Shanghaist and Gothamist Are Over

A week ago, reporters and editors in the combined newsroom of DNAinfo and Gothamist, two of New York City’s leading digital purveyors of local news, celebrated victory in their vote to join a union.

On Thursday, they lost their jobs, as Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade who owned the sites, shut them down.

When the DNAinfo and Gothamist New York newsrooms first moved to join the union in April, management warned that there might be dire consequences.

DNAinfo’s chief operating officer sent the staff an email wondering if a union might be “the final straw that caused the business to close.” Around the same time, Mr. Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, wrote, “As long as it’s my money that’s paying for everything, I intend to be the one making the decisions about the direction of the business.”

In September, Mr. Ricketts, a conservative who supported President Trump in last year’s election, raised the ante with a post on his blog titled “Why I’m Against Unions At Businesses I Create,” in which he argued that “unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.

Source: DNAinfo and Gothamist Are Shut Down After Vote to Unionize – The New York Times

This is an insanely depressing story, not least because I really enjoy(ed) the goofy local culture pieces on Gothamist and Shanghaiist. Those sites meant a lot to me personally in my Brooklyn years and my China years, and in the times I’ve felt homesick for Brooklyn and China.

But it’s a depressing story on a macro scale. Writers and other creatives often struggle to be paid like valued craftspeople, not like dilatantes, and I won’t even touch the freelance / contractor / gig economy that saves employers loads of money by maintaining workers’ ineligibility for company health insurance.  But it doesn’t sound like the new union actually asked for money or health insurance or anything, just that a union was formed and the possibility of collective bargaining was introduced. The prospect was so off-putting to the billionaire owner that he just shut down the magazines.

This story gives lie to those narratives about how “job creators” deserve assistance to spread prosperity to the community, and all the bootstraps narratives about working harder and earning more, and all the self-determination narratives about how if you don’t like your salary or your work, you can change your job. The key to prosperity isn’t to work harder or longer or skip those self-indulgent coffees, it’s to be a billionaire and cut any companies that aren’t turning enough profit.

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Scenes From An MFA, Part 2

My assignment schedule: This week you have a major assignment due on Wednesday, and a minor journal due on Thursday.

Me: Ok, so means I’ll submit my minor journal on Wednesday and turn in the major assignment on Thursday. Got it.

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Takeout, After BFIG

We showed my card game Takeout at Boston FIG yesterday as part of the Tabletop Showcase.  I’m so happy we got in, so happy we went, and I had a lot of interesting conversations all day… but it was emotionally exhausting to speak to so many strangers, and to share my own creative work all day.

Our Chinese restaurant booth decor and box branding attracted players with an interest in Chinese culture. My original artstyle was neon lights on black, like every single street in China, but I’m glad we went with Harold’s red-and-white takeout carton. My original title, 吃饭了吗, also had to be Americanized for clarity, but watching attendees visually read our booth and come over ready to play a Chinese food game showed we made the right choices.

The best part was when players would notice design choices. Players would ask why it was so hard to get a cold drink or why all the Sichuan dishes were spicy, and their friends (remember, the decor attracted players with a least an interest in China) would laugh and explain it, and I was so freaking proud of myself. The best players were Chinese-American couples, who took a lot of delight in reading the flavortext and in stealing each others’ dumplings. I also laughed really hard when a friend-group would 没有 each other, over and over. It’s possible I made an entire game to share the frustration of 没有 with a Western audience. I’m not sorry.

The worst was a guy who could not accept that I both spoke some Mandarin and designed a game. Over the day, a few players were surprised by this in an impressed kind of way, which made me feel good, because, yeah, those are cool skills. But one guy was insultingly incredulous, and in retrospect, I should have told him to grass mud horse, but somehow it played right into my imposter syndrome. He doesn’t believe me! Maybe he’s right, and all the Chinese that I wrote on the card game that I designed is all a lucky fluke, when actually I’m not good at anything, and this random stranger is about to unmask me!  Imposter syndrome is weird.

Also, we sold out! Completely! I underestimated demand (see previous re: imposter syndrome) and we were sold out by mid-afternoon. I know we could have sold more copies if we had them, but I imagined myself schlepping a big box of unsold gamedecks home. Instead, people literally wanted to hand me money to buy my game, which is pretty much my game dev dream, but I couldn’t accept because I’d listened to my jerkbrain and didn’t order enough copies.

