tiny games, terraria houses, and quarantine life

(content warning: animal death, described slightly graphically)

ugh, fuck, it's been forever since writing a thing here and since then... well, the world is on fire in a possibly good way, and everyone in the uk seems to have forgotten about covid-19 except me, who is still shielding bc I live with an immunocompromised person.

my pet lizard died about a month ago now. it was fucked up. she was absolutely fine, and then i came downstairs to find her lying in a pool of blood, not moving. i still don't really know what happened, but i suspect she had tried and failed to lay eggs, poor baby. i am absolutely fucking devastated that this happened and that i didn't catch the signs and take her to a vet. she seemed absolutely fine, she was a little off her food one day and then – that.

because the kid loves lizards, and because the idea of a lizard-less household sucked, we decided to get a new one. not like we immediately ran down to the pet shop, but i kept an eye out for any nearby lizards needing homes and... then there was one, and now we have a lizard boi. he is a little shyer and more skittish than niki was, but he's a sweetheart.

still, tho. i miss my sweet three-legged wonky-tailed girl and i am so goddamn crushed that i didn't see whatever was going wrong until it was too late.

This week has been just an entire fucking toxic waste fire filled with horrible things, and I may write a proper thing about that in a little while, but for now I am just going to say instead that the new Terraria expansion is everything I've ever wanted to make me fall completely back in love with this game again. oh my god, it's so good.

So I don't really have the money to go around buying games, but I bought The Longing today anyway because I'm really intrigued by the premise of it. It's described as an adventure game crossed with an idle game, and I guess that's a good enough summary, but it's not much like the “leave the game running to make the numbers go up so you can buy things to make the numbers go up faster and That's It” genre of idle games.

The basic premise is: you play a little creature – “the Shade” – who is waiting, alone, in a network of caves underground, for his king to awaken. The king is sleeping for 400 days. Real-time days. The shade is lonely and bored.

You can get the shade to walk around and explore; they walk slowly and there's no fast travel to anywhere, but you can set them off walking somewhere, tab out, and come back when they've got there. You can find them things to make their little home-cave a bit nicer and help them pass the time. And you can keep them company while they explore, read, decorate their cave and wait for the king. That's it, that's the game. You can, apparently, technically win by starting the game once, closing it, and coming back 400 days later to wake the king up, but there are multiple endings depending (presumably) on how you spend your time waiting.

(Okay, that's not absolutely it – you can also make the time pass faster. Reading passes time faster, and apparently decorating the home-cave nicely will make the time pass a little faster when the shade is in it, though I don't know by how much.)

I've only played for maybe an hour – and most of that was waiting for the shade to walk somewhere – but so far I like it. The shade feels like a little friend I can drop in and visit and help out, and I'm a sucker for anything that blurs the real-world and game-world boundaries, even if it's just by making you wait the way the shade has to.

And, well. I don't know how long the lockdown will last for most people, but for me... My partner's immunocompromised. I have asthma. I have a small child who may also have asthma. I hope it's not 400 days, but I'm not going to be going anywhere anytime soon either, shade; let's hang out and pass the time together.

But the main thing I wanted to write about – I mean, this was originally a blog about games and stuff, right? – is that today I stumbled across a list of tabletop rpgs and other storytelling games which are designed for a single player. You're both the GM and the only player, and you don't need anyone else to play. Which is so great because I've been really missing d&d but my group have been struggling with being able to actually play lately and I miss that experience of forgetting about this world and hanging out in another one for a while.

and holy shit some of these games are so cool? i had no idea there was an entire community around this and so many people making them. some of them are d&d-like and some are miles from that concept and revolve around horror-movie tropes, or tiny moments in everyday life that tell a story, or the concept of turning into a sparrow. this is so fucking cool, and... well, i wish i wasn't too brainfogged to follow half of them, but the 200 word RPG challenge is a pretty cool source of simple games that don't require too much reading or adding up numbers or figuring out what moves mean.

& so many of them have queer themes and are by queer authors and it's just. so good to see stories and games like that out there. have i mentioned that i love every single queer person who makes tiny weird games, of whatever sort, lately?

I am going to go play a bunch of these and see what kind of stories I can make.

Still learning Swedish. I can now say wildly complex things like “she is eating his sandwich” and “the turtles are wearing suits”!

(“Hon ater hans smorgas” and “skoldpaddarna har pa sig kostymar”, I think, except with accents that I can't make on this keyboard.)

