2017 Year in Review

It's that time again: Facebook has released its 'year in review' for users and so I'm starting to think about my year in review as well. And goodness, has it been a big year.

I distinctly remember writing my year in review last year, and setting my new year's resolutions for 2017 and thinking, "Wow, I'm so exhausted. I really need to take it easier in 2017 so I don't burn out!" Did I listen? Absolutely not.

But while I'm not proud of burning myself out (we'll get to that later), I am proud of all I've achieved in the last twelve months. Let's talk about it!

For 2017, I set myself a selection of deliberately vague resolutions. They were:

🚂 Keep up my momentum with work
🎨 Be more creative
📝 Be more reflective
🎮 Keep a record of all the games I play
🏆 Finish things (or be rid of them)
🏃 Exercise more
👂 Communicate better (and listen more)

You'll notice that only one of these is explicitly about work. The others are all deliberate attempts to prioritise my personal life. There were ups and downs throughout the year in my attempts to achieve each of them, but overall I am incredibly happy with where I am as the year draws to a close.

🚂 Keep up my momentum with work

You know when you are running down a hill and you go faster and faster until eventually you are running so quickly that you start tripping over your own feet? If that's what I meant by 'keep up momentum', then I certainly achieved that.

Honestly, I over-did it a little bit this year, and I'm feeling like I've stretched myself pretty thin. Part of the problem is that my anxiety has been worsening, and that gives me an insatiable thirst to keep working—I also went on medication to help treat that in November, and the result was feeling calm enough to realise that, without anxiety driving me, I had well and truly exceeded what should be considered a healthy work-life balance. This is something that I am addressing now, and will likely be continuing to address into early 2018.

Still, 2017's professional achievements need to be celebrated.

This year, I was lucky enough to be nominated for (and to win) a number of awards for my work. I was featured on the MCV 30 under 30 and Women in Games lists, I was a finalist for the Women in Games 'Campaigner' and 'Trail Blazer' awards, I was nominated for the University of the Sunshine Coast's 2017 Outstanding Alumni of the Year awards, and I was nominated for the Australian LGBTI awards in the 'Hero', 'Journalist of the Year', and 'Rising Star' categories. Queerly Represent Me—the research organisation that I founded in 2016—was also nominated for an award in the Australian LGBTI awards.

Queerly Represent Me had a big year. We rebranded, with a new logo, a Patreon, and all sorts of merchandise. We changed the way we receive tips from our community, making it easier to add games—and we added greater than 400 new titles to the database! We conducted a new audience survey in February and had greater than 6,000 responses, and presented our work all over the country (and internationally). We also launched a bunch of new projects: podcast, an interview series, a small exhibition at Bar SK, and the zine that we will be publishing in 2018. We received financial support from several amazing people and companies, such as Midboss and IGDA Sydney.

I was lucky enough to travel all over the country this year, and not just to talk about my work with Queerly Represent Me. In January, I was a mentor at TasJam in Hobart. In April, I visited Sydney for GX Australia and was on two panels. I visited Melbourne in July, giving two talks at the international DiGRA conference, and I returned in August because Enthymema—one of my games from last year—was being shown at the Contours exhibition. I seemingly couldn't stay away from Melbourne, as I was back in September so I could speak at AlterConf, and again for eight days in October for Melbourne International Games Week. This was my biggest games week yet, with one talk at GCAP (my first GCAP!) and five panels at PAX Australia. I was also lucky enough to have a media pass for PAX due to my work with Queerly Represent Me, and it was incredibly satisfying to be accomplished enough to attend the convention on the steam of my own company.

These trips weren't just about working and speaking at things; they were also about friendships. Having Lee Shang Lun show me around MONA, visiting Louie at Bar SK, having brunch with the WiDGET crew, lunch with Ken Wong and Ben Kerslake, afternoon tea with Lauren Clinnick, drinks with David Hollingworth or with Jason Imms, studio visits with the Opaque team... all of these little interactions made this year incredible.

I also participated in a bunch of events and initiatives that were closer to home. I did a lot of work with young women in the area, supporting initiatives in Gympie to help girls make games over their school holidays. I ran one of these events myself, with the help of one of my students. I also helped out at Experience USC on our Sippy Downs campus, and volunteered for the Tech Girls are Superheroes program. I organised some wonderful mentors to attend SunJam in July, and helped support the amazing attendees through the night as they worked on their games.

I somehow found the time to make a bunch of my own games in 2017 as well. The biggest project I released was Rainbow Cafe, a serious game about the experiences of the queer community, and exploring one's own sexuality. I also helped make a game for the Beer SK jam, I released a boardgame called The Astronomer, I created an interactive oracle card deck, and I made a bunch of experimental art games and game objects. I even made a dress-up game for SunJam while I was volunteering! All of these can be found on my itch.io.

And games that I released in previous years found some new success in 2017! As I already mentioned, Enthymema was shown at Contours in Melbourne. Enthymema was also showcased at the Queerness and Games conference in Los Angeles, as was Snapshot. These games were only able to be shown in the arcade due to the help of Boon Cotter, who attended on my behalf and even helped print my flyers and supplies for the event. Snapshot was also shown at the Secret Rainbow Level gathering run by Sydney Gaymers.

This year, I also scored an exciting recurring gig with Hyper Online, thanks to a couple of bottles of wine shared with the wonderful David Hollingworth. I published 25 articles with Hyper this year, as well as some other articles with PC PowerPlay, FemHype, Impulse Gamer, and Clever Game Pun.

I also wrote a lot of academic papers. In addition to those I presented at conferences like DiGRA, I wrote two papers for TEXT special issues (one of which I was on the editorial team for), and some of my work was presented at international conferences like Queerness and Games. (These international conferences were thanks to the very special Adrienne Shaw, and her team.)

