This week's inspiration: "This is America" - Childish Gambino

Donald Glover is one of the rare celebrities that makes me feel like I've been "growing up" alongside him. In college I loved his Derrick Comedy sketches, in my post-college-but-c'mon-I-was-still-a-kid days I loved him on Community, and now heading into my (more-)adult years I love... well, everything he's doing right now.

I saw this video on Saturday night and it's been worming its way through my brain ever since - Not just because of the catchy hooks and infectious beats (though it's got those too), but because of how bold, raw, and personal it is. The fact that he's on such a global platform right now and he's using it to be fearless and incendiary is so inspiring. 

Thanks Childish. Can't wait for that album this summer.

Stirpe's Spring Social Media Cleanse

I had too many mornings in a row where I'd pull my phone out from under my pillow, flip to Twitter, and immediately begin feeling stressed and miserable. Politics. Pop culture hot takes. All of it spewing at me from the literal hundreds of people I was following. At first I tried to cull my follow list. Mute anyone talking about things that stressed me out. But soon I realized that the source of stress wasn't linked to the topic being discussed - It was just straight-up, 100%, linked to being exposed to all that talking and thought-traffic at once. I'm ultimately a pretty solitary and reclusive person - I don't do parties, and I've had more than my fair share of crowd-induced panic attacks - and I'm starting to realize that Twitter is the psychological equivalent of standing in Shibuya Square during commute hour.

 Pictured: Twitter at 9:30 am

Pictured: Twitter at 9:30 am

Add on top of it that these days I have no idea what to even use social media for. With Minecraft: Story Mode wrapped up and my next Telltale project still way off from being announced I don't have anything to promote, I'm not someone who enjoys spewing advice for people.... I was basically just using Twitter to be silly occasionally and pretend that I wasn't getting stressed out by all the other stuff.

So I decided to ditch it all. Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter - I deleted the apps off my phone, installed blockers on my web browsers... and I think it's been helping my mental state. I've been noticing less anxiety and less depression with my morning coffee, which has been great. No idea if I'll keep it up permanently or just for a few months, but I'm very happy with the decision so far. The one app I've made an exception for is Instagram, because that one was still consistently giving me a more positive experience. I started following a bunch of fashion and design accounts, so now I can scroll through there and just see a combination of fashionable clothes, cool design, and my friends posting nice pictures. You can stay, Instagram. For now.

Weirdly the thing that I've enjoyed getting away from the most is pop culture chatter. The last two years has been a steadily escalating cycle of "people excited for a movie/people dissecting the movie/people discussing other people's dissection of the movie/wash-rinse-repeat until the next movie came out" and it wasn't until I stepped away that I realized just how sick of it I was. I blame Star Wars I think? Or the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Walt Disney Company is definitely in there somewhere though.

So anyway. Yeah. If you've wondered why I've been quiet "on the socials" lately that's why. I could've probably just let it lie and not post a blog post about it, but at the end of the day I guess I'm still enough of a narcissist (hello, my fellow millennials) that I think people would care. I'm okay with it though.

Cheers everyone! Happy Wednesday!

Throwback: "Minecraft: Story Mode Season 2" Comedy Style Guide

When we were in the planning and preproduction phase of writing Minecraft: Story Mode Season 2 I wrote up a document detailing some of the stylistic guidelines for how to write the characters, what kind of language was appropriate, etc. One of the sections that I spent the most time on was a section titled "On Comedy," which I thought might be fun to share below - It's a combo of thoughts on comedy specific to the MCSM universe, as well as some of my thoughts about interactive comedy on the whole. Hope you enjoy!

Comedy is an inherent part of MCSM, but the tone can be a little tricky for some folks to nail right away, which is why I wanted to do a section about Comedy in Minecraft: Story Mode --

Oh gross. Like a “How to Jokes” section?

Not exactly, but a section about some of the best practices for comedy when writing Minecraft: Story Mode. See, in a movie or TV show you could just pack every possible second full of gags, wordplay, etc. but in an interactive game it starts to feel like you’re just “along for the ride” if it’s a never-ending spree of jokes.

For example, imagine the player chooses to say “I want to go into the spooky house.”

