General

Top 10 Things I Saw or Played or Did of 2016

Hey look! It’s already time for my Top 10 Things I Saw or Played or Did of 2016. I started doing this yearly series back in 2014, when I realized that I’m terrible at picking 10 games and would rather simply have a list of things that I liked or were proud of to look back on each year. Both 2014 and 2015 were pretty exciting, so let’s see what I did in 2016!


Credits to http://www.twitter.com/planckpixels for the Square Bowl pixel art!
[Credits to http://www.twitter.com/planckpixels for the Square Bowl pixel art!]

Square Bowl

For our second annual Square Bowl, Teddy Dief and I partnered up with AbleGamers to turn our Final Fantasy marathoning into a charity fundraising event. For the 2016 installment, we chose to stream Final Fantasy VIII and used the custom Guardian Force naming as donation incentives. We had a lot of really great guests stop by, I completely lost my voice, and by the end of the weekend, we had raised $11,231 for AbleGamers!

Thanks to one of our viewers, you can watch all of the highlights from Square bowl here, but I would be remiss not to specifically mention the great Bahamoist/Baehamut war.

It all started with a small joke donation to name Leviathan as “Moist Boy”. This quickly spiraled into folks donating any amount of money to keep the word “Moist” away from the Guardian Forces’ names. Which, inevitably, led to folks constantly donating to keep the word “Moist” *in* all of the Guardian Force’s names. This all culminated in a donation war between naming the Bahamut Guardian Force either “Baehamut” or “Bahamoist” (both are terrible names, honestly). This donation war went on for hours, and ended with an hour of Teddy and I simply sitting on stream waiting for any resolution to come. In the end, “Bahamoist” prevailed, and the Bahamoist/Baehamut war resulted in just over $6,000 of the entire total.

Thank you everyone who donated, shared our tweets, cheered us on, and made that amount of generosity possible!

Also, we should be announcing details about Square Bowl 2017 soon!!


tj

Train Jam

Train Jam is great, because I get to write about this being the highlight of my year every year. Train Jam grew a lot since it started in 2014, and ultimately ended with 200 people participating in the 2016 event. Train Jam 2016 went through some growing pains, but by working through the stresses and issues, we were able to run an amazing event.

I honestly think that the 2016 Train Jam was my favorite one so far – there was an amazing group of people on board from all over the world, some fantastic games were created, and it gave me a sense of achievement that I had been missing for a long time prior to it (we were even in the New York Times!). I’m so proud of the direction that Train Jam has gone in, and I can’t wait to see how the 2017 event goes.

Speaking of the 2017 event, since the majority of 2017’s planning happens in 2016, I totally get to lump that into this list! After the success of the 2016 Train Jam event, Amtrak (the company who owns the trains that we ride), finally noticed us! As a result, I’ve been able to cultivate an amazing relationship with them, which has made the train logistics of Train Jam infinitely less complex. In addition, I was able to rent me an entire train! Yep, that’s right – 2016 was the year I officially got to add “Rented an entire train” to my list of accomplishments. I also worked with sponsors to create a fund for diversifying our attendees, John expanded our student program, and DID I MENTION THAT WE RENTED AN ENTIRE TRAIN? Oh, also, even though I had over 300 tickets, everything was sold out within an hour and a half – not bad!

Train Jam rules, and I’m so proud of it.


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Goat Farm

This year, I went to a goat farm. AN ENTIRE FARM FULL OF GOATS. This might not sound all that exciting, but you’re wrong – it was fantastic and one of the best things I did all year. I don’t have a lot to say about it, other than it truly helped me appreciate just how goofy and lovely goats really are. Here is a video.  Big thanks to Lisa for bringing me to this goat farm!


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Rami Adriel Day

One of the biggest problems with working for yourself or owning your own company is that, quite often, free time and relaxation get pushed aside. Both Rami and I are usually pretty good at balancing our work and life, but there are often times where we both mess up and work far too much for far too many days in a row. After a few months of crunching, working, stress, and traveling, Rami and I decided to take one day during a brief stop back home in the Netherlands to disconnect from work, emails, and internet to have a day 100% to ourselves. We took our bikes, went up to the north of the Netherlands, and visited the Ecomare, which is a sea life sanctuary in Texel. It was a day full of smiles and laughter, and was a welcome day of relaxation that both of us sorely needed.


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Got Engaged

This is the big one for the year – if I had ranked my top 10 instead of listing them in chronological order, this would 100% be in my number 1 spot.

From very early on, I knew that Rami was someone I’d truly want to spend the rest of my life with, however, after having already gone through one failed marriage, my desire to ever get married *again* was pretty close to 0 for a lot of our relationship. We talked about marriage a lot even from the beginning of our relationship, and over the years it became apparent to me that, despite me having some baggage with the institute of marriage, I couldn’t actually see myself *not* marrying Rami.

So, I hatched a plan.

I knew that if I was going to propose to Rami, I wanted to do something special for the two of us. I didn’t want to do anything in public, or simply get down on one knee – I wanted this proposal to be personal and meaningful. I started with the idea that I would make a game for him which comprised of exploring all of the places around the world that were special to us, ultimately resulting in a real life proposal at the end. However, as I already make a personal game for Rami every year for his birthday, I wanted to take this one step further. So, back in June, I reached out to a friend at Bungie (Poria Torkan) and floated by an idea that I was fairly certain would never get approved in a million years. The message I sent asked “…since Destiny is something that is near and dear to us, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to integrate it into my plans. Anyways, I have no idea if this is a thing that could even be done, but I was thinking how amazing it would be to get an emote in the game of getting down on one knee for my character so I could just do it one night while playing. Or something like having a custom letter from the postmaster (from me) that would deliver a ring and a message”. I added much more to this message and acknowledged that I was asking a huge favor and understood that it was not a simple task, but mostly, I was hoping that they’d be able to at least get a tiny message in. However, magic was made, and Poria got the ball rolling on the whole thing – emote, ring, and letter!

We spent the next 4 months messaging back and forth, planning the delivery of the letter and ring, and setting everything up so that the assets would be hidden in the October Destiny update which was, luckily, scheduled for jsut a few days before Rami and I would return home (and thus able to actually play Destiny) for the first time in months.

Anyone who knows Rami knows how hard it is to plan anything around him. He is a constantly moving force who is prone to not making solid plans, and the proposal hinged on my ability to get Rami to a specific location on a specific set of days. I planted the seeds early in October (once Poria and I solidified a time frame for the proposal), and began talking with Rami about how excited I was to spend a few days at home, relaxing and catching up on Destiny. I managed to get him to agree to blocking off an entire set of days that we would both definitely be home, and tried (as calmly and inconspiculously as possible) to ensure that he understood how important it was to me that we be home on those days (without raising suspicions).

Despite me being terrible at surprises, I must have done well, as, even though he was *well aware* that I was planning a proposal, he was completely blindsided at the method and timing. Even as early as the morning of the proposal, he was still saying “well, you told me that you could only do it at a time when you know where in the world I am, and we’re both still traveling for another month.”.

Anyways, traveling around the world, hiding assets into an update of a huge AAA game, and even a DDoS attack couldn’t stop the proposal!

Yay!


 

Wrath of the Machine

I’ve been able to squeeze Destiny on to my list for the past two years, and this year I get to put it on there twice! Yay! Once all the engagement excitement was over, we finally had a chance to play through the new Rise of Iron content. We quickly leveled up and assembled a team of guardians from our regular gaming group comprised entirely of people who hadn’t read or seen anything of the Wrath of the Iron raid. Though we had obviously done all of the other raids previously released in Destiny, we always had someone to guide our group through, or had researched some of the techniques/puzzles/mazes beforehand.

This time, however, we went in completely blind.

It was a fun experience spending hours working together to figure out how to kill enemies and progress through the various puzzles. I was never much of an online gamer throughout my life, so this was the first time I had ever done something like this. It felt super special, and I was very proud to have gone through the raid like that.


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Japan

For how much Rami and I travel, it was almost shocking that neither of us had been to Japan before this year. Once we realized that we had a major country that we could both experience for the first time *together*, we made it a point to travel there for ourselves (as opposed to going there for work/conferences). We put aside a week an a half around my 30th birthday and spent a day or so in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Ōkunoshima, and Hiroshima. It was absolutely fascinating to explore around Japan together, see the beautiful scenery, and try amazing new foods. We didn’t make any solid plans for our time in Japan, which meant that we would wake up most mornings and just figure out what we’d like to do for the next day or so, and do it. This led to us traveling to an island full of rabbits, going to an owl cafe, staying in a traditional ryokan, running into friends from around the world, and topping the whole trip off with a day at Tokyo DisneySea. It was a wonderful way to spend my 30th birthday, and something I will cherish forever. We used the trip to get a little taste of some of the major cities, and I can’t wait to go back and spend more time in each of them.


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Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV was the first Final Fantasy that I had truly been excited about since Final Fantasy IX. We had consumed all of the media that was released ahead of time – watching the Brotherhood anime and even traveling to London to attend the London premiere of the Kingsglaive movie. We both purchased the game as soon as it was released and played it side by side in our living room.

I have so many things I could say about Final Fantasy XV, but what it all comes down to, is that I *loved* going on this journey with Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto. FFXV did an amazing job at making me feel for these 4 boys – building their relationships with one another through banter and various little touches that made it feel as though they truly cared for each other. This all culminated in an emotional ending that forced you to reflect on “the good times” you had with your friends in a way that was perfect for this game. FFXV definitely cemented itself high up in my top 10 games of all time, which, quite honestly, is a list that hasn’t really changed much in the last 15 years.


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Paid Rent All Year

When I first quit my job in 2013, I had enough money to float myself for 6 months. I was able to stretch those funds into a year, and then promptly ran out of money. At the same time that I ran out of money, Rami and I decided to move into a real apartment together in The Netherlands – which meant that after a year and a half of nomadic living, I finally had to start paying a steady rent again.

