Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) is an interdisciplinary centre for research/ creation in game studies and design, digital culture and interactive art


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TAG Home Office Check-ins

Posted by mi

As the second month of the Covid-19 lockdown lurches forward, scholars find themselves entrenched in a strange environment of physical isolation and online communication. Although many of us have been staying in touch through Facebook chat, Discord servers, and an avalanche of Zoom meetings, working from home remains a challenging (albeit necessary) paradigm. This is especially true for TAG members, who have traditionally relied on the lab as a co-working space, a workshop, and a place to play games of all types. For many of us, getting locked out of the university was like losing a second-home.

We thought now would be as good a time as any to check in with the TAG community to see how folks are doing, and if they had any tips for staying safe, healthy, and productive during the pandemic. Below is a collection of responses from our members, alongside pictures of their home office setups. Hopefully, through sharing advice and strategies, we can help each other get through Covid-19!

a laptop is set up on a round table in a living room

Ida Marie Toft: What’s most important to me is to have a work community online and I am super lucky to have established such a community with members of TAG. When starting this I was trying to create something similar to the in-person writing community at Thesez-Vous. We do quick 5 minute check-ins every hour – or whatever is possible or make sense – where we set realistic goals for each hour and talk about them (reviewing how things went and planning for the next hour). It’s nice being there for each other’s ups and downs, and we also talk about other things like cooking. I also take several dance breaks a day. Spotify has a sleep timer feature so I put that on 5 or 15 minutes and when the timer ends I go back to the more boring work stuff.

I think their are general good advice like keeping a daily schedule, waking up the same time every day, showering, eating, reaching out to friends, keeping the home clean, etc. I stick rigidly to all that. I put on my best clothes everyday and then often pajama or sweatpants/hoodie on top to stay warm and comfy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

a green desk with a computer and a cat on it an office wall covered in brown packing paper and post it notes.

Skot Deeming: Here’s my workspace, in one half of the room, my desk and computer and tools and paints and things. The walls around full of the objects that inspire both my research and creative activities (designer action figures and bootleg toys) – and often the desk has a cat or two hanging out! The opposite wall is the wall of dissertation – a way to house my research road-map that looks sort of like something made by some obsessive detective in a movie or TV show.

My research/creation practice hasn’t changed too dramatically since the pandemic. This is mostly because I’ve always done these types of things in domestic spaces, which is something I learned early on as a child from my grandfather – having spent many days in his workshop making model kits and metal military figurines. So making and having space at home for such things has always seemed very natural to me.

The advice I would give to everyone in terms of working and coping right now is to go easy on yourself. Have a routine, yes, but if you are struggling, it’s okay to walk away for a bit. When I hit the wall, I shift my attention to painting, drawing, and model making. They’re great activities that allow me to continue to think about research and writing – a sort of way to process thoughts while engaging in creative activities.

a laptop set up on a class table in a living room a cat sits on a class table next to a laptop

Jessie Marchessault: Here is my temporary workspace! I unfortunately don’t have a desktop or an extra screen so its pretty minimal. I also left all my books at TAG so everything happens on my tiny screen.

I’ve been trying not to be too hard on myself as I write my MA thesis. I have some great days and some terrible ones in terms of productivity and energy, and I can usually sense what kind of day its going to be when I wake up and try and set smaller goals for myself. Uncertainty and self-doubt has definitely been crippling in some moments – and I constantly second-guess everything I write – but for now I just try to get the bare-bones of an idea on the page knowing I can always come back to it later. Even if a sentence makes no sense, its better that I get it out of my brain!

Like Skot, I have also started taking over a wall across from this table with ideas, chapter structures, random words and scattered mind maps. If I really can’t write I try to draw or sketch out an idea there.

