Teaching myself game design from the ground up.

On Persistence and Consistency

I’ve been doing a lot lately, and little of it has to do with games.  Speaking at conferences.  Strengthening my programming by learning design patterns and accepting test writing as a way of life. And it’s all been great but in the back of my head, and when I’m drunk at parties, all I want to do is talk about making games.  It’s summer, so I don’t care much for looking at screens, and I do plenty of that at work anyways, but still when I’m outside I’m thinking of the games I want to be making.

So I sat down and collected everything I’d ever written down about my dream point-n-click game.  I put them all together, organized into google drive, and I talked to a musician and an artist about assets for a demo.  My goal is a demo by the end of summer (in this heat wave I might get a free extension).  This post is about that process of getting the fuck back up.

I can’t find a link, but somewhere in the depth of the internet (because that makes it true), I found some quote about how saying you are going to do something gives you this tiny boost of accomplished vibes as if you did the thing.  That little boost can be satisfying and keep you from actually doing whatever you intended to do.  I read that and sat on it for a while and decided to try it.  I wanted to give up soda (it’s free at work because tech start ups) so one day I just decided I would stop but I wouldn’t tell anyone I was stopping.  And it worked, it’s been a few months.  Then someone at work left to pursue their dreams, this person would wake up before work and work on game dev.  I was in awe.  I tried to wake up before work, even just an hour before, to mimic that willpower.  I used to wake up before dawn for a previous job, so I thought I had it in me.  I do not have it in me.  I can quit soda but I can’t wake up earlier than I need to, because it is can be easier to get rid of habits than it is to create new ones.

I got a special notebook to help me plan when I was going to work on what part of the game.  I started by putting in goals I’d never achieve, like the waking up early.  Then I stopped and slowed down.  The notebook had cheesy questions about my goals and how to reframe approaching them.  I started with smaller goals, like combining all of my work in one place.  I included accomplishments related to tech but not directly related to work (like speaking at conferences).  I’m still only a few pages in, and I skip some weeks. I don’t have a great routine for a notebook so dedicated to routines.  Sometimes I get on tool tangents. I put all my docs in Google Drive but what if it isn’t the best way to organize my thoughts?  I looked at Wordly and Trello and Jira and all of the tools I had encountered that might help but then I just had to stop.  I had this notebook. I had google drive.  I had Unity and the assets I wanted to create the game I wanted, and there was a stack of tutorials if I didn’t know how to do something.  I needed to stop looking for more tools to invest in and start investing in my work.

So I had all of these notes and an asset list and semi written puzzles and a few characters without names and some vague locations and then I freaked out because it has been years of wanting to make this game and I had so little to show for it.  Everything felt big and overwhelming once I saw how many holes I needed to fill in the story, in the game.  I started reading articles on how to write a game design document, how to write a game, how to get past this impostor syndrome.  I read a piece about ux versus game design, which helped me look at game design as a less foreign challenge and more of a fun activity again.  I read somewhere (probably gamasutra) that I needed to start with the world and the locations.  Write about the world.  Something clicked in the back of my head.  Before going into game design I was all about writing, I can see the decay in my writing since abandoning it.  Anyways, sometimes for writing you would just write a scene, then add characters and see how they interact.  I realized if I wanted to make this game I needed to write.  So I filled my notebook with goals about writing and it felt like a funny awkward reunion with an ex.  I’ve written a few scenes out and it is a start, and I have a long ways to go.

I hope I keep tracking my progress in here, and I hope I stick to my goal and I’m the only one that can make that happen.


Hungry Hungry Homos, a Queer Board Game Jam

So, I’m not much for organizing events, but there’s been a lot of talk in my local game dev community about women and queer inclusivity.  So as a result I’m helping put on a queer board game jam for creating new and queering exist board games.  I’ll post photos/real thoughts on the intersection of game dev and queers once the event actually happens.


Recently playing: King of Kong, Set, Sequence.

Little Things

– Newer version of queertastrophe is in the chrome store (free duh).

