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!
Martha, another month trails by in the grasp of this strangest of years of my life. We stand here at the precipice of June, with a word pit opening beneath me and my reaffirming in my most sincere belief that students, are good. I look forward to seeing you again upon my return to public transport.
Hey, that was fast. May just whizzed by, perhaps because we’ve all gotten really good at frittering away our home time. In fact, my home time has been preeeetty stretched so I kind of feel like I haven’t had much free time, as much as I’ve mostly been doing things to destress. Still had some time for some blog experiments, woop woop.
What’s wild is that I don’t feel like I did a lot of stuff this month, like somehow there are fewer articles, but I check the scheduler and yep, sure did do one every day this month. I’ve been rebuilding the backlog, and if you track this kind of thing, I had one day this month where I didn’t write at least one article. This is good. I did write about How To Be A Gardevoir in a D&D game, which was received really well. I vented at length about Deep Space 9 and even included a page of memes which did absolutely stunning numbers.
This month’s shirt design was waiting in the wings for a while, but I’m happy it came out so well. I mean look at that on black.
This month’s video was going to be one of two. I made a tiny video explaining something I made in Mincraft, which made the video making process fast and easy and I was very happy with it. One practice run, one run at the video, boom, it got made.
I was going to do a Lets-Play-And-Chat, but it didn’t line up with any of my friends, time-wise, and I got under a crunch for work at the end of the month. So be it, that sucks but this is why we build contingencies. Pretty happy with what I did regardless.
Yeah, apparently this was something of a mystery! A point that was made by Ettin when this came up is that to get to my Youtube channel is like, five not intuitive steps.
Based on this, I’m doing some minor updates to places around the site. My About page now mentions my Youtube channel, there’s a button on the sidebar – this button! – that takes you to my Youtube channel, and… and…
I’m kinda not sure what else to do?
See, one of the worst things to have in your brain is a negative feedback loop that interprets silence as disinterest from people who are too polite to say anything. I know for a fact a lot of my friends don’t read my blog, and that’s something I’ve kind of had to become okay with. That becoming okayness however has not actually fixed the brain problem, because it means that I kind of intuitively see everyone I know who doesn’t read the blog or listen to the podcast or follow the twitter as disinterested and actively not interested in stuff. The idea they might not have noticed or not checked it out right now or the presence of being advertised on a miserable hellsite full of sadness might be diverting their interest in me talking about videogames doesn’t seem to latch into my head.
Content Warning: Pandemic related thoughts on efficiency.
April 2020 continued as a strange month in this strange year. Quarantine continued – I left the house maybe five times all month, each time for grocery travel. I have seen my family only at a few arm’s reach and I’ve been doing all my work over the internet. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve stopped my phone being on silent all the time and answer it now. What a wild month.
This blog, themed around me centric media was a hard one to do but we did get there in the end, even if there were two points where posts almost didn’t go up on time – closer than I’d like to be, to be quite honest. Obviously, in a month like this, most of the articles are favourites – either topics I’d saved up for the rest of the year or burning opinions that inspired fast shots form the hip.
Still, I really liked my pieces on Bleach and the Ur-Quan. The Ur-Quan article was something of an experiment, too – I wasn’t sure if a deep dive into the lore and storytelling of a game universe like that would appeal. I’d love to do more of that if people liked it. I weirdly went in on Star Wars twice this month, with an article about how bad Sabacc is (very) and how good Ewoks are (very). I talked about my beloved helicopter boy Blades, from the Transformers universe because apparently I’ve just become a parody of my own interests.
This month you learned how to become Corvo Attano and maybe picked up some tips on teleporter bullshit in 4th edition D&D, that’s great too. I talked about how important inns are to play narrative, about how oaths and pacts are things to enoble characters, not to punish them, and I insulted everyone who complained about murder hobos. Then throw in that I did a run-down of my Eresh Protectorate knightly orders for those of you who like that kind of thing!
I also finally put out there the article about Atheist Oppression, which summarises as yes we are, and thanks to bad actors, I can’t be taken seriously talking about it.
This month’s shirt design coincidentally ties into this month’s release of Final Fantasy Seven Again.
And this month’s video was, in hindsight, really easy to make! I got a good handle on how to make this kind of video over all my time practicing and I may find myself doing more stuff like this – long rundowns of character groupings. At least if you enjoyed them, please do let me know.
