A long and rambling story, but it’s about video games!

So, I was pretty hyped to check out the Nintendo Direct from a couple of days ago. But before it started, I realized that I’d never watched the previous Indie World Showcase. No big deal, it’s from only a couple of weeks ago…make that nearly two months ago. Damn. Well, anyway, I still had just enough time before the Direct started to learn about all these cool indie games coming to the Switch. Nearly every indie game featured looked very cool, so I was so glad I watched the showcase, but one game shown pretty early peaked my attention. And that game was Aliisha – The Oblivion of Twin Goddesses.

Aliisha – The Oblivion of Twin Goddesses is a puzzle adventure game starring twin sisters who are controlled separately via co-op play. Not only is the game asymmetrical co-op, which is one of my current favorite game genres, but the way you each use the Switch sounds very unique as well. One sister is directly controlled via the Joy-con while the other sister is controlled using touch controls. By working together using your player’s strengths you can hope to proceed through the game. If they pull it off, this sounds like a really good time. I’ll be watching to see how the game is received after it launches.

So, with that mental note filed away, I finished watching the Indie Showcase followed immediately by the new Nintendo Direct. There was mention of certain things being added to the eShop, so I decided to boot up the ol’ Switch to have a browse around. I was specifically looking for the Figment 2 demo, when another game in the demo section caught my eye. And that game was Zorya: The Celestial Sisters.

Zorya: The Celestial Sisters is, get this, an asymmetrical co-op puzzle adventure starring sisters who are controlled separately and who need each other’s special skills to progress! Can you believe it!? But unlike Aliisha, Zorya is already out. And like Hazelight Studios’ games, A Way Out and It Takes Two, the software is freely downloadable and serves as a demo version unless you are playing with someone who has purchased the full game. So, I immediately downloaded this demo!

I took this chance to play through the first five levels with my niece. Please let me tell you a little about our experience. First, the story, or rather the mythology of the game is expertly expressed. Solveig is the goddess of the sun and she represent life and energy. Her sister Aysu is the night goddess, and she represents rest and renewal. Things are well and balanced for many generations but over time the people begin to favor Solveig. You see, rather than celebrating the necessity of the night, the people begin to define nighttime as simply the absence of Solveig. Over generations to go from recognized as essential to being downgraded as immaterial becomes overwhelming for her and Aysu runs away, leaving the world in everlasting but ever diminishing sunlight. This story is so well imagined that I wonder if it is directly born from a real-world mythology of some kind.

Eventually Aysu comes back to her sister to find the world essentially in an ice age and here is where the game starts. The player controlling Solveig has an overhead view of the stage and controls the sun’s placement in the sky, thereby also controlling the casting of the shadows in the world (interesting shadow mechanics in video games are another favorite of mine!). The player controlling Aysu has a more traditional behind the character 3D view, but she can only travel in the shade. A moment in the sunlight will mean starting the stage anew. With Solvieg’s help, she’ll be able to make her way to the exit point, while staying in ever shifting shadows, all the while avoiding guards who’ll try to push her into the daylight.

My niece and I had a lot of fun figuring out what to do in the first five stages. This is very much my kind of game, and I had never even heard of it! There are just so many games being released now. I just happened to get lucky enough to discover it. I didn’t fully purchase it yet, but I quickly added it to my wish list so I’m ready at a better time.

So that’s my story of random discoveries. If you like some of the same kinds of games that I do, here’s Zorya‘s official site if you want to check it out. It seems to have cross play between the Switch, Epic Game Store, and Steam version, so if my description of the game seemed at all interesting to you, I ask that you check it out. And keep an eye out for Aliisha, scheduled to release sometime in the spring. Aliisha seems like it will be a Switch exclusive.

That’s all for now, thanks for stopping by!

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A peek behind my curtain | YouTube creation.

I just published my latest YouTube video, and I’m just over the moon with how it turned out! I really like the project, but I love the video. My path from project inception, to creation, to video publication can be long and twisted and I rarely get to talk about it, rare podcast appearances notwithstanding. So I wanted to take a few minutes here to explain how a video like this one was made.

An important thing to understand, and I’ve mentioned it a few times, is that I treat my YouTube channel as a hobby. I’m on a self imposed schedule of at least one video a month, but I don’t have many rules beyond that. My schedule is flexible enough that I can bump a video idea for a new one at any point in time. I always want to make content that’s useful, informative, and/or entertaining and in that priority order. But I’ve been making project videos for long enough that I’m starting to run low on ideas.

