Tagged: Decemberween 2018

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!