Tuesday Freebies: the edition with infinite class

Well, folks. I’m hard at work on another paid post, and it’s an art post! And it will be glorious. (And maybe a bit NSFW.) Unfortunately, it’s not done yet and I won’t get a chance to finish it until tomorrow. So in the mean time, let’s have some freebies!


Things that are useful

This post is a fantastic look at communication styles, and how clashing communication styles can cause women to just quietly leave gaming groups without ever addressing the problems that are bothering them. This should be required reading for GMs who frequently game with new people.

Also, I really do try to avoid linking to The Escapist, because seriously fuck them and their #GamerGate apologism. However, this piece is an excellent look at swords and those who say it’s “unrealistic” to portray women fighting with them.

Lastly, this isn’t useful so much as “really effing cool”, but I could totally see this getting used in tabletop campaign, so… Turns out, a Swiss taxidermist did a facial reconstruction of the tattooed Siberian princess that was unearthed last year. And she looks so metal! I’m totally going to play her in a game some time.


Thing related to #GamerGate

The incomparable Leigh Alexander gave a talk about 90’s culture and how it ties into trends that led to the current state of game culture. It’s super fascinating (especially for me as a child of the 90’s), and the entire talk is online for free. Though make sure you skip to about 10:00, since before that they were just streaming technical difficulties in setting up the stream. Of particular note, the second question that she took was some dude trying to punk her using #GamerGate talking points. Beautifully, she dismantled him and his BS question – politely, and with infinite class. It was pretty much the best. (Transcription of the exchange is here for those who don’t want to watch the whole video.)

Also of note, Feminist Frequency released its first annual report since becoming a registered charity. And like everything that Anita Sarkeesian has a hand in, I am super impressed by how polished it is, and how it paints an honest picture of the current state of game culture while also remaining full of hope for the future.

Lastly, you may have heard about the flap over several feminist Wikipedia articles being censured for their part in a dispute over articles about #GamerGate. Turns out, initial reports may have been exaggerated? This is an interesting behind-the-scenes look at what’s going on that manages to be informative without being boring.


Things I wrote!

Lastly, I posted the following on G+ in a private thread in response to someone asking how people with longer-running Patreons feel that Patreon has affected their art. It covers ground I haven’t previously covered here, so I thought I’d repost my comment in full here on my blog:

Okay, so disclaimer, I’m using it to support my blog. So, you know, is blogging “art” and all that…

I think the first and most important factor for me is that I wouldn’t have been able to re-launch my blog without Patreon support. I would need to chase other paying work. That is a not-inconsiderable factor. If you are economic circumstances that privilege you from needing to consider profitability of art that you make, that’s awesome! However, for myself and other artists with constrained budgets, Patreon is invaluable simply because it gives us freedom to make what we want to and not simply what will sell like gangbusters.

Now, from a personal standpoint, what has it meant to me personally and my work?

If anything, I find that my standards for what should be a paid post have risen since I first started blogging again. I’ll admit that it’s in small part due to the scrutiny that I’ve gotten from some quarters over being a “professional victim”. But mostly it’s because I want my patrons to stick with me for the long haul, and since I’ve hit a plateau in terms of patron support it’s important to me that I maintain strict standards of quality/quantity in terms of posts that I make as paid.

As far as does it influence what I choose to blog about? Sure. Of course it does. Some of that in good ways and some of that in not so good ways.

The not-so-good is that because I feel pressured to deliver quality posts, I sometimes fall into being silent when I don’t feel like I have things of worth to say. And that’s a trap! (I wrote about it at length here.) I’m trying to be better at not doing that, and also trying to do more free, off-the-cuff things so I don’t fall into that trap of not making paid posts because I’m feeling particularly worthless that day.

