Tagged: Decemberween 2018

Decemberween: Ettin, Moreso

If you were here last year, which I’m getting a strong feeling you were, you might have seen me talking about Ettin. Ettin is a good egg, and this year he and I both got started on an adventure of Using Patreon To Finance Stuff.

Ettin is what I consider stubbornly imaginative. When you give Ettin a blank slate, he’s a little stymied. If he gets to set all the scope, it can be hard to get the spark to push against something and get going. This is why he’s good at writing within other people’s creative spaces, and why he’s good at writing ridiculous premises. You may find yourself thinking those things can’t work, and that’s when Ettin’s imagination kicks in and goes hell I’ll show you.

This means that throughout this year, each month, Ettin has taken two poll options, which usually are chosen by people who actively are trying to annoy him, and stitches them together into some kind of game concept space. Sometimes it’s a whole game – you’re not usually getting a dense mechanical engine as much as you’re getting an idea palette that you can use to inform the flavour of that kind of game that you were already going to run. It’s system agnostic, usually. The other thing is… Ettin’s really good at that. Most of these logos convey the idea behind them, and usually that idea is itself interesting enough that you know whether or not you like it.

You should check out his Patreon. He’s cool, he makes wonderfully silly ideas, and if you try and torment him it will only make him stronger.

Decemberween: abad1dea

Last year, I wrote about abad1dea, and this year I wrote about her perspective informing her books. I’d like to just go on about why my friend is really cool –

so I will.

abad1dea is one of those people with a huge wealth of expertise outside of mine. She’s not a card game or board game person, and her love of videogames is for a period and strata of games conspicuously different to mine. I learn a lot listening to her, about not just things that mattered to Americans, but about things that mattered to her.

She’s interested in very specific technical system problems of videogames – the way glitches work rather than just how to get glitches to happen. That’s stuff that can sometimes involve extremely complex computer science, and it’s not just that she understands it, but she understands how to talk about it in common language.

And boy, is that something that computer nerds are awful about.

It feels like every day or so whenever abad1dea talks about anything technical on twitter, someone is there to smarmily ‘correct’ her. It’s alway commafucking too – the kind of more-precise-than-thou unhelpful idiocy that assumes the speaker knows what she should have said, because they know what she should have meant, which inevitably, they don’t, because they’re not listening to her.

Being a woman on the internet, especially a visibly competent one, sucks.

It sucks especially because I’m not in that field of expertise and sometimes when she explains something, it’ll immediately click to me what she’s saying, and then I’ll watch her descend into ‘kindly rack off’ conversations with people who insist that it would be better if her statement had been more obtuse and less useful. That annoys me because it’s bad communication, but it’s definitely not my place to wade in.

abad1dea has focused on her music composing this year, and I’d like to share a link to her soundcloud here. Check it out!

Decemberween: Lucy Morris

Odds are good you might have seen this tweet, if you’re around my circles.

The woman behind it isn’t just a game developer, though. Lucy is an artist, a podcaster, a streamer, event organiser and games educator, and this year she’s been spending time building up her twitch following over at Party Shark.

Talking about a streamer is always tricky because like, mostly, streamers are just people and you just interact with them? But for the particular kind of content Fox and I wanted at several times this year, someone who was available during Australian evenings, actively moderated the chat, and wanted to include the audience in the experience, Lucy’s been a wonderful creator to watch.

I’d like to recommend her Vods of the Witchers 1-3, where you can get a solid experience of the whole game without having to play them, as filtered through a squawky New Zealander who knows a lot about user interface and design.

Decemberween: Fox!

Fox Lee, my partner, is an artist, designer, writer and web developer. She manages our websites, writes ad copy, edits rulebooks and creates entire games on her own. Fox has made a free otome game, which is great, and I recommend you go try it. That’s all been true as of last year.

