Thursday, 14 June 2018

On Political Discourse (or Why I Think Everyone Sounds Like They Hate Each Other on Twitter)

I have one thing to say on the nature of public, political and internet discourse at this point in time.

Our language sucks for expressing ourselves.

If I look at the stats and discover that in 2017 gingers bought more hair dye per capita than blondes and then state as much, I am expressing a fact about what happened in 2017. It's an unusual statement to make, but let's imagine I'm trying to minimise the effect of hair dye use on local river pollution.(Disclaimer: I did no research on hair dye stats for this article).

If I look at gingers and think their hair is an inherently ugly colour and then state that gingers will always buy more hair dye because they're ugly and we should probably try to have fewer gingers to keep pollution down then I am being a dick, as well as missing out on many fine potential relationships with many fine gingers. (Preferring the look of blonde hair wouldn't make me a dick, but expecting it to be recognised as fact as the basis for discrimination against gingers would).

Unfortunately the way our language works I can say something like 'Gingers incur higher hair dye costs' and it's absolutely unclear to the reader which of the two statements above I'm really making. It would then be totally understandable that a bunch of people online would read two totally different interpretations into my uncontextualised statement and then accuse one another of ginger-hating and truth-denying.

Sometimes someone's being a dick, and sometimes they're denying the truth. Based on the real world humans I've met I'd bet most of the time people are just trying to share some truth and compassion in a world of people calling each other names.

PS Sorry gingers, you're just a less publicly volatile case study than race and gender.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

What is Therapy Actually?

Researching the therapeutic process in advance of attending a session, most of what I found was to me unbearably vague - as was my therapist. They talk about integrating personalities and getting in touch with your feelings. They talk about how they won't give you the answers, the answers come from you. They talk about a moment of realisation and personality change. They talk about a lot of things, but the total message to me was something like a magician explaining that what you just saw was a trick. He'll show you this incredible outcome, you ask how he did it, and he says 'Oh, it wasn't really magic, there was a trick to it' then refuses to tell you the trick. You're left knowing that this person is pulling the wool over your eyes, and wondering what advantage it is to them to do so. Why not just talk straight?

I'm the guy that wants to know what the trick was, and I'm going to do my best to describe my experiences directly. This is no parlour trick (though some tricks are employed in the process).

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Irrational Investigator Demo Released!


I stopped development on the Irrational series some years ago, because I got sick of designing logic puzzles. However, I was very proud of the demo we put together for Investigator. It moves the gameplay of Redux into a more graphically and world-driven environment, and massively polished the accessibility. I genuinely think it's worth a play.

Thanks again to my contributors, Mikko Tarmia, Martin Camargo and Chris Burrows.

It's my hope over the coming years or so that I can turn out some new indie games of my own. I currently have a functioning demo of a school management sim, and I'll keep you posted as things develop.

It's here if you fancy playing Investigator it's at: https://t.co/WyG4Fv9GDW

On Masculinity & Refusing to Seek Help

This is the second part of an ongoing series describing my experiences with learning about psychology and going into therapy. Here I talk a bit about how old ideas around masculinity can prevent men from seeking help.

Asking for help was fundamentally incompatible with the identity I had drawn up for myself

I'm not going to go into detail about my childhood (but yes, I'm afraid a lot of it does come down to your relationship with your parents, school and peers), but I'm going to say that it was a fairly traditional masculine environment, by which I mean a culture which explicitly embraces the moral philosophy I highlighted in the previous post as problematic. A culture which denies the validity of feelings and the fundamental equality of people. A culture where the moral ideal is the strong, competitive, stoic male; and the inverse is the weak, the emotional. This dichotomy sets up a further moral ideal that encompasses the other two: the ideal of winning over the world.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

On Psychological Health & Talking Therapy

Disclaimer: I'm writing the words I would have wanted to read some years ago. I know this will be obvious to some people, but it wasn't to me. Also I apologise if I slip into being too absolute. If you ever feel like I'm telling you what you ought to think or do, please forgive me, it's not what I intend, I just got over excited.

