The first thing I got done this year was go on vacation, which was important.
I started the year with my Japan stories from my vacation. I didn’t tell all of the stories I wanted to tell, but I think I got around to the most important stuff. Apparently Medium has some kind of insane SEO, because there’s absolutely no reason my story about Strong Zero should be the first thing that comes up when you Google “Strong Zero.” But there it is.
All year I’ve been putting together guides for Polygon, pretty much by myself. These guides are serious grunt work, taking ten days at minimum. I’m not only doing the writing, but capturing videos that demonstrate the concepts I’m discussing. (Shout outs to my El Gato.) Most modern fighting games make this pretty easy, but there’s always something that’s very difficult to capture solo, or which requires me to lay out two controllers in front of me; you get the idea.
SFV Arcade Edition (update to previous guide)
Smash Brothers Ultimate (I did the basic gameplay guides)
Monster Hunter World (weapon guides for bow and long sword; the plan to cover the rest unfortunately never materialized)
I pitch every major fighting game, and I want to note that if something from this year didn’t make it, it probably wasn’t for lack of trying. Final Fantasy Dissidia NT was one of the ones that slipped through the cracks for reasons outside of anybody’s control.
Smash was an exception to my usual formula, and probably turned out to be the hardest piece I’ve ever done. Because I couldn’t get an early copy like normal (such is the security around Smash), I had to grind out the piece in 7 days including the launch weekend. I’m not going to sugarcoat it: that was about half of the time I needed.
There were also the usual op/eds, which I try to pitch whenever I have an idea and the time. Mostly these are in the fighter niche, but I’ve steadily been pushing outwards when I feel I have something worth saying.
Here’s the archive of the column. Be aware that this link may not work as you read this. The VRV blog is unfortunately set for detonation at the end of the year, and don’t expect a large corporate entity to keep hosting a weird little blog like this one. If you can see it, and there’s anything you like: *save it*. I’ve already saved all my own pieces because otherwise it’ll be like they never existed. This is a reality of writing online.
This year I started a toy review column with VRV called Plastic Love. If you’ve been following me for a long time you might be familiar with the old version of this column at Anime News Network, which I ran for nearly five years until I was Poochie’d and burned bridges with ANN.
Anyway! It wasn’t all for nothing, because VRV of all people were fond of my old work and hired me to continue it with them.
I’m writing slightly shorter pieces with a point of view a little bit more towards the newbie or non-enthusiast, and with significantly better photo equipment than I was able to afford in the past. The pictures I’m happiest with are of Gwendolyn.
As of now we’ve only looked at Japanese toys, but if we keep going I would like to expand the point of view to other brands — so long as the quality is high, I’m there. (But if you see me praising, like, Funko Pops… know that something happened.)
Though I know for sure that VRV blog in its current form is going poof, I do not currently know what the fate of my column is. You’ll know when I do.
I have, by my own admission, had a tough time getting back to my pet project with all this other work in the way. There was truly a time when I was working on Kawaiikos all day, making the long bet that maybe if I hit enough Patreon supporters I’d be able to make a living on it. The answer was “not really”, as the comic has been plateaued at around 50 subscribers for the longest.
For right now, as my work days are usually dominated by freelance content of some kind or another, I try to concentrate on finding the free days to just barely slide in at the goals I set for my Patreon supporters.
For next year, as every year, I want to find more Kawaii Time. It’s not really a lack of inspiration, it’s a lack of time and my need to keep my work to 8 hours a day. There’s KKC stuff lying around I need to get to, there are T-shirt ideas yet to commission. I want to be in the Kawaii Headspace more this year. That’s probably my resolution.
Other stuff: The original release version of English Comipo I’ve been using dropped support in April of this year without telling anybody, so I’m in the process of moving all the assets over to my Steam Comipo installation, the only supported English version. I found this out only a few weeks ago.
The Fate op/ed
I wanted to get to this part separately, because this is the piece of mine that actually blew up this year. This layman’s explanation of Fate/Grand Order and Riyo’s Gudako character hit a lot of chords, even getting summed-up (read: paraphrased in its entirety without notifying me, asking permission, or paying me) in Japanese and reaching an even wider audience on Gigazine than it did on Polygon. All I’m saying is perhaps Gigazine owes me a check.
Anyway, the point of this article was pretty simple. As much as I personally enjoy the Riyo Gudako character, she’s a caricature of the target paying audience: anime-horny gambling addicts. As such, the character inherently shines a bright light on exactly how unethical gacha and lootboxing are on the whole. Even the fan-favorite gag character is a victim of a system built by developers for maximum profit on the backs of super-fans, addicts, and gamblers. She works specifically because the players feel her pain and her mania.
None of this was ever really controversial in the player base before we published this article. It isn’t controversial now. I’ve played F/GO quite a bit (and dropped the habit). I have plenty of friends who are heavy F/GO players and none disagreed even a tiny bit with the piece. But when Polygon dot com published a piece about it, a lot of players decided it was slander that had to be stopped.
It’s strange to represent a big corporate entity that so many people have Feelings about, and stranger still to assume the role of someone’s personal villain. Luckily, this story was forgotten within a week or so.
I’ve been a very busy professional nerd! This has really been a growth year for me as far as this kind of work goes. If you happen to be in a position to need my services in the new year, let’s talk.
If, on the other hand, you simply enjoy my work and would like to help out, my Ko-fi is here. We freelancers need every penny, I assure you.