– Messing with raspberry pi’s to run arcade machines.  Not a lot of progress but it also isn’t that hard (although I’d like to learn more about circuits + setting up buttons on a breadboard, it’s a little too much for me to take on seriously right now)

– Been playing hella card games (gloom, boss monster, set), and a few board games (small world).

– Trying to read about UX to understand menus/interactions and layout better.  It’s new territory for me.

ImageSo last week I made a board game template, which was kind of a nice break from not-coding because I’m busy procrastinating on a different project.  So, there’s this community called SMYRC (Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center) and it’s basically a safe place for queer kids to hang out (high school age) and meet other gaybies.  I used to go, and there was an alumni meeting recently of all the youth from when I used to go (like a big gay high school reunion).  Anyways, I wanted to bring something to this reunion that we could give to the youth to build off of.  One of my biggest complaints about the queer community is how challenging it can be to feel connected across generations.  It isn’t like gay parents can give their gay babies a sense of gay tradition.  I’ve heard some Imageamazing stories from older queers about the politics of being gay in the in the past and it just brings a broader sense of community to being queer.  

So, longer story shorter, I made a board game template.  I made blank cards, decided that the cards had to be something anecdotal with a “move forward or backwards x spaces”.  The photos are too tiny to really read, but these say things like “Out of Coffee, skip turn”, “Get run over by pride float, move back 3 spaces”, “You’re baking cookies. There’s are no eggs and no milk or butter.  Use avocado and applesauce like a boss.  Forward 5 spaces”, and “Pierced yourself with a safety pin (and it gets infected). Move back 3 spaces”.   It brought up a lot of great stories and was a really fun bonding experience since most of us were awkward art kids in the first place. 

I also made a blank board based off of their logo.  There are a couple alternative paths, but one is


clearly shorter than the rest.  The rules I printed were basically “The person with the most glitter on goes first.  Pick a card to see how far you move.  Everyone is a winner but the game ends when you age out.”  (Aging out means being too old to be considered a youth anymore by smyrc’s standards).  I’m really glad I made this project, even though I didn’t actually get to play it in the end.  I hope to visit it in a few months to see what the youth have added, I’ll post photos when that happens.


More Game Jams

So I’m more-or-less convinced that I am as done with Queertastrophe as I can be.  I need to upload a new version and tweak a few bugs/add music, but I’m in the ending stages of things and more than ready to move on.  Spent the last week working on a team for Game Boy Game Jam which was fun, but I’m new to team work, and newer to being the programmer on the team which is hard.  I taught myself programming so I could make the games I think up, not other people’s ideas, even though I’m still new to programming and should take every opportunity as a chance to learn more.  We didn’t finish the game in time (concept: You are a kidnapped princess, 100 days till wedding the king who nabbed you, and you gotta convince him you aren’t his type), but agreed to work on it in the following months because most of the assets are in place.  It was originally a flip on the dating-sim genre, and I was really into the concept of experience points in relationships for saying the right/wrong things (because that’s life).  The game keeps some of that core concept but moves away from it more than I expected it to when we first brainstormed, but I guess that’s how game jams + team work goes.

Trying to brainstorm up a site so this blog can live nested in even more pages with projects I’ve done and whatnot, I’m hoping the winter will be slow enough for me to focus some time on web design.

Game Jam

Did a 48 hour game jam with indiespeedrun.  It went like every jam goes:

1. Come up with elaborate idea
2. Fail at said idea
3. Plan B.

So here’s plan B, art was done by my neighbor who showed up at 2am to say hi and stayed till 8am.

I learned about the restraints of Construct and by recommendation, the next tool I’m going to mess with is Flixel which makes the games in flash.

In other news the Stump Fest Game Quest is in a week and I need to finish draft 2 of Queertastrophe so it can be done and I can move on with life and new projects.  It has a good chance of being done in time if I can solve some hardware issues (thank goodness I have nerdy helpful friends).  I’m a little burnt out on all of the game events (retro gaming expo is this weekend also, I might drop by if I drink enough coffee before hand).  I have enough time in my life to make games, but it’s hard to have enough time to make games and go to game events.

