Hustling

May 5, 2022 at 1:18 pm (Uncategorized)

Not long ago, I wrote about my two main hustles (my family, and my writing) and my ten side hustles.

Things are changing quickly, so here’s what’s currently going on (in the same order as last entry):

  1. Shooting Through escape rooms.

I found a staff person! She’s smart, funny, and capable. Her kitchen floor has a hole in it so she’s not storing the game there at the moment, but we went to Nimmitabel’s Steampunk @ Altitude festival last weekend and we’ve made a plan for the future which involves me doing… basically nothing… and getting a little bit of money every so often. Isn’t that the dream?

If that goes well, we’ll activate the second room (the first is MADAM ALCHEMIST and the second is THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING ROOM which is in an array of suitcases shoves into odd places around my house at present, and would need a bit of effort to set up properly. Like 5 hours.)

2. Murder in the Mail/Magic in the Mail.

I recently gave away the last 26 copies of the postal version of “Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday” (keeping one) which at least freed up some space so I can package up the “Magic in the Mail” stories.

So… improvement, at least.

I’ve been failing to log into my main online store site for several weeks now. I can’t even figure out my username, which really shouldn’t be this hard. I… don’t know what to do. Hopefully I’ll get onto that real soon.

3. Aspergirl Adventures.

I haven’t done all the videos I planned to do about Queensland… and my computer is still so loaded up with videos that it’s misbehaving due to lack of memory. It keeps shutting down and at some point it will probably just explode, and I’ll lose my eyebrows, my novels, and priceless hundreds of family photos and videos.

So that’s not ideal.

But… it’s not like anyone is paying me, or depending on the videos. So I’m fairly chill about only doing those videos when I feel like it.

4. Babysitting.

I actually have a small bit of regular babysitting now, which is within my capabilities (ie I don’t have to get out of the car). 2-4 days a fortnight I fetch my sister’s kids from school and deliver them home. She pays me 12.50 each time.

5. Recumbent Bike Hire?

I have not done anything about this, and don’t plan to. Good choice, me.

6. Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group.

This is my main charity focus, and staying that way. It’s incredibly challenging and time-consuming and seems to involve at least one public breakdown (on my part) per mentee family. Worth it.

This is, in many ways, what I do.

7. Art by Qusay Fadheel.

This is fairly easy. I just take some of Qusay’s prints with me whenever I’m running a stall. And I use him whenever I need an artist (and pay him). There’s very little money in it, but the balance of the business account is slowly rising rather than falling. That’s the goal, really, isn’t it?

8. West Belco Food Pantry.

This is costly in terms of both money and energy but I don’t feel able to just quit because I know that kids have avoided going hungry because their parent had my pantry to lean on in an emergency.

Early this year I began partnering with the Indigenous Justice Health officer to make ‘Homeward Hampers’ for Indigenous detainees who are re-joining the community. I am THRILLED to be able to do something useful for Indigenous people, especially those who are directly effected by the innate and ongoing racism of the police and justice system.

A lot of people immediately came on board to help, and I got carried away and made HUGE hampers worth about $250 each. I thought I’d work real hard in January and then not do anything the rest of the year. Lolz… It’s May now, and I’m ALMOST finished. And ended up putting way too much of my own money into it too.

BUT I have just found a sponsor for the pantry who is going to make a monthly donation. I don’t yet know how much it will be but I am so, so glad to have that help.

9. Platypus Playgroup.

It took a lot of hours of work, but I have now successfully implemented the exit plan I had in mind from the start. The Platypus Playgroup is now doing great and I don’t have to show up—ever. Every so often I get an email from someone who wants to join the group, and I tell them how. That’s it. So technically I’m still involved, but only a teeny tiny bit.

10. The Castle.

Here’s what I wrote last time:

Before I was able to form the Castle of Kindness, I dreamed a large and complicated dream.

I want to help design an enormous house that looks like a castle (basically a square, with towers and crenelations and a flat roof) that has one giant room on the bottom floor (for events and for emergency accommodation for disabled/autistic people), and adjustable living quarters on the other two floors (so various combinations of people can live there, eg 2 singles and a 3-kid family; 5 singles; etc). It would be accessible for wheelchair users as well as people who are Hard of Hearing or have Low Vision or temperature sensitivity or smoke sensitivity. It would have Aboriginal art inside and out, and facilities for cooking lessons or big movie nights, and maybe even an inside pool and/or spa (gentle exercise and/or pain relief). It would have solar power including a battery (so it was insured against power outages), and be as bushfire and storm safe as a house can be.