My personal life is just very stressful. There’s a lot of work that needs doing, there’s not a lot of boundaries between types of work and there’s a real challenge keeping the days of the week straight. I don’t want to accidentally miss the day in the week when I need to put the recycling out, for example.
Those of us who get through this are going to do it by being careful and being caring. So that’s what I’m trying.
You know sometimes I need a good solid month to just set aside the more diplomatic versions of these opinions and let it all out in one long, extremely focused, extremely sincere complaint. Last year I dedicated the month of April to talking sincerely and wholeheartedly about works I had strong feelings about, personally, things that I thought could be useful for learning something about me, as a person, and as a result I wrote some of my favourite articles of the whole year.
It’s good, and I think it’s a good way to sequester media into specific spaces. Maybe this will be the month where I talk long-form about some things I’m assumed to love that I don’t. Maybe I’ll try and convince you of the value of stuff I liked but which doesn’t hold up. Maybe I’ll just argue with a stranger who thinks Scalding Tarns are essential for new players to get into Magic: The Gathering.
The important thing is, this is going to be a month where the primary drive on whether or not I talk about a topic is because it would otherwise centre me too much. There are plenty of times I’ve talked about work that made me feel bad, and generally left my feelings out of it, trying to focus instead on the best details about it, or present the work knowing people who cared about it a great deal.
This is also a time when you might learn something about stuff I really like, the stuff that might help you understand me. I’ve been told these past few years all sorts of truly amazing things by people who I thought knew me really well, about what they assumed I liked or didn’t like, and it made me realise that I’ve been remiss in sharing elements of myself with people who are literally my friends.
Expect a bit of fighty, expect a bit of fanboying, and expect me to maybe finally shout about why I don’t think a Recent Darling Of The Space I’m In is in fact, good!
Should be fun!
Hasn’t this been a thing.
What happened here, on this blog?
Well, Kenny Rogers died, which interrupted my scheduled articles and I found myself looking very hard at myself and the person that, in no small part, Kenny helped shape. I wasn’t happy with what I saw. I finally penned a reference point to show people what fanagement was about. The weirdly popular Claw Gloves article went up – I blame Freyja and her gang of accessorisingly extra cat people. The wrapup of the Round Pokemon thread went up, and I liked that. I took the 3rd Edition D&D Epic Level Handbook to task, and that was fun.
On a small bummer, also I put up an article – which I was very proud of – about Hatsune Miku’s song Odds n Ends, which didn’t get a lot of attention or reaction. The Vocaloid contingent must not respond to things the way the Touhou Project contingent do.
This month’s shirt is coincidentally well timed, and to my surprise, has the shortest time between releasing the shirt and someone buying it of anything I’ve made: It took a day before someone bought a shirt of this design.
This month’s video is kind of a packing peanut. See, I had two other videos in mind, and a third in script stage – but none of them could be easily or conveniently made, which meant that it was extremely hard to get them done in the time frame I needed. Which means you get this, a half hour tour of my current big Minecraft project: A great big hole in the wall keep.
Personal life… well.
Classes started up again, and two weeks in, we decided to shift to online classes. Then the conversation about whether or not we do that became compulsory, and then things got real. I’m already a creature inclined to spend weeks at a time in my own house – just the way I prefer to be – and the effort of going out to do other things ran into that.
I can’t do much to help, but I can try to avoid giving anyone else stress. I won’t talk much about the situation here, because I think the last thing I should be doing is giving you all more reasons to feel anxious and distressed. We’re going to do our best to cope, and we’re going to do our best to take care of one another, together, all the time.
See you tomorrow.
Smooch month draws to a close, and you know, while I found it very hard to produce content this month, the last few days rounding out content for it was a lot of fun, especially when I got the video made and uploaded (which is typically the last thing I do each month, to give myself as much time as possible to react).
Articles this month have been lots of fun, too! I really like my piece on Poison Ivy, which it turns out was super timely because shortly before it went up, DC Comics tried to No Homo the statue of Harley and Ivy they made and sold, so, you know, weird, cowards. I did an article about ways you can be a high-Charisma character in 4e D&D without necessarily just being a sorcerer, and that was fun to write too. Also, the article I did about how clingy Planeswalkers could be made me laugh and I think the targeted audience thought it was funny. Also, finally, I did a serious piece on the roll to seduce that’s a thing in D&D and discourse around same. It’s a really interesting topic!
