a whole year

i’ll almost certainly remember 2014 as the year i met my perfect boyfriend, started dating, fell in love, and shacked up. it still amazes me that it’s our anniversary in a couple of months – how has it been a whole year? dense as it was with crises both small and large, it stuns me how fast the year’s gone.

this year i struggled with depression and, as ever, with poverty. but i’ve made a deliberate effort to get better at making money, and not without success. i started my patreon just before the start of the year and now it pays my rent. i’ve shaped my patreon into a kind of dev blog, where i get to show off secret previews of things i’m not yet ready to post in public. i feel like the content i post there is really strong, in variety and in regularity. patreon represents the more regular portion of my income.

i’ve also put more energy into selling things, that’s where money for food and bills and other expenses comes from. i sell zines on selz and games on itch. i’ve been trying to find ways to allow previously-free work to make me money: you can still play the censored version of lesbian spider-queens for free online, but folks who are willing to pay can have an uncensored version on their desktop. i’m still really excited i was able to finally release the uncensored version of the game – that was one of the most unexpected surprises of the year. money from sales isn’t as dependable as my patreon income, but it helps a lot, and just having products on sale means that i’ll occasionally wake up to discover i’ve sold an old game or zine, and that’s nice.

i feel like my craft has gone in a bunch of exciting new directions this year. in particular, i’m moving into working more with non-digital games and storytelling games. i feel like my writing is becoming more confident. here are some projects from this year i’m really proud of:

magic missile. this is a game for social media, but one where the technology is wholly managed by the players: image search and twitter or facebook. playtesting it with friends, i was very anxious that it wouldn’t be well-received or understood (it’s one of several social games i’ve developed where only the initiator of the game explicitly knows the rules), but all the games of it that i ran turned out to be super fun and clever. i like the direction this project started me moving in.

gay cats go to the weird weird woods (and its immediate predecessor emotica) both developed out of my work with zzt (my book on which was published this year, but was mostly written last year, so it’s not on this list). they were also vehicles for exploring the kind of creative, failure-free play i like in games like cosmic osmo and parts of lego island. moving in with my bf also meant moving in with this little gay baby, and seeing my encyclopedia frown have a friend and companion has given me lots of FEELINGS, which i tried to channel in this game about an adventure i imagined the two of them having together.

star court. for all the stuff i kept adding to this game i’m amazed it works as well as a game as it does. my guess is that there are passages in this game that still haven’t been seen by anyone but myself, and it feels good to think that. it’s wildly-branching and very chance-heavy, but there are definite strategies for those who look for them and i feel good about that too. it’s probably the most content-rich thing i’ve ever written, and definitely my longest and biggest twine story. inspired by a hypercard stack, it’s really clear to me now that twine is the contemporary successor hypercard has been waiting for.

plucky kid detective was my first story game (or “role-playing game”). games tend to spiral quickly into absurdity but it’s fun and it feels good to have finally published a story game, despite my anxiety that the game’s not good enough. this is territory that i want to explore, and now i feel like i’ve taken a few steps over the border. i published it as a zine, and on the subject of zines, i’m also really proud of letters to an absent child, in which i used animal crossing’s “letters from mom” as a frame to write about my own relationship with my own mom. i sent her a copy the other day and she really liked it.

the mystery of the missing mythics. a continuation of the stuff i was doing with social technology in magic missile. it feels good that by having the player manage to social media parts of these projects i don’t have the technological barriers of working with APIs and online databases keeping me from this area of design. this was one of the most fun projects this year, both to design and to write. i feel really good about the story i wrote. i don’t know if anyone’s tried the “pick images for a friend” option yet, but i spent a day researching / making up facts about numbers for the “password entry” part and i’m pretty proud for the character i was able to give what would otherwise be a pretty boring process.

despite a lot of struggle i feel like i’m in a really good place entering the new year, both in terms of my depression and my money situation. looking forward to a new year in gay cat manor with hope.

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