I’ve been very busy working on a project that I can’t talk about, so I haven’t had time to make a proper post here.
I feel like I’m neglecting my blog, and I would hate for it to feel left out, so here’s a picture I colorized with my magic coloring skills:
Life is best when you’re easily amused, kids.
So this hilarious picture was posted on Reddit yesterday.
We all made lots of jokes about how paying attention to the wife in each picture was the right decision, but eventually this discussion happened:
thatgengirl: At least he looks happy in your photo–we walked away from our photo op with a completely different opinion of Wil Wheaton.
me: Uh-oh. What happened?
thatgengirl then PM’d me, and gave permission to repost our exchange. It’s important to me, and I wanted to share it here, as well as at Reddit.
First off, I want to say that even thought we were a little soured by the experience–I still follow you on Twitter and read your blog. I started with WIL WHEATON dot NET years and years ago. (Your post about your son trying to communicate that he was kidnapped via bizarre text shorthand is my all-time fave.)
When we saw you were going to the Calgary Expo (2012), my husband and I were stoked! We bought a weekend pass for ourselves to celebrate our anniversary there.
The Calgary Expo is probably where it all went wrong. They were ridiculously unorganized, as was clearly demonstrated on the Saturday that everything was shut down. (My husband had to miss his photo op with Adam West because we were refused re-entry after the Fringe panel).
Luckily, our photo op was for the Friday evening, before others had arrived en masse. We stood in line for a very long time, crazy excited about getting to meet you. We knew from reading the Penny Arcade blog that you never touch people during photos to avoid the flu. We were cool with that.
When we were there, we saw how rushed people were being, and that sort of set us back, but we decided we could make the most of our 5 secs by just simply getting to say hi to an idol.
We were called, you didn’t make eye contact. I tried desperately by grinning a big grin, but you wouldn’t even look at us. My husband said he was a big fan, you didn’t even turn your head to acknowledge him. We were told to stand behind you–we did. You forced a smile (In the photo it looks like you secretly hate us) and the took the picture. My husband blinked, so they had to take it again–you seemed annoyed (But that’s probably projecting). Then you turned to someone who worked there and made a comment about the crying baby hating you. We told to leave, and that was it.
We were a little heartbroken. The whole experience felt like we were forcing you to meet us–forcing you to be somewhere you didn’t want to be. And I bet that’s probably true. You had probably just flown in, were tired, hungry, annoyed that the Calgary Expo spelled your name wrong…. You’re a human, and we get that. But gone was the impression that you were the fan’s fan.
The next day, we decided to get your autograph on the photo. Perhaps you were in a better mood? The line for your booth was insane, but it was what I saw when I got there that annoyed me. You had always affirmed that you never charge for autographs, and yet there was a sign at the front of the line that said “Autographs $30.” We could have afforded it, but it was just icing on the cake. We skipped your line and went to see Aaron Douglas instead. Great guy, I can see why you’re friends.
I’m really sorry I said what I did. I needed this reminder that we’re all humans doing a job and our words can make impressions and last forever online.
I love Tabletop, btw. After season 1 we went out and bought Catan, Smallworld, Ticket to Ride and Zombie Dice. We spend more time together as family now as a result. We would LOVE to see Zombicide on there sometime. We got in with the first Kickstarter and damn that’s a great game! Also, have you considered a children’s episode? My 6 year old loves Catan Jr. and I think it would be adorable if you guys got your kids to play it together (especially if most of the kids are under 10, but you made Ryan join too.)
p.s. Please don’t let them lynch me
I’m so sorry you had a bad experience. Last year (2012) at Calgary Expo, I had the flu (Aaron and I went out for dinner one night and I ended up puking it all over a street on the way back to the hotel — good times) and was coming off of a three week performance tour of Australia. I wasn’t 100%, and probably was forcing things to a certain extent, because I felt an obligation to be there and entertain everyone. It was also incredibly emotional for me to be around the TNG cast for the first time in over a decade, so I was a little messed up on top of being sick and exhausted.
That con was the most overly-packed and unprepared for the mass of people I’ve ever been at, and I think that poor planning was most painfully experienced by fans during the photos. I hated that everyone was rushed through like you were, and I made sure that everyone involved knew that I wouldn’t be doing them in the future if they were going to rush people like that. This year, it was organized much better, and everyone was much happier.
I’ve always tried to keep autograph fees minimal or eliminate them entirely, but the reality is time I spend at a con is time I can’t spend working on Tabletop, my books, or any of the other projects I have in development. I give away tons of stuff to people at every con (I never charge volunteers for anything), and I’m never going to be one of those “give me $60 and get out” people cough Shatner cough. That said, it is work for me to be there, and though I’m uncomfortable even talking about it, I want you to know that I do my very best to be fair and reasonable. If someone gave you the impression that it was somehow required to fork over money just to visit and say hello and geek out about stuff, that person was wrong and I apologize for that.
I’m very sorry you had a disappointing time, and I hope that it hasn’t soured you on cons in the future. In the end, we’re all human, and though I make every effort to be as awesome to every single person I meet, when I’m meeting thousands of people I’m going to fall short at least once. I am sincerely sorry that I didn’t give you and your husband the awesome time you wanted and deserved.