Another huge writing achievement from 2017 was finishing my thesis. I'm still awaiting the examiner's feedback, but that should come through in early 2018. I am hoping to be on stage, graduating while wearing a ridiculous hat, in April. This was a few years in the making, and although some people seem to think I cruised through considering the pace with which I completed the qualification, it was anything but easy; so much work went into this, and I'm incredibly proud of what I've done.

Apparently my work this year was exciting enough that I also had the pleasure of appearing on some podcast. I was a guest and also guest host on the Queerly Represent Me podcast (which probably doesn't count, because I'm kind of in charge of it), I co-hosted the System Links podcast for half the year, and I was a guest on Game Hugs with Jason Imms. I will hopefully be appearing on the Hyper Pixelcast next week as well!

And all of these work achievements don't really even take into consideration my day job. It was an absolute pleasure to continue teaching at the University of the Sunshine Coast this year. My students—new and old—are amazing, and I am honoured to be part of their game industry journeys.

Phew! I did a lot of work this year, but it's also important to reflect on my personal life. One of my major goals for 2017 was to focus more on my work-life balance, and figuring out how to be 'successful' both professionally and personally. I think that this shows in the new years resolutions I made; work was going well last year, and I simply wanted that to continue, but there were actual changes I wanted to make in my personal life.

In some ways, I achieved this. In others, I did not. There are a lot of things I'm still trying, and this journey will continue into 2018 (and probably forever).

🎨 Be more creative

I don't know if I was 'more' creative this year than those previous, but I did prioritise creativity in 2017. I think that creative output is an important part of my mental health; being creative helps me feel calmer, and it's a sure sign that I'm overworking if I'm not feeling creative.

In addition to the creativity required in my work (which is a hazard of writing a creative writing thesis, and also making games for a living), I prioritised painting and cooking. I made it part way through a Wreck this Journal; I'd hoped to finish it this year, but I sadly neglected it around July. But I haven't given up! It's sitting on a shelf beside me, and I will be continuing to add to it next year.

I finished knitting a rug earlier in the year—which has been sitting in a box since I moved out half a decade ago, I made some fun little projects in Magica Voxel and Game Maker, I took photos (both in real life and using in-game photo modes), and I also taught myself to paint miniatures late this year! In the last couple of weeks, I've also rediscovered witchery as a creative, ritualistic output, and it feels very rewarding.

📝 Be more reflective

Witchery ties into my plan of being more reflective; it's nice to have a morning routine where I do an oracle card and rune stone reading, and reflect on what that means. It's also nice to have evening rituals, and to pay attention to things like the moon phases and how I might be able to channel that lunar energy into decisions I make in my life.

My plan on January 1, 2017, was to reflect every day in a reflections book that I bought at Typo; this didn't happen because I am terrible at daily routines. Still, I write it in every few days; it might not be perfect (and there might be whole weeks or months where I've forgotten) but occasional reflection is better than no reflection, so I still count this as a win overall.

I've also been reflecting more online. I've been open about my experiences—including successes, failures, and personal journeys—on my website and on Twitter. I think that sharing has been an important part of getting my thoughts in order.

🎮 Keep a record of all the games I play

This happened! As of now, I've played 129 games in 2017 (and the end of 2016 because I started a little early). I haven't updated this list with all the details yet (I'm working on it, but also trying to take a post-semester rest!), but it at least tells you what I played and is full of images.

While we're here, I guess I should tell you my game of the year for 2017. It will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who has followed my life this year that my highlight game was Horizon Zero Dawn. Oh my goodness, what an experience. You can read my thoughts on it here, and on The Frozen Wilds DLC here.

🏆 Finish things (or be rid of them)

This has been a bit hit and miss. Finished my thesis (woo!), finished some papers, finished the semesters that I started because time passes whether you like it or not. Finished knitting a rug, but didn't finish a bunch of paintings and assorted tasks. Didn't finish cleaning my house (but wow, did I start, and throw out or donate a LOT of things). And I started stuff. Good stuff. Positive stuff. Generally, I feel like I succeeded here; I made it through some hard things, I made positive steps to work my way through more difficulties, and feel like I am decluttering.

🏃 Exercise more

This is one resolution where I really kicked arse! There was a little inconsistency throughout the year, but honestly, I'm starting to enjoy exercising and that's success. Regular walks have been happening all year, and I've been running hills with Dakoda. I have recently started running track with him as well. I played staff volleyball in semester one and netball in semester two, and I also played Quidditch for a little while. Overall, very happy with my fitness and the impact it has had on my mental health.

On that note, I've not only been looking after my body with exercise, but I've been looking after my mind as well. I've been trying to engage in more self-care and figure out what relaxation looks like for me. I've started doing jigsaw puzzles again because I find them satisfying. I have been taking more baths. I have been figuring out what is hurting me, and making big changes and hard choices. I started on medication. Things are changing here, and I feel good about it.

👂 Communicate better (and listen more)

Getting my mental health in check has been helping with my communication with others. It's helping me focus and listen and remember. And it's also helping me listen to myself, which I didn't realise I needed to do so much at the beginning of the year. This has been the hardest resolution to keep, particularly because a lot of the issues I have with communication are habits that are utterly ingrained, but I'm getting there.

This year was long, and hard, and busy. It was full of commitments and work and words and socialising, and so many things that I didn't even mention here (like I started playing dungeons and dragons regularly this year, woo!) and it isn't even over yet. I have another interstate trip planned before Christmas, I have a paper I want to write by the end of the month, and I have other work to do. And all while looking after myself, and trying to recover from the burn out of this ridiculous rollercoaster.

Thanks for sharing it with me.