Creative Positives in 2020

Despite the past year being a difficult time for me in terms of finding a stable job, I’m pleased with how much I’ve achieved creatively.

Music

The thing I’m happiest about creatively are the music streams across my Replay in Neon, Ice Line Drift, and Midnight Detective Club music projects. I released my first music tracks on Spotify, iTunes, etc back in Autumn 2019, and it was a nice Christmas present to hit 100,000 plays on Christmas Day 2020. Both The Midnight Detective Club and Ice Line Drift had almost 49,000 plays each, and Replay in Neon had 2,500. It’s something I never expected would happen, and after 30+ years of music making it was a huge surprise. I am grateful to everyone who listened to, enjoyed, shared and helped promote my music.

Cover art for The Midnight Detective Club song All I Needed to Know

GameS

This year I published 5 new games / interactive digital stories:

I’ve being using Adam Le Doux’s Bitsy to create small narrative games over the past few years. It’s such an easy to use tool that helped me move into creating narrative games in a visual retro-style. The community are super supportive and friendly too, and there are a few people tinkering away in the background creating hacks and new features for it. I was particularly excited when I saw that aloelazoe had created 3D Bitsy. I’ve been trying to find tools/languages I could get on easily with to help me create 3D games, and this was perfect. My first 3D Bitsy was A Little Lost Moomin, a narrative puzzler fan game. Out of all the games I created in 2020 this is the one I’m happiest with overall, and it’s the one that has received the most positive feedback. I also developed a basic interactive story tool for The Narrows, which was based on the program I created for Full English Breakfast Simulator. I’m continuing to work on this tool to turn it into less of an IF link clicker and give it more of an interactive comic feel. Post-Toxic Aquanator was also another win for me, as it was my first Javascript 3D game that I was happy to release.

Screenshot from Siblings of Winter and Spring game

There were so many game jams with interesting themes I’d hoped to get involved in this year. But one thing I think was good for me was actually holding back on the number of them I participated in. I have a habit of creating half-finished games in game jams that just leave me with a game I know has a spark of an idea I want to complete properly, but never do. So, in terms of focus, this was a good thing to do. I also decided to abandon learning Python – trying to do this and develop my Javascript skills at the same time was getting my programming languages in a muddle.

The Midnight Detective Club Project

As I mentioned earlier, I’m very happy with how the music for The Midnight Detective Club project is going, especially working with singer Ellen Louise. I released 5 tracks on streaming services this year, with a few more in the pipeline. In terms of the game itself, I’ve released small chunks that aim to either build a part of the narrative (The Narrows, the songs, virtual exhibition), and am working on other parts (card game, interactive comic, matching game). My current focus is on creating the supernatural detective mystery game within a website that includes interlinked narrative in various forms, including interviews, games, comic, music, videos, Instagram. I’m enjoying working on different pieces of this project and expanding the story world of the band with each new piece created.

Scrapbook image from The Midnight Detective Club game

NOT ON MY OWN

It hasn’t only been solo projects this year. I’ve had fun working with others, or contributing to projects that I wasn’t lead on. For example, I got session singer, Ellen Louise, involved in The Midnight Detective Club project. I know I’ve said it before, but I am really happy that I found someone with a vocal style that works so well with the music, and I love the lyrics and melody she came up with for Where’s the Magic Gone? I also commissioned Jupiter Doomsday to create some fun retro style characters for part of The MDC project. I’m really pleased with how they turned out, and all they need now is the right setting for them in the game.

Thanks to Anne Welsh, I also became an Associate for Beginning Cataloguing, and ran my first online workshop focused on creating a game for library classification, and I’m planning more in the future. I also co-ran a Bitsy workshop for The British Library. I mentored for Pocket Code’s Google Summer of Code project, and enjoyed seeing my mentee’s project coming together into such a fun showcase game. I contributed to Creswell Crag’s online Midwinter Festival of Folklore, with a piece about winter folklore in my digital story, Midwinter Spirits and other games. And I also became a student on Create Place, which is a creative leadership program focused on place-making, and I’m looking forward to finalising my collaborative project for this in 2021.

I know 2020 has been a difficult year all round, but my creative interests have been the mental leveller I personally needed. The pandemic itself helped me to focus on my creative projects. I had game and music making opportunities that kept me going and made me happy whilst dealing with the uncertainty of not having a job. And that creative focus also made me wonder why I’d not taken advantage of some of those creative opportunities before.

Even though a lot of my creative projects were solo efforts, without the support from others I’m not sure how much I would have achieved. This includes those who listened to and shared my music; encouraged me from the side-lines; played and/or gave feedback on my games etc; helped me solve techy game-making problems; and just tolerated what might have seemed like a blitz of endless self-focused creative tweets and Facebook updates. I appreciate it. That support is important to me. Thank you everyone who helped me have a positive creative year.

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