I don’t think anyone is going to lynch you, and I honestly wish this exchange had been public; I imagine that you speak for a non-zero number of convention attendees who have had similar experiences. Thanks for taking the time to reach out. I wish you all the best.
Like I said, I believe you speak for a non-zero number of people — especially where the photo-ops are concerned — and convention organizers, the people who shoot the photo-ops, and the media guests who participate in them need to hear this and change the way we do them.
Redditor DireTaco added:
The photo ops are a kind of disillusioning experience in themselves, and not necessarily because of the celebrity; there’s just so many people, and while each fan wants to be able to talk 1-on-1 with you, they only get 5 seconds of a posed shoot and then they’re gone. If everyone got to spend the time they’d like to with you, you’d be there for a week.
And you as the celebrity have only so much time to squeeze in several hundred people, so you want to make the best of each shoot, but then efficiency gets mistaken for coldness. The no-touching rule is an entirely sensible and proper precaution when you have hundreds of people who want to enter your personal space, but it also adds to the perceived coldness.
Honestly, it’s a tough situation to be in for you and other celebs, and I sure as hell don’t envy you.
I also have a certain amount of anxiety, and if lots of people are putting their arms around me, I start to freak out. If I reach out to a person, I can handle it, but when someone I don’t know tries to hug me or grabs me, I freak out, because that’s the way my brain is broken.
A general consensus emerged that the photo-ops at conventions are imperfect, but they’re probably the best any of us can hope for, considering the sheer volume of people who want to participate in them and the limited amount of time and energy that we all have to give.
I know “how does it feel” was asked in jest, and it was a really great joke, but I hope this gives a little insight into how it actually does feel, for both someone like me who appears at a con, and someone like thatgengirl, who attends a con.
I was attending cons long before I appeared at them (and even these days I still attend in ways — visiting artists’ alley, poking my head in on panels, jumping into photo-ops if I can) and I clearly recall how I wanted to feel when I went home, so now that I’m appearing at them, I keep that in mind and do my very best to treat people the way I’d like to be treated.
When I finished one of my photo ops in Ottawa, Nathan Fillion was doing one of his in the photo area next to mine. Anne was with me, and I know that she loves him as much as I do, so I grabbed her hand and ran with her into Nathan’s line.
I walked over to Nathan, and said to him, so Anne couldn’t hear, “Would you literally sweep her off her feet?” He laughed and said he would. Then he turned to me and said, “And you stand here, and look sad.”
So I did and this happened:
My internal dialog at this moment is: “I wish Nathan Fillion would sweep me off my feet.”
Nathan Fillion is as kind and funny and charming and friendly as you think he would be. We’ve sort of become friends, and that makes me so happy; he’s really good people.
This guest post is brought to you by Will Hindmarch, writer and designer of such titles as the one he’s about to tell you about…
You were the best. Underground, cyberpunk street samurai, burglars and breakers, agents of a mysterious spymaster with half a name, zero history, and a plan. He made the missions and you carried them out. You were the go-to crew for high-stakes break-ins, dangerous ops, and impossible escapes. You fought the megacorps, the tyrants, the killers—all for the sake of making a better future, of beating the Technocrats at their own game of shaping tomorrow. You always won, never quit, lived in the now.
Until, eleven years ago, he disappeared…
Now he’s back—back in trouble—and it’s up to you to save him and maybe, along the way, change the world.
Today is the day. Today I debut Always/Never/Now, an all-in-one RPG adventure of futuristic cyberpunk action and intrigue. It’s 100+ pages in PDF format and available at DriveThruRPG right now for the somewhat remarkable price of FREE.
Additional posts and thoughts on A/N/N can be found at always-never-now.tumblr.com.
A/N/N is developed from adventures and characters my friends and I played years ago — and then brought out of retirement for one more mission in 2011. I retrofitted the adventure I wrote for that reunion and playtested it at conventions like Gen Con, Origins, and PAX until it was sharp enough to share. Then I invited artists Steven Sanders, Noah Bradley, and Craig S Grant to make it more handsome.
And today, at last, it’s ready for you to play.
If you find that you dig A/N/N and you’d like to thank me with dollars, please click the donate button on my website.
My friend Mikey is a brilliant writer, one of the kindest humans I’ve ever known, the Lord of Chili, the voice of Scooter, and just an amazing person. My life is better because he is in it, and I want teleporters right now so I can see him every day, since we live in different states.
Mikey also has MS, which is a real bitch of a thing to have. He never complains about it, and doesn’t even talk about it unless I bring it up, but it’s something he deals with.
Yesterday, Mikey made the mistake of looking at some YouTube comments, and got to feel the full-throated cruelty of the Internet Dickwagon Society. Some of these really brave and clever individuals attacked Mikey for having MS, and were just completely horrible human beings. I sincerely hope that they’re just clueless teenagers who haven’t fully developed their empathy yet, and don’t fully understand how cruel and hurtful they were. I hope that, someday, they will grow up and realize how cruel and hurtful they were, and make an effort to apologize and make amends.
