April 2018 Update

Hello everybody – my thanks, as ever, for being patient whilst this next update finds its way on to the internet. I’m sorry there was no February or March update; these turned into yet more hard months, mainly for health reasons, and finding the time and more importantly the mental space to sit down and type out a thousand words about this kind of stuff was surprisingly hard. However, as of now I have four main things to update you all on:

Health

So, my health has been less-than-great in the last few months since the previous update. On the plus side, the complication I discussed in previous posts seems to have faded away, and has just become something to keep an eye on. Naturally the complication has seriously boosted my several stress and misery levels, but right now it isn’t causing too many issues. Far more worrying is the fact that a month and a half ago, I got a symptom of the thing that almost killed me four years ago for the first time (this first sign being a particular kind of pain/discomfort). This, as I’m sure you can appreciate, is a strong emotional trigger for me, and I have not been in a good place these past few weeks. I now have to wait at least another month or two in order to see whether or not any more symptoms develop, or whether it was/is “just” a false alarm. That said, this new symptom itself has faded, which is either a good sign (it means nothing) or a bad sign (the first symptom also faded last time before the deadly symptoms kicked in), but the lack of being constantly reminded of it has meant I’ve been able to actually get stuff done. However, I want to add that I have deeply appreciated the support I’ve got here, on Twitter, and elsewhere, especially from others with serious or long-term medical issues. It really has meant a huge amount to me. So: hopefully this will the end of it, no more symptoms will appear, a month or two from now I can be confident the disease hasn’t returned, and can, again, start to properly get back on my feet. If not… then we’ll have to see.

Work

In times when I’ve been able to think straight, work has been going well. The University of Alberta has proven to be a really great working environment, both in terms of people and in terms of the practical, everyday structuring of work – which is to say, nobody minds if I work from home, or in a cafe, rather than from my office. I’m now a good 25% of the way through developing and writing my next book, and all that has just been sent off to the publisher we (my co-author and I) want to work with for the project. Once the contract is handled, I’ll be able to actually announce it a little more “formally” than I’ve been doing so far; it’s about streaming, and I can’t wait to show the outline to you all. I also have more several papers coming out soon, which will be posted here (and the new site) as and when: one about analysing crosswords and other paper puzzle games from the perspective of understanding them as pre-digital “casual games”; one about cheating in card games within casinos; one about depictions of “deep play” in cinema, so films like Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, Would You Rather, Saw, 13 Tzameti, etc; and at least two more on Twitch and live streaming (focused around disabilities and mental health, and emotional labour, respectively). More soon on this front…

Game Dev

In the last few weeks, for pretty much the first time since my health took such a serious downtown around August last year, I’ve actually opened up the URR file, taken a look around, familiarised myself with it a little bit, and started to figure out what precisely needs doing to get the 0.8 release out. As ever, it remains achingly close to completion; I need some more time on the conversation system, then some bug-fixing, and then we’re done. I still hope for a return in April, assuming my health does not take a turn for the, er, even worse. However, as I’ve said before, it just can’t be a priority for me at the moment, as much as I wish it could, but hopefully, finally, things might change soon. I hate how much this is dragging on, and I hate how much the project has floundered; but life is very tough at the moment.

New Website

I’ve started the development work on a new website (one does, after all, have to proceed on the assumption that one will live to a normal age, right?) and I’m pleased with some ideas that have been coming together. As before, the plan is still to create a new website to combine my academic and game dev stuff, and also to deal with some of the issues on this site. When I set up this website I didn’t really know what I was doing, and now the site is really beginning to buckle under its own weight. Frankly, I lack both the technical ability and the spare mental space to fix it, despite the very patient replies from my hosting company’s customer support. For that reason as well, it’s time to move to a new site. On this note: if anyone reading this knows of an experienced website designer with a good body of work I can look at (even better if they make games-related websites), so let me know. The new website is probably going to be WordPress again, but I’m looking to pay for a totally custom layout. If you know anyone who might be interested in this work – and also design work on two other websites for work projects – do let me know. All will obviously be paid!

