We who are about to die salute you

2014-04-09_00002

I just suffered my first real ‘bad end’ in X-COM: Enemy Unknown/Within. Brainwashed comm operators sabotaged my base and, having just come off a string of terror missions leaving most of my top-ranked soldiers KIA and my high-end MECs in for repairs, I didn’t stand much of a chance against the ensuing alien horde. So it goes.

Starting off on a fresh file with the Enemy Within expansion appears to have been a big mistake, as there are a lot of balance issues and weird staggering of events that make it difficult to proceed conservatively, even if I felt like it. As it is, I’m playing chiefly to have something to play. There are few enough games that can be played one-handed (my dominant hand is still, unfortunately, too injured to do much more than press Enter occasionally), and fewer still that don’t seem to fall into the trough of either puzzle games or sims, and better the devil that you know, I guess.

Still, something’s been rolling around in my head since I read Michael Lutz’s piece on First-Person Scholar about “replay value” as a quality of performance art. In it, Lutz suggests that the reason Spelunky expresses (that ol’ canard) “replayability” for him is not just the emergent dungeon design, but the particulars of its interlocking parts.

A scholar specializing in drama and performance art, [Peggy] Phelan has influentially argued that “performance becomes itself through disappearance”. According to Phelan, performance’s chief attribute is its ephemerality, its execution in a particular way, by particular actors, in a present moment that can never be reproduced [...]

I replay Spelunky not simply because it has varied or hidden content, but because the experience of losing unexpectedly and then restarting is so fundamental to the play experience. Now in addition to the first encounter with the ghost, the ghosts of many, many dead Spelunkers figuratively crowd the peripheries of my gameplay. The satisfaction of a successful run is nonexistent without the memory of the myriad failures that precede it, and even the smallest achievement is followed, inevitably, by another parade of deaths -– but the specter of future accomplishment has already been conjured.

I’d like to dispense with the idea of “future accomplishment” here — I only include the end of the quote so as not to change Lutz’s meaning — and focus, really, on the performance of loss. Because I like the idea of playing through doomed scenarios, not in anticipation of some 11th hour Hollywood cliche, but to see it all crumble as well it must.

Too dark? I don’t know. I remain convinced that a major issue many people had with the original Mass Effect 3 ending was that you couldn’t really save the day. Not how you wanted. Not how the series had set you up to believe you could. And I actually rather liked that the game pulled the rug out from underneath you like that. It changed the rules and made every win state horribly unacceptable. Love it. Give me more.

Another game I managed to play recently was Will O’Neill’s Actual Sunlight. It’s a damned triggering game and I needed a lot of self-care afterwards because — spoiler — the protagonist almost surely kills himself at the end, no matter what you do. But I suppose I’m glad I played it because that’s the point of the game, to reveal in the harshest terms the raw brutality of this man’s depression. Or, as someone suggested to me when I discussed it with them afterwards:

I feel like [Actual Sunlight] is a game about using the hopelessness of the worst case scenario to make the possibility of hope more apparent.

You can’t “win” Actual Sunlight. You can only participate in a doomed situation. If I replayed the base defense mission in Enemy Within a hundred times I’d probably get no closer to completing it, simply by virtue of how poorly equipped my remaining units are (the same way Evan, we might say, was not adequately equipped to combat his suicidality). No, it’s not about the “specter of future accomplishment” here, not within the context of these units or these representations. It’s more about that certain poetic catharsis gained from bringing something to the only end available to us.

Put another way, my Enemy Within squad, my Commander Shepard, and Actual Sunlight‘s protagonist are each headed toward death (unless you take the interpretation that Evan doesn’t die at the end — not a reading I hold to, personally), but the particulars of getting there make up the actual performance. The real disappearing act, you could say.

(See also: Lee’s demise in The Walking Dead; most samurai films; nearly any classic arcade game; Super Hexagon except for a few skilled individuals.)