However, the good is twofold. First, that the accountability that I feel to my patrons has pushed me to improve my craft. I spend more time on my posts than I did pre-Patreon, for the most part. And I think the difference shows. Also, again because I feel pressure to deliver value, I’ve pushed myself to break out of my comfort zone and start experimenting with different kinds of posts. Like Claustrophobia! That was done with the intention of making it a Patreon thing. I never would have thought to do that sort of thing pre-Patreon, because I wouldn’t have been able to believe that people might find it valuable.

It’s not 100% awesome. There are the above difficulties. I also did another roundup of pros and cons here.

And then there’s just practical stuff. Like how Patreon’s UI SUCKS DONKEY BALLS. But for me, it’s been a game changer. And I think it’s a great thing for art overall, and for me as an artist personally.

Thursday Freebies: the culturally marxist edition

The internet’s been pretty busy at being interesting this week, so it’s time for another link roundup!

Awesome people being awesome

I missed seeing this when it first went up, but Blerds put up this fantastic piece in December about “5 Offensive Stereotypes Reinforced by Video Games That Need to End“. It’s an interesting piece, especially as it comes at the issue from a scientific angle by examining the real-world biases that these games are helping reinforce.

Next is this piece on Joystiq about gaming while black. I couldn’t find one passage to quote, because I wanted to quote it all. So save me some trouble and go read it.


 

Over on KickStarter, there’s a campaign to fund an anthology of science fiction stories by queer authors, delightfully titled Queers Destroy Science Fiction. (Okay, so this totally isn’t about gaming, but I have to admit the title totally got me.) It’s already funded, so anything else they get is gravy.

And last, but certainly not least, the ever-amazing Avery McDaldno is spear-heading New Stories – “a retreat designed to celebrate diverse creatorship and bring together several indie games communities (digital, tabletop, LARP, and beyond).” What is it? Well,

New Stories is a retreat being held at Camp Solomon Schechter, just outside Olympia, WA. May 8-10. It runs Friday afternoon to Sunday evening. Registration includes rustic accommodations and a weekend of catered meals (kosher, vegan options).

The weekend will include games, workshops, panels, semi-structured social spaces, and an opportunity to connect with makers and thinkers from several indie games communities. The retreat will challenge us to look at digital, tabletop, and live-action play in new ways. We’re hoping for 100-150 attendees.

We’ll be inviting several guests to the retreat – women, people of colour, and queers who can bring game design wisdom, critical perspectives, and awesome workshops to the table.

If you live on or near the West Coast, I’d advise you to maybe check it out!


 

Social Justice Adventuring Party

 

A lot of my feed this week has been awesome women fighting back against #GamerGate. Which is awesome. Especially since it occurred to me that their approaches would make for a pretty well-rounded Social Justice Adventuring Party. (Because a party of nothing but Social Justice Warriors wouldn’t be balanced enough to deal with a typical adventure, yannow?) So here’s what I think the super teamup from this week would look like in terms of class:

Social Justice Cleric: Zoe Quinn proves that she’s a cleric, not a warrior with the launch of Crash Override, a service devoted to helping victims of cyber harassment recover their lives and a sense of safety. I wonder how many times a day she can cast Turn Neckbeards?

Social Justice Ranger: Randi Harper, creator of the Good Game Auto Blocker and prominent target of #GamerGate, not only has the hit dice to take some serious damage, but also can put out some serious DPS. She’s going full-time with her anti-harassment work, and is relying on Patreon to support her in that work.

Social Justice Paladin: Margaret Pless (aka Idledilettante) is starting up a new series on The Daily Kos about domestic terrorism and #GamerGate. The linked piece is a 101-level summary of #GamerGate, up to and including recent SWATting incidents against people perceived as anti-GG, but I look forward to seeing what comes next.


Actually about ethics in game journalism

This piece on Boing Boing is a great look at how harassers are using crowdfunding to enable their hate campaigns. (I know! Boing Boing doing serious journalism? It surprised me too!)

Also, Destructoid just published this piece about “the real sources of unethical videogame journalism“. Shots fired.

