a rickety bridge of impossible crossing


I'm typing this inside a mcdonalds inside a walmart. I don't want to be in a walmart, or in the mcdonalds that's inside it, but the library closes at 17:30.

For reasons too sad and complex to go into right now, I temporarily but indefinitely don't have a comfortable place to sit and type at home. So I bought the cheapest, smallest combination of items one could honestly call a meal (and it still cost too much—next time I'll bring my own drink and knock another dollar off) and brought my laptop out of my backpack. The mcdonalds is mostly empty, so I'm hoping they don't kick me out.

The end-of-fiscal-yearitis is hitting me hard. The pace at which I'm expected to work is leaving me little time to think about anything else. I'm still able to listen to podcasts, audiobooks and youtube videos I've downloaded—I'd probably be homeless if I didn't have at least that small privilege—but while it mentally sustains me, it doesn't help me grow at all. It's the mental equivalent of an all-carbohydrate diet; sure, I'm getting calories, but I can't do anything with them. My brain needs time and space if I want it to work enough to form the kind of observations and jokes that normally go into a garbage digest. There are a couple short-medium pieces I'd like to write, but if I don't have time to make shitposts, I certainly don't have time to write anything I want to be taken sort of seriously. By the end of the work day, I'm too exhausted for anything creative, hence this depressing brain dump of an entry just to have something for today.

I semi-officially closed my youtube channel recently; I changed my display name and avatar after 15 years of consistency, made all my videos private, and changed my profile info to announce that I'm on "indefinite hiatus" (scare quotes in original.) It wasn't a moment of much sadness; I hadn't made any new videos or done any streaming in several months, and since the computer I can record on is still out of commission, this isn't going to change anytime soon. There weren't any games I felt a particular desire to talk about in that way, and I don't enjoy it as much as I used to.

But today I was re-listening to Tim Rogers' review of pac-man,1 one of the world's perfect games, and got to the part where he related the anecdote about the most flattered he's ever been: when the CEO of M2 recognized him as the developer of the iphone game Ziggurat, and said that the game had been recommended to him by Toru Iwatani, the designer of pac-man.

It reminded me of the most flattered I'd ever been, when Derek Yu, the designer of Spelunky, one of the world's other perfect games, tweeted a link to the announcement of my first Spelunky stream, possibly the world's first Spelunky stream, and called me "one of the few LPers [he] likes". This was in 2010. The HD remake everyone knows the game as now wouldn't be released for another two years. Live video game streaming was essentially brand new. Twitch.tv was still just Justin.tv, which was, for reasons long-forgotten, seen as the inferior platform compared to ustream.com.

I was 25 in 2010 and I hadn't yet started therapy, so I know that whatever reasons Derek Yu liked me weren't related to my delightful personality or razor-sharp wit. It was probably the same reason most of my viewers liked me: compared to the other options available for watching people play games on the internet in 2010, I was relatively laid back, was relatively relaxing to listen to, and had an occasional funny or insightful comment. I appreciate everyone who watched me regardless of the reason, of course, but I'm under no delusions that what small audience I had was attributable to anything but luck of the draw, being in the right place at the right time.

2010 is a universe away from what playing video games on the internet has become. Spelunky streaming in particular had a huge moment in 2013, the year the HD version came out on PC, when tinkerers dug into the assets and discovered the ingredients needed to bring the solo eggplant run to the world.

Everyone plays games for the internet now, and streamers and let's players just like me are a dime a dozen. Still though, if I was at one point one of the only tolerable LPers for the designer of one of the world's perfect games, I had to be doing something right... right?

In 2010, I didn't envision a future where playing video games for the internet was something anyone would ever be able to do for a living, much less something that would bring some people millions of dollars. I would have found the idea totally ludicrous. I kinda still do. But as I sit in this walmart mcdonalds because the library closes at 17:30, as I'm reminded of the incredibly kind thing one of my heroes once said about me, I can't help but wonder what would be different if I had only had a little more foresight. If I had only believed in myself a little bit more. If I wasn't too shy to reach out to Derek and thank him. If I didn't completely miss the fact that he had said that until five months after the fact, when I was idly namesearching myself on twitter, because he didn't @ me, because I wasn't thinking about stuff like social media integration and SEO and building a brand. I hate all that marketing shit, I just wanted to have fun and entertain people, and that's why I have to finish up this entry so I can grab a few groceries before catching the bus and heading home, and then going to bed because I have nowhere comfortable to sit.

No matter how good I am at whatever I'm good at, it's meaningless if I'm not good at selling myself, and I'm bad at selling anything, least of all myself. I don't want to be a product, I just want to do what makes me happy and makes other people happy and have some bare-minimum-human-decency standard of comfort, but because capitalism is the most perfectly efficient system of aligning values and incentives for maximum benefit to everyone, I get to stamp and sign forms for 8 hours, sit in a mcdonalds in a walmart because the library closes at 17:30, and go to bed 🦝

  1. ACTION BUTTON REVIEWS PAC-MAN (youtube.com, 2020)