Game Developers Carnivale

selfieselfie

It is Saturday, the day following the close of this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. A few weeks ago, I believed I would be coming here to desperately look for a job (again) while possibly drinking myself to death. Instead, I had a great time spent mainly in the company of other people, gave a couple talks, ate some good meals, and had some overpriced cocktails. A great week by any measure.

As was pointed out to me in the last few days, GDC is in a curious position among all our yearly games-focused industry events. There is a lot of homosocial hugging and tenderness I’m not accustomed to seeing out of either studio bro-culture or consumer bro-culture. There was a ‘living exhibit’ where you could play Doom deathmatches with John Romero himself, and yet more people seemed interested in attending the talk he gave with wife Brenda Romero (Train, Wizardry), Richard Lemarchand and Warren Spector about transitioning from game dev to pedagogy.

That’s not to say that there isn’t an oppressive musk of masculinity over much of GDC — the lack of diversity in the Indie Games Summit is a particular sore point this year — but it was great to feel at least mostly at ease and among friends at any given point during the conference, even if it meant I was mostly off in my own corner. I have spent so much of the last five months feeling isolated and forced to bottle up emotions under a guise of ‘professionalism’ till it all exploded, violently and messily, from behind my ribs. To feel loved and appreciated — and to see love and appreciation going on all around me — was exactly what I needed.

There is just so much hugging, though. I think I said as much to Ben at one point. “Gosh, there’s so much hugging,” I told him.

“It’s because this is the one time out of the year when a lot of us see each other,” Ben explained. “It’s kind of a reunion.”

It is, really. It’s also catharsis and ritual. It felt like coming home.

So, because I don’t want to go days or weeks before writing a lot of this down like I did last time, here are my favorite moments from this year’s GDC.

  1. Critical Proximity: The first-ever games criticism conference showed us all that this is a diverse field and that there is an equally widespread interest in talking about it. Organizer Zoya Street projected an event of maybe 30 people — instead we had over 200 attendees and hundreds more tuning in via our Twitch livestream.

    When I spoke and thanked everyone for supporting our Patreon, the applause I got was unexpected and touching in ways I can’t adequately put into words. Everything about Critical Proximity was the culmination of many wonderful things.

  2. Michael Abbott makes a surprise appearance at his own dinner. Each GDC for a number of years now, Michael Abbott (The Brainy Gamer) has organized a large dinner of fellow critics and cool people in the field. This year, he had to step away from co-organizing the event due to issues affecting his health, and he was unsure whether he could even attend. It was unfortunate, but it was even more important for Michael to look after his health, so while a Brainy Gamer dinner without the Brainy Gamer seemed a little bit improper, we went ahead. Then, after most of us had already been seated and were chatting away, there he was.

    As a relative newcomer to this scene (I didn’t appear online as a games critic till 2008 and didn’t get involved in Critical Distance till 2011), it’s at times hard for me to appreciate just how significant some of these early players of our current games criticism circles really are. Witnessing everyone drop their forks and knives to applaud Michael’s arrival — something I took part in — was incredibly moving, and just drew into even sharper focus how meaningfully some of us have touched each other’s lives.

  3. Deirdra Kiai’s microtalk at the #1reasontobe panel. Deirdra (hereafter: Squinky) was one of the first individuals to make me feel like coming out as non-binary would be okay. They’re a role model for me in a number of ways — including dress sense, which I cannot hope to emulate. For their #1reason talk, in which they articulated the intense feelings of placelessness, invisibility, and anonymity felt from not falling within the gender binary (either emotionally or physically) was deeply resonant for me. It is the first time a conference talk has brought me to tears — actually, the first time any public speech of any kind has done so. And I’m so grateful for that.