JESSE: Come on everyone. Let’s go get up in that spooky house’s business.
IVOR: Ohh I know all about the spooky house business. Back when I was a real estate agent they were my speciality.

The player choosing to say “I want to go into the spooky house” became the setup for a funny line from Ivor which could probably get a laugh, but it kind of took the player’s input hostage. They hit a single button expecting to go to the spooky house but instead got an entire conversation between two NPCs. (A funny conversation, but not exactly what they were expecting from that button press.)

So what should you do instead?

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Spring is, well, springing I guess.

It has been a very full start to the year so far.

After months of stress about giving a talk, GDC 2018 has come and gone. People tell me the talk was a success, so that's really nice because, man, I was nervous. My memories of the whole thing are hazy, but it felt especially good at the Monday session - That was for the Narrative Summit so we had a great crowd that was at GDC specifically for that kind of narrative-focused talk. Should be getting the video from that within the next week or so, which will be fun to see and share with the rest of the Internet At Large.

GDC was such a funny experience. It was my first one I've attended (I know, weird) and it was nuts to go to restaurants and hear nothing but game-related conversations. I was hit really hard by imposter syndrome the whole time - Especially when talking to students or young people who wanted to know more about "breaking in" to the industry. This year marks my 7th year as a professional writer, but only the last 4.5-ish years have spent writing video games... and all of that experience has been exclusively at Telltale, so I don't feel like I've had the kind of "career" that the folks I look up to have had.

It doesn't help that the video game industry is changing so rapidly. Like store-bought guacamole that turns brown before you get it home, it feels like my advice or knowledge is out of date in the time it takes me to say it. The in-roads and paths into the industry are shifting constantly and it seems like no one "breaks in" in the same way twice. It reminds me of how I recently heard that more and more kids in school are declaring "Twitch streamer" as their dream jobs - Twitch didn't even exist a few years ago, who knows if it'll still be around by the time they graduate.

Just like the people streaming things on Twitch had no idea a few years ago that's what they'd be doing professionally, most of the people I know in the game industry kind of fell into it by accident. I think that's where a lot of my imposter syndrome takes root. I talk to these 17-, 18-, 20-year olds who want to be in the video game industry - who want to go from where they are to where I am - and I don't know how to draw that map for them because I was never a 17-, 18-, 20-year old trying to get into games. When I was those ages, I was trying to figure out how to make a living writing cartoons. My time in the career industry has been mostly spent trying to rapidly learn as much as possible, as fast as possible.

That's been especially true lately. In the last 4.5 years at Telltale I've helped write and make a very particular kind of content. Gotten pretty good at it too, if I do say so myself. Over the 6 or 7 projects I worked on we pushed and pulled the format a little bit, but were never allowed to move too far away from the core "Telltale Formula." For this latest project though? I'm not gonna say we're throwing out the entire playbook, but we are throwing out a LOT of preconceptions and "rules" that have accumulated at TTG over the last half-decade. It's super exciting, but also pretty stressful trying to ingest so much new knowledge (both technical and game-design-philosophical) so rapidly. That's all I'm going to say on the matter for now because I don't want to get in trouble... but I'm excited to share it with the world eventually.

Also under the category of "exciting... but stressful" is a certain big day I have coming up in June. I knew that planning a wedding would be a lot to take on, but I seriously underestimated just how much stress it would introduce into my life. The big things you hear about ("We need a venue!" "We need a caterer!" "Everything's so expensive!") and I had thus been prepared for them by a lifetime of watching movies and sitcoms. What I hadn't been prepared for were the million and one smaller things that threaten to fall through the cracks every day: "What will my groomsmen wear?" "What kind of wedding band do you want?" "What will the dessert sit on?" "Where will we find the frames to make chalkboard signs showing guests the schedule?" Molly has been utterly amazing in having a vision for how she wants this thing to look, but I'm trying to hold up as much as I can on my end too... definitely tough but I think we're keeping it together. (I've also got my fingers crossed that a few things come through that help pay for the dang thing.)

So... yeah that's my 2018 so far in a nutshell. Thought it would be fun to write some of this up as winter comes to a close and we move into summer. Self-indulgent? Sure. But you're the one that came to a website with an address of [myname] dot com. If you're still here, thanks for reading.