get onto that.

Anyway, if you’re keeping track, July is going to feature a series of Story Pile entries focused on Kamen Rider W, so if you were hanging out for those essays, here we go. I did want to make them as video essays, but I don’t yet have the material, and I didn’t want to leave it longer.

I wonder if it’s a bad idea to turn articles into videos. I mean that’s what I do already – I write an article for reading, and then put a video to it. So I don’t like, avoid that. Anyway, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

May 2018 Wrapup

And now here we are at the end of May!

Daily posts again! This month’s favourite articles include The Whole Sort Of General Mish Mosh Of Confrontation, Helping You Write When You Can’t Write, and my review of Far Cry 4. Also this month I started making blog posts more directly from my PhD readings.

This month’s t-shirt is a pair of shirts – both designed to evoke the old TMs of Pokemon games. You can get them both on Redbubble!

Game launched? May’s game was The Roads To Springdell here at Invincible Ink and DriveThruCards! This time, it’s a gentle, pastoral trick-taking builder game, where you can make your own little town build up out of nothing.

Springdell is another game made possible by Patreon, thanks to people helping to finance the stock art I purchased from Anabal Casis.

This month’s video is honestly a bit weak, but it’s weak for a reason. Most of my videos so far have been some variety of a slide show, and I haven’t gotten into the habit of recording video of every game I play yet. This meant that when I was done with a game, reinstalling it and getting footage of it was basically another week’s work, time I didn’t have. Instead, I assigned myself a goal, to produce a video in four hours.

It’s weak and it’s inconsistant but I learned a lot from the tools. So I’m happy with that.

As always, this work is being financed, in part by my Patreon! As before, this is a way you can get tailored content for you! We’ve got a possible thing happening over there for patrons about getting copies of games for free or expanded copies of games for the print-and-players.

This month I started recording how often I ate fast food, how often I had no-meat meals, and tried to arrange so that once a week, I had a non-meat day. It’s been interesting and honestly, kind of fun so far.

Thoughts on Ethical Jealousy

These past few months I’ve been stewing on the idea of ethical jealousy. There’s this notion that’s been haunting the world of criticism, pretty much since the dawn of the webcomic era, that the work of the critic is echoed with the notional frailty of jealousy. Anyone who examines a creative work, there’s always something of an assumption, is doing it out of a sadness at their own inability to create such a thing themselves.

Now I don’t think that jealousy is never a factor in criticism but I think it is very much not the factor people think it is. In my case, specifically, though, I do know there are times when I swallow jealousy at a work. I don’t really do long-form critiques of some things, knowing that I can’t trust myself to separate my envy of the work from the work.

I don’t think that everything we think of as a vice has to be seen that way. I don’t think I have to see the wish, the yearning to have done something, to be able to do something, as an evil. It’s, in a way, a valuing – I can see the value in that thing, and wish that I had had some hand in it. A healthier way, a more ideal way, would be to see the creation and its existence as worthy, in and of itself – but I see the admission of envy, the acceptance of jealousy, to be in part a step towards that more blessed autumnal state.

And so, when I see myself jealous, I admit it; I accept it; and I seek to not let that jealousy corrode my appreciation, but in its admission, be disempowered. Do not let that you want become a poison that depletes your ability to appreciate what a thing is.