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I have cancer.

August 21st, 2013 · 63 Comments

Well, this is without a doubt the strangest post I’ve ever had to write, and I’m honestly not even sure how to start without just diving right in: after a long past few months riding a medical merry-go-round of tests & scans & biopsies, my doctors and I have more or less accidentally discovered that I have cancer.

Some three years of stomachaches that seemed too mild & too sporadic to look into further were followed by a steeper decline around the end of 2012, and then followed by the bottom dropping out entirely just weeks before I was due to fly to LA for HORIZON, with regular, severe, sometimes 12-15 hour attacks of the most excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced.

(I fasted for two days before we live-streamed the show in hopes of giving the impression of being a fully functional normal human being — I think it worked.)

That led to a hypothesis that what was ailing me was my gallbladder, and so it was a major relief when an ultrasound showed right off the bat that I definitely, totally had the hell out of some gallstones. Easy enough — a quick, laparoscopic snip, a few days recovery, and I’d be back in business.

But that’s when I fell onto the Möbius treadmill, and started hearing “we think we might see something else, though, and just want to send you in for one more scan, you know, just to be sure” as quickly as the results of the last scan seemed to turn up nothing.

After a maddening 6-8 weeks where we seemed to be barking up a thousand wrong trees and not making any progress fixing the one actual malady we were positive I actually had, biopsy results came back which proved that suspicions about that initial little ultrasonic blip — which otherwise could have so easily been ignored or overlooked — were not unfounded in pretty much exactly the worst possible way, and that we had more or less accidentally discovered that I have cancer.

And so here’s what’s going to happen: this week I’ll be headed in for surgery, where they’ll be removing a stretch of my intestines — where the cancer began — and doing another ultrasound scan directly on the surface of my liver itself — where the cancer has since spread — to get a clearer sense of how extensive the damage is there & remove or kill what tumors can be safely removed and/or killed. As a bonus, they’ll also be sneaking a fast hand in underneath my liver to finally, finally snip out my poor ailing gallbladder, just like while they’re in the neighborhood.

(apologies to Alëna Skarina for co-opting/corrupting her amazing image above)

This, obviously, will keep me altogether out of commission (read: wacked out on pain meds) through the end of August, around which point I’ll be released back home to spend the better part of September recovering — hopefully to the point where I can at very least hobble my way into this year’s Fantastic Arcade & be propped up in a cool, quiet corner to observe, if not take much active part in, the festivities, and to continue uninterrupted my work with the IGF.

This comes at pretty much the worst time for my work with Venus Patrol, though, as I’ll be in the thick of recovery when all first-year subscriptions will lapse. And while I do have plans for a (super amazing) lineup of second-year subscription giveaway games, as well as various other events & exciting expansions of both the site and the online shop (which is what I intend to spend my month laid-up tending to), I don’t feel like I can make any promises about how well I’ll be able to get those together in time, and at this point am presuming that I will not.

That’s a large part of the reason I felt like this post was important: not only to tell the friends & family that haven’t heard yet what’s happened & is about to happen to me, but also to have an easy place where any of you can point if you hear anyone wonder aloud why I appear to have almost entirely fallen off the map.

All that said, things could be much, much worse. My particular breed of cancer is not quite as virulent as many others — though it’s ultimately none less insidious, with its ability to easily spread itself basically anywhere else throughout my body it feels like taking roost — and to a certain degree I am doing much better than I was, or at least have things more under control than, just a few months back.

I mean, I’m definitely not great: between the gallstones and the wrecked intestines, restful uninterrupted sleep is still a pipe-dream, I’ve been essentially on a diet of soup, juice & smoothies for the past several months, and basically everything that sort of defined my whole god-damned joie de vivre — drinking booze with friends, eating amazing, terrible food & generally carousing until all hours of the morning — is all a thing of what now seems like a former-life-type ancient past.