I have a video idea list to keep me organized and pull inspiration from, but more and more often I’m afraid that the ideas that remain aren’t very good or are too tough to make a compelling video about. The bottom of the barrel, as it were. When this happens I get anxious and try to find something else as a topic instead. This has caused several topics to float in limbo until I could figure out a way to tackle them.

My last three main Game Room Ideas videos were affected by this state of limbo. Last month (July) I published ‘How to Turn Screenshots into Wall Art‘ with this month’s (August) video being a direct sequel. These were proceeded way back in December by ‘Is a lightbox a bright idea?‘, which was actually where the posters I made debuted. So here’s a look at the timeline it took to make these videos.

I’ve been wanting to make a video about lightboxes since I first started making YouTube content. I had always intended to have made a simple tutorial about how to make a paper-sized DIY lightbox, but as the video explains, over the years I learned about the flaws in my original understanding of printed paper. But I found the tracing pad and I thought showing this as an alternative to LED strips for lighting projects may be enough of a ‘hook’ to hang a lightbox video on. I thought the tracing pad may be a versatile object that DIY people may want to know about. Then it went on a lightning deal on Amazon so I bought it on January 28, 2020.

As I started the lightbox script, I knew I’d need a poster of some kind to show off the tracing pad at least once. I already had a 16×20 clear poster frame to use so that dictated the size of the poster I’d create. To make the final lit poster look as good as possible, I figured that using a dark background with bright elements on top would be the best choice. This led me to consider classic arcade game graphics. I made up my Donkey Kong screenshot poster and my Pac-Man marquee and lens distorted poster and ordered them. This order was placed on February 10, 2020. Notice, they wouldn’t be featured in a video until December and they wouldn’t be the stars of their own videos until July and August of the following year!

So now I have these posters and the other materials to make the lightbox video about. But beyond the video, I just like the posters and want to hang them in my gaming space. It’s at this point I develop the idea of the arcade cabinet inspired poster frames and by Mar 9, 2020 I created an explanation document (a year and five months before it becomes its own project video). I made the document to help convey my idea to a contractor friend of mine so I can seek his advice re: using a slot cutting router on an assembled poster frame safely. This was before the electrical tape entered the picture.

Frame Explain

So this is where things start to go wrong. I was not satisfied with the finished lightbox script. I just couldn’t find a satisfying narrative flow. March 2020 is also when the Covid-19 outbreak was declared a global pandemic. In the face of such a tragic global event my little project videos seemed trivial and I tabled a few ideas including one focused on shopping.

But my year kept moving forward and by September I’d bought the poster frames and the electrical tape (the idea to substitute electrical tape for T-molding came from the Arcade 1up subreddit). By October I bought my Pac-Man Partycade from Arcade 1up. I didn’t buy it just for the video as I already wanted one, but I knew I wanted it to have a small cameo in the video.

But I couldn’t proceed with the frame project until the other videos were completed because of the narrative flow. So these items sat in storage on a shelf until earlier this month. And that includes my Partycade! Bless the patience of my wife for allowing so many half completed projects around the house, lol.

So through 2020 while I made other videos, I kept working on the lightbox script. I tinkered with it all year, but by November I decided to rework it from the ground up. I did the same thing in December, twice!

Finally the fourth revision was a good enough treatment that I was satisfied to move forward with it.

Had I had my way, I would have liked to have released these three videos back to back to back ending in December 2020. I think ideas like those presented in these videos may have inspired some Christmas gifting or taking advantage of holiday printing discounts.

After finally finishing the lightbox video, I was still pretty nervous about whether I could make the poster video interesting enough. So I kept putting it off until I couldn’t anymore. My first outline was written in December, and first draft was in mid July, and final rewrite was late July. For such a detailed and explanation heavy video, I think I structured the information well enough to keep it interesting. And I offloaded much of the most stringent details to an unlisted supplemental video, which also helped.

Some videos I’ve had the idea for and published a completed video the same day, or within the same month. But much more often lately, my slow writing and apprehension about the quality of my ideas makes me drag my feet to completion. But one positive take away from this procrastination is that the final product is always better than it would have been had I accepted my first draft and rushed to finish. And I think this block of videos is some proof of this. Even a simple poster frame, paint, and electrical tape project became one of my favorite edited videos. When I’m proud of how a video turns out, a lot of that has to do with how long I’ve lived with inferior versions of the same video, until I have some kind of writing breakthrough.

