Sometimes it is not enough to simply “watch something on Netflix.” Sometimes you must have a BIZARRE OR INTERESTING EXPERIENCE. Here are some unusual experiences that you can have on Netflix right now!
Watch Valhalla Rising with the subtitles on
Valhalla Rising is Nicolas Winding Refn film where a bunch of people dressed like early medieval crusaders and/or vikings just stand around staring at gorgeous horizons while mysterious fogs swirl around them. It is great.
It is also a very very quiet movie, and definitely not the sort of thing that really benefits from a full sound-effect subtitle treatment. But it got one! Thanks, Netflix!! Loads of the little sounds the characters make as they fight one another, stagger through the forest, and gaze out over the harsh uncaring surface of the cold Atlantic ocean is explained in awkward Netflix subtitle text. It’s not that there are too many subtitles– I mean, they will certainly help deaf people understand a little bit more about what the hell is going on in this weird-ass quiet movie. It’s more that this movie’s sounds cannot be described in explicit language without ruining the mysteriousness that is, like, the core mood of the entire experience. Netflix subtitle sound effects are often mocked, and this is a fucking great example of how absurd they can be. Here’s a small album of some choice excerpts! (No important spoilers.)
Watching it with these subtitles on is a surreal experience. It occasionally approaches a comic-book-quality union of picture and text. This is not the best way to watch the movie, but it is a way to watch the movie, and some of it made me grin and cackle like an idiot.
Watch all of the Up Series
In 1964, a documentary filmmaker named Michael Apted started making a documentary about a group of 14 British kids from different class backgrounds. He has interviewed them about their lives every seven years since then, and most have continued to participate in all of the entries in the series despite the fact that they are under no obligation to.
Each video shows the participating people just describing their lives and how they live and what has happened to them since the last update. You see them change their minds and talk about their prior selves and where they’ve gone in life so far. It is fascinating and kind of crazy! The most recent entry, 56 Up, came out in 2012. Apted is still directing the project.
Watching this is like watching TIME TRAVEL.
Watch a 3+ hour miniseries and then watch it get edited down into a single 2.5 hour movie
This will require you to have a lot of interest in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and a certain amount of dedication to watching massive hours of foreign-language TV, but it’s an interesting experience if you edit stories for a living, as I do.
Anyway, there was a Swedish television miniseries of the entire Millenium Trilogy made in 2009. The whole thing consists of six 93-minute-long episodes. However, the first two episodes were edited together into a 2.5 hour-long movie for release in theaters. And lucky for us, this movie is also on Netflix!
So: here’s what you do. Read the book first, probably. Then watch the miniseries. Then watch the movie version. Pay attention to what shit got cut out between the book and the TV show. Then think about how the story’s pacing works differently to develop the main characters’ relationship in the TV show versus the movie version. If you marathon this shit you will be able to catch a lot of little details. What conversations get shortened, and by how much? What does it feel like to lose all the pregnant pauses in a three-hour-long story? Which characters are essentially cut out of the movie version, and how does that affect the experience?
In my opinion, the miniseries ‘feels’ much better because the two main characters spend more time together and apart, so we get a better idea of what they’re like as a pair and what they’re like when they’re on their own. (This is pretty important for this story, because the plot requires you to buy the idea that the young woman protagonist would become smitten with the crusty older male protagonist despite, like, a twenty-year age difference. Which is also the kind of shit Dude Thriller Movie trope you shouldn’t get me started on. )
I don’t think this is a great or even very good example of how to shorten a single unalterable chunk of content to tell the same story, but it is the only example of this kind of thing worth watching on Netflix right now. I spend a lot of time at work and on my personal creative projects trying to figure out how to tell a story with fewer and fewer words and fewer and fewer scenes, so this experience was valuable to me.
You can also do this with the other two two-episode blocs of the miniseries– they were also edited down into single movies. I just haven’t done this with them because I’m not interested in mainlining something like ten more hours of the same content over and over again.
