Jan. 23rd, 2017

rynling: (Mog Toast)
I'm posting this section of the writing log a day late, but this weekend was intense. The Women's March on Saturday was kind of a big deal. I'll write more about this later, but it was very energizing - and also exhausting! In any case, this is what I managed to accomplish last week...

- I posted the second chapter of The Marriage of Lanayru. It now has four user kudos and six anonymous kudos! I'm moving up in the world, lol. I've already written the third chapter and most of the fourth, but I've decided to stick to a schedule of posting new chapters on Wednesdays. If there were more people giving me encouragement, I would work harder, but as things stand my priority is not getting burned out.

- I finished the syllabus for the class on Final Fantasy X. I have been working on this for months now, and I think the final product turned out well. When I posted a link to it on Facebook, people got really excited, which fills me with energy and hope. I'm considering contacting one of the reporters at Kotaku to see if she might be interested in running a story about this class.

- I commissioned Sara Goetter to draw a portrait of me as a Pokémon professor. She did an excellent job, and I put it up on my website. A lot of my friends said nice things, which made me very happy. I've worked with Sara before, and she is such an amazing professional. If my Wind Waker book ever becomes an actual thing, I am going to bug the shit out of the publisher until they involve her in the project in some way.

- I posted a paid guest review on my professional book review blog. I started paying people in my field to write for my blog last summer, and so far the project as been successful. One of the things I try to do is find the right person to review books that I'm too busy to get to, while the other thing I've been trying to do is to find the right book for someone who has a specific set of talents and interests. This review was a product of the latter aim, and I think it turned out well. If nothing else, both my tweet and the reviewer's tweet got a fair amount of buzz.

- I wrote a longish and heartfelt essay on Ganondorf as a response to someone's post on Tumblr. In retrospect, this was a mistake, as the OP did not reblog or acknowledge my response in any way. If I had posted this essay as its own thing, it would have gotten a lot more notes, and the only reason I posted it as a response was to signal-boost the OP. I had thought that I was forming a rapport with her over the past few months, but apparently that was not the case. I hereby instate The Mutuality Rule: If someone is not my mutual on Tumblr, I do not owe them anything. I don't think it's delusional for me to say that I am well-established enough in fandom that the people who run in my circles but don't follow me have made a conscious decision not to do so. You can offer someone all the support and encouragement you have to give, but you can't make them become friends with you. My emotional energy is precious, and I shouldn't waste it.

- I posted a silly comic about Wind Waker on Tumblr. I think I'm getting better at these! At this point, the audience for my comics primarily consists of people who track the tags I use, not my circles of fandom. My current goal as an artist is to get good enough that my fandom mutuals eventually start to like and reblog my work.

- I wrote another peer review for another article. This one was much more difficult and time-consuming than the one I did last week. The author has written about something that is critically understudied, but his research is extremely sloppy. I say "his" because he hasn't cited or referenced any female writers, informants, or scholars, which is typically something that only dudes do. I also say "his" because, based on various citations, I'm pretty sure I know who he is. Like the author from last week, he is a graduate student (which was immediately obvious anyway), and he's just not at the point where he's capable of doing professional-level work. My recommendation was "revise and resubmit," with the suggestion that he submit his piece to a more open-ended section of the journal meant for more early-career scholars. Although this seems like an easy and obvious assessment, I had a lot of trouble suggesting revisions that are both sane and efficient. I do a lot of peer reviews, but the job never gets any easier.

I also made progress on a few other projects... but not enough progress, never enough progress. Still, I'm doing good work! I should keep creating, because I am awesome! There is hope in the world, and one day there will be a place for me. I just have to hang in there!
rynling: (Default)
Tomorrow is my first class about Final Fantasy X ahhhhhhhhhhhh


I am so not ready haha.

The syllabus is finished and posted in several places, and after work this evening I'll print out physical copies for the students at a copy shop. I've already uploaded most of the assigned readings to the course site on Blackboard, and I traded favors with a friend who promised to send me pirated copies of the rest by the end of the day today.

(But why doesn't she just ask the university library and/or Interlibrary Loan to scan the readings?? you might be thinking. The answer is that I did, and they did a remarkably shitty job. As someone dating a university librarian, I'm not going to say that university libraries are useless, but they could do a lot better in certain regards.)

In any case, the course has a full enrollment of 25 students, and I intend to overload anyone who shows up and asks to be added to the class. The more the merrier, right? For what it's worth, 10 of the 25 students seem to be female, although some of them have Chinese and Korean names that could go either way.

The class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I've structured it so that we will talk about industry history, Japanese culture, and game design theory on Tuesdays, and on Thursdays we will apply this information to FFX. In terms of assignments, this means that students will be asked to read academic articles and book chapters for Tuesday classes, and they will need to have played FFX up to a designated point by the beginning of class on Thursday.

FFX is extremely well written and has excellent pacing, and it lends itself to division into "chapters" of relatively even length. It actually wasn't that difficult to figure out that students should play "until the morning after the Djose Temple" and "until you wake up in the Sanubia Desert" and so on. The kids should be in the Calm Lands by spring break, and they will have beaten the game at the end of the first week of April.

Something that is true of all undergraduate students everywhere in the world is that there are a lot of demands on their time, and they often have to make difficult decisions regarding what assignments they are and are not able to complete. I understand that playing a video game can feel as if it's not work, which means that many students may procrastinate if they're not given an incentive to treat these "reading" assignments as serious coursework. I'm therefore planning on giving written quizzes on FFX at the beginning of class every Thursday, which should be fun.

(I suppose I could reproduce those quizzes here if anyone reading this is interested.)

A friend of mine who teaches at a university in Australia has been thinking of developing a course like this, and he asked me a good question regarding a practical concern, namely, what happens if students get stuck? At the boss fight with Seymour on Mount Gagazet, for example?

In my own experience, dealing with the difficulty curve in FFX is mostly a matter of level grinding. One of the reasons I chose this game is because it's fairly easy – and because it has a minimum of level grinding. I took the major hikes in difficulty into account in the syllabus, and I'm going to do my best to alert the students to potential problem areas in advance. I also put PDF copies of two strategy guides up on the course website on Blackboard, and I'm planning on including links to a number of fan-written online guides as well.

From what I understand, the way that other instructors teaching games have handled the issue of difficulty is to pair students up or put them into groups of mixed skill levels so that they can help each other out. When I was an undergraduate, however, I worked well over 40 hours a week at multiple jobs, and I think there is a special place in hell for college professors who assign mandatory recurring group work. The university where I'm teaching this class has a fairly high number of nontraditional students (a few of the ones enrolled in my class are already professional game devs), so I don't think something like that would work there anyway.

If I had better library or media lab support, I would consider scheduling something like a "lab" for class, meaning that I would book a room for a certain number of hours a week where my students could play the assigned texts together. If I were assigning multiple games instead of just one, I think this would be an ideal scenario, and it's something I might consider if I have an opportunity to teach a class like this again.

The one thing I'm really worried about is that I will have one or more Final Fantasy Experts™ in the class, by which I mean people who are obsessed with game trivia. I've played FFX five times, and I will play it again along with the students, but I don't remember all the tiny details of the game perfectly, and there are other Final Fantasy games I've only played once or twice, like FFVIII and FFXIII. I don't want to try to pass myself off as some sort of authority on the series, but I do need to act as a moderator and as an administrator, and I hope I will be able to maintain a friendly atmosphere while still commanding at least a small degree of respect. I know this is something that probably no female professional has ever struggled with before, so wish me luck lol.


rynling: (Default)
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