CGSA 2019 Recap

autoethnography, dissertation, research

Hi folks,

So, I just got back from CGSA (the Canadian Game Studies Association) in Vancouver, BC, which I followed up with some hiking and sightseeing on beautiful Vancouver Island. The conference was pretty excellent, and the past week has been extremely relaxing and good for me. (I’ll post my CGSA talk and slides eventually.)

Now, though, it’s time to get back to my dissertation work, and to be honest, I am a little worried — by now, I’m supposed to be three and a half months into my new project, but I’m not. As I’ve mentioned before, there are a lot of reasons for that. I lost the first month of project 02 to exhibiting and traveling in Europe followed by running last year’s QGCon. I lost December and January (months four and five) to burnout from the RCMP work that I was helping Tom with, as well as to getting ready to teach in January… And then, I needed two and a half or so extra months to finish TRACES.

I could have opted for a less-finished prototype, but I felt a strong connection to the project, and I really wanted to make it as “finished-for-now” as I could. I am very, very happy with the end-result of the project. But it took time.

That’s time that I didn’t use for Project 03, or for dissertation writing. Now, I know (and so do you, if you look back on this) that I have been writing this entire time, but I haven’t been writing formal chapters.

I’m happy that I did use my CGSA presentation to write a few thousand words about archival practices. I think it’s a good initial first go with some strong thoughts, and I did get some suggestions for who I should be reading/looking into from the audience, including: Dene Grigar from U of Washington/Vancouver, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Jennifer Douglas (who writes about the subjectivity of archivists and on documenting workspaces and personal libraries at the NYC Public Library)… And I was reminded of a few sources that I should definitely be citing, such as Donald Schon (inescapably awesome work), and Barr, Khaled and Lessard’s MDMA work (I don’t know if it’s formally published somewhere now?). Adrienne Shaw’s Encoding and Decoding Technology sounded liked something I’d be interested to read, as well as Kat Holmes’ Mismatch.

John Sakloske brought up questions of ephemerality that I didn’t agree with but will certainly have to address. Raph’s Delete Jam (happening tonight) also brings these questions up, philosophically and affectively.

All this is to say that I am not sure that I am on track to finish writing or to defend by May 2020. I will try to finish my next project in three months, but I don’t know that I will. From there, I have to write about 50 000 words, which, honestly, isn’t too bad, but I know that I have a lot more to say than that, and that this will all need editing. I also have a lot to analyze in terms of materials. I have to get many hours of audio transcribed in order to analyze it with grounded theory. But I think I will have to only include a sample of that in my dissertation as an appendix.

Right now, I haven’t been as in-touch with Rilla, my supervisor, as I would like. Since she’s on maternity leave and the work is still plugging along, I guess that’s okay, and we’ve already talked about what would happen if I didn’t finish on time (the answer is pretty well just to remember to save up a little money so that I can finish at the end). Money is a bit of a concern because Tom hasn’t yet found a full-time job (he’s doing some worthwhile part-time work in the meanwhile). My budget is in order but it depends on Tom being able to pay his half of the bills. He’s still also working on the various complaint files that he still has to have a part in.

So, I’m trying to figure out what this project is about. This morning, I was thinking about themes like connection/intimacy, as well as interpretation. I was thinking of electronic motion and vibration. They’re two areas that I haven’t done a lot with yet that my peers, like Ida and Squinky, have been doing neat stuff with. One idea that came to my mind as I was half-awake was a game where you have to interpret the motion of a digital/electronic device. More on this to come! One concern that I have is that I wanted to try out a game with clearer outcomes and win/lose conditions than the previous one, and this direction doesn’t seem to be going that way. I don’t want to rest on my laurels! Another concern is that working with the technologies that I did for TRACES involved a lot of trial and error and programmatic problem-solving that was more difficult and time-consuming than I anticipated, so I wonder whether it would be better to work with a technology that I already know.

More as it comes!

The TRACES trailer is out now!

autoethnography, critical making, dissertation, playtest, playthroughs, research

Hey folks,

After last week’s playtesting, I spent this week working on this trailer for TRACES! I am so excited to be able to share it with you!

Photos forthcoming once I get the chance to edit them!

I learned so much this week — got a better handle on Lightworks, learned how to do some basic colour correction in Resolve…

Soon, I’ll have to move on for now from TRACES to my final dissertation project. I have been trying to think a bit about what I’ll be making, but so far, it’s still wide-open!

Happy watching! I still have to figure out how to add subtitles on Vimeo — I’ll be working on it! It’s important to me to have the video be as accessible as I can make it. I just have to manage my bandwidth right now.

DISSERTATION: Playtesting TRACES and ACT ‘NORMAL’ this week!

autoethnography, critical making, dissertation, playtest

I’m happy to be able to say that tomorrow and Thursday, TRACES, along with its companion larp, ACT ‘NORMAL’, will be playtested this week!

It’s been a hard road since September 1st — I easily lost three productive months (September, December, January). Technically, May is the 9th month since I started TRACES. I am hoping the next creative project goes more smoothly and fits more neatly into the 6-month timeline that I have planned for it. Actually, I am hoping to be able to use this last project to end up back on track in terms of writing the dissertation component of this project.

We will see if that happens — at this point, I think that I have to accept that doctorates are hard, doctorates while dealing with systemic issues doubly so, and that they take time. I have to be careful about how I plan my time in order to avoid burnout (I really came up to the edge of it during this project around December and January, largely because of issues related to Tom’s work). Learning to take a step back and limiting my involvement with the things that I do not have energy for is an important lesson.

Meanwhile, I have seventeen players lined up to play this week. That’s amazing! And I think it’s plenty of data for my purposes, although there will certainly be future playtests if I can manage it.

Some of the challenges around playtesting this game are that, ideally, it would be played in a crowded, busy space. The challenge with that is not wanting anything to break or go missing, or to get in trouble for playtesting publically where I’m not allowed (since I will basically gaffer-tape the sculptures in various positions where they won’t damage any paint). Getting the space that I did get is not going to be possible as often as I would like — it’s unusual for a solo project to be allowed to use the space in that way.

I guess that brings me to the Companion Larp for TRACES, which I wrote in order to try and solve the issue of not having a crowd to play in. In a nutshell, I am asking people to play characters/caricatures of people they would expect to meet in 2019.

What else should I be recording for posterity in this post? A lot of the records are in github, in the version history of documents I’ve been writing.

I guess I am just, at this point, overwhelmed with how much care I have for this game. I really feel like I’ve put myself out there in a way that feels vulnerable and exciting.

Oh, I guess it’s also worth mentioning that the “final for now” version of the Escape Room that I have been helping with is up and running as of today.

I have no idea what I’ll make next, but I haven’t stopped collecting the molded pulp paper forms when I get the chance. I’ve got some excellent ones that Marc and Gina gave me recently. For now, I’m focusing on doing the best job that I can playtesting and documenting this game that I care for so much.