Stories

Pieces of Me – Rudy Johnson

HOuRGLASS (2021) is a computerized board game I created before I realized game development at this point in human history is a loaded gun that can only misfire and blow your hands off.

When I shared it on reddit, one person gave helpful design-related feedback, and eight retards dragged me behind the pickup truck of social justice because the game used gender in a way they didn’t like.  I think that's a medium tech lynching, because I feel like board games occupy a place between our base survival needs and the higher tech of actualization or whatever you want to call it.  That place is Play, an Anita Hill that I'll die on.  

My design portfolio is a locker room full of nooses.  Looking at my gameography makes me feel like that one black NASCAR driver because when I think about all the functionally inert shit I’ve made, I just wanna go out, steal some Native dude’s souped up wagon from Sunoco and drive 200 mph down the road until a high speed collision rolls back that aftermarket-tint-colored rain-curtain.  Checkered flag.  And it's checkered because my No Exit Hell scenario is probably a room with three other people who like board games, but don't like them like I do.  

I won't lie: HOuRGLASS is not a complex game.  To play it, you just have to be a chronically unhappy man (cue Brooks & Dunn saying “and women too”) who has gender identity feels and enjoys the urgency of teamfights in League of Legends and wants to explore how cumulative mistakes made under pressure change the outcome of a game where the ability to exert influence over certain victory-deciding factors may be out of your control.  Hmmm.  That sounds complex.  Maybe I am a liar.  I do lie to myself across the board each day when my brain says, factually, “you're a failure and a faggot and you shouldn't try to make games anymore.”  

Either way, HOuRGLASS is a ball of confusion.  There's too much information to process strategically or even thematically.  When it's your turn, you strategize, you press the button, then you have 6 seconds to execute your moves.  If you can't do them in six seconds like you thought, that just … sucks.  The game doesn't try to spin this in a hopeful “fail forward” way, either.

This mechanical feature is personal.  The gender theming of the game (flippable hourglass pieces that wax and wane in masculinity or femininity as their sand runs out) might just be a red herring for the real portrait of me that's shallowly buried in the design:  The hand-drawn stick figure of an overloaded fuckup being slowly overrun by life's many hostile forces.  

HOuRGLASS has five unique pieces—5 Types of Guy—and if you were Jung (or even just my EMDR therapist), you might say they're pieces of me, segments of my nigger-rigged Voltron.  The Ashlee Simpson single sung as a ballad to my demons instead of to God or her boyfriend or whatever.

Look:

“VIOLENCE pieces capture others (or hide behind them like cowards!)”

Here’s Violence, a piece that comes out early and often in my life.  It's always coupled with a rush strat that never pays off.  Male Violence always moves toward the enemy.  That's EVERYTHING!  But can I improve my position with it?  The holes in my walls say no.  And when I turn and retreat in those pink misty, feminine moments of insecurity, it's toward friends.  Emotional friendly fire.  Social combat is always awkward in games (and IRL).

“LIBIDO pieces suicide-mate with opposite gendered enemies to create a friendly token that reproduces”

A mosquito, Kurt said.  My libido is anything but (didn't Sir Mixalot say that?).  I used to look up castration drugs online when I was younger.  Not for gender reasons, just because I wanted to stop compulsively masturbating.  Not for gender reasons.  Not for gender reasons.  Not for gender reasons.  I used to look up castration drugs online when I was younger.  Padme asking “For gender reasons, right?”  *intense stare*  “For gender reasons, right?”

“GAZE pieces restrict movement and flipping”

My gaze is weak as fuck.  Liminal.  Transient.  My stare can’t prevent someone from flipping (the page, the switch, the script).  Maybe the reason I attempt eye contact so much is because I want to medusa someone with my gaze.  Total captivation.  But my fixations are never human.  They’re eidolonic serial killers of interest.  Dexter for groupchats.  Dead hobbyhorses.  Glue for me, a trap for others.

“SPACE pieces can change the gender of board tiles”

Space and time are linked, habitually-navigated addresses as purple as bruised skin, curved by my black hole mind.  Spacetime curvature plays with perception sometimes.  Sometimes I imagine that my inability to capture attention with my games comes from my unwillingness to lock into anything intellectually or ideologically.  Nah.  Maybe.  No.  Wait.  Well, maybe.

“MANIPULATION pieces control the game by freezing or unfreezing hourglasses”

Manipulators control time. Time management is a skill I possess in games, maybe, not elsewhere.  My brain’s calculations must lack delta time, since the slowdown that happens when daily operations intensify—more people, more events, more processing—is really noticeable to my eyes.  My depression, a public secret, is always dilating the worst 24-hour cycles, extending them to Naraka-like lengths through nefarious division.  86,400 seconds divided by 6 seconds of execution is 14,400 intervals of complex gameplay spread over 1 day, and I know I can’t execute that much.  The best League player, Faker, couldn’t execute that much.  The whole ass state of Texas couldn’t execute that much.  

Six seconds of execution.  Time enough for love?  The tism that keeps my non-game interests migrant and forever unfulfilling, says: Too long.  Lazarus long.

Six seconds of execution.  Time enough to die?  In Chicago maybe.  In my rural hometown, we just freeze.

Six.  Fucking.  Seconds.  Of.  Strategic.  Execution. 

Which pieces do I micro?

Which pieces flip so that I won’t?

Which interval of today will I fumble hardest?

What’s today again?

On a Monday, I am waiting

Tuesday, I am fading

And by Wednesday, I can't sleep