While working on Six Months, I haven’t done a lot of explicit “worldbuilding” work. There are no documents or maps or world bibles describing the places in my story. I do a ton of that for my day job, and I don’t really welcome it into my personal projects. Besides, I’ve spent so long working on this particular story that I’ve learned its world through dumb rote, like a student in a history class.
I do seek out visual inspirations for various locations in the story, though. I did this for Swan Hill, too. I mostly use the Getty museum’s open image database, because it has a lot of chalk and charcoal drawings of early modern European villages, landscapes, and cities. Here are some pictures which I’ve been using as inspiration while working on Six Months.
Six Months mostly takes place in a large city called Rindberg– the same city where the Chancellor’s university is located in the story Swan Hill. If the capitol of the kingdom is similar to New York, Rindberg is more like Boston– not as big, not as cosmopolitan, but a successful trade port nonetheless, and vitally important to the region.
This drawing of the Rhine river valley was made by a Dutch artist sometime around 1651-1652. The low, flat basin in the image is how I imagine Rindberg looking from the surrounding hills– though Rindberg would be bigger than the town in the drawing. The time period and architecture also fit the story. Simon Villano, the protagonist, would see a similar view as he approaches Rindberg in the few hours immediately before the story begins.
Simon Villano lives in a fertile valley around a week’s journey to the northwest of Rindberg. The same river connects Rindberg and Swan Hill, his home– but to save time on the trip, road travelers will cut through the mountains around which the river winds. They might travel through other towns and aristocratic holdings along the way.
On his journey to Rindberg to make peace with his estranged brother, I imagine that Simon might take a mountain pass that looks a little like this one. This valley contains the mountain stronghold of a baron or baroness whom Simon knows very well. He will stay here one night before continuing on his way in the morning.
Simon’s social network, so to speak, is very small– and made entirely of people he’s known in one way or another since childhood. He does not often leave his home. Although traveling to this mountain pass for business discussions with its lord or lady is normal for Simon, going beyond– to Rindberg– is not. The buildings and trees and winding road in the foreground of this image would represent almost the very edge of Simon’s known world.
This is the image that I used to represent Swan Hill in this Twine story. I always imagined Swan Hill as more of a manor than a castle– remodeled in recent years, as the kingdom strengthened and wars subsided. But I enjoy the shape of the river and the buildings next to it, and the thick bunches of trees mixed throughout. I also enjoy the fact that it is a view from a road. When Simon and Robert pull up to the manor in the beginning of the Swan Hill, they see a view quite similar to this one.
This duchy is Simon’s whole world. He rarely leaves for any reason. He has immense power in this little region, but he is provincial as hell– the biggest fish in a tiny little fishbowl. From Robert’s more-cosmopolitan perspective, Simon may as well be trapped here.
There are two major rivers in the story– the River Scoven, along which Swan Hill and Rindberg sit, and the Taschender River, home to an ethnic group which has been oppressed by Simon’s dominant one throughout the history of the kingdom. When Simon was a teenager, his father brought him on a campaign in the Taschender river valley. This troubling experience with an unjust, messy war dramatically changed Simon’s personality and attitude toward life.
The city from which the local lord rules the Taschender river region is called Mirian. I imagine that a forbidding castle prickling with cannons sits in the corner of this city, overlooking a blighted, rocky valley and a rebellious populace. Simon’s father fought up and down this valley twenty years ago– but Simon got out as fast as he could by marrying young and taking over the family business. This view probably brings him many unpleasant memories.
The capitol of the kingdom is a city called Salienburg. I’ve recycled this name throughout several abortive fiction projects over the last ten years (!!) and it is probably the oldest element in the story. The only firm qualities it has retained throughout all its various ghostly incarnations are:
- It is dominated by a large castle or fortress,
- It is extremely urban (compared to other places in the kingdom, anyway),
- It is fairly large,
- It is near the ocean,
- Most of the architecture is stone (compared to RIndberg and Mirian, which are mostly wood-built).