I tried my hardest for the first few months, but it quickly became clear that I was in worse financial spot than I had initially realized. Rami started covering my half of the rent for me, which is something that I appreciated from the bottom of my heart, but was also something that made me feel as though I was failing. I tied my ‘success’ to being able to pay for my own place to live, and though I know Rami was more than happy to help support me, I resolved to stabilize myself financially so that I could pay for my share of the rent for the entirety of 2016.

I put all of my personal projects aside, took on contract work, and started budgeting myself. It all paid off (no pun intended), and I’m finally back on track, financially, and on December 1st, I paid my share of rent for the 12th month in a row and reached my goal! In addition, I’ve been able build up savings again, and I’m looking forward to transitioning back into my own personal work in 2017.


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Hardships

When I first tried to come up with my items for this list, I struggled. I couldn’t, for the life of me, come up with 10 things no matter how hard I tried. This was confusing to me, as *surely* I did, saw, or played enough things to fill up this list – however, every time I tried to go through the year, there was this hazy part from March until almost June.

What it all boils down to, is that I had some personal hardships earlier in the year that created a months long black hole where I simply just tried to exist. I got work done, I traveled, and I probably went to some events and saw people, but honestly, I was just surviving.

I try to be very open on social media about who I am and what I do, but, unfortunately, this is going to stay as a vague event. I had to face a toxic relationship with someone and come to terms with no longer welcoming them in my life – having that all thrust on me at a time I wasn’t expecting it threw me into a deep depression that lasted for the better part of a quarter of this year. I had good times during those months, but, for the most part, I was going through the motions of life, and dealing poorly.

So yeah, that’s a weird way to end this post, as my final item is actually the exact opposite of a “top” thing I did/saw/played this year – but it was an important part to my year. It was something that affected me, something that, ultimately, improved my life, and something that was definitely one of the top 10 defining moments of my year for myself.


So yeah, I ended on a bit downer, but 2016 was actually a pretty great year for me personally. I got engaged to someone I dearly love, I had many amazing adventures, and I played some really cool games.

C’mon 2017 – let’s see what you have to offer!

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A Few Words On Fear

I don’t often publicly talk about it, but I suffer from a fairly heavy dose of flight anxiety.

It’s a thing that’s always been present in my life, but it really came to a head my final year of university when I had a panic attack after boarding a flight heading from Boston to Denver to go home for Christmas. The doors to the flight hadn’t shut yet, so after a brief panic-stricken phone call to my step-mother, I removed myself from the flight (fun side note, the moment I decided to run off the plane, a flight attendant asked if anyone would be willing to give up their seat to a person’s spouse who was on standby. I got to cover up my escape with a good deed and ended up receiving a free upgrade to 1st class on my rebooked flight).

I had never had a panic attack before. My entire body was shaking, my chest was tight, and I couldn’t think straight – it took me almost an hour of sitting in the waiting area before I could get myself to leave the airport to go back home. I talked to the gate agent for a while after composing myself, where he admitted that he also suffers from a fear of flying, and that his fear was one of the main reasons he sought out a job in the airport. Though his position doesn’t require flying, he explained to me that he gets to watch hundreds of airplanes every single day take off and land successfully, and being able to put his personal flights into that perspective was comforting. I think of that conversation almost every time I get onto a flight now, because it’s true. I know that flying is statistically the safest form of travel. I know that hundreds and thousands of flights successfully complete their journey every day. I know all of that. Unfortunately, my brain just sort of refuses to accept that as truth.

I go through waves with the anxiety. There was a time a few years ago, after a huge life change, where I just sort of stopped being afraid of flying for a year. It simply vanished, and I could fly whenever I wanted without feeling the days-long shadow of doom that always preceded a trip for me. The fear slowly crept back in though, which culminated in another panic attack on a flight from the Netherlands to Moscow. This one, unfortunately, hit mid-flight, which meant that I had to ride it out (no lucky escape for me that time!). Since then, the fear has resurfaced much as it was before.

The one consistent life factor that seems to control the anxiety is how comfortable I am with where I am in life. Basically, my flight anxieties rise exponentially with how unsatisfied I feel with my accomplishments. A lot of it boils down to a fear of not being able to live up to my potential. If I’m feeling bad about the progress I’m making in life, the fear of my life ending in a tragic accident goes up. I know it sounds morbid, but that’s where my mind immediately jumps to.

When I begin feeling anxious about a flight, I become obsessed with irony and ritual. I won’t do anything in the days leading up to a flight that could be seen as “ironic” if something were to go wrong, I don’t make jokes about the bad things that could happen, and I don’t post any sappy things to social media that could be seen as a ironically prophetic after the fact. I obsess over whether “the universe” is telling me to not get on a flight, and take every slight mishap on my way to an airport as a sign that I should just go home. I even have a long-standing unspoken rule with myself (that I’ve, thankfully, never needed to act on), where if I hear Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” on the way to an airport, I just won’t fly (because, come on, how ironic would it be to hear a song about irony and plane crashes to then get on a plane where something goes terribly wrong?).

Once I’m on the flight, it’s all about the rituals. I constantly trace my fingers along my phone in square patterns (I’m not sure why squares are so comforting here), I refuse to finish any book I’m reading mid flight, and I almost exclusively listen to Sigur Rós the entire time (seriously fantastic anti-anxiety music, btw). I listen to every sound, I become extra sensitive to every slight movement adjustment, and I make sure to recite in my head where every turbulence will probably occur in an effort to brace myself (I’m looking at you, Rocky Mountains). I’m also usually overwhelmingly nauseous for the lead up to and the beginning of a flight.

By the time a flight ends, I’m exhausted. Did you know that heightening your senses and panicking for 5 hours straight really wears you out? I can usually power through the rest of my day (unless I’ve had a full on panic attack), but it’s tiring.

I’ve gotten really good over the years at hiding the inner monologue of my fear from those around me. I express concerns to the people I trust the most, but it’s generally a fraction of what’s going on in my head. I spend a lot of time thinking about how my loved ones would react if something were to go wrong, making up wills in my head, and trying to figure out any conceivable way that I can wriggle out of my upcoming flight. I obsess over death, my accomplishments, and whether anyone would still miss me after 6 months. I think about the futility of life and how large the universe and how nothing I do matters anyway as we will all be forgotten eventually.

What I’m trying to say is that this flying anxiety consumes a lot of my brain space for many days surrounding a flight.

If you follow my adventures at all, you’ll notice that I fly a lot. Not as many as some people in this industry (*cough* Rami *cough*), but definitely a lot more than the average person. There’s hardly ever a month where I’m not flying somewhere, and when I’m at the height of my travel mode, I fly a few times a week. “So wait-“, you must be thinking, “-if you fly a few times a week, how is it possible to claim that you suffer from a days long obsessive anxiety leading up to every flight? That would mean you would be in a constant state of anxiousness and fear when traveling!”. Why yes, yes that is what it means! Some days are better than others and some trips are better than others, but for the most part, traveling takes a big toll on my mental energy.

It sucks being a frequent flier with flight anxiety. Traveling is a core component of who I am- it allows me to do amazing things, brings me to all sorts of exciting places, and allows me to meet new people and experience new cultures. All of these things impact my creativity in various ways and motivate me to keep doing what I’m doing. However, I know I get less done while dealing with the the obsessive thoughts and overwhelming fear, and I’m assuming that forcing myself through this much regular anxiety can’t be the healthiest thing for me to do. As with everything though, it’s a compromise. Do the things that I learn and experience through travel outweigh the toll that the fear takes on my body? Absolutely. Maybe in the future there will come a day where that is no longer true, but every time I get myself onto a flight (despite being absolutely, 100% convinced that it will be the ultimate cause of my untimely demise), I push that day a little further away.

I don’t actually know where I’m going with this post. I didn’t start it with any thesis, and a thesis never evolved out of writing it, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to put out there for a while. Having a deep-seated fear of one of the core parts of you life is a hard thing to deal with.

I’m afraid flying, I’m afraid of the day when I can’t push that fear down anymore, and I’m afraid of what aspects of life I’ll lose if that day ever does come.

For now, I know things are improving. I wrote this from an altitude of 35k somewhere over eastern Colorado, which is a pretty scary place to write about being afraid of flying, and something that I know I wouldn’t have been able to do just a few years ago.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that things can be illogically scary. Like I said before, I know that this is the safest way to travel, but there’s something deep inside of me that fights that fact with every fiber of its body. I feel pathetic every time I cry during turbulence, I feel useless when I obsess death for days, and I feel defeated when I give in and let myself feel afraid. However, I feel inspired every time I go to a new place, I feel happy and loved when I see my friends and family, and I feel grateful every time I think about all of the things traveling has allowed me to do with my life.

Top 10 Things I Saw or Played or Did of 2015

Last year I decided that making a “Top 10 games of 2014” list sounded too specific and hard, so I, instead, made a personal list of the “Top 10 things that I saw, played, or did during 2014”.  I’m going to continue this tradition with my Top 10 things that I saw, played, or did during 2015, so get ready, because I did a lot of things in 2015 and it was an exciting year all around!

Now, without further ado, and in no particular order….


tj

Train Jam

Train Jam had its second running earlier in 2015 and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. In the transition from the 2014 event to the 2015 event, I doubled the size of the reservation, secured double the sponsorship money, and managed to get a space at GDC to display the games created during the jam.  With the help of the wonderful John Lindvay, we were also able to start our Student Ambassador Program with the goal of getting more young, aspiring student developers onto the jam and mixed in with the experienced developers that would be in attendance.  I did a writeup of the event over on the Train Jam blog, so check it out here if you’re interested in the official statistics of how many Snickers bars remained at the end of the jam.

While I think the jam went incredibly smoothly overall, this year’s Train Jam taught me a valuable lesson about scaling events. It turns out that doubling the size of an event actually requires approximately three times the amount of organization, finances, and logistical help.  I was woefully underprepared for how difficult getting 130 people onto a train would be and even less prepared for how quickly sponsorship money runs out when you give 130 people unlimited access to a train’s snack car.  While I came out of this year’s Train Jam exhausted, overwhelmed, and at a personal financial loss, it was, again, the absolute highlight of my year. Creating Train Jam has impacted me in so many ways and brings me such a deep sense of joy and pride.