    Sidebar: Squinky’s game, Dominique Pamplemousse in: “It’s All Over Once the Fat Lady Sings!” was up for four Independent Games Festival awards this year. It didn’t win any, which I’m sort of bummed about, but Squinky’s take on the situation is on point: visibility when you are any kind of minority (sexual, racial, etc) invites untold harassment and other abuse. It shouldn’t be that way, and with any luck one day we’ll be better than this, but I understand their feeling of relief for not having won. I attended the IGF awards and when Dom-Pam came up I was the only one in my entire section who cheered — and I got dirty glares for my trouble. Even acknowledging the game’s existence, much less singing its praises (pun intended), was asking to be ostracized. But no amount of sick gamerbros can stop me from being elated that this game exists and was in the running for the same awards as other, more grandiose titles.

  4. Kate Craig thanks her wife during Fullbright Company’s Game Developers Choice Awards acceptance speech. If there is one single moment from this year’s GDC that sums up recent sea changes in games development, it is this one. In amongst the IGF and Game Dev Choice Awards’s near relentless parade of straight white cis men, Ms. Craig stood up on the stage with the other core developers of Gone Home — which had just won an award for ‘Best Debut’ — neatly and succinctly interjected with ‘I would like to thank my wife.’

    That’s it. The cheers that followed (again, not from my section of the audience, despite my best efforts) indicated that the message had been sent, loud and clear.

  5. Naomi Clark’s talk at Lost Levels. I missed witnessing this one in person, but thanks to the power of smartphones and social media, now everyone can enjoy the game dev wisdom of Ric Chivo.

    Pay particular attention to the businesswoman behind Clark who starts taking notes (in apparent earnestness) at one point.

  6. Stickers! Buttons! Postcards! True to my word, I gave out roughly two sets of Night Vale scout buttons this last week, as well as several iron-on patches. I totally did not anticipate the cool things I would receive in return! Lana Polansky gave me a great set of origami paper, while Miguel Sternberg (he of They Bleed Pixels) gave me this amazing (legitimately licensed!) sticker set of Hello Kitty as Sadako from The Ring. JUST LOOK AT IT!
    1395524380776
    And of course, there are the artisanal postcards designed by Maddox (Mr. Joyboy):
    1395524786319
    And selfie stickers from Christine Love’s Interstellar Selfie Station:
    1395524811619b
  7. Richard Lemarchand and Phil Fish using their DJ set to speak to each other through music. These two have been a feature of the Venus Patrol/Wild Rumpus parties at GDC for years now, but this was the first year it felt like I could get a raw, clear sense of the two’s personalities through their setlist.

    Tagteaming at the turntable, their music selections spoke about generational differences and hard times and mutual respect, and would it surprise you to know there was hugging at the end? There was hugging at the end.

  8. I was able to walk into a drug store and buy a magazine containing my byline. As primarily a web-based writer, I still get a weird little thrill at seeing my name in print. It so happened that the new issue of Official Xbox Magazine, for which I wrote a retrospective on Saints Row IV, hit the stands the same week as GDC.

    (I was tempted to buy another copy to send to my mother, but I’m still afraid of having to explain what a ‘dildo bat’ is.)

  9. Unwinnable House. This is my second year staying at the Unwinnable House, a bifurcated three-story building about 20 minutes from the conference center with beds, too few power outlets, and at least one exploding toilet. Utilities mishaps aside, as populated as the house is by radicals, punks, suits and Australians, there’s really never a dull moment at any hour of the day or night.

    This year’s defining moment: playing Assault Android Cactus with Richard Terrell. He’s really good, by the way.

  10. Getting mistaken for Kris Graft at a party. I had no idea this was such an easy mistake to make, but I suppose with enough alcohol and general amounts of cluelessness anything is possible.

When I booked my flight for GDC, I was thinking of this as being kind of a last hurrah. I was out of Gamasutra, the chances of securing a press pass again seemed slim, and the odds of getting any sort of work at all were getting thinner all the time. Instead, it feels like I got exactly what I needed to get a second wind. I’m still painfully introverted — as are the vast majority of GDC attendees, I expect — but I’m definitely reenergized, which is quite possibly a first, coming from a week spent around people.

I miss my cat, though.

GDC, Critical Distance, scout badges, etc

Picture-48

A few items.

