BooksThe Game Writing Guide: Get Your Dream Job and Keep It by Anna Megill is a wonderfully practical guide to understanding how to build and maintain a career as a writer in the games industry. Her advice — which is based off interviews with dozens of writer mentors, as well as her own experience writing for games such as Fable, Control, and Dishonored, among others — runs the full gamut, from job hunting, writing resumes and cover letters, building a portfolio, and interviews to moving up within the company once you have the job and leadership roles. All of this advice is delivered in simple, well-organized, and straightforward manner — with little dashes of humor sprinkled in — making the book easy to ready and follow. Where Megill is less confident in her commentary, she admits so upfront and presents insights of other mentors or other avenues for seeking this information. For those interested, I wrote up a few of the insights I learned from the book. It should be no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to my blog that Junji Ito is one of my favorite horror writers. Tombs is another phenomenal collection of short graphic tales from this master of the genre. The collection offers eerie and terrifying tales of a town with tombstones growing throughout its streets, a haunted clubhouse, terrible body horror, the hell of neighbors, and creatures dragged up from the depths of the sea — among other wonderfully haunting stories. As with each of Ito’s books, the horrors of the tales are illustrated beautifully in his signature black and white style. Books Finished This Month: 1. The Game Writing Guide: Get Your Dream Job and Keep It by Anna Megill 2. Tombs by Junji Ito Total Books for the Year: 31 Still in Progress at the End of the Month: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Wandering Games by Melissa Kagen, and Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton
Short Stories & Poetry“Love in the End Times: Two Poems” by Claire C. Holland (L.A. Jayne) —
“There is something particular about a boy’s throat. Something about the sight of it straining, yearning, the desperate tug of each swallow”“Temperance and The Devil, Reversed” by Ali Trotta (Uncanny Magazine) —
“It begins with running, always the same bone-white panic— running from something bigger than yourself, this story told and retold, until it shapeshifts into something Other, and it chases you like a wolf.”“The Witch Fragments” by Avra Margariti —
“You will gather eye of newt, willow bark, and dog flower, while the nightingale sings your every step fey and harmonious. Your apron will be a firmament; the filigree flowers and stems, your writhing stars.”“Bitter Is The Sea, And Bright” by Michelle Muenzler (PseudoPod) —
“When the Isperfell come to our village of Merse by the Sea, it is not with their delicate bone-lattice knives readied and their faces painted for war. No, they approach the old way. Slowly and from just down the shore, emerald sea water cascading from their bright scales and lean arms opened wide.”“Penelope, Exasperated” by Jane M. Wiseman (SWWIM) —
“I have given you bread and salt. You salted the furrows, you salted the wound.”“Five Things said by the Deity’s Lover” by Goran Lowie (Heartlines Spec) —
“I remember the craving of solitude. I remember a garden blooming in a withering tundra, unseeded earth of your flesh hidden by swept-away brambles fed by burning sunlight. Each of us at unease, paying, learning, tender skin on tender skin, an endless sky warmed by slippery hands.”“Fishing Season” by Anna Madden (PseudoPod) —
“For every soul, there is a lure on a string. There are different shapes, sizes, and colors. What snares one soul won’t tempt another.”“Hymn” by Rachel Kaufman (The Journal) (Note: formatting collapses in wordpress) —
“Bent three times and then some in the covered chalky mess of my hands inside my hands crawling through whispered wet- bellied gaps in these gasps are filled moon-bright sweet”“Lost Pantoum” by Jill Michelle (SWWIM) —
“Now you can’t find your sentences. Are they hidden in the ice box where once we looked for treasures: your keys, remote, glasses, watch?”“Chainsaw: As Is” by Gillian King-Cargile (PseudoPod) —
“All thirteen of us cousins and half-cousins and step-cousins were there that Memorial Day at my Grandma’s house when Dustin ripped into his leg with the chainsaw. This was in New Jersey. In the Pine Barrens. There were thousands—maybe hundreds of thousands—of trees to chainsaw.”
MoviesTalk to Me hit me like a brick. When a group of teens gather to play a game of ghosts, summoning them with a strange porcelain hand and allowing the spirits to temporarily possess them like a king of parlor trick, they inadvertently unleash something brutal upon themselves. In particular, Mia (who is grieving her mother) is drawn deep into her communication with the spirits. The cinematography, sound design, screenplay, and acting are all excellent, a and the first half of the film is particularly creative and tense, with some truly shocking sequences. While the second half does mellow a bit, the finale is such a gut punch that I had to just sit in my feelings as the credits rolled. I personally loved it. New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month: 1. Talk to Me (2023) 2. The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023) 3. The Tinder Swindler (2022)
GamesBy the time I got around to playing Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, I was well aware of the game’s reputation for inducing rage and frustration in its players. I had watched a number of Let’s Plays, in which gamers (particularly Markiplier) lost their cool, screaming in rage as they failed over and over again. The game is based off a simple premise mechanic: a man in a cast-iron pot swings a hammer to climb the mountain — but its actual execution is exceedingly difficult. The hammer doesn’t swing the way you expect it to, and it takes a significant amount of trial and error to simply figure out how it functions and get over the first tree you encounter in the game. Not to mention the increasingly difficult challenges that lie ahead. I’ll write a bit more about my ongoing struggle with trying to beat the game (I am very stuck at the moment) and how it makes me feel in another post. Short version: it is indeed frustrating, but in a way that I personally find oddly satisfying. After replaying What Remains of Edith Finch last month, I decided to jump into The Unfinished Swan (another Giant Sparrow game), because I heard the stories are loosely connected (very loosely so, as it turns out). When you startup The Unfinished Swan, the player is confronted with an entirely blank white space — much like a blank page. In order to discover the edges and borders of this world, the player begins splattering it with black paint, which reveals the hidden world. It’s a fascinating and visually beautiful mechanic. Throughout the game, the player chases after a swan that escaped an unfinished painting — and the story unfolds like a child’s fair tale about a King who created this fantastical world with the aim of evoking beauty and order. The journey carried through labyrinths and cities and dark (and genuinely scary) forests. The mechanics and puzzles shift from level to level, but never become too challenging, and the conclusion is satisfying for this particular tale. Inmost (Hidden Layer Games) is a side-scrolling puzzle platformer with gorgeous pixel-style artwork. The game essentially follows three storylines, each presenting slightly different mechanics. First, is that of a man journeying through the ruins of nightmare world, progressing through various puzzles to reach new areas — and this is the main storyline. Second, is that of a small child playing in her family home and backyard, in which movement is limited by her small size and strength. Third, is that of a mysterious white knight who fights his way through various shadow creatures. The game explores dark themes, in particular depression and suicide, through the lens of a shadowy fairy tale world. I found the shift in perspectives and mechanics to be an interesting addition, providing some depth to the scenes as I tried to work out how it all fit together. However, the writing style was a bit on the nose for my personal taste (mostly in regards to constant mention of pain and how people in this world cause pain in orders to gain their own power). Nevertheless, I enjoyed the gameplay and am glad I gave this one a try. Outlanders (Pomelo Games), which I have mentioned before, has become my new go-to phone game. I turn to it whenever Two Dots is out of levels for me to play. I enjoy the puzzle of keeping the community alive and growing, while gathering specific resources for whatever goals are at play.
That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?