Monday 12 September 2022

patreon / videos

I started this blog 13 years ago (not quite to the day) with an exercise of writing a post about each power in the game I was working on at the time. I got about half-way through the exercise and it served its purpose of opening the channel for me, getting me habituated to writing here. I've written a bunch of different things here: little diary entries, reviews of games I like, game design theory, assorted nonsense don't even know what. Most consistently I've posted when I release games, usually with some analysis of the development process.

There's a part of me here, a voice I'm comfortable speaking in at certain times about certain things. For a few years there I was coming to that voice quite often, this was a fruitful channel for the ideas I was thinking through at the time. Other ideas haven't fit as much. Maybe because I assume a certain audience; I restrict myself based on what I expect people who might read this to be interested in. Maybe because I developed the habit of writing here at a certain time when I had particular interests. Writing right now feels a little like channeling my past self rather than being the same person currently I am day to day.

Similarly my twitter was somewhere I posted a lot for a while, dropped off for a bunch of reasons, but still sometimes I have a thought that feels like a tweet to me so maybe I post it. When I look at what I've posted there recently I see "feels like a tweet" means a limited style and set of topics. I'm filtering through the lens of who I was 8-10 years ago when that was more part of my life. Not intentionally it just happens. Cognitive archaeology. We're built of accumulated layers of self and the older ones are still there but less active and less important to where we are now. I wasn't filtering myself then, and perhaps if I'd consistently kept posting there unrestrictedly it would be full of thoughts about massage, foraging, homebrew, childbirth. Topics that until one sentence ago you had no idea I'd taken an interest in.

So how do I communicate now? My voice of the moment, to speak my present thoughts, unfiltered by assumptions of past selves. I saw some tweets from @visakanv about how he was finding it good to just video himself talking and it unexpectedly resonated. People had suggested videos to me before and I'd never felt any impulse to do it but this time I just thought: okay. (I haven't watched any of his videos yet so I don't know if the direction I've taken has any relation to what he was actually talking about but it's not important.) Video has all the complexities of voice and body language, deep subconscious embodied communication, so much less controlled than text where you can write and rewrite until it's exact. So I've started making videos where I talk spontaneously to simply see where it goes. I'll do it as an exercise until it feels comfortable. I intend to talk about various topics not exclusively games, to aim for this sense of not feeling restricted by my idea of who I'm talking to. Maybe I'll try that here too.

I've done a few talks here and there, conferences and stuff, and I have varying satisfaction with them. Public speaking: it's a skill worth getting better at. The talk that felt best to me wasn't recorded and was about a game I didn't actually release yet (Smesport); I just spoke passionately from right in the middle of thinking about it rather than trying to distill lessons afterward for an audience. I want more like that. People have told me through the years that I should promote my games better, talk them up. I've always been reluctant to, preferring to let the work speak for itself. Well, sometimes it can, but it really deserves the best I can give it. The specific ways that people suggest talking about them don't gel with me, but that doesn't mean they're not right at the root, I just have to develop a way that's authentic to me.

I haven't released a game for a long time, I've been sick for a long time, I was about to have another child, and I was really worrying what to do about money. So I've started a patreon. If you want to and can afford to donate money to support me keeping going I really appreciate it. It's been really nice to feel that people value what I've done. I wish I had a new game to sell but I don't; when I do I'll show you but it's really slow right now. I wish some of the games I already made had sold more. Anyway I'm promising to make a video at least every two weeks. There might be other things too, maybe I'll write more or post some drawings or something.

(About my illness: when I posted here previously I'd had some improvement and was feeling cautiously optimistic that it would continue. It's similar now, maybe a little better overall but it fluctuates and some days are still pretty hard. When I do too much one day I take several days to recover, so I have to keep being careful. But I'm way way better than I was through 2020.)

So in typical Michael fashion I'm trying to kill multiple birds with fewer than the usual number of stones. A creative outlet, a source of income, a self-improvement practice, a quiet forest time. Here are the videos: michael in the forest. They're not much but there will be more. From my experience with games I know well that it's very effective to first just make things. I'm not trying to make the best video or the best talk, I'm just doing it and then doing it again and eventually some of them will be quite good.

Monday 7 February 2022


I haven't posted here for a long time.

In 2020 I got sick. I noticed in May that I'd been very tired for a while and it was getting worse rather than better, and by June I had severe fatigue, needing naps every afternoon - sometimes just falling asleep in the middle of the floor, muscle pain, mind unclear, difficulty concentrating. I think it was most likely the Long Covid; I had a friend in my house in March who was sick with an unidentified disease that could plausibly have been COVID-19 (though at the time we believed it wasn't based on the information currently available), and after that we had mild cold symptoms - of course this was before testing was widely available.

The doctor wasn't much help. He ordered a bunch of tests and told me I did amazing on all of them. Blood, ECG, chest X-ray, apparently everything showed that I was in very good shape. Which is like, kind of nice; as someone who used to just do computer and books all the time I've worked hard on turning that around and getting fit and it's nice to have that measured. But it didn't do anything to solve the problem.

My symptoms fluctuated over time and I more or less learnt to live with them. Learnt not to suddenly try to catch up on everything when I had a good day, because then I'd just collapse again the next day. The one thing that did help, weirdly, was the COVID-19 vaccine. I say weirdly because it's not what it was designed for, but there's anecodotal evidence of other people experiencing this, I don't claim to know what's up. Even if it's just the good old placebo effect I'll take it.

Whatever the reason, I've been feeling a lot better for a few months now. I'm getting my strength back: I can lift things again now that I could lift three years ago but I couldn't lift last year. I don't want a relapse so I'm still being careful and trying not to overdo it. I'm tentatively working again. I still find it hard to make games without the long focused periods of time I used to have pre-parenting, but I feel there's no rush. I guess one lesson I've taken from this enforced break is to stress less about trying to keep up with the indie games scene and trying to make the right thing to make money out of it, or to live up to some fake expectation of being a "genius" game designer. I'll just make something I want to make, when I can manage to. Meanwhile I've been also learning new things and looking into work I can hopefully do in a flexible way around potential fatigue spikes and also still making some games and stuff. I reckon it's good for me as an artist to not just do games games games all the time anyway.

Even though I haven't been releasing new games, people still buy the ones I've made before. It's consistently been a few hundred euros every month which, while it doesn't cover the rent it's not bad for not being able to work at all. It's unfortunate that a couple of the older ones have dropped off from my not having managed to keep up with system updates, and it feels bad how that kind of ties me down - if I just went to work on something completely different for ten years everything I've done would be lost. Or if I got permanently sick. So ephemeral. But anyway, thank you everyone who's bought my games and kept supporting me in these times.