I have toyed with the idea of using Rome as a kind of inspiration, but I’m super sick of stuff based on Rome, and no city in this story is anywhere near as big as Rome was. But the city of Toledo looks a little more like what I’d imagined, so here’s a picture of it, I guess.
Boromir’s death was one of the great movie moments of my childhood. I knew Boromir was going to die. I’d read the books. I knew he was doomed from the start. But when he actually started taking arrows to the chest, I was overcome by the tragedy and the melodrama. I remember sitting so rigidly in my theater chair that my legs and neck started to ache.
Like many things Boromir has said and done (let’s be honest, Sean Bean himself is turning into a meme generator), this over-the-top death is not just a thing that happened in a movie; it’s now a kind of thing that could happen over and over again in the future. In this text toy, Boromir will die every time you refresh the page. His death will be a little different every time, but he will still die. And just like the movie, this toy will overwhelm you with the sheer melodramatic detail of his death. Boromir has 119 hit points! Did you know?
Cory Doctorow’s (mediocre) novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town has a number of weird characters whose names change almost every time they appear on-page. Someone created a web version of this story which randomizes those characters’ names automatically.
This is pretty cool. I think that randomizing the names more fully expresses the effect that Doctorow was trying to achieve in the dumb-paper version of the story. I didn’t much enjoy the book, but I love it when a digital text uses digital tools to enhance and expand upon its core themes.
This kind of stuff is very important to game storytelling. Can we use the way in which a player experiences a story to make the themes of the story deeper and more resonant? We can, and we should be doing it more often.
This is simply an uncommonly good random character generator.
There are a lot of “useful” character/enemy/plot generators on the internet. Most are super old, and I hate nearly all of them. This one’s short and sweet, and it’s got a punch that a lot of random generators lack.
The characters each come with a personality adjective (critical, resentful, irritable, resourceful), an intriguing origin (from the wilds, from a brothel, from a theater company), and a really damn good quirk. Like, really damn good: “who adds a notch to their sword every night.” “who finds it impossible to speak to girls.” “who has serious body image issues.” “who realized the importance of literacy far too late in life.” “who was raised to work in a library.” The quirks suggest a whole range of possible secrets, backstories, and futures without locking the reader down to any single interpretation.
I’ve decided that the biggest quality indicator for any random generator of any kind is the degree to which it recognizes and addresses the inherent shittiness of randomization. Random output is generally worse than output created and curated by a skilled artist. To make random generators good, you either have to:
- sell the randomness itself as the aesthetic (see: fake academic paper generators, some kinds of twitter bots, or the Boromir simulator above)
- invite the user to curate for quality (what we did with Verified Facts)
- limit the entire system in such a way that its flaws are not often revealed.
What I mean by the third point is that, in my experience, short or small random generators are usually better than long, detailed ones which try to tell a whole story. It’s way easier to make a good short generator than a good long one, and robots who try to “tell the whole story” are usually worse than humans. Twitter bots, on the other hand, are short as hell, and some twitter bots are sublime.
This particular character generator accomplishes both point 2 and 3 above. Not only is it short in length, but the elements themselves are suggestive, not exhaustive. None contradict because none are particularly concrete. It tells just enough to interest you, then backs away. I love it.
Anyway, this page would make a great twitter bot. I would follow the shit out of it.
The time I was “helped” by policemen
When I was about 18 years old, I was once stopped by policemen while doing a dangerous thing near a river. My friends all ran away and left me behind. When the police trapped me and questioned me, I was so frightened that I stuttered for almost a whole minute without saying a word. When I finally managed to speak, I coughed up a word salad.
The policemen shared wide-eyed looks. They began speaking extremely loudly and slowly, as if I were a baby. I nodded my way silently through an entire conversation comprised mostly of bizarrely basic yes-or-no questions. “DO YOU KNOW THOSE PEOPLE WHO WERE HERE WITH YOU? DO YOU LIVE NEAR HERE? DO YOU KNOW WHAT NUMBER YOUR HOUSE IS?”