Blizzard tries to “do women better”, completely misses the point

(I didn’t mean to go nearly two weeks without a paid post! However, the PhotoShopping for the last part of this post took significantly longer than I thought it would, and I lost a lot of evenings this past week to rehearsals for the play I’m in. Alas!)

Quite a while ago, this drifted across my tumblr dash (courtesy of Bikini Armor Battle Damage – which is a great tumblr that I love), and I facepalmed:

arg

It’s almost like… Blizzard has a complete lack of awareness of how and why their games were failing at women in the first place. No, wait, scratch that. It’s exactly like that. Because that’s what it is. That’s exactly what it is.

Curious to see what the other characters were like, because I hate myself and like being angry, I went digging for a character roster and found this:

lineup-wide.1z8E7

CLICK FOR LARGER VIEW

Now, looking at it, I’ll admit that this does do better than WoW and Hearthstone, in that 5 out of 12 characters are gendered as female. However, given that Blizzard’s modus operandi is to clearly delineate female gendered characters with BOOBS, I think it’s a safe assumption that the four characters without immediately discernable gender (Robot Monk (front), Giant-ass Robot, Heavy-Armor Gorilla, and Mech-with-the-Bird[1]) are going to be gendered as male.

Especially when you consider that Blizzard character designers operate under the assumption that characters are either interesting or female, but never both.

Granted, 5 out of 12 characters is 41% female representation – which is much better than Hearthstone’s batting average of around 22%. But still! You’d think that if a game company is going to trumpet that they’re trying to “do women characters better” (and really, I hope that was Kotaku’s phrasing and not Blizzard’s, because that’s a really unfortunate choice of phrasing), this is the low hanging fruit.

It’s not hard! TWELVE IS AN EVEN NUMBER. Half of twelve is six. If you want to NOT FAIL AT WOMEN CHARACTERS, you should maybe, I dunno, HAVE HALF OF THEM BE WOMEN. (At least.)[3]

Even then – even then - I might have been happy with this as a sign of progress if the character designs weren’t so uniform, or if they didn’t fall into all the same design pitfalls as their other games. Looking at the above image, the male-gendered characters cover every body type imaginable, while the women are all slim (some impossibly so – I call bullshit on the angel’s ribcage), all present as femme, and all fit standard definitions of pretty. And then of course, things get uglier when you start looking at the character designs more closely:

overwatch women

TOP, L TO R: Widowmaker, Tracer, Pharah BOTTOM: Mercy, Symmetra

Widowmaker (top left) is bullshit, for obvious reasons. Why the fuck would you wear that to a gunfight? Her boobs are about to pop out any second, not to mention the massive ass cleavage in the first screenshot. (Seriously, her suit looks like it must be lodged in her colon. WTF.) Tracer (top middle) is… yeah, okay, I guess she’s okay. I mean she’s skinny as fuck, but maybe that’s part of the tomboy vibe? We’ll come back to her.

Symmetra (bottom left) is yet another instance of Blizzard’s obsession with designing characters that wear dresses with thigh slits that go above the hips, no pants, and stripper boots. But at least she fares better than Mercy (the angel, bottom left), who not only doesn’t get pants but also has some of the most ridiculous fucking boob armor I’ve ever seen. You want to “do women characters”, Blizzard? How about you don’t put them in fucking boobplate?

Lastly, there’s Pharah. Initially I was pleased with her design, even if I was miffed that she didn’t get to be big and bulky like the male heavies. I actually like the contrast of her femme presentation (especially the eye makeup) with the heavy armor. And then I spotted THE BATTLE THONG.

Seriously, look at the male armored characters. None of them have ridiculous armor cod-pieces, so what gives? It’s like someone tried to give her a strong design without sexualizing her, until some studio head came in and said “yeah, yeah, that’s great, can we put her in a thong?”[2].

And all of this is just the obvious issues with the individual character designs! None of which are helped by shit like this piece of promo art here:

Overwatch-67

(I didn’t realize until I started writing this post that there’s a 5th male character squeezed in between the cowboy and the angel, which properly makes the ratio 2 out of 7.)

