Things I Am Not Good At, Part 5,473

I’ve been taking 40 to work at the game studio. It’s about a 30-minute drive from my apartment,  if I don’t encounter any traffic, accidents, construction, or Mercury being in retrograde, so I have to leave pretty early because apparently adults allow for delays so they can get places on time. Whatever.

Today it took me exactly 31 minutes, the absolute best-case scenario, so I got to the studio quite early. I must have hit that sweet spot after schoolbus hell and before rush hour hell, or maybe no one rear-ended anyone else on 40 today, or just maybe, after a decade or so, I’ve finally gotten good at this driving thing.

Then I remember that today is Good Friday, so almost everything is closed, and almost no one is on the roads.

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JPod: Continue? y/n

I just started reading a secondhand copy of Douglas Coupland’s JPod, and it turns out the previous owner has annotated it, adding another layer of marginalia on a novel that has instructions for ramen noodles and software bug reports in the text.

Today I joked (with my bizarrely-assorted game dev pod) that I’d add my own layer by highlighting everything that has actually happened to me in game development. Maybe I’ll color-code by studio. And underline all the things I recognize from living in China.  I’m loving the previous reader’s notes, but I also really wish I had this as an ebook so I could highlight and share passages.

Anyway, it’s pretty good so far.

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Turning Gaming Passions into Profits at SXSW

Anthony, one of my friends from The Phat Startup, was on a panel called “Turning Gaming Passions into Profits” at SXSW.  I would normally skip this kind of panel, because these usually talk about elevator pitches and personal brands and other marketing terms that sound fake and exhausting and terrible. I have terrible imposter syndrome and always struggle to describe my work history in flattering ways. I know I need to work on that, but most marketing advice just sounds like instructions on how to be an unlikeable egotist.

I went because when your friend has a panel at SXSW, you go, but I was really just planning on clapping for my friends. This turned out to be one of the best SXSW discussions I attended. (Also, instead of supporting my friends by filling a seat, I was lucky to get a good spot!)

The Phat Startup panelists talked about building non-traditional careers in games, which is always great to hear. They were all really honest about setbacks they’d encountered, and about the role that good timing and good friends had played in their successes. I don’t mean to imply that they just got lucky. Random events affect all of our career trajectories, and it’s good to remain grateful for a chance meeting or a helpful friend of a friend. It was also good to be around creative people with multiple projects going, not just the Phat Startup panel, but the audience members who asked questions as well. I kept thinking what a great question! or what a good answer, and most importantly, these are my people.

  The guys opened up for questions by reminding the audience that “we’re all family here”, which was a really delightful contrast to some of the startup posturing and name-dropping I encountered at certain other SXSW events. It worked well, audience members were encouraged to explain their own career difficulties,  to get expert practical advice from the panelists. It’s easy to get burned out in the games industry, and it was inspiring to me to be around others who are turning their skills and interests into new careers, especially careers that didn’t exist five years ago. I left feeling very pleased to be part of the games industry and the Phat Startup family.

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Grape Lemonade Gum

This is a new grape-lemonade gum, and it’s pretty much the best thing ever.

Trident Layers Grape Lemonade The purple part tastes like the grape Bubblicious I wasn’t allowed to have when I was a kid because it has too much sugar, plus the yellow part tastes like the Country Time Lemonade power I wasn’t supposed to eat because it has too much sugar, and also the purple and yellow are in cute little layers, just like the Andes mints I wasn’t supposed to eat because they have so much sugar.

Being an adult is pretty great, is what I’m saying.


This is in no way a compensated post, I was just chewing gum and thinking about how nice it is.  Also I stole that photo from TVandGumAreAwesome because there’s not a lot of chewing-gum-related art out there.

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I’m currently working on a core game, and I also teach programming for preteens. Today at the core studio, our server crashed in a way that meant hours of work for the whole team. While colorful language erupted around the room,  I expressed my frustration with “Gosh, isn’t that terribly unfortunate!”

The rest of the team found this hilarious, but it’s still better than accidentally F-bombing around the kids.

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Miles and Miles

I ran a mile! Twice! Any by that, I mean that I ran successfully for a mile, and then was a able to replicate my results on a second occasion, not that I did anything crazy like run for two miles.  Geez.

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Kid’s Academy iPad App

I’ve become more and more interested in educational games and apps since I started teaching tech, so I was really pleased to check out Kid’s Academy. You can find the Kid’s Academy iPad app here.


This app has cute, interactive graphics and responsive, non-annoying sounds, with high production values all around. It can easily hold a young child’s interest, but they’re not just playing a game, they’re learning letters and numbers too. We often hear about kindergarten readiness, and studies show that children who enter kindergarten with a basic understanding of letters and numbers are poised to do well throughout their time in school. The game uses bright colors and clear interactions often found in language learning software for adults.

The game is free to download, but offers in-app purchases, so be careful handing the family iPad over to a little one.

This is a sponsored post with unbiased reactions. 

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Alchemy and Assassination in ‘The Red Lily Crown’

The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas is out today, and I’ve reviewed it over at The Absolute.

I love fiction set in this time period for all the over-the-top disregard for laws among the elite, and The Red Lily Crown has all the secret romance, murder, family backstabbing, and illegitimate children one could possibly dream up. There’s a pretty high body count (because you have to off a few rivals to make it to grand duke of Florence. Or mistress of the duke, for that matter. Or cardinal. Or a Cornish miner studying alchemy at the Florentine court. There is a lot of murder, is what I’m saying).

Without giving away too much, The Red Lily Crown has all my favorite de Medici elements. The only way it could have been more perfect is if the characters had spent a little more time commissioning art, but it was probably hard to find the time with all the assassinations going on.

via Alchemy, Backstabbing, and Lots of Murder Abound in “The Red Lily Crown” | (The) Absolute.