This month’s shirt is dedicated to Karen. And Casey. And a demon who knows who she is. Really a lot of my friends seem to be happier with the idea of biting or punching me. Weird.
Annnnnd then there was this month’s video! Which was a really, really big one and the size of it made it hard to mix up techniques. Still, I was very happy with the kind of content, the fact it was asked for by friends on twitter, and that I had fun talking about a lot of different and interesting things while just approaching the idea of hey is this Fire Emblem character hot?
And personal life stuff? I got to spend a lot of time with my family, who I love heaps; I got to spend time with Fox, who I love heaps; and this month, the summer rains have hit and that means the oppressive heat is sometimes mixed with gentle, sprinkling rain.
I’m doing okay. And okay yes part of that is punching through this month’s difficult workload elements (Smoochy games are so hard y’all), but now I’m looking at two months ahead of me and they’re pretty exciting.
Ah, February. February, the month with Valentines’ Day in it. February, the shortest month. February, the worst month, the hottest part of summer, the month of my grandmother’s birthday, the month in which romantically themed candies and sexcapade based romps will abound and people will share their definitely not bothersome jokes about marriage. February.
It is a month for smooches, a month for media about smooches, or about conspicuously choosing not to have smooches. During this month you can expect the game pile to look at romance games, which… probably means more visual novels, like, actual visual novels about finding and making relationships, and the story pile to talk about media that wants to talk to the experience of havin’ a smooch or not having a smooch.
I’m being very ambiguous here because the reality is that it’s hard to define what ‘romantic’ media even is any more in a useful way, and last year’s experiment of playing visual novels and writing about them was a deeply alienating experience of finding games that literally had no space for someone like me while doing things that made me feel guilty. I skirted the topic at the time, because heaven forfend I be honest about how a videogame makes me feel if it’s anything but positive!
This is gunna be a month where I talk about games and media where interpersonal romance is focal; where I look at works I normally avoid and try to bring them to bear on ideas that do mean something to me; and who knows, I may even talk a little bit about romance, building relationships, and things I’ve learned after losing my entire friend network leaving the church.
It’s gunna be fun and hopefully I’ll find some other romcoms to goof around with, because they’re more fun than thought.
New year, new set of blog posts, new planning tools, and how have they gone? This month, I spent more time on blog posts for longer, which made it so some blog posts were kinda longer than I really expected them to be. There are fewer 400-500 word posts, and a lot more 1000 worders. I am real happy with the article about Sidekicks, which even gets to do a funny Sonic The Hedgehog thing, I liked my article about Overwhelm, where I learned a valuable lesson about difficulty in games, and for just being funny on its own merits, I liked my article about the Taco T-Shirt Cannon.
This month’s video was a stilted little half hour of me running around playing a little bugge and trying very hard not to cough in your ear… and it turns out I didn’t render it correctly. Don’t worry, I will be fixing this and reuploading, but thanks to CanCon, I haven’t had that time to work.
Shirts! I had a lot of great shirts this week, with three different Allstar Themed designs:
It was CanCon month! That eats a ton of time and space! Then, I took the great opportunity to be sick for a week! While we were getting ready for CanCon! That was a terrible idea!
Still, we’re here, we’re okay, and things are not as bad as they could be, so let’s keep going! ♥
Hey, do you want to write more?
I write a lot, and you may notice that if you frequent this blog and notice that for the past thousand days or more it’s pretty much always been updated with something new, that hovers around the 200-500 word mark, depending on how well I keep focused on my point aardvark. Well, part of how I keep a schedule of my blog going is having a chart for if I’ve got a post set up for the next day.
I also have ‘events’ each week; two posts that fit a schedule, Game Pile and Story Pile, and they happen on specific week days. I made something for that, which I used to do on my bullet journal, which was great, except for two things I learned the hard way:
- Tracking one full year in a paper book can get pretty tatty.
- Any time I misplace my bullet journal, I kind of get paralysed about what to work on next.
With that in mind, for my blog tracking, I decided it was time to set something up that I could access as conveniently as my blog itself, and so, I made a google sheets spreadsheet for this. And since it’s a handy tool, and you can just copy them if you use google sheets: Here!