After the 2015 Train Jam event, I almost immediately went into the planning of the 2016 event.  I spent a huge chunk of the middle of 2015 coordinating with Amtrak, securing more sponsorship, forging new partnerships for some great initiatives and preparing for our largest ticket sale yet. In November (on my 29th birthday, in fact), I put the 2016 tickets on sale and watched as they sold out in a record 35 seconds.  This was such a strange moment as I was both excited about how popular this creation has gotten and terrified about the fact that I was now (with the addition of the jam-only tickets) going to be responsible for 200 people getting onto a train, making games, challenging themselves, and having a good time.  I’m excited about the stuff that I have in store for the 2016 event though – only 68 more days!


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GDC

GDC 2015 was a whirlwind.  It was so much of a whirlwind that GDC actually counts as three spots in my list of the “Top 10 Things I Saw or Played or Did of 2015”. So, let’s go through all of the parts:

Firstly, I gave A LOT of talks at GDC in 2015.  I didn’t quite realize how many things I was saying yes to, but by the time GDC rolled around, I was responsible for giving a talk in the IGS, participating in a professional programmer’s panel, and being a part of the 2015 #1ReasonToBe panel.  My solo IGS talk was a retrospective of the Game a Week challenge I completed in 2014 and would mark the first time that I would be giving a talk at GDC in San Francisco. The programmer’s panel was a fun hour where myself and other professional programmers were asked questions from students about programming and game development.  The most exciting talk for me, however, was the #1ReasonToBe panel.  It was a huge honor to be invited to this panel, and I worried endlessly about doing it justice. I finally settled on telling the story of my journey through my childhood of getting into technology and the places that inspired me to pursue technology and, ultimately, game development.  Listening to all of the other womens’ stories on the panel was an amazing experience, and I’m so so lucky to have gotten a chance to meet and share a stage with so many inspiring people.

Secondly, I did a lot of other non-talk-giving things at GDC 2015.  Here is my short list of the other things I did at GDC 2015 that I never thought I would already be doing this early into my solo indie developer career:

-I had a booth! Like, a whole booth that I was able to use to give the amazing developers on Train Jam a place to show off the games they made!  I know it meant a lot to many of the jammers to show off a game at GDC and it made me feel amazing that I could provide them with that opportunity.

-I pitched a game to a bunch of publishers! I spent a lot of the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 working on a game with a dear friend of mine. We created a small slice of what the game would be and were able to pitch what we had to a number of publishers and consoles and received an enthusiastic response from almost everyone.  Though the game has been put on hold for various reasons at the moment, creating something big enough to pitch to publishers and consoles was an amazing feeling.

-I had meetings! So many meetings. Fun fact: securing sponsorships for an event takes a lot of meetings.

So yeah, I did A TON of things at GDC 2015. Which was super exciting and amazing, but also brings me to the third and final part of my GDC section of this list…

I learned my limits.  Because of the very nature of Train Jam, I get the privilege of starting every GDC already exhausted and completely drained.  As you can see above, I basically had no time to even think about recovering from Train Jam before GDC started. I had to go straight into setting up the Train Jam booth, putting the finishing touches on my game’s demo for pitching, and had to finish/rehearse all of my talks. On top of all of that, my laptop’s motherboard died around midnight of the Sunday night before GDC started. I hadn’t backed up any work externally for over a year (yes, that means that all of my Game a Week games were ONLY on my laptop), I was in the middle of building a game, and…well…it was terrible. I was able to ultimately save all of my data off of my computer, and, luckily Rami had a spare mac for me to borrow until I could fix it, but, suffice it to say, I was a mess during GDC.

There was a moment on the first morning of GDC where an acquaintance of mine (and someone whose work I admire greatly) walked by as I was finishing setting up the Train Jam booth and innocently said hello and asked how I was. I immediately burst into tears and cried on her shoulder for a good solid minute. That’s a pretty good summary of my mental state for the entirety of GDC.

This doesn’t sound like something that should be on a “top 10” list, but I greatly appreciate that I was able to hit this limit. I had plenty of people around to take care of me and help me out, and it gave me a wonderful and practical insight into exactly where my limits lie.  Now, I can use this information to better myself for 2016 (I’m proud to announce that I submitted no talk proposals to next year’s GDC).


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Press X to be Okay

Press X to be Okay was a game that I started back during a dark period in my life in early 2013. I tabled it for a long while as I had gotten out of the dark period and didn’t have the right motivations to finish it, but luckily (??) I went through another quite dark period in the middle of this year. The causes of my dark period were completely different than the last time, but I was finally back to the right state of mind to finish this long forgotten project.  I finished it up, put it on itch.io and slapped a small price tag on it. I know this story actually sounds a little sad, but it marks the very first time I have ever made money off of a game that I created and put for sale! The total sales are still less than $50USD, but hey – it’s something, and that’s a great place to start.


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Snakebird

Okay, it’s time to put a game on this top 10 list. Snakebird was probably my favorite game of the year. It’s a puzzle game about snakebirds who like to eat fruit and apparently live in rainbow portal holes. Snakebird is one of those games where the concept is incredibly simple and the puzzles scale up in difficulty super quickly.  Somewhere around level 5 is where things start to get real good, and every puzzle that you figure out results in feelings that waver somewhere between “oh goddamnit” and “YES, FINALLY, I’M A GENIUS”.  It is a solid, well designed, beautiful game that I seriously cannot recommend enough. If you don’t have it, go buy it now.

Seriously.


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China

This year, I was invited to speak at GDC China in Shanghai.  In addition to feeling honored to receive the invitation, I was SUPER excited to visit an entirely new continent and culture.

The trip to China started with a  few days in Hong Kong as Rami only had a visa for three days in mainland China.  Since Rami was busy finishing up Nuclear Throne, I spent a lot of my time in Hong Kong walking around and soaking in the city. I wandered around the city in various attempts to get lost in the city, moseyed around Victoria Park, and stumbled upon a few temples. Rami and I also managed to eat a bunch of local food (including the egg waffle that everyone recommended to us), meet up with a few of the local indie devs, and then go up to the very top of Victoria Peak.

Once we made it over to Shanghai, it was time for GDC China.  I’ve given many talks about Game a Week, but I think that this may have been the best version of it.  I was feeling particularly inspired when preparing the talk and I think I was able to get all of my points across pretty well.  GDC China was a really nice experience overall as I was able to meet a bunch of developers from the region and see new games that I hadn’t seen from the Western game scene.  My favorite game I saw while over there was a mobile game called The Swords – I would highly recommend checking it out if you can.

After GDC China wrapped up, I still had a week before I was planning on flying onwards from Shanghai. This time was spent sightseeing with other developers that had been invited to GDC China as well. I made lots of new friends and was able to go on all sorts of adventures. After a few days of Shanghai, some of us moved on to Hangzhou – a city southwest of Shanghai. In Hangzhou, the wonderful Jane Ng guided a few of us through the LongJing Village where we went for a hike through mountains of tea and ate dinner at a wonderful random old woman’s house (who served us fish straight from her fish trap in her front yard’s river!).

The rest of the crew I had been hanging out with moved onto another village, and I decided to stay behind in Hangzhou to have an adventure on my own.  Now that I was separated from the one person I knew who spoke Chinese, I was completly alone in a country where I lacked any real ability to communicate with the people around me.  I’ve been to plenty of places where English is not the primary language, but this was the first time I had really been somewhere, alone, where English was basically non-existent. Needless to say, I became very very good at pantomiming questions. I also came to appreciate technology a lot. I don’t think I would have been able to really get around Hangzhou without my phone and the instant translation abilities it gave me access to. One of the AirBnB’s that I stayed at was only possible because the host and I could communicate through WeChat’s text translation feature. Once we met up, instead of saying words to each other, we simply texted what we were trying to say in our respective languages, and boom! translated!

All in all, China was full of adventure and pushing myself out of my comfort zone – I am definitely looking forward to the next time that I can make it over to that side of the world.

Oh, also I got food poisoning the last night from some bad sushi – that part sucked….especially because I had a 10 hour flight the next day. Lesson learned: if the sushi you’re eating makes you want to barf while you’re eating it, do not continue eating it.


 dubai

Dubai

After leaving Shanghai, I flew straight to Dubai for the Dubai World Game Expo to give a talk and lead a panel. I had never been to the UAE before, so it was another opportunity for me to experience a completely new culture. The Dubai World Game Expo was a wonderful event that allowed me to meet a ton of developers from the MENA region all working on really great games. My absolute favorite from the show was a game by the name of Asura. I spent most days playing for an hour or so just trying to get to level 2 (which, I did accomplish!).

It was also fascinating to speak to the developers from this region and hear about the different things that developers struggle with in their respective countries. Due to policies and restrictions, developers from the MENA region deal with all sorts of extra hurdles that many developers in the west don’t even think about (lack of access to dev kits, inability to attend certain events, etc). It was a very eye opening experience and something that I am trying to take to heart when I speak to new developers about pursuing game development.

I also had the pleasure of leading a women in games panel at Dubai World Game Expo. This was extra exciting to me as I felt that we had a very interesting mix of women represented on the panel: we had two developers living in Saudi Arabia, one from Abu Dhabi, one from Los Angeles, and me – also from the US.  Moreso than the panel itself, one of my favorite parts of leading this panel was when I had all of the women meet each other the day prior.  As a lot of the women didn’t know each other and some where from very different regions and backgrounds, I thought it would be good to get everyone together to meet and find out which topics they would like to discuss and which topics they would like to avoid.  This led to many incredibly interesting conversations about feminism and what it meant to each of these women, and it was amazing to see the different things that these women were fighting for (all stemming from the same goal of equality).

I left Dubai feeling more energized and inspired than any other event I’ve ever been to, and I’m so thankful to have been invited to the Dubai World Game Expo.


