John’s GenCon Schedule

GenCon is one of my favorite times of year, because it’s when I get to see the majority of my friends in one place for a few days, usually on or near my birthday. This year, however, my birthday already passed (it was yesterday), GenCon isn’t for another week, and many of my friends aren’t attending.

But this is all okay. I’ve got plenty to do, and plenty of opportunities to make some awesome things happen.

The Industry Insider program is one of those things I’ve pursued for years, and had always found it outside my grasp, leading me to make up a variety of reasons for my missing out – ranging from “they wouldn’t know what to do with my awesomeness” to “I wonder if they think I have cooties.” I’m very happy to announce that this year I have been selected as an Industry Insider and am fortunate enough to speak about two of my favorite topics: editing and motivation.

So let’s see what’s going on:

THURSDAY

So You’re Making Your First Game 10:00 AM- 12:00PM
Crowne Plaza :: Victoria Stn A 

This is one of my all-time favorite panels to do, because it arms new designers with the same toolbox I used to produce Noir World. This panel makes me super happy.  Ideally, this panel is done with Mark Richardson, who I will absolutely delight in tormenting while we discuss game development.

So You Want to Get Into the Industry 3:00 PM-4:00PM 1 hrs
Location: Crowne Plaza :: Conrail Stn 

This is the companion panel to the one above (at one point I wanted to do these back-to-back in the same room over the course of like 4 hours and make a crash course of it), and this shifts the focus out of specific game development and into being a freelancer available for any kind of industry work.  This panel works best when there are a lot of questions asked by an eager audience, and I’m hopeful that trend continues this year.

Breaking Into Game Design ICC 244 4:00PM – 5:00PM

Want to watch me hustle from one hotel to the next? Here’s your chance because this panel (my first Industry Insider panel) is going condense a lot of the stuff in the previous panels to a much larger audience, turning Thursday into a mini-Metatopia for interested attendees.

Creating A Bulletproof Rulebook ICC 244 6:00-7:00PM

Thursday wraps up with what I hope is the crunchiest panel of the day, because I really do want to get specific about things like construction and language.  Bonus points if you ask if I’ve had dinner yet.

FRIDAY

Mental Health and Gaming 2017 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM 1 hrs
Location: Crowne Plaza :: Pennsylvania Stn B 

This panel is dear to me, because it’s a chance to speak truth to stigma, and as tough as this panel can be for me emotionally, it’s worth it.

Writing Scenarios, Settings, & Campaigns That Kick @$$ 1:00 PM – 2:00PM 1 hrs Location: Crowne Plaza :: Victoria Stn C/D 

The first thing I noticed when they approved this panel was that they let me get away with the pseudo-curse @$$, because I didn’t think “Writing Not-Shitty Scenarios, Settings, and Fucking Campaigns” would fly. The second thing I noticed is that they gave me two rooms for it. Historically this panel has had about 4 – 9 attendees, so I’m hoping we break double digits this year.

Don’t You Dare Give Up, How To Set Reasonable Goals ICC 244 2:00PM – 3:00PM

Back to the Industry Insider panels I go for my final one of the weekend. This is also probably the most abstract and non-game-specific panel, because this hour will cover time management, goal setting, and organizing whatever it is you’re doing. I’m really eager to see this panel come together and I hope people respond well.

And yes, later that evening, I’ll be at the ENnies.

SATURDAY

RPG17105385 Death of a Good Thing Sat @ 10:00 AM 3 hrs Location: JW :: 310 :: 1 RPG17105386 Then Someone Died Sat @ 2:00 PM 3 hrs Location: JW :: 310 :: 2

I’m spending Saturday playing Noir World. Both games are sold out, and no, this year I’m not taking on stragglers.

SUNDAY

RPG17105387 Look, A Crime! Sun @ 10:00 AM 3 hrs

My weekend concludes with one more sold out Noir World game, and that makes me really happy.

In all, I’m really excited for this convention, and I hope to see a lot of you there.

Happy creating, and be good to one another.