I reckon it would cost about 2 million to build, plus about a million just for the land. Because ideally it would be near my house—a great location for disabled people, as the Kippax shopping (and medical) centres are close by, and there are several great local community organisations here too.

This hustle has a building designer on board, and that’s about as far as I’ve gotten (not nothing). But it’s something Canberra needs, and whoever manages to build it will make a massive profit from renting both the living spaces and the conference spaces (the lower room and the roof—and presumably the yard too). It would be a great place for disabled refugees to live—within a mini community that could hopefully help one another (and they could also be hired as event organisers, cleaners, or gardeners—or they could run cooking classes, art exhibitions, etc).

Brace yourself, because this is going to sound literally insane (and believe me, I hear it too): I think God has told me that my family is going to move to a specific big, beautiful house near us (not as owners, but as renters—which we definitely couldn’t afford at the moment).

It is zoned for two dwellings, so the owners could potentially build a two-story granny flat with a pool on the lower floor and disability-friendly housing on the top—including at least one tower. It is suitable for emergency accommodation and for moderately-sized community stuff as the living room is giant (60 square metres), so I could host events of 100 people inside or 300ish with combined inside/outside spaces (the yard is big enough to fit another house).

There’s a partially-roofed deck which would be great for a spa and even has an external door to the bathroom. It even has a large outside caged space that would make a great cat run.

It would need some work to be fully accessible, but not as much as most houses. And you can see the mountains from the balcony. It recently sold for 1.2 million, and I was at the auction telling people I wanted to rent it. That was over a month ago. No-one has contacted me about it, and I have only a teensy bit more money now than I did then (specifically, $25/fortnight, plus an unknown amount for the food pantry). I could arguably ‘rent’ a room to the food pantry, as the house is also a great set-up for both a food pantry and an escape room (I would use a single large room for both). There is a gated front courtyard which can’t be seen from the road (so it’s unlikely to attract drunk people smashing stuff) and three of the five bedrooms have doors that open directly to the courtyard, so the food pantry room could be accessed from outside while still having a locked door between it and the rest of the house. (The other two direct-access doors would be great for emergency evacuees, because they could have privacy from us—we would move into the family room during the emergency.)

It’s in a high fire risk area… but a swimming pool full of water might be VERY handy for exactly that reason.

I call it “The Shiny House”.

11. “Welcome to Australia” book

I forgot this particular hustle last time. It’s something that grew out of the Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group, and I started work on it four years ago. It’s a picture book designed for refugee and immigrant kids to read with their parents, and has loads of information (from “Cockatoos are huge and loud but they won’t hurt you” to “‘Bring a plate’ is not about crockery”). I always wanted to make it bilingual in several languages, and our current refugee mentees have translated it into Dari Persian. So… I now owe them $700 which I don’t have (I am working on a short-term loan because failing to pay a refugee on time is supervillain level dodgy) BUT the book is very close to having a real, bilingual, completed version.

12. The ZamZam Foundation.

You may have noticed that the most recent blog entry here is about an Afghan-led charity called the ZamZam Foundation which is launching in Canberra next month. I’m currently the secretary. It’s been a wild ride and way too much for me to handle. About a month ago my imminent collapse was obvious enough that several more people came on board, so I THINK the worst is over. We’ll see. I really love the work but I need to find a co-secretary or something along those lines. I am working on it.

13. And…

Because of the ZamZam Foundation, I became aware of some government grants specifically designed to help Afghan refugees (and vulnerable migrants) settle into Australia. I got excited and started looking at houses (that’s how I first saw the Shiny House) before reading in more detail that the grants can’t be used for housing or land. Then I came up with these thirteen ideas:

a) English lessons (including a member of the current refugee family, and including me—which would be about $250/week for me and at least that much for her).

b) Driving lessons (including at least 2 members of the current refugee family).

c) Wages and computers for the president and secretary of the ZamZam Foundation (which would give me another $100 or so per week, plus $150 to pay a co-secretary, plus a non-dying computer).

d) Swimming lessons in a private backyard pool (which, if I lived at the Shiny House and got permission, would give me a backyard pool… and I also quoted for a waterslide and Indigenous art installation which would be AWESOME and ultimately a source of income so the free swimming lessons for refugees could continue to be free).

