It’s the 4th of November, again - which means, it’s my birthday! I’m 31 this year. You can read what I thought of entering my thirties from last year’s entry - this post isn’t about that. It’s about what’s been goin’ on, what’s next for me, and how I’ve come to love the fact that my brain is basically a pinball machine. More on that later!
What’s Been Goin’ On
This has been a busy and exciting year for me, if a little bit tiring here and there. But overall, it’s been a great year. Here’s what’s been goin’ on!
First things first, earlier this year I moved house with my girlfriend into a place that is way nicer than the last place we lived, and the overall effect it has had on my life has been so positive that it’s hard to look back and really take in the cramped and dimly-lit nature of the place we used to call home. This event was hugely stressful in the immediate lead-up, as there were also some family bereavements late last year and early this year that really piled a lot of stress on us, in addition to the already-difficult process that moving can oftentimes be. This impacted my physical health, but I’m happy to say that since then I have been almost if not fully recovered, and ready for more adventures!
Tapes, Music, Podcasts, and Polaroids
I’ve been getting into analog tech in a big way this year - a great way to take breaks from the digital realm and open myself up to new ways of being creative. I’ve learned a lot about my creative processes outside of the computer by doing so, and helped me evaluate myself as more than just solely a game developer. Although game development is a blend of creative disciplines, it was hard to shake the feeling that I was becoming something of a one-trick pony; stepping outside that box and creating something without the intent to turn it into a game or have it relate to games at all allowed me to see that I do in fact have diverse creative impulses, just like everyone else!
Not only that, but it has also reaffirmed, refreshed, and recontextualized some of my creative impulses in digital spaces too; I found myself doing a lot more things in my spare time, inspired by the feelings of creativity I got from the off-line pursuits. For example, Quake Maps!
Building out Quake Maps has helped me understand more broadly the disclipline embodied by Level Design; it’s a kind of Digital Architecture, but moreso than the usability of a space for human beings, it’s also about the usability of the space for the non-player entities of the game world. Have I left enough space for this item to spawn? Can this monster see the player from this vantage point? The discussion of a space’s accessiblity goes beyond the capabilities of the virtual and physical human interacting with the space.
I find the topic fascinating - these spaces then have the opportunity to feel more grounded in their own internal fiction if there are paths and rooms constructed for those entities and not necessarily first for the player. I want to experiment more with this idea in future maps.
I started learning to play the Saxophone - it’s long been a dream of mine to play that instrument. I briefly practiced trumpet when I was a kid, but I could not perform to the standards that my classically-focused teacher really wanted; I lacked both the dexterity and the confidence necessary to meet those expectations, and it is quite a loud instrument for a child to be bad at - to the point that practicing occasionally felt like an imposition on my family, and prevented me from building that confidence.
In time, I tried to learn piano, but simply couldn’t figure out the hand positioning properly and mostly made myself miserable and put myself under the belief that I did not have a musical bone in my body - which is completely untrue; talent is a fake idea and all skills can be obtained by a human being as long as they are given accessible tools with which to do it and access to opportunities to learn, and time in which to practice.
Which brings us to now - understanding that I could in fact understand music and make music, I sought an instrument that always fascinated me since childhood - nothing quite sounds like the sax, and so I decided to try and fulfil my lifelong dream of playing the damn thing! And it turns out that in 2023, there are lots of very cheap saxophones that review well even with experts, which is apparently a somewhat recent development, and astonishingly convenient for me!
I’ve been enjoying the process of practicing and slowly improving immensely. The instrument is clicking with me, probably more due to my renewed self-confidence and supportive tolerance from my friends and loved ones than to any special element of the sax itself! I’d post a clip of my playing here, but… it’s not quite there yet… and I don’t really want to hurt anyone’s ears too badly!
My work’s been going well, in a professional capacity, despite extremely questionable decisions high up in the management of my employer. Some of you will know exactly what that means. For others, I try to keep my personal life on this blog and my professional life seperate, so I won’t divulge too much - but it’s the usual capitalist mis-steps from C-suite management who know next-to-nothing about the actual thing their company does, trying to make the stock price go up. That should cover it.
In the actual day-to-day, though, the project I’ve been on for pretty much the entire year so far is nearly wrapped up, and it might be my proudest achievement so far. I’ll probably post again on the blog once it’s done, and I’m allowed to talk about it publicly - a rare place where I’ll be more than happy to break the personal-profesional barrier..! I’ve been immensely fortunate to work on something so fun with so many wonderfully interesting and kind people.