The Great Metatopia 2016 Recap Post

(originally this went up on Facebook, but it got long and I thought it deserved wider distribution)

Metatopia is the single greatest convention I attend every year. Period. There is no better professional setting I’m aware of, and this is absolutely the best place for designers new and old to congregate and flourish. That is 1000% due to the tireless work of the Double Exposure staff, and even with everyone heaping deserved praise at them, it’s not enough. This convention is the place to go if you want to create games or learn about the business of telling stories and engaging with people.

If there is a downside to convention culture, it’s that a lot of it orbits bars and a drinking culture. For the majority of people, this isn’t a problem – you have a drink or two, you laugh with your friends, you gossip and chatter, then haul off to bed. But for those of us working sober, for those of us who don’t have as easy a time in that atmosphere, the fact that each night (or frankly any time of day with downtime) brings everyone to a central alcohol dispensing locale is a challenge. The call to have a drink after a tough conversation or a shaky panel is a siren’s song, and I am so proud not only of myself, but my recently sober friends for working their programs and getting through. Good job us.

This year was honestly a departure from my usual routine of panel after panel, because this year I added co-panelists when I had the opportunity. Here’s why that’s flat-out not what I normally do – I love to hear myself talk, and I worry that sharing the stage is going to prove to people just how negligible my contributions to any discussion are.

But there I was, having conversations about everything from narrative structure to marketing strategies to the Oxford comma with other people at the table. And it didn’t suck. The panels weren’t all dumpster fires and CGI-less explosions. Sure, I had a few moments of “What the holy monkeyshit am I doing here?” but those were fleeting, and I was able to slip past those and get back to the task of informing people about things while making pop culture references and garnering laughs.

While it didn’t suck, it wasn’t easy, and I suppose that’s lesson #1 I learned – other people in your sandbox doesn’t totally prove that you shouldn’t be in the sandbox in the first place. I am supremely worried that because of other people my visibility got diluted, but if it is, then that’s due to me being all up in my head and forgetting to promote myself, it is not the fault of there being a second person on the stage with me.

That said, those other people were amazing. Like staggeringly smart, and I think our conversations and concept coverage was delivered better because there was a breadth of angles to address. From therapists to podcasters to legal editors to actors to people who tell stories about pole-dancing merfolk sex workers, they’re not stupid, and I won’t stand for anyone disparaging any of them just because you may have heard of me but not them.

There are few personal things to talk about in some detail for the remainder of this post. So yes, there’s gonna be a tonal shift, but I urge you to stick with me on this ride, please. Here we go.

I didn’t drink. I didn’t go get high. Holy sweet things was I ever tempted, but I picked up the phone and got the help I needed even if it was hard to hear and tough to bear. I needed that salvation, I needed that rescue, and without out, there wouldn’t be anything else in this post, or anything else to talk about. I had my life saved, and I am so thankful to know amazing people and count them as a true family.  Onward.

In the last year, I’ve had some serious professional setbacks. I’ll own them, I’ll point out that my lack of communication prompted many of them, and those setbacks were scorched earth to my pride, ego, and how I feel about what I do. I can’t say it’s been a tailspin, but I’ve certainly more time this year questioning what I’m doing and where I’m going forward than any other year, including two years ago when I first got clean and sober.

But there are the nagging ideas that some of these setbacks are due to factors out of my control – that the climate of where I work has changed due to people making different elements a priority. This is not to say that these social conversations shouldn’t be happening (they should and must), but I think too there needs to be an awareness of the people who aren’t “toxic” or “problematic” being swept up and affected in the purgative efforts to bring in new voices and new creatives. What I’m saying is this, I believe that as we have more conversations about inclusivity and equality, it’s worth monitoring who gets pressed to the margins by those efforts in secondary or unintentional ways. The notion that you can just invert the dynamic between superior and subordinate as though you’re going to “teach people in power what it’s like to be powerless” is a dangerous one, and suggests that people lack a certain degree of self-awareness that going from bullied to bully doesn’t do much to stop the practice. A rising tide lifts ALL the ships, not just the ones you handpick.

