For somebody who spends probably over 50 hours a week writing things, you might think that I would shy away from writing outside of work. And you’d be right! And yet here I am, as we crest the hill of the new year, wind whipping our hair back in a most heroic fashion, fingers tapping away at the keyboard in a vague attempt to scribe the year’s main events. Let’s get stuck in, before I change my mind.
Probably the biggest blip on the health radar this year was Jess’ decision to have corrective surgery on a twisted nasal passage that had been robbing her of refreshing sleep like some sort of waylaying nightbandit. The operation was a success, although she spent the next few days bleeding from her eyes (don’t worry, this is normal) and blowing chunks of weird blood, snot and scab from her nose. Oh, and the agonising pain! But it’s generally been worth it — she’s at least sleeping better now if not perfectly, and feeling a lot less awful each morning.
Things have been, I’m probably glad to report, the same as ever with me. I hardly ever get anything worse than a headache, but to my horror this year I did discover that my haemoglobin levels were too low to donate blood. Banned from donating for six months, I then showed up six months later only to discover that once you’re on the shit-list, you need a letter from a doctor to get off it again. So that’s a blast. As a result, I feel vaguely guilty that my veins are full of juicy O-negative blood and nobody’s tapping that shit. Guess I need to pop some more steaks?
Video games! November this year marked the first anniversary of my position as editor-in-chief of games.on.net, a position I’m still hugely proud of and very lucky to hold. For some reason even people who aren’t coprologists seem to enjoy the ill-formed shit that haphazardly sprays from my body, which is always reassuring to know. We did a massive relaunch of the site in July, which has had its ups and downs, but overall it’s been very positive for us — and certainly hugely helpful in getting rid of the old backend system which, while functional, was incredibly inflexible.
Hey, I just learned my first new word for 2013, too. Coprologist! Thanks for making me Google search “somebody who studies poop,” everybody. Hope you’re happy.
So yeah, that’s been good. It’s honestly the best job I’ve ever had, and at the same time I feel it’s probably more stressful for me than it should be. Not because of any innate quality, but rather I suspect because I just really care about it. I want to be good at it and I want the site to grow and succeed. I’ve worked 2 AM – 10 AM shifts at popular petrol stations where I just didn’t give a fuck, and that’s fine — you step out the door and leave your work behind you and shit, if the petrol station catches fire before your next shift then you hide the evidence and move on and stop caring.
With this job, it’s hard to switch off. The work is constantly happening 24/7, leads for stories and ideas for features are constantly buzzing around like nebulous ethereal flies, and you could easily just keep on working if you wanted to. If not for Jess’ steadying hand on my shoulder, I imagine I probably would.
Sometimes, instead of working, we take holidays.
We managed to take a few holidays this year, heading down south to Busselton to celebrate our first anniversary as a married couple, and then later in the year across to Sydney and Adelaide. The Adelaide one was, perhaps, particularly noteworthy — we both just said “Let’s go somewhere with the money we have in our Party Time account!” and then we… did it. Spontaneity!
The prime purpose of our trip to Sydney was twofold: both to celebrate Jess’ mum’s birthday, and to check out prime real estate for our upcoming move there. We also managed to meet some lovely videogaming colleagues for the first time, including our dear friend Brenna Hillier, unto whom we unloaded a cat some time last year. Seeing first-hand that said cat was now both fat and happy made us feel the same way.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was our time in Canberra and beyond, when we left the nation’s capital and looped down through Wolloongong and Jervis Bay on our way back up north. Jervis Bay — or more appropriately Huskisson, where we stayed — was incredible. This tiny, sleepy little seaside village where all the locals know each other and the food is cheap and delicious and the sand literally holds the Guinness World Record for the whitest sand and oh god I think I’ve gone crosseyed. It was like a joke. We kept waiting for the penny to drop, like we were on the Truman Show or something. Needless to say, we checked out the real estate prices. They’re cheap as well!
If it wasn’t four hours out of Sydney, maybe it’d be something to think about. As it is, I’m just happy to know it exists.
On the way down there we stopped in at Winchbooks, a second-hand book store in Bungendore, New South Wales, mostly on a whim and powered by the thought that we were supposed to be Having An Adventure, and naturally that meant following signs which say things like “BOOKS! CHEAP!”. As it turns out, the store was run by a charming Englishman-turned-Australian bushman who we ended up hanging out with for nearly an hour-and-a-half as he showed us his various prides and joys, haggled with us over prices, and played guessing games with us such as “If you can guess what music I’m playing on the stereo, I’ll give you everything for free” (we couldn’t guess). He also was more than willing to flip a coin to knock $50 off (or indeed on) to the price of some old parchments we were haggling over, which was delightful (as was the fact that we won, too). His hobbies, when not working, included “finding bullies” and “beating them up”. Legend.
From Sydney we tripped and fell over into Melbourne, where we were lucky enough to spend a few days wandering the streets and (not) avoiding them eats, including a visit to the Melbourne Zoo where we got to feed orang-utans! A two-person survey of this blog’s authors just now shows that Melbourne is pretty great: it’s clean, cheap, fairly easy to navigate and perhaps just a little bit wanky but at least the CBD doesn’t have the mad hectic rush feeling of Sydney’s CBD where you are immediately slammed into a wall if you stop to remember where you’re trying to go.
What to say about Adelaide? It’s basically Perth with more trees and less racism, which is a good trade-off in anybody’s books. Plus we stayed in an entirely robotic hotel, ate schnitzels the size of a man’s head, and hung out with some great people. We liked it a lot. We also had the lovely privilege of meeting some more games media colleagues both in Melbourne and Adelaide, all of whom were fantastic.