Other than that, my primary vexation is having been cornered into giving very serious, non-metaphorical thought to my own mortality & how I’d like to best spend my remaining years. I expected — or at least very much would have liked to have had — 15, or 20, or, I dunno, maybe even another full 35 years before I was truly confronted with the fundamental transience of human existence, especially after that first 35 with an almost spotless bill of health, never having to deal with much more serious than a lingering cold.

That said — and for as rough & sobering & still mentally-all-consuming/draining as it has been — I’m not at all sure that that system-shock is actually a bad thing, and I’m extremely, incomprehensibly lucky to have only had to free-fall plummet like inches before a human safety-net formed directly underneath me, both in terms of like the day-to-day support of the amazing Austin community, and tear-jerky surprise care-packages from the likes of Keita, Robin, Martin & the rest of team Funomena (as sprinkled above/at top) & Heather and Ivan & so many beautiful emails & other well wishes.

I’m relieved I won’t have to just vague/sub-tweet all of this anymore, and will probably be talking a little more openly about things on Twitter, if you’re curious, but I’m not sure if and where I might have the time & energy to continue writing about this at greater length. If you do want to get in touch to talk more, or have questions about anything, feel free to email brandonnn@gmail.com.

OK, love you all, wish me luck, & here we go.

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Podcast: I Am In Another Castle

April 13th, 2011 · Comments Off

So IndieCade’s Sam Roberts just reminded me of this, and I felt bad that I hadn’t mentioned it here sooner, but then I realized they hadn’t blogged it yet either. [edit - This was a lie! They did blog it, just at their new website, with my 'tough-guy' photo & all!] Either way! Back in November when I was spending a few weeks in NYC, I sat down with Charles Pratt & Noah Sasso (he of soon-to-be Miracle Adventures in 2113 renown) at the legendary and now sadly defunct Ariyoshi for an hour long talk for Another Castle (direct MP3 link).

If you haven’t yet added Another Castle to your podcast rotation, you should do so now. It’s one of the very few I follow regularly, not least because it’s more or less the smartest of all gaming-related broadcasts — Charles semi-jokingly called it the ‘Charlie Rose‘ of games podcasts, but I think that’s actually pretty apt.

Anyway, the metadata description for the episode reads like this:

The chairman of the Independent Games Festival and former editor of Offworld talks to us about his long, off and on relationship with games, as well as his plans for IGF and beyond.

and, having recorded it nearly six months ago and not listened to it since it was aired, I can’t fully recall what more I can add about it, other than (again, as Sam reminded me) a total diversion into how I first became acquainted with the Church of the SubGenius and the massive impact that had on my future.

Have a listen to it now to hear how that’s at all relevant to anything, but be warned that it probably isn’t at all! And then subscribe to the whole thing and dig back through the archives, because there’s really, really good chats with people like Frank Lantz, Richard Lemarchand, John Sharp, Adam Saltsman, Andy Nealen, Steve Gaynor, and a whole slew of other names that should definitely mean something to you if they don’t already.

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GDC 2011: What just happened?

March 23rd, 2011 · 4 Comments

Wait, so I hear there was a Game Developers Conference this year? This is all I remember:

I ate spaghetti with Eric Chahi.

I did a microtalk (watch at top, watch the rest here), my first to the wider games industry & not just an “indie/choir preaching” audience, and it made a girl cry (mission accomplished!).

[Read more →]

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Book: 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die

January 3rd, 2011 · 2 Comments

I probably definitely should’ve mentioned this sooner, if only because it’s the first time I’ve ever appeared in something hard-bound, but last October, as I was on a train to Nottingham for GameCity, 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die was released in the states.

I ended up writing somewhere around a whopping 1% of the book, while the rest of the duties were heroically covered by too many awesome names to list here, and all edited together by Tony Mott. I ended up on a parcel of games you’ve probably seen me write about a thousand times before, but now you can read about them again in a volume heavy enough to double as a blunt trauma murder weapon.

Here’s the quick guide to where my stuff lives, once you buy it, which you can do over here!

