Most of you know the work I do as a volunteer for Tekkoshocon, Inc. On the surface, it seems like I’m devoting my time to a frivolous pursuit; I spend a lot of time and energy on what could least charitably be called pop culture trash. However, in doing the work– in volunteering my time and energy to that cause– I’m reminded of a very simple truth. It’s a truth I’ve espoused in every post this month, and one that I’ve fought long and hard to realize is exactly what it is I want to promote in other people with my behavior.
It doesn’t matter how much you suffer, or how much you sacrifice, if what you’re doing is the right thing. If what you do makes even one person happier for a little while, then it is worth any price you pay and twice as much as that. It doesn’t matter who you do it for, or if you do it for someone who’ll never give you the time of day or will even spit on your face for doing it. What matters is that you do it, and do it well, and keep doing it until the day you die, because that’s what you’re here for.
Every year we’re bombarded with news of celebrities who die in ways that break our hearts. These people lived their lives in service to all of us, in some way or another. Some were inspirations; others, warnings. But their deaths don’t affect me nearly as much as the thought I had while I was just sitting outside a panel room last week, looking in on the bronies and pegasisters all singing along; or just people-watching in general on an off time at the con; or even just going about my daily life every single day. It would hurt just as much to lose any of those random people as it would to lose a celebrity or a family member. It would devastate me.
Every single one of those people at the convention has a story of their own, and it doesn’t matter what they’re wearing or what they look like or anything. We came together to do a great good for them, and some of them really need it. You can’t tell just by looking at them. You can’t tell even if you were to talk to them, sometimes. For some people, a place like Tekko or the Sangawa Project or Kurokiiro Festival or anything is the only place they have that’s their own. For all the grief that we go through to put the show on, some of our attendees live truly hellish lives the other 361 days of the year.
I put up with a lot of crap during the convention days, but each and every time, I also see something that astounds me and keeps me from becoming too terribly cynical and losing all hope in humanity: I see humanity. As flawed and ass-backwards as it can be sometimes, I see the great good that exists in everyone, and I see it shown time and time again. If it’s a compliment on a costume, a discussion on a show, letting someone on an elevator ahead of you, or people just randomly dancing in the lobbies for no better reasons than they can and it’d make the people around them smile, I see that there’s no truth whatsoever to the claim that there’s nothing redeeming about what I do.
And, once in a great while, I see that one kid who feels lost and alone in the world outside. I see him walking in the mall, eyes down, trying desperately not to be noticed. Maybe he’s had a bad day at school, or maybe his home life isn’t all that hot. Doesn’t matter. He’s having a rotten day, and he’s doing a terrible job of hiding it. All I need to do is walk up to him and say hi, maybe compliment his Kingdom Hearts hoodie or ask him what he’s planning on wearing to the next show, and I see his eyes light up. He’s a little braver now, a little more confident. So the world sucks right now; hold on just for a little while longer, and you’ll be among friends again.
So it doesn’t matter what kind of torment I have to go through. It doesn’t matter how bad the world sucks for me. What matters is how I make it suck less for others.
Tekkoshocon starts in three days. But I’m writing this from ten days ago, when things started to get really rough for a lot of the people behind the scenes. It’s not my place and it’s not appropriate for me to go into details on it, but the gist is accurately summed up by a friend’s frustrated tweet: “When did this stop being fun?” I’m not going to mince words. Working for an anime convention is not easy, and it is far, far from being fun all the time. I am in an interesting position as the curator of the game room, because my job necessarily means I’m guaranteed to have some amount of fun during the convention. But prep work can chew through a lot of goodwill during the runup to the show, until you lose sight of just what it is you’re trying to accomplish.
That’s where good friends come in. I have often said on many occasions that the group of friends that helps to put on this show is a close-knit one, where all are equally blessed with each others’ support and love. Within the convention, we have a word that describes people who’ve supported Tekkoshocon to a tremendous and unparalleled degree: “family”. It’s no exaggeration, no hyperbole that each and every one of us would go to extreme lengths for each other. We work well together.
There are too many reasons for the stress that we’re all feeling at this moment. We can trace a lot of them back to one particular source, which again I’m not at liberty to discuss right now; suffice it to say that it’s an all-pervasive one, that has influenced and affected (again without hyperbole) literally every aspect of the convention this year and has become a massive burden on us psychologically. This is because of the fact that, when we’re all working together for the common good and one particular agent is being overtly antagonistic, it drags everyone down.
