What I Learned This Year

It’s been two years since I began writing about games in the UK and I left burning tracks off the British winter last January and never once cared much to look it in the face again; the internet had reached its fingers into the narrative and flipped a switch. At some point the internet said: You can. I talked last year about permission. This year was about what happens when you give yourself that permission.

1. Started From The Bottom

If there were a way to embrace every reader who had thrown even a cursory fifty cents (in many cases, more) my way every month so that I could travel the world, precariously writing about game developers who are pushing the boundaries of what video games are, I’d do it. Even if you all looked like Piers Morgan.

Thank you so much. I love you and I love working for you. You provided a way for me to do the best writing of my life on the Embed With Games book. Lesson number one is the that the kindness of strangers never did diminish and it never will. I love you. Thank you. I am currently writing the penultimate chapter, and an ebook and a printed book are on their way. Hold on for two more months.

2. 6 God

I picked a hell of a time to go away. So much shit happened on the fucked side of the internet and I spent a lot of that time wondering if I was invisible enough/too invisible. But if you’re a woman on the internet, you are unfortunately always going to be a Woman. The mob always finds you, no matter where you are or what you do. If you are a woman and you’re doing something important they find you and there’s literally nothing you can do about it, because if you’re not a woman there’s this huge lack of understanding about what being a woman really means. You’re either a victim, a bitch, you do what you’re told, or you’re silent and invisible. There is no room for any other kind of woman because those roles are about regaining control. A woman is nothing if she is not controlled.

But a thing that can’t be destroyed is that you care about other people and they care about you. This year my network was stronger than an insult from Nicki Minaj and they propped me up all over the world, from San Francisco to Amsterdam to Tokyo to Brisbane, the kindness and incredible patience it took to set me up, show me around, provide space for me to work and try (unsuccessfully) to relax was never faltering. Thank you so much to everyone who helped me this year across the world. I really couldn’t have done it without you, and I care very much about you and I would do anything for you.

3. Pill N Potions

Be vulnerable. Be unapologetically, incredibly vulnerable. Tell people that you are suffering if you are. You don’t have to cover up that you are overcoming an obstacle. Never be dishonest about how hard something is for you. To the wrong people, it will look like weakness. Sometimes people will even accuse you of being ‘ungrateful’ for talking about your problems, or for trying to articulate problems that exist for other people like you, no matter what they are.

But the right people will talk you through those problems, and eventually you’ll start seeing some viable solutions. Sometimes the act of just talking about problems all the time with other starts to make them seem smaller. You are more likely to solve problems if you talk about them, and that makes you a badass, that makes you invincible. That makes you brutal.

Everyone knows that all the power in the game Thief comes from vulnerability, and there’s a reason for that, and it’s that growing as a person requires it. We aren’t afraid to talk of the mechanics of traversing that game. Why should this only be the case with games? Fuck that. Tell me you’re having a hard time. Let’s talk about it. We can make it look like a solvable problem we can kick in the face.

4. Only

As a freelancer I lose money by dating guys or spending any time thinking about them at all. I wait until guys I am interested in show subtle signs of asshole behaviour and I get to stay in and make money. It’s a method I like to call the Beyonce Freelancing Method. Eventually, if every heterosexual woman who freelances does it, maybe we’ll spend more time being rich and less time being unhappy.

5. Moment 4 Life

Know when you are happy and throw time and money at prolonging it. Nothing is more urgent or important than understanding what you enjoy and when it is happening to you. When I got to Tokyo and all the familiar smells happened: the shiso on sushi, the wet dog smell of ramen, the sweet rice smell of sake – even experiencing the quiet walk past mama-charis late at night – I knew I was happy. I knew I needed to stay in Japan for as long as I could. I could have touched the strange, electric feeling of being happy there. It felt good, and I still remember it. Spend time on yourself. It’s fuel.

6. The Language

Find music to love, and milk it for all the joy it’s got. You get more work done. This year’s selection of tracks has been so joyous to put together, and so many people have sent me gifts of recommendations. My friends Patricia and Yannick combined forces like Power Rangers and transformed me into some sort of giant Drake robot. In fact, I got so into Drake I now use his tracks as a sort of motivational structure for writing.

Here is a playlist I made of all the songs that Said Something to me this year. Perhaps you will find it an interesting and weird journey. All of the subtitles of this essay are songs from this playlist. (You will have to click on it to open the full playlist.)

7. Rapt

Time is a sharp knife. That piece for The Guardian the most important piece of writing I’ve ever done for a mainstream outlet.

8. Creator

Support your peers financially if you can. I lost count of how many gamemakers I met this year who mentioned Anna Anthropy as the reason they make games, as the source of knowing that something difficult and beautiful could be done. Anna is still doing that work now. But it’s really important to support those who inspire you to work hard, so if there is someone out there who gave you the tools to create, or who is doing interesting difficult work, find time to tell them, and to pay money so that they can carry on living. They are humans as well as artists.

9. Headlines

You are enough. Your most important contribution is putting yourself into your work. Everyone in the world has something different and important to contribute. I spoke to Christy Dena in Brisbane recently. She has often worked on games that require sending the player a specific message, which stilts the game sometimes, makes it a little artificial. She says since her mother died she knew that being herself through games was a better way to make a difference. She wants to make the sort of games through which she can express herself. She said to me, “Actually, I am enough.” She is right. I knew it this year too. It is enough.

You are enough.

10. Make Me Proud

The fuckers can eat it. You hear me? They can eat it. They can fucking eat it.

Screenshot 2014-12-21 23.19.23

The Girl

P.S In a few days I’ll put up a reading list of some of my best work this year, along with some recommended reading from other writers. Maybe I’ll also try to talk about some of my terrifying/exciting(?) plans for next year too. Have a rowdy holiday and have a whisky on Hogmanay for me.