Next

In the next couple of months I have quite a few engagements coming up; after two-thirds of a year of illness and not really having the strength to travel (although moving country obviously didn’t help), it’s good to be getting out there again. I’m off to a conference in Canada in mid-April to talk about disclosure statements in video game reviews, then I’m Skyping into a UK conference to talk about Twitch streamers and moderators, after which in late April I’ve been invited to speak at the Rio Esports Forum on the labour of the Esports career, then a talk here in Edmonton in early-May on videogames-and-gambling, and finally a Skype into Prague to talk about Esports cheating and game integrity. My health issues have really meant I just haven’t had the time nor the strength to do any of these things, but with the potential improvements above, I’m in a slightly better place now and strong enough to resume some wider dissemination and engagement. But still – the last eight months have been rough, and in many ways have pushed me back to a place I thought and hoped I’d left behind years ago. As ever, my profound appreciation goes out to all those who read this blog – hopefully the rest of 2018 will continue to pick up. I do hope you are all well, and I’ll update you all again soon, hopefully in the much nearer future than this time…

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51 thoughts on “April 2018 Update

  1. Oh man, sorry to hear about your ongoing health issues. Hope things improve for you soon. & I just saw that Humble Bundle has a bundle of game dev books — maybe your book(s) will be in the next one! The topic of gameplay in cinema sounds particularly interesting.

  2. I’m sorry to hear about your continued problems with your health, Mark! 🙁
    How are the healthcare resources you have access to? Do you have enough/adequate care?

    I really hope you manage to heal away from your bad health and bad stress.

    • Thanks Greendogo; I do indeed, though my specialist is still back in the UK, but the nature of this thing is that it’s something I can basically track and diagnose myself. The Canadian healthcare system has proven to be fine so far. In some ways slighter better than the UK, in some ways slightly worse, but overall, I’m not seeing a huge difference in total quality.

  3. Glad to hear things are rolling downhill now, maybe now is the time to give those illnesses a real good kickin’ for being such annoying little brats 😉
    If you manage to find the balance between work and spare-time/leisure, you’ll surely out-live this century (but I like that humour in your statement).
    And the rest is… no, not silence, but the… rest. Can be done when it can be done.
    Be well, my best wishes, as always.

  4. It’s good to hear from you after a long period of silence. Sorry abouth the rough time you’ve faced. Take care of yourself!

    If i may ask (and if you feel comfortable answering), what illness do you have? Seems pretty serious.

    • Sennek – I don’t mind you asking in the slightest, but I don’t really discuss out outside my closest friends/family. It’s tricky to strike a balance between open and honest with people on the internet who are invested in my work and care about me, but maintaining some appropriate level of privacy: for me, at least, this is where the balance lies. It is pretty serious, though. Or was. Or… was, and the lasting side-effects are. Something like that.

    • An odd question to ask, especially here on a public blog.
      We all ought to accept and respect not knowing any details, as if Mark explicitly said „this is as much as I am willing to tell you, and I wouldn’t even have told you this if it hadn’t been necessary to explain why things are lagging despite my wishes”.

        • understandably so. It’s all about mutual respect and tolerance, and keeping the privacy one needs. I wouldn’t share more than necessary, either, unless it is in private and with a person (or persons) I know I can trust.

          • Yeah, exactly this. The balance I have – I tell people I have some long-term issue, with both physical and psychological components – is enough to get across the important point and how it might affect me and what I do, but also sufficiently vague that I still feel “ownership” of it, etc. It is tricky, though.

  5. Mark, glad to hear from you. I’m sorry it’s been such a roller-coaster ride. Thanks for taking the time & energy to update us random internet folk! Take care of yourself, and remember that we’re all pulling for you!

  6. I think that even if 0.8 never come, I’ll still be reading these updates.

    Thanks for this comeback update by the way !

    • Thanks Kasaris! I don’t think coding is going to happen in April, but I did spend a bit of time re-familiarizing myself with the absurd sprawling titan that is the URR code. So hopefully that might, just might, be the first step…

  7. Glad to notice “Health” was the first topic, and not “work” or “game”.

    Also, happy to know things move in a good direction for you.

    ¡Take care!

  8. Been watching you for 6-7 years. I’m now 21 and still excited for this game as I was when I was just a mere teen.

    Please.. Don’t give up.

      • Yeah, it’s been a long ride and I appreciate you always trying your best to keep us up to date.

        I believe I first found this project on IndieDB while looking for a Dwarf Fortress / M&B alternative.

        The idea you had for at the time was my ‘dream’ game.

        Keep this going me ol’ mucka!

  9. I’ve been following this project since your first post. I remember you then asked what color it is better for the symbols on the map. A lot of good memories are connected with this project to me. I hope that your health will be fine and you will be all right. Sincerely I wish you will have success and achieve of all you planned. You are a true bright creative personality. Good luck in everything!
    Sorry for my English. This is not my native language. I hope you’ll understand everything I wanted to say.