Chibi-Robo: p. 606; Edge: p. 835; Bonsai Barber: p. 842; Eliss: p. 860; Noby Noby Boy: p. 867; Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure: p. 888; Scribblenauts: p. 918; Zen Bound: p. 926

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Video: ‘All Play is Personal’ Keynote at Australia’s Freeplay ’10

December 23rd, 2010 · 1 Comment

In August of this year, the organizers of Australia’s Freeplay games festival very kindly invited both Adam Saltsman and I to come and be their 2010 keynote speakers (aka international men of indie game importance). We obviously accepted and, after an all-day flight of screaming babies and marathon Clash of Heroes multiplayer, we touched down under in beautiful Melbourne.

Adam’s speech — which you can see over here — was fantastically and meticulously well-researched and spoke to the true universality of not just games but play, which doesn’t just pre-date formal game design but, like, man itself, and anyway was pretty eye-opening and mind-expanding and inspiring.

For my part, well, after a day and a half holed up in my hotel room subsisting on little more than a steady stream of tea and Tim Tams, I managed to emerge with what you can now view above.

It’s probably still a bit half-baked (I revised and expanded on it a bit for a talk at the most recent IndieCade), even built upon a message I’ve been trying to spread all year, but I think the soul-bearing sentiment’s still there. It’s as much a call for diversity (honest) as earlier, shorter talks, as it is a call for, well, sentimentality, honesty, humanity — putting more raw “you-ness” in your games — and also a short slice of Indie History as I understand it, and also there’s some junk in there about me and girls.

Anyway: it’s about an hour altogether, split into four parts, so you’ll want some cocoa and/or Tim Tams while you watch, and maybe you’ll want to skip the Q&A at the end (if it’s in there, I’m too frightened to watch), where I think I shrink further and further behind the podium at the prospect of trying to come up with clever things to say on the spot in front of a large audience. I write for a reason! (The reason is I’m a terrible extemporaneous speaker.)

Also, as a bonus, I’ll embed the two video clips I show toward the end after the cut, and also include two extra photos (including one chicken) from the audience (thanks to Polymonkey and Hiperactivo for those).

[Read more →]

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Slides: Begging For Game Diversity at an IGDA Austin Microtalk

September 13th, 2010 · 4 Comments

Back in May of 2010, then-chair Kain Shin invited me to speak in front of the Austin chapter of the International Game Developers Association, at a microtalks session that would also include a handful of local indies and otherwise, like Trent Polack, Matt Piersall of indie audio studio GL33K, and Harvey Smith.

With a vastly different audience than my first talk, I knew I couldn’t — as I was invited to do — simply repeat my GDC Indie Rant, so I decided to laser-target the crowd in the room that night: Austinites, and more specifically, Austin developers who very probably weren’t working in and/or had little familiarity with the indie world.

I’ll let the now fully-annotated slides speak for themselves, but note that this is the first appearance of My Magritte Joke, which I almost hesitate to include here because I’m still using it in speeches, and it still gets the biggest laff, and I don’t want to wear it too thin. Too late now!

P.S.: if you have photos/audio or even (!) video of the talks that night, let me know! Anyway, OK, here we go:

Hey everybody, I’m Brandon, used to write for Gamasutra and Edge, and then founded Offworld, and just last week I was named chairman of Indie Games Festival.

So, originally, I wanted to do a talk about the overall cycle the games industry has gone through since its very beginning, and I wanted to start –

[Read more →]

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Video: GDC 2010 Indie Rant On Videogame Journalism, Snark

September 9th, 2010 · 4 Comments

Basically the very first real speech I’ve ever actually given, my five-minute rant at the 2010 Independent Game Summit was addressed not so much to the developers in the room, but the press. Granted, given that the press in the room were actually in the room for the Indie Game Summit, the ones that heard it were probably not the ones that needed to hear it. Still, I hoped the message would resonate.

Screencapped here from the GDC Vault (where can you watch the entire 60 minute session for free and see lots of other awesome microtalks), apparently it went well! There were some cheers and applause and some nice things said on Twitter afterward.
[Read more →]

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Interview: Confessions of a Very Professional Game Journalist

September 9th, 2010 · Comments Off

Shortly before the 2010 Game Developers Conference, Beth at Game Writers Quarterly — a newsletter from the International Game Developers Association’s Writing special interest group — asked to interview me (along with Gamasutra’s Leigh Alexander and Official Xbox Magazine’s Francesca Reyes) on the general “wot I think” subject of writing about games.