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Women in Games: From Designing to Playing and Nurturing the Next Generation

I was delighted to be part of this panel for LadiesCon! Such a great time talking with other ladies about gaming and game dev. It’s always so inspiring to talk with other game creators.

Women in Games: From Designing to Playing and Nurturing the Next Generation


  • Tracey Michienzi, Co-Founder and Co-Organizer of ELS Game Day
  • Savannah Camacho, Co-Founder and Co-Organizer of ELS Game Day
  • Emily Care Boss, Independent Game Designer/ Publisher, Black and Green Games
  • Adri Kliger, Co-Organizer of Women in Games, Boston
  • Meg Stivison, game designer for Small Monsters Games
  • Sarah Zaidan, comics artist and game designer

Have you ever looked around just to notice that you are the only woman in your game group? Ever feel like you don’t belong in the hobby? Trust us, you aren’t alone. The number of women who admit to gaming as a hobby are rising, and we are going to talk about it. Our esteemed panelists will discuss women’s roles in the gaming industry, equality in gaming, and how to create a positive gaming environment to set a good example to women gamers of the future.

via LadiesCon

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Scenes from an MFA

One week before a writing project is due: This story is really solid. Maybe I’ll make a few small edits, but it’s basically finished. I’ll come back to it for proofreading with fresh eyes, and then submit it!

One day before a writing project is due: Only a moron would think this is almost done. It’s complete garbage and I hate it. Because everything I write is garbage. What am I even doing.

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Out of Print

Just turned up a site offering pirated copies of an anthology that I was in a couple years ago. Totally counts as being back in print, right?

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In Which I Am Actually 12 Years Old

After a Pokemon-catching adventure, my friend’s tween son commented that he remembered exactly where they parked because it was level D, and that’s hilariously memorable because a certain male body part starts with D. Oh man, I thought. Imagine being so caught up in puberty that even the letter D sounds dirty to you. Whoa. Hormones! That’s a thing!

The next day, I was teaching a class on used to and didn’t use to, and I had my students form teams to correct sentences. My students started to ask each other relevant and cooperative questions like Do I want the D here? We need the D. Where does the D go again?

I was really happy to see collab learning going on, but I also had the hardest time not giggling. Because APPARENTLY I am 12.

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Takeout, my new card game, was chosen for Boston FIG’s Tabletop Showcase this September! I’m really excited (and also terrified) to show my game.

Takeout is a social setbuilding game about American backpackers trying to order Chinese food. Each player is trying to get a complete meal of 5 different tastes, plus a cold drink, before their friends. While all players will have to deal with the difficulties of ordering food in a second language, cards let players can use their Chinese phrasebooks or superior chopsticks skills to complete their sets, at their friends’ expense.

This is the first time I’ve done something that is so mine. I’ve worked on a lot of games where I did the best I could within the constraints of the existing creative, or with the deadlines and budget I was given, or according to a licensor or boss’ guidelines. Anyway, I don’t really have any of those constraints for Takeout, and it’s a little unnerving. It is, you know, really, really mine.

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Hold The Spoiler

Today, my coworker wanted to know how far I’d gotten in Game of Thrones, but very considerately didn’t want to spoil it for me, so he ran down the hall, grabbed a doorstop from another room, brought it back and asked me if I feel sad.

Previous GoT posts:

In which my Epic Studio coworkers drag me back into GoT fandom.
In which I read A Song of Ice and Fire in Yangzhou. 

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In Which I Push My Feminist Agenda

Over the years that I’ve been working in games, I’ve been accused of slipping a feminist agenda into game creative. Usually this means I objected to Smurfetteing, or pinking, not that I was actually trying to sneak female empowerment into a game.

This happened once when I wrote backstories and made 3 of the 7 playable animal characters female. I was told to rewrite one of the girls as a boy, and endless jokes were made about how I’d girled everything up. Haha! 28% of our characters are female! So girlified!

This also happened when I made a scientist questgiver female. I was prevented from making the fashion questgiver male, because obviously the fashion track existed only for lady players, and how would ladies know fashion was for them? We ended up with a lady scientist and a lady hunter, and also I drank a lot.

Anyway, I’m working on art direction for a new card game, in which only men will be washing dishes or cooking dinner. Because this time, it’s my project and I actually am pushing my feminist agenda.

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