All posts by Will Hindmarch

Guest Post by Will Hindmarch: The Record

Will Hindmarch is @wordwill, a writer and designer of games, fiction, and more. He blogs at Gameplaywright and wordstudio.net. 

This is both a plug and a confession. Wil Wheaton is back on dry land, so I’ll make this quick. I’m terrible at interviews.

Almost ten years ago, at the foot of an unfinished Atlanta high-rise, I interviewed architect Turan Duda for Atlanta magazine. My assignment was for a one-page spotlight on creative people doing exciting work in the ATL — one page including a picture of the skyscraper. So it was more like one column of text.

I kept Mr. Duda trapped in that interview for an hour.

We talked about spatial design, about his history and his vision, about Atlanta in general. It was a good talk for the first 35-45 minutes, before I realized how long we’d been talking. Before I realized, I didn’t know how to end an interview. (Spoiler: It’s easy. End it like a conversation, maybe.)

Mr. Duda was very generous, obliging, and impressive to this newbie interviewer. I learned a lot that day about architecture and interviews … and almost none of it helps me when I’m interviewed myself.

Interviews with me make me nervous, whether they’re in person or in text. I’ve done a few interviews lately for my new tabletop RPG, Dark. (The Kickstarter ends today!) I talked online with the Misdirected Mark podcast and I was interviewed via email for this piece at The Escapist. I ramble and I talk too fast and I’m concerned that I’ll say something — something insipid or casual or thoughtless — that will undo or overshadow a work that I’ve spent a long time crafting.

John Updike once put it like this to Terry Gross:

Once you’ve put yourself on record in an interview, and you’re sort of thinking fast and saying the first thing that pops into your mind, basically, anything to fill up the air time or the reporter’s time, it’s a little disconcerting, when you’re younger than I, to realize that these remarks which you toss off, once they’re in print, have an equal weight with all the words that you’ve labored to polish and make come out exactly right.

[via]

Part of it, for me at least, is my Impostor Syndrome. Why should anyone be listening to what I think, right? Who the hell am I?

Here’s what helped me out: the live-lit storytelling scene. I co-produce a show in the Story Club series and we have an open-mic component to our events. It’s never been wasted. Everyone has stories to tell —  I’ve known that for a long time — and I think everyone should get a chance at a mic to talk about their passions, their projects, their past, and their plans. Some of these mics are mics, some of them are blogs, some of them are Twitter, some of them are cameras — whatever.

If you get the chance to tell your stories, take the chance. And if you get a chance to interview someone, to help them tell their stories, try it out. Ask your friends friendly questions. When you meet people, politely ask about them. Let’s get more stories told, more perspectives shared, and more voices at the mic.

It’s like what Wil did this week. He invited people to speak in his absence. He shared stories he might not have been able to tell on his own. Thank you, Wil.

Speaking of which, he’ll be back any minute and I’ve got to clean up. Think he’ll notice if I use his 3D printer to replace all the beer we drank?

 

Guest Post by Will Hindmarch: Funny Vs. Happy

Will Hindmarch is a writer and game designer. Find him online at Wordstudio or Gameplaywright.

On one of his spoken-word records, The Boxed Life, Henry Rollins talks a bit about being funny or happy all the time. If you could be funny or happy all the time, which would you pick?

I’ve been thinking about this since 1995. I first heard Boxed Life in 1995 and I’ve been thinking about this since then. I’ve been thinking about other things, too, but still. The question, it vexes me.

“I’m funny all the time, I’m not happy all the time,” Rollins said. “So, okay, but that’s all right, because I’d rather be funny than happy … all the time.”

Historically, I’ve found it easy to answer this question … but hard to shake it. If I had to choose, I’d choose to be funny.

“There’s not a lot to learn from being unfunny,” I used to tell people when I’d talk about this. That idea is plainly bullshit — there’s plenty to learn from bombing on stage or mucking up a joke — but it’s what I would say. People who are happy all the time irk me.