So yesterday, when Mikey was getting attacked and hurt by strangers who would, in all likelihood never speak out loud the words they typed on their keyboards, a bunch of us who love him rallied to his side, and supported him. People like Felicia Day, Veronica Belmont, Max Temkin, Anthony Carboni and I reminded Mikey how much we love him, how incredible he is, and how worthless the Internet Hate Machine actually is.
But it was our friend Joel Watson who put into a few simple words the very best way to consider the value of Internet Dickwagons who are shitty to creative people online:
@mikeyface you make games and comics and books. They make comments.
— Joel Watson (@hijinksensue) May 3, 2013
For those of you who can’t see the embed above:
This is an important thing to keep in mind, for all creative people in the universe: the very act of creating is courageous. Making art requires empathy and a willingness to be vulnerable and naked before the world. Doing these things on the Internet means you’re exposing yourself to the very best and the very worst our species has to offer. Just remember, when someone is being a terrible monstrous awful cruel human being: you made a thing, and they made a comment.
I know you’ll end up reading this, Mikey: I love you. Team Wheaton loves you. You’re amazing, and since I’m cooler than those Internet Dickwagons, you have to listen to me and not them.
My weekend at Calgary Expo was just amazing. I didn’t think it could possibly get better than last year, when I got to spend a lot of time with my family from TNG for the first time in decades, but I was wrong. This was one of the most amazing weekends I have ever had at a convention, ever.
I’m still processing things like getting to meet Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey, finding out that they’re lovely people, and then being invited by them — twice — to join them for drinks. I’m still working out the reality that I kind of know Nathan Fillion, and when we see each other, we do things like this.
On Saturday, someone asked me during my panel to sum up my life in five words. I thought about it for a minute and replied: “I hope I never wake up.” (I hyphenated wake-up, even though it’s not technically correct. Don’t tell Andrew.)
So also during my panel, I was asked by a young woman to explain to her newborn daughter, Violet, why it was awesome to be a nerd. As it turns out, I’ve been having that conversation with my sons for their entire lives, so I spoke from the heart and told her.
I’m very lucky in that every now and then, I get to say something and people will listen to me. It’s an incredible gift from the great elder gods that I treasure, and respect, so I do my best to honour it when I get to use it. This video went pseudoviral yesterday while I was traveling home, so I suppose you could say that I got to be Dad of the Internet for a little bit, which is kind of neat.
This morning, reader LN sent me a link to this image, because it has Wesley Crusher holding his Sparks McGee hat. That alone would delight me, but the fact that the image goes so well with my talk on Saturday supports my belief that there really are no coincidences in this version of the timeline.
I always tell people that conventions are so wonderful, because you’ll be surrounded by people who love the same things you love, the way you love them. But that’s not entirely correct. You’re also surrounded by people who love things you don’t even know about, but you love your respective things in the same way, so you get to love your thing enthusiastically, completely, unironically, without fear of judgement.
In other words, you’ll be safe there, and I’m so grateful that I get to be part of that.
I woke up before the dogs this morning, opened my eyes to the blue/grey light of six am sliding though my blinds, and listened to birds singing in the yard.
Marlowe stretched and rolled over to rest against me. Watson jumped up into the bed and wrapped himself around my head, and Seamus snored at my feet. I lay there for a few minutes, soaking in the feeling of being in my own bed, in my own home, with my pets around me, knowing that I’m heading north of the wall tomorrow to sleep in a hotel for four nights. I can’t complain — I’m not staying with Craster — but I do love my house and all who live inside it ever so much.
I arched my back, felt my ribs crack and blinked sleep out of my eyes. I eased myself out of the bed so I wouldn’t wake anyone up, and walked into my kitchen, where I began to prepare my morning coffee. I’ve recently converted to the Chemex, and though it takes a little longer than the Aeropress, it’s worth the wait, and the ritual of the whole thing pleases me.
While I waited for the hot water to drip through the grounds, I heard footsteps in the hallway. Anne came out and said, “What are you doing?”
“Why are you awake?”
“I don’t know. I guess my body decided that it had all the sleep it needed … so here I am.”
Marlowe walked out, her little feet clicking against the floor, and joined us in the kitchen. She looked up at Anne and wagged her tail.
“Good morning, little Marlowe Bear,” Anne said, petting her. Marlowe wagged her tail faster.
I poured my coffee and took it into the dining room, where I had left my Deadlands Marshall’s Guide open last night. I picked up reading where I left off, coffee warming and waking me up.
Deadlands is a setting for Savage Worlds. It’s a “Weird West” setting where players live in an alternate version of 1879 America where the Civil War isn’t really over, but a cease fire holds, most of California has fallen into the ocean due to a great earthquake, and all kinds of weird and terrifying monsters roam the countryside. I’m going to start a Deadlands campaign for my group in a couple of weeks, and I’ve been preparing, figuring out what parts of the world interest me, where I think my friends would enjoy exploring, and what sort of big story I want to take them through over the next few months. It’s the first time I’ve run a campaign since the 80s, and I’d forgotten how much work goes into the whole thing. My brain is tired from all the information I’ve been cramming into it, and I feel a pleasing mental fatigue that I normally only experience when I’m working long hours on a movie or tv show.