I will be at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco again this year. It’s next week, so if you needed to make travel arrangements based on that piece of information… um. Oops. I’ll try to remind folks earlier next time.

Additionally, I will be giving two talks adjacent to the conference this year. The first will be at Critical Proximity, the very first games criticism and games studies conference being organized by Zoya Street. My talk will be on Critical Distance’s curation policy and will briefly touch upon some of the stuff that’s happened recently (which I’ll get into below). The other talk will be at Lost Levels and is just a small, casual thing about exploring asexuality in games. Please check the events’ websites for more info.

If you’re going to be around and happen to spot me (I made my haircut very easy to recognize this year), come say hi. I have little ‘bits of flair’ (mainly Night Vale scout buttons but also a few iron-on game patches and other things) that I’m giving away, just for fun.

Next thing. You can now help fund Critical Distance through Patreon. We’ve already raised enough to bring me on as senior curator full-time, and I really cannot thank everyone enough for making that happen. Everything we raise from here on out will go toward accelerating the expansion projects I outlined a few months ago, plus a few more I have up our sleeves.

One of the first orders of business will be the wiki, because we already have a wiki guy (hi Erik) and the whole thing is basically ready, we just haven’t had the opportunity to launch it. So keep an eye out for that.

Finally: I’m no longer doing news for Gamasutra. This relates to the previous point about doing Critical Distance full-time. I’m still doing freelance gigs and you’ll be seeing one of my first big print features in Official Xbox Magazine soon, but please refer to Gama’s official contact page about getting things onto that site.

(And yes, I know it still lists me as a news editor on that page, but I’m sure they’ll get to that at some point.)

These last few months have been really rocky which is the main reason I’ve been negligent about updating the blog. I’m really excited about the new direction my life’s taken lately and I hope to have more to share with you all soon.

The tools of my craft

onehandedcrane

When I was 22, I woke up one morning with a pinched nerve in my right shoulder. My entire arm was numb and unresponsive to all commands from my brain.

A bit of flexing and exercising (led by an anaesthesiologist friend) returned control of my arm to me within 20 minutes, but up until that time every nightmare scenario I could imagine played through my mind. How could I take notes for class? How could I handle camera equipment? How could I type or sign my name or — and this was most devastating of all — draw?

I’m in envy of the ambidextrous. I can’t even use a mouse with my left hand without something in my brain coming unscrewed. Since this incident, I’ve had fits of trying to train my off hand to do the work of its sibling, with only modest success. When the Major folded origami cranes with her left hand in Stand Alone Complex (above), I was driven to emulate, and now I’m a damn champ. But a lot of things — typing with any proficiency, and especially art — completely elude my left hand, and probably always will.

Fast-forward to the present year. I’ve been experiencing soreness in my right hand since at least September. I kept meaning to go to a doctor, but you know how it is, working an 8-5. I told myself I’d get the time to recuperate after GDC Next, when I had a week’s vacation lined up. If I came home from vacation still experiencing stiffness and pain, I could look into scheduling a doctor’s appointment then.

The next week I was laid off.

Now… I could rant a bit about getting laid off from Gama. That the job I was so excited about would terminate mere months after I started it. I look back at the post I wrote shortly after accepting the position and cringe at all the naive optimism on display. But my editor has been endlessly supportive, the dismissal is not a reflection of the quality of work I was performing, and as you might have guessed, I am writing all of this, painstakingly, with one hand, so I really don’t want to belabor the issue past its due.

But do you have any idea how much writing you do when searching for a job?

Part of it was my fault. A lot of late-night livetweeting of TV shows and origami — still my go-to hobby when nervous or depressed. But a large part of it were the job apps, filing with recruiter sites, searching for housing and researching unemployment, and so on. Here and there I defaulted back to doing visual art to take my mind off things, but that only exacerbated the level of injury. Somehow, without planning to, I was right back to living out those nightmare scenarios I’d entertained in college.

And then today, after a nasty flare-up while out on errands, and wrenching it badly on the bus on the way home, I found I couldn’t use my right hand at all. At least, not without tremendous pain and discomfort.