In part, I believe the lessons learned from being unhappy are valuable. I have to believe that. I have to believe that the time I spend feeling miserable will pay off somehow, maybe by informing my work, maybe in insights or wisdom. I want to believe that misery isn’t a waste of my time because I only have so much time and I don’t want to think that I’ve wasted so much of it.

The trouble is, I’ve cooked the question too long. I reduced out a lot of the nuance and the flavor and I’ve sometimes forgotten that the heart of the question is in that phrase “all the time.”

I think it’s easy to breeze through happy times without learning anything. Happiness feels easy even when it’s not easy. If you’re like me, good times can feel sustainable when you’re in them.

They’re not sustainable. Nothing lasts forever. And here’s the thing about misery: it doesn’t have to make sense.

This has been a great month for me, creatively. My new tabletop RPG, Dark, is doing well at Kickstarter. The new online storytelling game I’m working on, Storium, just entered a new phase of alpha testing. I’m designing a series of new Fiasco playsets I can’t tell you about yet. Lots of fun work happening at once.

Things are, measurably, good.

Last week, I couldn’t see that. Something grim settled over me like a glum fog, blocking out the light. I wanted to do good work but I couldn’t see straight — I hated everything I wrote not because it was bad, but because I wrote it. I put off work I wanted to do because I didn’t feel like I had earned the right to work on it yet. It was a dessert-and-vegetables thing, I told myself. But that’s bullshit, too. When I’m that miserable, I fear and resent happiness. I feel like I owe it nothing, like it’s betrayed me, like I have to learn how to function forever without it because I may never be happy again.

That’s the inherent, fascinating, dangerous fallacy inherent in the funny-or-happy equation. It’s in that phrase: all the time.

Happiness is impermanent. So is misery. What’s fleeting is often beautiful.

The trap I fell into was thinking that unhappiness, misery, and depression were somehow more revealing, more authentic than happiness. As if there’s less to learn from happiness than from misery. Look around and you’ll see people tripping on this idea all around us.

(It’s an easy mistake, I think, because misery ruminates, obsesses, and stares at itself. Depression warps time, pushing us to dwell on things that still exist when we’re happy — things that we just don’t fret about so much when things are good.)

We have a lot to learn from happiness and contentment and while it is sometimes harder to pause and glean the insights when you’re busy laughing and dancing and making merry, let’s do that more. We don’t have to be happy all the time (because, seriously, ugh) but we shouldn’t mix up happy with oblivious, either. I did that for too long.

Anyway, I still don’t want to be happy all the time because I think I’m ill-suited for that. I want to learn from happiness and misery, both. And if I could be funny all the time, I could bring  laughs and joy to others and that would rebound back to me. When other people laugh at my jokes? That makes me happy.

 

 

Dark Days, Bright Days

Guest blogger, Will Hindmarch, is a writer and designer in Chicago. You might know his work from the book design for Memories of the Future, Volume 1 or from RPGs like Always/Never/Now.

There I was, alone outside an unfamiliar hotel-room door, with nowhere to hide. It was too late to flee. I had already knocked.

My newest tabletop RPG design was in my bag, ready to make a first impression. I felt like I had worms in my guts.  I thought I could feel my brain’s insidious chemicals  diluting the meds I take to keep my head above the waves. I took a breath, let it out.

Settle down, you idiot, I thought to myself. Just don’t be a dick.

Someone worked the latch on the door. It swung open.

“Hey, how are you?” Wil Wheaton asked, doorknob in hand. “Come on in.”

I went inside.  But I’d already made my first mistake. It went into my mood like a drop of dye clouding into clear water.

Did you catch it?

Continue reading

some kind of verb, some kind of moving thing

This guest post was written by Will Hindmarch, a freelance writer and designer of games and fiction. Read more at his blog at wordstudio.net.

A few years ago, inspiration struck me a few times in a row and I started work on a new tabletop game. It was a story game about journeys. I knew that much. Sitting down at my kitchen table, writing in my notebook, ideas collided and threw off sparks that I distilled in handwriting as quick as I could.

One idea sparked another. I wrote down design questions and then answered them, right there on the spot. Not every answer was right. I learned that much. Actually playing the game showed me new questions and confounded some of my answers. No worries, though, that’s just the way that goes. Onward.