It’s pretty simple. By giving each month a theme or notes, I can make sure that any articles that don’t necessarily fit a current month may go in a later one that fits it better. By having these trackers on hand I can make sure I don’t do four or five articles on a theme in a month and risk boring audiences that don’t like them. This lets me look at my work overall, for a whole year, and plan ahead.
Just a little tool! Hope it’s useful!
Alright, let’s look forward to 20/20!
Currently, this blog is a daily blog. Every day, there’s an article, with each week featuring a Story Pile article and a Game Pile article. Story pile is when I look at a piece of media (like a TV series, a movie, an album, or something sometimes more obtuse), and Game Pile is when I look at a game. I also release, each month, a Video on Youtube, and a t-shirt design.
That’s it! That’s the basic plan.
Now, what I’m going to be doing this year is laying out our schedule of theme months. Every even numbered month is going to have a theme, all concentrated into one spot. I like theme months, they give me something to focus on, and our themes this year are as follows:
- February is SMOOCH MONTH
- April is TALEN MONTH
- June is PRIDE MONTH
- August is TRICKS MONTH
- October is DREAD MONTH
- December is DECEMBERWEEN
Last year taught me that forward planning is valuable, and now I’m trying to do that with an even longer view. There are articles that came out in 2019 that in hindsight, I would have wanted to put at a different time of the year – to put them in a theme month that fits them best. That means that right now I’ve made a few articles that are sitting way down in the hopper. I’ll share how I plan that out later, but for now, expect a bit more cohesion.
There are also a few types of articles I like doing but I want to space them out in the interest of not just repeating myself endlessly. There’s room for one-and-two parters like I did with 2019’s orc-and-elf articles, but I want to keep the blog varied rather than just burrowing down into one topic for a long time. Twitter is really good for those momentary obsessions, the blog is where I want to tidy it up.
Here are the things I expect to do once a month, maybe pushed around a bit to avoid landing in theme months:
- One Magic The Gathering article a month. You might see two, if I’m feisty.
- One How To Be article. These take some planning and research.
- One Jimmy Buffett album article. These are super easy and I don’t wanna just spit them all out at once.
- One 4th Edition D&D Themed Article. This is stuff like overviewing specific books or character classes or things 4e did that differentiate it from 3.5, or things you should borrow for your characters or your own games.
- One 3.5th Edition D&D Themed Article. It’s super easy to dunk on old books which I can now critically regard, and I don’t want to be too mean but I do love going back and looking at weird or dumb 3.5 game rules or flavour problems.
If this sounds okay to you, great! And if you’d like more of any of these things or less of them, let me know. I want this blog to be approachable and fun and engaging, and understand these are not the only things you’re going to see.
Overall, the thing that most likely gets an article type reiterated on is positive reactions. Someone once told me she didn’t read the magic articles I wrote, and because I had no other responses on that front, I just… didn’t write any magic articles for a bit. Then someone said they really missed them and boom they came back.
If there’s content you want, ask me for it, because odds are really good I’ll respond and try and do more of it.
Decemberween is over, and with it a month of gratitude and promotion of my friends and things my friends have done. I don’t think of this as a time to go back and say ‘hey, check out these previous posts,’ especially in this case. Just click the Decemberween 2019 tag and check them out. ♥
This month’s video is hanging out with me and Fox playing Minecraft. This was a really hard video to record, because Fox and I are in the same room, and her mic and my mic are different beasts. There were some possible alternatives – we record one audio track through one of the two mics, but our two computers are very distant. Turning up the gain to get us both would involve getting more background noise, and clearing that out would make us sound really distant.
Shirts! Well, don’t worry, I absolutely did make shirts this December (I mean, c’mon, I have a hard time stopping). But since the Decemberween slots wound up taking up all this month, I decided to bump talking about them to January. Basically, there are going to be a fairly large number of January shirt designs, and if you wanna go check out my Redbubble or Teepublic store, the designs are there right now.
This month, there’s been some work done on LFG and the upcoming card game Die Rich, which will hopefully happen in January! Looking back on games this year, there were two major releases – Freight Expectations and Hook, Line & Sinker, and we did our first time selling games in a standup store, which I’ll talk about more next year when we have the whole thing summarised.
On my personal life front, though, it is now Summer. That means that the temperature is higher in the mornings, and Elli, the dog, will hug close to me of a morning, forcing me to wake up earlier. This means if I can’t sleep, or if I get to sleep late, I can’t catch up in the mornings. This sucks! It’s also full of fire and fear! That also sucks! And existential anxiety! That sucks too!