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Destiny

In the next installment of “yes, I actually DID play some games this year”, it’s time to talk about Destiny. With The Taken King expansion releasing, Destiny is, once again, at the top of my list of games I played this year. TTK is fun both narratively and mechanically, but more importantly, it’s a wonderful portal to hang out with my friends around the world. Rami and I have a rule where we only play Destiny with each other (seriously, we’ve basically never played it apart from one another – we even have two TVs and two PS4s), and it has basically turned into our nighttime post-work ritual. We work all day, have dinner, work more, then break for Destiny. We use it as a way to decompress and hang out with each other, then eventually invite friends in to raid, do the daily/weekly/nightfall/whatever, and chat.

Destiny’s new and interesting content that was released this year is one of the only reasons that we can continue to use it as we do (as, yes, the year 1 content was starting to get a bit stale), and I can’t wait to see where they take it in the years to come!


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I Got Out of Debt

When I quit my job and started out on my solo indie developer adventure back in 2013, I had a decent amount of savings. Because of that savings, a generally frugal lifestyle, and the help of those around me, I was able to stretch that savings for a little over a year (awesome!) – but then, I started to dip into my credit cards.  I picked up an odd contract here and there, but for the most part, I didn’t really focus on trying to make money until partway through 2015 – once my debt got back enough. I’m lucky in that I had never really been in debt until this point in my life, but it definitely was something that ended up weighing on me immensely, and causing me a lot of anxieties.

I ended up having to put all of my personal projects on hold, and switch over to contract work entirely. I formed a company (MsMinotaur, LLC obviously), and started putting my feelers out. Eventually, a contract came up that was an absolute perfect fit. I’ve been spending the last few months working on a really fun game with a guy who is very flexible with my travel schedule, and just genuinely a great person. With this contract, and being able to put all of other stuff on hold, I was finally able to dig myself out of debt juuuuuust shy of the new year starting. I still don’t have much money, but at least it’s all in the green again!


 

So, there you go – 2015 was an interesting, busy, and exciting year, and I really can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for me!

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Local Multiplayer Pack

I’m excited to announce that today I’m releasing a pack of eight local multiplayer games that I created over my year long Game a Week challenge!  This pack of games is available for purchase on itch.io at $2.99 for PC, Mac, and Linux.

All of the games included in this bundle can be played with up to two players, and other than minor audio and visual tweaks (due to licensing) all of them are being released as they were at the end of their week long development cycle.

The games that are included in this bundle are:

Week 2: Super Exploding Block Battle EXTREEEEME
Week 8: Greedy Block Eater
Week 14: Rotating Arm Soccer Battle
Week 30: Mostly Pong
Week 36: Two Player Asteroids
Week 37: Chess, But With Bear Hands
Week 39: Two Player Snake
Week 50: Bullet Shield Battle


Press X to be Okay

Today I finished a game that I started almost two years ago.

It’s not that I’d been working on this game for two years straight – I just started it two years ago and finished it today.

In the summer of 2013, I was going through a bit of a rough patch – I had just moved out of the apartment I had lived in for three years, and, with that, had ended an eight year long relationship. There were a lot of things changing in my life, and I wasn’t particularly coping well.

I created the prototype of this game one day while feeling particularly down and exhausted, then found a young pixel artist on twitter who was interested in making a few small assets for the game (my, how things changes in two years)

Soon after Andrew delivered the initial assets for the game, things started looking up for me. I began to cope with my life changes a little better, and started feeling a little less exhausted.  Basically, I didn’t have to pretend to be okay all the time anymore.

Since then, I had revisited the project a number of times trying to find the motivation to take it beyond the initial prototype phase. However, every time I opened it up, it just didn’t feel right. I wasn’t in the same place, mentally, as I was back then, and it felt dishonest to work on this while feeling so good.

Things have been generally amazing for me since then, but, as always, there are ups and downs.

For the last month or so, I’ve felt as though I’ve had no direction. I’m not doing Game a Week anymore, I was without contract work for a few months, and my personal project is at a state where things simply feel like they’re not progressing.

I’ve noticed myself becoming increasingly physically lethargic over the last few weeks, losing interest in many of the activities that I enjoy on a daily basis and largely becoming apathetic towards the things happening on around me. I seem to have lost my passion for speaking at conferences, traveling to new places, going outside, etc etc. It was a gradual change, so I didn’t quite notice it right away, but it’s definitely there.

I’ve fallen into that self-perpetuating loop where I can’t motivate myself to accomplish anything because I feel bad about myself – which causes me to feel bad about myself because I’m not accomplishing anything.

Today, I was finally able to revisit the game that I had started back in the summer of 2013.  There’s not a lot of gameplay and it’s not particularly fancy, but it was the first game I ever made where I was able to accurately convey a specific feeling of mine.

It was incredibly cathartic to finally take this game a step forward, and I feel like I’ve gained a little more closure on that chapter of my life. I thought about this game often over the last two years, and I was fairly certain that it would never be finished.

It didn’t take me two years to make this game in the traditional sense, but I’ve definitely put two years of my life into it.

Enjoy

Web

OS X

PC

Credits:

Design & Programming: Me

Art: Andrew Gleeson

SFX: freesound.org

Top 10 Things I Saw or Played or Did of 2014

Because making a “Top 10 games of 2014” list sounds too specific and hard, I decided to approach my list as a personal “Top 10 things that I saw, played, or did during 2014”.

Most of the items listed here aren’t games that were released in 2014 (honestly, most of these aren’t even games), but they’re all things that contributed to my 2014 in a significant way and affected who I am as a game developer – soooo, I think that still counts.


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Steam Dev Days

Steam Dev Days was an event that I wasn’t actually planning on attending at first.

It was the inaugural year for the event, it was fairly early in the year, and I just couldn’t decide whether a plane ticket from where I would be at the time (Pennsylvania) to Seattle would be worth it. Luckily, Delta’s website decided to glitch out at the exact moment that I absentmindedly decided to look for tickets, and I managed to snag a direct flight from Harrisburg to Seattle for $24.

Steam Dev Days ended up being one of the most enjoyable events I have ever attended. It was low key, had a wonderful atmosphere, and allowed me to befriend people in the industry who have gone on to become some of my closest friends. I’m not sure how much of my enjoyment of Steam Dev Days was the event itself, how much of it was the fact that it was the first event of the year (thus, I wasn’t burnt out on social interactions yet), and how much of it was simply a result of the people I met there – but what I DO know is that by the end of Steam Dev Days, my stomach hurt from laughing so hard, and that’s a pretty good feeling to have.


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Snowboarding

Because of the fact that I wasn’t living anywhere specific for the majority of 2014, I decided that I could easily spend a large chunk of time up in the mountains of Colorado snowboarding with my parents.

This is semi-related to video games as I convinced a friend of mine, Eric Robinson, to spend some time out there with me on a business trip. We were currently working together on the prototype version of a tool that is now known as Koreographer (which you can sign up to try out here), and I figured as we were both avid skiers/snowaborders, that we might as well combine the snow activities and the programming activities and have a working retreat to the mountains.  I’ve since stopped working on Koreographer, but you should 100% check it out if you have any desire to easily integrate an event driven system that syncs to any audio file of your choosing in Unity.

Okay, so, why am I mentioning this here?

Honestly, because it was some of the best snowboarding I’ve ever experienced in my life, and that makes me happy. The entire time I was out in Colorado, it snowed – and not just a little bit – this was A LOT of snow. In addition to the sheer magnitude of snow that was falling out of the skies, it was the kind of light fluffy snow that anyone who has ever done back country snowboarding dreams about. Most days, the snow would be halfway up my thighs, and I would just glide through it like butter. I can’t really describe the feeling that boarding through that kind of snow feels like, so here’s a video of me being really cool and then falling on my face


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Train Jam

Train Jam was my crowning achievement of the year, as it was an event that I dreamed up and made happen from start to finish.

I, honestly, could not be prouder of how it turned out. I’ve never planned an event before, so most of the planning consisted of me flailing around worried that I was forgetting something important,  fretting that Amtrak would say “No! You can’t do this!”, or generally just being concerned about whether a game jam on a 52 hour train ride was something that could even work, logistically. Seriously, there was a lot of worry that went into the planning of Train Jam (Just ask Keith from Playvue, we BROKE gmail because I emailed him with all of my worries).

Once Train Jam was up and running, however, everything was amazing. I had never ridden that specific railway before, and it was BEAUTIFUL. You can see some of the scenes here in the sneak peek of Gameloading: Rise of the Indies, but even video has a hard time capturing just how gorgeous everything was. There was something amazing about working on games, being creative, and having this type of scenery and environment surrounding you that just felt incredible.

One of my favorite write ups of the entire event is Kris Graft’s three part series that he wrote while riding along (read here, here, and here). He captured the eseence of the jam very eloquently, and I would definitely recommend checking it out.


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GAME_JAM Aftermath

I want to stress here that GAME_JAM, itself, is DEFINITELY NOT in my top 10 list.

I’m not going to spend time reiterating was was so terrible about GAME_JAM (you can read that here, here, and here), because what I want to talk about instead, is what the few days after GAME_JAM were like.

When Zoë and I decided to quit the show because of the sexist environment, our fellow developers supported us and stood behind us completely. There was talk of how the environment could be improved and questioning of wether we could salvage the train wreck that was GAME_JAM – but ultimately, when it came down to it, they were all behind us 100%. It was an amazing feeling to be supported in a decision that was, quite frankly, a little terrifying to act on, and it truly solidified the appreciation I have just how much developers will band together and support one another.

Even more heartwarming was the support that we all received from the community at large once the story broke.

Though I like to think that I’m a “good feminist” and can stand up for myself, I had never made myself quite so vulnerable on the internet before. I was terrified to press “Publish” on my post and was extremely appreciative of the fact that I immediately had to hop on an 11 hour trans-Atlantic flight with no access to internet afterwards. When I landed at my destination and checked the response to our stories, I had received literally nothing other than support and encouragement. I received so so sooo many personal stories from other women in the industry – words of gratitude for responding the way that I did, appreciation for sticking to our principles, and even a few emails letting me know that I inspired other women to finally push back against uncomfortable, sexist working conditions.

