2019 Year in Review
This time last year, I said "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." Well, things did continue to change; that much is true. But not at all in the way I was expecting.
You know that "I'm going to exercise more, eat better, and lose weight!" new year's resolution that everyone has? That was mine this year.
I went into 2019 wanting to feel better about my body. I'd started to put some weight on, especially around my stomach and rounding out my face, and I didn't like how it made me feel. Weight fluctuations are a part of life, but I didn't feel in control of my body at all; I felt like I was just a brain inside a vessel outside of my power. It didn't help that I've also had a number of health issues this year, many of which are undiagnosed and ongoing.
I joined a gym, and worked with a trainer to learn how to lift weights while accounting for my injuries (like my bad wrist that makes push-ups almost impossible). I lost weight, but—more importantly—I got stronger and felt more in control.
But then everything in my life changed, and that included my ability to go to the gym. My regular sessions became occasional days in a hotel gym, or body weight exercises in a friend's lounge room. I lost all semblance of routine—not just for exercising, but in general. Now that I have a gym in my building, I'm working on building that routine back up, but life is full of stress and my house is full of boxes. It's a process.
Exercise is something I've always struggled with. I talked about this in last year's review.
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.
I still don't find exercising easy, but interval training and lifting free weights at my own pace is the most enjoyable exercise I've ever engaged with. I feel like I'm learning and growing, and finding things that work for me, even when life gets in the way. Hopefully I can find my routine again in 2020, and maybe some peace and quiet.
Life has been tumultuous this year, so I've decided to go back to a psychologist. The impetus for this was mostly Emily Grace Buck telling everyone at New Zealand GDC to get a therapist during her keynote. It worked.
I've only had a few sessions, and most of them have been those introductory hours where they ask you a bunch of questions about yourself, but I like the new psychologist I'm seeing. I plan to continue seeing him every month or two in 2020, for general mental health maintenance. Like servicing a car.
I've been on antidepressants now since the end of 2017. They were a really positive two years in some respects; I felt more capable and less anxious, and I had fewer nightmares. But I still slept poorly, and it turns out those meds were responsible for a bunch of other physical symptoms as well. I've decided to go off medication again for a while, just to see how my body recalibrates. It's funny how you get used to side effects and start to think they're just part of who you are. I'm not sure if medication will be part of my mental health management in 2020; we'll just have to wait and see.
I gave my spiritual health a lot of attention this year.
For starters, I've been incorporating pagan traditions into my life more. I had an amazing Yule celebration with a bunch of friends where we ate freshly baked bread, made lanterns, and walked in the dark by candle light.
I'm enjoying the rituals that come from this practice, and the ways it can incorporate community into my spirituality. As someone who was raised Catholic but doesn't feel connected to the rituals and beliefs of Christian traditions, it's been soothing.
Another new practice that is bridging that gap for me is regularly listening to a podcast called Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Simply put, the podcast involves the two hosts—Vanessa and Casper—reading the Harry Potter series one chapter at a time through themes that help us ask questions about our lives. They use spiritual practices from Christian and Jewish traditions to engage with the Harry Potter series in a secular way. It might sound like an exaggeration, but it has genuinely been life-changing for me.
In fact, it has been so impactful for me, that when the opportunity arose for me to travel to Sussex, England to spend three days with Vanessa and a group of pilgrims, I jumped at that nerdy opportunity.
We spent our trip eating vegetarian meals at a long share table, participating in classes where we talked about life's big questions and Harry Potter, and walking through the Sussex countryside. We had walks where we focused on deliberate foot placement, peripheral vision, foraging for edible berries, or navigating in the complete darkness. It was incredible.
As part of my trip, I decided to spend some time in London too. I used to be obsessed with London when I was a teenager, and walking the streets there brought all of that obsession back to me. London is exactly what you imagine it will be: red buses, telephone boxes, and the Underground. It's iconic.
I also spent a day in Hong Kong. The place is full of political tension right now, and it was life-changing to be in the city during a revolution.
This year, I also had the sun and the moon tattooed on my fingers. The sun is on my right hand, as a source of practical and productive energy; the moon is on my left hand, as a way to channel creative and emotional vibes. I am incredibly happy with them and the way they help me centre myself.
Oh God Everything Is Different
Remember last year, when I was really excited about the job I just started at Defiant Development in Brisbane? Well, Defiant closed down in July 2019.
