Hi everyone – only a short update this month, I’m afraid. It has been a weird few weeks. My head was largely recovering and getting better, then things got far worse again, and now things have got far better again with the same speed things got far worse again, so it’s hard to know what to think. I also got a serious chest-burning cough, and a sore throat, and nausea, went to get tested for Covid… and it came back negative. So that’s something. Nevertheless, all this has been deeply draining and dispiriting, especially being alone in a foreign country away from everyone I know, but I’ve been doing what I can to keep my spirits up. This included getting a lovely new friend, Nessie, a rescue greyhound, who you will see here…

…and she is entirely wonderful. She is taking a while to adapt to her new home (she’s already quite old, at 11, and has never lived in a house before), but she’s very affectionate, and gentle, and is definitely (gradually) settling in to the Johnson household. I’ve also been keeping up with cardio exercise, though I seriously miss weightlifting and will probably have to get a home gym if the gyms here in Sydney stay shut for too much longer. How are you all doing in this strange times? One month should be a “short” amount of time since I last posted, but it feels like an age, and so much has happened.

Otherwise, however, I have done a little more URR work here and there, when my head allows. (It is clear at this point that my remaining head issues are psychosomatic, not “physical”, but that doesn’t make them any less “real” and any less distressing and disturbing). I have decided release is more important than anything, so a few things I was intending to fix in great detail I’ve just removed – they are only small things, but they have moved us a bit closer to release. I just need to find a day to put aside to really check in on speech generation, especially greetings and insults and the like, and then we’ll be pretty much done. I am also aware that there are some issues with running the game on Windows 10, and this is something I’m going to have to resolve. Hoping to make some solid progress in May, fingers crossed.

I’ve also – like all other academics – shifted my teaching to “online only” for the time being, which has been a strange process but one I feel I’m getting the hang of now. Assuming we remain online only next term (very likely, even while Australia is doing comparatively quite well on the Covid front) I’m actually looking forward to being able to spend a proper amount of time setting up next term’s teaching to be online “from the ground up”, rather than scrambling like mad to adjust this one to online standards while also trying to teach the thing. My research output, however, has really slowed down somewhat. At the start of this term before the Covid issues really kicked into high gear I finished and submitted two journal articles – one about the possibility of using “craft” as a useful lens to understand game skill, and one building on a previous paper to further analyse the careers of live streamers with disabilities – but very little has happened on that front since then. I know I need to update my publications page, and hopefully I’ll get to that (and a million other things…) in May. Assuming things on the head front return to normal soon, I have some really exciting projects planned, but… I’m not getting my hopes up for the near future.

Lastly, like everyone, I’ve been spending some of my limited screen time catching up on actually playing games – I believe I have discussed before the great irony of being a game academic / developer and having little time left to actually play the things! More importantly, though, games have been pretty essential in the last month or two to keeping me going under the present circumstances. At some point I’ll probably post some extensive thoughts on all the things I’ve played in the past couple of months, but I’d love to hear what games have been keeping you all sane in these weird times. Thanks for reading everyone; stay safe; and more soon!


  • Sorry to hear things are up and down, but I’m happy to see you’re finding some fun in games. Nessie looks like a good girl 🙂

    > I’m actually looking forward to being able to spend a proper amount of time setting up next term’s teaching to be online “from the ground up”, rather than scrambling like mad to adjust this one to online standards while also trying to teach the thing.

    Hahaha. Until last year I worked for a uni in Sydney. *further comments withheld* 😀

    Are you getting encouragement or support to redevelop the courses properly? I hope so, but I have it in my head that they will probably not want you to change anything that affects course descriptions or assessments. The bigger they are the slower the move, sadly. Albiet COVID seems to be giving them a bigger kick than usual.

    > How are you all doing in this strange times?

    Been off work for four weeks. I’m current support staff in the medical industry, policy is that if you show any sort of cold or flu symptoms then you can’t come into work. I’ve had back-to-back flus for four weeks and I’m truly sick of it. I’m slowly getting back to work this week and building back up my hours, but I’m fatiguing easily. My SO tells me I’m allergic to work, so I’m psychologically stuck in a catch 22.