My imagination has been working overtime as a result, and though I can’t remember any of my dreams, I wake every morning with an unsettled feeling, like a soft sort of dread from whatever Dreamlands I visited while I slept. It’s not unusual for me to have full-blown nightmares when I’m away from my own bed, and I must admit that I’m a little anxious about what waits for me in the dark Canadian nights of the next few days.
Anne went into the living room and Marlowe snuggled up against her on the couch. In our bedroom, I heard Seamus’ collar jingle as he woke up. Outside, the birds continued to sing. I sipped my coffee and turned the pages.
It’s cold for Los Angeles today, gloomy and even a little misty at time. I imagine that above the grey clouds and beyond the heavy mist that clings to the mountains, our universe is being constructed, much like the Deadlands that I’m building in my head.
Yesterday morning, Anne and I were walking Marlowe up the street, and both of us noticed a house that we’ve never seen before. This is strange, because we’ve lived here for years, and you’d expect us to know our own neighborhood, but there it was: a house that has clearly been here longer than we have, but that we’d somehow never noticed.
Now, it’s easy to understand why: we’re almost always looking at the house across the street from it when we walk or drive past, because we like the dogs who live there, or we’re looking at the house next door to it because it has a really nice yard with lots of plants and flowers.
But I thought it was way more fun to imagine that we never saw that house until yesterday because it wasn’t there until yesterday. It just showed up, because there was a glitch in the matrix, or because we walked though a membrane that separated two realities and ended up in one where the only difference that we’re aware of was that house … and why we’re even aware of the change, why we retained the memory of it not being there, the memory from the previous universe that should have not made it across the membrane, that’s where I think some kind of cool science fiction story could bloom.
Sometimes my brain does stuff like this, just takes something like “I never noticed that before,” and turns it into … well, that whole complicated thing.
I mean, think about it: I bet every single one of you has seen something that you were positive wasn’t there the day or hour or [unit of time] before, but holy shit there it is and surely it must have been there all along… right?
Or how about when you walk into a room looking for something, you see it, but when you blink and look again it isn’t there. It turns out the cat, which you’re positive looked at you and blinked its eyes and opened its mouth and everything was just a backpack. But that’s weird, because you know you saw the cat.
What’s that in the periphery of your vision? A person? Oh, no, it’s just a shadow or nothing at all. But you’re pretty goddamn sure you saw something, someone there a second ago.
I know that there are totally logical explanations for these things, but isn’t it more fun to imagine?
So with that in mind, keep reading:
A couple of years ago, I came across part of a recording called “Found on the Elevator”. It was just a few minutes of a recording from the future, that was archived on a record in the past. It was supposedly found in an elevator in New York City in 1969.
Here’s the way it was described: “This recording is an “unauthorized experiment” that was made in the year 2058 C.D.S. (Carbon Dating System), a “blue verbal data feed” sent backwards in time to “retro A.D.” by Decker, T. L., index J-3, CMR 00965 of T-Group Roaring Vectors 252, a human cyborg who suffers from a malfunctioning number nine electrode in his head which causes him to have an emotional breakdown as he records this message. It’s a secret message to a past world he has trouble imagining, a world of foreign substances like metal, plastic, animals, soldiers… a world all physical and “impossibly slow.”
It was really fantastic. It reminded me of a lot of the late night Joe Frank broadcasts I listened to in my 20s on KXLU or KCRW when I’d be driving around late at night, because I could.
For months, I scoured the Internet, looking for the rest of the recording, or more information about it. Mostly what I found were blogs and BBS posts form other people who were looking for the same thing, but no leads. I knew it was a work of fiction, a work of art, but I desperately wanted it to be real, so while I searched for the entire recording, I imagined the world that it came from. (I won’t tell you how it lives in my mind, because I don’t want to affect how it lives in yours, should you chose to create it for yourself.)
Eventually, I gave up the search and went back to looking at pictures of cats who want to buy boats, and forgot all about it.
Until last week.
Last week, my friend Mer RT’d a link from William Gibson that led to the entire first side of the record. It is just as amazing and wonderful as I always hoped it would be, and well worth the wait.
Now I just need to find a recording of Side Two…
I want to do a spinoff of Tabletop that is a season-long RPG show, with the same group of players and one campaign. I’m trying out different systems to see what I enjoy the most and what would work for the show. Last night we played Savage Worlds, and I really enjoyed it. I can’t imagine another system that would let us get in 5 satisfying combats in one session, and the thrill of exploding dice was really great (except when we were trying to subdue some bad guys, aced three times, and ended up killing them. Oops.)
My friend Martin ran it for us, in a post-apocalyptic setting he’s been working on for a long time. It says a lot about the system, I think, that he could just drop something into it that he developed entirely on his own and Savage Worlds supported it without any weird hacking.