Defiant Development's studio closure was painful. For me, for everyone else working there, for the directors, and for the games industry overall. Stacks of games journalism platforms wrote about the closure.
I learned so much while I was there, and I had to leave before I was done. No matter how happy I am with where I've ended up, I still miss Defiant immensely. It hurts my heart.
This happened just after Dakoda fought the good fight and lost his job over it too, so we were both suddenly unemployed and living in a place where the games industry barely exists... and is apparently shrinking.
I interviewed for jobs locally, but for a multitude of reasons, it just didn't work out. At the same time, I was recommended for a job in Melbourne, and after a quick visit and a lovely lunch, my gut just told me I had to go for it. (And Dakoda receives all the credit in the world because he told me I have to follow my instincts, and he packed up and moved with me.)
I moved to Melbourne in August 2019, and spent 48 nights living alone in a longstay hotel room. Then I spent another three weeks staying with mates. We finally got the keys to our own place on November 6th, and drove the 22 hours from Maroochydore to South Melbourne with our pet rats and our computers. Dakoda lived off McMuffins and I ate too many fries; 24-hour McDonald's were the only things open during our late-night drives. We had to take a bunch of detours to avoid the fires that are still raging along the east coast.
Packing was exhausting, and our furniture and boxes arrived a week after we did. We're still unpacking. I thought I would be starting to feel settled by now—and in some ways I am—but I still feel disconnected and weird.
I lived in our Maroochydore unit for six years and I knew where everything was habitually; now, I've no idea where anything lives and can't figure out where to put a bunch of our stuff. I feel like my brain is working on overdrive constantly, and I'm more drained than I have been in years. It doesn't help that my new workplace is moving offices simultaneously. Moving at home and at work simultaneously is awful.
But I love my new job. I'm a producer at Sledgehammer Games now, and I'm currently the only non-engineer in their Melbourne office. I was their 8th hire, and the first to join the team after they were given the greenlight to expand into a full studio in Melbourne. Now we have almost 30 staff in Melbourne, in addition to the hundreds on the team in Foster City. In addition to wildly expanding, we're working on multiple games, including Call of Duty.
Anyway, I feel wildly unsettled and disconnected. My old home is gone, my new home is a mess, and all my habits have disappeared. Sometimes I'm so exhausted and overwhelmed that I just want to hide under a rock, but other times this feels like a situation full of potential. I hope that second feeling continues to win in 2020. I know that all I need to fix most of these issues is patience; I'm just terrible at that.
I've been everywhere this year, man.
In terms of work trips, I went to DiGRA Australia in February, Train Jam and GDC in March, Freeplay Independent Games Festival in May, and NZGDC in September. I also travelled back-and-forth between QLD and VIC for government responsibilities in Brisbane and relocation tasks in Melbourne.
I spent New Years Eve 2018-2019 in Wollongong with Jess, and this doesn't count my Hong Kong, London, and Sussex travels that I noted above. I think I've been on 20 planes this year.
Queerly Represent Me is going well, and as always, a bunch of my achievements are attached to my role there. I was asked to write a piece in the print copy of Archer magazine this year, which is the premier queer magazine in Australia. I also organised an event at the Brisbane Powerhouse called MELT Gayming, which was incredible! It went so well that I managed to also get involved with organising the mentorship room at Game On later in the year at the same venue.
I had two book proposals accepted by CRC Press, so I'm frantically working on those manuscripts at the moment so I can meet my deadlines. Those should be coming out in 2020, and that's going to be an amazing feather to add to my cap. I was also short-listed for the QLD Young Achiever Awards and the USC Alumni of the Year awards this year, and was on the InGames Gender Equality list.
Even though I'm living in VIC now, I'm still on the assessor list for Screen QLD and had the privilege of participating in two assessments this year. That was an invaluable experience, and led to some great mentorship opportunities and new friendships. I was also brought onto the assessor list for Arts QLD, where they are welcoming more interactive and blended art, and I was asked to be on an advisory board for Jobs QLD related to film, tv, and games work in QLD. My responsibilities with these three government bodies should continue into 2020, which will be an awesome way to stay connected to QLD and ensure I am helping to expand the industry back there so other people don't have to move to Melbourne like I did. (As much as I'm loving my new job and am enjoying Melbourne life, it would have been nice to have more choices.)
Now I am ready to sleep forever. 😴
Bonus: Check out my first and last selfie from 2019 on Twitter.