It’s also Christmas! Which is a time for stress out of the wazoo! But it’s also a time when there are people I can share my time with, time where I can hold out my arms, lift, and care, and hug and love… and that’s pretty nice.
Oh and bonus detail: My arm and back are really messed by my sleep patterns? Don’t know what to do about that.
I did say that part of Decemberween would be giving you stuff that cost very little to engage with, right? Well, how about this very blog, where there’s a bunch of stuff that you might have missed?
I get readership statistics on my blog, which I can break down to teach me all sorts of interesting things. One interesting thing is that even a mild bit of interest from Reddit explodes my statistics, and also that the most popular thing I’ve ever done is probably always going to be the No Magic Colour Is Transphobic piece. Magic content gets more attention, reddit-friendly content gets more attention, it do be like that though.
Here’s a curated list of the top stuff that I wrote this year, sorted by how much I like them. Note that this year has featured three hundred and sixty five articles, so this is going to give you a long list of maybe thirty of the ones I like the best out of the ones that audiences have indicated they like the best.
Okay, so what are some of my game pile articles that I liked? Well, I wrote about Kingdom Hearts, after watching a video on it and I think the ensuring research was so fascinating I might be able to be considered something of a fan of it? Look, there’s a nonzero chance I’m going to buy this game to talk about it more in depth.
Easily my favourite, most self-indulgent piece this year was my two parter discussing Exalted and Exalted: The Infernals. Not only were these articles extremely fun to write and read, I’ve seriously considered turning them into long-form videos. They’re about one of the most bombastically excessive, beautifully evocative and dizzingly incompetent Roleplaying Game sourcebooks and settings I’ve ever seen. Bonus, it has probably my favourite joke of the whole year in it.
It wasn’t a proper Game Pile article, but back in June I did break down the enormous and preposterous Fabula Nova Crystallis in a summary fashion (and missed some important details and context, by the way!). I may still hate how excessive and extra everything Final Fantasy is trying to do has become, but you gotta respect the completely wasteful and foolhardy development process, or don’t!
I also made some videos about games! Particularly, I made one about Mirror’s Edge and Platform Capitalism, one about Skyrim and Gaps In Language, one about Love Is Strange, The Game You Asked For, and one about Abe’s Oddysee and Meatpunk. I’m pretty happy with these (I need to get used to using backing audio to make my voice sound less like a lecture in an empty room), but I’m glad at how I’ve improved and sped up at making these videos.
I talked about three critical darlings this year: Majora’s Mask, Bloodborne, and Braid, and one of those games got a real kicking. I looked at a bunch of visual novels as well, and of them, my favourite, DoraKone still stands out to me as being worth sharing and suggesting you check out.
Finally, at the start of the year, I codified a new direction on kindness and cruelty with my view of Risk of Rain. Be kind with energy, be cruel with purpose (Exalted).
Dungeons & Dragons!
Oo boy! Lots of stuff this year, and some of it surprisingly well received. None of my Hunter’s Dream work cracked the metaphorical top twenty, but that doesn’t matter that much. What does surprise me is that double digit groups of people wanted to check out my takes on 4th Edition D&D.
First, an article about how 4th Edition’s structure limited it. Then there was an article about how you should give 4th edition a shot (because it’s cheap). Then another article, about making halloweeny heroes for 4th edition, and finally, my favourite so far, the How To Be Hilda article.
There was also some setting stuff I wrote about, things that are more generally applicable than just my 4th edition treatment, which mostly focused on, weirdly, races. There’s an article about how Dwarves relate to goblins (dwarves are bad, yo), my article about how I and only I get Tieflings right, and the twin pair of articles about Orcs and Elves.
The Story Pile!
The most popular Story Pile this year was my piece on Touhou Project as a storytelling canon, which it turns out, was one of those social groups that click links a lot, especially if it’s saying that they are doing something good. I don’t imagine ‘Touhou is hollow and everything meaningful to it is created by the fans’ would fly well!
I took a month to go in on the new Voltron series, a project I greatly relished, and still hold that series out as an excellent and positive franchise that more people in fandom should look to, and that more writers and creators should embrace because of its positive attitude towards fandom. Hunk sucks though.