This year, the games of ours that Fox contributed her art to include LFG, with its beautiful vibrant designs, Sparklebutt, which is… in development as I write this but it’s one good day from being done. Fox has had her own projects in the works, too, with Swan X Swan, an otome game modelled on Swan Lake, But Gay, which has had months of work poured into it.

She’s also managed basically our entire convention presence, including a heroic effort to get a presence at SMASH! despite a problem with our booking. She’s gotten us places to sleep, transport and printing and all while also hand-crafting goods like bookmarks and postcards. I know with my blog it’s focused on my work, and my own productivity, but Fox is an amazing creative and her work is fantastic and I love her and I’m proud of her and she’s great.

It’s kind of hard to talk about Fox without sounding like I’m just repeating myself.

Anyway. Happy Christmas Eve!

Decemberween: Calvin and Dee

Uh oh so

So uhhh

One of my friends turns out to kind of be a movie star?

A little bit?

Not really, but not not?

Calvin Wong Tze Loon, or, to me, ‘Calvin,’ is a writer, board game enthusiast, journalist and… in the movie Crazy Rich Asians? Which is pretty odd as a thing to just, you know, have happen in the middle of a year when you didn’t know it was coming. Oh hey, look, there’s the news, and wait why is Calvin sharing this.

But the glitz and glamour of… whoever made the movie aside, though, Calvin and his partner Dee are two very impotant people in the space of tabletop games, games journalism and games culture. They love what they love, but they’re also willing to hate what they hate. But unlike your typical game reviewer who wears those feelings out loud, the things they love are games and the things they hate are fucking racism.

I know full well I don’t have great sources in Malysia for anything. Between a language gap and a contextual hole, there’s a ton of stuff I simply don’t know and can’t get. And that means that when I find someone who is both of a place and willing to talk about it, I want to hear what that means.

This year, with Netrunner announcing its conclusion, Dee and Calvin spoke at length about how much they loved the game. They spoke not about ‘loving the community’ because anyone could do that, they talked about a vision of a future that wasn’t absent of people like them, a future that recognised a world of culture, that drew in everyone all over in the cyberpunk dystopia.

They’re also annoyingly hard to convince they need like official sites or places for their own stuff. But oh well, step by step.

Story Pile: Whatever Kuno’s Watching

Surprise!

I don’t watch a lot of anime. I don’t watch a lot of kid’s anime. I also only ever bring the perspective of an ex-cultist messed up angryboy who yells about cartoons. I’m also, if you’re not inclined to notice, not especially Horny On Main. My perspective is very much that of A Guy, for example. Some lines of dialogue are just not going to affect me the same way they might affect a more obviously queer person.

My brosis Kuno, available here on twitter, tweets at times about the anime they’re watching, in semiregular threads. Now, back when I started on Decemberween I was planning on making a post about some of Kuno’s best threads about anime, but … uh, they’re kind of a mess? Because twitter is a mess, itself. So instead I want to take this Story Pile entry to instead talk about the nature of the twitter thread, and its use as a commentary tool.

Throughout this year I wrote a series of threads reacting to Kamen Rider W, a series that Kuno gave me. In those threads, I made up and repeated a number of jokes – particularly, the model of Nothing Gay Was Happening, or The Sexaphones, or Has Gun, or The Guy Who Sucks.

This is a model of humour that’s very hard to create anywhere else, I feel, because it’s kind of like an MST3k presentation, but much longer form, and with a much more engaging media work. You kind of watch the material, read the thread, rewatch the media, or the thread inspires or reminds you of the media experience, or the thread is this out of context range of very slightly absurd things. At the same time, some of the jokes work best because they are sincere reactions to the show surprising the commentator, unlike the more formally written stuff of MST3k (usually).