Oh hey, look. Two out of seven characters are women, and neither of them are in any way focal. So that’s good. Nice to know that Blizzard is still committed to women not being important to anything ever at all.

And remember Tracer? The one “yeah, I guess she’s pretty okay” character? Well don’t worry, because Blizzard made sure to sexualize her as well. So far there is only one Overwatch statue available and it’s this one:overwatch-tracer

Ridiculous boobs and butt pose? Check. Ass cleavage (seriously, who is it on the design team that is so obsessed with ass cleavage? That’s just weird), check. Distorted anatomy? Check. Phew! For a second there I almost thought Blizzard was going to manage to not screw that one up!

Oh, but I can’t forget to mention that the game’s role assignments are also horrendously stereotypical:

roles

That’s right. Two out of three healers are female, two out of four high-DPS/rogue-equivalent characters are female, one out of three defensive characters are female (the least-clothed female character to boot), and there are zero female tanks. Because women are just too dainty and fragile and shit. Or something. REASONS.

So basically, if Blizzard really was trying to make an effort to “do women characters” better, then they failed miserably. Yeah, okay, they didn’t fail quite as hard as they do in all of their other games! But touting this as some kind of achievement is like bragging that you only slap women a little sometimes instead of full on punching them in the face. You don’t get feminist cookies for not failing slightly less than you used to.

How could this be better? Re-examining design choices

If I’d followed my usual posting format, I could have rambled on for another 1,000 words easily about individual characters and problematic design decisions as well as problematic meta-patterns. But instead, I decided to do something a little different – I decided that I would PhotoShop the full-cast poster to actually show how easy it would be to have a character lineup that isn’t fucking terrible.

It turns out that this was a bit more a time investment, PhotoShop-wise, than I anticipated, mostly because the figures all overlap. However! The fact remains that more than half of the changes I made were purely cosmetic! Check this out:

wip2

CLICK FOR LARGER VIEW

So first, the easiest fix – the gender imbalance. Make one of the characters without obvious gender voiced by a female voice actor, and suddenly the problem is solved. I went with the gorilla, since that’s a character design that recalls other male archetypical characters (like Beast and others). Also, that way there would be a female tank, so win.

Next, looking at the design of the humanoid female characters overall, I was pretty pleased by the overall racial balance. Two brown ladies, a purple lady, and two white ladies? Rock on! Except. Mercy is an angel character with blonde hair. Which. NO. We’ve been over this. Always having angels be blond is some creepy white supremacy bullshit, okay? And sure, I could have shifted her skin tone as a fix, but part of the point of this exercise was to show HOW LITTLE WORK it is to fix this shit. (While I was at it, I also de-boob-plated Mercy’s armor and widened her waist enough to give her a fucking ribcage.)

Symmetra and Pharah were also changes that required almost no effort. I widened Symmetra’s thighs a bit because her torso is not totally skinny like Tracer’s. If she’s carrying more weight on top, then her legs should be more than just pipe cleaners, okay? I also gave her some fucking pants, because FUCKITY FUCK SHE SHOULD BE WEARING PANTS. As for Pharah, I resized her by about 50% to make her the same height as Really Huge Robot Guy, because at least one of the women needed to be a giant, with that degree of character size variance. (I also half-assedly got rid of the battle thong, although it was totally lazy and I can do better.) As for Widowmaker? I let her keep her bullshit costume, but I made her fat so that she’s fat, badass, and sexy. Now at least she reads as someone doing sexy for herself and not because she’s some game dev’s fetish/fantasy.

Lastly, looking at the humanoid male characters (Cowboy Guy, Dwarf Guy, Big Bruiser Guy, and Samurai Guy[4]), there was a serious imbalance in representation with only samurai guy arguably counting as Asian and the others all definitely coded as white. So since Mexican, Native, and Black cowboys are largely erased in anything that portrays cowboys ever, boom. Cowboy Guy is now Latin@.