Two years ago I started going to talking therapy (I went for one year). I went privately because I was offered highly targeted, formulaic options on the NHS (eg addiction therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy etc), and I figured that the problem I was trying to overcome was more complex and integral than this set of behaviours or that one. I may have a substance abuse problem, and some people may only have a substance abuse problem, but for a lot of us the problematic behaviours are symptoms of the bigger picture.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Two Painters

Two master painters are in a forest clearing setting up their canvasses and easels. The sun is slicing through the thick foliage, illuminating a  scene they are each determined to capture before it fades.

The first painter looks out and sees the trees: the moss on the trunks, the sun glancing off the dew-covered leaves, the great cracks and rivulets running through the bark. The painter takes up their oils and begins to paint.

The second painters looks out and sees the forest: a great dark mass, split by shards of white from the sky. The painter takes up their pencils and begins to draw.

Some hours later they each sit back and breathe a deep breath, before turning to examine the other's work.

The first painter has focused on a handful of trees, which are presented in great detail. It is possible to make out the individual leaves, in which there are reflections of all the others.

The second painter has drawn the entire forest in a more abstract style. Individual trees are hardly discernible, instead there is a black clump stretching in all directions, delimited only by flecks of white sunlight.

The first painter looks at the abstract drawing, and then at the second painter, and there is something that the first painter doesn't say to the second. What they don't say is, "Your trees are merely a black pencil smudge, whereas mine are a full reflection of the real trees before us, and I therefore insist that you make your trees more like mine in order to improve your picture."

And there is something that the second painter doesn't say to the first. They don't say, "Your forest only has three trees in it, whereas mine is a full reflection of the real forest before us, and I therefore insist that you make your forest more like mine in order to improve your picture."

No, they don't say those things, because it would strike them as ridiculous. They didn't come to the clearing together so they could go home with two copies of the same picture. One of them sees the trees, while the other sees the forest. They came to the clearing together so that for a short while they could see both.

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In other news Subnautica finally comes out 23rd January 2018 on Steam. It's actually going to happen this time. I can't wait. It's been over two years.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Necessary Bi-Annual Update to Prove I'm Not Dead

Recently I have been continuing to work on Subnautica, taking some time away from games to focus on some other things, and been constantly, morbidly, but productively fascinated by Trump. Once I have something more interesting to report, I'll do so. That is all for now.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

A Change in Circumstances

Around 8 years ago I had just two games to my name: Penumbra: Overture and Black Plague. I was working fulltime for www.gameshadow.com as editor/content manager, my first job out of uni, and desperately hoping I could find a way to support myself with creative writing alone.

That didn't happen, and in late 2008 I was let go. It was exciting, but difficult, because for the first time I faced the reality that if I couldn't make enough money in the immediate future to pay the bills from making video games I would have to do something drastically responsible, like become a barrister, or a civil servant instead.

Fortunately, and partly due to wonderful people like Gordon Rennie and Andy Walsh supporting me, I was already in touch with a fledgling games writers' agency called Sidelines. It was an offshoot of what remains one of the UK's best (IMO) video game recording studios, Side, and signing up with them secured me work on a bunch of AAA projects such as Driver and Binary Domain. While those two games are the exception in so far as they were actually completed, that string of AAA work from '08 - '12 kept me busy and kept the bills paid until such time as my work on games like FTL and The Swapper was drawing enough attention that I could be more selective about the projects I took on, and stop worrying so hard about what came next.

Now Sidelines Agency is closing its doors, but it's not completely tragic news. Sidelines was always a part-time operation run out of Side's main offices, and their central business continues anon (I was there most recently casting for Elohim in Talos). Further, they will continue to recommend writers to clients, just without taking commission or spending on marketing of the service.

Anyway. They asked me to update my freelancer bio, and I include it here, because why not? You can read it after the break.

Disclaimer: My availability is not super high right now, but it's always good to make contact with people making exciting stuff.