And I wanted to say, this is a form of comedy that Kuno is really good at. I feel like trying to live up to their standards and make Kuno laugh made my threads better (and a bit less meanspirited). Because Kuno is incredibly funny and witty in this very emotionally raw and honest and soft way. It’s one thing when a guy like me with my range of privilege and damage can get up and make jokes about being hurt and kicked around, it’s like performatively throwing myself down the stairs. It’s another thing for them, with their context, to be able to make jokes that are both intensely dark but also uplifting and humanising.

If you follow Kuno and watch the kind of comedy they write about the shows they like to watch, you’re going to see stuff I’m never going to mention to you, enjoyed wholly and sincerely. And that’s great and I really think you should keep an eye out for the next time they do a thread on an animes.

Decemberween: The LiteNovelista

On my birthday two years ago, I explaind to ZandraVandra the idea of the lite novel, and how it was a useful format for Zandra’s skillset. Since then she’s released at least three (I don’t keep that close an eye), run multiple kickstarters and had her own work featured in local bookstores.

but

The other thing that’s happened from Zandra’s lite novels is the promotion of the genre in the area around her. Because it’s not just that she writes lite novels, it’s that people around her are realising they can too.

The Lite Novel is a format I like for a lot of reasons. It’s mixed media, it plays with its own format, and because it preloads a lot of what you’re getting going on, the stories have to decide what they can cut. It’s a good format for if you have one basic part of a story and you want to build on that part. It’s especially good for first writers, because you can build your technical skills by sharing with an audience, and what is going to draw that audience is direct and actual emotional resonance.

Which means that a lot of these stories are about gender feels, being written by people who want to look at and play with that idea space. So I’d just like to point to a small number of these creatives who deserve attention and feedback:

  • Ashlyn! Ashlyn helped organise the LiteNovelember jam, the  November based Lite Novel jam that I was recommending you try back then
  • London Snow! I’d like to highlight them and their work in particular, because there’s a lot of this Lite novel work that focuses on the girl experience of gender feels, and Snow brings an enby perspective.
  • Félicie! Another different perspective, Félicie brings along feelings about bodies, helplessness, softness and a kind of horny that you might not even realise is horny (which she insists is PERFECTLY WHOLESOME HORNY).

These are all creatives who want an audience and want feedback, and are mostly playing in the space of stories about feelings with magical realism and a lack of high-stakes tension. If you want to read some stuff about monsters and feelings and not be afraid that the story’s going to leap out with some transphobic nonsense at you, check them out!

There were also two Lite Novel jams this year, and there’s a bunch of free stuff you can check out if you want to read this kind of stuff! Please, give them a little of your time, and a little attention.

If you’re not interested in lite novels, though, you should still check these things out, to see how low the boundaries on ‘finished art’ need to be. You might think your creative project doesn’t have enough ‘stuff’ to qualify as worth sharing, and I want you to check out work like this and realise that no, maybe you can.

Decemberween: Echoes in the Dark

Last year one of my earliest Decemberween entries was the work of my friend Leastwise, aka Erik, aka Big Scrumples Downtown*. If you don’t want to click that link (and well, hey, who has the time), I talked about how we met playing The Secret World and more specifically, in its player-driven roleplay fiction space. Leasty showed in this case that he had both an appreciation for weaving the mystical with the real, and a historical leftist perspective that was a little more conducive to recognising just how much of our world’s bastardry was directly connected to extremely bastard people getting what they wanted, and how many interesting stories there were in a history that wasn’t written by the winners.

Leasty and I bemoaned how The Secret World didn’t really have an audience interested in our kind of storytelling and roleplaying, and while I went about my business here, Leastie was doing something about it.

Leastwise made a Blades in the Dark hack, called Echoes in the Dark. It’s a system, it has lore, and it’s designed to focus on desperate efforts in desperate times, but instead of the fixation on how that’s traumatic and breaks you, Echoes in the Dark wants to focus on how small groups of individuals against impossible forces can still make change, make things good, and lift together.

The principle borrows from the urban fantasy origin of The Secret World; you have these large conspiracies with their competing interests. They’re much like the factions of Blades, but instead of a dozen small groups of potentially varied character, these conspiracies are large and powerful but fractured into their many groups.