It wasn’t until we were headed back out to the road– the policemen guiding me as carefully as they could, warning me about obvious roots in the path, obvious puddles of mud– that I realized they thought I was mentally disabled!
I did not correct their assumption. In the end, they just left me standing in a parking lot– “You know how to get out of here, right?”– and took off in their car after my friends. I’m not sure this was best practices for them, but whatever.
In the end, nobody was caught.
The time I was robbed!
When I was in fifth grade, I and several of my friends were obsessed with Pokemon cards. One of these friends– we’ll call her “Lisa,” because I don’t know anyone named Lisa– had a reputation for stealing things, but I was loyal and did not believe it. I invited her over for a sleepover one weekend, and we spent the whole evening nerding out about these cards. My sister and I showed the girl our most prized specimens: a holographic Charizard in my collection, and a holographic Polywrath in my sister’s.
The next morning, my sister was the first to notice that something was wrong. While I was eating pancakes and Lisa was in the bathroom, my sister marched up and silently brandished the D-ring binder with her collection in it. She refused to say a word. It took me a while to realize the Polywrath was missing. I ran and checked mine: the Charizard was gone too!
For some reason, we spoke in whispers, moved silently. While Lisa was washing her hands– I could hear it through the wall– I went and checked her stuff. I found nothing. But it was obvious she’d stolen them– obvious! It grew even more obvious when Lisa sat down at the table to eat her pancakes and told us, “Oh I forgot to mention to you yesterday… I have some nice cards too.” She then removed the Polywrath and Charizard from her pocket and showed them to us. “From my collection,” she said.
I was dizzy with anger. “Excuse me,” I said, and stood up. My sister followed me. We went into the kitchen to speak with my father. “Lisa’s done something very bad,” I told him.
My dad was furious with me for bringing it up. I still don’t quite understand or remember why. He told us we were being very impolite and sent us back into the dining room with orders to “respect our guest.” So that’s what we did: we went back to the kitchen and, with a practiced niceness that today makes me cringe, we had a perfectly kind conversation with Lisa the God-Damned Thief.
Later, after dropping Lisa off at her home, my sister and I informed our dad that we’d just let a thief get away with our shit! Now he was even angrier, but mostly at himself. “I’m sorry,” he kept spluttering. “Jesus! What a girl!” This was probably the moment when my blind faith in adults died.
When Lisa added me as a friend on Facebook a year ago, I was still angry enough (!!??) that I considered reminding her that our last real friendly interaction had been a conversation over stolen Pokemon cards. However, because I am nice, I accepted her invitation, and now we are friends.
The time I got punched
I worked for several summers at a sleepaway camp for girls with diabetes. Because I am a space alien who only pretends to be a human woman, I spent most of my time there behaving like a jester. I got a weird reputation for being “up for anything.”
There was another counselor at the camp who always seemed a little “out of sorts” to me. At first it was innocuous– weird fascinations, odd opinions expressed at embarrassing moments. However, this out-of-sortsness took a pretty dark turn when she found a plastic lawn ornament in the shape of a penguin in a storage closet in the barn. “This is my penguin,” she told us. She concocted an entire story about how her grandfather (???) had given the penguin to the camp on loan. She insisted that it still belonged to her and her family. This was impossible. The penguin had been locked in that closet for several years and had never belonged to anyone’s grandfather.
But this counselor started carrying the penguin with her everywhere and using it in most of her daily teaching activities. She talked to the penguin, apparently. It weirded some people out. Some said it was disruptive. I didn’t really have a problem with it, but when several people suggested that I steal the penguin, I was totally Up For It. And one rainy day, when Penguin Counselor left her precious penguin alone in the dining hall, I stole it and hid it under my bed.
Shit got serious. There was angry shouting, franticng rushing around, and actual crying. She made plaintive pleas before the camp at mealtimes, begging for the penguin’s return. Probably fifteen different people knew I had it, but nobody ratted me out. People actually came up to me and begged me not to return the penguin. “She’ll get over it,” someone told me. “The whole point is to wean her off the penguin.”