Basically, I’m proud of how myself and the other developers on GAME_JAM responded, I’m proud of how the industry responded, and I’m proud to have been able to show everyone that we don’t have to put up with the sexism in this industry <3


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Every game I played on my Vita This Year

The Playstation Vita is one of the most under-appreciated consoles out there – it’s solid, portable, has an amazing battery life, and is home to a bunch of amazing games.

To be totally fair, I’ve probably played more old Playstation 1 games than new releases on my Vita, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Vita has given me a convenient platform to play new and old games alike.

As someone who spent the majority of this year not actually living anywhere, a home console was definitely out of the question for me. My Vita became my main gaming device during, and even now when I have an apartment and a home base again, I constantly find myself curling up and working through an old favorite from my childhood. The fact that I was able to purchase and play Tomba! (one of my all time favorite games), which is a game that is so rare it routinely sells for around $100USD is enough to give the Vita a special place in my heart. And then, the fact that I can continue on to play through Calstevania: SotN, Final Fantasy 9, Chrono Cross, and countless other games that shaped me as a gamer during my formulate gaming years makes my Vita invaluable to me.


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Destiny

Destiny is a game that is just super fun to play. My partner and I both had access to the Beta back in July, and it quickly became apparent that this would be the game to finally cause us to give in and have a two tv gaming setup.

It came out just before we moved in with each other, and we basically built our entire gaming setup based on the fact that we knew we would require two televisions and two consoles thanks to Destiny. I know that the game, itself, has recieved a lot of flack for not having as much story as many had wanted (and honestly, I can see that), but for me, this is the perfect game for me to sit down and shoot some aliens with friends and have it feel super fun. Basically, any game that allows me to work together with someone I love to accomlish some goal makes me happy.


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Game City

This was my second year attending Game City. Game City is a wonderful event that occurs annually in Nottingham, England and is one of the only large game events that I can think of that truly focuses on games for all ages. The event’s purpose is to celebrates games themselves – it doesn’t focus on gamers or developers – simply *games*. It’s one of the most warm and welcoming events I’ve ever attended, and am very excited to see what they do with the permanent installation that they announced in October.

I had the pleasure, this year at Game City, of being able to teach a daily workshop which focused on introducing children to game development. I had never done anything like that before, and it was super inspiring to show these young kids the basic concepts of game development. Many of the kids came in thinking that they’d be able to make Minecraft during the two hour session, but after showing them how much work went into simply making a character move, they quickly moved onto newer and more original ideas. There’s nothing quite like seeing the look on a kid’s face when you say yes to the question “Can I put an octopus in here and then the octopus catches the fish you want to catch and then there’s a wizard and the wizard stuns you and also there’s a shark and if the shark touches you you get eaten?”


 dutch

Moved to a New Country

I spent the better part of 2014 and half of 2013 not really living anywhere.

I let my apartment lease in Boston expire in August 2013, sold most of my stuff, put the rest of the large stuff in storage, and started traveling around with a suitcase and a laptop bag. It was incredibly freeing and amazing, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who even slightly wants to do something like that.

I spent most of that time staying with friends, family and fellow developers, however, due to various ~*reasons*~ (love), I started spending more and more time in the Netherlands.

Eventually, the inevitable conclusion was reached: “hey, this apartment is too small for two people to spend so much time together in and also hey we should live together”.

Now, I’m living in a country outside of the United States for the first time in my life, in a wonderful apartment in the Netherlands.

As I mentioned above, this apartment has a killer gaming setup and not too much outside of that in terms of material possessions. It’s wonderful, and we’re currently in the middle of programming every single electronic thing we have in here to interface with a voice command modules (because apparently when two giant nerds live together, they spend their days sitting in silence fighting with python and linux while packet sniffing their various systems to figure out the correct protocols to sendto their television’s remote control).


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Game a Week

Game a Week was something that become such an integral part of my life this year that I originally forgot to include it in this list. It’s not that it wasn’t a huge part of my life – it’s more that it was SUCH a huge part of my life this year that it stopped feeling like an extra part of my life.

I’ve already written extensively about what Game a Week meant to me this past year, but I’ll try to summarize it again here. Game a Week was a project intended to help me find my motivation which proceeded to encompass my life and taught me much much more about game design, myself, and the industry that I ever could have imagined. It’s a project that allowed me to grow tremendously over the last year and has left a little empty place inide of me now that it’s over.


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You

Yes, I’m pulling a Time magazine person of the year 2006, but it’s really hard to think of 10 things to write about.

Also, I really really do mean it.

A lot of my work is based on helping others, facilitating welcoming and creative environments, and generally just trying to better myself so that I can be better to and for all of *you*.

Seriously, most of the things I did this year would have meant absolutely nothing without the people around me – the people I interacted with, the people I taught, the people I worked with, the people I inspired, the people who inspired me.  I hope that I get to meet more of you in 2015 <3

Game a Week: Year In Review

I’ve written about the origins of Game a Week, I’ve spoken about my experiences doing this project, and I’ve been interviewed on why I started making weekly games for 52 weeks straight.

Now, I guess it’s time to examine how it went.

– – – –

When I started Game a Week, I was really just trying to find my motivation.

As I’ve said so many times before, I started adhering to these self-imposed guidelines as a way to force myself into productivity. I quickly found that by creating a deadline – no matter how inconsequential the ramifications for not meeting the deadline were – there was suddenly this air of importance attached to the task at hand.

So, the weekly deadline was born and I started making games within that constraint.

After getting over the hump of the first few weeks, I found myself in a rhythm.  The work rhythm of most weeks wasn’t the greatest (as there was generally a lot of procrastination), but I always held tightly onto my goal of finishing a game each Sunday.  After a while, the rules that I had placed onto myself had started to take on their own form.

Each week I would talk about how I “had” to get my game done – I HAD to. I had to stay in, sit down, and concentrate on “work” – you know, because I had that important deadline to meet.  In reality, there were no consequences for not getting the game done (e.g. I wasn’t being paid, I had no boss, etc.) – but I was completely beholden to the goal. Game a Week had become my boss.

This is a concept I’m only realizing as I write this post, but Game a Week was truly my boss for the last year.  If I didn’t get my game done, I was letting down “Game a Week”. I had to write a weekly status report to show “Game a Week” what I had accomplished.  If I didn’t think I could make a game one week, I had to discuss it with “Game a Week” – I had to make sure that the mystical entity that was “Game a Week” would approve of my “vacation”. Everything revolved around my current job as game developer at Game a Week, Inc.

It’s an interesting concept to look back on – I quit my job so that I could do all of the things I wanted to do without answering to anyone. . . .only to place an artificial boss back onto myself.

– – – –

I used to partake in a lot of endurance sports. I found my love for running fairly late in my life (2009 was the very first year I ever ran a continuous mile without stopping), but once it happened, I never looked back.  Eventually, I signed up for my first triathlon, and then spent the majority of my free time over the next few years training for and completing triathlons and various running races.

I vividly remember my first half marathon.  I trained as effectively as I could, I ate the appropriate meals, and I got a proper amount of sleep the night before race day. It was bitter cold (the race was in the middle of November right outside of Boston) and my car’s heating decided to stop working that morning.  A friend and I drove over together, parked, and then paced around trying to stay warm and shake out the nerves.   I secretly had a goal of running the whole thing under 2 hours, but mostly, I knew I’d be happy as long as I finished it (spoiler alert, I ran it in 1 hour 57 minutes and 56 seconds).

When running the race, I went through four very distinct trains of thought:

Miles 0 – 3: Oh my goodness, I am already SO tired, how will I ever make it 10+ more miles? Ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmyghosh I’m never going to make it – oh my gosh.

Miles 4-10: This is great! I’ve got my stride, I’m listening to Harry Potter, the scenery is beautiful and everythi-oh look another mile passed already, AWESOME, only a few more to go!

Mile 11-12: I AM SO TIRED I’M NOT GOING TO MAKE IT I HAVE TO GIVE UP RIGHT NOW.

Mile 13: Just a little bit further, I can’t stop now because – seriously – the finish line is right over there – I can LITERALLY see it.

(Post race: I FEEL SO GREAT ABOUT MYSELF – I CAN LITERALLY DO ANYTHING! WOOOOO!)

What I’m trying to say here is that Game a Week also went through these four very distinct mental shifts.

Weeks 1 – 8

I’ve written about the first few weeks of Game a Week before, but suffice it to say – they were difficult.  The goal seemed incredibly insurmountable and I needed a lot of encouragement from those around me.  Luckily, I had Rami around to continually push me. He originally conceived of the idea of making a game every week and was not shy about pointing out how ridiculous all of my excuses were during those first few weeks. He was the spectator in the sidelines of my first few miles holding up a sign and telling me to keep running and that he believed in me.

Most of the games I made during the first month or two were (what I’m declaring as) terrible. Most of them were legitimately unplayable and those that weren’t were just not good. There were not designed well, and (in most cases) were hardly a finished, cohesive thought.

Weeks 9 – 46

After this, however, I hit my stride. I had figured out how to appropriately scope my projects, how to hone in on good design ideas, and appropriately budget my time. I no longer needed someone there to actively encourage me as I was now doing it myself (though knowing I still had someone in the background to offer emotional support and design opinions when needed was always helpful).

I’ve seen a lot of developers inspired to start Game a Week (or something similar) throughout the year. I’ve also seen the majority of them stop after the first few weeks. According to *science*, it takes 66 days to form a habit, and this seems to definitely hold true for regularly updated projects as well.  It’s hard to break through those first few weeks, but the moment you do – BAM – you’ve now made it a part of your daily life.

There were ups and downs during this chunk of time, but this was where I made all of my favorite ideas and generally felt best about my abilities as a designer and programmer.  This was the time period where Game a Week didn’t feel like a chore that I needed to be constantly reminded of – instead, it was just a daily part of my life.

Weeks 47 – 51

This is where I hit my wall.