I think Leastie’s idea is great and I want you to check it out if that sounds interesting to you at all.


* Nobody calls him this

Decemberween: The Curiosity Show

Something weird that happened in my life the past few years is just how much the stuff I’ve been watching and reading lately has been contemporary. I’m used to a childhood where everything I saw was five years old, where the music I listened to was at most recent from just before I was born, where you saw one new movie a year. Thanks to this, now, I tend to watch media that’s either relatively new (like the last ten years) or well beforehand, before I was even born.

Back when I was a kid, things that got shared in the cult were either old (especially in the case of books) or several years out of date. Television was never really new stuff that I could watch, it was mostly reruns – just the nature of the beast. I didn’t really think anything of it, I mean, I was seven, what new content am I going to be yearning for?

One show that I watched on the rerun loop through the 90s was The Curiosity Show, a show that I was surprised to learn was not a universal touchstone amongst my peer group. Turns out that Fox didn’t like anything that wasn’t a cartoon (not even the Muppets), and most of my other friends had more up-to-date stuff to watch or did things like ‘hang out with friends’ on the weekends.

When it stopped being a thing that happened on Saturday mornings though, on the boring channel that didn’t get the cartoons that I wasn’t allowed to watch, The Curiosity Show or sometimes just Curiosity Show faded from my memory mostly only sticking around as one of those shows with a really awful theme tune that I thought deserved to mention in complaining about awful theme tunes.

Anyway, turns out the show ran from 1972 to 1989 which is ridiculous. It was a show about a pair of dorky scientists in bad sweaters talking about home-makeable experiments, and while I love the charm of it in hindsight it’s so incredibly weird to look back on it. They filled hours of programming with this? Really? And why is it so engaging? And why do I keep watching segments of it, if not just to make fun of the sweaters?

Curiosity Show is on Youtube – not in its entirety, but piecemeal, and seemingly, officially. It was Youtube before Youtube, a series of five minute videos on something being presented by someone who probably made the video in his shed. And it was lovely and charming. I’ve watched a bunch of it this year and some of it has been wonderful to see how science has moved on, and some of it just presents good or clever arts and crafts. It’s great stuff!

I am kinda bummed out to learn that one of the hosts, Dr Deane Hutton, is a Christian Scientist, a horrible religious organisation that gets babies killed. Bit of a downer to end on, but hey, I learned it, so I guess so do you now. That’s what curiosity’s all about.

Decemberween: Growth

Last year, last Decemberween, I wrote about my friend Cae. Cae is great. Cae is also why I have in my life, Dani, who is also great. These two friends this year dedicated to do something special.

Cae is a regular creative. You may know some of her work in Caves of Qud, or her piece Bloom. She’s active on twitter, does microfiction threads, and busks for change as a writer.

Dani, on the other hand, is a little more obscure. They’re not the same kind of heavily productive creative that Cae is. Dani is a code wizard and a pilot and an explorer and a napper. They care about a lot of the same things and the same themes as Cae does, and so, the two of them together, got together this year and they wrote a book. A book, called Growth, that you can now check out the preview as they go through the process of editing it.

Growth is about superpowers, about change, about transformation and transition. It’s also about flower people and roommates and social spaces that we grow into even as we build them.

Decemberween: Dogs (Not The Netflix Series)

Dogs are just great.

Yeah, I know, that’s not exactly hard hitting games journalism or nothing. I don’t care. This has been a year featuring a lot of stressful and sad things and consistantly I find that one thing that can usually pull Fox or me out of a bad mood is seeing a new dog.

Sometimes they’re just big chonkers sitting outside the mall patiently waiting. Sometimes they’re super smiley friendly pups who want to make friends at the park. Sometimes they’re sitting in the back of a ute as it whizzes past, seemingly smiling into the wind as it whips around them.