  10. Take care man. Fan of your game but you have to put yourself first and should continue to do so until you are all good.

  11. So if crossword puzzles and other newspaper-style pencil puzzles are pre-digital “casual games”, does that means something like the MIT Mystery Hunt (especially early versions) is a pre-digital “hardcore game”? I can see the same sort of psychology at work: Hunters like me are often slightly disdainful of people who spend a lot of time with wimpy newspaper puzzles, for example.

    • That’s actually a wonderful, wonderful question, and I’m so glad you asked it. That’s a great concept! I suppose… yeah, I suppose in a way, it is. And maybe things like those real-life analogue “treasure hunts” where someone has buried $X00,000 somewhere might also fall into the same category. I might have to write something about that…

      • Being disdainful of „weaklings” who don’t go hardcore and do casual „sissy stuff” instead is a general psychological issue, not only in games. And says a lot about both sides. I’d love to read your article about that (and comment it, of course), whenever you have had the time to write it.

  12. “One does, after all, have to proceed on the assumption that one will live to a normal age, right?”

    No.

    Of course, everyone does. People past the middle of their life are surprised, and upset, when they develop major health problems. Old people are surprised, and upset, when they can no longer do the things they’ve always done. It seems to me that to a first approximation, no one expects to die. Ever. And they don’t want anyone to remind them of the obvious, either. They will even act like dying in front of them is something you can, and should, prevent. “Take care.” “Get well.” “You got this.”

    Insistent. Entitled. Angry. That’s what it is, just under that paper-thin mask.

    Wholesale denial of reality. That’s the game they are all playing, and insisting that you play along with them.

    • Although true, your post does sound a bit weird… Nobody needs to let his head hang because it might be over in a few minutes, a few days or a couple of months or years. It can happen. Happened to me twice, and I am still laughing back. But it doesn’t have to. Being a human means several things, among them „not being afraid of the future”, but instead making the best of it, no matter what happens.
      Regarding the happy denial of reality which most people indeed celebrate, that would be a topic to be best served elsewhere on a psychology platform.

        • True, also… but once one has had reason to make the best of it despite all fears and wants, there is a certain effect of getting used to it — it’s the first step, thinking rationally and unbiased, and acting accordingly, which is the hardest (we all know that nobody likes to be thrown out of his mental comfort zone of things one is used to and accustomed to). Afterwards, things get ever simpler, because you start to take the true reality as it is, not as you think it should be. Sometimes, as I have had to do, the best, and only, way to learn well and evolve is the hardest way.

          • It is, it is… but the last few months have really opened my eyes to quite a lot. And I think I might be able to get back on top of things in the near future.

    • Hey. Thanks for this message. I agree with a huge amount of what you said; I think my comment came across incorrectly. What I meant is more… there are things that one should do working on the basis of a normal lifespan, but not EVERYTHING. For instance, I’ve had some bone issues in the past, and to keep on top of that I take lots of supplements, shape my diet in a particular way, and work out (though I would do that for other reasons too). However, even if I stopped all that, I probably wouldn’t get any bone issues for at least a decade – but I do that because I’m assuming, hoping, I get more than a decade more. And I think that’s sensible. But there are other things where one has to act, NOW, and not just hope everything works out for the best. And I intend to.

  13. Concerning your work on psychology in media, in reference to your section »Work« above: why not widen it a bit and shift the focus onto the issue behind it (somewhat like Anons post above hinted at): the psychology in our daily routine, the enforcement of status-aligned behaviour and „being part of it” and socially accepted, as well as the constant fear of losing social status or whatever one thinks of as being entitled to be/have. Terms which come to mind are group behaviour and dynamics, loss of individuality (and „true self”) just to be „someone” or „part of”, and the like. I know it is a very wide field, including mental and physical disabilities, shortcomings etc. But games are, after all, a rewarding coping mechanism, a flight from reality into an individually suited brief feel-good fantasy.
    Please don’t get me wrong for writing the following; but in a way you’re in an excellent position now to shed some additional light on those aspects. Meaning, how the unexpected changes the imagined „true and right” world in our heads, even shatters it in places, yet does not actually change anything except for how we see it, and think about it, and that we have to adapt to it yet again. Transfer that into the virtual worlds of gaming, too, and cross-link causes and effects, and you might end up with a Pulitzer or even a Nobel. 😉

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