A few months ago, I described this game to a friend of mine who digs these sorts of things. I discovered as I talked that the game felt pretty finished. I’d been testing it for years, playing it with a myriad of new players, but I didn’t know how to tell myself it was ready to show people. So when I described the game to this friend of mine and he said “That sounds great!” it gave me the jolt I needed to turn my notes into a manuscript.

I’d been sort of writing this thing, in bits and pieces in my head, for a year. I knew what I wanted to say but I had been slow to turn my thoughts into text. Part of it was fear: this was a new kind of game for me and I’d be measured against giants when it was done. Another part of it was … also fear: what if what I wrote sucked out loud? I write for a living and I still feel that way sometimes.

Odyssey by Will Hindmarch

Odyssey by Will Hindmarch

A few hours ago, I launched the crowdfunding campaign to pay artists (and me) to finish the game book. The game’s called Odyssey. I think it’s pretty good.

I wanted to make this thing. I’ve wanted to make this thing for a while. What I needed was to get excited. It was a spark of enthusiasm — from a friend I wanted to inspire — that helped make this thing.

We participate in the creation of so many things, sometimes without knowing it. I don’t know if my friend knows that his casual enthusiasm powered this project’s creation like a life-giving bolt, but it did. Sparks start engines.

the sky above the port

This guest post is brought to you by Will Hindmarch, writer and designer of such titles as the one he’s about to tell you about…

A-N-N

You were the best. Underground, cyberpunk street samurai, burglars and breakers, agents of a mysterious spymaster with half a name, zero history, and a plan. He made the missions and you carried them out. You were the go-to crew for high-stakes break-ins, dangerous ops, and impossible escapes. You fought the megacorps, the tyrants, the killers—all for the sake of making a better future, of beating the Technocrats at their own game of shaping tomorrow. You always won, never quit, lived in the now. 

Until, eleven years ago, he disappeared…

Now he’s back—back in trouble—and it’s up to you to save him and maybe, along the way, change the world.

Today is the day. Today I debut Always/Never/Now, an all-in-one RPG adventure of futuristic cyberpunk action and intrigue. It’s 100+ pages in PDF format and available at DriveThruRPG right now for the somewhat remarkable price of FREE.

Additional posts and thoughts on A/N/N can be found at always-never-now.tumblr.com.

A/N/N is developed from adventures and characters my friends and I played years ago — and then brought out of retirement for one more mission in 2011. I retrofitted the adventure I wrote for that reunion and playtested it at conventions like Gen Con, Origins, and PAX until it was sharp enough to share. Then I invited artists Steven Sanders, Noah Bradley, and Craig S Grant to make it more handsome.

And today, at last, it’s ready for you to play.

If you find that you dig A/N/N and you’d like to thank me with dollars, please click the donate button on my website.

—Will Hindmarch

Forever All The Time Always

This guest post comes from Will Hindmarch (@wordwill), a writer, designer, and occasional guest blogger at WWdN.

Twitter is kind of a big deal to me. I (over)use it to stay connected with people that I am not near geographically. I use it to eke out little clarifying thoughts about my day and the way I work. I use it for jokes, for serious contemplative bits of text, for exchanges with people both known and unknown to me so I don’t feel quite so lonely at my desk all day. It helps me refine ideas down to morsels that can be terse, poetic, witty. I’ve been using it like a short-form diary for years. I love Twitter.

So when I finally got my Twitter archive feature activated, I was delighted. I wanted to go back in time and see how I’d changed, see what I’d forgotten, see if I could detect a difference in my writing from 2007 to now. I opened up my archive and dove in, expecting to see myself. In those tens of thousands of tweets, I discovered two things.

First, despite the migration of various comedic bits through my timeline, I haven’t changed that much as a writer.

Second, I needed help.

That’s not sass. I’m not being flip. I got a look at myself in a weird mirror and found lots of my tweeted messages came with tiny memories. Aspects of myself came into alarming focus. Much to my surprise, part of the secret was hidden in my hashtags.