My general impression of the system is positive, though I think using a wild card die with a d4 skill for a trait test is a little broken. We didn’t run the math, but it seems like it turns a lot of those trait tests, which should be very difficult to make since you only hit a success one in four times, into a little better than a coin flip. We talked about making a house rule that a d4 skill doesn’t get a wild die, but I need to do more research on it before I commit to the change.
We felt that the allies were a little overpowered, though I think we were running them wrong (I had 5 grunts with me, and instead of rolling once for them, I rolled 5 times, which I think was a mistake). Again, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a little tweaking to get better balance.
When I run Deadlands, I’m going to use a modified Zones system that John Rogers told me he lifted from Fate, which seems really great: an area is broken up into zones, and it costs one movement to go from one to another. If you’re in a zone with an enemy, you can melee, and you figure close/medium/long by counting zones between you and your target. Rogers told me that he puts each zone on an index card, and encourages his players to describe what each zone looks like (for example: in a nightclub, the stage is one zone, the tables another, then the bar, and the balcony. The players describe the area, so they’re building it in their imaginations and making it come to life). This lets you keep track of combat and gives a sense of spatial awareness without making it about minis on a map and counting squares, which I really don’t like. I don’t mind minis when I’m playing Warhammer, but otherwise, they just aren’t for me.
Overall, I liked it enough to play the system again, and I got enough of a handle on it as a player that I feel comfortable running it for my group next time we get together. I have an idea for a Deadlands campaign that should be pretty fun for everyone involved.
Boy, this week really got away from me, didn’t it?
I’m working on some of those exciting-but-secret projects I work on from time to time, and that means no brain cycles left to write the things I want to write.
So, rather than write nothing until I can write what I want to write, I will offer up a link to my friend Shane Nickerson’s podcast — helpfully titled The Nickercast — which includes me talking to Shane and his co-hosts for about 90 minutes. We discussed creativity, depression, Weird Internet Bullshit™, and how they all mash together to create the fabric of our lives.
Oh, and here’s a picture I took after a meeting at Geek and Sundry earlier this week. The cast of Learning Town was getting drunk for some reason.
Twitter is kind of a big deal to me. I (over)use it to stay connected with people that I am not near geographically. I use it to eke out little clarifying thoughts about my day and the way I work. I use it for jokes, for serious contemplative bits of text, for exchanges with people both known and unknown to me so I don’t feel quite so lonely at my desk all day. It helps me refine ideas down to morsels that can be terse, poetic, witty. I’ve been using it like a short-form diary for years. I love Twitter.
So when I finally got my Twitter archive feature activated, I was delighted. I wanted to go back in time and see how I’d changed, see what I’d forgotten, see if I could detect a difference in my writing from 2007 to now. I opened up my archive and dove in, expecting to see myself. In those tens of thousands of tweets, I discovered two things.
First, despite the migration of various comedic bits through my timeline, I haven’t changed that much as a writer.
Second, I needed help.
That’s not sass. I’m not being flip. I got a look at myself in a weird mirror and found lots of my tweeted messages came with tiny memories. Aspects of myself came into alarming focus. Much to my surprise, part of the secret was hidden in my hashtags.
I’m proud of my hashtags. Silly, maybe, but they’ve brought some amusement and some benefit to people I like, so I like my hashtags.
You might’ve seen #icmf, an acronym involving adult language, which serves as a space-saving intensifier. That’s probably the most popular model of hashtag to come out of this factory:
“Be safe and joyous where you are. See you in the future. #icmf” —Tweet from Dec 31, 2012
We also have #honkahonka, which is meant to represent the sad honking of a sad clown’s sad horn, indicating that a tweet which seems maybe sad is also funny, also a joke (except… maybe not a joke at all):
“Tomorrow’s an experiment in traveling light. (Except something something emotional baggage.) #honkahonka“ —Tweet from Oct 5, 2012
“There are no dues. There’s just the popularity of your current project. That’s all you are. #honkahonka“ —Tweet from Oct 19, 2012
And then there’s #hyperb, my hashtag for hyperbole, whether it’s blatant or insidious or serious or jokey. It’s good for those grandiose conclusions you draw from everyday little cues:
“It’s been a while since we used #hyperb. It’s been forever. All the days have passed since we used it last. We’ve never used it. Not ever.” —Tweet from July 2, 2012
“No one has ever understood how you feel. Not really. #hyperb“ —Tweet from Mar 13, 2012
When you want to post about how everything is the worst, that’s when you use #hyperb. When Twitter’s character count forces you to generalize comically, and you regret it, that’s when you use #hyperb. When you’re reminded, in the middle of the day, that you’ve ruined everything you’ve ever tried to improve because your touch is poison, that’s when you use #hyperb. When the dog starts barking and you realize that you’ll never get 10 solid minutes of writing time ever again or when you break a glass and panic because you’ll never be able to handle glass again without breaking it or when you realize that you have never and will never accomplish what you wanted to do to be the person you wanted to be or or or… that’s when I use #hyperb.
Except… not a lot of people use #hyperb. Why is that? Maybe your brain doesn’t make the leap so quickly from “I made a bad play” to “I lose every game” to “I am a total loser all that time at all things.”
