We Dub Thee, “Asskicker”

This last week was a good one. I threw and attended some great parties, watched a lot of horror flicks, and did some writing that’s got me fairly-well jazzed. The highlight was probably Christmas eve, where Grandma and I watched Bing Crosby romance some dames.

The simultaneously very neat, and very not neat thing about writing as a pseudo-profession, is that it never quite feels like I’m allowed to talk about the Bigger and Cooler Stuff.

So here instead is the shot glass that my sister and I hath dubbed, “Asskicker.” She’s a well-known glass-blower and ceramist here in Seattle. And before you, in all of its pixilated glory, is Asskicker: an utterly unique, and utterly ass-kicking drinking vessel.

Yeah, baby.

Nailed that detail.

Oh yes I did.


Some Happenings

Seattle’s Penny Arcade Expo, which now seems to go by the name PAX Prime, was sufficiently action-packed to deserve its own post. It’s getting the deluxe treatment, in the form of some type of specious games article you’ll be able to find in a bit. It’ll include banter with booth babes, banter with people who created my favorite games ever, banter at sexy parties, and reflections of unadulterated wisdom. For now, this is me and some new friends (these three from the Escapist) driving to Chinatown a day before PAX began.

yay new friends (from left: a hidden John Funk, Janelle Bonanno, meself, and Kelly Helder)!

PAX held much adventuring with friends old and new, yet little good photographic evidence. Sorry, internets.

Continuing this multimedia extravaganza shall be a poem I scribbled down after a beautiful evening catching up with old friends. We were camping at a site somewhere along Mt. Ranier, next to an expansive lake. It’s of that very much out-of-the-way kind of place, reachable by odd winding dirt roads, that you always seem to share with heavily-armed hillbillies and the kind of women who’ve mastered the obnoxious drunken come-hither scream. Our first night camping, both came out in full force, firing off what must have been a barrage of .223, 12-guage, 9mm, and vodka rounds from atop a big rocky outcropping a few meters from our tents.

I of course wetted and forcefully blew on my bicep, in order to make powerful farting noises, which seemed to confuse them sufficiently that they moved down the lake a bit. This was a comfort for our entire party.

The second night, we spied a brave law officer, and heard far fewer and far more distant gunshots. That day had been an exhausting mix of heavy drinking while floating lazily on a lake log, and heavy drinking while sitting around a fire. All with sunshine, which I certainly wasn’t used to. Folks progressively went to sleep, until it was just myself and one of my favorite people in the world. Here’s the poem.


The day comes to a close
Cicadas surround with their notes
Dragon eyes form in wood’s grain
On fire as the pit slows to dying

I join a friend from far away
We move from the fire as night
Comes alive, and we speak of moving on
Until the cicadas go silent

Tobacco smolders, weaves shining lines
Dimming slow as satellites in the sky
Fire’s embers breathe orange from their core
Log styled like Aztec dog huffs flames

Hours later in the sea of black
Its eyes remain in points of light

Gamasutra was gracious for even accepting Psychology is Fun, let alone accepting it a hefty few months late. At the time I really did consider it some of my best work – though it could have conveyed certain ideas better. It was a little horrifying, for instance, to see folks think I was actually attacking Ian Bogost. I agree with the man, and more importantly learn from what he has to say, most if not all of the time.

That’s all the updating that comes to mind just now.


But Not Yet

This is not The Promised Post. That I've been legitimately busy (maybe for the first time in my life) makes writing about the past few months evermore the daunting task for one so traditionally lackadaisical. Or lazy, lazy probably works better. I'm indulging the lazydazical side today, sipping hot chocolate in the Seattle drizzle.

Yes, this coffee mug moonlights as a cereal bowl.

Language is Beautiful moves along, that's the main point for this post. It's a game on poetry that's been submitted for the IGF, and, though maybe not where it should be (existentially), some great feedback came from folks at Meaningful Play and my lovely friends, both on and off Facebook. The best analogy is that a bunch of crazy people have poured rare and fragrant coffee grounds into my brain, the water is still hot, and the redesign, it percolates.