Again, though, I’m writing this post with ten days of uncertainty ahead of me. As I wrote this, I was given some very good news that will help us move forward to the new year’s planning with a great deal of the pressures we currently face behind us for good. Because of this– because we’ve resolved a major hurdle that had been hanging over us– our mood has lightened considerably. And it’s only been a few minutes since we heard the news! Imagine what wonderful things have happened in the ten days since I wrote this sentence! Imagine what’s yet to come in the three days before we open!
We don’t have time for despair. We have a job to do. All of us. Together.
In less than a week– this coming Wednesday, in fact– I’ll be working at Pittsburgh’s biggest anime convention, Tekkoshocon, as the video game room producer. I’ve taken the title “Tyrant” in a somewhat lighthearted manner, but really “producer” is more fitting to describe my role with the convention and the game room. Last year I was approached to “run” the game room, and ultimately this expanded into developing the room as an entity within itself under Tekkoshocon, to expand the scope of our operations so that we could bring in more attention to our core show. This rapidly became almost another full time job.
The thing is, though, it’s a full time job I actually enjoy doing. I’m a collector, by nature. I enjoy finding, organizing, and managing a big library of video games, and up until about 2010 or so it was only for my enjoyment. Now, I’m able to focus my efforts to the goal of ensuring that everyone has a good time and gets to play some games that maybe they haven’t seen before. This means curating some games I personally don’t like, and dealing with people who know a lot more about those games than I do.
I mentioned this a few years ago, but Matt Boyd wrote that video games are becoming the shared culture of our generation. Last week or so when Mass Effect 3 was released, so many people were discussing the game in social circles and in other aspects that it was, for me, a little difficult to get away from it. Discussion also turned to how people had played the previous two games; people shared and compared their decisions, tactics, likes and dislikes. I was really surprised by this, even though I know I shouldn’t have been.
It’s undeniable now that pop culture, no matter how vapid or intellectually shallow it can be, is still culture. As much as it pains me to admit it, twenty years from now people are going to be talking about Jersey Shore the same way my generation looks back at Beverly Hills, 90210– hopefully with faint disdain and the benefit of hindsight, but you never know. Movies, television, music, and games– these are all part of our culture, our shared experiences that are wound across the frame of time. Even solitary experiences can foster connections.
Folks, I’m sure you’re disappointed in me for the rather alarming number of missed posts recently. I am as shamed as you are. I’m probably going to take a little bit of time this evening to write up some shorter posts and pre-load them for the month of March just so I don’t have to scramble for Bailout first thing in the morning. I’ll have to have some canned posts ready for during the convention, at the very least. Still, it’s my goal to make sure that I have a fresh post ready for you all once the convention preparation period is over. Thank you for bearing with this.
I hope honestly that this morning has brought a lot of peace to people who went to bed upset and anxious last night. I know I feel better, but I’m still knotted up in worry over things I can’t necessarily change just yet.
The fact that I had my first episode of dreaming that I was dreaming in a very long time did not help things, nor did the fact that when I “woke up” I did so into an insanely strange and stressful situation– I was being called by a bill collector at 3a. That, of course, was a dead giveaway that it was a dream (and it was– I haven’t been called by collectors in years now), but it was still scary as all hell.
It takes a lot of different kinds of people to put together a big project. Some are very strong orators, others are meticulous planners, and still others have their strong suit in physical work. I’m not entirely sure where in that spectrum I fit just yet, but there are a great number of places where I do fit.
The thing is, though, it doesn’t matter how well your core competences are covered across your organization if the people involved do not share one particular trait without exception: passion. Every member of the group must, to the last one, be so committed to the project’s success that they would be willing to sacrifice every last ounce of enjoyment they get out of the project in order to ensure its successful completion. Passion is defined, in its purest sense, as the triumph of sentience over circumstance: the willingness to accept temporary pain to assure long-term success. Without passion, the slightest setback kills the whole thing.
There is a drawback to having passionate people on a task, though, and that is the fact that sufficient passion can cause a blurring between the work and the self. When genuinely constructive criticism is offered, someone overly invested in the project can take that as a personal attack. That creates friction that reduces the cohesion of the group, accelerating failure. Emotional investment is good, don’t get me wrong. But emotional OVERinvestment is irresponsibly malignant and inevitably fatal, just as surely as underinvestment does.