    COVID testing was interesting. I did mine after the easter weekend — the testing center at the hospital was completely empty. Everyone was presumably still passed out from too much chocolate. [ This paragraph would make an interesting inspiration for a roguelike. ]

    I’m glad that numbers here are not exponentially rising, but really concerned about certain places (eg USA) and the knock-on famine + social issues we’re probably going to see in a lot of places. Family is very concerned, both for our more senior relatives directly as well as all of the people in the world getting hit.

    Looking forward to seeing your future posts, whatever they may be on. I’ve emailed you a small sound snippet from what I think was a RLR episode; not sure now, but I think it fits your course redevelopment policy regardless. Take it easy, enjoy the rain and hug your dog 🙂

    Regards, Hales

    • Thanks for this my friend! Apologies for the slow reply. At the moment I’m very much just stepping in to teach what nobody else is presently teaching, but that’s pretty standard for a new faculty member. And with Covid, I don’t know when I’ll be able to design my own content, although my mid/long-term hope is to develop some kind of specifically games course, probably a mix of game studies and game design (I taught something like this back when I was in Canada). Likewise, I’m glad Australia has – present Victoria situation notwithstanding – got it so thoroughly under control, but I don’t think we’ve even begun to see the full global knock-on effects yet. Strange times, strange times indeed…

    • Thanks Antonelli! I’ll need to figure out what’s going wrong first, but I’m sure it can be done…

  • I know what you mean about appreciating the chance to develop your courses beforehand. I used to be an overseas English teacher, and I got thrown into the deep end and was pretty much scrambling just to keep up during my entire time in the job. I would have really, *really* liked a couple of weeks just to work on lesson plans. Currently, my university has also switched to all-online through the end of summer session, so at the library we’ve been busy trying to support all the new online courses. It’s been crazy, but an interesting challenge. Hopefully I can squeeze in your book as an eBook purchase before the next (assuredly smaller) collection budget cycle begins.

    Game-wise, I’ve been playing a lot of Sky: Children of the Light, which has produced many whimsical and enjoyable interactions with other players. I’m also a longtime player of Fallen London, which has received some major updates recently. I also started playing AI Dungeon 2 — have you heard of it? It’s basically a chatbot that generates responses on whatever kind of adventure you want. It’s crude now but is developing fast — your discussion about the conversation system in URR reminds me of it. Sophisticated on-the-fly dialog and content that responds to player input will, I think, play a big part in the future of gaming.

    • Exactly this crowbar! Next term I’m teaching another existing course, which is again fine, and I think I’ll find it a bit easier than the demands of this term. It’s a research methodology course for undergrads, rather than a more theoretical course for postgrads, so I’m hoping it’s going to be a little more comfortable for someone like myself who is still rather fragile at the moment. And I’m very flattered!! I’d love to hear your thoughts if you do get the good.

      I have heard of AI Dungeon 2, it’s very interesting indeed! I really enjoy giving it a play, there’s some super-cool stuff there. Might write some thoughts on it for a blog post at some point…

  • Hi Mark! Strange times indeed.

    In France, confinement is still going on and it is supposed to be less strict after the 11th of may. I fear that the epidemic will come back after this day because I do not trust people to continue to lay low and be careful..
    Well, I personally spent nearly 2 month at my appartment, not alone fortunatly, and it’s ok. I was jobless anyway so it wasn’t a big deal for me but I will begin a job training that will last about 2 to 3 months for a public job in 3 weeks. My perspectives are fine for the moment.
    Nice to see updates here!

    • Oh and also, I played a lot of Monster Hunter and Yakuza lately, time is infinite right now aha

    • Oh gosh, that sounds tough! I would have lost my mind being confined to my flat (and I don’t use that phrase liberally, I really mean it quite literally) – happily even at the strictest lockdown here in Australia we were allowed to get out for exercise every day, and that was a total lifesaver. Hope things have picked up in the last couple of months!

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