Just played Betrayal at House on Haunted Hill and it was rad.

Just read Ready Player One and it’s sooo good.

One Year!

I’ve had this barely used blog for a year now!  Time sure flies.  Things I’ve learned:


– Basic 3d modeling concepts and how to semi-navigate the complicated worlds of Unity and Maya (and slightly less complicated Google SketchUp)

-The beauty of pixel art and how hard it is to set up pixel art in photoshop with a tablet.

-Game Maker’s mechanics and the downfalls that come with being easy

– Construct 2’s weird ways of wording things

– The basic concepts of C++ and how to talk like a programmer instead of an English major

– A million theories of game creation, games in education, gaming communities, so much theory.

– How to build an arcade machine and game from scratch and then not know what to do with it

– How rad the game dev community is in comparison with other artistic communities (sorry writing groups)

– Formal education in game dev vs. diy education, pros and cons of each

– The whims of gaming media

– The joy of steam sales/the privilege problem of having too many games to play

– How badly I want to queer this shit up and see it queered at a faster pace.


I went to PAX on a whim.  I had the money for a ticket at the last minute, I could take the time off work, a free place to crash, and I had friends going.  And I guess my biggest beef with PAX is that other folks I’d like to see at PAX (more minorities) don’t have the privilege that I have to afford a ticket/crashpad/travel.  And it sucks, because the panel about diversity wasn’t very diverse, and the gender panels I went to were interesting but not inspiring.  The speakers were all great, I gained some fresh perspectives, but I was still bummed about being one of the very few visibly queer women in all of PAX.  Granted, queer comes in all shapes and sizes, but PAX doesn’t.

tough decisions

So I’ve got a couple weeks before the SF Gay Game Convention (GaymerX).  And even though I have the days off from work I don’t think I’m going to go.  And that’s ok.  The machine is looking pretty good, I got it back from my artist friend who made it really look slick.



My to do list is still huge.  I have a lot to do hardware wise (re-attach the door, clean up and strip down the computer tower I’m going to use, put in the button and controller, make a latch for the door, etc etc).  And I have a lot to do game-wise (a couple of sprites to make, rounds to implement, steepen the curve of the first few levels, interactive intro level, etc).  And if I did go to this con I have to figure out the logistics of the trip (finding a car that I can afford, a place to stay, people to hang out with).  I’d be going alone with an arcade machine which is a lot of work, and it would be a very expensive weekend considering the only thing I’m expecting to get out of it is warm-fuzzies.

So it isn’t the easiest decision, since it’s the first gay gaming convention and it has one of my favorite queer game designers (Anna Anthropy), but I have more work than I have time in the day and I don’t want me favorite hobby to stress me out.  So unless the stars align and everything works itself out for me (minus the, like, actual arcade work) then I think I’ll stay home and get ready for the next arcade event which is in Portland in a few months.


I feel like all of my posts are about motivation.  I’ve been losing steam.  The arcade is getting painted, but I have the parts I need to continue to improve the game and I haven’t been.  Made some extra sprites of the folks who helped me in the rebuilding stage, but I have less than a month to get the game itself in better shape.  My hurdle is user interface, I understand what bad design looks like, I just can’t figure out the best design for the main menu.  The version I first had, a lot of people skipped the instructions immediately because they pressed the start button right away before registering that the instructions were there.  They kept trying to press the button to get drinks, there weren’t enough visual and audible clues that they were holding a drink because the graphics were so small.  I feel like adding the button should be a part of the game since it was what so many folks did intuitively.  I sort of feel like the hotties you bring drinks to should have “personal bubbles” like faded/transparent circles to show when you are close enough to press the button to deliver a drink.  But I don’t want to help the user too much, I love figuring things out in games (show don’t tell) but those games are usually made by folks with more experience in design.  It’s hard to find a balance, especially with such an unfamiliar genre to me – arcade games.  I dont remember many arcade games to have instructions at all, and even though I use a pixelated style it’s flatter than most arcade games I’ve played.  I think it’s really close, but I want to strive to make it the best since it goes to sf in a month!  And I need to find a place to crash…. oops.