It is the middle of a Saturday afternoon in February. Jenny and I have done the week’s food shopping, and now that I’ve made us both a coffee, we are settling into an afternoon of reading and writing.
Last month I attended the first Hello Worlds event at the National Video Game Arcade in Nottingham. It was a writing/reading group for interactive fiction. The next event is scheduled for this coming Thursday (9th) and will feature a demonstration of Viktor Ojuel’s game Ariadne in Aeaea and a group discussion about it. Ahead of attending, I have also been writing a short game using Twine called “Nazi Punching Simulator 2017.” More on that later.
Jonathan McCalamont may not want your award nominations and we should honour those wishes, but he deserves our critical attention. His essay on the New Weird, Nothing Beside Remains, was one of the best pieces of long form writing I read last year and something that I’m still trying to engage with critically. Not only does Jonathan write good essays and reviews, but he also occasionally curates a series of link posts called Thought Projectors. They are all good. Read the latest one here.
Coffee is the drink which I obsess over. Not only do I enjoy its varied flavors, but I associate it with being comfortable and relaxed. At home I put a lot of effort into brewing coffee and own a plethora of specialist equipment to make better, more interesting variations on black coffee. Recently I have started watching Chris Baca’s YouTube channel and listening to the podcast, Cat and Cloud, which he co-hosts and is associated with his roasting business and cafe in Santa Cruz. It’s all very boisterous and enthusiastic, which was initially off putting, but there’s genuine thought and attention put into those videos, which finally won me around.
As an aside, I work as a System Administrator/DevOps type person and the discussions about customer service, customer experience, and training staff all resonate strongly with me, because these are things which my industry is only within the last five years or so are starting to learn. Chis Baca’s insistence that the aim of his cafe is for people to leave feeling happier than when they entered, regardless of the reasons they went in, is a smart goal to work towards in most professional situations.
Coffee as a pleasure is something which came up recently in my life. At work things do go wrong. In the past I have almost self-medicated my way through disasters by drinking more coffee. After some pretty serious incidents which left me both physically and mentally drained I made the decision to not drink coffee while actively stressed. Coffee is for good times. Dr Pepper is for the bad. A recent event showed this to be a wise decision. Removing a consumable from my life during a specific, short period of doom meant that I could return properly to it as a comforter in the days after while recovering.
Dan North has become one of the people I follow for good practice in software engineering/operations management/project delivery. Again, like with the Cat and Cloud people, he’s often promoting a sense of empathy and understanding of the people we deal with. Unlike the Cat and Cloud peeps, he also gives presentations on subjects which I can directly implement in my professional life. The slides for his talk at PubConf (which I sadly missed) were recently posted onto the internets and have the provocative title of “Why Every Single Element of SOLID is Wrong!” I’m convinced by his conclusions and entertained by the reduction.
I said that I’m making a Twine game, but I hate the interface for Twine. It’s a point-and-click GUI, which is basically just awful and doesn’t fit into my workflow. So I’ve been using a project called twee2 to generate the Twine files. This works better for me as my process for writing prose at the moment generally follows these steps:
Write bullet points on paper. [PROTOTYPE]
Expand bullet points into rough paragraphs. [PROTOTYPE]
Shuffle bullet points and rough paragraphs around and rewrite until the shape feels right. [PROTOTYPE]
Type up the mess into a text document of some description. [MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT]
Expand and revise the mess until complete. [ITERATE]
Having to work through Twine’s GUI gets in the way of the prototype and iteration stages. Twine as a tool seems designed to get people to produce a minimum viable product quickly, but by sacrificing having a decent interface to work with producing text.
The primary purpose of Nazi Punching Simulator 2017 is to learn how to write a choose your own adventure game, so the content of the game is almost secondary (although I do of course condone punching Nazis) and there to provide a simple narrative to hang the questions and tools and process off. The next steps after I’ve written this game will be to actually play more IF games.
To play more IF games I may start playing games on the train to and from work. That time has usually been spent reading, but for some of the last week I’ve replayed Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which has been a pleasant piece of nostalgia. Also slightly worrying how much I remember from nearly twenty years ago.
Todo This Weekend
Finish the first playable version of Nazi Punching Simulator 2017.
Type up a short fiction prototype and start expanding.
Start drafting a new prototype.
Watch a David Cronenberg film.