I also wanted to make one of the other male characters Black, since I wasn’t positive that Symmetra read as Black. I wasn’t thrilled about my choices, but opted to make Dwarf Guy black by shifting the skin tone and desaturating his blond beard into a grey beard, operating on the “grandparents as PCs make anything better” principle[5]. Sure he’s an Angry Black Guy now, but in my head he’s a badass grandfather who’s just angry because people are trying to fuck with his teammates, and when they have downtime he tells awesome stories and makes pie or whatever.

And there you have it! I won’t make any claims that this lineup is 100% free of problems, but if one person can fix most of the problems with a game’s lineup with 4 hours and PhotoShop, then we’re not talking about things that would require a vast investment of resources to correct! Unfortunately, while Blizzard cares enough to give lip-service to the idea of “doing women better”, it’s obvious that they don’t care enough to actually put their money where their mouth is. So I’m not going to hold my breath for any actual substantive changes in their design directives any time soon.

[1] I could take time to look up their names, but honestly I don’t really give a shit. I’m not likely to ever play this game.

[2] I hate everything. Seriously, everything.

[3] CAN YOU TELL HOW ANNOYED I AM?

[4] Again, I literally do not give enough shits about ever playing this game to Google their names. Just more proof that I’m either NOT A REAL GAMER or OUT TO DESTROY GAMING, I guess. Take your pick.

[5] Grandmothers always trump grandfathers. ALWAYS.

Tuesday freebies: the WE’RE IN UR HOBBY DESTROYIN UR GAMES edition

So funny story. I’d been planning on doing another silly PhotoShop post like my last Bayonetta post where I ‘Shopped ScarJo to have the same proportions as Bayonetta, only this time I was going to look at the new WoW models.

The thing is, once I started comparing the screen shots to references of actual female athletes, I realized that there’s actually not much to complain about in terms of anatomical correctness. Granted, it would have been much better if the female orcs and tauren (and hell, humans!) were as bulky as their male counterparts, and if female trolls had a stoop like the male trolls did. But at least their anatomy is completely within the realm of the reasonable.

So, you know. Well done, Blizzard on not failing at one very specific thing. Now please do carry on failing at pretty much everything else related to gender[1].

So while I’m figuring out a different entertaining thing to blog about (I do actually have a few other pies in the oven, just none of them are done yet, so to speak), I thought I’d do another links post.


 

Things about #GamerGate

Zoe Quinn writes here about how, for her and other women targeted by #GamerGate, August Never Ends – the consequences of being at the center of an internet hate movement are life-altering and irrevocable. She then follows up here, talking about the continuing efforts of those behind #GamerGate to doxx and SWAT people who speak out against GG, and the potential lethal consequences for people targeted this way.

Related, the Guardian has a pretty good piece about SWATting as a #GG tactic and why it’s so dangerous. (In 2011, American cops killed 404 people – and that figure only includes murders by cops that were counted as “justified homicides”. Killings not counted as homicides were not included in this figure, so it’s hard to say how much higher the real number is. So with that in mind, each time GG gets someone SWATted, the odds are frighteningly high that the police will shoot first and ask questions later.)


 

Things not about gamers that are pretty much about gamers

Arthur Chu wrote a fantastic piece on Slate about “the plight of the bitter nerd” and why so many so many nerd men wind up hating feminism. It’s great because it has a lot of empathy, since the author himself identifies as a former bitter nerd who hated feminism. But at the same time it’s an excellent takedown of guys who pull shit like trying to equate “she made me feel bad” with “he raped me”. Mostly this is written about people in tech, but sub in “gamer” for tech and this 100% applies.

 

On his blog, David Brothers wrote about the problems with being a black artist who tries to talk about racism/sexism in the comics industry. And again, sub “gamer/gaming” for “comics” and this 100% applies. For instance, here is is talking about “outrage culture”:

We talk about outrage culture and never stop to ask ourselves why someone saying “This hurt me, here’s why” is offensive, but a white man creating a comic where women are raped and non-whites are racially stereotyped is not. We scream “Free speech!” in the face of people who say “This is messed up.” We never examine why someone is angry before dismissing them for their anger. We demand perfection and eloquence from someone who has just been confronted with the unbridled contempt someone else has for them and everything they represent.