It’s two days before Christmas, so seeing a doctor is right out. I don’t know if I can afford one anyway. With some of my donor rewards still outstanding from the crowdfunding I did to get to GDC — you know, the trip that was supposed to help me get a new job, and succeeded at just that; too bad the job only lasted a few months — I’m strongly against the idea of asking for help from my online friends and peers. I write this here just to get across the particular pain and frustration of losing the one meaningful tool I have for making a living, at a time when I need it most.

If I believed in higher powers, I would take this as a sign that I had deeply offended one. Chopping off my hand would be a mercy at this point, next to having the thing hang uselessly at my side like this.

I can’t get any work done but I can do this.

DAVEYWHY

…Well.

Continue reading

How the other side lives (and the other side is me)

206420_screenshots_2013-08-28_00011

(Content warning: harassment, misogynistic slurs.)

This is not another personal account of pervasive sexual harassment on the internet.

All the same, I need to put a few things in context. A couple days ago I noticed a Twitter troll was harassing several women including GameSpot writer Carolyn Petit and those he found standing up for her. I tweeted a link to Twitter’s report form for abusive users and attached a screencap of one of the things he’d said. After 50 or so retweets (thanks), he found me, and began an off-and-on assault of tweets calling me a slut, saying I would feature in an anal sex minigame in the next Grand Theft Auto, and announcing he would kill me and get his money back from my apparent prostitution services.

This is the first time I have experienced this.

Continue reading

Future-proofing Critical Distance

criticaldistance_kotrt_newI was speaking with one of my favorite game critics the other night. He told me, wistfully, of how proud he was of his most popular article to date, and how he wished he could take credit for it — but he couldn’t, because he’d face untold harassment.

This is sadly common. Every writer I’ve known who has signed their name to a deeply personal piece of writing — especially if it’s an account of the harm they’ve experienced in life — has faced no end of online abuse for doing so. They also seem to get pigeonholed, shut out from being known for any of their other contributions to become, instead, that one who wrote that one thing. The latter might be natural of how we process microcelebrity within our incredibly niche sphere of writing but it’s unfortunate and frankly awful all the same, and taken together with the former, it poses huge risks and endless disappointment for writers no matter if they sign their work or don’t.

(This is not, I should add, some impassioned defense of “confessional writing” or whatever semi-pejorative you wish to drum up. My stance at Critical Distance has always been that we welcome all kinds of critical games writing and commentary, which is great, because what we receive each week is always richly diverse. This here is decrying the fact we can’t seem to talk about assault, sexism, racism, harassment and so on without the writers inviting those same things upon their head, as though the universe decided it must prove a point.

Anyway,)

I wanted to tell this critic friend that “some day things will be better.” That some day we will grow out of fouling up comments sections and hurling abuse over social media. But I doubted it would happen within the lifetime of this present games crit ecosystem of ours.

Meanwhile, we’ve all seen what the ephemeral nature of the web does to the critical writing that already exists. Check out all the 404s this (quite well intended and lovely) Twitter bot has drudged up, just by going through Critical Distance’s archives. A former colleague of mine, Mark Filipowich, blogged recently about this as well. The longer C-D goes on, the worse this problem is going to get.

At that moment I imagined my critic friend’s work not only never seeing proper attribution, but evaporating into the digital ether when the site which hosts it dies, or moves, or revamps. Not only was it all but certain we wouldn’t be around in time to see a web readership that could treat his brave words with the respect they deserved, it was a pretty sure thing even the words themselves won’t outlast us.

It’s been proposed a few times now that Critical Distance create some sort of anthology, and I’ve always been a little resistant to the idea. Obtaining the rights would be such a headache, I told people. Organizing, doing the layouts, motivating volunteers, going through the endless debates of how long and which pieces and do we want to do a print version… It’s hard enough to do that sort of thing without distraction; it’s an unimaginable drain on your energy when you have a full-time job on top of that.

But this needs to happen. I’m convinced of this now. We need to do something to preserve some of this writing before it vanishes.