At first I was pretty gleeful about the whole thing, but as Penguin Counselor grew increasingly teary-eyed, I grew increasingly uncomfortable. She was physically a very powerful individual. Penguin Counselor’s day job involved physically restraining people at nursing homes. She enjoyed explaining these restraint techniques to us in enormous detail. It was frightening, and besides, I felt very guilty. I started to look for a way out.
I decided I’d leave the penguin in the pool in the middle of the night. Leaving shit in the pool was A Thing that summer. You could only enter the pool area with the head lifeguard’s permission, so the campers would always notice and laugh on the way to breakfast.
I’d have to do it in the middle of the night. Diabetes camp had a system where campers were alone in the cabins from about 9 PM to midnight. Counselors who didn’t have time-off would wait “on patrol” at picnic tables outside, in case of medical emergency. The campers were supposed to use this alone time to go to sleep. I waited until about 10 PM and snuck back into my cabin to extract the penguin under the cover of darkness.
Of course, none of my kids were asleep. On my way up the stairs: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, LAURA??” As I dragged the penguin out from under my bed: “WHAT’S THAT SOUND, LAURA??” I wrapped the penguin in a blanket to conceal its telltale form. As I came down the stairs: “WHY ARE YOU HOLDING THE PENGUIN, LAURA?? I KNEW YOU HAD THE PENGUIN!”
“This is not a penguin,” I told them. “This is a stack of textbooks and I am going to study.” I rushed out of the cabin and down the hill toward the center of campus. There was a sort of valley in the middle of the camp, with a low flat field next to the pool and the pond. It was visible from almost every major building on the camp. And there was a patrol table down there, too, full of people who would certainly see me with the penguin.
When I arrived with the penguin, they cracked up. “Good idea,” someone laughed. I grabbed the penguin by the beak, hooked my arm back, and flung it over the fence into the pool. As it flipped end over end through the air, someone at the patrol table yelped and pointed. I didn’t even have time to turn around before Penguin Counselor was on me, thrashing her fists and shouting, “YOU LITTLE SHIT!!!”
It turns out that Penguin Counselor had been high on the hill above the field, sitting on the steps of the dining hall with another counselor and pouring her soul out about the missing the penguin. She’d seen everything!
After a lot of screaming and fist-swinging stamping and me shouting “Jesus Christ! It’s just a penguin!”, she finally stomped off. In the morning, she got the lifeguard to let her into the pool area to rescue the penguin quite early. She even made a mealtime announcement about my guilt in front of the entire camp. My punishment was a draw from the “suggestion box,” where campers were supposed to put creative indignities which the counselors would occasionally agree to suffer. People had to smear food in their hair and wear crazy clothes and do unusual and inconvenient things. My specially-designed “punishment” was to wear a dress to the dance. (We had a dance every week with the boys’ diabetes camp down the road.) This was supposed to be “a big deal for Laura,” since most people had never seen me wear or do anything feminine. I didn’t care much, though. I suffered no kind of loss.
Listen: diabetes camp has been the only place I’ve ever been “cool.” This is the one braggardly claim I will defend until death: I was a cool camp counselor. I was very cool to ten-year-olds, and even my public guilt and punishment could not diminish that. I used my day off to go to Boston and buy a very frilly pink prom dress from a thrift shop. I let my campers give me makeup. I lurched around the dance in this dress while making Frankenstein faces. It was definitely a cool way to handle the whole thing
I danced like a maniac with a bunch of little girls and got dehydrated and tired. My makeup started to run off. I remember asking for a bit of space, sitting on the sidelines in my pink dress, drinking water out of a paper cup, and noticing that Penguin Counselor was also alone, but not by choice, and I remember feeling suddenly very disappointed with myself.
It was like a Twilight Zone episode. WEEEE WERE THE EVIL ONES ALLLLL ALOOONNNNNNGGGGGG!
Haunting/hypnotizing performance by a guy, two giant robotic arms, and a projection-mapping apparatus that maps images onto moving objects.