And of course, we have Elli, the lovely spindly bike-rack of a dog.

We have rearranged out living room this year. GDQ and Desert Bus convinced us that we do want a shared screen in our living space, finally, and so we set one up. That means I spend more time on the floor, in our beanbags, where Elli can walk over and flumph on me while I work and write.

And it is healing and nice and good.

Here’s a picture of Elli.

Decemberween: ASMRtists

Hey, I have a hard time sleeping. I experience the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), a pleasant effect in the back of my head caused by a variety of audio effects. I’ve taken to listening to ASMR audio this year in order to take control of my sleep schedule and to manage my stress levels. This has so far been better than my standard Be Angry All The Time Forever policy.

Anyway, I’m going to link some ASMRtists I listen to because their format works well for me and what I use it for. First of all, I like ASMR Glow‘s sci-fi roleplay videos. They’re deliberately unreal but don’t go too over the top and don’t make me feel embarassed.

I also like listening to ASMRequests, who has a quirky sense of humour I like a lot. She doesn’t do a lot very actively right now, but her ASMR work has featured some really interesting 360 VR stuff (not my thing), some very sincere product inspections, and she has the character of Salmon. Salmon is adorable and shady and awkward, so if you want that kind of work it’s very good.

He’s not technically ASMR, but David Bull‘s youtube channel features lots of long-form restful videos of things like wood carving. I don’t find his work triggers the response, but it’s all very sweet and wholesome so it can work to keep me restful.

The ASMRtist Ephemeral Rift produces both a lot of content, usually an hour or so long, and often with long, restful pauses on particular soundscapes. Not everything he makes is for me, but he uses ASMR to both create a fictive space (such as his Arkham Asylum stories) and to contextualise gentle conversations. He’s also a male voice that doesn’t bother me, which are not too common in the landscape.

Lastly, there’s Goodnight Moon, who I want to highlight because her work is very aesthetically interesting. She’s done long-form essays (?) on things like local landmarks; videos about explaining the process of makeup, hairstyling, and even making ASMR videos. Also, Goodnight Moon has some very subtle queer coding that might make it more comforting for those massive gays amongst you – she occasionally references a girlfriend, and talks to the viewer with only the occasional expectations that they are femme.

Here are some. You might like ’em, if you don’t, it’s not a problem.

Decemberween: Homestar Runner!

What’s something from when you were young that’s still good?

I don’t mean something that when you go back to it still has something to it, still gives you nostalgia. I mean something that when you reach back to share it with someone makes you laugh now even though you’ve changed. Most of my early life is this smear of false memories, confused experiences and violence. The time I feel confident about my memory doesn’t really kick in until my teenage years, and one of the cartoons I love from that time, one of the things I still revisit and quote and use as an example for other things is the wonderful, imaginative, nonsense world of Homestar Runner.

I’ve talked about it before – in my MASK review and my review of the Homestar Runner videogame. This year, I started watching it again – in large passages, too. See, now I have nephews. And you know what works out really well for connecting with them? Helping them understand your sense of humour and your frame of reference? Sharing it with them.

If you haven’t partaken of the Star Runner Homs, consider this a recommendation to check them out. They’ll probably bounce off you, if odds are anything to go by. Maybe you tried them a little but they weren’t your thing at the time. Maybe you need to have been an imaginative and embarassing dork to click into the mindspace of a kid who thinks he’s the coolest supervillain ever. I can’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy it. But I don’t care if you don’t enjoy it, because Homestar Runner has been so formative to me, it’s been able to both sarcastically codify ideas in my own mind and help me appreciate the joy of playing and being a dork for its own sake.

There’s a pure joy in Homestar Runner. A handful of ideas that have just echoed with me; ideas like Decemberween, Buy All Our Playsets And Toys, Don’t Play With 2 Many Knivez, about making things that can be bad, the dynamics that look bad forced, Do You Has The Times, I’mma, and – just a host of ways my language and mind have been guided by loving this series. Hell, Homestar Runner made a recurrent joke about realising when a funny comment isn’t actually funny years before Twitter.

