Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Discouraging Word

The last time I was unemployed, I used to really dread Wednesdays. Wednesdays were, at least as far as I could tell, the day that the HR / Recruiter Person decided to let everyone who didn't get the gig that they didn't get the gig, and it wasn't unusual for me to get four or even five rejection letters on a Wednesday.

The good news is that this time, Wednesdays aren't like that any longer.

The bad news is that the rejections still come, just more spread out. And sometimes they pile up a little.

Today wasn't a good day: I got rejection letters (and a nice phone call from a recruiter) all letting me know that the positions I had applied for were no longer interested in me. A couple had already been filled, but at least two were continuing their search for other candidates and that I was not being considered for the next round.

This was especially hard this week, as I had worked really hard to nail the in-person interview I went to last week, and I was relatively sure I had done well. But they were "not confident in my technical abilities", which is a real kick in the stomach, because that's honestly my personal worry. I know I know things, and I know that I can learn things quickly if necessary, and I enjoy learning new things, but I don't have a degree and I don't have any certifications that would "prove" that I know those things, so when someone looks at my resumé what they see is a guy who's bounced into and out of Technical Support roles that may or may not have required any particular skillset, and some random DBA experience across multiple platforms which most shops who are hiring a DBA don't want or need: if they need a DBA, it's usually a specialist hire.

"Well why don't you go get a certification?" I hear you ask. And the answer, as usual in most questions that start with "why", is "money". Certifications are EXPENSIVE. By design; they're often paid for as a perk for working at a company, so they can charge the 'Enterprise Rate' for the cert. To test to be a certified MySQL DBA is $2500, and the failure rate is north of 50%, and they don't give a refund if you fail. Oracle certifications are... more. That may not sound like a lot of money when you're employed in tech, but when you're unemployed...well, let's just say I wish I'd taken more classes when I was employed.

Days like today are hard. But tomorrow is another day. I have more applications out, I have a couple of phone screens scheduled, I'm working my contacts. In Tech it can take a while for us non-developer types to get rehired, especially with the move away from Ops specialists and towards the "let's have devs do everything" model of DevOps (or, as I like to call it, "DevOps"). I have good, supportive friends, and a fantastic wife who loves and supports me even when I don't have a job. And on Friday, I'm playing some boardgames.

So it could be worse. So bring on the cloudy days! It's decorative gourd season, motherfuckers.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 31

What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

The continued integration and acceptance of women and people of colour and other under-represented voices in the hobby. Watching people who are silenced become strong and vital voices in the community is very exciting and interesting to me, and I'd love to see more of that in the next year (and beyond!). In addition, I'm really excited to see the "professional-ization" of this industry from "dudes printing shit in their basement" to "professionally written and edited properly constructed product distributed on a reasonable timeline where all the people involved get paid a living wage". I know we're not there yet. And so, so many people have been driven out of the RPG industry/community because of toxicity and unprofessional behaviour and the inevitable gatekeeping and racism and sexism and grossness. But I can't help but think that maybe, in the coming year, things will get better. I've been working hard to support creators and artists (though it's harder now that I'm unemployed), and I pledge to continue buying and supporting games by queer folk and women and people of colour. I want my tables and my games to be like my feminism: intersectional.

So that's what I anticipate most for 2018: intersectionality.

And now I'll solicit it here: what's a game by someone who isn't a cis-het-white-dude that you'd like to see spread to more people? Add it in the comments!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 30

What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

I'm not sure there's a genre mashup that hasn't already been done, either via the setting-specific games (like RIFTS or Shadowrun) or by settings for the more general systems (think basically every GURPS setting book, or the Fate Worlds books). The only thing I think that's really missing a good treatment is humour. Other than maybe Ghostbusters and Toon, I'm not sure there's any RPG books or settings that explicitly deal with humour or humourous play available. I'd love to see a game that took on something like Scooby Doo or Danger and Eggs or that sort of thing, where being funny is part and parcel of the experience itself.

The other one I'd love to see is some sort of squad or cell-based game, something based on XCOM or some sort of intelligence-asset-management game. I'd love to see some sort of game based on the idea of Mech Commander; that would be brilliant; where instead of players running a single character, they're coordinating squads of folks, with different resources and strengths.