Politicking aside, it was good and vital and helpful to me to get a bit of closure on some the setbacks that prompted the crisis I’m still experiencing. I got a chance to apologize, to own my shit, and I got a response that comforted me. I needed that. And that’s lesson #2 – owning your shit, owning who you are, what you do, how you sound, what you want to do, what you did, owning the mistakes, owning the willingness to admit those mistakes and try again helps you, even if you think it’s not dissimilar from dry-humping a hot cheese grater while you’re doing it.

This came up in a marketing on Sunday and blew my mind when it clicked into place – I have defined myself professionally and personally as this one sort of person who isn’t actually as bad a human or professional as I feared I was. I am by zero means perfect, and I certainly not everyone’s first choice or cup of tea, but I’m also not the leper at the city walls forever looking in and lost amid the masses. That’s a big deal for a guy who thinks of himself as the small kid who was sick all the time and driven to be smart so that people would want to hang out with him.

I have many people I hold as heroes and role models, and I am lucky to be able to spend time with them at this convention. We go eat sushi together, we sit on couches and talk not of work but of families and things we’ve done. New people come around and they’re not excluded. I like that. And this was the year I found out that I hold that hero/role model role for other people. Shocking, I know, because I’m just me, and I just do this stuff, and sort of get all long-winded about it, but it felt good to hear that I said or did things to help people. Which takes me to lesson #3 – you can have a positive impact on people without intentionally masterminding it. Being yourself, and being yourself passionately is visible and that’s totally fucking cool to do because people see that and it leads them to doing it to, in this positive domino chain of people being awesome.

I’m still working on how to process that one though. It’s one of those I-know-it-intellectually-but-emotionally-it-makes-as-much-sense-as-snakes-thumbwrestling things.

Speaking of heroes, there are those I have but have never interacted with directly, just been out on the edges near. They produce content where I’m an audience member, one of the many who say, “One day I’ll work with them. One day I’ll perform the right ritual and sign the Faustian deal and I’ll be lucky enough to work with them.”

I guess that ritual was the one where you walk over to a person and say hello and then ask them if they want to do a thing together, because that’s what I did, and I did get a chance to be a part of something huge and splendid and amazing. You’ll hear more about in the coming weeks and months, but if you jump on Twitter later today I’ll be talking about it somewhat.

And that’s lesson #4 the final lesson today – If you want to go do the thing, you have to go do something about it, and it’s not going to be handed to you. Want to be a _______? Then you need to go do that _________ so that people can see it and experience it. Want to have a chance to tick an item off your bucket list? Go have the scary conversation and be nervous and puke up eggs in a hotel garbage can then go do thing where people who you are 10000000000% sure have more talent in their toenails than you could muster over a thousand lifetimes work with you then shockingly spend the time telling you it was amazing. Yeah, that happened. It was awesome.

Stick around for more sweet blog action later this week. I’ll see you then. Happy writing.

 

What Finishing Noir World Taught Me About Life, Writing, and Everything

I finished Noir World on July 4th, and today while I celebrate my independence from putting new words or pages into it, I’m looking back at what writing 37k and making a game has taught me. It’s taught me a lot.

1. As a guy who doesn’t like when things end, I can actually finish things. I’m not a fan of endings or finales. I’ve never had a relationship end well (as in without some form of fallout). I’ve never seen a lot of last seasons or series finales, because if I don’t watch the ending, the characters and show can still go on. Yes, sure, I can finish things for other people, but that’s because it’s not my thing. I never thought I’d finish Noir World, I thought I’d be forever tinkering with it, since finishing a thing must mean that I must be good enough to do a job from start to finish, and I seldom comfortably think of myself as being “good enough”.

Finishing didn’t mean the ideas stopped, it just means the words stop. I still have plenty of mechanics I could write in. I still have loads of alternate ways to accomplish the same things. But putting them in there doesn’t do anything. It bloats the manuscript. It could confuse the reader, making it unclear which method they’re supposed to use to do something. It takes this idea I’ve worked hard to build and turns into an exercise of “Look how smart I am, see all these words I’ve written? Therefore you must accept me as one your cool kids!” and that’s exactly the feeling I’ve been trying to get out from under.