I finally sat down and pulled apart a retro anime series called Geobreeders, because it’s one of those things that kind of just hangs around the back of my mind, a weird and remotely removed unimportant anime series that was nonetheless composed mostly out of the mind of a lone creator’s personal obsesssions. I went in on one of my favourite characters in Young Justice and even talked about my favourite Disney movie, Lilo And Stitch.
Finally, I explained not anything about the story but about the presence in the culture of the immense anime titan Neon Genesis Evangelion. Mixed in amongst this there’s also a little slip about the Gen 1 Transformers, The Stunticons Are Gay.
This year brought with it a handful of different pieces about longer-form criticism, tools for talking about game making and media criticism. One, I got to codify my problem with TvTropes Criticism, and a longer form response to Chris Franklin’s piece where The DM Is Removed. Inexplicably, my piece on how a game of Scrabble ends was really popular?
I also talked about the role of erotic roleplay in academic studies of people and their relationships in online spaces, which was in response to a year of watching people who I used to respect deciding to mock people for using the internet to have sex.
At the start of this year I said I wasn’t going to write about Magic regularly. This is something I’m glad I did, but also it’s kinda funny that this year would have been the best year to write about it weekly because there was always something going on to write about. There were four major set releases over the course of the year, there was a banning, a whole new format introduced, major story related stuff happening, announcements and special projects and all of that and hey, we may have gotten rid of Nicol Bolas! For a bit!
Still, I did write some stuff about Magic, and I even collaborated with Fox on a two hour long video where she basically passed her opinions on which members of the cast she wanted to do smooches on.
Then I did some articles about custom magic design: One about why we should ignore the bottom of the deck, and one about how to manage your word counts and why that matters.
And then there was the absolute doorbuster of an article I put out in April, where I spent three thousand god damn words talking about how the discourse comparing a random distribution physical game without a central server was and had the same moral pitfalls as a Gacha game might. Since I wrote it, literally nobody I know has criticised me for it, so I have to assume I just got it right, and now that discourse is over.
And that’s that! It’s a bunch of reading that you, the audience, has deemed to be popular and good! thank you for your attention and I hope you keep reading!
This is the time of year when the last thing I want you to read is Here’s How This TV Show Should Make You Sad, or Videogames Are Made By Assholes, Maybe, and so instead, I dedicate December to a festival of fun stuff.
Now, that means this month is going to be about trying to put forwards people who don’t qualify by my normal metrics as Game Pile or Story Pile candidates. It isn’t to say they’re not good, mind you. I try to avoid putting people making non-commercial or extremely indie work on the same platform as work that is, in no small part because it seems unfair to compare people with a marketing budget to people with none.
The aim is going to be stuff you can enjoy with minimal expenditure or cost, stuff that’s good for sharing or good for binging, stuff that I feel grateful for in small and personal ways, and stuff that yes, unashamedly, puts forwards my friends.
Hope you have fun this month!
Quite frankly, I was very proud of myself this month. I wrote a lot of posts, I got caught up on my backlog, I have planning done for next year, and along with that I also wrote some articles that seemed to hit it off with an audience.
First, the worldbuilding articles about orcs and elves, where I discuss the ways I’m choosing to make these two races different from one another and not have to shoulder the idea of being Human Subraces (in a way racists point to as meaningful). I also wrote about Races of Destiny, an article that’s been in the can for a while now about kind of reviewing one of the many 3.5 sourcebooks and giving it a kicking for silly ideas. Of course the best D&D related article I did this month, and which I hope to make a series out of was this month’s How To Be, an article about being HIL-DA, HIL-DA!
I made an article about a truly absurd Atla Palani commander deck, which has been a lot of fun to playtest now I’ve got all the cards. I also put down some words about how much I liked A Wrinkle In Time, a movie of a book that I completely failed to know about until after I’d seen the movie.
Also, with this month I themed the Game Pile entries around ‘games I didn’t actually play,’ which resulted in articles about Skyrim yes, and venting about Doki Doki Literature Club, but also an article about Kingdom Hearts which has pushed me into the space of Kingdom Hearts fandom. It’s really weird to say but I think I’m technically a fan of Kingdom Hearts now, just because Jacqueline Meritt’s video is so good and the thing she loves is so bad. Look, what I’m saying is I can tell you what Norting is now. This also got me thinking about how gay fanfiction is the storytelling medium of a queer youth and how many people learned about sex from these sources, or at least, got an idea of it from these sources.
