2017 year-in-review

What did I do last year?

I'm still at Sensible Object! I went part time, which should hopefully allow me to have my cake (a really cool job making cool games) and eat it too (all of the other things I care about and which I was overstretching myself trying to keep up with in my spare time). I have done some cool stuff with this extra time, but I've also struggled to set good routines and habits for myself. Something to work on this year.

At Sensible Object: we launched and funded another Kickstarter, this time for a competitive mode and a bunch of expansions ($396,907!). The competitive mode will be out next year - it's went from nothing to something we're pretty sure will be good. We've also went through a lot of organisational change and growth - not always comfortable, but I think I've learnt a lot. Moving from "let's ship this thing" to building a proper team and processes and capability to do multiple things at once. And pretty soon it's looking like I'm going to be moving off primarily working on Beasts and onto Voice Originals, a series of games for Alexa and other voice devices. I'm excited!

We did our third Now Play This, and it was better than ever. Against our natural inclinations, we're continuing to try to have fewer things, more thoughtfully presented. Currently in full swing planning 2018 - here's the open call.

I launched a Patreon for Cheap Bots, Done Quick! It's doing pretty well - currently at $157 per month. In preparation for and as a consequence of this I've done a bunch of overdue background maintenance and upkeep. I guess by now I've properly internalised that it's a institution and something people care about, not just a side project of mine. Thank you everyone who has pledged, and thank you everyone who has used it. I have more plans for expansions coming soon, too!

In November took a trip out to the States (more on which later), and while I was there achieved a long-standing ambition - to collaborate with KR Pipkin on a project. The result was our NaNoGenMo entry, views on an object. It was a delight to work with them on a thing, and I'm really proud of the output.

There was an unexpected outcome from that project: while working on it, I rediscovered the nearly-complete code for the bot version of calming sphere. So over the Christmas break, I did the final little push and got it up onto Twitter.

The Unity version of calming sphere also got dug up - I reworked it for inclusion in the Zium project, a collaborative virtual art gallery. It's really cool to be in a project with so many other talented people, and fun to think about space and architecture when displaying software.

One thing I was looking forward to about going part time was working with Holly & Sophie (of Matheson Marcault, who I do Now Play This with) on other projects. And I did! As part of thier Scientific Village Fete at New Scientist Live, they had a foods of the future hook-a-duck game. And I put together a little Unity project and some hardware for scanning in these little bowls of fake food and giving you your score. It was good to work with them, and good to stretch my muscles working on a little hardware/software project. It turns out I know what I'm doing by this point? A good feeling.

In May, I went up to Bristol for a Flatgame Jam, organized by Becca Rose. While I was there I made i'm yearning for a train journey, which I think turned out really well. It was great to make, too - really good to be forced away from coding and into drawing on paper, at least for a day.

I also took part in the Slow Game Jam, organized by Rosa Carbo-Mascarell. My project (which I have not released, and am unlikely to) was an abstract digital simulation of moving stones from one bowl to another. I might pick this up later - I am still interested in slow games, calming games, games you can play whiule falling asleep or that can become part of your daily routine.

I spent an enjoyable day or two down in Margate with Marine Studios, as part of the Margate Festival. We ran Punch The Custard and some other games, and I learned how to play Nine Men's Morris.

A few other stray bits: I put out some new episodes of the machine gently stutters ❏❐❑❒, my series of readings of generative poetry, and produced a visual essay on digital hair for Emilie Reed's Visual Essay Jam.

I also gave some talks this year! The one I am most proud of was Very Quick and Very Slow at A MAZE Berlin. This is probably the most preparation I've ever put into a talk, and I think it really paid off. It was a high concept talk, where I went through a series of durations, from the very brief to the very long. Some related to videogames, some didn't. I would love to adapt the contents into a different format, or give it again somewhere - if you're interested, please let me know.

I also gave an artist's talk at CMU STUDIO for Creative Inquiry (my first time giving an artists talk! I can say that now I've done it), a workshop on narrative structures in Twine games at Arcadia in Dundee, and a talk about digital-physical design for children at the Children's Media Conference in Sheffield. In all three cases, the real pleasure was getting to spend time with people old and new around the talks. For that matter, hanging out in Berlin and getting drunk and having hijinks was probably the highlight of the AMAZE trip, which leads nicely on to personal life updates....

This year, I moved again, back up north of the river to Whitechapel. I miss Kat terribly, but am also nice and cosy in my new flat with Eli Rainsberry, Beck Michalak & Fede Fasce. I took up climbing (bouldering), which I love in the entirely predictable way that game designers do. And then I stopped, after an elbow injury forced me to take a break. However, in the last few days I've went again, and hopefully I'll be back on it this year. I've been reading poetry with friends every few weeks, which has been lovely (and has now escalated to us occasionally writing our own).

In terms of travel: I went to Screenshake and it was lovely. I went to AMAZE and had a great, maybe too raucous time. I didn't go to GDC and was a bit sad about it. I went to Feral Vector and had a lovely chill time - special shout out to playing The Quiet Year with kr, kb & Jack (poor Cornflower!). I went to Paris, saw Versailles & Indiecade Europe. I went to the States for PAX Unplugged, then visited Pittsburgh and New York. I saw people I care about, and met some people I'd wanted to meet for a while.

I'm not going to properly talk about relationship stuff here, but I will say: a number of good things happened.

Oh, and I came out as non-binary, a thing I alluded to in my round-up last year. "developed my personal style", hah. But then, the primary audience for these posts is myself in the future, and I know what I meant.

And that's last year! My new year's resolution is "be less tired", but also I have a sneaking hope I launch a bigger thing this year. We'll see how we go.

09 January 2018