It's taking time, and that's fine. I'm not making instant coffee. I'm making multiple designs to reflect how we read poetry, in a non-game-ethnocentric sort of way. That is, the value and weight of the words should, ultimately, balance with the value and weight of the interaction.

And for now I'm home, safe, and chocolated.


Fine, Fine

I'll update my CV. Happy now?

A lot's happened since my road trip down to Sunny Southern California. I'll make a post about it. Later. Promise.


That Just Happened

I think I'd rather post announcing that I'm not updating my CV, than actually take the time to update my CV.

That is all. Thank you.


GES and A Minute Outside Winters

Salutations and such. In this installment of neilsclark.com I'll give a modestly sensible accounting of the adventures in Los Angeles, a city which we might otherwise call the 'massively single player game.'

I set out in the evening, about 9PM, and drove from Burien, WA, to Morro Bay, CA. With a brief stop of about two hours in between, I arrived at my Co-Author Shavaun's house in the late afternoon. The trip was safe, the largest threat probably being heart failure caused by ingestion of something like 7 Red Bulls.

I brought Shavaun, her husband, and myself cigars. The next morning I left for Los Angeles, and checked into an amazing hostel. If you're staying in LA on the cheap, I'd highly recommend the perfect mix of economy, safety, and charm at Gramercy Place. The more fun stories are all a bit juicy to paste here. I wouldn't, for instance, want to trouble the two ladies who wracked the hostel's on-Demand for softcore pornography (though I'm pretty sure we found the harder stuff). I was, of course, innocently and diligently working on the transcript for a presentation to be given the following afternoon.

Odd that I never finished the thing.

In a colorfully spontaneous adventure to meet up with USC games profs, I got a chance to meet Henry Jenkins, who is just as kindly and wonderfully nerdy as he seemed in all the videos I'd seen, and texts I'd read. He joined a gathering of other games educators as I detailed this ethics course I've been teaching. In attendance were PhDs Jose Zagal and Susan Scheibler, who also teach ethics courses to games students, and a cast of other characters I'd met through the two-day summit.

I never went to E3 or any of its parties. I gave my tickets away, and instead drove to Santa Monica, and up around the Mulholland Fwy with a games academic from Hong Kong.

In the days that followed I visited family that I hadn't seen in fifteen years - the trip was long overdue. My last leg was from Santa Ynez, back up to Tacoma to peek in on a good friend's birthday. I started this one at 9pm as well. Unlike the previous attempt, done after staying up till 2 helping a friend tile his bathroom, this final leg was being tried after sleepless nights of Norwegian hanky-panky in the hostel bunk below me, and of the generally reduced sleep one experiences while seeing good people and places.


LOGIN 2010 Addiction Talk

Amid the heaviest crunch of finals week, only slightly before losing electricity and internet, which occurred only slightly before being prepared to submit the grades online, which was of course far, far before the deadline for submitting the grades online, I learned I'd be speaking on addiction at the 2010 LOGIN conference. There were, functionally, three days to prepare. Maybe four. I gave the talk yesterday, at nine in the morning, after an hour or two of sleep.

This morning I slept in.

The transcript of the talk is here: Game Addiction: For Fun and Profit. For some odd reason, my submission to change the session name from its (widely riffed on) earlier iteration did not catch. Students who took this most recent Ethics course, or those who've otherwise seen the Neil Gaiman MIT Julius Schwartz Lecture (which is wonderful) may note that I blithely steal one of Gaiman's neat speaking techniques.

Some parts of the transcript are in outline form, and I did break from script in numerous places. As noted, the 30-second session description was delivered in the style of the late Mitch Hedberg, to a ballroom packed with games business execs.

Video recordings were made of the session yesterday. I'll link those here as soon as I see them.


David and Nina

With all the usual end-of-semester hustle-and-bustle, an unconventional question, wrapped in song, can't be anything but on my mind:


Or Nina?

'With your kiss my life begins.'


Updates in Non-Poetry Form

It's been awhile since I gave a non-nonsensical interpretation of goings-on.

-In early February, Gamasutra published a piece on the physicality of immersion. Initially it was meant to be the first of three, the second exploring psychology of play and the third exploring a values-free discussion of media effects. I'm still looking at doing some very cool interviews for those articles - but they're on hold.