And there are other projects Critical Distance needs to get a move on as well: more Critical Compilations (we welcome your pitches!), an updated search engine, more foreign language coverage, new podcasts, cross referenced tagging system, resources for new writers. These are all things we’ve discussed (and continue to work on) behind the scenes, but it’s slow going. We’re a completely volunteer outfit, most of us work, and all of us find our free time in short supply.

There’ve been suggestions for how to help remedy that too, of course. I’m not going to launch into proposals for those today, but they should sound familiar: tip jar buttons, subscriptions, funding drives, etc. Frankly I’m a leery of asking for money until I send out the remaining backer rewards for my GDC trip — those are still coming, I promise — so don’t expect to see C-D rattling a coin jar in your face in the immediate future, but still. This is something we need to address, if we’re going to be able to commit the human resources to seeing these projects happen.

Please note this is not saying Critical Distance is in jeopardy of shutting down. Ben and I have enough worked out between us that we’re pretty sure we can sustain the site for quite a while. I’m talking about expansions only here. Mind you, I think some of them are pretty necessary — post tagging and the anthology in particular. Especially the anthology. If we even print one copy and bury it in a time capsule somewhere, I want this work to survive. It’s the least we owe these writers.

(No, I am not actually suggesting we print out a single copy and bury it somewhere.)

So, there you have it. Someway, somehow, this is a thing I want to see happen. When Ben handed Critical Distance off to me in 2011 I was mostly concerned with just following on the path already set out ahead of me. Now I have worked on the site nearly as long as Ben has — hard as that is to imagine for me, still — and it feels like it’s time for the site to start growing up. After all, it’s here to outlive us both.

Animal Crossing QR Code Geekery, Part 2

While I cast about for the time to work on some more of my own designs, I thought I’d share a few of the outfits I’ve been enjoying from other ACNL creators.

You can click on each image to be sent to the source page for the full set of QR codes and more of the artist’s work. Which you should do, by the way.

Utena Tenjou and Anthy Himemiya’s outfits from Revolutionary Girl Utena
(found via Anne Lee)

32112163_p0


Rapunzel from Tangled

o0400025312408725682


Shingeki no Kyojin uniforms HECK YEAH

tumblr_mp86zoTvF81rwnar6o2_500


*Mute’s hanbok and *Hyun-ae’s school uniform from Analogue: A Hate Story
(found via Christine Love)

tumblr_moz9rdgGW51rlc5f9o1_500

tumblr_moyigjvhsP1qj04alo1_500


School uniforms from Persona 3 and Persona 4

tumblr_mmls5zImyn1sq7r1ko1_400

tumblr_mg5wjkNm9g1rw15ybo1_400


Various traditional East Asian attire (mostly kimono and hanbok) and riffs thereon

by Hiyoko (found via Anne Lee):

20130519174409808

by merongcrossing:

tumblr_mh3uncmKhR1s1gk0ao1_400

tumblr_mfr47jRLsJ1s1gk0ao5_400

by yaenomuteki (warning: some designs on the blog might be considered a bit risque):

1469ed0b-s

found via newleaf-fashion:

tumblr_mmpkfdOWAp1rmg5sio1_400

tumblr_mjd8rgOQzA1rmg5sio1_400
(attribution needed)

from cocoa82551:

chou_prodesign_01


Other outfits and costumes

32968383_p0

tumblr_mkyd0cXCrg1rmg5sio1_400

tumblr_mnccmxUCSW1s5b76lo9_r1_250

tumblr_moze2hFFWi1qk1n9xo10_400

tumblr_mor4zl0ACQ1r222fto1_500


For all your grimdark roleplaying needs

35049867_p0

tumblr_mgujeq7k7Z1reqnb5o1_1280.png

Animal Crossing QR Code Geekery, Part 1

Quick post, and the first of several, I hope. If you’ve been reading me on Twitter you know that I am a teensy bit obsessed with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I’ve been happily designing little outfits for my mayor since I discovered the option to do so, and now that I’ve unlocked the QR Printer at Able Sisters, well!

