My Games of the Year

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    In January, my game of the year was London, Rock Paper Shotgun and London

    London’s black towers and grand squares and pockets of receipts

    Every bar a dungeon

    Every train a Half Life

    The street lamps bore down like detectives in high collar coats

    The weight of ambition like a fat-jewelled pendant

    And Rock Paper Shotgun on late nights on empty stomach

    And a shared cigarette over pints in the street with tall girls

    Kohl smudges the streets

    Haha, our streets and no one else’s streets

    9

    In February, my game of the year was BBC Broadcasting House

    Blitz bombings and service proud in the mouth

    Ran art deco corridors high on 80 years’ transmission, paper in hand

    Drank muddy coffee on lazy-ended shifts

    Doodled blue IN/OUT tattoos on hands

    CD cases clattered in the archives next to a lonely Wurlitzer juke

    Nights in the sound box, squinting at heroes

    Laughter to manage, and jokes to record

    A thousand people and a thousand programmes stared

    Paperwork and legal and scripts with hurried biro

    Counted blips to broadcast

    The news roared down throats

    And tweets upon tweets chattered how and why

    David Tennant is in the lift, and John McCarthy’s car is late

    Gemini Rue in the dark at home

    1

    In March, my game of the year was GDC

    Faces and faces of unfamiliar familiar

    Jenn’s smile

    Lewie’s lanyard

    Kirk’s hangover

    Tim Schafer is touching your elbow at the bar

    Ben is peering at you with curiosity

    One Life Left is storming through crowds

    Bastion‘s voiceover was recorded in a cupboard

    A day queuing at Blue Bottle is a week of conversation

    San Francisco’s early streets are a lifetime of San Francisco

    And every morning was a lifetime

    The voices became important

    4

    In April, my game of the year was rent, food and bills.

    Weeks of staring at a screen or a manuscript

    Words crawling down my face and hands

    Proofreaders’ symbols scrolling across my dreams

    The bank account scowling with teeth

    Stovetop espresso and off bagels

    Six hours of pub wifi drinking only one Coke

    And people asking why I wasn’t there

    And who I was

    I took a cheque to cash and ate dry bread, ego hiding

    I hid in games

    8

    In May, my game of the year was not crying at my temp job

    And wondering when my career would start again

    And remembering Japan

    And thinking so little

    And yet the secretary wished she was me

    I did not wish I was me

    Jubilee weekend in underwear only, sheet-rain tears

    Ate nothing, wished nothing, wrote ugly paragraphs and

    Was abandoned over and over I had a too-obvious heart

    And terrible opinions

    And a face that looked like the dullest kind of past

    I was not my achievements

    I was a look in a bar and nothing

    2

    In June, my game of the year was Dys4ia

    And my body seemed my own again

    Was it ever someone else’s?

    And Twine and the book would not go away

    And there were words unused on a broadcast

    And they were important words

    They were words that would be heard

    That struggled to get out and needed to get out

    And they used me and bothered me and wouldn’t go away

    They woke me up like an old boyfriend in the middle of the night and demanded that I attend to him

    And I looked at Rock Paper Shotgun

    And I made it in the only way it was natural to make it

    And knew it was something

    It was the first time I knew

    It taught me to know

    And I have known ever since

    7

    In July, my game of the year was DOTA (again)

    But the head of a BBC department scowled at me

    Why aren’t you already a producer, he said, waving my CV

    Why aren’t you already making the programmes you want

    When you were twenty you could have been the head of this department

    Why haven’t you done it already

    Now tell me who is the head of the BBC

    Remember his name

    Because it certainly isn’t yours

    3

    In August, my game of the year was dancing like fireworks over rooftops

    Dancing was for the empty fire in the soul

    And I planned to fill it

    There were twenty gin and tonics on every corner

    There were couples in every bar to hate

    There were birthdays every week to forget

    There were ways I could write and be heard and be insulted

    There were ways and I forgot them and remembered them and forgot them

    I experimented

    And I ate what I liked but lost weight because I spent so much energy trying

    I kicked hot men up and down aisles

    I bought underwear to dance in and laughed

    6

    In September, my game of the year was becoming what I’d always wanted to be

    We went to Bletchley and lay in the sun by the BBC Micros because I wanted to

    And at work I lay in the sun and made games

    I sold articles and wrote about things I loved

    I played Journey and cried

    I turned 27 and felt seven years too old to be a producer at the BBC

    It was The Cure at their most happy

    And I wondered why and I stood next to a tall girl and wondered why

    And it was all because I was a passion in a little container

    And I never shut up

    Never shut up

    Never

    10

    In October, my game of the year was cresting and being thrown onto rocks

    It was a month of exhausting misunderstanding about myself

    And mistaking my ground for another ground

    Another ground that does not matter

    Once you stand up on that ground, no other ground exists

    And there is just you under a light reading your first print article

    And people will come and embrace you just because they heard

    Make a pact with the devil it said: sacrifice happiness for words

    Others will sacrifice other things to gain happiness

    But you, you just devour yourself or are devoured

    11

    In November, my game of the year was writing. Writing, writing into a coma

    People asked if I was okay

    No one is ever okay

    Don’t people know that no one is ever okay?

    Are you okay?

    I don’t like you if you are okay

    Write about how you are not okay and I will listen

    Then I will be okay

    For a while

    5

    In December, my game of the year was GOTY lists, like hundreds of shopping lists caught in the wind

    Lists that chart journeys like sailors yell gesturing over pint glasses

    Lists on a scrawled curly-printed map across my pale papyrus skin up to the neck

    All connected to the heart

    Alene LeeMy game of the year was you, it was you it was you and it was me and it was everything we gamed

    We gamed the world and the black letters on the glare and the runners out in the dark

    We gamed our feelings and our code and our hope

    We gamed innovation and we gamed our bank accounts

    We gamed black and white and rich and poor and male and female

    We gamed what the world thought and how we are put together and our structures and unstructure

    We gamed love and lost

    Every year we game love and we lose

    But in January, it will be our game of the year again

    And we will play again

    Continue

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    Follow Cara on Twitter @CaraEllison. Photos were taken by Daniel Griliopoulos during an outing to England’s National Museum of Computing Bletchley Park, the birthplace of the modern computer, and they mostly depict the guts of those early machines.

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    Cara Ellison, Feature, Gaming
    Unwinnable On The Web:
    • Rich Clark

      I love this so much.

    • Ava

      Beautiful. 🙂

    • Brendan Conway

      Cara, please, never, ever stop. You can bring tears to my eyes. Not many can do that. Thank you.