This is by the artist I’d most likely hire (who likes the idea):

e) West Belco Food Pantry—expanding the pantry, and hiring a refugee to do the shopping and unloading and cleaning. I’d continue to monitor the pantry, and charge maybe $20 or $50 a week for my services. If I was at the Shiny House, I’d charge $100/week for the use of the room.

f) Funding to make and print “Welcome to Australia” in its Persian bilingual form, including 500 free copies sent around Australia (to other refugee mentorship groups, the Red Cross, etc), and some cash for me.

g) Stress-related pain relief (since refugees have trouble coming to terms with mental illness, but definitely know they’re stressed and in pain)—a spa pool, and free massages. (And then I’d have a spa in my yard, plus $20-$50 for coordinating people’s visits.)

h) Cooking groups (made up of two recent arrivals and two not, to help integrate people into the wider community—and to help new arrivals show off their skills rather than having to be the recipient of aid all the time).

i) Monthly Open House dinners—I’d love to host that, especially if I was in a house with enough room (…like the Shiny House).

j) Monthly excursions—I love showing off Canberra, and would get paid about $200/month for that.

k) Art classes (originally by my mum, then one of her students would do it for money).

A friend just told me about another government grant thing due next month, with similar goals (except not restricted to Afghans, which is all the better for me) so I’ll apply for most/all of these in those grants too.

So, is my life about to change in a big way (for at least the next two years)? We’ll see.

If I won most/all of those grants, I’d have enough money to rent the Shiny House. So it’s possible.

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How to donate to the ZamZam Foundation

April 3, 2022 at 8:16 am (Uncategorized)

The simplest way to donate (or to buy tickets to the launch on 11 June in Canberra) is to use our ticket booking page. Click this link.

Or you can contact me (Felicity Banks) directly.

ZamZamSecretary@gmail.com or 0402 548 978.

I will update payment options here as they get approved.

More financial information:

The treasurer of the Australian branch of the ZamZam Foundation is Asif Zahir. He has set up a designated bank account and PayPal account, but charities take a long time to be approved so we’re waiting for that at the moment.

Felicity Banks is the secretary of the ZamZam Foundation.

ZamZam Foundation is incorporated as an association in the ACT and has applied for an ABN. We plan to merge with an existing international charity (we are connected to two different charities so I won’t announce anything until we are farther along that road) but in the meantime continue ZamZam’s work in Afghanistan using the staff that are on the ground there.

More about ZamZam Foundation:

The ZamZam Foundation was founded in 2019 in Afghanistan by Dr Nilofar Ebrahimi MP. The goal was to support orphan women who want to be educated. Several women have gained their degrees with the help of the ZamZam Foundation. Right now, ZamZam is connected to eighteen women and three men who are seeking tertiary education. The women are very frustrated and discouraged, but the ZamZam Foundation is helping them to learn English online so that they have more choices in their lives. It also supports 250 families in three provinces with their basic needs, which is even more important since the Taliban took over.

Dr Ebrahimi is now a refugee in Canberra along with her husband and five children. Her focus is continuing to run the ZamZam Foundation.

She was the first female doctor in her province and one of the first female MPs in Afghanistan. It was such dangerous work that her family had to move to Australia seven years before the Taliban takeover, and when Dr Ebrahimi finally had to leave she took only a handbag with her.

Thank you for your support.

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Pandemic Playlist (mild adult content)

January 13, 2022 at 3:54 am (Uncategorized)

For me, there are two songs—both from early 2020—that simultaneously define the lockdown experience while also being oddly uplifting.

(Of course, if they were from now-ish, they’d probably be more focused on the experience of getting sick and/or knowing someone who is sick or in hospital, because sheer numbers are exploding and the only “lockdowns” seem to be isolation, quarantine, or people deciding for themselves that the government should be declaring lockdown but isn’t.)

This song is legitimately fun, but it’s WELL worth watching the video because the wordplay is exquisite.

And song #2 (yeah I’m not great on long playlists because I fall into a playlist black hole and I definitely don’t want to spend that much time focusing on the pandemic!)

Randy Rainbow does a lot of political parodies set to showtunes. And he has a gorgeous voice. This song is way, way better than the original (“Go the Distance” from Disney’s “Hercules”).