This is only one tale about a few videos, and every video has behind the scenes stories to tell. And this isn’t even my worse story as far as extended production time. I have another video coming up (soon, maybe?) that I bought supplies for back in June 2019! But oh, well. My successes are making me feel a little more confident in my abilities, so I hope that translates into clearing out the rest of my video idea backlog.

Anyhow, thanks so much for watching, engaging, and cheering me forward. I’ll keep trying to keep an acceptable quality to my work, please keep letting me know your thoughts. Stay safe.

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Backlog Blues

Do you know that slight mix of dread and panic you feel as you work on something under a tight deadline? And how it increases as time moves forward? For some reason, I start to feel this way when I game. Rather than fully enjoying the game I’m playing, I start to wonder if I should be playing something else on my backlog instead. Or watching a movie or TV show. Or doing something more productive.

I didn’t used to be like this. I’ve never had any issues that I would describe as having a short attention span, or anything nearing attention-deficit. But for the last several years I find it anxiety inducing to do one thing for longer than a span of about an hour or so.

When I watch a movie, I often take a break in the middle and try to pick it back up at a later time. For episodic TV I sometimes watch one episode a month and struggle to get back to it. I’m not 100% sure what has caused this, but I have a couple of suspicions.

At work I’m the boss and second in command overall which means I’m on-call 24/7/365. I’ve had countless days at home interrupted where I had to drop all of my personal plans in order to report in. Certain periods are worse than others, but I have an almost PTSD reaction when my phone rings. It can get to the point of feeling like fate punishing me for trying to have my own time.

Secondly, I’m getting older. I don’t have as much free time and don’t view that time the same way I used to. This may get a little dark, but the older I get, the closer I get to death. I don’t mean to sound so blunt about it, but I’ve been at peace with and fascinated with life’s impermanence since I was a child. But unlike when I was younger, and life felt long and death felt improbable, I’ve turned some kind of corner where the years pass me by in what feels like moments. Doing any one thing for too long starts to make me feel guilty for using my time that way.

And lastly, I start to feel guilty when I’m not spending enough time working on my YouTube projects. YouTube is meant to be a hobby for me, and I try to keep that mindset. But my output is very slow. Maybe unforgivably slow. I have a number of people who truly like what I produce and I feel a bit of responsibility to not let them down. But I only devote a small portion of my free time to it. I could do more.

This anxious feeling when I’m doing one thing for too long isn’t necessarily new, but I feel like it’s been getting worse for a few years. My gaming backlog is so huge, there are so many TV shows and movies, I just feel disinclined to commit. There’s a joke about browsing Netflix for a half-hour and never actually picking something. This sums me up to a tee. Every couple of months I’ll spend an hour just watching movie trailers. I watch commercial compilations on YouTube. I secretly like when a show I like gets cancelled because it means there’s a finite number of episodes to watch.

I’m certain many of you can relate to some of what I’ve described. Please share your experiences or coping mechanism. And, yeah, this has taken too long to write. I need to go do something else. Take care!

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I’m looking for a little help with my channel.

I’ve thought about doing something new with my YouTube channel for a little over a year, but I’m actually not much closer to making a decision than when I first thought of it. For that reason, I’d love to hear your input.

If you know my channel you know that my ‘Game Room Ideas’ series of videos are my most popular content. Of the videos I make, they are probably your favorite as well. Because of this I treat the series with a degree of care and importance. I don’t want to capitalize on its popularity at the expense of quality.

With that said, how would you feel about ‘community submitted’ Game Room Ideas videos? Basically, I’d open an opportunity for submissions, and then work with other creators to bring their idea to life in an episode on my channel. It would still be curated and hosted by me, but I’d be able to give attention to other collectors and content producers.

One benefit to this approach is that it could mean more episodes in less time. Plus it would bring a diversity of ideas and skills to the table.

I have a couple of qualms with the idea too. I could lose control over some aspects of production quality. Not that my videos meet the highest production standards, mind you, but I try to keep a certain level of consistency at least. Plus working with other people would bring new and as yet unseen challenges. And I don’t look forward to having to reject submissions either.

The last thing I want to do is dilute the series with subpar content. I’ve tried very hard to make every episode have a genuine purpose for existing.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this. I have a poll below, but I’d love to hear your thoughts in detail too. Encouragement is always appreciated, but be sure to consider it fully. I’d also like to know how this would affect your image of my channel. Do you predict any pitfalls that I should avoid? What do you dislike about this idea? Publicly you can respond here, or to the Twitter post; or privately my Twitter DM’s are open.