A wonderful supercut/music video of various TV and film characters slapping, punching, and tapping broken hardware
Flying eagle point of view
Someone put a GoPro on an eagle and flew it around in the Alps. Makes me yearn for videogames that don’t exist.
Bad Apple 4.6 Million!
There were a bunch of news posts on various nerd news sites about a year ago about “black MIDI,” a musical style that involves making MIDI software play impossible songs containing millions of notes. This is one of the ones I most enjoyed.
Jazzpunk’s live-action trailer
Adult Swim made a live-action trailer for Jazzpunk. It’s both highly similar to the game and wildly unlike the game. I enjoy it a lot.
David Lynch’s Return of the Jedi
If David Lynch had made Return of the Jedi, it would have been a fucking trainwreck masterpiece and I would have adored it.
Russian Sherlock Holmes TV show
This Russian TV show is an unusual spin on Sherlock Holmes. Holmes himself is a little incompetent; Watson picks up a lot of his slack. Interesting and weird!
The Death and Return of Superman
This has been one of my favorite long-form Youtube videos for well over a year now. Max Landis explains how Superman’s death BROKE DEATH IN COMICS. Wonderful narration. Elijah Woods shows up for some reason.
When I first saw this game on the web over a year ago, I laughed. I laughed my butt off because “Lichdom” is right up there with “Revengeance” in the dumb-sounding-names category. (Get it? Dumb? DOM?? HA!) I also assumed it would kind of suck. I don’t even know why. Judged a book by its cover, I guess.
Turns out that the game is great, in a wacky kind of way. The spell and loot system– which allows you to craft your own spells out of spell effects that drop from enemies– is fantastic. I created a spell which allows me to throw exploding ice grenades. Then I created a GRAVITY BEAM that drops black holes on dudes. Nice!
On the other hand, the writing sucks. Troy Baker and Femshep patter on emptily at one another, and my male main character kept shouting “Bitch!!!” for practically no reason whatsoever. He used the word the way people use “shit!”. At one point I think he literally died and came back to life shouting “BITCH!!!!” There was no woman present.
I also appreciate that I had the option to play as a lady, which I am sad to report that I did not accept. I am stupid. If I’d picked the busty female character I could have had Jennifer Hale’s voice!
Some people have criticized this game for being too easy or boring. They are wrong. This game is CHILL. It is beautiful, well-written, and EXTREMELY CHILL. You will wander around a not-particularly-dangerous environment reading fascinating little scraps of paper and munching on blackberries. I like that a lot.
The story behind the game is an apocalyptic sci-fi tale examining the implications of eternal life. What happens when rich dudes are able to make themselves live forever? Will society collapse? (YES.) If it does collapse (YES IT’S COLLAPSING) what will happen? Specifically, what will happen to Seattle and Victoria? Play this game to find out!
I visited Seattle and Victoria precisely two weeks before playing the game for the first time, so that was a fun little coincidence for me. The Pacific Northwest is IRL a very pretty place, but I’m not sure it’s as consistently pretty as this game. I have screenshotted the shit out of it and uploaded precisely thirty of those screenshots to Steam. I am also responsible for the only Steam Guide on how to play this game. Wow! What fame!
The Nightmare Cooperative
I keep telling people that this game is called “Nightmare Collective.” It’s not. It’s a Cooperative. It’s basically “868-Hack but if you controlled up to four dudes at once and they all had a special power.” Like 868-Hack, I am both obsessed with and terrible at it. I haven’t even yet reached the fourth zone.
When I was in college my friends and I were obsessed with Nethack. We had long conversations about the role that hubris and temptation play in permadeath games and I still think that temptation and hubris are the most important parts of any roguelike/roguelikelike/whatever shitty name people are commanding we use this week. Roguelikes. Nightmare Cooperative is a roguelike and it tempts me to awful acts of hubris. This is why I keep coming back to it.
It’s on iOS now, which is cool.