Considering that a certain segment of my trollbase likes to refer to me as being part of the “Outrage Brigade”, this really rings true. Almost none of the hate I get online is for the games that I make, despite that they cover controversial subjects. Pretty much all of it is related things I say here. Because having opinions about things and expressing my feelings is, to some people, somehow a Crime Against Art.

Anyway. The piece is a bit long, but fantastic and you should read all of it.


 

People making progressive games despite some pretty strong pushback

Over on Ars Technica, I read an interesting piece about the struggles that Dontnod Entertainment went through in trying to find a publisher for their game, Life is Strange, which features a female protagonist. Apparently, but not surprisingly, most studios they talked to wanted them to make the protagonist male. Thankfully, Squeenix was willing to publish the game female protagonist and all. So, much as I bag on Squeenix for their ridiculous character designs, good on them for not being too craven to publish an interesting game simply because the protagonist isn’t a dude.

 

This piece on The Guardian starts out with a pretty depressing rehash of the origins of #GamerGate, but the other 2/3 are an interesting look at how Twine is democratizing game development by lowering barriers to entry and allowing more female, queer, and PoC developers to make games and get them published.


 

Things that are totally cool

Because I wanted to end on a high note…

New podcast alert! Chris Chinn, one of the smartest voices in games blogging, and Na’amen Tilahun are starting a new podcast called Yellow Peril & Magical Negro (love the name, btw) – where they talk about games from a PoC perspective. The first episode covers a lot of ground – everything from Dragon Age: Inquisition to superJews – and was an interesting listen!

 

Lastly, Epidiah Ravachol, the mind behind Worlds Without Master and many other cool games projects, is doing a cool thing this year; he’s trying to play 51 different games in 2015. It’s a pretty neat idea, but what’s really cool is that he’s making badges for people who want to try the challenge, including some pretty neat variants. Like this one:

So awesome!


 

[1] Credit where credit is due, you still get props for making the purple elves the good guys and the milky elves the bad ones.

Thursday freebies: so happy it’s Thursday!

I don’t often link to Patreons here (mostly because there are so many that are by really great people that it’s really hard to know who to support. You know? But here’s me pimping a Patreon anyway, because DifferentPlay is a campaign looking to increase the diversity of TRPG game designers by helping designers from underrepresented backgrounds publish their games:

Diversity can’t be founded on charity. We want these designers to connect with the broader community as equals, which means paying them like the professionals they are.

We don’t believe in “working for exposure”. We plan on paying the writers, the editors, the artists, and the layout people at market rates. It helps support our designers, as well as the ecosystem of people creating independent analog games.

Now that they’ve met their first milestone, they’re going to be able to start publishing games! Which is exciting! This is exactly the sort of thing the game design community needs.


The Spawn Point Blog is going to be holding a gaming marathon on January 17th and 18th to raise awareness of police brutality and raise money for Eric Garners family. It will be streaming live on Twitch. #BlackLivesMatter


 

As has been pointed out on Twitter, GamerGate is doing a really great job!

gj gg

That’s right, Intel is finally making up for their Gamasutra ad boondoggle by massively investing in diversity in the tech industry. Exciting stuff!


Brianna Wu’s Patreon is now raising enough money that she can hire someone to document illegal online harassment!

briannawu

Read these in reverse order, because Twitter is irritating

 

 

I am very curious to see if anything positive comes out of this, enforcement-wise.


I happened to see this screenshot from the new Wolfenstein game and immediately facepalmed.

B6opx3BCQAAP9bi

I could write 2000 words about the game industry and its dangerous obsession with toxic masculinity. Thankfully, Tracy Barnett did such a good job that I can just point you all over here.

(Predictably, the post itself got trolled. Although it was a B- effort at best.)


