Global Game Jam 2015 Pre-Jam Power Panel at MAGFest

Wow, that title is a mouthful! It sounds so formal when the reality was chill. Alexander Brandon, James, Portnow, Lindsay Grace, and I spoke to a small-but-passionate audience of Jam participants.  It was a lot of fun.

The panel room was intimidating.

GGJ15 PreJam Power Panel room

But the audience was friendly and asked great questions. My fellow panelists offered some sage advice.  I enjoyed it.

As my important notes from the panel show, though, I was distracted the entire time by a bird flying around the room. 
 

I'm excited for MAGFest to post the panel video so everyone can see us watching the bird fly around. Gripping entertainment.

I'll be back at MAGFest tomorrow to judge the Jam games. Looking forward to seeing some creative takes on this year's theme: "What do we do now?"  

Panels Galore!

I'm on a lot of panels in the next few months, so you have no excuse for not seeing me speak. ^^ 

MAGFest 1/23/15, : I'll be giving out sage industry advice with Alexander Brandon (Unreal, Deus Ex), James Portnow (Extra Credits), Lindsay Grace (Mindtoggle Games, AU) on the Pre-Jam Power Panel kicking off this year's Global Game Jam.

http://magfest.org/
http://globalgamejam.org/

I'll also be speaking on two panels at PAX East and a panel at ECGC. Details about those events to follow.

Come say hi to me!

Project Untold and Patreon

Project Untold is underway! I’ve spent the last two months writing up early design documents and writing lore, character bios, plot summaries—all the fun stuff. My next step is collaborating with the artists, designers, and animators to make my ideas into concrete assets and gameplay. I love this part of the game-making process.

Unfortunately, I can’t live off creative energy alone. Giant Spacekat is funding Untold with venture capital, but that takes time. I have to survive in the meantime. So I set up a patreon. Patronage allows me to pay my bills and keep working on Untold while GSK looks for investors.

I'm gratified to say that I'm halfway to my first milestone, thanks to the support of some lovely people. 

You could be one of them.

http://www.patreon.com/cynixy

http://www.patreon.com/cynixy

Writer's Block and Science

Reality flows in. Imagination flows out.

According to the latest scientific research, reality and imagination flow in opposite directions in the brain. Reality starts with low-level processing then moves to high-level cognition, while fantasy starts deep in the brain and flows out to low-level processing areas. It's an enormously satisfying visual representation of how I always thought imagination worked.

When writing, every scene starts with a spare idea. A bar fight, for example. This grain of thought accretes layers of detail as I work on it. Who is fighting, where, why. Then what they look like, the smell of the bar, the motion of a swinging fist, the sound of bone on flesh. All the tiny sensory elements that make a scene vivid come last. The flow from the high tower of ideas to the earthy reality of a fist to the face.

This past year, I had the worst case of writer's block I've ever had. I was going through a bad time personally and was very shut-down and depressed. Cored by grief. And my writing showed it. I couldn't get from idea to detail. It was like the flow stopped before it reached the sensory stage. I couldn't get to that place where I picture the scene as if I'm living it in my brain and transcribing an eyewitness account. My writing was all ideas, no substance. I recognized the problem, but couldn't fix it. Which made the block even more painful.

As I healed, the writer's block eased up. I started seeing the drama again, not just knowing intellectually how it should play out. I could write with my senses again. And now science confirms what I felt all along about how writing  moves through my mind. 

 Writer's block is a terrible thing to suffer through. Losing your means to cope with pain and stress when you're at your most pained and stressed is a cruel joke. I hope this study means that someday it will be curable.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141120141442.htm 



Interview with The Mary Sue

A while back I tweeted something about how great it would be if gaming sites interviewed women about their work instead of always asking us to talk about harassment or what it's like being a woman in the industry. To my delight, Emma Fissenden contacted me not long afterward about an interview for The Mary Sue. TMS is featuring a new series on their site: interviews with women in tech about their work. It's exactly what I was hoping for. Judging by the comments, I'm not the only person thirsting for more substantive chats with women gamemakers. I hope other sites pay attention and follow suit.

Here's my interview.

http://www.themarysue.com/game-changer-anna-megill/

Game Design Textbook Recommendations

A student wrote me for advice on game design textbooks. I didn't go to design school, so I asked the industry professionals I knew on Twitter. They gave me the following recommendations (alphabetized):

Here's a recommended library for designers: 
http://www.boffo.us/gdw/BookshelfByTopic.html

Plus a crash course in hands-on design:
https://stacksocial.com/sales/the-name-your-own-price-game-design-bundle

If you have more recommendations, please suggest them in the comments.