So, like, I did, and ended up divulging most all of the dirty secrets of How I Got To Where I Am Now, etc. etc., which were tantalizing enough to be used as the article’s embarrassingly over-honest pull quote.

Anyway, you can read the whole newsletter online over here, with Reyes & Alexander’s contributions included, or just follow along below for the annotated version of just my bit. Bear in mind: this is from so long ago the iPad wasn’t even open for pre-orders yet, and I genuinely hope you don’t steal my idea for embedded-Unity cover discs. I’m gonna make that a thing.

What kind of game journalism would you say you do?

I’ve gone through a number of phases since I got my start: traditional reviews and features for Edge, business reporting and interviews for Gamasutra, and most recently and unquantifiably — with Offworld and the bits I write for Boing Boing — some strange brew of art appreciation and cataloging and advocating for the accomplishments of the indie game dev scene. Maybe, more broadly, I’m trying to help champion a new games culture that doesn’t have anything to do with discarded pizza boxes in the basement hovel and ‘Bawls’ and ‘booth babes’ and all the pervasive ‘gamer demographic’ tropes corporate marketers have adopted to help sell razors and Axe Body Spray and Doritos.
[Read more →]

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Where in the world is Brandon and Offworld?

October 7th, 2009 · 19 Comments

metatpetra

I am here, or rather, was when I started the post yesterday morning. I know I’ve been neglecting the site for too long, having moved most all my Awesome Links to my infinitely-easier-to-update and more community-oriented makeshift tumblr for now, but as you’ve no doubt sussed out (or heard me talk about ad nauseum for the past few weeks), there are major changes afoot, and so it’s probably best to get The Last Word down here.

So, first, the big news: as you will have heard, with Boing Boing’s relaunch, I will no longer be working on Offworld, and will instead be doing weekly columns on the Mother Boing (the first of which should be going up soon): round-ups of the indie/iPhone/retail games you need to be paying attention to, galleries of amazing things to lay your eyes on, and wider-ranging features that reveal something of the shape games are taking, still shining a sharp light on the stuff at the periphery and the people who make it, as was Offworld’s wont, but for a bit more generalized readership. In a sense, it’ll be quite a good thing, putting Boing Boing’s obviously sizable audience in more direct touch with indies and the rest.

shuttleexplode

But, a site like Offworld needs to exist, and I’d always approached it since its launch last November as the site I’ve been waiting ages for someone to do, so there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that I’m cooking up Something New basically like as I write this, and that there are a lot of exciting things that will go hand-in-hand with it.

Whether it’ll still be called Offworld or something new is irrelevant, I think: the site itself has been subsumed by the network and community of wildly intelligent, passionate game makers and game lovers that have grown around it and congregated through it (even if the commenting was too wonky to talk easily on it), and I’m not worried that we’ll find each other again quickly wherever we land.

As for the more personal rest: as of last Wednesday, I have left Austin for a bit, first to head to LA for Indiecade (which turned out to be proof positive of the collective wonder of the makers/lovers above: you should see my flickr [or Tiff's or Greg's or Felix's or Eric Nakamura's Giant Robot post] for some of the wicked times), and following that, to here — here being San Francisco — where I’ll be spending upward of a month. Or so. I haven’t exactly bought a return ticket yet, we’ll just see how that works out. The plan? Good time spent with good friends, particularly Ginger Anyhow, Steph, and Tiff, to say nothing of the billion other people I want to see while I’m here.

Don’t hesitate to contact me about anything at all on the past/present/future of my games coverage and involvement (brandon@tiger-town.com works fine!), and it’s probably easiest to see what’s happening when via twitter (@brandonnn, which probably everyone who reads this will be well acquainted with anyway). Let’s all talk more soon!

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links for 2009-08-17

August 17th, 2009 · Comments Off

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