I’m proud of myself for finishing.

2. A project goes through so many twists and turns before it gets where it needs to be. This game started as a paean to Sherlock Holmes, involving far too many dice and far too many mechanics. It evolved into a competitive gambling game. For a few hours it was almost a card game. It wasn’t until I found a set of mechanics (that weren’t mine) that I liked and understood, that I could see the pieces coming together.

Once I gained the momentum of writing section after section, once I made the decision to go forward, I never came back to Sherlock Holmes. I’m sure I will at some point, but this game isn’t it. I don’t feel particularly broken up over letting the starting concept go, because the end result and its creative process have really produced good work that I absolutely stand behind. I thought I’d be more angry with myself, that I had somehow “failed” as a creator because the finished manuscript doesn’t really anything to do with the idea I first had fifty-something drafts ago. I thought that if I didn’t stay “true” to the genesis, that I could never finish the thing.

It was that rigidity that was keeping me from finishing. I was trying to force the idea into the text, trying so hard to show I was good enough (see below), that I forgot what was really important more than a few times – that I wanted to make a game people enjoyed playing, in an atmosphere and genre I’m incredibly passionate about.

I learned to trust myself creatively, but more on that later.

3. I’m a public guy with a private life. If you follow me on Twitter, and you compare different posts in my history, you’ll see a very changed guy. And not just because I’m not on drugs or drunk anymore, but because my life has had some ups and downs. I used to talk a lot about my personal life, who I was dating, what we were doing. I put a lot of that out there for reasons ranging from bragging to celebrating to pride. But it took this manuscript to teach me what real investment of time and energy is. I didn’t talk about all the nights I came home from dates and wrote a section to help me work through my feelings or my frustrations. I didn’t talk about the number of times I wrote and re-wrote a paragraph because I was distracted by some fight I’d had, or some rough night where my sobriety was tested by toxic people or some social politicking circus.

If you look at my Twitter feed now, I tweet less about my personal life. My health isn’t so great, and there’s only so many times you can mention a heart condition before it gets dull. It’s not that my personal life is all applesauce and buckets of awful, it’s just that I made a very conscious decision to avoid the pain that comes with sharing the vast and sundry details of one’s personal life in an occasionally hostile media climate. Wrestling with that transparency and the decisions of what to tell versus what not to have been difficult for me, but in erring on the side of privacy, I’ve found that I’m happier now. I can work on stuff without worrying about some fragile relationship erupting into stress, and I am altogether far healthier mentally than I thought possible. I like to think that because I spent more time dating (and being intimate with) this manuscript, I really found myself, and dating myself has been a good experience.

4. When you trust yourself creatively, you’re good enough. There are a lot of times I struggle with the idea that I’m good enough: good enough to be loved, to be hired, to be paid, to be cared about, to be listened to, et cetera et cetera. I’m coming around on the idea, thanks to some amazing people in my life and thanks to some tough decisions about cutting out unhealthy relationships.

Working on a game, and working pretty regularly on it, I found a real power in making sure every word and idea on the page were mine. And that they’re written in a way I like. And that they’re easy to understand. In making sure I was happy with everything on the page, and not rushing to “just get it done” or “just get it out there”, I had to learn to trust myself. That I was making smart choices. That I was capable of making smart choices. That my work didn’t suck. Sometimes that meant I had to think about the people who played my game, 99.9% of whom all had a great time. Sometimes that meant I had to think about the comments other people left on the draft, ranging from “Fuck yeah!” to “This is a really cool part.” Sometimes I just had to do that to myself, taking a second to applaud a really sexy paragraph or concept.

The end result is a sense that I do trust myself creatively, and that when i make a thing, it’s a good thing. In that way, I’ve finally found that “good enough” permission slip and access code I’ve always thought I was missing due to some irrational or low self-esteem issue. I can say that Noir World is a really good piece of work, and I have a lot of good proof to back that up.