Call for Talent

As many of you already know, a development studio has optioned my games. We're in pre-pre-production now (if such a thing exists) and are putting together our initial team. We'll formally announce the project in the future and will list additional information and positions on the studio website as the project grows. But right now, we're looking to fill only a few key roles.

The Project
The games will be story-focused, mid-size games for multiple platforms. Each game will have a unique visual style. Diversity and inclusivity will be cornerstones of our game designs, so we encourage open minds to apply. Pre-production with a small team is scheduled for January 2015. 

Positions
It's critical that candidates are the right fit for this unique project. A willingness to learn and grow is prized above industry credentials, so don't let a lack of experience stop you from applying. All roles will be full-time, in-house positions at the Boston studio unless otherwise noted. More information about the requirements and responsibilities will be available during the application process, under an NDA. Please email xsecretgameprojectx@gmail.com with resumes and inquiries.

  • 2D/3D Artists: 
    We're looking for versatile artists who can translate their concept art into game assets. Your striking, original work will set the art style for each game. A strong understanding of visual storytelling is essential for this role. Previous game experience is preferred, but not required. Please provide portfolios/links. This can be a remote position.
     
  • PR/Marketing Lead:
    You should be an innovative thinker, willing to explore unusual and nontraditional avenues to reach our audience. You will form and help maintain a large, active online community. Experience with user acquisition, promotions, and social media is required. Familiarity with video editing software is a plus. This position will start immediately upon hire and can be worked remotely through January.
     
  • Programmer:  
    Must know C++ and have experience coding professionally. This position requires strong interpersonal skills. Candidates will be good collaborators and communicators. Visual scripting, Unreal 4, and game development experience are a plus. This will be the senior programming position on the project. 

Kentucky Route Zero In Real Life.

I am in deep, soul-kiss love with Kentucky Route Zero. Having it fray the edges of the real world with phone messages and an ebay auction was a gift from the devs. If you haven’t called the line yet, do it now. Stop everything. Shut the door. Sit down with a whisky-based cocktail, and call.

The “Are you holding a snake right now?’ option is pure delight.

Also, Here's an article discussing the beauty of KRZ0's regional voice: http://www.popmatters.com/post/187760-regional-authenticity-and-video-games/

 

Game Pitches

I recently pitched some games to a small studio in New England. It was my first time pitching my own work and I was nervous, but it was also the first time I believed 100% that the project would be a successful one. I'd love the challenge of writing those stories. And I understand my target market, from the inside out. 

I've been researching the market for my game ideas for several years now, watching what they watch, participating in their forums, going to shows and gatherings, interviewing them, gathering data—and making friends. It's safe to say that they won me over and I became a part of their various fandoms. It was fun. And educational. I saw that these women—for they are overwhelmingly women—are underserved by the games industry. These women are willing to spend hundreds of dollars to travel to a con for a 5-minute, $150. photo op with the stars of their favorite shows. They will buy every collectible and special edition you put out. Most important of all, they spend hours creating videos, gifs, manips, headcanons, fanfic, and contests about their interests. It's partly an expression of their passion as fans, but it's partly because they want a deeper involvement in their interests—an investment and immersion—than they are provided. So they make it themselves.

I got into the games industry because I wanted to make games for women. I don't mean "pink" games. I mean games that women can enjoy playing, without those moments of eye-rolling sexism or crushing misogyny that remind women it wasn't made for them. Games where women can be the hero, too, and not just window dressing. Games that let them escape from reality a bit.

Not this.

Escape from reality with…the worst parts of reality!

Escape from reality with…the worst parts of reality!

I'm not putting pink games down. If that's what you like to play, then play on. But those aren't the kind of games I want to make. And they aren't the kinds of games the women I'm targeting want to play.

So when I was approached by the New England studio for game ideas, I knew exactly what I wanted to pitch.

And they loved it.

They got it. They saw the potential.

But (there's always a "but") they aren't ready to make them. For various reasons I can't discuss, it would be a while before they could make my games. It might still happen, but not right away. It's strange to have a pitch succeed, yet end up feeling like it failed. But that's where I am right now.

