DISSERTATION: I’ve Been Tired!

autoethnography, critical making, curious games, dissertation

Well, sportsfans, I’m keeping busy and working away on my dissertation project and a whole whack of other things.

Since the last time that I wrote, I’ve participated in a lot of events, which is the priamry reason why I haven’t been able to write too much here. In between the events, I’ve just needed time to recover, work on my code, and do my chores.

Speaking of code, you can now find the repository for my working-title project Traces here.

What I have discovered after a lot of effort and working with Node JS and etc is this:

— Johnny-Five doesn’t not play well with this NFC shield. I could either get my little LED light to blink using a node server command or I could get my RFID shield to read my NFID tags, but not both. People have been asking for support on this from the johnny-five developpers since 2015, but obviously it’s a labour of love and it just hasn’t happened.

— I will have try to use websocket and serialport instead, although I remember there being some issues with serialport and one of our previous projects. Alternatively, I will have to try and make everything happen through the Arduino board (this is not ideal for audio or for using multiple com ports).

Okay, so my last post was written on a Sunday. Then, there was a week of work from there, where I did some writing and a lot of code troubleshooting that I don’t have a lot to show for. On the 8th, I did a Costco run with one of the organizers of GAMERella in preparation for, you guessed it, GAMERella, which happened on the 10th and 11th.

I made a game that weekend with Narf and Catherine called “TAMAGAMEWORKER”, and it’s about unhealthy working conditions in the game industry. You have to try and take care of a tamagotchi gameworker named Tama, while they try to balance their basic needs alongside demands from work and other spheres. You can check it out here – it’s not perfectly balanced and you may have to install “Noto Sans” for the fonts to display properly (I haven’t gotten around to doing web fonts for it yet). I did the programming, most of the art except the tamagotchi animations, the annoying music, and I helped edit the writing. Catherine did most of our writing and Narf helped with programming, did the Tamagotchi animations, and helped Catherine with syntax for the JSON file.

Then, this past weekend (and when I say weekend here, I mean covering the period from the 16th-19th), was the Montreal Mini Maker Faire followed directly by the Maker Cultures conference and symposium. It was four days straight of very intense, long days.

On Friday and Saturday, I was exhibiting. I didn’t realize how tired I was ’til after — it can be really hard to take a break and have someone else watch your booth when you’re the only one who knows what needs to be done and, as the Gamemaster, your skills are a big part of the experience. It was helpful to have to explain Flip the Script! (the game I was showing) to so many people. I was also on CTV Montreal with the project — you can check out the video here (although unfortunately it misgenders me).

On Sunday, it was a day of talks followed by dinner with the presenters, and Monday was a day of workshops and trying to help define this area.

One very serendipitous meeting from this weekend was with Josh and Karen Tanenbaum from UC Irvine. We had met at QGCon in LA two years ago, which Josh was kind enough to help me remember by saying “we haven’t seen each other since…” because I had total face blindness. The Tanenbaums have done some really cool work with — surprise! NFC! That includes a storytelling NFC glove, so I definitely plan to engage with their work as I think about Traces.

Yesterday, Tuesday, I took the day off and went to see Burn The Stage in theaters. I slept in, I ate ramen, I bought art supplies, I watched a movie, I cuddled kitties, I played video games, I wrote with Tom…It was glorious.

And that brings us to today. Today, I worked on some other tasks needing my attention regarding my work as student rep and some other administrative things. I also had the chance to practice Japanese with a dear friend. She is very patient with me — with all that’s been going on, I haven’t had much chance to practice. Oh, and I got a new night-guard and had it adjusted.

I jokingly told my friend today that maybe the reason I was working so much with Time Travel themes (in the tabletop RPG I am running for my friends, for example, and with this project) is because I never seem to have enough of it and I want to make more of it.

As the Pixies say, “I’ve been tired! T-I-R-E-D spells it, spells it, spells it”.

So I’m trying to be cautious, take the time that I need to rest, and keep on keeping on.