Continue reading

Guest Blog by Will Hindmarch: We, Geeks

Will Hindmarch writes and designs stories and games. You can find some of his stories at venues like Amazon and DriveThruFiction. He blogs at wordstudio.net and teaches at the Shared Worlds creative-writing camp—registration’s still open!

A few years ago, I spent a month of blog posts writing about people I admire. On February 11th of that year, I wrote about Wil Wheaton:

… [H]e’s an energetic creator who strives to promote positivity and enthusiasm by creating fun, funny, touching things and spreading them to his friends and fans. He’s always creating—when it’s hard, when it’s tough, when it’s easier not to, he’s always making something new to post, to share, to publish. [...] His enthusiasm spreads and warms like good scotch. Let’s get drunk.

One summer night, on a high-rise building in an emerald city, a flock of geeks like us gathered to play. We sat at a handful of tables to play myriad games. I sat at a Fiasco table with Wil and our friend Andrew and a few people I didn’t know very well but I’d admired because Wil had spoken highly of them. We elected to play one of my playsets, “The Zoo,” so I was excited to show off my work and nervous that it would somehow suck.

It totally didn’t suck.

One of those players I didn’t really know was Stepto. He wrote about that game earlier this week. At the time, I felt like Wil had climbed high up a tree for the view and was reaching out to help us climb up, too. I feel like everyone at that table took up Wil’s dare. It was a great fiasco, though we didn’t get to see the whole thing because we spent so much time digging into our characters in the first Act that we, uh, sort of ran out of time to play.

Partway through that first Act of play, people behind me started to sing the happy-birthday song. Wil smiled. They were getting closer. My friend, Lily, was singing in Hebrew. I don’t know what my face was doing but my insides fluttered. The hard candy shell on my heart formed a craquelure. It was my birthday.

I turned around and saw a host of friends—new friends, many of them—gather around, singing. I admit, part of my brain panicked. What was I supposed to do? But a part of my brain also immediately transported through time. I thought of ancient people singing to warm themselves around winter fires. I thought of people trilling together on tall ships swaying in the sea. I thought of packed pubs and bars where people raised their glasses in a chorus of cheers. Not all of us knew each other that night, but we all knew the song—in different tongues, with different memories of birthdays past and absent friends—we all knew the song.

Honestly, I don’t know whose idea that was. I don’t want to know. I like doling out my thanks in equal portions to everyone that night.

I bring it up now, though, because it’s one of my favorite memories of things happening around Wil. I met a lot of those people through Wil. I used to say that Wil’s built something remarkable here at WWdN, but the truth is that I think he’s gathered it—gathered us. So, here’s to this place. Here’s to the refrains we recite among friends. Here’s to singing in the comments section.

Cheers.

Guest Blog by Will Hindmarch: Flow

Will Hindmarch is a writer, designer, and mooncalf. You can find some of his stories for sale online at Amazon, DriveThruFiction, and other sites. Long ago, in ages past, he wrote things at wordstudio.net.

(Update: Looking back, I feel sort of silly sharing this. To be clear, I don’t think my changing relationship with video games is due to the games or gamers—not really. I’m just musing here, wondering why it is that I can’t dive into games like I used to. I still don’t know what’s up there. So it goes.)

Listen, can I confess something to you? Lately I’ve been having some trouble with video games.

I’m super excited to play some of the games on my to-play list but I don’t know when I’m supposed to do that. The impulse that used to signal me to play video games often gets met by different pastimes right now—for me, at least. By the end of my day, when I might otherwise power up my console, I find myself torn.

  • Music: “The Last Man,” from The Fountain, music by Clint Mansell

It’s a multifaceted problem. For comparison’s sake, consider how I operate at my desk. When I’m there, I’m almost always doing two things at once, whether I’m working or not.

When I’m working on something largely visual, like the layout for a book, I listen to podcasts at the same time. I listen to Wil and friends talk gaming with Gabe Newell and Co. at Valve. I listen to writers talk shop on the Nerdist Writer’s Panel. I listen to Ken Hite and Robin D. Laws talk about stuff. I get to take in know-how and stories at the same time I get to create things. I like that.