Another studio has expressed interest in hearing my ideas, so I'll pitch to them and see what happens. In the meantime, I guess it's time to see what existing projects I'd like to be a part of. 

Endless possibilities.

Endless possibilities.





The Creativity of Limits

Kabe Wilson reassembled the words of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own to tell an entirely different story about modern racial and cultural politics. This short article is a great read about his process and how unexpected connections informed his word choices.

A page from Of One Woman Or So.

A page from Of One Woman Or So.

When I talk about how collaborative the gamewriting process is, people often ask me if I'm bothered by the limitations. The answer is no. Parameters can inspire creativity, because you must figure out how to tell your story within those constraints. The story of how Kabe Wilson linked Woolf's writing to Toni Morrison and Howard University is a wonderful example of this kind of forced creativity. Thinking outside (or around)  the box can lead to serendipities and  epiphanies. You often end up with more original story ideas because you couldn't go the traditional route or employ the usual tropes. It's more difficult to work within constraints. And it can require more research and more examination. But if you succeed, the payoff is profound. 

That being said, too many constraints don't leave you any room to move and that stifles creativity. So there's a fine line.

Game Journal

Or maybe Journal Game? I'm not sure what to call it yet, but it's an idea I've been kicking around since last fall. I was working on a bunch of short stories about gamifying everyday life, and I kept thinking, "Wrong medium." What better way to discuss that kind of gamification than to make a game of it? So I'm thinking of creating an open-ended Twine game, loosely based on the events of my recent life. An interactive journal. I'm not sure how much interest there would be in something so personal, but it will be fun to work on. I might even start a Patreon to fund it. This project will give me something to focus on while I'm getting my head together. If I can earn a little money for it, all the better, but that's not its purpose. 

I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, if you know of any interactive journals or games about the dailiness of life, please link me to them.

Codille

Tomorrow it will be one month since my Old Man Cat died. Everybody knows Codille's death hit me hard and that grief laid me low for a while. I still miss him every single day. I've had a tribute to him on the front page of this website for a while, but now I'm moving it here. It's not about forgetting him or our fifteen years as companions—I never will—but I need to stop focusing on my grief and start trying to put my life back together. 

 

Codille in happier days, basking in the rare Seattle sunlight.

Codille in happier days, basking in the rare Seattle sunlight.

New Adventures

I'm leaving Quebec City and heading home to DC for a little break. While I'm there, I'm interested in taking on new projects. Something small and fun would be exciting. If you're an indie company or small studio looking for a writer, or if you have a project that you think I could help with, please drop me a note through my Contact page. I'm looking for new adventures. ^^

Note: Many of you have written to support me and to lament that you don't know of any projects  in the DC area. First of all, thank you all so much for your encouragement and kindness. It means more to me than you know. Second, I'm going to DC to regroup; I'm not necessarily staying there long term. And I'm emerging from this experience with the need to work on a meaningful project. So if you know of small or indie companies ANYWHERE who are looking for a talented gamewriter, or if you know of someone working on a game that screams "Anna" to you, please let me know. 

#GameFaves

I've started a little tradition on Twitter. Every Saturday I tweet about a lesser-known game that inspires or delights me. I went through some hard times this year, and it helps to remind myself of how wonderful games can be. Anyone can join in by tagging their tweets with #GameFaves, and it's been fun to tweet along with people as we discuss our gaming loves.

I've had guest hosts recently, and it's been interesting to see what games excite other people. For example, I'd never heard of Ecstatica until Marc Laidlaw mentioned it. Now I'm ransacking the used game stores in town to see if I can find a copy.

Because Twitter is ephemeral, there's no permanent record of our tweets. So this post is where I'll keep track of the titles we discuss. 

 

Walking the Walk

Some men in the games industry are as sick of seeing women left off panels and out of public discussions as I am. They got together and signed a pledge to not participate in any panels that don't have women on them. I hear that their stand will soon extend to all kinds of diversity, so we can hope to start seeing people of all races, genders, and sexualities speaking soon, too. If the industry listens.

This is a fantastic step for allies to take. This goes beyond merely supporting women or raising awareness. This is concrete action that will have an affect on the industry. Very excited to see this happen and can't wait to see the list grow.

Their Tumblr page is here: http://plzdiversifyyourpanel.tumblr.com/

Check out their Twitter hashtag: #PlzDiversifyYourpanel

Check out their Twitter hashtag: #PlzDiversifyYourpanel