Mine does, sometimes.
When I can’t sleep, I say to my wife, “I have never slept. I have never been asleep and may never sleep again.” It really irks her, I think. It irks me, too. For all that I like a good mantra or pithy quote, I’m not a big fan of generalizations. I love nuance and variety and plurality — I disappoint myself the most when I fail to embrace or uphold those ideals. My brain feeds me disappointments, though, with some frequency. One way it does it is through overgeneralization.
I’m not a doctor. As I understand it this kind of overgeneralization, this explosion of little ideas into big, desperate conclusions is symptomatic of the kind of depressive episodes I experience. If you experience depression, see an expert. I am not a doctor.
The awful certainty of things in the mind is what gets me. My brain’s got negativity down to something like muscle memory, intuitive and instinctive. I don’t always get worked up about these ideas; why would I? They’re simple as facts: water’s wet and I am a failure. Sky’s blue; I am not entitled to pride. Coffee’s great; I suck. I know better most of the time but there they are, frank as can be.
Depression tells me that everyone else knows things I don’t know about how to be happy. Depression tells me that I alone know the truth about my nature as an arrogant jerk. Depression tells me that everyone else is always able to detect what’s wrong with me and — individually and together — don’t tell me I’m not one of them because they don’t think I can handle it. Everyone, no one, always. #hyperb, #hyperb, #hyperb.
“No one has ever felt any of the things I have felt because I am uniquely and especially awful and you are not. #hyperb #honkahonka #icmf“ —Tweet from Jul 12, 2012
I don’t know if these thoughts ever go away for good. I’m on medication, I’ve done therapy, they’re still around. It’s not resolve or practice that keeps depression from getting to me. It does get to me. It probably always will. This isn’t something I expect to get past, really. It’s something I manage. It’s something I work through. It’s something I expect to wrestle with for the whole trip. That’s just the way it is. This is me.
Some people have chronic back pain. Some people have arthritis. My brain hurts. That’s just the way it is. It is okay to seek help and talk about our pain. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it.
My first instinct, seeing my tweets, was to hide. “Everyone can see you,” I thought, “so you’d better do better at faking normalcy and quick.” What a shit notion that is — normalcy. I can get behind the idea of being healthy, though, and I’m unconvinced that hiding my pain is going to make me, or anyone else, healthier. This is me.
I’m not changing the way I write on Twitter. Sometimes — sometimes — I find that writing helps soften the pain. Even if it doesn’t, I try. I used to do it because I wanted to talk about my pain more than I felt comfortable doing it. I do it from here on out because I want it to be okay to talk and write about this stuff, for me, for you, for anyone who’s in pain. I want you to know that you’re not alone.
So, yes, sometimes my tweeter feed is a glum bummer. We’ve known that for a long time. So it goes. This is me.
This post was supposed to be about Planet Comicon this weekend, but it ended up being about something different.
When I was 20, I grabbed the yoke of my life and yanked it in an entirely unexpected direction. I was frustrated with everything about myself, unhappy, confused, and only certain of one thing: I didn’t like the person I saw when I looked in the mirror.
After meeting a the people who were NewTek during a Christmas party in 1991 or 1992, I felt inspired by their efforts to fundamentally change the way television was made with the Video Toaster. See, in those days, if you wanted to make anything to put on television, it was insanely expensive, and profoundly complicated. Someone who wanted to make a show or even a short film needed tens of thousands of dollars and an experienced editor who could help them work with huge, complex, expensive machines. And there was no such thing as digital.
The Video Toaster was hardware and software that could, for about five grand, put the same tools professionals used — at a cost ten times greater — into the hands of regular, creative people. It was amazing, and it thrilled me to be part of what we knew was a fundamentally changing who was allowed to make television. We did that, but until there was online video streaming, the revolution never actually happened. I left the company when I was 22ish, and returned to Los Angeles to complete my Jedi training. Soon after, NewTek fractured, and I lost touch with the people I worked with for those years. I think about them often, and what an important influence they were on me.
It was a tumultuous time in my life. I was angry at a lot of things the way a young person who is trying desperately to get the XP necessary to level up to adult is, but I like to think that I had some of the self-awareness needed to work on changing who I was so I could get on the path to who I am.
During those years, I flew in and out of Kansas City International Airport (MCI) a lot. Like, three times a month a lot. It was something like a two hour drive from Topeka (where we lived and worked for NewTek), on a highway that just kept going and going and going and. It was not a drive I looked forward to making, but the world was at the end of it, and knowing that kept me going.
This weekend was the first time I’ve been in that airport since 1993, and it didn’t seem to have changed at all. On my way out of the airport, I looked back across almost 20 years of memory and saw the garage where I parked my car whenever I was there, and a flood of memories nearly drowned me. It was a tumultuous time, as I said, but it was also, on balance, a very good time. I’ll write about some of my memories one day, when I can sort them all out.