But I mean, I call this month of celebrations of things I love Decemberween for a reason, and this is where I got it.

Decemberween: JK Rockin’

Jenn is a friend I made at a convention, a few years ago. Our first major interaction was one where I was being called upon to judge a panel about fanfiction and queerbaiting and her first line in the whole event on the mic was, as I remember, an angry ‘LET THE QUEERS FUCK.’

Jenn is great and great in one of those ways where I don’t want to provide description myself. Proud and angry with absolute reason, she is fearsome and powerful and I want to encourage you to follow her on twitter.

Jenn did something this year really cool that I wanted to highlight. There’s this problem we have where we tend to think of some forms of creation as ‘lesser’ because of how they’re made. The twitter thread is basically the babby essay, for example. I wanted to bring to your attention the absolutely heroic twitter thread that Jenn made this year, following her audiobook reading of the Harry Potter series.

This thread is thirteen thousand words. It’s not just an essay, it’s almost a thesis. This many words is basically a book. It’s easily a commentary track for the entire series of books, but it’s also got something thanks to Twitter breaking up the thoughts. It isn’t meant to be long form reading but rather serialised commentary, and thanks to the text it references setting the timer, you’re going to be buoyed along with the reading as you listen.

I really like this. I don’t follow it well, because I haven’t listened to these books, but this is a really cool, interesting medium for critique and reflection on a work. You should check it out, and if you want to start on media critique or talking about media forms that really matter to you this can be an interesting good start.

Decemberween: Desert Bus

This year, I contributed a print-on-demand game, The Pipesm’n Conspiracy, to the Desert Bus for Hope 2018 event. I’ve shared some pictures of this game, both in development and once it was finalised.

The game was made over the course of a month, and printed at Gamecrafter, then sent to the LRR folks. I have never handled a copy of this game, but I’ve tested a prototype I made myself.

It was made into a silent auction, where it it raised a thousand dollars for Child’s Play, with a bid of $987.65. This obviously blows my mind and I’ve spent the intervening time processing the feelings as a result. I’m confused, I’m stunned, I’m honestly ashamed – because I know the work that went in to getting that stuff in place.

To tell you the story, briefly, of how this happened; I made the game, in my home, on cards and in GIMP. I then exported the files and sent those to The Gamecrafter, and had them print and send them to Vancouver, to my friend Hazel.  At this point, expected delivery was within the week, but something went wrong, and instead they were delayed on the way to her.

That means they arrived at Hazel’s place late. Hazel is in Vancouver, which for the Munchlaxen amongst you is basically the next city over from Victoria, its destination.

Hazel received the games, then bagged them as per Desert Bus requests. Then, with the deadline ticking down, as we fumbled through the records for address information, we did our best to find our shipping options that would get it to the right place at the right time. We almost got it right, but I want to shout out to Hazel here – she was willing to personally get on the ferry right there and detective work her way to the right location to hand the game over to people personally to make sure it got there on time.

She didn’t have to do that, as we got her the address, but I messed up on the information, and that meant the prize got there but wasn’t labelled for Desert Bus and went into general Mail Time.

What happened after that point was, thanks to encouragement on the Discord when my prize wasn’t showing up on the Desert Bus page, I contacted the Prize people, who then – while they were very busy– went digging through packages for my mislabelled one, found it, put it on the website, put it on the schedule, and that’s how it got to happen.

I feel awful about putting people out like this.

I want to thank Hazel so much for her part in this – she did nothing wrong, she executed on the information I gave her perfectly. She gave me tracking information which was invaluable for getting the right package. I also want to thank the hard work of Fugi (Foo-Jee) and Ashley Turner (and anyone who helped her, who I cannot name by name), in getting the prize into the pool. Everyone involved was doing other stuff, they were busy, and I made everything a bit harder, and a bit more complicated. I’m so embarassed by this messup and I’m sorry that it went the way it did.