I managed to tick off some big boxes this year, polishing off both my Ork Stompa (although the majority of it was finished in 2011) as well as finally finishing off my scratch-built Ork Dreadnought, which has been sitting in its most rudimentary, guess-I’ll-glue-this-thing-to-another-thing, hey-that-kind-of-looks-cool state for literally five years.
I also turned some River Trolls into some Killa Kanz too. These are things you care about!
I’ve been pretty poor with my sketching, and I’ve let my digital art lapse almost entirely since Refried comics for work slipped by the wayside. That said, I did manage to finish a sketchbook this year, which is the first time this has happened to me since I was an unemployed 14 year-old. I’m hopeful this trend will continue in 2013, although perhaps with less unemployment and weird emotions regarding female classmates.
2012 has also been a good year for video gaming. I play a lot of games for work, but when it comes to leisure time I seem to choke out about halfway through any given game and just never finish it. I manage to finish a whole six games last year! Amazing. Please, form an orderly queue to shake the hand of this modern-day marvel.
Roleplaying (This gets its own section because fuck you)
It’s been a good year for the ol’ rolley-p’s. I’ve spent a lot of time behind the screen this year, mostly in the running of a small series of Pathfinder one-shots that eventually strung together into a surprisingly cogent campaign. What initially started as a game thrown together on a spare weekend to test drive some shiny new 2011 Christmas rulebooks turned into probably about a dozen solid sessions of recurring characters, consequences and calamity, culminating with the players standing trial for murder, arson and nearly everything in between. Thanks to all of my regulars for showing up on and off throughout the year, and to the guest stars who popped in.
Strangely enough, DM’ing regularly has forcibly improved my ability to scratch out a story with only a few hours of preparation. I think a lot of that is that there’s simply a lot more tools available now, perhaps, than when I was a teenager writing notebooks full of stupid dungeon crawls for my friends, but there’s been a few moments this year when I’ve looked at a story I’ve written and thought “I could pretty this up and publish it, probably. Shit, I’m handsome.” Mind you, I probably thought the same thing about my work and my reflection when I was 14 — although looking back some of my finest DM’ing moments at that age included allowing one player to saw the penis off a dead ogre and throw it at another player.
It curved back like a boomerang, if you must know. A penis-boomerang. Champagne roleplaying.
2012 has also been a good year for the introduction of house rules, particularly one which I feel has helped improve combat immensely. One of the biggest problems with combat in roleplaying is that it just fucking drags. People almost immediately lose track of where they are in the intitiative order, and before you know it everybody’s turn consists of “What’s going on again? Oh, right. Um. Let me look at my character sheet,” and a hurried pausing of whatever level they were up to in Bejeweled. It takes 45 minutes or more to run a simple combat and often several hours for the bigger ones. It can take up most of the session! This is stupid.
Anyway, the solution has been surprisingly simple: the players roll their initiatives as normal, then the DM rolls once for all the monsters as a collective. Any players who beat the monster roll get to go first, then all the monsters go, then all the players go (in any individual order they choose), and so on, alternating between the two until it’s all over. It’s got a few problems, but the benefits hugely outweigh it — primarily, that the players spend the entirety of their turn talking to each other about what order they should move in and what tactics to use instead of just scratching their balls. It also forces me to think about the most tactical way to move my monsters and NPCs for maximum effect as well. Try it!
This year, I also finally managed to make one of my dream games come true: a Dark Heresy game where all the players were orks. Thanks to Jess, Sean and John for coming around for a few hours to scream “WAAAAGH” loudly, talk in horrific ork accents, and shout about who was going to go da fastest. Boss.
So, we’re moving to Sydney in 2013. Jess has already written about this before, but we sort of stalled in our move due to a number of reasons, including that our previous plan involved moving directly after we returned from our honeymoon last year, which — when we stopped to think about it for 30 seconds — turned out to be a really fucking dumb idea. Then some other things happened, and we had to move house, and then we had to save up a deposit, and then we realised we should probably actually go over to Sydney and check out some places first so we did that, and then blah blah, etcetera, blah blah. Long story short, we’re finally doing it, and soon.
I’m pretty excited about it. Scared, also, naturally. Worried about leaving some great friendships behind, and filled with resolve to stay in touch and to not let them fade. Fretting over some of the logistics involved. But mostly, overwhelmingly, excited. I feel like this is a great opportunity for us to grow both as people, as a couple, as professionals, and as… I don’t know, whatever else we are. Enormous nerds?
I want to get a house, plant some carrots, drive some nails into walls and roll out the best gaming website any motherfuckers have ever seen. I want to fill a room with shelves and then fill the shelves with books and then look at the books and think “Fuck, what am I doing with all these books.” Then I want to step outside and look at the carrots and think “Why did I plant all these carrots”. These are things I want.
Plus, of course, get really stuck into planning towards our gaming store.
I think it’s very important to try to new things, to do something different from what others, parents, friends and family expect of you. I think it’s really easy to stay close to your comfort zone, get a steady job working for somebody else, and do the things that other people expect. Maybe that’s a thing some people want! And that’s fine, but it’s not for me. I want to try new things, to strike out into new territory, to work for myself and not for anybody else. I want to start building something now that will enable us to do whatever we want to do later, to travel wherever we want to travel and live how we want to live. It all sounds so simple when you write it down as a series of abstract concepts of course, but then what doesn’t?
So here’s to 2013. Abstract concepts, terrifying potential and potential terror all in one. See you there!