It started with me not making a game during week 47. There were a lot of different reasons for that, but it really came down to exhaustion. I was tired, my brain was tired, and I just couldn’t find the energy to make *anything*. Every other time I had to take a break from Game a Week, I felt rejuvenated the next week. This time, however, something different happened. I was still tired. I felt all of the same things I felt the previous week, and nothing felt like it fix it. This is the first time I related my experiences back to running my first half marathon in my head.  I was in the final stretch of the whole experience, but every step was a struggle at this point. I wanted nothing more than to stop and give myself a long long rest, but I knew that if I skipped another week, that would be the end. My momentum would be gone, and I wouldn’t finish the year like I had set out to do.

So, I did everything I could to keep running. I was tired, but I knew that I only had a handful of weeks left and the reward of sticking with it would feel so much better than the temporary relief of stopping.

Week 52

With the final week arriving, I had one last tiny burst of energy. With 7DFPS, ProcJam, and the knowledge that I would be able to take a mental break from this whole project gave me juuuuuuuuuust enough energy to come up with a new idea.   I didn’t end up making a game for either 7DFPS or ProcJam, but at least there was some outside inspiration to see me through to the end (again, as in the first few weeks, I needed something there to cheer me on). I still didn’t quite have the energy to work up to my fullest potential, but I was able to make something interesting to close out my year on a high note.

– – – –

I’ve been asked a lot of questions about Game a Week over the year, so I’ll finish out this post by answering some of the most common ones (some of the answers are a bit copy and pasted from other places that I’ve answered them):

How much time did you spend on your weekly game?

It definitely varied wildly depending on how much other stuff was going on and how motivated I was towards the current week’s idea.  If I had contract work, that always had to take precedence, and every once in a while there would be other (more time sensitive) projects or events that would push my Game a Week responsibilities aside. I never once really took stock of just how much time I was spending on Game a Week (one of my only regrets about how I approached the project), but my guess would be anywhere from 30-50 hours a week.

How were you financial sustaining yourself?

I’m very fortunate in a lot of aspects in my life. One of those aspects is that I spent a lot of time right after University working in an industry that was well paying. In addition to that, I lived very frugally for a number of years. Because of this, I’ve been able to stretch my savings to last the better part of the  last year and a half, and have only really needed to pick up outside contract work a handful of times.

I make sure to travel as efficiently/cheaply as I can and try to save money a lot of different places. When I was doing contract work, it was hard to find the time to continue with the game a week stuff, but I found the time for both. There were times that my dwindling financial situation had impacted my mood, motivation, and general overall wellbeing, but being a programmer fortunately lends itself to easily finding work when needed.

I also know that I have a supportive family (and a wonderful support structure of friends) who I could look to if anything ever truly went wrong. I’ve never had to look to them for financial help in my adult life, but knowing that they’re there in case of an emergency definitely allows me some freedom to take a certain number of risks

Why a year?

I don’t really have a good reason for this.

A year felt like a nice amount of time to do this project.

Was it worth it?

For me and for what I needed it for – yes. 100%

I was so lost when starting this project, and it was the perfect method to guide me and put me on a track that I so desperately needed to find.  It gave me a purpose and a goal when I was convinced I would never find either and gave me the structure I needed in order to educate myself on parts of game development that I had little to no experience with. I came out of the year with so much more knowledge and confidence than I went into it with, and that is an incredible feeling.

Would you do it again?

I don’t think so. I’m not going to say no, but I don’t see where I would need/want/have the energy to do this same project again. I would, however, do a similarly structure project. In fact, that’s sort of what I’m thinking my next major step will be. I’d love to take a handful of the Game a Week games that I liked best and work on them in a larger capacity.

I’m tentatively thinking that this will turn into a “Game a Quarter” scenario, where I give myself three months to polish four games – however, don’t hold me to that!

Would you recommend I do something like this?

Maybe.

For all of its upsides, there are a number of downsides/difficulties with this project that may or may not ultimately be helpful for *you*.

This project was more mentally exhausting that I was anticipating. MUCH more.  There were weeks that I would drive myself completely into the ground in order to finish (or even start) the week’s game. I wasn’t prepared for it the first few times it happened, and I thought I was just weak. It turns out that no – I’m just human.

I think this would be the biggest piece of advice I’d offer to someone taking on this project (or something similar): If you don’t finish your game one week, THAT’S OKAY. Give yourself a break and jump right back onto the project next week. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling tired – instead, allow your body and mind a break and take pride in the fact that you’re taking care of yourself.

We have a tendency in this industry to ignore signs of exhaustion and push ourselves until we can’t handle it any more. It’s an admirable approach in some respects (wow, look at how driven that person is!), but it is really not a good way to ensure that we can keep working effectively week to week.

The important part here though, is to get back to it the next week. It’s easy to get discouraged when you miss one week and give up on the project entirely – and that’s why you have to accept that giving yourself rest is okay (and encouraged!). By accepting that, it removes the majority of the discouragement that comes from “failing” a week.

I’ve had long conversations with people about what the downsides to Game a Week were. I’m not sure wether any of the downsides are a product of Game a Week or my execution of it, but there are definitely some things that Game a Week did not help me learn or improve on. These are things such as: How to commercially sell your game; How to polish your game  to completion; How to market your game.

Game a Week helped me, immensely, to become faster at prototyping, better at tightening up design, and more experienced at critically looking at a creation of mine and analyzing its faults – but I’m now wondering how good I’m at in actually releasing a commercial product on my own.

TL;DR: If you are just starting out making games, are inexperienced at how to make games, feel lost in your career or direction, feel demotivated in general, have a lot of spare time, are aware of how mentally draining it is, have someone around (whether virtually or physically) to encourage you, and/or love to challenge yourself: then yes, I would recommend it.

Now what?

I’m taking a bit of a small mental break from creating my own games. Though it still feels like I’m full of ideas all the time, I’m focusing on contract work for a little while. This will allow me to get my finances back in order and rejuvenate myself and my brain.  Other than that, I’ve been focusing on Train Jam and spending quality time with friends and loved ones.

Favorite games?

In reverse chronological order, these are the games I liked the best

Week 52 (The one where I learned a lot about shader)

Week 49 (The one about a bunny pooping and eating carrots)

Week 48 (The one that’s a giant metaphor about how exhausted Game a Week was making me)

Week 45 (The one about gravity and space)

Week 34 (The one about farting)

Week 27 (The one about flying and feelings)

Week 25 (The one that’s actually a twitter bot)

Week 23 (The one that’s a side-scrolling time loop)

Week 15 (The one that’s SpellTower but also Fizz-Buzz)

Week 13 (The one that’s about growing a circle and is also the one that Firehose Games hacked to make the leaderboard say silly things to me)

Week 10 (The one that’s a FPS text adventure)

Week 5 (The first one that I feel was actually a fun game)

Week 2 (The one that has way too much screen shake)

. . . and then since last time I was asked this question, John forced me to pick a favorite, I’ll just point out that week 34 made me laugh and smile the most while making it, so I’m going with that one as my favorite (though, week 45 is a clooooooose second)

How are you feeling?

Okay, full disclosure – no one asked me this question, but I feel like talking about it, so here I go.

Right now, I have the end-of-project-blues. As I alluded to before, Game a Week had become the thing that I spent the entirety of last year answering to in one way or another. Even though I very much appreciate the break from it right now, I feel as though I’m back where I was in November of 2013 when I felt lost and purposeless. I have a loose plan of where I want to go next, but I’m back to being beholden only to myself again and that scares me.

This time around, I’m more aware of myself and my working habits, but that only makes it slightly easier guide myself.  I’m currently focusing myself on things other than my own personal game development projects, but I know that this is only a temporary relief as I’ll get that itch again soon where I know I’ll need to work on something entirely of my own creation.

I know I learned a lot and made a lot of things, but I’m currently feeling just as lost as I was when I started Game a Week.

It will pass, but the end-of-project-blues are rough.

– – – –

So, yeah.

Like I said way back there at the top – I mostly started Game a Week to find my motivation.  If nothing else, I at least found a purpose for most of the year. I accomplished a pretty cool milestone, sharpened my design skills, and gained a lot of confidence in a lot of different areas of game development.

Game a Week is something that I’m proud to have dedicated myself to for the last year.  My brain is exhausted and I’m sad that it’s over, but I’m excited to move onto what’s next for me in games. I’m scared that I don’t know exactly *what* my next thing is, but I’m excited for it nonetheless.

Now here’s 52 pictures of me in various stages of thumbs-upping:

me52

Game a Week: Week 20

PLAY HERE

Idea

This week I felt completely void of ideas. I spent a lot of the week trying to force myself to think of a game idea, but it just wasn’t working. Then before I knew it, it was Sunday and I hadn’t started ANYTHING. Usually when I push off making my Game a Week game, I at least have some sort of idea that brews in the back of my head all week.  However, this time – nothing.

As the pressure of coming up with and idea grew, it became more and more difficult to create.  To distract myself from the fact that I simply lacked the ability to be productive on a game, I spent a lot of my week doing ‘busy work’.  I started development of an app that will package all of my GAW games into one standalone executable, read a lot of comic books, started an ask.fm, and even cleaned the entirety of the place I was staying. I did most of that to make myself feel better about not working on anything ‘real’, but at the same time I was also hoping that I would be inspired by anything. Unfortunately, I just still had nothing.

I resorted to brainstorming with some friends, and then finally it was suggested to me that I should make a game where you have to do something in 60 seconds. That evolved into doing something in 60 seconds while literally on a clock, and so on and so on.

Thus, at 9pm Sunday night, I began development on Week 20.

What went right

I made this game quickly. One thing that Game a Week has really done for me, is that it has made me very good at creating things very fast. This now means that when I do have a new idea, I know that it won’t take me long to prototype it and see if it’s something I’d like to pursue further.

In addition to that, this week I was actually able to put some time into focusing making some ‘real’ artwork. I sat down and came up with a color scheme that I liked, created some simple sprites (except for the main character – I poached that from my Train Jam game), and made some simple animations.  Instead of focusing purely on the gameplay, I started my journey towards becoming a better all around ‘game maker’.