When I’m writing, I put on music. I get to absorb music and generate prose at the same time. This helps me escape my environment a little bit and put myself into a headspace that’s a few mental clicks away from the pressures of the blank page.

I often devise a playlist for the project I’m working on. For example, while writing “A Desert is Implicit,” I listened to a playlist I called “Future Desert,” populated with things like the soundtracks from Halo: ODST, Journey, Caprica, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Other playlists, like “Futuristic Operatic,” “Mission Driven,” and “Epic Fantastic” get played for a variety of projects that sort of sync up thematically.

  • Music: “Goodbye Renegade” from Tron: Uprising, music by Joseph Trapanese

These sorts of support structures aren’t necessary, though; they’re luxuries. They give me a chance to do two things once and get more day out of my day. They help work feel more like play.

I say this because it’s important, in my experience, to be able to write without rituals. I don’t need music to write. One way I know the work’s going well is when a playlist runs out and I discover I’ve been writing in silence for an hour. That’s flow.

Continue reading

Guest Blog by Will Hindmarch: Tabletop’s Dragon Age, Part Two!

Will Hindmarch was one of the guys next to the guy who did the thing. No, to the other side. Yeah, that guy. Will used to blog at wordstudio.net.

I imagine Wil would want you to know, as I want you to know, that the new episode of Tabletop—featuring the exciting conclusion of the two-part star-studded Dragon Age adventure—is now live online and you can watch it online because it is live online right now, online, here.

Go and watch and subscribe to the channel and if you like the video click Like, like you do. Okay? Okay.

Guest Post by Will Hindmarch: Fireworks Outside

Will Hindmarch is a freelance writer and designer who co-produces the occasional off-shoot event with Story Club Chicago. (New South Side shows are coming this spring!) It’s possible he drank the last of the almond milk.

(Now and again, I plug into Chicago’s rich and varied live lit scene. Watching people tell their stories live—and trying to tell my own—has taught me a lot about story construction, audience dynamics, and how to let people into your work. The following is the first thing I ever read at one of these events. I read it at Dana Norris’s amazing Story Club series in Chicago. Though I’d read in front of audiences before—on stage, in bookshops and auditoriums, on the radio—the experience with the audience there was a delight. If you can find storytelling events in your town, maybe give them a shot as audience or reader.)

(You can also hear me read a variation of this piece on Installment 4 of the Broad Shoulders podcast, for grown-ups.)

In summertime, the sky above my neighborhood gets loud. Explosions live there. They set off car alarms. Sometimes the echoes of the explosions get drowned out by cheers or laughter, sometimes by what sounds like panic. Most of the time, they’re followed by silence. From my desk, I hear the blasts whistle and pop, crackle and boom.

I’m inside, at my computer, making a big deal out of stuff someone wrote on an Internet forum or on Google+ or wherever. I fret and fidget and dwell and obsess. I mistake forum posts for, pardon me, actual writing. I sometimes spend time trying to get the language and nuance of a forum post just right, to reward a deep reading for context and subtext and what I didn’t say in addition to what I did say. I craft tweets to work in series, to counterbalance doldrums with guffaws, to modulate the ups and downs to convey the ongoing arc of the character I portray online. I open the browser like it was a leather case and I fiddle. It’s like busking, except I tweet out in the hopes that others will send tweets back. I tweet for tweets and wonder why my novel’s not finished.

And my modem keeps cutting out, like it’s trying to spare me from something, like it’s trying to hide a newspaper from me at the breakfast table. For a few days, I dreaded what was happening on the Internet without me. What gags and dramas passed by? What glimpses into other people’s lives? Was I falling out of the conversation, falling behind the discourse?

Outside, a firework booms.

Fireworks are both grand and nerve-wracking for me. I like my fingers. I want to keep my fingers. Yet I don’t think too hard about the explosions going off outside my building. They zoom and pop and light up the night for a second—just a second—and then they’re gone. I think of them as atmosphere.

But I’m sitting at my desk, facing the Internet, when another big boom rattles the joint and knocks a thought off a shelf in my head.

Continue reading