Also I learned that the Swedish for “grass snake” is “snok” and I'm so happy about this discovery. It's so fucking cute.

today was too rainy to do anything including going out into the yard (... lol, like there's anything else to do right now anyway?), and the kid was mostly occupied with toy cars and trains and dinosaurs, so i opened up duolingo. i've been intermittently poking at french and swedish on there for... years, i guess, without ever sticking with it for long. but swedish is such a good language, and it makes intuitive sense if you're a native english speaker in a way that not many other languages do.

french... i used to be semi-kinda-fluent, enough to read a simple book and make simple conversation with someone who didn't mind repeating themself a lot, but since then i've got rusty as hell. it'd be nice to think i could remember it. sometimes it feels so frustrating because i just know i'm... not as intelligent as i used to be. i know intelligence isn't the measure of a person in any meaningful way, but it's still so frustrating not being able to remember things, or connect things in my mind, the way i used to be able to. but, still. i can try. sat there repeating “flickan ater pojkens brod” and “hon alskar hennes elefant” to duolingo for a half hour or so, although it occasionally picked up instead on the kid yelling “vroomster! 3, 2, 1, seatbelts!” instead and was like “the fuck, you are super wrong”. i don't know. it was something to do. i tried.

the gamification element of duolingo doesn't work at all for me, though, and it actually just kind of irritates me when it tells me how many lingots i have or asks if i want to do whatever thing to get more of them. it all just feels extremely pointless, like, i am here to learn language things, not to... I dunno, what do lingots even do? I know you can get new outfits for the owl if you have enough, which is cute, but not really like... worth going out of my way for rather than just waiting until i have them. i wish there was something that would actually hold my attention though; gamifying stuff does work for me, just not when the “rewards” are literally “hey well done, you scored some Gamification Points and now... nothing will happen”.

ah well. at least i now know how to say “she is not a woman, she is a fish” in swedish, so i got that going for me, which is nice.

finally trying to make some things on bitsy again. i threw together an extremely simple three-room thing yesterday called Go Out For A Walk And Stop For A Drink In A Cafe Simulator. it is exactly what the title says, and it is all i want right now. i'd like to add some music/sound effects before i put it on, but it's pretty much done for now.

& now i'm trying to make a cute little snomance (snake romance) game, for someone on fedi who requested one SOME TIME AGO and i have not been feeling brain-alive enough to do it until this weekend. but it's going to be cute and have little sleepy hibernating sneks.

yesterday evening i was so tired of being at home that i sat in my yard drinking wine and listening to seaside background sounds pretending I was at a pub on the Yorkshire coast, or a beer garden in Brighton. it was surprisingly comforting, but yeah, quarantine's getting to me. always worse when the kid's not home; when i'm in toddler-parent mode i'm too tired to think about being bored or lonely.

so: a weekend sleeping while the kid spent time with co-parents helped a lot with my general state of mind (& body). sleeping for thirteen hours straight? cannot recommend it highly enough, honestly. fuck, i feel like my brain is actually processing information and producing thoughts again. amazing.

like everyone else in the universe, i've been getting in touch with my inner hippie grandma during this quarantine, and despite not having a garden to grow anything in, i'm doing it anyway. potatoes in bags! herbs on the windowsill! onions in a bottle! cress on a paper towel! i don't even fucking like cress. it tastes terrible. but the kid likes to watch it grow and whispers “wow!” every morning when I show how it's grown overnight and that seems a good enough reason. anyway, today i got two little potato sprouts just peeking out through the soil! fuck yes i am gonna have homegrown potato salad.

also i cleaned my room and it now looks, maybe, like a space in which a human being might feasibly sleep, so that made me feel a little better. clean, fuss over the plants, sleep, take bath, sleep some more, stare at the internet, sleep. keeps my mind off missing the kid and wondering when i'll see my fiance and fretting about my mother, who is isolating with a “probably covid but we've got no tests” respiratory infection, i guess. quarantine's fucking weird. whatever. kid's home tomorrow.

this feels like such an empty and pointless entry. i'm trying to build up the habit of writing here, but haven't quite broken through into the “write down things a little more personal than What I Did Today” zone, I guess. I mean, there's things i would like to talk about, write about in a space designed for more than 500 characters, or I wouldn't have started this. i'm just...

last night i dreamed i had a brain tumour and five weeks to live. i was a strange combination of terrified and weirdly calm, but i was devastated i wouldn't see my kid grow up, and afraid of what death would feel like. it was a very unsettling dream, the kind that when you wake up you take a few minutes to realise, yes, all of that was a dream, and you're so fucking relieved once you've figured that out.

then i fell asleep in the afternoon and had the exact same fucking dream. thanks, subconscious, i hate it.

thinking maybe i should use this as a general-purpose longform blog and not a specifically themed one? sometimes lately i just wanna rant in more than 500 characters.

holy shit, Graveyard Keeper is like the poster child of “I'll just do this one more quest and then I'll quit.” [twelve hours pass]

Also, maybe I've just played too much undertale and now expect my videogame actions to have actual consequences, but if the ending of it isn't along the lines of (mild early-game spoilers) the main character going “babe! I did all this stuff just to get back to you, I've cheated and murdered and enslaved zombies and despoiled corpses and sold human meat...” and their partner going “you've.. what? bye” then I will be disappointed.