I’d been meaning to write this for a while, before I got distracted by having to take care of some important business stuff. But this is a good opportunity to look back a little and talk about where we’re going.
This has been a strange year, with lots of highs and lows. I haven’t released a game, but I’ve worked on several, and made very significant progress towards being able to make some games that previously seemed beyond the reach of my extremely limited programming abilities.
The biggest problem has, of course, been health. All three of us – Jonas, Verena, and Cat – spent entirely too much of this year being sick in various alarming ways, not all of which I’ve mentioned here (because it would get tedious). We’ve had everything from infected nerves to bladder stones to vision loss to blistered fingers. None of it was fun, and all of it cost us a lot of money, time and nerves. Getting sick sucks, and I could do with at least a few years of being relatively healthy. At least no operations, brain-scans or injections for anyone in this family for a while, hmm?
I also got overly distracted by writing about politics, and especially identity politics. I don’t mean to say I regret writing anything that I did, only that the blog became too focused on that one extremely depressing topic. And I have to say that it’s taken me a great deal of effort not to constantly go back to that, to try and defend myself against slander, to try to explain that not agreeing with a certain political strategy/analysis doesn’t mean one is against equality and human rights. I’ve come to the decision that I need to trust people to know that I’ve never held any of the ridiculously bigoted opinions that I’ve been accused of holding simply because I don’t subscribe to one specific American liberal ideology. My work and my words should speak for themselves. If you’ve played The Sea Will Claim Everything and think that my transcultural cosmopolitanism means I’m opposed to people’s bodily autonomy… then nothing I say can change your mind, because “logic is bullshit” and dogma rules the day.
But it’s hard, you know? Hard not to talk about politics all the time when such horrific events are taking place worldwide. Hard not to get angry all the time when people are complacent about governments and militaries and corporations but ready to burn every sinner who speaks a forbidden word. And it unbalances not only the blog, but my life. Which, granted, is how it should be to some degree, or I’d be complacent myself. But even under the worst of circumstances, human beings have always tried to be more than their problems – and my circumstances are hardly the worst.
This is connected to another realization, which is that we’ve been spending too much time and thought on projects that are not directly creative. By this I mainly mean The Secret Gates and our constant thoughts about finally resurrecting our film review site, Commentarium. I had a long conversation with Ivo (who co-founded The Secret Gates) about this. Originally the site was going to be something completely different, which didn’t pan out for a number of reasons, and then we decided it might be fun to create the sort of literary review site that we felt the interet was missing. The origin of Commentarium was pretty much the same: Verena and I thought it would be fun, and we thought that there wasn’t really any site that represented our taste in movies. But the internet will eat your babies. Even websites that have the full attention of their creators, websites constantly promoted and full of brilliant content, struggle to find an audience nowadays. And the truth is that, unless we had a significant audience and thus a sense of satisfaction, sites which are primarily dedicated to talking about other people’s work aren’t quite worth it for us. Ivo already spends enough of his time on academic work; why do more on the internet? Verena barely manages to find any time for her writing; why spend so much energy on reviewing movies when she could be working on her novel? And the same goes for myself.
Not that I completely want to stop writing about these things. Not at all. I find it both enjoyable and useful to analyze the work of others. But I can do it right here, without having to worry about writing enough each week or making the reviews long enough or all the other nonsense that’s on your mind when you’re trying to create a popular site. Which leads us back to the politics: I always wanted this site to be about variety. I hate how fragmented everything has become, and long for cultural synthesis; you can see this reflected in how different my games are from each other while still sharing common themes, and you’ll be able to tell even more if I ever get some novels or short stories published. I hate the idea of genre. I hate that we have idiotic terms like “literary fiction” and “art game”. In a sense, I’ve tried to make my entire career all about breaking down barriers and refusing to be categorized. This site should reflect that.
In terms of games and stories, I’m also hoping that all the hard work I’ve done this year will start coming together. Ithaka will still take a while – I know I keep saying that, but it’ll be worth it in the end. I want it to be extraordinary, and you can’t accomplish that by rushing it. As the poem itself suggests, it’s better to take your time. And there will be other games in the meantime, both free and commercial. So don’t give up on me yet.
Another thing I’d like to do is to put out more Lands of Dream content. The reason I’m reluctant to do so is that I currently feel like the audience is still very small, especially for anything that’s not a game. I know that some people love the Oneiropolis Compendium, but at the moment I worry that I’m wasting ideas by publishing them online – ideas that could go into the Lands of Dream novel, Oneiropolis, itself. When I write it, which is still some time away. I’m not sure how to proceed with all this, but I’ll be thinking about it and I’ll be open to ideas. I would love the Lands of Dream website to thrive, even if I don’t make any money off it.
Finally, there’s something I may have to do that is going to change my day-to-day life in a significant way: get a(nother) job.
An opportunity has presented itself which I am likely to take. It won’t eat up my whole week, but if it works out (no pun intended), it could make a tremendous difference to our financial situation. The Indiegogo financed Ithaka of the Clouds, you see, but it certainly didn’t finance our cat’s operation, and the extra income would be very useful, especially when it comes to promoting my work or being able to attend events. It’s scary, of course, and I’m genuinely frightened that it will impact my ability to create – but it could also be what finally pushes us to the point where we can realize those projects that have so far been impossible to tackle. Actually, I’ve decided I just can’t do it right now. I have too many projects that demand my attention, and while we need the money, it would be better to get that money by releasing something. I’ve been getting so much better at all this and we’re too close to success to give up now.
I want to take that step forward: towards the stories I’ve been wanting to tell, towards getting out of this depressing city, towards spending more time creating than worrying. I hope I can do that, and I hope you’ll be along for the ride.