I’ve been trying to approach LoadingReadyRun with my games for a while; you might remember the ridiculous way I got excited when they opened some of my games on Mail Time last year. Except thanks to a cock-up on my end, they arrived without boxes and therefore, without rulebooks, a point of unprofessionalism that also hugely embarasses me. I don’t like twitch chat very much, so I feel very bad being this person @-ing people on twitter like I’m an exciteable fan going oo oo Mr Stark, Mr Lauder, please pay attention to me!

Desert Bus is an amazing charity that does things that matter to me a lot; it aims to be inclusive and respectful and indulgent, which is what I want out of my games. This year they passed the $5,000,000 lifetime earning mark, brought in dozens of amazing people, and in a tiny way, in the tiniest of ways, I was part of that. Not only was I part of that, but people involved in that worked to keep my contribution from falling away. They didn’t need my thing to raise that money, they didn’t need it. They could have kept it for next year, or told me sorry, you messed up, or sorry, we’re too busy.

They could have and they didn’t.

I feel ashamed that it’s necessary, but I am so, so grateful to the people who spent their time and effort in such an incredibly busy time to make something like that happen, to let me and Hazel be part of this.

Desert Bus is wonderful and good and as much as I hate the way I lose a week of my life just paying attention to this stream, I am so blessed by the work and actions of the people involved to be included in it.

Thank you, Desert Bus.

Decemberween: Big Stevie Dee

First up hand on heart, I like Steve Dee‘s games. That’s a weird thing to disclose, because it’s normally the other way around. They’re not the kind of games I play, but I have bought some of them, because I like having them and they have good mechanical ideas that I can use for my own projects. That doesn’t reflect on my opinion of him as a person, though.

There’s this idea I have as a game developer that I want to hear from people who have something going on other than games development. Games Development As Identity is kind of how you wind up with these small, insular groupings of games that feel similar, even if they have huge or small budgets. There are lots of Games Developers who got into Games Development by being Games Developers.

Steve Dee came to my house this year, and he spoke to me about dogs.

He spoke to me about dogs, because he was here to give us lessons in understanding and helping our dog. Elli, who is a beautiful but somewhat silly dog. And in one afternoon, Steve was not only able to explain to me behaviour from our dog that bore out as true, but he was able to do it in a way that made sense to me.

That’s an under-appreciated skill in game design. You’re trying to communicate a way things work to people through rules, through game play. Steve has it, but crucially, Steve works at it.

Decemberween: My PhD Supervisor

This PhD scares the hell out of me.

It’s not a rational fear, by the way. From what I can tell the biggest part of the PhD is doing a lot of cataloguing so I can put my – fairly interesting but not groundbreaking – idea into a greater historical context. What I’m doing, the reason I want to be doing it, that’s clear to me – I want academia to be able to talk about games better, in terms of them as media objects, as things that let people see the world, heal themselves, understand complex problems, and solve bigger problems.

PhDs are not a small amount of work. I’m okay with the work.

What scares me about it is the idea that any minute now someone, anyone, will turn to me and say “Okay, but who do you think you’re fooling?” and I’m back in an ACE school where there’s a right answer and I picked the wrong one. This has never happened. It never will happen. It’s a persistent fear nonetheless.

But my supervisor recognises this messed up part of my head, and is kind enough to keep reminding me that I don’t need to think this way. Pushing me to build not just what I’m working on, but the tools and habits that are going to make me better at building it. Recognising very real things – like my grandmother dying and the importance of marking – while still driving me to expanding and improving where I’m weak.

It’s something that’s really helped on this incredibly weird journey.

I really appreciate it and I just wanted to say it’s very nice to have the feeling someone is in my corner. And I don’t want to let them down.

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!