Basically, lots of articles I’m happy with this month!
This month’s video was about Skyrim. When it started out, this video was going to be about how controlling language was a key way that our cult controlled us, and therefore, there were some ideas like bisexuality or asexuality or feminism that were themselves, blunted and hidden concepts, and how that sometimes that can lead to people having a magical recognition when they finally get acquainted with a word that explains some concept they didn’t know how to grapple with before.
What I wound up doing instead is a more broad vision of talking about language (and therefore, a bit more of Skyrim), and how the game uses its presentation of language to advance your character and transform the world. That’s really neat, and I managed to do it without just endlessly dunking on Skyrim for being eh.
This month, I should have released a Christmas shirt so you can get something that’ll work as a gift. I guess this will work if you have teachers in your life and they’re fed up with marking. You can get this design on Redbubble (in white text or black text) or on Teepublic (again, in white text or black text).
Games games games, well, we have four major notes about games this month.
First, this month my Nsburg tourism game, the Pipesm’n Conspiracy, was mentioned once more on Mail Time by Loading Ready Run:
That’s cool! I’m really hoping this means that next Desert Bus I might be able to (say) donate five or ten copies of the game to be distributed to other donors? That’s my aim. It seems to me best as a raffle prize. It’s a smol game!
Second, I was able to do a bunch of ‘mask’ prototypes for a few of my games! That’s where I get some cards, and scribble on them and I even shared some pictures of it, particularly for my game of feckless, useless Roman nobles, currently temporarily known as Desidia. Desidia is now at the state where I am so comfortable with the playtest, I can construct the game on the spot, which means after my testing, what I need to do is construct some playtest or print-and-play copies for my patrons. Which is cool! There’s also some work on this hero drafting game, which was poleaxed for a little bit as supergroup drama happened.
Third and finally, though, Fox did a bunch of work on some characters that are going to be a part of a thing for fans of LFG!
Now, on the personal life front, well… November is a month with Desert Bus in it, which I love, and the ceremonial rewatching of everything in desert bus that we missed, which I’m not quite so fan of because it eats a lot of time. It’s also exam and final assignment season, which means in the start of the month I have all my free time consumed by trying to gauge student work, double checking the work against one another, talking with other tutors, negotiating with myself about marks, about whether I’m doing the right thing by my students, about doing the right thing by the work, if I’m preparing them for the future, and also avoiding sounding too mean.
I legitimately worry if the way I mark students during the semester is too different to the end of the semester. My mid-semester marks are about guiding them to produce better work at the end of the semester, and then I have to look at what and how they’ve taken that on board. Which means they can get five posts of feedback telling them ‘hey, have you thought about or tried this?’ and then an end mark of ‘good grief, what is this.’
I worry I’m too mean! I worry about being mean. That worries me that I worry about that.
Anyway, it’s back onto the reading horse this month. Maybe a little break for crimmus stuff, but broadly, I expect to be doing more daily reading and writing, which is great because I like doing those things and it’s one of the things my patreon subscribers are paying me for.
This month however, I did have an answer for everyone who asked how I was doing: I’m tired. I’ve been tired all month. I haven’t been sleeping great, or enough. I haven’t been doing things to help me recover. And I’ve been feeling so bad at how bad a job I’ve been doing at being a friend because of it.
And with that, spooky month draws to a close! Well, then, what happened during?
This month’s blog posts had a sort of mini-event feel to it. I’d planned to play some horror videogames and watch some horror movies and mostly found myself unhappy with the results, but I did get to finally put my thoughts out there on the fantastically terrifying Tickled.
I did a series of posts about me and my own experiences with trauma; stories about the first time I drowned, stories about the histories of serial killers and stories about the relationship I have to horror. Most importantly, though there was my reflection on the way ‘God’s Vengeance’ is more horrible and horrifying than anything a reasonable person would conceive of.
I didn’t wind up making a deep dive video about Bloodborne. I think that I can still turn this article into a video, maybe for greater access, but the footage of Bloodborne I tried to record off my PS4 just wasn’t available, so that was a bummer. In the end, though, I feel that the article is really good in no small part because I think it’s worth calling out the way that games are forgiven their sins if they are deemed to have Proper Goodness.
Also, I finally sat down and told the story of Acephale in a way that’s suitably creepy!