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Spring Jade

After barely surviving this winter, my McGovern jade plant has just decided to thrive, branch out, and take over the world. (That’s kind of how I feel about winter and spring, too.)

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Hipster Shirts

One of the side effects of tech blogging and games blogging is the endless assortment of branded graphics t-shirts I own.  Like everyone else in gaming, I have an extensive collection of shapeless XL black t-shirts with game logos, all from conventions. (When I was at Next Island, I tried to convince our marketer that we should make up fitted, women’s sizes of our game shirts, but he had different ideas about how to promote to women.) Almost every day I wear a women’s cut of a gaming shirt from one show or another. It’s amazing how long it can take me to get dressed when really I’m just deciding which graphic t-shirt and which pair of hipster jeans and whether to finish with Converse or ballet flats.

And, like everyone else in tech blogging, I have a pretty extensive collection of graphic tees with logos and slogans from various startups. I wasn’t exaggerating too much when I wrote about LoveMyLogo, my (fictional) new startup connecting startup t-shirts with genuine hipsters in Brooklyn, Austin, and Portland. It’s hard to walk anywhere at SXSW without someone handing you a branded t-shirt or offering to trade a hashtagged tweet for a t-shirt. I’ve been writing about tech for a few years now, so some of these have actually outlasted the start-up they’re promoting. Should probably pack them up in an archival box until they become collectors’ items.

In my industry, these funny graphic tees can be ice breakers or conversation starters. A lot of the startup ones have attention-grabbing slogans. I have one with a “clusterduck” on it that usually gets a second glance (although I do not wear it around my middle schoolers, for obvious reasons) and one advertising stock art that announces that prints not dead (Get it? Prints?).

And that is why a branded graphic t, skinny jeans, and Converse (or ballet flats) is totally a work outfit.

lachanophobiaI was asked to write about graphic t-shirts by ThePhobiaShop because I am an extreme hipster.

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Polygon on the Changes at Epic Games

fortnite from EpicFrom this week’s Polygon article on all the changes at Epic:

The company’s only currently announced game, Fortnite, was revealed in late 2011, and Epic has been relatively quiet about its development. Epic has released new titles since then, including entries in Chair Entertainment’s Infinity Blade series and Gears of War: Judgment, which was developed by People Can Fly, now known as Epic Games Poland.

But coupled with some high level employee departures, the closure of its short-lived Impossible Studios and an investment from Chinese Internet company Tencent, it seemed indicative of a shift in priority at Epic. Tencent’s minority stake in Epic — it owns 40 percent of the company and League of Legends maker Riot Games — could be most reflective of its new direction.

via What’s the future of games at Epic Games? | Polygon.

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Spoiler: Aristotle

My boss, in the midst of explaining why teaching is so important and how far teaching can reach, said sarcastically to my colleague, “Look how important Plato is. Everyone knows the teacher, but who’s ever heard of Plato’s students?”

I mean, he was joking, but it’s been hours and hours, and I’m still laughing about it.

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As Seen In My Office. #blog

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As Seen In My Office. #blog

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Reviewing School

A few months ago, I reviewed the novel School over at The Absolute, and the book is now out, with a quote on the back from my review!

school backFor some reason, they went with my summary and not with my snark about North Carolina for the pullquote.

A little while ago, I applied for a freelance fiction reviewing position with Kirkus. As part of the application process, I was asked to review a book using Kirkus’ review standards, and as I read over the guidelines, I knew in my heart I wasn’t going to get hired.

Some of the guidelines were standard practice — reviews are different from PR, a positive critical review should not read like a press release, the most negative review is still not a personal attack — but some of it showed real artistry in book reviewing. It was great to see critique as an actual craft.  For language lovers, the guidelines themselves are a delight to read, especially the note that a solid critique is “nearly as formulaic—though as expressive—as a sonnet.” I often struggle to describe the style and feel of a novel without giving away the plot,  or find myself using meaninglessly positive words like “readable” and “engaging”, and it’s been a helpful challenge to apply these guidelines and suggestions to improve my work.

The Kirkus review guidelines have been really great in helping me find a voice that is critical, professional, and authentic, and if the format lends itself well to shareable pullquotes, I won’t complain at all.


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Video Game Industry Rant — luckysipe’s old man blog

Harold has a good post up about monetizing in games, and I wanted to share it here:

So, I was at a game demo event a couple of years ago in NYC. This sort of thing was mostly attended by indie folks and folks in the industry but there was also a number of people from various VC firms there as well.

A developer went through a pretty successful demo, he had the room, he a sour-faced VC stood up and asked, “This is all fine but how does it monetize?”

The developer was quick to answer that he was focused on making a fun game and that concern was secondary to him, The room cheered.

I have a BFA and can safely attest to the disdain that most all of modern culture has for the visual arts. That said, there are many avenues for funding artistic projects. Creative Capital being one.

Where does one try and secure funding for gaming projects? VCs. You don’t go into a gaming venture with a creative mission statement but with a strong P&L and business plan.

Maybe this is a bit of the problem with the overall direction of games and the glut of F2P mobile offerings? Where is the support for innovative design takes and risk-takers? There isn’t one. Just live in your parent’s basement and work for nothing to produce an indie game or hit Kickstarter and good luck.

I am happy that there is more discussion about video games as art but until there is actual funding for these endeavors it is hard to see where it is going.

I am not saying MBAs don’t have a place in the industry, I just think that place shouldn’t be the only place in the industry.

via Video Game Industry Rant – 2/6/2014 | luckysipe’s old man blog.

I was at the same gaming demo, a few years ago, and also wrote about the moment when the game dev said he had no plans to monetize.

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