Experience

Me, as a first-year teacher: Teaching is a noble calling, and I will change lives in the classroom. I will share my love of language and literature, and I’ll encourage my students to be their best. Decades later, my students will look back on their year with me as a positive and formative experience, and they’ll remember my class fondly.

Me, today: This summer teaching job is great! This school provides enough whiteboard markers and binder clips! I can make enough photocopies for class! Teachers are treated so well here!

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“Scoutible” on (The) Absolute

Of all the demos at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt, Scoutible’s mobile game for replacing the job interview grabbed my attention. Some of the surrounding demos seemed like awesome tech solutions in search of a problem to solve, but, come on, what doesn’t suck about job interviews? Who wouldn’t rather play a game?

I love applied games and I’m also a sucker for personality analysis, so I was excited to try the free game. In Scoutible, players have mysteriously landed on a desert island, which is probably my favorite type of game…. Monkey Island, Sims: Castaway, MyTribe, Stranded Without A Phone, even Next Island (I’ve spent a fairly significant chunk of time pretending to be stuck on a deserted island). I had really high hopes for Scoutible, I was already imagining a Ready Player One future, where we’d all unlock insights into our personalities and career skills through playing a survival game.

When I was interacting with Scoutible’s few NPCs, I was given the sort of black-and-white options we always try to avoid in game development. One NPC failed to do what the boss NPC asked him for — do you scold him, or do the task yourself? Then do you complain about his laziness or make excuses for him? I was disappointed by the lack of nuance in any interpersonal interactions. These felt like generic job interview questions with a thin veneer of gameplay over it.

Also, I didn’t realize it until I was sourcing images for this article, but the contrast between the polished website images and the screenshots from the beta couldn’t possible be stronger, could it?

Source: “Scoutible,” a Game That Hopes To Replace Job Interviews (Sort Of) | (The) Absolute

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Twitter Eggs & Moving On

I wanted to write about how I’m done with game reviewing, and I’m really sick of being caught between obviously you can’t expect to make money at it and obviously if you write about games (while being a woman), people are going to seek you out to tell you how much they hate you. It’s not a professional role when you’re looking to be paid more than a 99-cent download code, but it’s totally professional writing as far as expecting and receiving a certain amount of internet hate.

I wrote a review of Depression Quest more than a year before GamerGame. I wrote this review for an outlet where I no longer write, a magazine that has changed hands at least 3 times since then. I think I got $5 for this post. It’s been several years since the post went up, and neither I nor the editor who approved the piece work at this outlet anymore, but every so often Twitter Eggs and other anons will find it, and send me messages about being a paid shill working to ruin games. So there’s that.

I’m also accumulating a depressingly large dead file of reviews I’ve written for outlets that have since gone under, which is not a great feeling.  It’s turning my blog into a graveyard of cool things I wrote for publications that no longer exist (or are no longer paying writers, or have switched to listicles, or whatever). And I keep wondering if it’s time to move on from games reviewing, but then I get excited about a new game, and I think I’ll write this one more, and then it’ll be time to find something new.

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Capt. Action Plan

I’m currently sorting out grad school options for fall. I sent my applications off last month, but I didn’t write about it because, first, if I didn’t get in anywhere, I didn’t want anyone to ask me how it was going. Also because after polishing writing samples and sending requests for sealed transcripts and requests for references and filling in FAFSA forms, I was so bloody sick of the whole thing that grad schools are the last thing I wanted to talk about.

I even did an application for a backup school in case I don’t get into either of my dream programs, or if I get in but don’t get enough funding to attend. It’s hard to accept that even after all the work I have done to prepare, and even though I think I’m the perfect applicant, I might not get in. Or I might not be able to start immediately, I might have to postpone school for a semester of working and saving more. It’s hard to establish a backup plan without getting depressed, or getting overwhelmed with the time and money I already sunk into this, or looking at the sheer amount of paperwork for one application, let alone three, or giving up on a masters completely and going to do something entirely different, or just hoping for the best and take no practical steps in case of a setback.

I might sometimes make fun of Capt. Action Plan, my process-oriented husband, when he exhibits some of his many Vulcan characteristics. Some of the finer points of project management make me fall asleep, but I would seriously never have attempted something with so much preparation and planning, and so many freaking steps before I met Harold.

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Star Trek: Timelines

Every ten levels, the Timelines crew members will need four items to “advance” and permit experience to be gained from missions. Each item is related to the character (as Janeway wants coffee, or Picard has a saddle), but the drop rate here is either insanely low (we’re talking about 20+ replays of the same battle, looking for one piece of a multi-item crafting recipe) or it might be bugged. The game is fairly new, with occasional downtime while the staff finds and fixes the bugs. I thought this incredibly low drop rate must be the IAP squeeze, but since I could find no way to purchase the needed items (even for premium currency) there’s just an oddly grinding aspect of this otherwise successful strategy game.

I wasn’t quite able to squeeze everything into this review, and ended up writing my own reactions over here, too. Good thing I have my own blog, because sometimes I can’t fit all my Star Trek squeeing into the outlet’s word count.