After the blog posts, though we had my video on Blood, which was fun to record and also pretty quick. I like making these videos about games as I play them, with a certain degree of freedom to discuss. I think that I’d like to maybe try doing them on-and-off.
I’m also finding I have more video ideas than I have video article ideas. I’ll deal with the way the scheduling works in the new year, but for now there may be a bit more casual chat game videos coming up.
T-shirts! I made a pair of spooky designs for November, both based on the Hunter’s Mark from Bloodborne. I like them! The Hunter’s Mark is one of those bits of iconography I love from games and I really appreciate the subtle joke of ‘I’s in the ‘Inside’ being marked differently.
Games we didn’t get tons of work done on! I did a bunch of playtesting of games I had already underway, but this month has been heavily focused on teaching, which means a lot of my creative time is spent exploring things that my students might be interested in, so I can meaningfully comment on it.
And finally, personally? I have felt really tired and groggy this October, which means a lot of work I’d have gotten done just melted away in hours of playing picross in bed while I tried to muster the energy to stand up.
For the month of October, my Story Pile, Game Pile and general posting will be wound around the theme of dread month. And why dread? Because I needed a word that didn’t exclude 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.
This isn’t really about Halloween per se, though I’m going to ues it as an excuse. Halloween isn’t a thing here, not really – people trick or treat in the hopes of finding anyone who might have treats and the one or two kids that turn up at our place who actually are trick or treating, we give them all the candy. But Halloween does mean that y’all have been rocking haunted twitter avatars since early September, and who am I to waste an opportunity?
And so this month, we’re going to have creepy stuff, horrible stuff, threatening stuff and critical self-examination of my relationship to fear and, you know, maybe some of that cult stuff. And I’ll probably mention Hitler!
I knew, ahead of time, this month would not be full of bangers. It’s been a busy month, with time spent on marking student work and time spent on a major component of my PhD. That means that the month of September was just not a time for writing to be done, certainly not writing I wanted to do. I still met my goals and made sure that every day something got added to the queue, but in a month of intense, terrifying writing when dealing with confrontational unreceptive audiences, I still put out some articles I liked: My three pieces on Pokemon Go and my fondness for Gen 5 Pokemon, for example, my rip on Titans for being bad (it is bad, boom gottem), and the Pop Stars article that was necessary to set up making fun of an album cover.
Technically, this is a two-video month. I put up a video of me showing off a Minecraft base I made, but only one person saw that, so it’s a bit of an unrelated non-factor. The other video this month is a bit of a voice-overy one that wants to connect Speed Running, Algorithms, Big Data and Neoliberalism, so what better to do than talk over Mirror’s Edge?
This month is also my first time dealing with my new upload speeds from my new ISP, which has meant that suddenly I get a few extra days of time to work with video. This time around, thanks to these improved speeds, I was able to download another person’s video (and used it with permission, don’t worry), to make making this video a shitload easier. Rather than needing to capture the video myself, I can use games I’ve already played and didn’t record (like Mirror’s Edge, which I at first played almost ten years ago) and instead focus on the writing, knowing that there’s video on hand that can be available if I ask for it.
So hey, my infrastructure has improved and my videomaking has been able to improve with it.
I’ve also taken on some advice from Chris Franklin, aka Campster, who noted that an hour or two of video essay is pretty wasteful and self-indulgent, and I realised that I don’t need to make a video an hour long to convey some very important, interesting points. That gives us ten minutes to run over the idea of Platform Capitalism and Speedrunning, as told by Mirror’s Edge.
Anyway, this month’s shirt is this Byleth inspired pair of designs:
I’m not a Fire Emblem person, but I did watch as for a chunk of August and September just kinda seeing my friend network dissolve under the presence of a Fire Emblem game releasing. I made these shirts for no greater reason than I think the iconography on the chest of Byleth is kinda interesting, but after extracting them I gotta say it’s kind of a rip how boring the dude set is.
Game work, not much has happened, but it’s been a big month (see below), but it is now the time when I start working on some games for University. Which is going to be interesting because I don’t honestly know how this projects outwards going on. I have a plan but is it going to work? Who knows.
In my personal life, this has been a very demanding month in terms of my University time (where I have had to meet the needs of my PhD) and my family time. The backlog of articles this month got as low as twelve at one point, but it did get brought back up, and we should be good to go into October, a month with a theme.
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.
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?
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.
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’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.
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.