It can be very hard to draw the line as to where people are in over their depth. Everyone’s capability for responsible passion is different, after all, and it’s not like you can just pull out your personal character sheet and see you put X number of points in “emotional control”. But when that line is crossed– either intentionally or unintentionally– that’s when things start to get out of control.
I am immeasurably lucky, pleased, and blessed to work with a group of people who are extremely emotionally invested in our volunteer project. They are a constant reminder to me that people are still capable of creating great works of light in the darkness, and on more than one occasion they have been the light that I needed in order to keep going. Whether they know it or not, they are.
The troubles we’re having aren’t insurmountable. In all honesty, they’re rather trivial; they’re nothing we haven’t overcome before. But they look so incredibly huge because we’re so close to them. At times like this, you need to pull back, get your bearings straight, and reapproach the problem with a clear focus and a sharp mind.
……..I’m sure that those of you who know me closely can appreciate the abyss of irony that is involved in my making a speech like that.
So maybe you heard about this, but yesterday I was in a car accident. No injuries to me, but the car isn’t going anywhere for a while.
It came at a really inconvenient time, too, as I was supposed to drive to Cleveland today. Obviously that didn’t happen. I did, however, ride with some folks to West Virginia, which I suppose might possibly be considered almost equivalent, except not at all, really.
So that’s why I have to make this post after the fact, and say that on my agenda for Sunday is the write-up for the whole thing and just try to keep myself from genuine panic.
So, I know this is a little short notice, but one of the things I’m doing this weekend is helping out with the Kurokiiro Maid Cafe’s Child’s Play Gaming Marathon. Basically, starting in less than four hours, you can watch cute maids play video games for 25 hours straight, and if that sight moves you– which it should– we’d appreciate some donations to the annual charity fund.
And before anyone asks, no, I am not wearing a maid outfit. Yes, I know what that paragraph sounds like, but just trust me, petticoats aren’t my thing. Well, they are, just not wearing them. Not wearing them myself. This paragraph has just gone somewhere dark and horrible.
……y’know what, just go watch the maids, OK?
So one of the things I’ve been doing, as part of my ongoing efforts to ruthlessly exterminate any and all free time I might have, is working on the Anime Heroes delve for the Tekkoshocon RPG room. This is sort of a big deal for me, as I tend to not really focus on combat in my own campaigns, but rather prefer to keep things on a more intellectual and RP-centric level. That doesn’t work so much when your players’ characters are modeled on Ash Ketchum, Toph Bei Fong, and Ichigo Kurosaki, three characters not exactly known for their inclination towards talking things through. So they have to fight it out, and I need to give them a decent shot at doing so.
To this end, I’ve been elbow-deep in the Dungeons and Dragons Compendium, which is a great resource for the average DM. There’s just a few hiccups, and that’s that, for the most part, there aren’t really a whole hell of a lot of variety of monsters available to players at Level 1. More immediately, getting data out of the compendium and into a workable sheet for use at the table is not exactly the easiest thing in the world, particularly if you need to adjust a monster’s level down a notch or two in order to make it a fair fight. (And yeah, there’s gonna be one encounter that just plain won’t be a fair fight, because what’s life without a little risk?) To date, I tried setting up an OpenOffice template for that purpose, arranging the carefully-constructed stat blocks and going from there.
The Cheshire Cat, in American McGee’s Alice, said: “There’s a nasty name for people who insist on doing things the hard way.” To that end, I snagged a couple of utilities that make life much, much easier.
That’s where the Pixlr Grabber add-on comes into play. Pixlr can specify a region of the browser window, and either save it to disk as a PNG or copy it to your clipboard. From there, you can paste it into your favorite word processor or page layout tool and arrange it as needed or desired. Make sure you do a test run to see how big/small the text needs to be.
Those should cut down a TON of the manual labor needed for me to get the encounters ready. At this point the hardest part is figuring out how to avoid sending my players against yet another kobold horde.
So I’m all settled in and ready to get the Kurokiiro Festival underway. As such, we’re going to be a little quiet here on the blog. You could say that the blog is playing The Quiet Game so that I can play several dozen other, rather louder games.
Of course, that would be silly, but you could say it.