What songs are helping you cope at the moment, whether written specifically about awful sh*t or not?

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Lizzie by Lizzie

December 28, 2021 at 9:00 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s hard to take photos of Lizzie, because she finds eye contact overwhelming (including ‘eye’ contact with a camera). I have taken many thousands of photos of her, and hundreds of good ones.

She also likes taking pictures, especially of our cats. Ever since she was very small (3 or so) she’s enjoyed taking pictures, so it’s clearly not just a phase. For Christmas, I bought her a kids’ underwater camera (a pink one, obviously). It was $40 (not including a micro SD card, which it doesn’t work without!) so obviously not the greatest camera in the world.

But she’s taken over 400 pictures since she received it three weeks ago, and last night I sorted through them ALL and saved about 40 of them onto my computer. None of them are good, as such (not even the ones I took) but it was fascinating to see the photos she took of herself (I’m posting them in a small size because they blur as soon as they’re bigger than this).

As you can see, our cat Zipper is thrilled to be included.

This is a new swim top that goes with a mermaid tail. At nearly-ten years old it’s all about the magic, rather than the bikini body. But I hope her pride in a new swimsuit remains for many years to come.

This is a tricky angle. I’m impressed.

These are photos taken with a ragdoll cat that we looked after when the owners were travelling. I love the confident joy in the second picture.

A large chunk of the world hates teenage girls, especially if they’re beautiful—and especially especially if they know it. I hope I’ve given Lizzie a way to express herself creatively while also celebrating her own appearance. She loves figuring out her own identity, and treating herself as an artistic subject is a great way to give her armour against the many hateful messages that face her in the years ahead.

Also, she’s good at this stuff, and richly deserves the tools to continue building her skills.

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So Many Side Hustles

December 27, 2021 at 9:17 pm (Uncategorized)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a person under forty with an interest outside of their career must attempt to make a living from that interest.

Leaving aside a discussion of that tragedy, here are some of my side hustles, and two central hustles as well.

Central Hustle #1: My family.

This is a Christmas photo featuring my daughter—and, in the background, my nephew.

It is fairly obvious that a fair chunk of my mental and physical energy goes directly to my family. As it should.

Central Hustle #2: Writing

This is a pretty arrangement of my magical steampunk trilogy (done by the publisher, Odyssey Books):

And this is my kids’ fantasy trilogy. The third cover may change, as the book isn’t out yet. NEARLY though.

Plus of course aaaaalllllllll my interactive fiction, which now outnumbers my regular novels.

This is my ‘day job’. I’m not well enough to work full-time, but when I feel guilty for not doing my work, writing is usually what I should be doing (or cleaning, but… well… cleaning, ugh).

Side Hustle #1: Shooting Through escape rooms.

This is somewhat… quiescent at present, due to several factors. Covid is one, my health is another, and the fact that I don’t have a place to put it is a third. Ideally I’ll hire someone to run it for me (and store it for me). But, you know, later.

Side Hustle #2: Murder in the Mail/Magic in the Mail

This was/is an interactive story system I invented, and it’s the reason I set myself up properly as a small business (which paid off big time because I received JobKeeper last year). Technically this side hustle is retired, but I still have a lot of stories to sell (and they’re all physical, and taking up space). The typical response from customers who stick around long enough to hear how they work is, “Oh, that’s so cool” and then not buying any.

Side Hustle #3: Aspergirl Adventures

This is a new one.

After paying off a particularly heinous debt (thanks to early withdrawal of my super due to disability), my family is going to go on some epic holidays to celebrate before buckling down to be responsible again (yay, adulthood). I watched a lot of YouTube videos to help me decide the best way to see the Great Barrier Reef (with my mental and physical issues, and two autistic kids), and it was often difficult to find the information I wanted. So I decided to do my own video series as we travel, and call it “Aspergirl Adventures” to represent Lizzie and I (since Chris and Tim are really not into taking photos and videos the way Lizzie and I are). In this one, I tested the wheelchair accessibility of Jillabenan Cave (one of the Yarrangobilly Caves in Kosciuszko National Park) and it was much more difficult than you would think—so I ended up providing valuable information to full-time wheelchair users.