(A few final notes: While I’m seeking a variety of opinions, there’s no guarantee I’d proceed regardless of how supportive the feedback is. Please keep your hope in check. And if I decided to work toward this as a goal, I would see fall/winter as the earliest I could hope to get this structured and implemented.)

Internet fame and mortality.

I was very disheartened to learn of the passing of Dylan Hart; the occasional face, but mostly the brains and voice behind the YouTube channel Household Hacker. I’ve watched and enjoyed this quirky channel for years, yet I never knew much about the world behind the scenes, other than it just seemed like a few buddies having a good time making videos within a certain niche. With the way their videos were edited, there’s a bit of disconnect between the voice over and the voiceless people being filmed. I never got a full sense of who was in charge or whether the VO person was also one of the participants. Dylan was one of the people I recognized from video to video, so I kind of assumed it was his channel, but I never knew for sure. I didn’t even know his name and I didn’t have the scope of his contributions confirmed until his ‘in memory of’ video.

I’ve lost other internet personalities that were important to me as well. Grant “The King of Random” Thompson was lost a year prior to Dylan. I’m eternally saddened by his premature loss as well.

As much of a blow as Grant’s sudden death was, we at least have a wealth of content to look back on to help remember him. Grant went from being very camera shy in his early tutorials to eventually become the out-in-front face of his channel five days a week (before hiring other talent to spread the workload). I never met him, but by all accounts, he was the same exuberant person off camera as he was on. I have a very solid sense of the person and, even though it doesn’t make it less sad, that helps provide me with a bit of closure.

Dylan’s death is different. He was the main creative force, and the excellent VO artist for his channel, but he didn’t put himself out in front the same way Grant did. Certainly his personality bleeds through, but it isn’t quite the same as having a named presenter. At least not to me. I’m left with the feeling of barely knowing this person, even though I’ve been touched by what they’ve put into the world. It’s a feeling that’s a little hard to explain. I wish I knew him and could have appreciated him better when he was still alive.

And I’m a little afraid of doing the same thing to you, my viewers.

There are a lot of reasons I’ve chosen to be on what NESfriend‘s Travis calls ‘team #noface’ on YouTube. I’m camera shy, introverted, insecure; these personality traits have a lot to do with it. But there’s a little more to it. I don’t want my content to be judged on superficial traits. If I were the best looking person in the world, or the most charismatic (I’m neither, by the way), I wouldn’t want to be popular for these reasons. My doctrine when making my videos has always been that I want my videos to be judged by how good the ideas in them are. Not by who I am, not by who I know, and not by their production quality. I’m the presenter, but I’ve always wanted my ideas to be in the limelight, not myself. If my ideas can be liked, then that’s something I can actually be proud of.

But someday I’ll be gone. And when I’m gone, you may not even find out about it. And if you did, you may be left wanting to know more about the person that used to run that channel. And I don’t know how to reconcile this. I’m very much myself online, and I think I let enough of my personality out on my channel and on Twitter, but it seems there will always be some level of disconnect from not being on camera, and not using my given name online.

So for now, I will preemptively apologize. I’m sorry for what I choose to be private about. I’m sorry if you are ever left feeling lacking in connection from me. And I’m sorry that at some point I’ll die and the people on the internet side of my life my be left not even knowing what happened. I don’t know how to fix it. All I can say at this point is that I’m always grateful to anyone who takes the time to interact with me. You truly make me feel appreciated and accepted and I don’t know anything else a person really wants to feel from a community.

Be well.

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New series, Top’s Spotlight!

For a change of pace, and because it’s a format that I enjoy from many of my online contemporaries, I wanted to try my hand at the capsule review.  For the pilot run of five episodes, I knew I wanted to cover games that could easily be introduced and described in about a minute.  So I chose to show a few of my favorite mobile games that I think are overlooked, forgotten, or under the radar.  To keep them in one place, I present the initial five episodes here, Continue reading “New series, Top’s Spotlight!”

My podcast debut!

I have really exciting news to share! I was invited to be a guest on the DrunkFriend Podcast, hosted by YouTube’s SNES drunk and NES Friend. We chat about my channel and YouTube in general. Whether or not you listen to my episode, it’s a great place to hear conversations from creators in the gaming space on YouTube, Twitch, etc. So if you are interested in learning more about the creation process, or just want to hear interviews with people such as Cannot be Tamed or Friday Night Arcade, you really ought to subscribe.  Search DrunkFriend in your podcast provider of choice or you can listen to my episode here.

Thanks again!