I'm not a game designer, so I have no idea how to make any of these ideas work. But it'd be pretty brilliant to play.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 29

What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

Fate, hands down. Followed quite closely by Apocalypse World 2nd Edition. While I've backed other games that I have enjoyed as much, and I've gotten more swag from, and I've gotten good deals around, these two were definitely the best-run. They delivered the product with no surprises exactly as expected and as close to on-time as possible. Evil Hat and Lumpley Games are both straight-up professionally-run outfits, and you can trust them with their future endeavours.

Monday, August 28, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 28

What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks.

I will admit, my table may be somewhat atypical, in being almost entirely queer and almost evenly split between men and women.

Of course, we're also playing a game that is explicitly designed to be a Social Justice game, where the characters are actively working to make the world a better place by lifting up the disadvantaged.

I'd love it if my table wasn't actually that atypical. Perhaps others will take my example to heart?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 27

What are your essential tools for good gaming?

Trust, consistency, and consent. If the people at the table trust you, and you trust the people at your table, then the stories you tell and the directions you can take your stories are going to be many and varied and extremely interesting in all sorts of ways. If you are consistent in how you resolve things, then your table will trust you and know that you are keeping their wellbeing in mind (and yes, wellbeing is an important part of 'fun', which is why we all do this RPG thing anyway). And if you have the consent of your players, and they know that you won't do something they don't want to do without asking, then they know your consistent message is one of trust and common good. With those three things, you can tell any story, in any setting, and have a good time doing it.

Oh, wait, did you mean stuff like dice and shit? Oh. Well, I have some poker chips I use as x-cards, and 3x5 index cards for basically anything that needs or wants to be written down, and some mechanical pencils to do the writing. That's about it. Anything else is window dresssing -- I like my iPad as a GM screen / lookup tool, and sometimes I'll use my laptop -- because anything outside of the people you're playing is just there to act as props, really.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 26

Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

I'm not sure there are any better general-case resources that are RPG-specific (as opposed to history books or the like) than GURPS books. GURPS has an entire line of books that are nothing but general-case resources for various backgrounds, settings, histories, and the like. There are some books that are specific to GURPS particularly, but even when ignoring those portions, I'm not sure there are any books that are better written or better sourced than the GURPS back catalog.

I mean seriously: look at this.

Friday, August 25, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 25

What is the best way to thank your GM?

My personal take on this: find out what they want to play, and then run it for them. Most GMs like GMing or they wouldn't do it, but there are those of us who would appreciate the chance to play now and again. Plus, it's a great way to try it out, if you've never GM'd before. You have an audience that is invested in your success and a clear goal to press towards, as well as a ready resource if you have questions about how to do something or what to do next.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 24

Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

So, mostly I don't mess around with PWYW, because I mostly think that artists who value their work charge for it, and as a patron who values art made by artists I pay for the art I buy (let's save the argument about the definition of art for some other day, OK?). So PWYW isn't a model I'm a huge fan of, because mostly I find that if you say "you can have this for free" then the majority of the RPG community will just take it for free, because the majority of the RPG community needs a real smack upside the head sometimes.

So instead of PWYW, I'd like to encourage you to take some time and find a creator, preferably a woman or a Person of Colour or both, and give them some money for their work.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 23

Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

Oh, see, this one is easy. Eclipse Phase. In my experience, the EP books were the first game books ever to really take advantage of the PDF format, and the idea that these books would likely be looked at on tablets/phones/mobile devices. Not only is the story and the ruleset well laid-out and well-integrated, but the books themselves are carefully and copiously hyperlinked, so that any particular term can be touched/clicked on to take you to that page/definition/example, and then back again to continue on your way.

EP is brilliantly future-minded, especially for a game so immersed in the technofuture of the setting itself. It's immersive just by existing as a fully-indexed and fully-interactive set of documents. I imagine it was a gigantic pain in the ass to build (and rebuild) these books, but to me it's totally worthwhile and I've never appreciated the structure and care of a PDF more than when I peruse the EP books. Posthuman Studios does amazing work. You should check them out!