-I got swamped with teaching. It's been a lot of fun, and extremely gratifying, but was initially given over a hundred students where I'd planned for about half that.

-Today the Games Education Summit accepted a talk I proposed for what I've done with DigiPen's ethics class. In short, I've been using extant media studies work, as well as effects research, to create something I'm really proud of.

-Dating can die in a fiery plane crash, screaming as it tries scooping its metal-punctured intestines back inside. Which I find to be an entirely healthy and productive attitude thank you very much.

-I wrote a novel. I'm still letting that stew before I go to a second draft. Now I'm reading and writing a lot of poetry. Neither of these has helped my writing as much as intently grading about 300 papers over the last 3 months. If your professor friends ever offer to let you grade their papers, I'd recommend you take them up on it. Oh God, please take them up on it.

-I'm working on an ultra-secret project that involves designing something interactive and unlike anything you've ever seen before. But I also have a backup project that involves nonfiction.

That's it. Carry on.


In Burien (Draft)

I’m driving on a thin highway in Seattle
Wearing an expensive black overcoat
And a Hawaiian shirt that’s blue, with white plumerias
I look into the black and yellow of a strip mall at night

There I imagine a young man pushing a grocery cart, a miniature one
He looks and talks like me, but we’re different people
A kindly but large black man asks him for the sixteen cents
Given on the way into the 24-hour Supermarket

From behind, the voice bounces off the black of his heavy overcoat
Then dies as the young man walks away, armored like a tank
A stout woman his age walks a meandering path toward him
As he slips the key into the trunk’s keyhole

He never once looks her in the eye
“This is… weird. I realize this. Look…”
Pop goes the trunk, and the rustle of thin white plastic
“…two kids and we’re living out of the back of my car…”
The expensive shampoo is inside, as are the ice cream sandwiches
“…just twenty-five dollars from having a room for two weeks…”
The bottles of good wine, for the first time in his life
“…this is the most embarrassed I’ve ever been in my life…”

“Don’t be.” He is authority, in heavy black fabric
He gives the dollar that the black man saw
But she sees the twenty
Triads of regret, apprehension, responsibility

Now we all wear black armor
She shivers
He looks away
I drive


I Saw That (Draft)

I’ve seen your poetry
Long vines hanging from eves
I’ve never been able to read it in eyes
Transplant from more arid climes
Glare overwhelms like emerald and ruby
Oversoled in all directions but mine
Rather than grate my eyes or heart, aspirations are picked apart
One of us knows why I am, one knows who
Vines move slow, I stop the follow
I’m well watered while you strangle and dissect, and you are air, and how I’ve slumbered
Can hibernation stretch too long?
Loose the heart as we write along? Pick it up again, in our own prose?
There may be no waking of mind and souls
And what relief

In your eyes I water
The water of life that drowns you
You see the blue distending
You might know I drowned, but not when
Sap the water
But be warned
I may never wake
I may never learn
Your coffee aroma softness in my eyes

And then what would you do?

How would I know?

Except the trail that we all leave
I may love rough brown on canvas
Your petals glisten crimson, long loped vines
Around my neck as I gaze into a you, of, unknown to me:
• Time
• Place
• Context
But it stirs me, like a dreamer on the cusp of waking
Prickle of anticipation for a lifetime changed
I would wake into that you alight
At least I might
So what am I to do with you?
As I cry for the first time in a year (but not much)
As I slide through the wash and tide (but less)
Are your tendrils hailing from dry land?
What can their brail insistence see?
It’s why this poem is really about me
When soil moves round the plant estranged
How it grows when all is rearranged?
Ever temporarily trying to grow arraigning
Storms long gone but the water undraining
So perhaps this is all it ever could be
Your twisting scourge of petals
My limp patch of weeds

And never a moment I’d coax you to my reality.


Banana Mischief

Today, a student stealthily made my banana a happy banana.

I couldn't bear to eat him.


My Bookbag Seems To Be Missing

Hello. If you've recently found some odd books in a blue backpack, and then also spotted my name, and then found this website, then email me. I shall reward you handsomely. And of course pick up the books.