Taking photos and videos and making each outing into a STORY helps me deal with issues as they arise, makes me more patient with the kids, and helps me deal with the very-predictable pain and injuries that are likely to happen pretty regularly for anyone with my chronic illnesses.

Will probably never make a cent.

Side Hustle #4: Babysitting

Every so often, I do a teensy bit of paid babysitting. I can cope with three hours pretty well, as long as it doesn’t happen often.

Side Hustle #5: Recumbent Bike hire?

We live right next to a funny little section of bike/walking track that is 300m long—perfect for someone learning to ride a bike. And we’re also less than 50m from a small nature reserve—perfect for someone to get some pleasant regular bike rides in. Last year, a disabled friend ‘lent’ (and later officially gave) me a recumbent trike with a pedal assist motor. I was extremely doubtful—I didn’t even own a pair of pants!—but once I got the hang of it I fell in love. When the weather permits, I typically ride 5-10 ks two or three times a week. Recumbent bikes are EXPENSIVE but a lot of people are curious about them, so I’ve had the idea to hire my bike out to people who want to know if it’s something that might work for them. Haven’t actually done anything about it, but will probably post something in a local facebook group or two (I’m in several) once 2022 arrives.

Side Hustle #6: Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group

Not exactly a hustle since I’ll never get paid for it, but still absolutely a hustle as I’m constantly fundraising. The web site is here and the ongoing GoFundMe is here. And yeah, I’ve made several videos about refugee sponsorship too (the organisation that guides us, Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia, asked us to provide footage where we could, and even provided a quick tutorial). That’s what really got me into making videos.

Side Hustle #7: Art by Qusay Fadheel

One of the refugee we mentored is is a talented artist, so I run an Etsy shop for him. It’s here (prints and postcards only, since he’s moved to Sydney due to having a better support network there).

Side Hustle #8: West Belco Food Pantry

I started running a food pantry on my porch during the first Canberra lockdown, and about fifteen families regularly come and get some food now. I buy lots of fresh milk each week (my pantry has an outside fridge and freezer) and also shop at a different (church-backed) food pantry each week, so it doesn’t cost me much to keep it stocked (including meat, and usually fresh fruit and veggies). I go through milk pretty quickly, so I check the fridge at least once a day to see if it needs replacing (I only put out one bottle of milk at a time or I’d run out and/or have to go shopping almost every day). People often make donations—fruit and vegetables from their own gardens, gifts of toys and random pantry items, leftovers from Hello Fresh, etc—and I regularly take items from the pantry for my own household (eg today we cooked risotto and when we realised we had no home-made stock we took a liquid ‘Thai noodle soup’ stock carton from the pantry—delicious). It’s quite fun, although it does cost a fair bit in both money and energy.

Side Hustle #9: Platypus Playgroup

I have friends with small children (and the isolation that comes with that), and the local church (Kippax Uniting) does a whole lot of great community things, but their excellent playgroup space fell out of use during covid lockdowns and then they couldn’t afford to pay a supervisor to get it going again. So I stepped in (unpaid), and between my friend Clarissa and I, we run a playgroup two mornings a week during school terms. Luckily I’ve found a volunteer to take the ‘first thing Monday’ shift, because two days in a row was too much for me!

This is the only hustle that doesn’t involve money at all.

Side Hustle #10: The Castle

Before I was able to form the Castle of Kindness, I dreamed a large and complicated dream.

I want to help design an enormous house that looks like a castle (basically a square, with towers and crenelations and a flat roof) that has one giant room on the bottom floor (for events and for emergency accommodation for disabled/autistic people), and adjustable living quarters on the other two floors (so various combinations of people can live there, eg 2 singles and a 3-kid family; 5 singles; etc). It would be accessible for wheelchair users as well as people who are Hard of Hearing or have Low Vision or temperature sensitivity or smoke sensitivity. It would have Aboriginal art inside and out, and facilities for cooking lessons or big movie nights, and maybe even an inside pool and/or spa (gentle exercise and/or pain relief). It would have solar power including a battery (so it was insured against power outages), and be as bushfire and storm safe as a house can be.

I reckon it would cost about 2 million to build, plus about a million just for the land. Because ideally it would be near my house—a great location for disabled people, as the Kippax shopping (and medical) centres are close by, and there are several great local community organisations here too.