Via Star Trek: Timelines

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The Invisible Emperor

Long ago, a secret society known as the Order of the Dragon possessed abilities and ancient knowledge…

The Invisible Emperor
by Arnold von Cornova relies on history and myth to tell an epic fantasy story about good and evil.

I thought the story started of fairly slowly (when I went to Amazon to get the cover art, I noticed that most of the negative Amazon reviews complain about this), but when I completed the book, the slow opening made sense because a lot of it was setting up the world and the factions, and putting the plot in motion. There’s a lot of European history and folklore squeezed into this fantasy story, along with a terribly evil and powerful villain, and ancient powers.

I read this as an ARC, so I wasn’t surprised to find a couple typos and usage errors. Hopefully that’ll be smoothed out by publication!

You can see more about the book and watch the book trailer here at The Invisible Emperor.

I received this book from the publisher to review. Thank you!

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Pathfinder

pathfinderI’m writing a Pathfinder campaign for a publisher of sourcebooks and pre-gen campaigns, This project is both one of the biggest gamewriting assignments I’ve worked on, and a cool throwback to my younger days playing tabletop games. I’ve always enjoyed playing pre-gen campaigns, usually because the gamemaster could relax a bit more and enjoy it too.

In some ways, it’s amazing to working on my own, with no technical constraints, no teammates with their own ideas, no brand manager with veto power, no “vision holder” who read a Techcrunch trend piece this morning and wants to redo the last six months of work… and there’s really no one to check in with, besides my editor. It’s very freeing, but sometimes I really miss having a team to tell me whether it seems fun so far.

This campaign story’s coming along well, with a Major Plot and the required surprises, and some smaller side mission for worldbuilding, but after several drafts, I still have no idea what to do with this demi-boss and then boss fight. Typically, this is my least favorite part of a campaign to play… I’m much more interested in solving puzzles and talking to NPCs than aligning my attacks on the big bad.

I thought I’d look through the monster manual for some inspiration. Pathfinder is open-source, so it’s really more of a monster wiki, where gaming groups, small publishers and independent designers can contribute their own enemies. About 10 minutes in, I stopped feeling like I was looking for a random monster to plug in to my adventure, and started thinking about scrapping everything I have to make use of these wild underwater creatures, or cave terrains, or trashing my entire plot to make this campaign all about combat with carnivorous plants.

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Classically Educated

Harold is watching Hannibal, and even though I don’t want to watch it with him, don’t want him to watch it in the same room with me, and am kinda ok with him watching it when I’m home, as long as he’s in another room with headphones on, he thinks I would like to have episodes recounted to me. So he’s telling me what a great show it is and that Hannibal Lector is such a massive icon in horror, and adds that he guesses people don’t really name their kids Hannibal.

“Hamilcar Barca did,” I said, and for the next ten minutes, I laughed hysterically while he tried to ignore me.

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That’s a Thing We’re Working On, Right?

I just spent most of the morning composing a professional work message that boils down to “Hey, guys, you’re going to include a playable female character without her boobs hanging out, right?”

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Boston

rosebud and daffodilsLiving in Boston is like a mini-New York. While New York is the city where you can get whatever you want, whenever you want it, Boston is the city that’s mostly closed on Sundays.

Boston’s subways are also a mini-version of Manhattan’s. There are fewer lines, covering a smaller area, not running all night, but on the plus side, it’s almost impossible to get on a train going the wrong direction. Fine, Boston, I guess you can use a consistent naming system. It’s not how we do it New York, but I guess it’s ok.

Also, people in Boston know how to let passengers off the train before getting on the train. Are they more polite? Is this an expression of human kindness, out of the shared human misery of commuting the the sunless cold six months a year? Or does Boston just have fewer visitors on the T in January (see previous re: cold), gumming up the works for regular commuters? My theory on the letting-people-off issue is that it’s exclusively tourists who don’t understand how to let others off before getting on. It’s visitors who are new to New York, or subways, or the whole public transit thing, who don’t realize exiting passengers need to go first.

Oh, another difference from New York is that when you see someone in Manhattan with the Statue of Liberty on their t-shirt or an I ♥ NY bag, they’re probably a visitor or an ironic Brooklynite. In Boston, the guy wearing head-to-toe Red Sox gear is a native. And he’s probably just going to work on a regular day…

A lot of my college friends have settled around Boston, so I can meet up with friends at their regular pub. (That would be the pub where the staff knows Eric by name and order.) It’s been so awesome to see old friends for regular coffee or lunch dates, instead of cramming everything we could possibly say to each other into a visit every couple of years.

Monday was Patriot’s Day, which is a special Massachusetts-only holiday, like Bunker Hill Day, where the bay state takes a day off to remind everyone else of our glorious revolutionary history. Monday was also the Boston marathon, and it was one of the first warm spring days, when everyone gets naked and lies on the town common remembering what sunshine feels like. All the bars and coffeeshops had their fronts open, with tables on the sidewalk, and everyone was sitting in the sunshine. The whole neighborhood was one massive party, celebrating a chance to wear a t-shirt out of the house.

Well, for me it was the chance to wear just one sweater, because Carrboro and Yangzhou, my last two homes, were pretty hot. It may take a little adjustment to New England.

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