I don’t know how my life would have turned out if I hadn’t lived in Topeka and worked for NewTek when I did. I don’t know who I would be or where I would be if I hadn’t turned off the autopilot of my life and learned to fly while I was already in the air, during a thunderstorm … but I’m glad the flight path I took ended up eventually landing me back in Kansas City this weekend.
I have a lot of memories to visit and process.
WARNING: FEELS AHEAD.
This was submitted to As Seen On Tabletop:
When I first heard about International Tabletop Day, I was very excited. Every day I typed the postcode of my nearest city into the page and was thrilled when I found an event listed. Growing up in regional Australia meant that I wasn’t exposed to gamer culture growing up – as an adult living in a city means there are opportunities to find other like-minded people and to share the joy of gaming with friends and family.
But when the date drew near I realised that International Tabletop Day was on Holy Saturday. I couldn’t attend the big function I was so excited about. The Easter Holidays have always been spent at my parent’s house in a small coastal town. And this Easter was going to be a particularly difficult one. My father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in December, just before Christmas He was only in his early 60’s, and seemed healthy. His death has devastated our family, especially my mother. She has really struggled to come to terms with his death. There have been a lot of challenges in the past few months, especially with my younger sister leaving for a semester studying abroad in America just three weeks after Dad’s funeral. So this Easter would not only be spent without Dad, but without my sister as well.
The rest of the family all headed down to Mum’s house for Easter. I wondered what could be done to make it less of a gloomy occasion. Inspiration struck – International Tabletop Day could still be marked. After dinner everyone sat around the dining room table and played Fluxx. It was suitably chaotic (I was the only person who had played Fluxx before) but soon everyone was laughing and groaning when the rules got more and more complex. Even though Mum had never played the game before, she won every game but two. I hadn’t seen her laugh so much or so hard since before Dad died. It helped bring everyone together for something joyous, a fitting was to pass the Vigil before the joys of Easter Day.
So thank you, International Tabletop Day, for helping make our first Easter without Dad that little bit easier.
Stories like this just keep coming in, from all over the world, and I honestly don’t know how to fully process them. At the moment, all I can do is smile, weep joyfully a little bit, and feel immense gratitude to all the people who helped make Tabletop Day happen.
I went through my Tumblr queue this morning, and approved over 325 submissions from people who did things on Tabletop Day to As Seen On Tabletop.
This is a lovely note I got from an anonymous Tabletop Day participant. It made my heart grow three sizes, so I wanted to share it.
Keep an eye on Seen on Tabletop for the next couple of weeks. There are a lot of great stories and pictures in the queue that will hopefully inspire you to play more games.
You’ll have to make your own Doctor Hannah, however. I suggest crumpling up some foil and stomping on it.
I was talking with my pal and Tabletop Day Super Make It All Happen Guy, Boyan, a bit earlier today, about what people will get when they go to one of their Friendly Local Gameshops to play games on Tabletop Day this Saturday.
Here’s what he sent me:
7 WONDERS — Catan Civilization Board
BELFORT — Promo cards
CASTLE PANIC — Multi-color Hero promo card
D&D — Drizzt promo card
DIXIT — Dragon promo card
DOMINION — Promo cards
ELDER SIGN — Promo card
EVIL BABY ORPHANAGE — Promo cards
FLUXX — Promo card assortment bundle
GLOOM — TableTop Day promo pack
MAGIC — Free Magic: the Gathering Cards
MAYFAIR — A whole sheet of promo tiles
MUNCHKIN — Killer bookmark
RESISTANCE — FULL GAME & promo card set
SPARTACUS — Promo card
SPOT IT — Spot It promo pack
TSURO — Tsuro of the Seas promo tiles
Some of you may be asking yourselves, “How do I get all this awesome free stuff?”
Easy! You just go to www.tabletopday.com and search events that have stars as their icons. These are stores that are guaranteed to have the #TableTopDay retail launch kit. Stores that are listed with a playing card icon may have them, but it’s not guaranteed. We’re not sure how each store will decide to give away their various promotional items, but I’m fairly certain it will involve some sort of gaming experience.
What’s that? You want even more awesome stuff? Okay, how about a TabletopDay bundle from DriveThru RPG, that’s an entirely free set of RPG PDFs that includes quickstart rules for A Song of Ice And Fire RPG, Brass & Steel, Leverage RPG, Savage Worlds, D&D 4th Edition, and Mistborn? Or maybe you’d be interested in playing ACTION CASTLE, the first adventure in the Parsely system!
There’s a ton of free stuff and it’s all free to celebrate Tabletop Day. Also, it’s free. Because we love you. Also, don’t forget to download, print, paste, and cut out your very own stand-up me and Tabletop Trophy Of Awesome!
I have to say thank you to all the publishers who got on board with us, and are giving these amazing things to our fellow gamers, and to all my fellow gamers out there who are participating in something that’s so huge and epic, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it.
This is going to be so freaking great, you guys. Until TableTop Day … PLAY MORE GAMES!
I really wanted something like this to be part of Tabletop Day, so I commissioned these awesome print-and-paste-and-cutouts from my friend Lar Desouza (of Least I Could Do and Looking For Group fame, among other things).