This hustle has a building designer on board, and that’s about as far as I’ve gotten (not nothing). But it’s something Canberra needs, and whoever manages to build it will make a massive profit from renting both the living spaces and the conference spaces (the lower room and the roof—and presumably the yard too). It would be a great place for disabled refugees to live—within a mini community that could hopefully help one another (and they could also be hired as event organisers, cleaners, or gardeners—or they could run cooking classes, art exhibitions, etc).


So that’s my two life hustles and my ten side hustles. Yikes.

Here’s a cat—a blond ragdoll named Snow.

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IF Comp 2021: Review of “Universal Hologram”

November 13, 2021 at 2:44 pm (Uncategorized)

Last but not least…

OR IS IT??

I’m a little leery of scifi and of anything artsy, so let’s see how we go!

. . .

Ah, the writing instantly draws me in. Within minutes I’ve lost my sense of reality so thoroughly that when the test gives me an option to “look down” I don’t click on it. I physically look down at my lap.

This is gonna be quite a ride. . .

. . .

“…the energy signal of your soul blooms like a fiber optic flower…”

This person writes beautifully.

. . .

Aaand I’ve finished the game.

That was a TRIP you guys. The art and animations added greatly to the discombobulation and for a while I was happy to just mooch about here and there, feeling weirder and weirder. I had juust enough time to wonder if there was a point to it all when the game noticeably steered me towards a plot, which I followed for the rest of the story.

A lot of the time I only had one thing to click on, and I’m pretty sure all roads lead to the same main ending. It definitely made me feel things, though. There was worldbuilding, and humour, and decent characterisation.

I’ll give it an 8.

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IF Comp 2021: Review of “The Golden Heist”

November 9, 2021 at 12:04 am (Uncategorized)

Yes!

Noooo!

But yay!

But nooooo!

This game is really, really good. I reckon it will outrank mine, and mine is really good too. So rather than pretending to be all classy and professional, and purely celebrating this excellent achievement, I’ve decided to admit to that worm of jealousy eating at my insides.

Dear Reader, this game is EXCELLENT.

It is funny, with great characters, neat branching, compelling writing, and an exciting plot with plenty of twists and turns.

I found a few extremely minor typos, and some very minor continuity errors (we never searched for extra loot but somehow my companion had some at the end). None of them were a big deal. The story is so good, and the characters too. Ooh, and the setting.

Yes, I’m basically just listing the elements of a game and saying that every single one was excellent.

I even liked the PUZZLE (partly because it was fundamentally voluntary) you guys.

I’m giving this game a score of 9. Seriously good AND seriously fun.

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IF Comp 2021: Review of “An Aside About Everything”

November 2, 2021 at 10:12 pm (Uncategorized)

I feel. . .

Melancholy. Confused, but serene in my confusion—a little bored, perhaps. Defensive. Trapped. Freed. Lost, but on a familiar path. Not the same path I’ve been before, but similar enough that I feel only wary rather than afraid.

This is a strange one, but not because the game sucks. It’s meant to be trippy, and it most definitely is that.

Earlier today, I attempted to set up an app thingy online so that I can accept credit card payments on my phone (eg when I’m selling my novels at a festival). This is something that has been on my “urgent” list since May, but I’ve been too afraid of facing it. And today, when I finally faced it and failed over and over again…. that’s exactly how parser makes me feel.

So when this game has the teensiest hint of parser stylings (in the sense that you walk around and choose which location to go to) I was afraid. But since you go to all the locations anyway, and there’s never more than three to keep track of (really one central hub with two or three locations to explore from there) I was quickly reassured. This game is truly choice-based in the end, with two flaws: one is that there are no obvious branches, so it’s not VERY interactive (in my interpretation of the term). Two, you sometimes have to negotiate (a teeny tiny bit) through a ‘hub’ location (eg Main Street), which is the second thing I hate about parser: I hate EVER having to re-read a paragraph. But that secondary hatred is really minor, in the end.

I’m going to give this game a 6. It seems unfair in many ways to give this fundamentally competent and functional game the same score as two somewhat broken games, but although it’s solid and even lyrical in style it ultimately feels fairly average. There are quite a few minor typos or grammar things but I feel like the point it’s making about the selfishness/self-absorption of the main character contradicts itself because there are no plausible options to be better.

As always, this is 100% my opinion and I don’t claim to be fair.

The atmosphere of the story is good, with above-average writing.

