DISSERTATION UPDATE: The F***king BOX!

autoethnography, critical making, dissertation, playtest, research

It sure has been a while since I wrote a dissertation blog post. The last time I wrote was right before October 25th, when my students’ project proposals were due, and I had to give detailed feedback to almost 70 students so that they could complete final projects (which I also had to correct). I’m feeling a lot less overworked and a lot better now, although I am still very busy.

I’ve been doing a lot of documentation through photos and through posts on Instagram and Twitter (which I’ve also been screenshotting). I couldn’t do as many design interviews because of the activities I was doing with the person I was collaborating with involved a lot of loud power tools and silent working, punctuated by problem-solving. And there were a lot of finicky things.

I did however keep talking about the project at the lab’s weekly design meeting whenever I could.

In a nutshell, October through November was mostly all about physical crafting. With the puzzles designed and mostly programmed (although there have been tweaks here and there since then), I had to buckle down and do things like designing and embroidering conductive patches (with lots hand-sewing), and finishing up the box, besides the hardware. This also involved sanding and staining.

From there, toward the end of November, most of my energy went to my students and preparing for my deviated septum surgery (which finally happened December 9th). With almost 70 students, getting all the grading done between November 29th and December 9th was certainly an adventure.

The good news is that the project is finished except for a name and a carrying strap, and any fixes I do to things that arise in playtesting (and some already have, like some errant shapes that I didn’t realize were there). We finished the box just before New Years, and toasted the completion on New Years Day with a shot. I realized that I might be a designer because I enjoy problem-solving and working with all of the issues that we encountered, whereas the person that I was collaborating with was more frustrated with the process.

Since then, I finessed a few things (used steel wool to smooth the box a bit, and wrapped wires with gaffer’s tape, for example), and sewed a cover to protect the case.

I am really pleased with the results of the limited playtesting I’ve done so far (4 playthroughs with a total of 8 people in various configurations, 2 groups of 2, 1 group of 3, and one solo player). Based on the experience of the solo player, I’ve decided that, as I thought might be the case, 2-3 is the sweet spot for the number of players.

I am next bringing the suitcase to QGCarnival, where I hope to play a few rounds. It’s QGCon’s official fundraiser!

After that, everything is likely to stall for a few weeks as I am scheduled for top surgery on the 16th. I hope to get a little bit of work done (getting the audio transcription stuff going) but I will need a lot of rest.

So, I’ve got playtesting to do this semester, and then need to write my dissertation, I’m leading the QGCon team, I’m getting top surgery, and I’m helping to plan an exhibition over the summer. That’s a lot less than last semester, even though it’s a lot! Oh, and I may apply for a conference or two. I really want to apply to CGSA if I can find the time this year.

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.