5. My writing voice is clearer now. I know I can write snark. I know I can write profanity. I know I can write all kinds of stories or characters or plots. I know I can edit. I know I can help other people take their ideas and turn them into stellar projects that win awards and praise. I have been doing all that for a while now, and never really thought about how I sounded.

I can sound how you need or want me to sound when I’m editing. Often that means I’m sounding like the author when I’m patching up grammar and sentences. Sometimes that means I’m sounding clinical or dry. Sometimes that means I’m lobbing jokes in margins and sidebars.

Bits and pieces of that form my actual voice. When I speak, for instance, you get a little bit of everything. I curse. I make jokes. I make good points. I sound friendly. I sound authoritative. I wanted to make sure that all ends up in whatever project has my name on the cover. I choose every word and every sentence deliberately, crafting exactly the ideas I wanted. I know that some people will take my book and dissect it into components they’ll steal or discard, but that doesn’t change the fact that when you read Noir World, you’re reading me. My love for the genre. My sense of what’s important. My enthusiasm. I wasn’t always clear about my voice. But thirty-seven thousand words has a way of polishing a voice.

* * *

It makes me happy to think about the fact that not only are those my words in that document, but that they work when you give them to people, they can have the experience I intended. I didn’t sort of make a thing that kind of works, sometimes, when stars align and it’s a particular day of the week. I made a thing that people in THREE countries have tested, and loved. That’s a huge deal for me – proving that this thing I made works when I’m not even on the same continent.

It’s good to do things. It’s good to find yourself as you do them. It’s good to be true to yourself.

Happy writing, creating, relaxing, and partying.

My 2015 Dreamation Schedule

My apologies for the late schedule. Next week (Thursday through Sunday), I’m at Dreamation, and I’m doing quite a few things.

THURSDAY

THIS EVENT ISN’T ON THE BOOKS! 8PM TO 12AM Noir World: Criming Up The Social Ladder. This event isn’t listed on the schedule because there are 869 events and it just wasn’t possible to fit me in there. I get it. BUT! That doesn’t mean the game can’t go on! I’ll be in the lobby, so if you want to play, come find me, and we’ll go find a table for a few hours.

FRIDAY

THIS EVENT ISN’T ON THE BOOKS! 9AM TO 1PM Noir World: Heist-A La Vista, Baby. I’ll be at the hotel that morning, very eager to run a Noir World session you won’t forget. Again, just come find me in the Lobby, and we’ll find a table for a few hours.

R271: Friday, 8:00PM – 12:00AM “Noir World: Closing Crime” presented by John Adamus. Noir World is a storytelling game that sits at the intersection of film noir, murder mysteries and tragic personal dramas. Your Role can be anything from Private Eye to Girl Friday, your story is up to you. In the black, white and rainy City, this tragedy is all yours.

SATURDAY

R321: Saturday, 2:00PM – 6:00PM “Noir World: A Crime Worth Remembering” presented by John Adamus. Maybe you’ll be criminals planning the big score. Maybe you’ll be cops tracking down who got bumped off. Maybe you’ll be spoiled socialites glitzing it up. Whatever happens, it will be noir. It will be black, white and plenty of shades of gray. It will be tragic and grim and fun.

THIS EVENT ISN’T ON THE BOOKS! 8PM to 12AM Noir World: Four and Twenty Blackbirds baked in a DIE. Once more into that tragic breach dear friends. Spend Saturday night being awesome and dramatic and let us all have a good time.

SUNDAY

D869: “The DREAMATION 2015 Writer’s Workshop” Sunday, 12:00PM – 3:00PM A discussion and workshop of what’s needed to take your ideas and make them practical – turning your imagination into a real game or book. Join me in this discussion of what you can do to make your creation come to life, while avoiding typical pitfalls, stumbling points and roadblocks along the way.

I look forward to seeing you there. Have a great time, write and create awesome things.

You can register for Dreamation here.