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IF Comp 2021: Review of “The Library”

October 23, 2021 at 8:46 pm (Uncategorized)

For the second time, I found a game that…

  • described itself as choice-based but was parser at its heart (in my opinion).
  • I was unable to finish due to technical issues.

I love a magical library, and this one is great. I wouldn’t describe it as a “nightmare”. I mean, sure, you’re asleep—and you might commit a murder if the situation calls for it—but it was definitely funny and playful rather than scary or horrifying.

Unfortunately, the language isn’t flawless. This is probably another person writing in their second (or third, or very possibly fifth or more—being multilingual is SO COOL you guys) language. It’s ALMOST right most of the time (and I noticed that the first few adventures are slightly more polished than later chapters), and it’s usually easy to tell what the writer means and what is going on.

So it’s a significant flaw, but all it needs is a couple of intense drafts (probably by paid English speakers) to fix.

As I keep saying, I am allergic to parser. It makes me cry. And this game is parser trying very hard to feel natural. It doesn’t always succeed, but a big part of me appreciates the attempt—having buttons to choose instead of needing to type directions made things a lot easier for me.

But still, it’s parser, and my brain does NOT like that. I’m all about the story, not the puzzles. So I quickly headed over to the walkthrough, which worked really well for ALMOST the whole game. I hit a game-breaking bug quite early on, and restarted—but when I hit another one very close to the end I wasn’t willing to risk it happening a third time. Plus I felt I had a pretty good grasp on the game.

Game breaking bugs get a fail mark, and frequent language errors get another two points off. So at this point it scores 3.

But.

The central concept—taking items from one famous book to fix problems in another—is utterly brilliant, totally hilarious, and charmingly done. I can see the writer put a lot of thought into how the game works and what goes where. It made me wish I’d thought of the idea. I really enjoyed it.

So I’m giving it a 6, just like “Recon”. Two games that showed genuinely amazing potential but failed in both language and execution. This writer is definitely one to watch in years to come.

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IF Comp 2021: Review of “Recon”

October 17, 2021 at 12:40 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve been given some paid editing work, which is a bit too similar to reviewing games for my liking (sitting in a chair reading on my laptop and keeping my editor-brain engaged) BUT I’m still going to try to review five games.

I sorted the games into Choice-based games under 1 hour (parser makes me cry, and I know I can’t concentrate for more than an hour anytime soon). That gave me 12 games. I dropped “Fine Felines” on account of being the author; dropped “we, the remainder” thanks to the content warning (THANK YOU for not letting me wander into something traumatic); dropped “The Waiting Room” for being horror (I am a DELICATE FLOWER people!); dropped “extraordinary_fandoms.exe” for abusive stuff; “Weird Grief” for being about grief; “The Last Night of Alexisgrad” for being two-player; “Mermaids of Ganymede” for body horror, and “Walking Into It” for being puzzle-y.

That leaves “Universal Hologram” (6), “An Aside About Everything” (4), “The Golden Heist”(6), “Recon” (2), and “The Library” (3).

Five games, assuming I’m able to make them all work (which is highly unlikely; I’m remarkably bad at technical stuff). The numbers in brackets above indicate how many reviews each game has received and therefore the order in which I’ll attempt them.

I’m not looking at names, because (a) I’m extremely forgetful, so I might well not recognise the user name of someone I consider a friend, and that would be awkward, and (b) Less bias 🙂

So… RECON.

This is an intensely confusing game. The language is sufficiently mistake-filled that I sometimes can’t tell what the writer is trying to say. But an even worse thing, for me, is that the game is filled with puzzles. It’s not the writer’s fault that I hate puzzles with a fiery passion (to their credit, the writer provided a walkthrough—which I did use), but there should have been an indication of the game’s puzzly nature in the blurb.

So I’m inclined to give the game a failing mark of 3 stars (out of 10)… except it’s not the writer’s fault that I hate puzzles so much. So then I’d give it a 5. But despite the extremely flawed English, it’s clear that the writer is actually very very good. It’s an interesting and fully-realised setting, and there are lots of glimmers of brilliance here and there (in my first play-through I thought the black colour of the hyperlink on a certain page was an error and in the second I realised there was a plot reason to hide the button—neat). So in the end I’ll give it 6 for a brilliant but broken game. Hopefully the writer will keep improving their English because they’re a valuable addition to the IF world.

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