In this post, Ann Leckie is actually talking about sci-fi writing and the inability of many sci-fi writers to even perceive the sexism problem in their community. But honestly, this analogy is perfect for the gaming community as well. Just perfect.

 

Claustrophobia: a Twine game

I just published Claustrophobia – my first Twine game!

What is Claustrophobia?

Claustrophobia is a Twine game (my first!). It is a mostly autobiographical game (some details have been changed or vagued up) about the difficulty in being someone who Makes Games While Female.

Some caveats:

  • If you’ve been harassed online, or someone you love has been harassed online, or you have significant anxiety about being harassed online, this might not be the game for you. Play with care.
  • This game contains profanity. Partly because I like profanity, but partly because that’s kind of unavoidable given the subject matter.
  • Obviously this isn’t intended to be any sort of universal statement about This Is What Harassment Looks Like. This is just my experience of it.
  • If you are aware of who a particular passage is referencing (I’ve tried to prevent this), for God’s sake don’t point at my game and name names. This isn’t about pointing fingers, so cut it out – you make my life worse when you do that.
  • Yes I am aware that I don’t have it “as bad” as other prominent female gaming culture critics. That’s not the point.

Play Claustrophobia

You’ll note that I made this post a patron-supported post[1], so that I could release this freely. (I put a lot of time and effort into this, not to mention the emotional labor of putting myself in this kind of headspace.)

So if you are finding this by other means, play the game. If you like or appreciate it, you could throw me a dollar or two (there’s a Donate button in the sidebar there – it’s new!) – that will make it easier for me to do such work in the future. But no need to feel bad if you don’t.

[1] I know I said I was going to work on more fun things, but this was something I’d been working on for a few weeks already! Fun stuff after this! Promise!

Year in Review: My experiences with Patreon and self-publishing in 2014

(ETA: I forgot resolution number 6!)

Because I’m a big fan of transparency, as I find it helps encourage new self-publishers and content creators (women especially), I wanted to do a bit of an analysis of how 2014 went – both in terms of this Patreon, and a little bit in terms of my other publishing. I also wanted to talk about some lessons learned, in the hopes that this will be helpful for folks looking to jump into self-publishing in 2015.

(This post is a freebie, because charging patrons for a post about how much money I’m making off of my Patreon would be totally sketchy.)

1. Patreon revenue

For several reasons, it’s a bit difficult to quantify [money earned] per [standard unit of effort]. Sometimes I’ll do a visual post where I’ve monkeyed with photoshop, or done a redraw, or made a bingo card, whatever. Those tend to have low word counts, but higher time investments than writing-only posts. There’s also no way to quantify time spent on research, short of tracking my hours per post – which is way too anal for the amount of money I’m making on this thing.

So here’s the best approximation I could come up with – [monthly payout] / [total number of paid words]. (I can’t do it per post, because monthly limits mean that I get diminishing returns on subsequent posts in the same month. (That is absolutely not a complaint.))

cents

Now the reason I started my Patreon was to “replace” to revenue that I would lose by writing here on my blog instead of working on other projects that would later earn me money. Kids are expensive, and when I was first looking at starting out, I was really feeling the pinch. So if you look at it from that angle, this Patreon has been a great success. Standard industry rates for freelancers are 2-3 cents per word – which means I’m earning more money per word than I could freelancing, and have been from the start! (That said, standard freelance rates are complete bullshit and don’t represent any sort of liveable wage in terms of financial return on time invested.)

All told, the income I got from this Patreon in 2014 paid for just over half of my kid’s daycare costs, which is a fair chunk of change. Hooray!

2. Patreon: pros & cons

So obviously Patreon is great. And really, to almost every single woman I know who has been saying “I’d like to do more publishing this year”, I will yell GET THEE TO A PATREON. However, it’s not universally perfect. So here are the pros and cons I’ve encountered in the last 10 months (not universally applicable, obviously)

Pros

  • Predictable, regular income stream
  • Pays better than freelancing
  • Gives me the freedom to choose what I write about
  • Real, concrete, tangible proof that what I am doing here has value. Literally!

