Apparently I’ve been at this for five years now. GAME OVER has gone from ripping-off-Stelek blue to attractively rusty with Skarre at the top to stark black on white to the gloomy, stormy version, which is actually the fourth iteration, and that just goes to show that you can’t trust me to remember what happened and in what order. Means I can’t make a Vol. 4 joke if I decide to redesign the blog again, but whatever.
The sense of time passing really has made me think about where I’ve come from and where I’ve been and where I’m going. If you go back to the beginning and follow the thread you go from “I’ve just moved back to Plymouth to train as a teacher”, teaching Shiny to play Warmachine and meeting Frugal Dave, through the brown period (which amounts to “I’m having the worst six months of my life in Gloucester and if it weren’t for Hark-hugs and Dice and Decks every Friday I might have lost the will to live”), thence two years in Wolverhampton struggling to make ends meet as a freelance writer but finally doing some roleplaying again (stark dark and white), and for the last couple of years… London, London and forsaking the PhDream and a couple of time-sink teaching jobs which have needed doing and been very noble but seem to have strangled my enthusiasm and creativity at the roots.
I spent the final third of 2013 knocking around the edge of suicide, failing hard at NaNoWriMo while I was laid up and barely in work, nearly jumping off a bridge not long before Christmas. (It was Westminster, and it wouldn’t have killed me reliably; if I’d turned right instead of left I’d have ended up on a different bridge, and I might not be here today.) In 2014 the System finally threw something that actually worked at my cyclothymia; I’ve spent seven months in and out of CBT and, within the last two months, been politely informed that I’m probably on the autistic spectrum (something like this, probably).
I’ve become rather cynical about the things I
used to love over the last five years. The oscillation between perspectives on gaming speaks for itself; just look back over the entries on Warmachine. I’ve developed an increasing distaste for my academic discipline, for the obsession with theory and what-would-Judith-Butler-do that seems to obscure the primary texts. I brought this up on YDIS a while back and got a surprisingly perceptive comment from someone who a) doesn’t know me and b) managed to replicate my thought process from five and a half years ago almost perfectly.
What you gain and pursue privately is very different from the papers you turn in for a degree or buck. That’s true of all the humanities. I would also say there is quite an arguable difference between an English degree and a Comparative Literature degree. I mean, you’ve got the “cynic” line of argument down pat but for every lazy, jaded graduate there is one who is earnestly working to improve literacy rates and appreciation. It doesn’t pay well and it’s thankless but perhaps you could put your degree to good use and tutor some disadvantaged kids. You know, help them read and write enough to get through high school and not end up robbing liquor stores.
All of this is a fair cop. The distinction between private and public engagement is on the mark; I spoke without thinking, acknowledge my error and will strive to improve.
But… for what it’s worth, my day job for the last five years has been exactly that; teaching disadvantaged kids in some of the poorest inner-city boroughs in England/mentoring middle-class kids with learning difficulties. I’m (still) cynical about the need for comp. lit. theoreticals in doing so (a love of primary text, an awareness of context and an instinct for editing will probably serve better in that respect) but I have been trying to put my poor choice of degree to exactly that good use.
I use the past tense because I broke through at a bad time. 2010 ushered in a government whose budgets have brought public sector spending cuts on a hitherto unknown scale, which in turn means that a lot of fractional contracted or zero-contracted-hours folks like, say, early-career lecturers in FE colleges or part-time schoolteachers (myself included) are being made redundant to keep the budgets down.
I’ve left two jobs of my own accord and been made redundant from two during GAME OVER’s lifespan. In the latter case, it’s possibly a good thing: I was starting to phone it in and I think the indifferent teachers are the worst thing that can happen to a subject or a student. On top of that, the English curriculum’s undergoing massive revision from people who, putting it bluntly, don’t know jack about teaching and have based their model on their own half-remembered public schooldays. Once the dust has settled and I have my own shit in order I might go back in, or I might not.
Either way, I feel like I’ve earned a break. I spent a couple of months unemployed, driving myself up the wall with trying to force a perfectly straightforward claim for benefits through the system; I’ve done some telephone fundraising for a political party in the last few weeks and found it far, far more to my liking than making sales calls ever was; I’d like to give NaNoWriMo another crack and I think I know what went wrong last time. During November I’ll be turning this blog over to a serialised novel; a series of interconnected short stories exploring the world I’ve been building for the last four weeks. I’m hoping that the obligation to produce regular content on a schedule, which manages to prise blog-words out of me on a regular basis, will serve as a similar motive for fiction.
As far as gaming and blogging go, I don’t know what’s going on any more. There’s a lot that I find interesting and not a lot that I particularly want to invest time, money and effort into. I’m oscillating a great deal – I think that X or Y or Z wargaming project might be cool but then I think about how seldom I play, and suddenly spending shitloads on new toys seems less appealing. One minute I want to burn all my bridges and Just Roleplay Forever, one minute I’m thinking “oh, but it’d be so easy to do this Theme Force or that”.
It’s safer to maintain a holding pattern for now, picking up isolated things rather than big new projects. I’ll probably have a wedding and a house move to pay for in the next year. Many of my clothes are holed, or frayed, or just worn thin; I don’t look or feel the way I want to at the moment, and my investment needs to be directed into feeling and looking better. That’s not to say I want to let it all go: when I ask myself “self, where did all your neat stuff go?” I remember how quick I’ve always been to part with things when times are hard. What I think I need to do is be selective in expansion, and cautious in disposal. I would like to own WFRP.3, having forgiven it, and I’m reading over AD&D in PDF form at the moment and realising just how broad and useful the original Dungeon Master’s Guide actually is. I think I’d like to work on some big kits; some of the pretty stuff from the Vampire Counts range, and probably a Colossal for my Retribution (although I haven’t kept my New Year’s Resolution, so… not this year).
I also want to do something different with the blog. Pure gaming blogging doesn’t have the appeal that it used to do, and – I know I keep saying this – it’d be lovely to talk about books I’ve read and places I’ve been and things I’ve done more often than I do. At the moment I don’t feel like there’s an outlet where I can do that at length, so… this will have to be it, I suppose.