In terms of trying to stay well, I am going on walks/runs every day and taking pictures of the strange outside world. I also live with two fur children (pictured) and my fiancé so I am lucky to have them for moral support! I am also playing a lot of games as I imagine most of us are. 🙂 My sleep pattern has totally gone off the rails so right now I am working on going to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour as I feel this is throwing me off too… Small goals and baby steps!!! <3

a bed covered with books and a plushy

Eileen Holowka: Here’s a kind of different post. I have a more ‘real’ desk but that hasn’t been somewhere I’ve sat for a month, so this is a photo of my temporary work station—the bed! (Although “work” is a loose term, as I’ve mostly just been farming for bells in animal crossing.) My bed is full of disability justice and care theory books because these communities have the best advice for these times and have been writing about survival tips for years.

As a chronically ill person, I’m used to working from the bed, but adjusting to presumed Covid-19 was still a sharp learning curve. Here are my tips for what to do if you get sick

  • Learn to let things go. Let work go, as much as is feasible. Focus on existing and what little steps you can take to feel better this hour. If something is too much, just let it go. Can’t read a book? No worries, you’ll get there again.
  • Shrink your goals. Do things as simple and small as “walk to kitchen,” “message a friend,” “phone family.” For the first week and a half of being sick, talking on the phone was really difficult and exhausting, but also a really important part of keeping me sane, so I saved up an entire day’s energy for those two half hour phone calls a day.
  • Gather a support network, ideally people who are nearby and won’t have to travel across neighborhoods to help you. Keep these people updated and get them to check in on you. Have them on call for emergency supplies and groceries.
  • Find other presumed Covid-19 patients online or in your community so you can talk about your experiences. Warning: this can also cause more anxiety, or it can help chill you out. Just be prepared for both these possibilities but sometimes this is the best way to validate symptoms or get experiential advice.
  • Embrace the uncertainty, as hard as it is. It’s most likely that (if you catch Covid-19) you won’t be able to find out you have it or see a doctor for advice about it. This can be maddening and it makes it really hard to talk to others about your experiences (what if it’s all in your head? what if it’s “just” the flu?) Try to embrace those unknowns and just take care of your body and mind as much as possible. Find people who will support you and believe you.

a home office with several potted plants in the background a computer set up on a kitchen counter

Pippin Barr: There’s been essentially no difference for me in terms of my own work as I’ve always worked on my game projects best from home anyway. It hasn’t really increased the amount of time I’m working, as I maintain a pretty strict 9-5 and no weekends anyway, but it hasn’t diminished it either. My advice would be to go for a walk if you can, staying inside all the time unless you absolutely have to is very detrimental to your well-being.

gina poses in front of a laptop desk and a wall panel full of craft supplies

Gina Hara: My advice would be to try to set a reasonable schedule for the whole week, as well as each day and do your best to stick to it. I enjoy crossing over to-do list items and feeling that I accomplished what I set out for the day, and that feeling keeps me going. At the same time, listen to your body and take breaks / take care of yourself if you are unwell (either emotionally or physically). We are in this for the long run after all.

Since a lot of the things I do rely on working in a team (both in TAG and in my film-making practice), I take this time to focus on things I can do alone: reading, writing, thinking up plans for the future. Having an online community that you can check in with and keep each-other accountable has also helped me stay productive. While there are many things I cannot do right now, I enjoy suddenly having time to do other activities I usually do make time for. I also pause my work for 15-30-minute yoga sessions, and those have proven to be extremely beneficial. Maybe we could do those at TAG too when we return. 🙂

an office set up in the corner of a living room a strange looking fellow poses in front of a home office setup

Michael Iantorno: This is my workstation! I’ve carved out a small section of my living room and turned it into a little office. I’m lucky, because I had a lot of AV equipment left over from my radio days, so teleconferencing (and playing Dungeons and Dragons online) has been really easy to facilitate. I still haven’t fixed the “cats meowing at the microphone” issue though.

My advice to everyone is to set reasonable expectations for your daily work during the pandemic. Being locked inside all day may seem like the ideal environment for reading/writing/etc, but you can’t expect yourself to be super productive with all that is going on in the world. Take breaks, check in with friends, and don’t overtax yourself. Your first job during the pandemic isn’t to get work done, it is to stay healthy and safe.