DISSERTATION: Learning new technologies

adventures in gaming, autoethnography, critical making, dissertation, research

Just a quick update so that I have a record of what I was working on yesterday. I spent around seven hours fiddling with the near-field communication tech and trying out different programming. It turns out that there is a lot less detailed guidance for the recommended Adafruit libraries than one would hope — and the alternate libraries are often deprecated, don’t work nearly so well with my physical technology, or just don’t quite do the thing that I want them to do. To make matters a bit more complicated, my chosen NFC tags don’t work with newer phones, which was one of the ways that I was testing, and, without additional apps, the NFC for phones is really only designed for very specific uses (actually activating email, the phone, a webpage), or so it appears. So, just generally not a lot of guidance for using NFC for what I intend to. Generally, people seem to program them on their computer and use them on their phones, or they don’t care about what the actual message on the cards say? Or, if they do, the projects don’t clearly indicate the steps for getting there.

When I program a tag and read it on the reader with my current library (PN532), however, there doesn’t appear to be a function to a) just have it be a string of text and b) to read what the tag actually says.

The library itself has almost no clear documentation, just example projects.

So, it’s got me thinking about alternate ways of handling the issue (like just using the unique ID of each TAG without actually putting a message on it to trigger a program). But I also need to be able to translate what I’m getting from the monitor into actual triggers for the arduino to talk to a javascript app.

I was talking to Tom about this yesterday: I want to be independent and handle the tech myself this time. It’s not that I mind collaborating with others, but because I am largely self-taught when it comes to all the tech that I use, I need to prove to myself that I’m able to do it, or something like that. It seems a bit ridiculous putting it into words, but that’s the feeling that I have. Maybe the truth is that I just need to ask for help because the documentation just isn’t there. It was frustrating to work for that long yesterday and not have a lot of concrete work to show for it. Or maybe the documentation is out there somewhere and I’m just not finding it.

That’s all for now!

Dissertation: Changing Stakes

adventures in gaming, autoethnography, critical making, dissertation

The seven weeks since I began my latest design project, working title/codename “TRACES” have been busy, but I’ve already talked a bit about that, so I won’t go too far into it — first, Ars Electronica, then guest-lecturing, then QGCon, then Different Games, and then a family event in New York City. This, alongside further issues with Tom’s work situations. My apartment still needs to be painted, and we still have furniture to build, rooms to fix up, and boxes to unpack. One thing that I haven’t mentioned that took up a fair bit of time and energy recently is that I released an open letter talking a bit about Tom’s situation. You can read it here if you want to. There are times when this situation makes me completely unable to work, both because my help is needed, and also because it’s incredibly stressful. So I want to be sure to note that, for autoethnography purposes.

All of that means that I haven’t had a lot of breathing room to focus on the project — but things are moving ahead, little by little. Technology is on its way. I have started to write the game’s story and script. I am thinking about aesthetics, and rules, and context. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about time travel — I’ve run two sessions of my time travel RPG with my usual RPG night group, and am aiming to run a third one soon. I’ve also started to read Ryan North’s How To Invent Everything (which is a guide for stranded time travelers to recreating modern amenities and “civilization”). My spouse and I are watching (re-watching, in my case) Altered Carbon. So yeah, I have been thinking a lot about the future and about time travel.

I thought consuming this media about time travel and thinking about the rules of the technology of this world, linked to the thinking about societies and gender that I’ve been doing in relation to The Left Hand of Darkness, would be all the “research” that I needed to do for the writing. But I should have been reading about fascism, bigotry, the darkness of human history.

I wanted to tell a story about my transness and feeling undervalued and underappreciated in a conservative country’s art world context, feeling alienated by people who were supposed to be peers. I wanted to tell a story of hope and community, even if just as the backdrop for a society that did value the characters in question. But now, the stakes have changed. The real-world ones.

It didn’t happen overnight, and maybe they haven’t actually changed as dramatically as all that. But the facts remain that a major world power (the United States) and a neighbour to my country, who is currently electing conservative leaders all over the place, is trying to legislate transgender and intersex people out of existence, based on pure bigotry, ignorance and hatred. This is just the latest in a series of exhausting, dehumanizing events in the United States. Fascism never went away, really, but it just keeps rearing its head in government-mandated ways and somehow each moment feels like that’s as bad as this administration can get. And somehow people keep normalizing these new situations, or somehow believing that there are “two sides” that have equal validity and a right to be heard.

So.

This game…might not be what I thought it was going to be.