So, in honor of Tron Day, have a bit of Tron Couture, plus a Sailor Moon fuku and a (completely unisex!) TNG Starfleet miniskirt.

“Tron Couture”
HNI_0023
HNI_0024
HNI_0026
HNI_0026


Sailor Moon serafuku
HNI_0028
HNI_0029
HNI_0030
HNI_0031


Unisex Starfleet Miniskirt (Command, TNG)
HNI_0036
HNI_0037
HNI_0038
HNI_0039

Also, if you’re looking for more ACNL QR designs, I highly recommend the stuff Anne Lee has been curating! I’m currently wearing one of the summer yukata featured here.

So, Gamasutra

tumblr_mdtez6XV7T1raoyqxo1_500

When I went to GDC in March I gave myself an ultimatum: I needed to find a job while I was there, or I would surely die.

Hyperbole aside, I really did need a new job. I’d been a moderator at a kids’ game for over three years, and although I’d been promoted twice, the time commitment versus the pay was terrible, and every shift left me feeling emotionally wrecked. The kids were terrible. Though my immediate superior and the coworkers I interacted with most were great, everyone else was a nightmare. And did I mention the pay?

It’s funny. I don’t consider myself particularly money-obsessed. I laugh at people who are. Look how frivolous you’re acting. But as a professor of mine might say, money is a game that’s very hard to quit playing. I had gone to GDC on others’ dime and unless I wanted to be faced with the same situation year after year, I had to improve my own take. Just a bit of breathing room would be fine. Nothing special. Just enough to live without constant anxiety attacks would be nice.

I didn’t, incidentally, come away from GDC with a job. I stopped by the career pavilion once, saw the lines of desperate fresh-faced college grads queuing at every booth, and turned around. I’m still using all the wasted resumes I printed as scratch paper.

The first few days back at home were demoralizing. I had had a great time, and met plenty of wonderful people, and Terry Cavanagh even borrowed my eyepatch. But I’d surely squandered all the hard-earned money everyone had given me through the GoFundMe campaign. I was a failure. I’d be working at this kid’s game until the studio went belly-up, which was probably soon, because for as much as I liked my manager I can’t at all sugarcoat how terribly the thing was run from the top down. I was preparing to ask my surrogate family if I could move back in with them.

Then about a week later, this happened.

I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to leave my moderation job and work solely for Gamasutra. It took a few weeks to get everything ironed out — at one point I was working 13 hour days working both jobs at once — but now things are laid back and happy and for the first time in my life, I don’t feel like a hostage to my employer. I don’t have to worry about not making rent in a given month because I’m too sick to work one day out of seven. I don’t have to drive myself ragged for a few extra cents worth of overtime.

There are other perks too. Psychological benefits mostly — and I don’t mean in the cheap corporate sense, but the actual good the Gamasutra job seems to be doing for my emotional health. I’m not used to a work environment I look forward to coming into each day, as I do with Gama. I’m not used to all these foreign concepts like supportive coworkers and weekends off.

I know, this is the sort of stuff a lot of white collar folks take for granted. It’s no doubt becoming increasingly uncommon, though, and I will never let go of how freaking privileged I am to have a job right now, to say nothing of one I actually enjoy. I’m not here to brag. Just express my thanks.

Thanks, everyone, who sent me to GDC. I accomplished what I set out to do and more, not in the way I expected to, but totally sideways and weird and much more gratifying, in the end.

Also, I highly recommend having an editor with the same first name as you, as it allows one to say things like “Yeah, Kris is a great editor.” No, that will never stop entertaining me. If I wasn’t easily amused I wouldn’t be such a Twitter addict.

(Finally: yes, I know I still owe plenty of people donor rewards, and yes, they’re coming! Now that I’m finally adjusting to the rhythm of the Gama job, I expect I can follow up on these things soon. In the meantime, there are always photos of my cat.)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,615 other followers