Cons

  • I’m now a “professional victim” according to some of my haters
  • Every patron-spike (a cluster of new people becoming patrons) larger than 4 people was the direct result of targeted harassment campaigns against me
  • It’s hard to expand your patronage once you reach a certain saturation, because even with the ability to set monthly limits many people aren’t willing to take on new monthly expenses
  • The pressure to make paid posts “valuable” sometimes makes me post less, perversely
  • Patreon is only suitable for small, periodic content; it won’t ever replace KickStarter for huge projects
  • Doesn’t support multiple content “streams” (I couldn’t use this Patreon to support, say, fiction writing, frex)

This might make it look like there’s not any real advantage to having a Patreon, but don’t be fooled. The pros easily, easily outweigh the cons.

3. Self-Publishing: lessons learned

This is the year I decided that I was going to be A Real Publisher! And mostly, that worked out pretty well for me!

real

Most of what I learned this past year is excellently summed up in this piece by Molly Crabapple about how to “make it” as an artist. (Note: I am not even remotely claiming to have “made it”.) But briefly, here are the main lessons I learned this year:

  • DON’T EVER WORK PAY ON PUBLICATION. Don’t do it. DON’T. DO. IT.
  • Seriously fuck exposure. If someone wants you to work for exposure, tell them to jump off a fucking cliff.
  • IT’S ALL ABOUT REVENUE STREAMS. Multiple revenue streams is the name of the game. This year I did patron-supported blogging, game publishing, children’s book illustration, and a few other miscellaneous projects. Don’t put all your eggs in one baskets. Baskets are amazing. You need more baskets. (I think I lost control of this metaphor.)
  • Haters have almost zero power to affect your earnings. People willing to listen to a hater were not going to buy your shit anyway. So when someone hates on your work (spoiler alert: this will happen), set your fucks free, do a haters-gonna-hate-dance, and go on doing what you’re doing.
  • Communicate with your audience! Your audience is something you should build a relationship with. Ideally it will grow, and much of your audience will support multiple projects. (Remember – baskets!) This is something I’m still working on, but wow it’s important.
  • If you’ve ever done a thing and thought “I should sell this thing”, and then immediately talked yourself out of doing that? Tell your brain to STFU and sell the thing. I made $550 this year on a mini-game I almost didn’t publish.
  • Speaking of which, small projects are amazeballs. Don’t be afraid to do lots of small projects instead of one HUGE GINORMOUS PROJECT.

4. Resolutions for 2015

So with all of that in mind, here are my thoughts for the coming year.

FIRST, after the shitstorm back in March over my redraw of GenCon’s mascot, I got paranoid and locked comments the fuck down. That’s killed a lot of discussion and I think that level of caution is no longer warranted, at least for now. I’m probably going to start cautiously easing restrictions on commenting, which will mean that people will be able to comment on old posts again. Hopefully people don’t abuse this.

SECOND, replacing troll comments with sarcastic memes is always a good decision. I resolve to keep doing that.

THIRD, I want to get back into doing at least 3 freebie link posts per month. I’ve neglected this blog shamefully the last three months, and traffic numbers have reflected that. I want to do what I can to promote under-represented voices!

THREE-and-a-HALF, I want to do more “creative” posts. Redraws, cartoons, photoshops, stuff like that. They’re fun! I need to do more fun things!

FOURTH, I want to do more to support women getting into publishing!

FIFTH, I really want to find a way to do more fiction writing in 2015! I’m going to put serious thought into how to do this. Maybe a crowdfunding ransom model? We’ll see.

SIXTH, I’m thinking of adding a tip jar, since a number of people told me this year that they would have supported me as a one-time thing. So I’ll probably put up a PayPal link or something. I’ll figure that out.

So that’s where I’m at. Thanks for sticking with me through what was a pretty tough year. I look forward to seeing what we can do this year!

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