Crypt of the Necrodancer
I have been playing about an hour of Necrodancer every night since it came out on Steam. Do not be misled by the dead-in-zone-two screenshot above: I am a very cool person who has accessed up to zone three of the game. However, I am not yet cool enough to access zone four. I am very sad about this. I am stuck on Zone Three of both this game and Nightmare Cooperative, so I’m probably cursed.
Crypt of the Necrodancer is full-release levels of great but it’s in Early Access. It does that hubris/temptation thing beautifully. It is the only rhythm game I have ever unreservedly loved. I don’t love it enough to marry it, but I’m coldhearted and wouldn’t marry anything anyway.
You maybe surprised to learn that I did not plan to publish that harassment article at all.
I wrote it a year and half ago in an attempt to clear my head. I composed it directly in WordPress, then panicked and set its publish date for ‘far, far, in the future.’ Every few weeks I’d wonder whether it was time to finally publish. Every time, I thought: not yet, not yet. Someday, though.
Well, the “far future” occurred one month ago. I’d completely forgotten about the article and it published totally without my realizing it. When I woke up that morning, someone from Critical Distance was tweeting at me. I’d accidentally published something highly topical. I actually had to go back and change all the dates so they made sense.
I am not even close to the saddest harassment story from the last several months. Please read this long article about how relentless and inescapable harassment can be for many people. I quit writing online because I could, because I had other passions and skills to rely on. A lot of people getting harassed on the internet are getting harassed at the place they work. They make money out here. By attacking them in the place where they sustain themselves, their harassers are doing a lot more damage. Harassers are also often more aggressive to LGBTQ people and people of color. Don’t let this shit stand, please, particularly if you’re in a position of power that allows you to help directly.
Anyway, thanks for all the kind feedback! Having my raw thoughts accidentally broadcast all over the internet didn’t turn out so badly after all. Here are some additional thoughts I’ve had over the last three weeks:
1) It’s definitely OK to jump ship
Some people have been saying things like, “man, it’s so sad you didn’t hang in there,” “It’s too bad you didn’t have thicker skin,” etc. I’ve seen the same thing occasionally written about other people who got out while the going was good.
Here’s my opinion on the subject: suffering sucks! If you are in a shitty situation and you can escape it and you want to escape it and need to escape it for your personal health and peace of mind, then yes, jump the hell off that stupid rat-infested rotten shit ship. You don’t owe your continued suffering or martyrdom to anyone. Jump right off. Swim the fuck out of there.
Here are some great times when it’s a good idea to jump the fuck off the ship:
- You aren’t getting paid to suffer
- You don’t have the energy, time, or money to weather this bullshit
- This isn’t the only outlet for your creative passions and you will feel just as (or more) fulfilled doing something else
- Your friend on the USS Sunshine Utopia has thrown you a nice life raft and you have a limited amount of time to get on that fucking raft and join your friend on a different ship full of happiness and fulfillment
- Absolutely any other reason. Jump off if you want to. Make yourself happy, please.
The sad thing here is that many people getting harassed on the internet do not have anyone to throw them a life raft. It’s important for you to be the kind of person who throws rafts. There are three or four people specifically responsible for helping me disembark from Shit Ship and without them I might even now be a bloated corpse on the bottom of the sea.
2) I think I underplayed how bad the Witcher thing actually was
No, it wasn’t just ‘people calling me bad names.’
The Real Bad Stuff lasted a solid week. Kent handled most of that. But for weeks afterwards, people would link through to the site from the harassers’ home forum and all my blood would rush into my head and I’d feel like barfing. People kept popping by to say more shitty shit. For about six months afterwards, I actually got heart palpitations every time I tried to publish an article. My hands would shake and I’d get weak-kneed and I’d have to go lie down. My housemates would see me lying stricken on a couch and they’d say, “woah, you look sickly,” and because I didn’t feel like saying “strangers on the internet are giving me a panic attack!!!” I’d say “no, man, it’s cool,” and I’d get up and limp over to another room and toss myself on a different couch and sweat.
