2018 Year in Review
Every year I think, "Wow, it can't get better than that!" and then it does. Welcome to a review of my 2018: it was a wild ride.
At the end of 2017, I travelled to Adelaide and spent a week with Ash and Em McAllan. I knew I needed some time away from my life and everything familiar to reset my brain, but I don’t think I could quite fathom just how much I needed that. I came back from Adelaide with a newfound sense of self.
As a result, 2018 was filled with as many personal successes as professional ones, and I have become more aware of the intersections between the two. I feel a sense of balance that I haven’t when I’ve reached this point of reflection in previous years.
I wonder if my sense of balance—and the fact that I’ve been able to achieve it at all—comes from the fact that I’ve been on escitalopram since the end of last year. I feel like I’m finally in control of my anxiety, and it makes it easier to put my work aside and chill out sometimes.
One of the first things I did when I returned from Adelaide was reconnect with my hobbies. I’ve spent more time outside this year—both out in the world and in my own backyard. To facilitate that, I completely redesigned my back courtyard (with help from my parents), ripping out all the plants that were just too much work and replacing them with amazing plants that I chose and that I’m proud of. Spending time every weekend out in the garden looking after my plant-babies has been soothing and I hope to keep up the habit in 2019.
(The first four photos below are from February this year; the final two photos are the same spaces in December. Woah!)
The other major life change that I directly connect to my time spent in Adelaide was I found a way to bring pets into my home. My week in Adelaide revolved around the plants growing outside and BMO, their lorikeet, so plants and pets are what I brought back with me. Oh, and candles. And a new love for IKEA.
My pets are two beautiful rat girls: Gremlin and Shade. I adore them, and it’s obvious why. They’re beautiful, and they brighten my life. You can follow them on Twitter!
I’ve done a much better job in 2018 at integrating my activism into my daily life. In recent years, I’ve been figuring out my beliefs and leanings, and how these impact my identity; this year was the first that I actively incorporated my activism into my actions. I gave up red meat and most other meat (I now only eat chicken and fish, and only occasionally); I started giving blood and plasma (although I am on a brief hiatus while I sort out my iron levels); I started using exclusively reusable period products (including Thinx underwear and a Ruby cup); I visit a local farmers market and a local produce store when I can to purchase my fruit and vegetables (rather than at the grocery store); I started growing my own basic produce and fresh herbs and bought a dehydrator so I can make my own dry herb mixes; I finally bought a compost bin to reduce our household waste; I used a reusable keep cup for hot chocolates during the winter; I actively check the ethics of suppliers before I buy anything at the grocery store; I’ve started using more eco-friendly bin liners and other disposable products; and I now make sure I bring both reusable canvas bags and fresh produce bags when I go shopping. It’s a lot of little things, but they add up and they make me feel like I’m living a little better and a little cleaner.
I'm still having a tumultuous relationship with exercise. I find something I like, but then the timing doesn't work or something changes or I get bored... I don't know if I can ever be the kind of person who loves exercise, but I've been trying and so long as I keep trying, that's what counts... right? This year I've been going on more walks in the forest, I regularly climbed Mount Coolum every week for several months, and started going on morning runs just before my whole routine flipped around. I will definitely need to figure out how to incorporate exercise back into my new routine in 2019.
(Look at some of the beautiful photos I took while exercising this year!)
I spent a few weeks this year playing in the staff netball competition, and we won! Sadly, this year one of my previous colleagues passed away suddenly. He was always the fiercest competitor in the staff netball competition, so it was wonderful to win in his honour.
Another personal highlight from my year was related to tattoos!
I first had my back tattooed when I was 19. The design was based on something I drew and while I didn't dislike the outcome, it didn't properly reflect the shapes and shading of my own design. This year I finally had the opportunity to have my original tattoo redone, and I couldn't be happier with the result.
The original tattoo took 4.5 hours; Jamiee Butters re-outlined and re-shaded that tattoo and added freehand watercolour around it in 3 hours. I was blown away, and I still can't believe the result.
This year I also gave myself a thumb tattoo in my bathroom with some ink and a needle my friend Annie brought over. It's pretty significant, and I'm super pleased with it too.
This year came with its fair share of friendships growing, changing, starting, and ending. I have new people in my life who I spend time with regularly, and others who I rarely see or speak to. Some of them I miss dearly. But to those of you that I spent my days shopping with, my nights drinking with, my weekends exploring with, and my holidays adventuring with... thank you.
It was a joy to have my best friend Jess in my house for once rather than just seeing her at events and conventions. We spent this year playing games together, eating chips, and generally fooling around. It's always a pleasure, Jess.
Also, of course, Dakoda, thanks for an amazing year. (I have no photographic evidence of us together at date night because I keep taking photos of food and not us.)
Really, the distinction is silly. When I talk about my professional life, I think about the students I’ve taught, the events I’ve spoken at, the workshops I’ve volunteered my time for, the hours I’ve dedicated to Queerly Represent Me, and the new opportunities I’ve been given at Defiant Development. And sure, that’s my career, but so much of that permeates my non-working life so it’s hard to say what’s professional and personal. But here, have an arbitrary subheading.