What went wrong

Same thing that goes wrong every week – I started this way too late. I didn’t have enough to time to really explore the idea before falling asleep – and as it was Sunday, I couldn’t ‘sleep on it’ and return to it the next day.  This week, Game a Week almost felt like a burden.  It was something that I really didn’t look forward to and something that I just felt no passion for. I’m hoping that I get my groove back soon, but as it stands now, I feel almost burnt out on making these little prototypes.

What I learned

 It’s not THAT hard to make art that is a step up from ‘programmer art’.  With the help of websites such as Color Scheme Designer and the use of simple shapes and a minimal amount of effort, you can make something that is at least slightly desirable to look at.

Game a Week: Week 19

PLAY HERE

*WARNING* You probably want to turn your speakers down first.

Idea

I started this week thinking that my week 19 game would be the result of a game jam that I’d be participating in at the end of the week.

Obviously, that didn’t go so well.

I hadn’t really been thinking about a game idea as I wanted to save all of my creative juices for the jam (in addition, I didn’t want to come into the jam with a pre-conceived notion of what I’d like to make). Then, by the time the whole debacle was over, I was fairly emotionally and creatively drained and needed a few days to recuperate.

I was afraid that I would have a failure for the second time in row due to this whole situation.

Luckily, after we escaped from the set – I was able to stay at the house of Rich Lemarchand (big big thank you to Rich for taking a bunch of us in for a few days) where my creative juices were very swiftly returned.  One of the many many books in Rich’s house (which, according to him, is only a fraction of the books he actually owns) was a book by the name of Poemotion 1. It’s an interactive book that creates tiny animations when you slide a semi-transparent insert over each page.  It’s a fascinating book that I slowly became obsessed with over the next few days (seriously, I almost tried to sneak it out). It got me thinking about movement and shapes, which led to me thinking about sine waves.

Ultimately it inspired me to try creating a game based on using sine waves to make things move.

What went right

The fact that I was able to create anything in the days after the whole GAME_JAM debacle was pretty amazing. I was so drained and frustrated over the whole thing that I couldn’t even think about games. I tried to channel my ill feelings into a creative endeavor, but it just felt so wrong to put those feelings into a project.

I took a lot of inspiration from the environment around me after the jam, and I think that helped me a lot. I took in the visuals and the creativity that surrounded me by staying at Rich’s as well as working out of Glitch City and channeled THAT into a new project.

What went wrong

I didn’t have a lot of time to work on this as I had assumed that I would have a different means of achieving a game this week.  This means that when I ran into issues such as how the collision detection was working, I had to gloss over it and fudge a lot of interactions between objects. It resulted in a pretty bad feeling and difficult game.

I wasn’t able to use the bad things that happened throughout the week as inspiration as I had hoped I would be able to.  I had so much emotion about this thing that happened to me and I hoped that I would be able to channel that into something creative. I was disappointed that all I could manage to do was be angry.

What I learned

Sometimes things don’t go quite according to plan – it’s always good to have a few contingency plans. Also, collision detection in Unity doesn’t work quite the way I thought it did.

Oh also, don’t sign a contract you’re not 100% comfortable with and it’s okay to walk away from a shitty situation. Also, the indie community is amazing and full of love <3

Let’s talk about accountability

Today I want to talk about accountability. I want to talk about how one person can crumble an entire environment. I want to talk about community.

Recently, after days of contract negotiations, I began participation in what was supposed to be a four day long competitive game jam which would be broadcast to YouTube. The description we were provided for this jam was simple:

“Green Label Game Jam seeks to provide viewers with insight into the technical and artistic process of developing a game, in the format of a reality competition show. We seek to do for indie games what “Top Chef” did for cooking.”

The game jam was to be sponsored by Pepsi and produced by Polaris/Maker. There were a multitude of mysterious prizes to be won.

I was invited to be a member of a team by a friend of mine and together, with one other, we were set to spend the next four days in Los Angeles, California working on a game and collaborating with each other for the first time in our friendship’s history.

I love game jams. I think that participating in a game jam is one of the greatest parts of game development culture and a wonderful way to truly foster creativity. In one space you can get a multitude of people together, all with different backgrounds/perspectives/styles/etc. You put them all into one room, let them pair off, and the result is a wonderful array of new and creative things.

To me, a lot of game development is the community that surrounds it. It’s the people who get together to share ideas, meld those ideas into new ideas, and help build each other up.

I guess this is why I tend to associate with non-competitive jams. I view a game jam as an event where I can explore something I haven’t explored before (be it a technology or an idea), work with people I’ve never worked with before, and try to create something with those new friends. Adding a competitive element to a game jam adds this extra component that each development team needs to worry about – and it just feels wrong to me. It feels wrong to pit developers against one another, and it feels wrong to ask developers to compromise their game for the sake of “winning”. Game jams should be the one place where you shouldn’t have to worry about compromising your vision. It should be a safe space in all senses of the word. It should be a place that you as a person feel safe as well as you as a developer.

From the beginning there were potential problems with the “Green Label Game Jam” (branded on set as “GAME_JAM”). The contract was full of corporate legalese. There were clauses about being allowed to misrepresent us in any way on any topic for “dramatic effect”. There were sections barring developers from appearing on any form of broadcast media for a period of time longer than anyone should be comfortable with (honestly even any time was too much time). Many of the participants were the sole faces of their company. We, off the bat, would be risking our reputations – our livelihoods – to participate in this jam. We negotiated the contract as a group. We reworded the most egregious sections – but not before having to push back for days.

With trepidation, I participated in day one. Day one of what was supposed to be four days of jamming under slightly uncomfortable circumstances. In my mind, worst case scenario was that I would spend four days working on a game with some friends while being surrounded with green logos and sipping water secretly off-camera. I could deal with all of this if it meant I could work on something in a fun space and be filmed in order to expose more of the public to how game development works (though we all acknowledged in some way that it was probably going to be dramatized in a way).

So there I was, standing on stage waiting to be judged on a “mini-challenge” only marginally related to game development with lights shining down and the cameras rolling. I was underneath a Mountain Dew sign, watching a team win their Mountain Dew lawn chairs where they could sip on their brand new Dew Pack of Mountain Dew. We were all vying for a grand prize only slightly more insulting than the aforementioned lawn chairs.

The product placement and forcing of the brand onto us was over the top. I understand who was sponsoring it and where the money to produce this event was coming from, but when I am no longer allowed to have easy access to water in order to hydrate myself after sweating under bright lights for hours because it wasn’t Mountain Dew, then we have a problem. I don’t want to speak ill of Mountain Dew. They are a brand and they sponsored an event – it is 100% acceptable to slap their branding all over the place. It was the enforcement of shilling out our image to constantly and overtly push this beverage that made me uncomfortable.

Every prize for our mini “challenges” was a branded prize (dew colored lawn chairs, cases of Mountain Dew, etc). Even the grand prize – a year’s supply of Mountain Dew, a trip to a Mountain Dew sponsored extreme sport event in Breckenridge, CO, and access to ID@Xbox – was so overly corporate and “bro culture”, that it was just uncomfortable.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year learning how to be true to myself. I’ve been learning how to listen to who I am and consistently try to base my actions on what I feel is right and what I feel represents who I am as a person. Here I was participating in an event that, by it’s very nature of being competitive, stands against everything I feel about game jams. Here I was selling out my integrity to participate in an event where I had to pretend to love Mountain Dew more than any other beverage in the world (I don’t even drink soda, FYI). I was pretending to laugh at gamer jokes. I was clapping at prizes I couldn’t have cared less about. And most of all, I was just not representing myself as me.

This was uncomfortable enough for me to consider walking out. At that point – as I was still negotiating certain points of the contract – I had no contractual obligation to be there. I could leave and take my integrity with me. What kept me there were the other developers, and the people who worked so incredibly hard to put this entire thing together. This was not a small production. There was a film crew, a set crew, a staff, producers, directors – and the other developers. Everyone had put so much into this – how can I throw it back in their face and say “Sorry, I’m not a corporate sellout”? Okay, I’ll deal with it. I’ll make fun of it under my breath and off camera, I’ll power through. At the very least, there will be a show about game development that maybe some non-developers will watch and be interested in. Maybe we can educate people about the amazing culture that is indie game development. Maybe there’s a redeeming factor to this.

I can deal with that. I can deal with selling out to have some fun with my friends.

What I can’t deal with is supporting what happened next.


You can literally trace back the entire crumbling of this show to one individual – Matti Leshem, CEO of Protagonist, a Brand Energy company. Here was a person who, from the get-go, rubbed me the wrong way – he and I were definitely different people. He is the one who headed up removing even un-labeled water bottles from being allowed on our desks. He is the one I heard asking around if there was any way that we could drink the water out of empty Mountain Dew cans.

He is also the one who asked my team the following question:

“Do you think you’re at an advantage because you have a pretty girl on your team?”

All love to my teammates as they declined to engage. But, after pushing more – he got a rise out of me. He got me to, with an embarrassed and flushed red face launch into a statement about how his question is indicative of everything that is wrong in our industry in terms of sexism. That no, we weren’t at an advantage because we had a woman on our team – we were at an advantage because I’m a damn fine programmer and game developer. We were at an advantage because my skills allowed us to be at an advantage – not my “pretty face”.

He had the audacity to approach me later and explain that it wasn’t personal. This wasn’t a personal attack on me – he knew this was a sensitive topic in the industry and wanted to address it.

Well, you know what? It was personal. You sat there and overtly questioned my skills, my intelligence, my life. It was so personal, that I can’t even wrap my head around the fact that someone could even pretend to believe that it wasn’t a personal attack.

And, on top of that, it was a completely inexcusable way to address the issue of sexism in games. You address this by having a rational conversation about the nuances of how it feels to be an underrepresented part of an industry that you love. You address it by making a marginalized subset feel safe. You address it by allowing the minority to feel like they have a voice – a voice that is being listened to. You don’t address it by shoving cameras in a woman’s face and insinuating that the only reason she was brought onto a skill-based competition was because she was nice to look at.