These images are released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 3.0 license, so feel free to print them out, share them with people, and most of all … take pictures of them in action and submit to As Seen On Tabletop!
Finally! I can announce that Season Two of Tabletop will premiere on April fourth! I’ve wanted to talk about this for months, but I couldn’t, because of reasons.
But now we can talk about it, so…
We have some amazing guests this season, including Jeri Ryan, Seth Green, Bobak Ferdowsi, Ashley Clements, Patrick Rothfuss, and my son, Ryan Wheaton.
We have some amazing games this season, including Smash Up, Star Trek Catan, Shadows Over Camelot, Lords of Waterdeep, and The Resistance!
Back in January, I wrote a post called Thinking About Tabletop. It turns out that everything I want to say today, I already said then. So, take it away, me from a few months ago:
About a year ago, I finished shooting the first season of my show Tabletop, and had a few weeks off before we began editing the games we played into hopefully entertaining television.
I don’t remember what I did during those weeks — probably slept a whole lot — but when we got into editing, I clearly remember how terrified I was that the show wouldn’t work. The first cut of the first episode was (following my direction) too long, tough to follow, and just not as interesting as I wanted it to be. Luckily, Felicia Day was in the edit bay with me, and she knew exactly how to fix it. She gave notes and advice to the editor (who was amazing), and when we came back two days later to watch the second cut, it was an entirely different show. It was funny, it was entertaining, it captured how much fun it was to play the game. It was what I had always hoped Tabletop would be.
For the next few weeks, we cut the entire season, three episodes at a time, with three amazing and talented editors. By the time we got to the end of everything, we almost knew what we were doing!
As we got closer and closer to the premiere, I kept looking for the familiar nervous anxiety about how people would react, but it wasn’t ever there. I believed in the show in a way I’d never really been able to believe in myself, and I just wanted to share it with the world.
Tabletop’s premiere was a huge success that exceeded my wildest dreams. I think we got close to half a million views almost immediately, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. My friend John Rogers says that you should expect comments to be weighted 3:1 in favor of people hating on a thing, because someone who loves a thing goes “I loved that! I guess I’ll go back to my life now!” instead of going “I loved that! NOW I WILL ENGAGE ALL CAPS TO TELL THE PERSON WHO MADE IT HOW MUCH I LOVED IT.” Even with that adjustment, we were at like 10:1 positives to negatives.
As the season unfolded, I began to hear from game shop owners. When we played a game on Tabletop, it sold out. I heard from designers that when we played their games, they sold thousands and thousands of them. I heard from a distributor that one of the games we played sold out and had to go into a new printing — they thought 30,000 copies of the game would be enough, and they were wrong.
But the most amazing thing, that I didn’t even expect or think about even a little bit, were the personal stories from people who had been inspired to start up their own game nights with their friends and families because of Tabletop. One father told me that his tween kids spent every evening in front of their own computers or televisions, and after dinner he pretty much didn’t see his family until breakfast. But after watching Tabletop together, the kids were inspired to start a family game night. Tabletop, he told me, literally brought his family closer together.
There are dozens of parents of special needs children who have emailed me or talked to me at conventions, thanking me for giving them something that helps their children.
I even heard from a guy who felt like his marriage was drifting apart until he watched Tabletop with his wife and they started playing games together.
My ulterior motive with this show has always been to make more gamers by showing how much fun it is to play games, and I’m pretty confident that I can declare that effort an unqualified success.
Tabletop means more to me than I ever thought it would, and the community that has grown around it makes me incredibly proud, but I didn’t do Tabletop alone. We had an incredible crew who could film people playing games in a visually interesting way. We had an incredible director who kept us together and focused on what was important. We had friends who came to play with me just because I asked, and game publishers who took a chance on our show without knowing exactly what it would end up being. I had an incredible creative partner in Felicia Day. I had a tremendously talented team of producers who pulled together an equally talented team of editors, who are the true unsung heroes of this entire effort.
And then there’s the community, which is as much a part of the success of Tabletop as anything. Whether you’re posting in the Geek and Sundry forums, sharing your stories and pictures on the Seen on Tabletop Tumblr I made, talking about games we played at Board Game Geek, or actually playing games with people who are important to you, you’re part of something wonderful.
And speaking of wonderful things, we’re working really hard to make International Tabletop Day the best celebration possible of the tabletop gaming culture we love. At the moment, there are 2,250 events in 55 countries, and more people are joining and adding their own every day. I want to point out that a few hundred events would be considered an epic success by any measurement, and a thousand events was something we never dreamed would happen — in a year or two, sure, but right away? No way. The point is, you, the Tabletop audience, my fellow gamers, my fellow geekdads and gamerdads and geekmoms and gamermoms … your enthusiasm and joy of gaming has built a truly global community. We are all part of something amazing, now, and I hope you feel as good about it as I do.
I really excited for you to see Season Two, and I hope we live up to your expectations.
Trust me when I say that this wouldn’t have happened without you … so thank you for watching, and until next time, play more games.
I know this is not an original idea, but I don’t care, because I am easily amused and it was lots of fun to take these pictures while we were at Walt Disney World.