Queerly Represent Me had its third year in existence and found a lot of success. We finally incorporated as a not-for-profit, we released a bunch of new merchandise including our new annual zine and a Pinny Arcade pin, we held our first annual game jam, we participated in the Project for Awesome, we had a booth at PAX, we attended the Sunshine Coast pride festival, we had a booth at Freeplay Independent Games Festival, and we won an award for education in the 2018 Tech Diversity Awards. Honestly, this year was wild. To see our name on a banner atop a PAX booth? Unreasonably cool. My baby's growing up so fast!
Queerly Represent Me was also asked to run the IGDA LGBTQ+ SIG this year. We have been celebrating queer representation via our SIG Facebook group, Twitter page, and Discord server, and we can't wait to see the opportunities we will share with this diverse community of people next year.
I had an incredible year teaching at the University of the Sunshine Coast as well. I was lucky enough to be given two opportunities to coordinate classes: both the Playcentric Game Design and Serious Digital Game Design courses were my responsibility, and so I was able to broaden the minds of a wonderful cohort of first year students with practical advice for their future careers in the industry. It was such a pleasure!
My year at USC contained all sorts of other things, like organising guest speakers and mentors, volunteering at workshops and as part of the Tech Girls are Superheroes program, and helping out at SunJam (our twice a year Sunshine Coast game jam).
I also co-founded the Nonbinary People and Women Creative Collective this year (where we do monthly crafting and other activities), and was included in the CDEfG: Creative, Diverse Experiences for Gamedevs group organised by my friend Ben (through which I've done things like archery and basket weaving, and next year will be learning crochet, teaching jam making, and going on an Indigenous culture walk).
I'm so appreciative of everything USC has been responsible for in my life this year and in the nine years—woah, really, nine??—that I was a part of the place as a student, and then a teacher. There are so many people I wouldn't have met and opportunities I wouldn't have had without USC. But I also left USC this year to pursue the next big thing in my life.
Which brings me to Defiant Development.
I've been working as a producer as part of my other responsibilities on all sorts of projects that I've been involved in. I have a natural tendency towards maintaining paperwork, tracking schedules, and organising spreadsheets. Now, I'm working full-time as an associate producer so suddenly all those 'extra' things I'm already used to doing are my entire job. I write, I send emails, I organise meetings, I put in calendar reminders, and I make documents pretty. Sounds like a dream. And on top of that, I get to do it at Defiant Development.
I'm finally earning a steady, reliable income. I'm getting paid over the summer. I have sick days! The only downside is that I live 1.5 hours from my workplace, but I've been listening to more podcasts than I ever have before, and the drive is becoming easier the more often I do it.
Although I'm not working in academia anymore, my academic successes still mean a lot to me. I finally leapt the final hurdle in my doctorate journey this year, with my acceptance coming through on June 25th (before my 25th birthday, which was always my dream!) and my certificate arriving on August 27th. I graduated on September 28th and got to walk across the stage in my silly hat. Now I'm a doctor.
It's a little surreal. The carrot was dangled in front of me for so long that I keep having to think twice when trying to remember whether it's all done. But it's over and for the first time in my life I'm not a student anymore.
Not a student? Not at university? Working full-time? Am I an adult now...?
My other academic success is the publication of papers. Even though I'm not working in the academy anymore, I don't see my desire to publish my work in journals and conferences stopping any time soon—particularly given I will finally have the finances to fly to different conferences, and have a workplace willing to give me time off to pursue those opportunities.
This year I had two papers published in two different TEXT Journal special issues and another published in the TEXT Journal standard issue. I also had the pleasure of speaking at the Diversity Lunch at CHI Play 2018 when it was in Melbourne.
In addition, I spoke at PAX Australia in the diversity lounge about Queerly Represent Me and about representations of women in media this year. I also spoke at Freeplay about some survey results that Queerly Represent Me has been compiling.
Oh, and I made games! My biggest title this year is called Aureolin. It's a collection of little vignettes (like a game zine) that describe aspects of my experience being a woman. I also made or co-made Seasons and Sabbats, Signposts, Broken Skin and Band-aids, Fuck You and Fuck Off, Falling, How Can You Be Proud? You're Bi!, Escape the Dark, Moonlight, Insomnia, Gallery, and Treasure Hunter.
I was also pleased to give my words to Problems and Pumpkins, a match-3 game by Ecoludology. You can find out more about it here.
Sadly, this year I gained some work, but I also lost some. Although I am lucky to be in a position at the end of 2018 where I am not relying on the money from my freelance writing for Hyper / PC PowerPlay online, I was still incredibly disappointed to see these two publications dissolve towards the end of 2018. They were some of the best opportunities game critics had to say interesting, poignant things about games and still get paid for it. Hyper was my very first voyage into the game industry. So much great work has been lost now that those websites have been closed down.
The industry is changing—as is my life and trajectory within that industry—and I can't wait to see how that evolution continues next year.