In addition, I’m trying to participate in a friendly competitive game jam. I’m not here to stand on a soapbox and discuss sexism, this isn’t the venue for it. It’s a venue for being a corporate sellout, sure – but this is not where I am going to engage in a discussion about sexism.

I spoke with my team, and as a group decided to not engage any further lines of questioning about the women participating in the jam (out of the 11 people participating, there were two women. This means that there were two all male teams and two teams with one woman each). We wouldn’t give him the rise he was looking for out of us. We were there to power through and make a game.

So there I was – at about 99% capacity of what I could deal with in terms of corporate bullshit and sexism – and then the final straw. The two all male teams were questioned in a similar fashion:

“Do you think the teams with women on them are at a disadvantage?”

That was it.

I cannot be a part of something that, in any way, feels like this is an appropriate way to expose game development to the world. The other teams also declined to engage, but the very notion that this is something that could potentially be written into a story – the notion that it, even if disproven throughout the entirety of the show, would even be addressed is what completely did it in for me.

I will not put my face and my “stamp of approval” on something where this is even a question. No, we are not at an advantage because we have women on our team and no, we are not at a disadvantage because we have women on our team. We all have advantages and disadvantages because of our varying skills and strengths. Having the audacity to be a woman does not hinder nor help any of these things. Being a woman simply means that we are women.

After airing our grievances with the production, there were four of us who immediately dropped out. Me and the other woman as well as one person from each of our respective teams. The rest tried to salvage what was there, but the four of us were out. None of us could reconcile being a part of something that would hire someone like Matti. Whether he is asking those questions as a representation of his personal thoughts or simply as a way to poke and prod to make ‘entertaining drama’, I cannot be a part of a culture that believes that this is an appropriate action on any level.

I do want to stress how wonderful mostly everyone else involved in the production was. As we made our decision and explained everything to those in charge, we were supported 100% for our decision. This has nothing to do with Maker, Mountain Dew, Pepsi, Polaris or anyone. This has to do with Matti Leshem and people like him.

However, I want to talk again about accountability.

Yes, he was not an actual employee of ANY of these companies – but he was there. He was a part of this. Somewhere in the chain of command, he was hired as a contractor to have control over this project. Someone out there vetted a person like this and thought he was a good person to work with.

Just as this person needs to be held accountable for his actions, so do those who agreed to work with him. It is unclear to me who made that decision, but someone did. He may not work for any of these companies, but he was still there. I want everyone involved in this to understand that who you hire and who you work with is, in some way, a reflection of who you are. When you choose to work with a person and allow that person represent your brand in any way, you damn well better make sure that that person’s beliefs and actions align with yours.

After we left the show, the producers, content managers, and countless others involved in the production of the series tried to work through a way to get us back to finish the jam. Though many of the immediate concerns were addressed (e.g. Matti was removed from the project) and they offered to completely restructure the event, the point remained – there was once a person there who destroyed everything. There was a person involved on this project who felt that it was appropriate to humiliate, embarrass, and harass. Our trust was broken and we were done.

The day that followed was a constant stream of the production team offering up new ideas on how to ‘fix’ the situation. Each offer was slightly more desperate than the last, as it came to light throughout the day just how grim their situation was. This was Polaris’s first large production after Maker was acquired by a much larger corporation – and it crashed down in a spectacular ball of fire.

People were about to lose their jobs.

Not the set crew, they were fine, they had nothing to do with this. But the people responsible for hiring those who ultimately destroyed it – they all contributed to a toxic environment, and they should be held accountable for that.

While something like Train Jam, to me, embodies every single aspect of game jams that I find to be special – the “GAME_JAM” embodied everything that I find to be wrong and abhorrent about how people view us as game developers. I came into this event expecting to make a game, show people a glimpse into game development, and possibly have some fun. Instead, my intelligence, my legitimacy, and my integrity were all pushed and questioned. We, as developers, were being treated as desperate stereotypes, and we, as women, were treated worse than that.


Despite all of this, there was a wonderful thing that happened. That community that I hold so dear banded together. As individuals, we were insulted and hurt, but as a group we were able to stand up and support one another in a way that I truly appreciate.

Our night, once the production was officially deemed dead, consisted of hanging out, forming new friendships, and reinforcing existing friendships – exemplifying the environment that should have existed all day.

Some developers began to devise ideas on how to film a game jam that would properly capture the spirit of game development. Some developers discussed potential future game design ideas. Some developers simply played games.

No matter what everyone was doing, however, we were all in this together – sharing, collaborating, talking, and creating.



There were many other people at this event – however, we all have varying degrees of how we can talk about this (mostly for legal reasons). Because we are all individuals with different backgrounds and experiences, we were all affected in unique ways. I’ve listed below links to the people who were present and have written about this in some capacity:

http://indiestatik.com/2014/03/31/most-expensive-game-jam/

www.beesgo.biz/reality.html

http://soundselfgame.com/?p=302

Game a Week: Week 18

Well, Week 18 didn’t go so well.

Once I was all rested up after Train Jam, I naïvely believed that even with GDC, I would still be able to find some spare moments to make this week’s game.  Determined to never fail at Game a Week again, I spent the week doing all of the typical GDC activities – which in itself is more than enough to completely overload a person – as well as continually worrying about what game I should make. The ultimate result of all of this was merely an mentally/emotionally drained Adriel and no game.

I think that since I obviously can’t do a retrospective of what went right/wrong this week, let’s just skip straight to what I learned!

What I learned

This week was a good lesson in over-exerting oneself. Coming off of the high of running a successful event, I felt that I could accomplish anything. I was a machine – a superhuman – I was unstoppable. For the first few days of GDC, I was reveling in the outpouring of praise for this silly little event I ran. Everywhere I went, it felt like people were approaching me to either lament over the fact that they weren’t there or regale me with tales of how others were jealous of their wonderful experiences. Hell, I was even told by some that being on Train Jam was life changing. Over a week later, and I’m still amazed and humbled that something I created could affect anyone in such a way.

So yeah, there I was – on top of the world and ready for the craziness of GDC. Then, the inevitable happened – the high wore off and the emotional crash came. I proceeded to spend my free time worrying about the fact that people were noticing me and being afraid that they would ask me what I do/what games I’ve released. I became extra-sensitive towards being at the “wrong” party or not being able to confide in friends or feeling excluded or simply feeling like I just didn’t belong. Yes, I was worried both about the fact that people were noticing me and also that people weren’t. I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of this, but all I know is that I felt both over-appreciated and under-appreciated all at the same time.

As much as GDC 2013 was about me figuring out who I was and what I wanted to do with myself, GDC 2014 was about me losing myself, breaking down, and building myself back up again.

From what I understand, this isn’t an isolated experience. There are many out there who feel confused, inspired, dejected, included, excluded, elated, lost, and accepted at every moment of GDC. It’s an intense week full of expectations, inspiration, disappointment and hope.

When you’re in an environment where there are so many people who all have a shared history of not entirely fitting in (to varying degrees), who are pouring large portions on their life into their business/game/message, and who are (9 times out of 10) in waaaaay over their heads both socially and professionally, you’re bound to get a wide range of simultaneous emotions. I wasn’t quite prepared for this and thus, wasn’t entirely aware of what was happening to me.

All in all, GDC was wonderful. Train Jam went better than I ever thought it could have and affected me in so many ways that I wasn’t expecting and/or prepared for. I met amazing people throughout the week, demoed some stuff I was working on (receiving great feedback/reactions), and became inspired/motivated to work on my stuff more than ever.

However, in retrospect I should have 100% focused on the event, my mental well-being, and sleeping during my limited spare time instead of adding one more thing onto an already loaded plate.

Lesson learned – sometimes you need to take care of yourself <3

hello world

My name is Adriel Wallick and I’m an independent game developer most recently based out of Boston.

“Most recently based?”, you ask? Well, let me explain.

After a series of personal events, I decided that I didn’t want to stay in one location anymore. I let my lease expire, left my ‘real people’ job, distributed all of my worldly possessions between a 5’x7′ storage unit and the the trunk of my car, and, like any good vagrant would, hopped on a train to head out west. Since then, I’ve been attending various events and staying with a myriad of friends and family. I’ve only been at this nomadic lifestyle for a couple of months so far, but it’s already been an interesting and fascinating experience.

I’ve been working in games since 2011 after a lifetime of playing games and years of desiring to work on games. Before games, I made satellites.

Games have always been an interest of mine. As a child, my parents continually exposed my sisters and I to games and technology. I would think about each game I played for days – how does this work? why does this work? I would try to figure out the gameplay patterns so I could ‘cheat’ the system (it’s really the only way to do well playing against two older siblings).

One of my earliest memories of using a computer, was when I was 6 years old.  My father had an MS-DOS computer and we were informed that there were games on it that we were allowed to play.  However, we had to figure out how to navigate around, boot it up, and start the games ourselves.  My sisters and I sat down with a book of DOS commands and worked at it until we could finally play Castlevania.

In middle school, I taught myself the C programming language. I wanted to “make a game” and it was the only way I could figure out how to do that. I was fascinated at how I could make the computer understand user input. I was equally as fascinated at the fact that I could use that user input to affect the program I made. The game was a simple choose-your-own-adventure text based game – but it was a game.

I used games as a way to experience things and entertain myself. Any time my parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I always had the same answer – games.

It took me a while to really figure it out (honestly, much longer than it probably should have), but eventually I did figure out that making games, and being involved in the game development community, is what would make me happy.

On my own, I’ve mostly worked on little side-project games, game jams, and a few prototypes.  I’ve also professionally worked on things such as Rock Band Blitz as well as a few unreleased contract projects.

Inspired by the amazing creativity that I’ve seen come out of the game jams I’ve been involved in, I’ve started to plan some of my own. Currently, I’m working on a jam inspired by a trip I took this previous August. I’ll be announcing more soon, so stay tuned!

So yeah – that’s me. I have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going, but I might as well at least write about it.