So, what’s next on my slate, for the forthcoming year?
Some Kinda Break?
I haven’t had a holiday longer than two weeks for about seven years; I’ve been in full-time employment constantly since leaving university, mostly through financial necessity and in the interest of career-building. But maybe it’s time for me to slow things down a little, and take a longer break. If I can swing it, I’ll see if I can get myself a sabbatical - it would be nice to take an extended break and still have full employment waiting at the other side, but it’s also possible that I might go freelance! I’ve never done that before, so it’s kind of terrifying and exciting all at once. More on this in the New Year, I think… there’s a lot to think about. But fundamentally, I need an extended break - I’m not just gonna loaf off the whole time (although there will be significant loafage) - I reckon I’ll make it about a month in before my itchy coding fingers get me to finally complete a bunch of my sideprojects. That’s the hope anyway, ahaha!
Ten Thousand Sideprojects
Okay, maybe not that many, but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I should stop fighting my impulse to start new projects. I often lamented that I start lots of projects and never finish anything, but that’s demonstrably not true; I finish plenty of things. They just often aren’t the things I most frequently talk about or the things I get extremely excited about for ~3 hours before dropping and moving on to something else…
For so long, I’ve been saying to myself - hey, don’t start yet another thing, you won’t finish it and that’s gonna suck and you’ll feel bad. But more recently, I’ve been taking the view that hey, maybe I don’t need to finish things for them to be worthwhile. And that if it makes me happy to start something, and ideate freely and creatively, then why the fuck wouldn’t I do just that?!
So yeah, new stance - start as many things as I like! It does not matter if they are not done - what matters is the joy of making, the joy of starting, the freedom to have ten thousand beginnings, even if there are little-to-no endings!
It’s just how my brain works! And on that topic…
My brain is like a huge pinball table.
I’ve come to accept this fact this year; my train of thought is a little drop of silver that gets flicked around to interesting corners - sometimes, it’s on-target, and slides right up the lit ramp marked “ADVANCE PROJECT” or completes a row of drop-targets spelling out “M. E. L. O. N.” - or, maybe it just hits the bumpers, ricochets directly into the slingshots, flies from side to side about 13-14 times, and careens directly into the outlane (stylistically depicted here with a lovely watercolor backdrop of, I dunno, a flaming wastepaper basket marked “dead projects”, or a crying brain that says “anxiety”).
That’s a lot of dense pinball metaphors. Sorry.
But that’s how pinball is - dense, confusing at first glance, until you get to know the little corners and intricacies and specific rules - and like switching from one table to another and learning a whole new set of fun rules, my ever-shifting passions suddenly introduce new interesting pathways to me that I never knew were possible.
And sometimes, everything lines up juuust right, and I hit the “FLOW-STATE MULTIBALL” and start rackin’ up ideas and satisfying creative endeavours like there’s no tomorrow! And those times are amazing. And like pinball, it may seem random at first, and uncontrollable - but over time, you can and do learn how to control it, and how to achieve these outcomes more often than not. It’s not like you can ever be truly perfect, as there is always chaos present, but the parts that can be managed become managed. And I love my little pinball table brain!
Isn’t that just ADHD or something? Shouldn’t you get that checked out?
Maybe. I don’t know - I’m not sure if I ever really will know What The Deal Is. More to the point, I don’t really care at this stage - I don’t experience my internal state as negatively as many others do; if it is ADHD, then it is not of a grade that hurts me in the way that it hurts so many others. It’s always valuable to evaluate yourself and get help when you need it, or even if you don’t know if you need it or not; I will never tell anyone not to pursue what they believe to be best for them. I’d be hugely hippocritical if I did, and it’d be just plain mean besides! Ultimately, everyone must do what they must do in order to function in a way that satisfies them and does not lead to negative impacts on their life or others. And for me, accepting how my brain works has been beneficial to me in a way that I do not think jumping through medical-system hoops in order to obtain a diagnosis would; been there, done that, and my brain works well enough for me without much additional effort these days, now that I understand it better through this framing device.
Well, that just about wraps it all up for this post! It’s been a long one - thanks for sticking with it, if you did! And I hope you have a great day!