And please, remember: I’m a lady, so this was not the only time people randomly harassed me. People wrote low-grade aggressive stuff to and about me on a regular basis. The Witcher bullshit was just the biggest single event, and it occurred at a moment when I was making big choices about how to spend my time.
3) Wait, there are still people in the universe who think that personal essays are somehow bad?
Ha! Haa! Haaaaaaa. Personal essays have been around for a bajillion years. They’re in AP English. I took a course about them in college. You will find them in many notable, long-venerated publications. It is not arrogant or self-absorbed or narcissistic to write creative nonfiction about your personal experiences. Men and women and adults and teenagers and college students and even children all participate in this fine, well-established form of literature.
And guess what? Some of those people are games writers! Shocking!! If you don’t like games writing with a hint of the personal in it, I’m very sorry for you, because you’re missing out on a lot of fine shit. For starters, go read some of these brilliant stories and see if it changes your mind.
4) I should probably just finish The Witcher, because The Wild Hunt looks badass
5) Getting paid is way important
It is normal and admirable for writers and other creators to want to find a way to sustain themselves with their passions. You should respect that they are seeking a way to get paid. You should be cool with the fact that “I’m not getting paid” was a significant part of my decision to “let harassment beat me.”
You may be a writer who is OK with writing as an unpaid pastime. But bear in mind that the things you get out of that experience– positive feedback, a community, friends, status– are in themselves a kind of payment. They are the earnings of your unpaid labor. This is how a lot of people get into online writing: they’re getting something valuable out of the experience.
But some people are not getting anything valuable out of the experience. Some people are getting shat on.
And furthermore, nobody can live on status alone. That’s why it’s important that paying outlets hire women, people of color, and LGBTQ people. Everyone eventually arrives at a moment when they must make big decisions about how to spend their time. If the professional games-writing community refuses to give these oodles of highly qualified women and minorities paying positions, those people are going to jump the fuck off the ship, and you are going to lose their voices and perspectives. Remember: unique voices and perspectives have an inherent value that exists in their difference from the mainstream. Respect that.
Since working on Verified Facts, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to web projects that do similar things with text and text randomization. Here are a few projects that have entertained me lately.
As we learned with Verified Facts, making a parody using randomized text is a great way to point out how meaningless, repetitive, or shallow something is. “This is so bad… it can be copied by brainless text robots!” is a pretty harsh burn. I’ve seen and enjoyed my fair share of Upworthy videos, but the over-the-top, teasing, and occasionally-exploitative titles can get pretty damn annoying. This Upworthy generator totally nails the textual style of those headlines, while the “youtube images” chosen for the body of the page also nail Upworthy’s tone and subject-matter.
I don’t really have a problem with Upworthy, but I admired the “accuracy” of this particular generator a lot.
What Would I Say? combs your Facebook posts and comments and comes up with a randomized utterance made up of various parts of sentences you’ve previously spoken. It’s amusing but a little repetitive. Here’s a full album of things it’s predicted I would say.
This one’s excellent. It allows users to draw sentence fragments from a wide range of news and opinion websites and to generate crazy-sounding article headlines. The cool thing is that when a user is generating headlines, they can select which sources they would like the program to draw from.
One of the biggest ways that users interact with any random-text-generation tool is through selecting or curating the results they would like to share with their friends. This goes for web toys, twitter bots– everything with randomization invites human curators. Most random text generators produce a mix of both excellent and boring output. When we made Verified Facts, we knew that it would be important to let users save results and share the ones that made them laugh the most.
Headline Smasher’s source selection improves on this by allowing users to an additional degree of curation. If I’m in the mood for, say, headlines about celebrities, I can choose to mix celebrity news sites with specific other types of sites. The results are still random, but I’m providing greater input, which allows me to see only the content that will make the laugh the most. And the fact that the funny results were based on my advice also strokes my ego, and makes me feel cleverer than if I were just an observer.
No Man’s Sky
And in the “Not Necessarily Gorgeous, but Certainly Visually Exciting” category: