Artwork for podcast Pixel Therapy Pod
Practicing Failure in Breath of the Wild with Poet Angbeen Saleem
Episode 1927th April 2021 • Pixel Therapy Pod • Pixel Therapy Pod
00:00:00 01:37:39

Share Episode

Shownotes

Spring has sprung and our backlogs are already piling up! Spencer kicks things off by spotlighting a few under-hyped indie titles that have come out recently: Studio Seufz's 9,600hr long idle adventure The Longing, Captilight's charming puzzler Path of Kami (https://www.captilight.com/pathofkami), and 4615 Theatre Company's QTBIPOC-led solar punk visual novel DARK CITY (https://www.4615theatre.com/dark-city) -- the latter two are both free to download on itch.io (but by all means support these indie devs if you're able)! Meanwhile, Jamie shares the view from her haunted island in Cozy Grove, a charming new life sim that's like Animal Crossing-meets-Spiritfarer, plus bears.

Then we're joined by writer, poet, and connector Angbeen Saleem! Angbeen works as a digital communications coordinator for North Star Fund, a social justice org based in New York. We chat about their previous life working in social impact for MTV, how games teach Angbeen to write poetry, and how Breath of the Wild provides a safe space to practice failure-- and why that's something we need.

Get 20% off TomToc's Nintendo Switch Lite case with promo code "pixeltherapy" using our affiliate link!: https://amzn.to/31miLnj

Check out Angbeen's work and writing: https://www.angbeensaleem.com/

Side Quest

The Let Us Breathe Fund is the only NYC-based fund led by and for Black activists organizing around police reform and building Black liberation. Learn more and donate at https://northstarfund.org/

About Pixel Therapy

New episodes drop every other Tuesday. Learn more at pixeltherapypod.com or follow us on social media @pixeltherapypod. We're proud members of the But Why Tho? Podcast Network: visit ButWhyThoPodcast.com for everything pop culture in an inclusive geek community! If you like what you hear, please take a moment to rate us, leave us a review on Apple Podcasts (or your listening app of choice) & subscribe! Want more? Join our little community over on Patreon!

Transcripts

Jamie:

Pixel Therapy is a member of the But Why Tho Podcast

Jamie:

Network

Spencer:

Go to butwhythopodcast.com for an

Spencer:

inclusive geek community offering pop culture news

Spencer:

reviews and podcasts.

Angbeen:

Sometimes in the game, like you just got to leave, you

Angbeen:

just got to leave where you are, because I'm like, "I'm not ready

Angbeen:

to beat this Lynel right now." I do not have the tools. I do not

Angbeen:

have the stamina, I can't do this. And sometimes I feel the

Angbeen:

same way about like a work problem or poetry issue I'm

Angbeen:

having. [music break]

Jamie:

Welcome to Pixel Therapy, the video game podcast where we

Jamie:

look at the games we play through the lens of the player

Jamie:

where what you play is just as important as how you play it.

Jamie:

And where emotional intelligence is a critical stat. Every other

Jamie:

week we bring on a guest who may or may not consider themselves a

Jamie:

gamer to discuss the games that have made them and changed them

Jamie:

and all the feelings they have about our favorite pastime. I'm

Jamie:

your co host, Jamie pronouns she her

Spencer:

And I am your co host Spencer pronouns they them.

Jamie:

And this is Pixel Therapy. Buckle in folks, we've

Jamie:

got your new and noteworthies for you. Here comes the new and

Jamie:

noteworthies train. Our April Patreon bonus episode is up

Jamie:

right now. So if you go on over to patreon.com/pixeltherapypod,

Jamie:

you can catch that there this month, Spencer and I put

Jamie:

together our shortlist of game recommendations for new gamers.

Jamie:

We tried to introduce a variety of genres to folks who may be

Jamie:

new to gaming. So if that's of interest to you, you can go get

Jamie:

that Patreon bonus episode, plus every other bonus episode we've

Jamie:

done so far, by visiting patreon.com/pixeltherapypod and

Jamie:

subscribing for just $2 a month. If you're a fan of what we do on

Jamie:

Pixel Therapy, which I assume you are, if you are listening to

Jamie:

this right now, it's a great way to support the show.

Spencer:

Hi haters.

Jamie:

If that's not in the cards for ya-Yeah. I mean, you

Jamie:

know what, hate-listen to Pixel Therapy Pod, I don't care. You

Jamie:

can, you can hate-listen to it. That's okay. You know, get that

Jamie:

download.

Spencer:

We understand.

Jamie:

But you know, if a Patreon subscription is not in

Jamie:

the cards for you, that's okay. We still love and appreciate

Jamie:

you. And you'll keep getting your bi weekly dose of Pixel

Jamie:

Therapy for free, wherever podcasts are available to you.

Jamie:

But speaking of ways to support us, we've been saying it for a

Jamie:

minute. But it's finally happened. Got a new podcast

Jamie:

review over on Apple podcasts. User rhistel, r-h-i-s-t-e-l,

Jamie:

gave us a lovely five star review. They wrote "Fantastic

Jamie:

podcast. I am so happy I found this podcast." That's us. That's

Jamie:

this podcast.

Spencer:

We're "this podcast".

Jamie:

We're "this podcast". "I like this pod because it tackles

Jamie:

issues not talked about in other pods, such as race and gender.

Jamie:

It's nice to hear two wonderful hosts-" [whispering] That's you

Jamie:

and me, Spencer. "- discuss these issues in the context of

Jamie:

gaming."

Spencer:

Okay, you know, this is a real podcast listener because

Spencer:

they use the word "pod". And that's like what cool podcast

Spencer:

listeners do. So like-

Jamie:

Yeah, that's true.

Spencer:

I-Wow. Thank you.

Jamie:

Yes, thank you so much for your kind words, we really

Jamie:

do appreciate these reviews, and not just for ego sake. But

Jamie:

they're just a really important metric in measuring the overall

Jamie:

success of a podcast, you know, when we're talking to other

Jamie:

podcasters. And, and I don't know.

Spencer:

In the podcast community.

Jamie:

In the podcast community and the whole, you know, the

Jamie:

podcast universe that exists out there. So if you're inclined to

Jamie:

head over to Apple podcasts, or as we mentioned on the last

Jamie:

episode, Podchaser, who are still doing their review for

Jamie:

good campaign for the month of April, where every review left

Jamie:

on their site earns a 25 cent donation towards Meals on Wheels

Jamie:

America's Go Further program. You can rate us. You can review

Jamie:

us, it'll help us. It'll help Meals on Wheels. And maybe maybe

Jamie:

you'll even get your review read on the podcast.

Spencer:

So helping everybody. Wow, you're just a great person.

Jamie:

Yeah. Oh, my gosh, thank you. Spencer. I think you've got

Jamie:

something fun for us this week.

Spencer:

You're absolutely right, Jamie, we have something

Spencer:

very fun from our friends at tomtoc. That's to t-o-m-t-o-c.

Spencer:

Tomtoc is a tech savvy design driven brand making simply the

Spencer:

sleekest bags and cases for all you aesthetic gamers out there,

Spencer:

of which I know there are many. They are iMore Choice Award

Spencer:

Winners as well as the New York Times Wirecutter pick for

Spencer:

Nintendo Switch cases. They sent us a few of these of their

Spencer:

cases. So tomtoc is, they make like, surprisingly affordable

Spencer:

and like really well made cases for like iPads, like Mac

Spencer:

products if you have them, but specifically Nintendo Switch and

Spencer:

then the Nintendo Switch Light. They sent us a few to try out

Spencer:

and I have to say I've been using them pretty much weekly

Spencer:

as, as some of you know, I've been playing Stardew Valley and

Spencer:

at the same time in real life, my partner and I have purchased

Spencer:

a home and in a very small little town that is very Stardew

Spencer:

Valley-esque and so I've been bringing my Switch back and

Spencer:

forth as we're still kind of living in the apartment. And

Spencer:

I've been using the cases that tomtoc sent and they are

Spencer:

awesome, like, really cute. Really modern. I was actually

Spencer:

supposed to send one to Jamie because they sent me two, one

Spencer:

for each of us, which was very kind of them and [laughing] I

Spencer:

didn't do that. They make me betray your friendships. Anyway.

Spencer:

Long story short, tomtoc gave us a promo code to share with all

Spencer:

of you. The promo code is "pixeltherapy", and you can use

Spencer:

it to get 20% off of tomtoc's protective case for that

Spencer:

Nintendo Switch Light. It's super cute silicone case, in

Spencer:

like four or five different colors. They gave us an

Spencer:

affiliate link. So you need to go to this link. It's

Spencer:

amzn.to/31miLnj. I know it's impossible to remember.

Jamie:

No, I got it. I think I got it. [both laughing]

Jamie:

Basically, just say the entire alphabet and throw a couple

Jamie:

numbers in.

Spencer:

Yeah, then you got it. Anyway, I know that's impossible

Spencer:

to remember. So I put the link in our bios on both instagram

Spencer:

and twitter @pixeltherapypod. You can check out those accounts

Spencer:

and hit that link, use code "pixeltherapy" and get 20% off

Spencer:

super cute products from tomtoc. The code is good until May 4. So

Spencer:

thanks again to tomtoc. And yeah, check out this stuff.

Jamie:

Yeah, check them out. I mean, they look cute. I've seen

Jamie:

the pictures. [laughing]

Spencer:

Some day she hopes to be an owner of a tomtoc case

Spencer:

herself.

Jamie:

Yeah, I'll get my hands on one of those babies. Alright,

Jamie:

folks, it's time to get cozy, pull up that arm chair and feel

Jamie:

free to lie down on your couch because we're going to talk

Jamie:

about our feelings. Spencer, what do you got for us today?

Jamie:

What's going on in your world?

Spencer:

Yeah. So I mean, it's been I think everyone I talked

Spencer:

to has been fairly overwhelmed and busy lately, and I count

Spencer:

myself alongside. So I, I've been playing little games here

Spencer:

and there like I've, I've been dipping my feet back into

Spencer:

Stardew Valley, because it's very much a comfort game for me.

Spencer:

And as you know, we are members of the But Why Tho Podcast

Spencer:

Network. But Why Tho is a website that has all sorts of

Spencer:

gaming and pop culture reviews and news. So I've been reviewing

Spencer:

games for them, which has been really rewarding. And really

Spencer:

fun. Shout out to Matt and Kate and everyone at But Why Tho for

Spencer:

letting me do that. It's like been super cool. But a game that

Spencer:

I had the opportunity to review lately was one that I would love

Spencer:

to talk about with y'all. It was actually, it's this game is

Spencer:

called The Longing. And it was dropped during Nintendo's Indie

Spencer:

World Showcase, I think it was April 14, so it just came out a

Spencer:

couple weeks ago. And it's from a German developer, Studio

Spencer:

Seufz, and forgive me if I'm pronouncing that wrong, German

Spencer:

friends, but a super cool indie studio. And The Longing is

Spencer:

really unique because it may just be the longest game ever

Spencer:

created. It is 9600 hours long. And that's 9600 real time hours

Spencer:

and 400 days. And essentially, it's a story that's rooted in

Spencer:

German folklore. But you are playing as "the shade". And the

Spencer:

Shade is like a tiny little soot-like creature kind of like

Spencer:

reminiscent of the like the little Miyazaki sprites that

Spencer:

float around with those big, cute, adorable eyes. So you're a

Spencer:

little Shade who is the last servant of the king of this

Spencer:

massive Labyrinthian underground labyrinthine? I don't know how

Spencer:

to pronounce things. I just, I just read them. It's like a

Spencer:

labyrinth. [laughing]

Jamie:

I knew what you meant.

Spencer:

Thank you. This big, massive underground kingdom and

Spencer:

the kingdom is empty. There's there's no one else there. And

Spencer:

what the game when the game opens, the king just simply

Spencer:

commands you to let him sleep and watch over his kingdom. And

Spencer:

then awaken him in 400 days.

Jamie:

Oh my god. King is living the dream.

Spencer:

Yeah, for real.

Jamie:

Could you just like please take care of all my shit?

Jamie:

And I'm gonna sleep for a year and a half. Thanks. [laughing]

Spencer:

Yeah. But he says when he wakes up he's gonna bring

Spencer:

about the end of all pain and longing.

Jamie:

Oh, Oh.

Spencer:

That sounds good. Right?

Jamie:

Yeah. Is that what would happen if we took a 400 day nap?

Spencer:

Alright, so let's look into it.

Jamie:

I just you know, there's a lot of superhero origin

Jamie:

stories, but this is this one seems unique.

Spencer:

Right? Because all you have to do to is sleep I mean,

Spencer:

shit if it were that easy.

Jamie:

We could all be superheroes.

Spencer:

But yeah, it's it's it's a really interesting

Spencer:

premise. So essentially, it's kind of like a cross between

Spencer:

Animal Crossing. And like a Tamagotchi, like essentially,

Spencer:

you are now responsible for the well being of the little

Spencer:

creature. And you can I mean, you could get up and turn off

Spencer:

the game and leave and just come back in 400 days because the

Spencer:

clock keeps counting down. No matter if you're playing or not,

Spencer:

essentially, so once the king gives you that order, there's a

Spencer:

countdown, that's actually the top of the screen that follows

Spencer:

you constantly throughout the game. And it just continuously

Spencer:

marches down those, those seconds and minutes and hours

Spencer:

and days. And so you can spend your time your, your little

Spencer:

shade has a house that you can fill with furniture, you can

Spencer:

walk around exploring the caves. One rule that King gave you is

Spencer:

that you are not allowed to leave the caves. It's very, very

Spencer:

Hades-esque. But that being said, it looks as though there

Spencer:

is a way if you kept going. You might find your way out. So what

Spencer:

happens if you betray the king? Who knows? There are multiple

Spencer:

endings to the game.

Jamie:

Oh my god, so you have to play it multiple times?

Jamie:

[laughing]

Spencer:

Yeah,

Jamie:

This is a forever game. Never play another game.

Spencer:

This is the last game you'll ever play. It's a bargain

Spencer:

at $14.99

Jamie:

[laughing] Oh my god.

Spencer:

I think it's just it's different from any game I've

Spencer:

ever played. One thing I want to mention is the art style. And

Spencer:

those kind of vibes. It has this really cool sort of dungeon

Spencer:

synth soundtrack. But very subtly shifts and grows and

Spencer:

changes as you explore the caves and it's just very immersive.

Spencer:

It's great with headphones. And the art style is very

Spencer:

reminiscent of, it's all hand drawn. And it kind of like

Spencer:

Edward Gorey meets Fantastic Planet film from the 70s. If

Spencer:

folks aren't familiar with it, look it up. But this kind of

Spencer:

very surreal, muted colors, like thin lines and detailed

Spencer:

intricate, like line work very evocative and very bleak, but

Spencer:

also kind of homey. And it's, it's just very, very

Spencer:

interesting, it's very much a game that you-I would encourage

Spencer:

you to approach as you'd approach art. For the kind of

Spencer:

experiential nature of it, I wouldn't try to approach it as

Spencer:

like, "You know what I feel like doing? Having fun and just

Spencer:

mindlessly doing something." Because most of the game is

Spencer:

spent walking. There's no fast travel as the Shade, you walk at

Spencer:

a excruciatingly slow pace for anyone who's used to just kind

Spencer:

of, I don't know, being able to use items or potions or things

Spencer:

to speed up. And like, there's none of that. And so a lot of

Spencer:

times you're just walking down these endless corridors, and I

Spencer:

find that it's kind of almost meditative, like without any

Spencer:

stimuli. I mean, not that there's no stimuli, but my brain

Spencer:

wanders, and I think I sometimes approach games to escape them.

Spencer:

So one that kind of forces me to be alone with my thoughts and to

Spencer:

embrace that. So it's just really fascinating. And I think

Spencer:

the game is aware of that. And yeah, it's, it's just, it's

Spencer:

really cool. I definitely encourage folks to check out The

Spencer:

Longing.

Jamie:

Do you? I don't know. I don't know if-I saw the trailer

Jamie:

for this one at the Indie World Showcase. And I agree that it

Jamie:

the look of it, the whole idea behind it sounds really

Jamie:

interesting. Like, I just don't like, I don't know, I mean, I

Jamie:

hear you say like, "Yeah, no, it's not fun. It's definitely an

Jamie:

experience." I don't I don't know if I'm gonna actually like

Jamie:

pick this game up and check it out. Like I love that it exists.

Jamie:

And I love like, I'm very intrigued. I was very interested

Jamie:

to like, read what you had to say about it, and like, hear

Jamie:

what you had to say about it. But I don't know, do you think

Jamie:

he would have? I don't know, do you think he would have played

Jamie:

this? Otherwise? Do you see yourself sticking with it and

Jamie:

continuing to check in on the Shade? Like long term?

Spencer:

Great question, Jamie. Maybe I should revise my

Spencer:

reccomendation. I recommend folks check it out. If you are

Spencer:

looking to be challenged by a game. If you're looking to sort

Spencer:

of push your expectations of what a game can or should be.

Spencer:

And if you are just want to invest in creative experimental

Spencer:

game development. Then those are great reasons to buy The

Spencer:

Longing. Yeah, I think that what I want to do is periodically

Spencer:

check in on the shade Look, I like the idea of you know,

Spencer:

popping in doing a little exploration. Let me see if I can

Spencer:

find some items from my cave and then popping out again, but it's

Spencer:

not a game that I feel like I'm gonna be playing linearly and

Spencer:

every day living in it because really, it becomes like a

Spencer:

lifestyle because it truly is passing by in real time. So you

Spencer:

know, I think I am someone who struggles to meditate like I get

Spencer:

really impatient. I'll try to listen to the audio the guided

Spencer:

meditations and I just get frustrated or distracted or too

Spencer:

aware of my body and like intrusive thoughts come in. So I

Spencer:

kind of what I've noticed is that when I'm playing it,

Spencer:

because there's that visual stimuli and the music and like

Spencer:

I'm, I'm inhabiting this world. So that's kind of occupying my

Spencer:

brain enough that I can sort of let the thoughts like when

Spencer:

you're when you're meditating, and you're supposed to just kind

Spencer:

of let the thoughts pass through you like water and not try to

Spencer:

hold on, or focus too much on any one and just experience,

Spencer:

whatever comes up, I find that it allows me to do that, which I

Spencer:

found pretty interesting. So like, I think using it as a tool

Spencer:

can be really beneficial if I need to just sort of get out of

Spencer:

my, or just give myself the space to clear my head or Yeah,

Spencer:

like get back in touch with myself.

Jamie:

Giving yourself something, I find like I maybe

Jamie:

concentrate better when I've got like something tactile going on

Jamie:

too so it's like, it's giving you something to like occupy one

Jamie:

side of your brain while letting the other side roam freely,

Jamie:

because it's not presenting you with like a narrative, or

Jamie:

anything to really hone your attention on. But then there's

Jamie:

also stuff in the game. Like I think, I don't remember if you

Jamie:

were telling me this, or if I read this, but you can like read

Jamie:

books within the game.

Spencer:

Yes, so you can find they populated the game with

Spencer:

like hundreds of titles from the Gutenberg project, which is a

Spencer:

archive of free ebooks. So there are classics, literature,

Spencer:

classics, that you can, there's a secret library that you can

Spencer:

find in the game. But there's also like, you can just find

Spencer:

books in different places. And then they'll be added to your

Spencer:

library and your little home. So you can Yeah, you can just spend

Spencer:

time looking for books and reading them in the game. That's

Spencer:

one way you can pass the time. You can also draw a cute like

Spencer:

you can find pieces of chalk or minerals, and just sit there and

Spencer:

watch as the Shade will draw a picture. But it will take a long

Spencer:

like it'll take almost, it's a little bit sped up from a real

Spencer:

artist, but it really is forcing you to be in the present and

Spencer:

like you're interacting with these items as if they're real

Spencer:

life items, which is really fascinating.

Jamie:

Yeah, and I'm just kind of having this like, thought now

Jamie:

too of like the way the Shade is, is trapped in this isolation

Jamie:

for these 400 odd days and like isn't supposed to go out to the

Jamie:

world and like how reminiscent of that is to like what we've

Jamie:

been living through in quarantine.

Spencer:

Yeah.

Jamie:

And like you're he's kind of being forced to or, like they

Jamie:

I guess it's not a gendered-Right. The shade isn't

Jamie:

gendered?

Spencer:

Yeah, the Shade is a non-binary icon. [laughing]

Jamie:

Yes. Thank you. The way that it-Yeah, you're just like,

Jamie:

forced to sit with the isolation.

Spencer:

Yeah.

Jamie:

The fact that time is passing. And yeah. The Shade's

Jamie:

like kind of like finding little things to do, you're finding

Jamie:

little things to do with them. But it's-

Spencer:

Right. It's like, the there's like these bright spots,

Spencer:

breaking up the monotony. But like, it forces you to sit with

Spencer:

your loneliness. I think too the longer that you sort of sit with

Spencer:

it, like as you're walking, the Shade will start talking to

Spencer:

themself, or, you know, there's also this, this sort of item you

Spencer:

can collect, that's intangible. But essentially, like if your

Spencer:

Shade approaches an obstacle that he can't climb up, or he

Spencer:

spends 10 minutes walking down a corridor that just ends in a

Spencer:

dead end, which is something that happens and you have to

Spencer:

spend 10 more minutes walking back. They'lll collect

Spencer:

"disappointments". So it will say like "I've collected one

Spencer:

disappointment."

Jamie:

oh my god.

Spencer:

So when you go back home, you can see not just your

Spencer:

items, but how many disappointments you've stocked

Spencer:

up

Jamie:

This game might be too real for me. The more I hear you

Jamie:

talk about it, I'm just like, this might not be giving me the

Jamie:

like, escapism that I've been finding with video games this

Jamie:

past year to like, transport myself to somewhere else that

Jamie:

isn't the isolated reality that we're living in. This might be

Jamie:

like too focused on-I could see, like when we're not in

Jamie:

quarantine anymore, like maybe a few years from now, when that

Jamie:

feels like, like I could see this being an interesting way to

Jamie:

like, go back to that, but I don't know that I would have the

Jamie:

wherewithal to play it now.

Spencer:

Right. It's like, rather than transporting you out

Spencer:

of isolation. It's sort of creating a space that teaches

Spencer:

you to find the humor in it. And, like the Shade has this

Spencer:

sort of cautious optimism. Like they know that they're alone and

Spencer:

they know that's, it's a long, long time until things are gonna

Spencer:

change. And they kind of managed to find this sort of wry humor

Spencer:

in that with themself, and I don't know, I really feel like

Spencer:

this game is doing just that sort of, sort of approaching

Spencer:

coping with this sort of isolation from a perspective of

Spencer:

really leaning into it.

Jamie:

Wow. That sounds like, it sounds like such a cool. It

Jamie:

sounds so cool conceptually. And even in execution. Yeah. But a

Jamie:

maybe a challenging game to experience.

Spencer:

Yeah, it's a it's a hard one to sort of play like

Spencer:

you would play any other game.

Jamie:

Mm hmm.

Spencer:

Unique, very unique. Oh, my gosh, I had that I had a

Spencer:

whole list of like, indie games that I wanted to spotlight but I

Spencer:

took so much time talking about The Longing. There's, it's felt

Spencer:

like there's been an overwhelming amount of really

Spencer:

cool indie titles that have been announced, or, you know, sort of

Spencer:

just being elevated into more of a mainstream like gaming sphere,

Spencer:

which I love seeing that from like, with Xbox's Game Pass and

Spencer:

with Nintendo adding more and more indie titles to their

Spencer:

store.

Jamie:

It's like The Year of the Indie right now, like, I do feel

Jamie:

like we have this. And in the big triple A releases are kind

Jamie:

of starting to pick up. There isn't a lot that's like,

Jamie:

definitively coming out right now that like I am personally

Jamie:

super excited for. Like what we've got, like Resident Evil

Jamie:

coming up, which I'll watch people play, but I'm not gonna

Jamie:

play myself. I don't know, we just I think part of this is due

Jamie:

to COVID. But there seems to be a bit of a lull. It's probably

Jamie:

partially due to COVID and partially due to the new

Jamie:

consoles, but there's a little bit of a lull right now in like

Jamie:

the big triple A game releases. Which I don't mind at all, it

Jamie:

certainly gives more time to catch up on backlog but like

Jamie:

because of that lull, I do feel like all these indie devs, who

Jamie:

didn't really get thwarted in the same way by COVID quarantine

Jamie:

and stuff, folks who had more experience working remotely and

Jamie:

could make that pivot much more easily. They're all now getting

Jamie:

spotlighted because the big publishers and consoles, they

Jamie:

don't have their own stuff to spotlight. So they're

Jamie:

spotlight-so it's just like, I feel like we're getting

Jamie:

overwhelmed with information about very cool indie games, and

Jamie:

there's just too-I can't play it all. I can't play at all, it

Jamie:

hurts so bad.

Spencer:

I want to.

Jamie:

And part of it's like my brain like feels like I should

Jamie:

be able to because I don't have a big game that's keeping me

Jamie:

away from it. But that just doesn't really track with the

Jamie:

fact that like, there's only so many hours in the day. And even

Jamie:

though these are smaller games in general, like I still can't

Jamie:

play three dozen of them. What were some of the games you

Jamie:

wanted to highlight though?

Spencer:

It's all so much. Well, one game I wanted to talk about.

Spencer:

The demo just came out. It's actually free on itch.io. But

Spencer:

you can also of course, donate to the developers or pay what

Spencer:

you can and what you'd like. But this game is called Path of Kami

Spencer:

and it's developed by Captilight. And Path of Kami you

Spencer:

follow the spirit of a Japanese Wolf, named Kazeyo as he

Spencer:

navigates the trials of the mortal and spiritual world in

Spencer:

the form of puzzles. You solve puzzles and discover secrets

Spencer:

with the creative uses of your spirit fire powers, and you

Spencer:

explore snowy landscapes while finding collectibles and hidden

Spencer:

areas. I wanted to just spotlight it because it's from a

Spencer:

really cool, really diverse women-led team. The studio

Spencer:

Captilight, they create really narrative driven, thought

Spencer:

provoking emotional games, and they're really trying to inspire

Spencer:

passion in gamers for approaching games from you know,

Spencer:

I think similar to how we approach games as art as therapy

Spencer:

as a hobby. They really seem to be about that as well. And the

Spencer:

just the creator Deana Galbraith seems really cool. She's been a

Spencer:

game developer for a long time and founded Captilight with a

Spencer:

small team. And she's just out here, hustling, doing the work

Spencer:

and has put forth a really adorable game that I can't play.

Spencer:

It's currently only available on Windows computers. But I just

Spencer:

wanted to shout it out. Looks really sweet. I can't wait to

Spencer:

see how the game continues to develop. And definitely

Spencer:

encourage folks to look up Path of Kami from Captilight on

Spencer:

itch.io and gamejolt. And then one more game I wanted to

Spencer:

highlight is called DARK CITY. So DARK CITY is a visual novel

Spencer:

video game from 4615 Theatre Company, which is based in

Spencer:

Maryland here in the US. It's really exciting because like I

Spencer:

just love this idea of theater companies making games because

Spencer:

theater is such a you know physical fully present and sort

Spencer:

of immediate space. And this idea of sort of the same folks

Spencer:

sort of creating and imagining those worlds, then shifting to

Spencer:

this, you know, digital creation that can exist endlessly but

Spencer:

also be its own singular experience. It's just a really

Spencer:

cool, it's cool. And DARK CITY has been put together by a team

Spencer:

of queer and trans black and indigenous people of color. It

Spencer:

was directed and written by Gregory Keng Strasser and with

Spencer:

art and design by Sara Eskandari. Two folks that you

Spencer:

may hear from again, who knows?

Jamie:

What does that mean? Maybe a future guest.

Spencer:

But more about the game. So let me just read the

Spencer:

little, little bio get get you all excited about it. "Before

Spencer:

his big sister died, Juda had it all: an education, job

Spencer:

prospects, and a gorgeous apartment in Aeolus City's

Spencer:

hippest district. But in a matter of a year, everything was

Spencer:

taken from him. Haunted by his sister's murder, and frustrated

Spencer:

by the city's tepid response, he leaves altogether - trying to

Spencer:

move on. But when an

Spencer:

Indigenous tribe shows up on his doorstep, looking into his

Spencer:

sister's role at her former employer, the Aeolus Investment

Spencer:

Organization, new revelations emerge. What did his sister

Spencer:

know? And what is the AIO planning for the city's future?

Spencer:

From the shadowy underbelly of the city to the highest echelons

Spencer:

of power, Juda uncovers a scandal so massive that nearly

Spencer:

everyone may have had a part to play in it." So it seems like

Spencer:

this just really cool sort of Choose Your Own Adventure, noir

Spencer:

detective meets solar punk, colorful, like present day, like

Spencer:

diverse narratives. And I just, I don't know, it just came out.

Spencer:

Um, you can find it at 4615theatreco.itch.io. It's free

Spencer:

to play. The first chapter is out now. Of course, you can make

Spencer:

a donation of your choice. But I highly recommend folks check out

Spencer:

DARK CITY.

Jamie:

Yeah, I'm really looking forward to playing that one. I

Jamie:

got it downloaded.

Spencer:

Hell yeah. Okay. I feel like I've talked about, like, so

Spencer:

many games. And I have so many more I could talk about but

Spencer:

Jamie, what are you playing? And what do you have to talk about

Spencer:

with us today?

Jamie:

Sure. I am, I definitely, as I said, I feel you on the

Jamie:

like, there's just too many games to play. I think between

Jamie:

you know, in our last episode, we talked about how we both just

Jamie:

purchased houses, and I had been dealing with moving, you're

Jamie:

dealing with like, contractors and getting things set up at the

Jamie:

house. And soon you'll be dealing with moving. So you're

Jamie:

preparing for moving and-

Spencer:

Digging mailbox posts.

Jamie:

Digging mailbox posts, you know, I've been I'm trying

Jamie:

to grow grass in my yard, that's been a project. And you know,

Jamie:

just work and everything else. So it just-and the world. And it

Jamie:

just doesn't feel like there's I haven't had mental capacity to

Jamie:

really sit down and invest in a game, but I'm starting to get

Jamie:

back to there. And now I'm just feeling overwhelmed by how much

Jamie:

stuff there is to play. So the main thing that I wanted to talk

Jamie:

about today that I've been using to unwind is this little game

Jamie:

called Cozy Grove.

Spencer:

Oh my gosh.

Jamie:

That maybe was on some folks' radar already. So Cozy

Jamie:

Grove is it's one of those, I guess you could call it a

Jamie:

farming Sim, I would say it's kind of like a cross between

Jamie:

Animal Crossing and a more traditional farming Sim. But the

Jamie:

closest comparison point is probably Animal Crossing, and

Jamie:

kind of get into that more in a second. It was released on March

Jamie:

19 of this year developed by Spry Fox, and you can get it on

Jamie:

most platforms. I do think this one was also on Apple Arcade. So

Jamie:

you can get it on your iPhones, I believe. And I think that's

Jamie:

what it was originally developed for. Which makes a lot of sense

Jamie:

based on some of the stuff I'm encountering as I play it, but

Jamie:

it's a game where you play as this person, you make this

Jamie:

little cartoon character who is called a Spirit Scout. And

Jamie:

Spirit Scouts-they're kind of like, like the like Girl Scouts,

Jamie:

Boy Scouts, like you'd see, you know, your character has a

Jamie:

little colorful vest on that has their little merit badges. But

Jamie:

what spirit scouts are specifically trained to do is to

Jamie:

help spirits fulfill their you know, their kind of unfulfilled

Jamie:

stuff before they move on to the land of the dead. So spirits

Jamie:

that are kind of lingering in this world, helping them find

Jamie:

some closure and moving on. So the spirit scouts as part of

Jamie:

their training they're sent out into the world to find spirits

Jamie:

to help pass on. However you as a little spirit scout, you

Jamie:

accidentally crashed your boat on this island called Cozy Grove

Jamie:

that no one has been to in a very long time and no spirit

Jamie:

scouts have visited. And there's all of these spirits on the

Jamie:

island who have just been kind of trapped and left to languish

Jamie:

on this on this island, neglected and forgotten about by

Jamie:

time, right? So it's got this really, I think, one of the most

Jamie:

interesting narratives that I've experienced in a game like this,

Jamie:

I think, like the core concept is very cool. And very

Jamie:

interesting, the idea of interacting with these

Jamie:

characters and helping them achieve closure and, and come to

Jamie:

terms with like things in their life before they move on. It's

Jamie:

just a really neat idea. Does that totally bear out in

Jamie:

execution? I don't, I don't know. Sometimes that works for

Jamie:

me. And sometimes it doesn't. The thing I find is, so I said

Jamie:

this was like an Animal Crossing clone. Because you are, you're

Jamie:

doing-you essentially have villagers essentially, on the

Jamie:

island, the spirits function as your villagers. They are not at

Jamie:

random, at least I don't believe so. I believe they're all like

Jamie:

scripted characters who appear in a set order. They're all

Jamie:

represented as bears. But some of them are like that, like the

Jamie:

first bear that you meet, like, she's essentially a camp

Jamie:

counselor who kind of like runs the camp on the island. You meet

Jamie:

the mayor bear, you meet the postal bear. But there's also a

Jamie:

bear who presents initially as though she's carved out of wood.

Jamie:

And she believes that she's a tree. And eventually, like as

Jamie:

days progress, and you talk to her more, she comes to the

Jamie:

realization that she was an artist in her life, and that she

Jamie:

carved with wood. And so like in her death, she becomes so far

Jamie:

removed from her life that she believes herself to be a tree.

Jamie:

Or there's another bear who was a sailor, and he currently

Jamie:

believes he's a seagull. So I don't know if he's eventually

Jamie:

going to also realize he was a bear or not. So far, he's still

Jamie:

just a seagull for me, and I just met one who's represented

Jamie:

as an ear of corn. [laughing] Yeah, so it's got this-

Spencer:

Country girls make do.

Jamie:

Yeah. [both laughing] So it's got this really cute art

Jamie:

style. And the interactions with the bears, the characters, the

Jamie:

things that they say that like I've had some really, it's all

Jamie:

very brief. But it still has the capacity to be, I think,

Jamie:

powerful. For example, there was an interaction I had with the

Jamie:

postal working bear, who he he said that a package had been

Jamie:

delivered for him somewhere on the island, and I had to go find

Jamie:

it. And that's how a lot of the little quests that you get from

Jamie:

them manifest, it's like, I'm looking for a thing, go find it

Jamie:

and you'll get kind of a hint like "This thing is going to be

Jamie:

by a large tree stump." And as you get to know the island, you

Jamie:

kind of know where that might be. But it's a lot of it is kind

Jamie:

of like almost like a Where's Waldo. Like you're looking at

Jamie:

this like very intricate image and trying to find this tiny

Jamie:

little leaf or this tiny little package on the screen. So that

Jamie:

aspect of it. And I don't know, like I didn't, I enjoy it in the

Jamie:

sense that it's like something to do to make my brain smooth,

Jamie:

but it's not necessarily like fun gameplay. But so I found the

Jamie:

package for the bear. I bring it back to him. And it's a soccer

Jamie:

ball. And he says, "But this is a very heavy soccer ball." And

Jamie:

it's it's what you kind of realize from what he's saying

Jamie:

that it's heavy with emotional weight. And the next day when

Jamie:

you visit him, he said the soccer ball like sat on his

Jamie:

chest all night and kept him from sleeping. But I'd still

Jamie:

don't i don't have like more story yet about the soccer ball.

Jamie:

But clearly, there's something serious that happened that ties

Jamie:

back to the soccer ball in his life that he's like, not ready

Jamie:

to share with me yet.

Spencer:

Did someone kill him with a soccer ball?

Jamie:

I don't think it'll be that grim? I Well, I guess it

Jamie:

could be. I think it has more to do. Like, I know, he has kids

Jamie:

and a family. So I'm wondering if it has something to do with

Jamie:

his his family. Right?

Spencer:

Right.

Jamie:

But the way the game plays out is that it's meant to

Jamie:

be played every day, for a short period of time. And the game

Jamie:

will actually kind of tell you like-Every day I turn it on, I

Jamie:

go interact with all of the characters that are on the

Jamie:

island at this point, there's like six or seven of them. And

Jamie:

then like as the game progresses, I'm unlocking more

Jamie:

and more characters, but I go interact with each one. They'll

Jamie:

give me a quest for the day, I'll do that quest for them.

Jamie:

Depending on the nature of the quest, I might get rewarded with

Jamie:

currency, I might get rewarded with more items, I might get

Jamie:

rewarded with an upgraded tool like a shovel. Or if it's a

Jamie:

story that progress-if it's an interaction that progresses the

Jamie:

overall story of the game, I'll get rewarded with what's called

Jamie:

a spirit log, which I bring back to my home base campfire. And as

Jamie:

you feed spirit logs to your campfire, that's what like

Jamie:

actually pushes the narrative of the game forward. So you every

Jamie:

time your fire eats a certain number of spirit logs, it

Jamie:

expands the size of the island, and adds another character to

Jamie:

the game for you to interact with. But your fire might need

Jamie:

10 logs, you're not even going to necessarily get one log a

Jamie:

day. So it might take several days for you to get all those

Jamie:

logs for your fire, and then expand the island and then add a

Jamie:

new character. And there's no way for you to progress beyond

Jamie:

what the game has set for that day, on a given day, it really

Jamie:

is a game that's meant to be played for 20 to 90 minutes a

Jamie:

day, to check in and update your things and touch base with all

Jamie:

the characters. And then it literally you'll go back to the

Jamie:

fire. And you'll ask him like, "What do I do next?" And he

Jamie:

goes, "Well, there's no more logs out there for today. So

Jamie:

come back tomorrow," like literally, like you're done for

Jamie:

the day. There's something about that, that actually kind of like

Jamie:

because I think you know, something I ran into with Animal

Jamie:

Crossing, like I could just sit there and lose an entire day to

Jamie:

Animal Crossing. And then I wouldn't play anything else, or

Jamie:

Stardew. Right, you do the same thing with Stardew because you

Jamie:

can just keep going and keep going and keep advancing. And

Jamie:

eventually I would I would I would run out of steam on the

Jamie:

game because I'd be like, Well, I'm not. I'm not really getting

Jamie:

like-all I'm getting out of this is brain smooth. So I need

Jamie:

something else, too. And I think what's nice about Cozy Grove is

Jamie:

I can unwind with it and then move on to something else. And

Jamie:

that it feels like it's giving me a good stopping point each

Jamie:

day to do that.

Spencer:

Yeah, like it sort of puts a structure in place to

Spencer:

make sure you're engaging healthily with Yeah, there's

Spencer:

nothing wrong, like we've talked about. There's nothing wrong

Spencer:

with with binging a game. But I do find that with something like

Spencer:

Stardew it's almost like I wake up after a week and be like,

Spencer:

"Oh, man, I wish I could go back and just luxuriate more of the

Spencer:

time when there was still story to discover and items to

Spencer:

unlock." Now I'm just, I've just taken all in so much and so

Spencer:

quickly that you just get to the point where, as you said, you

Spencer:

just keep going keep going, even if there's no more really to

Spencer:

accomplish. And so I like the way the game sort of spaces

Spencer:

itself out. I could see how you could really keep a player

Spencer:

retained like you could make it just a part of your ongoing

Spencer:

play.

Jamie:

Yeah. And the other thing I-So I said I do have some

Jamie:

issues with the game. I think one of my-

Spencer:

Okay, hold up before you get into the issues. You

Spencer:

didn't mention that your sentient campfire is named

Spencer:

Flamey.

Jamie:

Oh I'm sorry. Yes, the sentient campfire is named

Jamie:

Flamey and he definitely reminds me of the-shoot. What's the name

Jamie:

of the fire in Howl's Moving Castle?

Spencer:

Oh, Calcifer.

Jamie:

Calcifer that is exactly like I'm hearing-is Billy

Jamie:

Crystal? I'm absolutely I mean, there's no voice acting in the

Jamie:

game. It's all just text on the screen. With a really delightful

Jamie:

like heartwarming soundtrack. I get the little songs like stuck

Jamie:

in my head. They're just so cute and soothing. But uh, but yeah,

Jamie:

I definitely envision him as Calcifer and hear Billy, when

Jamie:

like he's talking to me. I'm hearing Billy Crystal. He

Jamie:

definitely is very reminiscent of Calcifer. But yes, Flamey.

Jamie:

I'm sorry for not mentioning Flamey.

Spencer:

Amazing. I'm Flamey.

Jamie:

Shout out to Flamey. You're the one who's like,

Jamie:

"Okay, we're done for the day. Go do something else and leave

Jamie:

me alone."

Spencer:

Yeah.

Jamie:

Okay, so my main issue with the game is that it

Jamie:

does-well, there's two things. First of all, the game has a

Jamie:

decoration aspect. Like you're constantly collecting these

Jamie:

decorations, and the decorations. Actually, they have

Jamie:

more function than I think they do in a game like Animal

Jamie:

Crossing, because the decorations all have these

Jamie:

different descriptors. So for example, I might get a picnic

Jamie:

table, that picnic table is common, and rustic. Alright,

Jamie:

it's got these two features. You can get animals to take care of

Jamie:

in the game. So far, I've just found birds. But a bird. Well,

Jamie:

you get animals and you get plants to take care of. And so

Jamie:

far, it's been birds and flowers that I found. They all have

Jamie:

things that they like and dislike.

Spencer:

The flowers?

Jamie:

The flowers and the birds.

Spencer:

Geez.

Jamie:

So if a bird likes rustic items, placing the bird next to

Jamie:

a rustic item makes him happier.

Spencer:

Oh, God, the flora and fauna are judging your furniture

Spencer:

choices? [both laughing]

Jamie:

It's a little funny, but it also like makes the

Jamie:

decoration feel like it has more of a use, right? Like, I'm going

Jamie:

to set up a rustic picnic area. And then I'm gonna put some of

Jamie:

the birds and the plants that like the rustic things around

Jamie:

then it's going to make them happy. And it's going to make

Jamie:

them, like when I feed the bird, he's going to give me an egg now

Jamie:

because he's totally happy and fulfilled with his life. And the

Jamie:

flower is going to produce more more bulbs to harvest right,

Jamie:

that kind of a deal. So unlike Animal Crossing, where you're

Jamie:

literally just decorating for the benefit of decorating like

Jamie:

here, it's got a use but the problem is, is that first of all

Jamie:

you get overwhelmed with these decorations. I don't think the

Jamie:

What if you were the ghost the whole time?

Jamie:

inventory system is well managed at all, it's so hard to get

Jamie:

extra capacity to store things like the game really doesn't

Jamie:

want you to hang on to things. And yet, it simultaneously gives

Jamie:

you a lot of tasks that require you to save items for multiple

Jamie:

days at a time. For example, baking requires a shitload of

Jamie:

eggs. And eggs are hard to come by until you build up a plethora

Jamie:

of birds. So you need to be able to store your eggs. So it's got

Jamie:

this weird like thing where it like it both wants you to not be

Jamie:

spending a lot of time farming and harvesting and like hoarding

Jamie:

things, right. But it also you kind of have to do that to be

Jamie:

able to fulfill requests in a timely manner. So it doesn't

Jamie:

seem to be very balanced in that regard. Which is frustrating.

Jamie:

And then in addition to that the decorations like they just end

Jamie:

up feeling crowded, like I'm not decorating for an aesthetic

Jamie:

reason, they've become purely functional. Now it's almost lean

Jamie:

d too far in that direction. A d when you walk up near yo

Jamie:

r decorations, because it's g t this like asymmetric kind

Jamie:

f flat perspective, t e decorations, trees, things

Jamie:

n the environment disappear, o that you can see arou

Jamie:

d everything so that you can fi d all the items that they'

Jamie:

e hiding that you have to find o fulfill the other quests. So y

Jamie:

u can't even really if you we e decorating for an aesthet

Jamie:

c perspective, you can't real y enjoy it, because as soon as y

Jamie:

u walk up next to it, t disappears so that you can s

Jamie:

e arou

Jamie:

Well, you know, maybe I don't know, I'll have to play-I think

Jamie:

similar to The Longing, this is a game you'd have to play for

Jamie:

about a year to see the real end of it. So.

Spencer:

Yeah, wow.

Jamie:

Where I do think it succeeds. Is is in something

Jamie:

that I think is I think you can get out of Stardew and I think

Jamie:

is kind of knit into Animal Crossing which is like a

Jamie:

very-both of those games have like really strong capitalist

Jamie:

elements. Stardew I think you can choose to play that more for

Jamie:

enjoyment and not lean so hard, but I definitely when I play

Jamie:

Stardew I go full, like capitalist farmer and I'm

Jamie:

maximizing my revenue and my efficiency and and that's

Jamie:

definitely like a way you can play that game and that it I

Jamie:

don't know if it encourages you to play it, but it certainly

Jamie:

makes it very available to you.

Spencer:

Yeah, like I-Yeah, I feel like with Stardew it's,

Spencer:

it's very much giving you the choice. Like there's the very

Spencer:

physical representation of there's the Jojo Mart which is

Spencer:

like the Amazon corporate stand in and right next door is

Spencer:

Pierre's, the family run general store. And through the process

Spencer:

of you know, rebuilding the community center, I think it is

Spencer:

putting forth a path where you are someone who is all about

Spencer:

mutual aid and trading and taking care of community and

Spencer:

having a sovereign community that takes care of itself. But

Spencer:

at the same time, it doesn't stop you if you want to play as

Spencer:

a very like profit driven optimizing all your all your

Spencer:

tiles, you know, all the way up to you know, getting rid of

Spencer:

Pierre's and leaning fully into the Jojo Mar thing but but yeah,

Spencer:

it very much leaves it up to you.

Jamie:

Yeah, but and I think like even if you like-Who the

Jamie:

fuck plays the Jojo Mar path? Like you're a monster.

Spencer:

What kind of monster are you?

Jamie:

Get the hell out of here. But you can see you can not

Jamie:

choose the Jojo Mart path and still be like very much not

Jamie:

playing that game like a relaxing little community

Jamie:

building game. You can definitely take that path and

Jamie:

then similarly I think you know Animal Crossing. Tom Nook's a

Jamie:

fucking landlord like-

Spencer:

Yeah.

Jamie:

The dude's constantly like pushing loans on to you

Jamie:

that you're he's like not fully disclosing right and then like

Jamie:

forcing you to pay him back all these bells. Which I definitely

Jamie:

think, you can make the argument it's like, useful for kids in

Jamie:

particular to like, understand, like, how to pay something back

Jamie:

over time. Sure. But it's, I mean, I'm kind of joking. I

Jamie:

don't think like Animal Crossing is destroying the world with

Jamie:

it's capitalist perspetive [laughing]

Spencer:

Even Story of Seasons the new Olive Town-Pioneers of

Spencer:

Olive Town-like it's very much about attracting tourists to the

Spencer:

island, building more businesses to attract more tourists. So

Spencer:

yeah, I definitely get those vibes.

Jamie:

Yeah, so I guess what I appreciate about Cozy Grove is I

Jamie:

think it's done a good job of there is still a currency in the

Jamie:

game of these they're called "old coins" that you can use to

Jamie:

to buy and to buy stuff from this like Fox vendor that set up

Jamie:

on the town. And then there's like a weekly traveling vendor

Jamie:

that shows up that you can use the coins to buy stuff from him,

Jamie:

but it the way you earn the coins is not like-I can take the

Jamie:

bulbs from my plants. And I can find shells on the beach. And

Jamie:

those are kind of the two items that I can bring to the fox and

Jamie:

sell. That's not really how I've like quote unquote made money in

Jamie:

the game. The primary way that I have, like banked money in the

Jamie:

game is by getting it for helping people. Both the bears

Jamie:

will sometimes reward you with coins when you do their quests.

Jamie:

You can get coins from the seagull bear, he also kind of

Jamie:

runs a, like a museum sort of a thing almost like the owl in

Jamie:

Animal Crossing, where anytime you come across a new item that

Jamie:

you've never seen before in the game, if you choose to donate it

Jamie:

to the bear, you might get rewarded with some coins. And

Jamie:

then the final primary way that I've gotten them is there's

Jamie:

these creatures called imps that are kind of running around on

Jamie:

the island that will run from you if you come near them. But

Jamie:

if you see one standing by itself, it will have like a

Jamie:

little bubble over its head of something that it really wants.

Jamie:

And sometimes it'll be crying, it's so sad. And if you take the

Jamie:

item that it wants, and you throw it to it, it'll pick it up

Jamie:

and it'll get really happy and a little heart will appear. And

Jamie:

sometimes when you run over and click on them, like coins will

Jamie:

appear, but you're getting, you're always getting them for

Jamie:

doing something nice for someone, as opposed to like it's

Jamie:

not really relying on this system of like selling. So I

Jamie:

just think that's so interesting, how it's kind of

Jamie:

managed to and I'm not, like I said, I'm getting all these

Jamie:

decorations, but I'm putting them everywhere on the island.

Jamie:

That's the other thing like Animal Crossing, so much of it

Jamie:

feels focused on like hoarding, and having so many, just so much

Jamie:

shit, like you're just constantly getting shit for your

Jamie:

house. And because the decorations in cozy Grove feel

Jamie:

like so like they're just more functional. And I don't, yeah, I

Jamie:

don't know, it's kind of divorced itself from this idea

Jamie:

of like trying to it's trying to push back on the idea of

Jamie:

hoarding resources, and getting money by like, yeah, being

Jamie:

really intense and hoarding and selling. So I think that's cool.

Spencer:

I really appreciate this concept of sort of, you

Spencer:

know, giving you, giving the player a reward for when they

Spencer:

demonstrate empathy, or help someone instead of like you

Spencer:

said, that sort of super transactional nature, sort of

Spencer:

divorcing the coins from making it all about building wealth.

Spencer:

And I mean, maybe it's still about that, but I like that.

Jamie:

Yeah. Yeah. So that's Cozy Grove. I'm playing a few

Jamie:

other things. But I think we'll leave it at that for today and

Jamie:

switch over to our lovely interview that we have for

Jamie:

everyon. Very excited about this one, as we always are.

Spencer:

I mean, everyone's my favorite. But this has

Spencer:

definitely been one of my favorites also. [both laughing]

Jamie:

Our guest for you today is a writer, poet, artist and

Jamie:

communications professional, Angbeen Saleem. Angbeen works as

Jamie:

a digital communications coordinator for North Star Fund,

Jamie:

which is a social justice fund based in New York that supports

Jamie:

grassroots fundraising. You'll hear a bit more about that

Jamie:

organization at the end of the episode in our side quest. But

Jamie:

Anbeen's also worked in communications for MTV, and we

Jamie:

do touch on that a bit in the interview. What drew us

Jamie:

initially to her as a potential guest for Pixel Therapy, though,

Jamie:

is her experience with video games as a source of learning

Jamie:

for how she creates her art. Angbeen told us that playing

Jamie:

video games taught her a lot about writing poetry, and being

Jamie:

a creative person in general. And we really dig in with her in

Jamie:

the interview about how you know, in our white supremacy

Jamie:

culture of perfectionism that we exist in, particularly here in

Jamie:

the US, we're not really taught the value of failing or how to

Jamie:

experiment or how to just be okay with letting yourself

Jamie:

practice something to get better at it. I know, it's something

Jamie:

we've talked about on the podcast. It's something I

Jamie:

struggle with, personally a lot too. And so the conversation

Jamie:

just really resonated with us, we hope it will resonate with

Jamie:

you all as well. So without further ado, here's our

Jamie:

interview with Angbeen Saleem. [music break]

Spencer:

So, hello to our wonderful guest. And thank you

Spencer:

so much for joining us in the virtual Pixel Therapy studio. To

Spencer:

start we typically ask guests to let us know what's your name and

Spencer:

pronouns?

Angbeen:

Yeah, my name is Angbeen Saleem and my pronouns

Angbeen:

are she and her.

Spencer:

And Angbeen, how do you spend your time?

Angbeen:

Oh, God. I spend I mean, I spend a lot of time

Angbeen:

working but in a lot of my free time, I love to bake. I love to

Angbeen:

write and read. And recently I've been playing a lot of

Angbeen:

games. Which is the reason I'm here. And I also like doing nail

Angbeen:

art, which I've picked up during quarantine.

Spencer:

Where can I-where can I-Where can we all follow your

Spencer:

nail art? [laughing]

Angbeen:

I mean, it's all everything is in the same

Angbeen:

Instagram because I'm too lazy to have multiple Instagrams but

Angbeen:

you can follow me there on it's @angribeen but spelled with an

Angbeen:

"i" not a "y".

Spencer:

Oh my god. I just want to note that as an overwhelmed

Spencer:

millennial I completely-I'm very validated to hear that it's just

Spencer:

too much energy to do multiple Instagram accounts. Like it's

Spencer:

overwhelming so I support it.

Angbeen:

I also do my work's Instagram. So I'm like "Two's

Angbeen:

enough. That's all I need to do."

Spencer:

If you don't want to see me at my food posting, then

Spencer:

you don't deserve me at my top tier nail art.

Angbeen:

[laughing] Exactly. You're getting it all.

Spencer:

I contain multitudes. And Angbeen, I saw that you used

Spencer:

to work with MTV social impact department. I wanted to ask you

Spencer:

about that. Because the-I just was looking up what that

Spencer:

department does. And they really tried to bring messages around

Spencer:

social issues to young people and connecting young people to

Spencer:

what's going on in the world around them through MTV's like

Spencer:

various digital platforms. What did that kind of work look like?

Spencer:

Like I'm curious to hear your thoughts on like, the role of

Spencer:

media in social change and connecting people to that.

Angbeen:

Yeah, it was a definitely an interesting

Angbeen:

experience. Because I think part of it had to do with like,

Angbeen:

educating our peers as well as audiences and being like, this

Angbeen:

is why this work is important. This is why we have to say

Angbeen:

something about, you know, the, the Charlottesville riot,

Angbeen:

whatever you want to call it, that happened a few years ago.

Angbeen:

This is why we have to say something about Black History

Angbeen:

month, I mean, Black History Month less so because it's

Angbeen:

become like so normalized for brands to want to put out

Angbeen:

messages of support now, in kind of a weird and disgusting way.

Spencer:

For better or for worse.

Angbeen:

For better or for worse. Yeah. So I think it was,

Angbeen:

it was really, it was a really challenging experience, in some

Angbeen:

ways, because I had come from, like, a very social justice-y

Angbeen:

background where like, it felt like most of us were on the same

Angbeen:

page, and to go to someplace where it was like, okay, we're

Angbeen:

actually like, kind of on different pages now. And like

Angbeen:

how to communicate that with each other. And like, you know,

Angbeen:

it's also like, also an awkward task to like, go to the social

Angbeen:

media, the MTV social media team, and be like, "Hey, guys,

Angbeen:

can you take a break from posting about Kylie Jenner

Angbeen:

today? And like, post this post this one thing about

Angbeen:

reproductive health?" Like, it's, you know, it's like a

Angbeen:

little-because they're like, "How does this connect? Like,

Angbeen:

our audience wants to read about, you know, Harry Styles

Angbeen:

and Zayn Malik." Um, so it's-

Spencer:

But the algorithm!

Angbeen:

Exactly. But the algorithm, they want

Angbeen:

celebrities. So it's, it's kind of a tension there, for sure.

Angbeen:

And one that's very, still very difficult and interesting to

Angbeen:

navigate, I think.

Spencer:

That-I, like working in kind of alt-weekly journalism,

Spencer:

where I would be covering, like, fellow queer people of color and

Spencer:

trans folks in Boston, and then advocating for like, attacking

Spencer:

institutions for being racist and being shitty, and then

Spencer:

moving into a more corporate environments like and having to

Spencer:

navigate. Like, I feel like it's, in some ways harder to

Spencer:

deal with the kind of bigotry that isn't as overt and is more

Spencer:

like a product of generationally ingrained, like white

Spencer:

supremacist ideals that are not even like may not be on the

Spencer:

surface, but operating subconsciously. And I think that

Spencer:

really manifests in corporate culture and in this quote,

Spencer:

unquote, like professionalism, and advocating for, like, of

Spencer:

course, just speaking to my own experience as a mixed race,

Spencer:

Filipino trans person, like having to work with people who

Spencer:

are like, "Oh, I'm an ally, like, I'm not racist," like-

Angbeen:

Mmhmm.

Spencer:

"You're racist for calling me racist." Like, "How

Spencer:

can I-How do I know what I don't know? Like, I'm just like, I'm,

Spencer:

I didn't mean it that way. Like, if you came towards me with and

Spencer:

embraced and educated me, then I could be a better ally, instead

Spencer:

of pushing me away." Like, that's the kind of bullshit that

Spencer:

you have to learn. Like, there's just kind of constant

Spencer:

dehumanization, that can kind of come with work. So I apologize

Spencer:

for the kind of flippancy with which I first approached that

Spencer:

question.

Angbeen:

No, no not at all.

Spencer:

Thank you for, you know, being real about that,

Spencer:

because like, that's, that's hard.

Angbeen:

Yeah. And I also like, want to, I want to be open about

Angbeen:

the whole situation, because on one hand, it was really exciting

Angbeen:

to like, have this huge audience and be like, we can-Young people

Angbeen:

are amazing and young people do want to talk about social

Angbeen:

justice issues. So like, you know, we did like Muslim Women's

Angbeen:

Day and we like featured music videos by a lot of Muslim women.

Angbeen:

And then like, that's cool. Like we did that and like a lot of

Angbeen:

the Muslim women we featured they're not. I mean, I think

Angbeen:

they're bigger artists now, but they weren't huge back then. And

Angbeen:

they were like, so happy to see themselves on MTV, like, MTV is

Angbeen:

such a, it's such a is a brand that like so many people love

Angbeen:

and like have held on to through their youth. And so to be

Angbeen:

featured by MTV in any way, just like so exciting, regardless of

Angbeen:

like, all of the bullshit that's happening in the background. So

Angbeen:

I think there, there was a lot of powerful work that we were

Angbeen:

able to do while I was there. It was also just challenging

Angbeen:

sometimes.

Spencer:

Yeah, yeah. And it shouldn't have to be like

Spencer:

special interests that that prompt these posts or like of

Spencer:

current events, making white people have to be more aware of

Spencer:

racism than they normally have to at this point in time. Like

Spencer:

it, that shit needs to be normalized, we need to stop

Spencer:

seeing whiteness as a default. [music break]

Spencer:

You mentioned when we were first connecting, that you're a new

Spencer:

gamer. And before we get into like, the specific games you're

Spencer:

playing, I was curious to know like, what's your personal

Spencer:

history with video games just in general?

Angbeen:

Yeah, you know, I was actually reflecting on that this

Angbeen:

week. I'm like, Am I a new gamer? Like when I think about

Angbeen:

it, like I grew up, like, I played these silly like, third

Angbeen:

grade computer games that help you do math. And I played those.

Angbeen:

I was obsessed with Roller Coaster Tycoon for like, what

Angbeen:

played for years. And I was like building the craziest theme

Angbeen:

parks and drowning people in the game, in the game [laughing].

Angbeen:

And so like, I played that for a really long time, I played a lot

Angbeen:

of mobile games. There-and like, I had a Sega Genesis, which I

Angbeen:

bought 10 years after the Sega Genesis came out because it was

Angbeen:

only $25. And it was like what I can afford. Yeah. So I had that,

Angbeen:

like, so there's all these ways that I'm like, "Oh, yeah, like,

Angbeen:

I have been playing games." But it never. I felt like I wasn't

Angbeen:

allowed to be a gamer, in a way. I felt like I couldn't identify

Angbeen:

with that especially like, the more I don't know what to call

Angbeen:

it. But like the more combat style game that like I feel like

Angbeen:

is considered real gaming. Those are those were very hard for me.

Angbeen:

And I also didn't have the I don't I also didn't have

Angbeen:

anything like, like I said, All I had was a Sega Genesis, I

Angbeen:

never-The only time I got to play with a Gamecube or Nintendo

Angbeen:

64 was when I visited a friend or cousin. And like, even then I

Angbeen:

was so bad at it because I didn't get a lot of practice,

Angbeen:

right. So yeah, so I'm like, "Oh, am I a new gamer?" I've

Angbeen:

been I've been thinking about that a lot.

Spencer:

Oh, that's so true. It's like, like, I feel like

Spencer:

there are periods of time in my own life where I feel like games

Spencer:

had a bigger role, and then a smaller role. And it has to do

Spencer:

with like access or like the money I had at the time or the

Spencer:

spaces I was living in. But when I look back over my life, there

Spencer:

are all of these these artifacts, like you mentioned,

Spencer:

like, Oh, this the system that I had, and I have these vivid

Spencer:

memories of these games, I would play in certain settings. And

Spencer:

it's just interesting. Looking back, like what pops to mind. So

Spencer:

now like, do you use the word gamer to describe yourself?

Spencer:

Like, how does that feel? Like what does it mean to you to be a

Spencer:

gamer?

Angbeen:

Yeah, I do use it to describe myself because I spend

Angbeen:

so much of my time thinking about gaming and like, watching

Angbeen:

people stream and playing games. And it's something I'm like,

Angbeen:

proud of now. I think it's funny, like, you know,

Angbeen:

quarantine has led me into discovering so many things that

Angbeen:

I didn't really know that I wanted to do. Like, I hated

Angbeen:

putting on nail polish when I was a kid because I could never

Angbeen:

wait for it to dry and then it would get everywhere. And I was

Angbeen:

just like, Fuck this shit. Don't wanna-don't want to do this.

Angbeen:

Like why do people do this? And then for some reason, like a few

Angbeen:

months after quarantine started, I was like, "Nail polish is so

Angbeen:

cool and nail art is so cool." And I started doing like my

Angbeen:

nails weekly. And-

Spencer:

I have time now to watch paint dry.

Angbeen:

I have time to watch paint dry. Also I need time not

Angbeen:

to look at my cell phone.

Spencer:

Yeah, ugh.

Angbeen:

And like, it's really good for that. And also, it's

Angbeen:

just like, it's a way to be creative in a year where I did

Angbeen:

not feel like being creative. Like last year. I did very

Angbeen:

little creativity. So it felt like okay, I still have some

Angbeen:

creative juices in me. And this is how they need to come out.

Angbeen:

And that's kind of how I feel about gaming. I'm like, yeah,

Angbeen:

it's, it's something that I've always been interested in and

Angbeen:

that I saw from afar, but I just felt like I didn't have access

Angbeen:

to it in certain ways. And because of quarantine, because

Angbeen:

I'm at home, like, it's like, oh, like, this is something I

Angbeen:

like, genuinely like love doing and love thinking about. And

Angbeen:

it's something that's, you know, brought up. It's just brought

Angbeen:

like people together, my friends and I we have like, our Among Us

Angbeen:

game nights on Fridays. And like, I get to see my friends

Angbeen:

every Friday night, which is really fun. And so there's all

Angbeen:

these like other benefits that I've found to like, coming into

Angbeen:

this not so new, new hobby, I guess.

Spencer:

It's like, I-like Zoom fatigue has been so real for me

Spencer:

like it feels like the last thing I want to do is get on

Spencer:

Zoom. Not because I don't want to see my friends. But just

Spencer:

because I think like, and I know I'm not the first person to

Spencer:

think about this. I'm sure many people smarter than me have

Spencer:

written about it. But there's this aspect of constant

Spencer:

surveillance that I feel like it's built into zoom. Like you

Spencer:

can't really be you because you're forced to look at

Spencer:

yourself the entire time and be hyper aware of how others are

Spencer:

seeing you even in moments of rest. Like you're not constantly

Spencer:

talking in a meeting. You're sitting there listening to

Spencer:

others, maybe you're looking at your phone, maybe you're zoning

Spencer:

out for a minute. Like people aren't made to pay attention for

Spencer:

an hour plus constantly.

Angbeen:

Yeah.

Spencer:

Zoom forces you to even be aware of yourself in those

Spencer:

moments where in real life in person you wouldn't be on? And I

Spencer:

feel like games sort of take the pressure of that off, like group

Spencer:

gaming. Like I never really like of course, when I went to

Spencer:

parties, we played a Jackbox game. Like for folks who aren't

Spencer:

familiar, it's like these mobile games like quizzes and things

Spencer:

that you can play at parties with friends on your mobile

Spencer:

phone, or devices. But now, like with games, like Among Us, we've

Spencer:

been playing, there's a browser version of Settlers of Catan,

Spencer:

the board game. It, like you're still sharing space, you're

Spencer:

still running around together, you're still talking, there's an

Spencer:

activity. But there's something about the removal of having to

Spencer:

be necessarily like, "on" that kind of replicates the feeling I

Spencer:

get hanging with friends where I don't have to be "on" in the

Spencer:

same way that I have to at work.

Angbeen:

Yeah, no, that's so real. And I think part of the

Angbeen:

awkwardness is like, you know, what, what do I talk about with

Angbeen:

my friends? Like, oh, for me a lot of weeks, there's not a lot

Angbeen:

new happening. It's like, unless you want to hear about some like

Angbeen:

weird, esoteric, art film I just watched, I don't have a lot to

Angbeen:

say to you. So it's like, but like the game, the gaming

Angbeen:

experience just like gives you a way to like, come together

Angbeen:

without, without like that pressure, you said, of like

Angbeen:

performance of like, giving updates. It's like, no, what

Angbeen:

we're doing together is the update. And that's like what's

Angbeen:

bringing me closer to you.

Spencer:

Mm hmm. And what we're doing together is what generates

Spencer:

the the in-jokes and the conversation that later creates

Spencer:

a memory that we look back on.

Angbeen:

Yes, exactly! Yeah, yeah yeah. Exactly. [music

Angbeen:

break]

Spencer:

So Angbeen, is it fair to say that you're a poet, like,

Spencer:

can we say that?

Angbeen:

It is fair to say that, yes. It's a recent thing I've

Angbeen:

picked up but I think it's fair to say that.

Spencer:

Okay, so I was definitely reading a few of your

Spencer:

poems before you came on the show. And I was really struck

Spencer:

by, I mean, I love them all. But there were a couple that I

Spencer:

wanted to point out. Specifically, one was, was

Spencer:

called "mad lib for the apocalypse", and the other was

Spencer:

called "aunty jalebi". So, on this show, we've spoken a lot

Spencer:

lately about how narrative design like in videogames isn't

Spencer:

just about dialogue isn't just about the text you see on the

Spencer:

screen. Like it's also about the way narrative is crafted through

Spencer:

image and, and movement and sound and everything else that

Spencer:

goes into the creation of game. And then your poems and

Spencer:

specifically the two that I just mentioned, I love the ways that

Spencer:

you sort of play with shape and form like pushing it into

Spencer:

unexpected places that really change how the viewer or the

Spencer:

reader interacts with the words and also kind of like gamifying

Spencer:

the experience of the poem itself in a way and aunty, in

Spencer:

auntyjalebi you're following like this twisty, curving

Spencer:

endlessly looping path. To me that sort of mirrors like the

Spencer:

push and pull and constant like, like expectations. Cultural from

Spencer:

like, I come from an immigrant family and there's lots like

Spencer:

this just constant, you can get pulled into this vortex of just

Spencer:

like judgment and feeling and all these aspects and guilts and

Spencer:

all of the things. And then in mad lib for the apocalypse, you

Spencer:

have this really cool juxtaposition of this, you know,

Spencer:

like a mad lib, a child's like sentence generating game, with

Spencer:

these really deeply, like existential and personal prompts

Spencer:

that really make you just pause as you're taking in the poem.

Spencer:

And so like, these are two really cool, like, digital

Spencer:

examples. Has your poetry always looked like this? Like, how did

Spencer:

you? How-Tell us about your practice.

Angbeen:

Yeah, that's a great question. It hasn't always

Angbeen:

looked like this. I'm like-Something happened. I took

Angbeen:

a class with Angel Nafis who's like, one of the best poets I

Angbeen:

know. And like an amazing teacher. And something happened

Angbeen:

in the class where we were reading, we were reading books,

Angbeen:

because the class was about coming up with your own

Angbeen:

manuscripts. So we were reading whole books of poems and like

Angbeen:

thinking about our poetry, not just as a poem, but as a book.

Angbeen:

And I think something happened in that class where I was like,

Angbeen:

oh, like, I was just seeing so many different things of people

Angbeen:

like pushing the limits of what a poem is, or could be, and like

Angbeen:

thinking about the book, so like, the the, the mad lib

Angbeen:

actually came about, this hasn't happened, but the thought I had

Angbeen:

was, what would it be kind of cool to have a whole book of

Angbeen:

poems that was like a workbook. Or like, that's maybe like,

Angbeen:

putting too much work, that doesn't sound good, but like,

Angbeen:

something that was like more interactive, where you were,

Angbeen:

like, actually there with the reader together. And like one of

Angbeen:

my friends, Jennifer, she wrote a poem that was like, a Choose

Angbeen:

Your Own Adventure style poem. And I was like, isn't that cool?

Angbeen:

Like, we could, we could do that. And I think like now

Angbeen:

playing games, I'm, especially with like, Breath of the Wild

Angbeen:

and like, What if there was a poetry book where you could

Angbeen:

choose where you started the book? Like, obviously, you can

Angbeen:

choose where you start the book with any book, you can flip to

Angbeen:

whatever page but like, how could you like force that

Angbeen:

experience, in a way? I'm not sure I've come up with the idea

Angbeen:

yet. But it's something I've been thinking about a lot is

Angbeen:

like, Where can you have moments of interaction with the reader

Angbeen:

where it's not just about yourself? And I guess part of it

Angbeen:

comes from an uncomfortability, with just talking about myself

Angbeen:

and not acknowledging that other people are here in the room with

Angbeen:

me. So I've been, I've been thinking about that a lot. And I

Angbeen:

think it was aunty jalebi. I don't-so a jalebi is actually a

Angbeen:

sweet. And it's like a spirally sweet. So the poem is modeled

Angbeen:

after that. And like, the kind of sweetness and like, how do

Angbeen:

you use form to capture what you're actually saying? Because

Angbeen:

I think if, if you actually have the poem, just as like stanzas,

Angbeen:

I feel like it would be very, it would, it's not that great of a

Angbeen:

poem [laughs] not that it's not that great of a poem, but it's a

Angbeen:

very simple poem. And but I think the adding of that form,

Angbeen:

propels it to be something else. And like, other people connect

Angbeen:

with it, because of that reason. So yeah, just thinking about how

Angbeen:

to expand how to expand forms is like really exciting for me.

Spencer:

Wonderful. I that makes me think of-I really love this

Spencer:

idea of identifying places where you can introduce interactivity

Spencer:

between the poet and the reader. It makes me think about theater

Spencer:

because I feel like theater is this impossible to recreate

Spencer:

experience, but also, it's so like, I see theater as taking

Spencer:

film further, because in film, you're not there in the room,

Spencer:

like, like the way we were talking about how in person

Spencer:

meetings are different from zoom meetings, it's like, being in a

Spencer:

space physically with other people. And, and experiencing in

Spencer:

real time, how these emotions and and, and things are playing

Spencer:

out. Like it creates a wholly different living, organic,

Spencer:

organic experience with a story than you would get from just

Spencer:

watching a film where someone else's controlling every aspect

Spencer:

of how you're taking in that story. And similarly, I feel

Spencer:

like with games, it takes theater a step further, because

Spencer:

like you are fully immersed in that story, you are that person

Spencer:

you are becoming this avatar. And I think the further we get

Spencer:

into the future with games, especially with VR, like I think

Spencer:

even more so they're going to become truly these other

Spencer:

realities, these other worlds that we're fully able to

Spencer:

submerge ourselves into. So I really like the way that you're

Spencer:

thinking about poetry with that interactivity too, because I

Spencer:

feel like it can be ways of bringing these art forms

Spencer:

further. Not that poetry on its own or writing on its own-not to

Spencer:

discredit any individual form of art.

Angbeen:

Not at all. Not at all. Yeah. [all laughing] Don't want

Angbeen:

all the poets coming after me. [more laughing] The poet lobby

Angbeen:

is cancelling me.

Jamie:

This is just a new idea, not necessarily a better idea.

Angbeen:

Yes

Spencer:

There's this quote from the poet Juan Felipe de Herrera.

Spencer:

And he once explained that language generally moves in two

directions:

towards the page, like what the poet writes in ink

directions:

and off the page, what readers hear when they read. I like

directions:

this, I like this. Like, I like this quote, because I really

directions:

feels like it's it speaks to the kind of movement in poetry that

directions:

that we were sort of talking about, and the interaction

directions:

between, like the content of what we're taking in from a

directions:

poem, as well as how the poem is, like visually striking us.

directions:

And I think that that's true for your poems, especially like,

directions:

there's the words and sounds, but there's also the way the

directions:

shape influences how we're taking in those words. I feel

directions:

like you spoke about this a little bit. But like, when

directions:

you're with with the poems that are taking shape like that,

directions:

like-Do you see how it's going to look in your head before it

directions:

comes to paper? Or it does the process of creating the poem

directions:

influence the shape? Like how do you think about movement in your

directions:

poetry?

Angbeen:

Mmm, that's a really good question. I mean, I think

Angbeen:

it kind of depends from poem to poem. And I think the quote you

Angbeen:

read is so essential, even as a writer, because I think what I

Angbeen:

hear from my poetry teachers all the time, and what I've also

Angbeen:

experienced is when you read the poem out loud, that's like when

Angbeen:

you're actually experiencing and feeling the poem in your body

Angbeen:

and like, actually understanding what to change. And like, it's

Angbeen:

crazy. Like, it's so wild to me that like on the page and like,

Angbeen:

yeah, this, this looks like a good poem. And then I read it

Angbeen:

out loud. And I'm like, why is that there? Like, why? Why,

Angbeen:

what, this should be switched around. And suddenly, like,

Angbeen:

things start to change. And I'm like, that's really wild. If you

Angbeen:

think about it, that like sounds versus image, like, can change

Angbeen:

so much. And I think like, like I said before, it kind of varies

Angbeen:

from poem to poem, because sometimes the shape feels very

Angbeen:

obvious. And then other times, it's like, kind of what your

Angbeen:

use, you put the poem in the form that you're used to. And

Angbeen:

then you're like, like I said, like you're reading it, or you

Angbeen:

have someone else read it. And they're like, it feels like this

Angbeen:

kind of poem. It feels like it should be one stanza, as opposed

Angbeen:

to three stanzas. Just yesterday, I had a session or

Angbeen:

yesterday, Friday, I had a session with one of my teachers,

Angbeen:

Shira Erlichman. And she's also a brilliant, amazing poet. And

Angbeen:

we were going through one of my poems, and she was like, What if

Angbeen:

this poem-" Like, I had it in regular stanzas. And she's like,

Angbeen:

"What if this poem was really skinny? And like was one long

Angbeen:

stanza?" And it completely changed the whole poem for me.

Angbeen:

And it was like, oh, like, why did I include this sentence? It

Angbeen:

was about, it's kind of about like, putting hair up on the

Angbeen:

shower. [laughing] It's a weird poem.

Spencer:

Like on the wall? of the shower?

Angbeen:

Like on the wall, yeah, it's about that. But like-

Spencer:

Long hair fam understands.

Angbeen:

Exactly [laughing]. And then, but then, like, as I was,

Angbeen:

as I was changing it, I had included these lines about like,

Angbeen:

being anemic and iron cones. And I'm like, is that just something

Angbeen:

I wanted to say? And I was like, this seems like a good place to

Angbeen:

put this here. Because this poem is dealing with hair and hair

Angbeen:

loss, or is it actually necessary? So I think that

Angbeen:

forces you to kind of think about the poem in different ways

Angbeen:

and like, think about, like, what shapes do I want it to

Angbeen:

take? And I think it was both of the poems that you pointed out,

Angbeen:

for, for whatever reason, I was like, this is a poem I want to

Angbeen:

do. I don't know why I want to do a poem in the shape of a

Angbeen:

jalebi. And I want to talk about like aunties, who are sometimes

Angbeen:

rude to me, but sometimes really sweet to me. And then I also

Angbeen:

want to do, like I said, I had this idea for like doing like a

Angbeen:

workbook, quote, unquote. And I was like, oh, it'd be so cool if

Angbeen:

a poem looked like a mad lib, or different kinds of like games

Angbeen:

that I played as a as a younger person. So yeah, I think it kind

Angbeen:

of depends on from poem to poem really,

Spencer:

Mmhmm. It makes me like what you were saying about

Spencer:

how-just this whole conversation about words being different when

Spencer:

you're reading them in your head versus saying it out loud and

Spencer:

form and how that influences how we take it in, just reminded me

Spencer:

of this story I was reading. So this game recently came out that

Spencer:

we've talked about quite a bit on this podcast, but it's

Spencer:

Assassin's Creed Valhalla. And are you familiar with the

Spencer:

Assassin's Creed series?

Angbeen:

I know a little bit about it. I don't know a ton.

Spencer:

You know enough. [all laughing] It's this, you know,

Spencer:

set in Norse, like, what what period? Like 800 or something?

Spencer:

Like early times, Vikings. And there's, they're in England. And

Spencer:

essentially the point of this is just to give folks some random

Spencer:

visual picturesto go with this. [laughing] I was reading this

Spencer:

interview with the composers of the game because the game has an

Spencer:

incredible score. I've been listening to it like while I'm

Spencer:

working just because it's kind of nice instrumental but

Spencer:

occasionally epic backdrop to my my moving pixels around in my

Spencer:

day to day. But the composer's talked about how they did not

Spencer:

see the game for the last two years that they worked on the on

Spencer:

the soundtrack, they were given like a drawing of the main

Spencer:

character, they were given a couple paragraphs about what the

Spencer:

game was about. And they were told, go and make a soundtrack

Spencer:

for a 100 plus hour game.

Angbeen:

That's so wild.

Spencer:

But when it came together, it, the game, I, like

Spencer:

the experience of the game like in writing about, writings that

Spencer:

I've read about the game. And this has been true for my

Spencer:

experience as well. What has made the game unforgettable, is

Spencer:

not the story, is not the mechanics, is not the

Spencer:

necessarily the incredible graphics. It's the quiet moments

Spencer:

where you're traveling through this very expansive and

Spencer:

beautifully detailed world just accompanied by nothing but your

Spencer:

horse and the music. Like this game is sort of unique in the

Spencer:

Assassin's Creed series, in that it has, like Assassin's Creed

Spencer:

has received flack in the past for having overwhelming maps.

Spencer:

Like it's the type of RPG where you're dropped in, and every

Spencer:

single treasure, every single mission, every single point of

Spencer:

interest, like hundreds of little dots are covering your

Spencer:

map. And people are just like, "Oh my god." Like me, too. I was

Spencer:

like this-Ahh! But it's the first one to kind of introduce

Spencer:

these big empty swaths of land, which I think can be related to

Spencer:

Breath of the Wild as well, where you're just discovering

Spencer:

and traveling and accompanied by this, this gorgeous emotional

Spencer:

music. And I think that it's incredible that these composers

Spencer:

didn't see the game. But when the music and the game were put

Spencer:

together, it created something unforgettable. And that could

Spencer:

not, like the game would not stand alone on its own without

Spencer:

that music. Yeah. And I just think that's really beautiful.

Spencer:

[music break]

Spencer:

Let's talk about Breath of the Wild, since we, that's that

Spencer:

might be a good segue. Um, so first, how about if you were

Spencer:

describing the Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild to someone

Spencer:

who'd never heard of it never played it, what's a couple

Spencer:

sentences? Like, how would you describe it?

Angbeen:

Okay, let me think of this. I would describe it as a

Angbeen:

game, where you are free to go wherever you want. Do whatever

Angbeen:

you want to do, really. And if you want to, like if you want

Angbeen:

to, like complete the mission, if you if you care about

Angbeen:

Princess Zelda at all, you'll try to beat the Ganon's-er-the

Angbeen:

bad guys. But if you don't want to do that, you really don't

Angbeen:

have to. I think there's a lot of ability to explore in the

Angbeen:

game, and that I find really beautiful.

Spencer:

And what brought you to pick up Breath of the Wild?

Angbeen:

So one of my friends, he's been playing a lot of like

Angbeen:

PC games, and he just got a PS5, but he had a Nintendo Switch.

Angbeen:

And he was like, "I'm not playing the Switch right now. I

Angbeen:

haven't played it in a few years. I'm focused on these PC

Angbeen:

games. I'm getting my PS5 games together. Do you want to just

Angbeen:

borrow it? And like, here's the games I have." And I was like,

Angbeen:

"Okay, sure. Why not?" Like I'm, I haven't played, I only have

Angbeen:

played Mario Kart and Mario Party. And I was like, Okay, and

Angbeen:

so I picked it up. And at first I actually played Mario Odyssey.

Angbeen:

And I played through that. And I think that was also really fun.

Angbeen:

But then I was like, I want to play more games. And I was like,

Angbeen:

What is this Breath of the Wild game everyone keeps talking

Angbeen:

about it? I have no idea. Like, the only image I have of Zelda

Angbeen:

is like back in the day when it was like 2-D.

Spencer:

Yeah. Ocarina of Time.

Angbeen:

Yeah, like, not even that, like further back. I'm

Angbeen:

like, Oh, you just like move through the world. And it's

Angbeen:

gonna be like my Aladdin Sega Genesis game. Like, that's what

Angbeen:

I was imagining. And then when I started playing, I was like,

Angbeen:

first of all, I was very overwhelmed. And like, what,

Angbeen:

where do I have to go? Cuz like Mario Odyssey, it guides you

Angbeen:

through it. It's like, you get the moons and then you go to the

Angbeen:

next kingdom, it's very obvious. But here, I was like, where do I

Angbeen:

go? I don't understand. So I was really, like, confused and

Angbeen:

overwhelmed for a while. But then I watched someone play

Angbeen:

through it. And I was like, oh, like, you have to be really,

Spencer:

Yeah, I mean, I think that that take that you're

Spencer:

like inquisitive. And like, observational. And that's not

Spencer:

something I'm used to in games, or at least, I guess, because I

Spencer:

haven't played these type of games. I don't think about like,

Spencer:

Oh, I could blow up this rock over here. Let me pick this up.

Spencer:

I don't think about those things. Like as someone who

Spencer:

hasn't played these types of games, at least. So when I

Spencer:

watched the person play, I was like, oh, like, I have to think

Spencer:

about the whole world in a very different way than I have been.

Spencer:

And I think I also there's also some, this isn't related to

Spencer:

like, why I picked up Breath of the Wild, but there's also

Spencer:

something in me. I don't know if it's like the immigrant or the

Spencer:

first daughter, only child. I don't know what it is. But

Spencer:

there's also something in me that I'm like, I can't fail.

Spencer:

Failing is bad. And like with poetry, I think with playing

Spencer:

games, like in my head, I was like, the best gamers never die.

Spencer:

So my goal was always to never die. And then I watched people

Spencer:

play, I watched people, I started watching people play

Spencer:

Among Us. And I was like, wait, these people die all the time,

Spencer:

and you play Zelda and you're d ing all the time. And it's like,

Spencer:

oh, the point is not to not die. And once I realized that, I

Spencer:

was like, Oh, this is a ery different game than wh

Spencer:

t I thought it was. And i it totally opened me up to

Spencer:

the experience.

Spencer:

having is super valid. Like I think this game stands apart in

Spencer:

the Zelda series specifically for sort of diverging from what

Spencer:

was like a very cinematic and I would say like textbook RPG

Spencer:

action adventure, in that it would tell you like, "This is

Spencer:

what you need to do next. And this is what you need to

Spencer:

continue." But Breath of the Wild really sort of, like as you

Spencer:

said, like it rewards experimentation. I still read

Spencer:

tweets or message boards from people who are like, "Oh my god,

Spencer:

I figured out that I could just completely avoid this enemy by

Spencer:

lighting from this rock." There's so many ways that you

Spencer:

can approach a problem. There's multiple answers to every

Spencer:

dungeon. And it just like rewards that curiosity like

Spencer:

like, there may be no better way to learn than to die. I feel

Spencer:

like I don't know if you if you like that feeling. I recommend

Spencer:

Hades, which is also on Switch.

Angbeen:

Someone just mentioned that to me. Yeah.

Spencer:

Another game that definitely rewards like that,

Spencer:

that takes that familiar-like I really identified with what you

Spencer:

said about like dying in a game being connected to failure. Like

Spencer:

I think Hades earlier this summer really unlocked for me

Spencer:

like oh, dying can be a fun part of playing a game instead of the

Spencer:

part where I decided that I'm a piece of shit and need to quit

Spencer:

playing for the day. [all laughing] Oh my god.

Angbeen:

Too real. [more laughing]

Jamie:

Whereas I never made it past that. I never made the

Jamie:

realization that dying in Hades didn't make me a piece of shit.

Jamie:

Still working on it.

Spencer:

It's a process. Healing isn't linear. You know? I hope

Spencer:

more games get made like this sort of playing with the sort of

Spencer:

expectations we've come to develop collectively about how a

Spencer:

game should operate or what the mechanics of a game should be

Spencer:

like. I feel like it's 2021 it's time to break out.

Angbeen:

Yes.

Spencer:

Um, so Angbeen, you told us about how playing Breath

Spencer:

of the Wild and Among Us taught you a lot about writing poetry

Spencer:

and like being a creative person in general. So I'd love to hear

Spencer:

you speak more to that. Like, how have you seen that manifest?

Angbeen:

Yeah, I would love to, I think, well, like it's a lot

Angbeen:

of what I've mentioned already, like the thing with poetry is

Angbeen:

like when you're when you're with your teachers and you're

Angbeen:

learning, a lot of them say like, play with, play with the

Angbeen:

words. Practice. And of course like you, I feel that, and I

Angbeen:

want to do that. But it's really scary. And it's also really

Angbeen:

scary because it's really personal. It feels like oh, this

Angbeen:

is like, my life experience that I'm putting down in words for

Angbeen:

someone to read one day, and I'm gonna have to submit it to a

Angbeen:

journal. So it's like all of those things. And I think you

Angbeen:

don't actually get to practice practicing in a way. And I think

Angbeen:

like playing Breath of the Wild, it's like you, you get to

Angbeen:

practice that practicing, like, what does that kind of failing

Angbeen:

and or, failing as in dying, what does that look like? And

Angbeen:

that it really has no consequences. And not to say

Angbeen:

like, the real life real life doesn't have consequences. But

Angbeen:

like, when a poem is in your Google Docs, or in your notes,

Angbeen:

or whatever you're working on, there's no consequences like you

Angbeen:

haven't sent it to anybody. You can you can fail at it. No one's

Angbeen:

no one has to see it. It's for you. And I think like, getting

Angbeen:

comfortable with that, like being bad at stuff. Like I know,

Angbeen:

like I said, I went over to my friends yesterday, we played the

Angbeen:

new spider man for PS5.

Spencer:

Miles Morales?

Angbeen:

Yeah. Miles Morales, it was so fun, but I was extremely

Angbeen:

terrible at it. And I think in the past, I would have just

Angbeen:

given up and been like, I can't do this, I don't wanna play this

Angbeen:

anymore. But I was just like, just let me keep going, let me

Angbeen:

keep being bad, it doesn't matter. Like, it's good. I'll

Angbeen:

figure it out eventually, like, it's gonna take some, it's gonna

Angbeen:

take playing to get better, you don't imagine that one day. And

Angbeen:

in a way, it feels like very simple, but like, it also feels

Angbeen:

very opening to like, be able to practice that failure in a way

Angbeen:

that feels safe. And then like, now, I feel like when I write

Angbeen:

poems, I'm not thinking about, like, Oh, I'm gonna publish this

Angbeen:

poem. And I want to do this with this poem. It's just me writing

Angbeen:

the things and me writing the things I'm scared of that I

Angbeen:

might not ever share with anybody. And that feels okay.

Angbeen:

It's like, Yeah, I just have to write this stuff down. And then

Angbeen:

also, like I mentioned, with, like, watching people stream, it

Angbeen:

has opened my eyes so much, because I think in the past, you

Angbeen:

didn't, unless you went to a friend's house, that was the

Angbeen:

only time you were really seeing other people play games, and

Angbeen:

they weren't offering live commentary, you know?

Spencer:

Yeah. [all laughing]

Angbeen:

But now, but then I started watching people play

Angbeen:

Among Us, cuz I was like, "Yo, I need to be the best Among Us

Angbeen:

player."

Angbeen:

[laughing] Research. And then, but then I started

Spencer:

Research.

Spencer:

watching and I was like, Oh, wait, these people do moves that

Spencer:

are crazy. I would never do this. Because it's so

Spencer:

ridiculous. And of course, some of them are trying to make

Spencer:

YouTube videos and all of that. But sometimes you're just trying

Spencer:

out stuff and seeing if it will work. And that kind of

Spencer:

experimentation just felt so exciting for me. And also, like,

Spencer:

opened me up in poetry, because it's like, yeah, just do shit.

Spencer:

Because it feels good. And it's like, maybe it'll fail, maybe

Spencer:

you will be caught as the imposter. But at least like you

Spencer:

tried something different, and maybe you won't fail. And it's,

Spencer:

and I think that, that and like, the whole experimentation bit.

Spencer:

And like, I think I always get stuck on trying the same thing

Spencer:

again and again. And like, and, you know, it's, it's like,

Spencer:

you're building a bridge, and you get like, two inches away,

Spencer:

and then you, you don't have enough material. And you're like

Spencer:

starting over and you build that same bridge again. And again,

Spencer:

because you're like, I'm only two inches away. Eventually it

Spencer:

will work. But it just doesn't work. And you're just like, Oh,

Spencer:

and before, that's what I used to do. I'm just like, build the

Spencer:

bridge again. And again, do the same move again. Again, again,

Spencer:

again. And now I'm like, Oh, no, like, maybe I just have to do

Spencer:

something different. Like maybe that's not working. And I think

Spencer:

that's been really opening to be like, you know, if it's not

Spencer:

workint, it's getting me close, but it's not getting me there.

Spencer:

Is it getting me there? Is it actually getting me to the

Spencer:

artistic creation that I want? Just because I'm getting close

Spencer:

to it doesn't mean I'm there.

Spencer:

What you're saying about experimentation, I feel

Spencer:

like really resonates. It strikes me how how little I give

Spencer:

myself or we give ourselves permission to experiment,

Spencer:

especially in the workplace. It really struck me what you were

Spencer:

saying I think about how, like I'm a digital product like UX

Spencer:

designer. So I do a lot of quote unquote, creative work. But it's

Spencer:

work that is sort of very process-licized and has systems

Spencer:

of thought applied over it and a philosophy that's been developed

Spencer:

over years and branding, rules and patterns that we've

Spencer:

established. And so oftentimes, like, I'll get in these creative

Spencer:

ruts initially, because I'll be asked to solve a problem and I

Spencer:

feel like oh, I already know the pieces that I have to use. Like

Spencer:

I don't know how I'm going to put that together, like it's not

Spencer:

gonna work. And it's not until I sit down and just start playing

Spencer:

with the same building blocks that have always been there.

Angbeen:

Yeah.

Spencer:

And just trying stuff I get to a point where I'm like,

Spencer:

"I'm not a genius and I don't immediately have the answer

Spencer:

because I suck." [laughing] That immigrant, like first-gen

Spencer:

mentality of like there's only do and succeed. There's no try

Spencer:

like just just my Asian American bastardization of Yoda's old

Spencer:

saying. Like, it's not until I just start trying shit that I

Spencer:

that it's unlocked, like something that I never would

Spencer:

have thought out thought of before. It just spits itself

Spencer:

out, after five minutes of me letting go of having to be

Spencer:

right, or letting go of it having to come out perfect.

Angbeen:

Yeah. I totally relate with that. And I also think

Angbeen:

about how, like, sometimes in the game, like, you just gotta

Angbeen:

leave. You just gotta leave where you are. Because I'm like,

Angbeen:

"I'm not ready to beat this Lynel right now". Like, I do

Angbeen:

not have the tools. I do not have the stamina, I can't do

Angbeen:

this. And sometimes I feel the same way about like, a work

Angbeen:

problem or poetry issue I'm having. I'm like, maybe right

Angbeen:

now, I just don't have the tools for this. Like, I need to go

Angbeen:

think on this. But let me go do something else that I feel like

Angbeen:

I can do. And then I'll come back here maybe one day. I don't

Angbeen:

know if I'm coming back to the Lynel. But [laughing] but it's

Angbeen:

here for me when I feel ready. And I feel like that's been

Angbeen:

that's been such an interesting part. Because in a lot of games,

Angbeen:

there's, You can't escape like, those people like you can't

Angbeen:

escape like, I guess they're not the main bosses, but like the

Angbeen:

mini bosses, you can't always escape them. And it feels really

Angbeen:

good to be like, Nope, not doing this. Don't have the right

Angbeen:

tools. Don't have the right armor.

Spencer:

Boundaries.

Angbeen:

Boundaries. I don't have the time today. [all

Angbeen:

laughing] So yeah, I think that has also it similarly, like when

Angbeen:

I'm having an issue, it's like, okay, I don't have to solve this

Angbeen:

today. Can I, can I just put this down for a second and like,

Angbeen:

go do something else for a minute? And I feel like that's

Angbeen:

been helpful, too.

Spencer:

There was this piece on the verge about Breath of the

Spencer:

Wild. It was a review that came out a couple years ago when it

Spencer:

was coming out by Andrew Webster. And near the end of the

Spencer:

piece, Andrew writes, "More so than just about any game series

Spencer:

Zelda's heart lies in exploration. That moment of

Spencer:

seeing a towering mountain in the distance and realizing that

Spencer:

eventually you'll be able to reach the top. Breath of the

Spencer:

Wild takes this idea, cuts out the fluff and expands upon it.

Spencer:

It pulls ideas from other games like crafting or survival, yet

Spencer:

makes them feel perfectly at home in its beloved universe."

Spencer:

And I feel like this aspect of taking pieces that really work

Spencer:

from other games, cutting out the fluff, really honing in on

Spencer:

what matters and delivering that experience is like poetry.

Angbeen:

Yeah.

Spencer:

Like what is writing, great writing other than copying

Spencer:

what works from other writers and forming it and reiterating

Spencer:

it into something that resonates again. I love that passage. And-

Angbeen:

That's amazing. That's beautiful.

Spencer:

We stan Zelda in this house.

Angbeen:

Yeah. As we should, I'm like, when is the next one

Angbeen:

coming out? I heard there's a Breath of the Wild 2, so.

Spencer:

Angbeen, it's been lovely hanging out with you

Spencer:

today. Thank you so much for joining us. Where can folks

Spencer:

follow your work? Do you have any public social media you'd

Spencer:

like to share?

Angbeen:

Yeah, I have a Twitter account. That's-I'm annoyed at

Angbeen:

myself for doing this, but I spelled my name weird. It's my

Angbeen:

name, but there instead of the second "e", there's a 3. And

Angbeen:

then my Instagram I mentioned before is @angribeen with an "i"

Angbeen:

and two "e"s, not "e-a". So yeah, you can find me there. And

Angbeen:

I also have a website that I just put together. It's

Angbeen:

angbeensaleem.com so you can find my poems and other things

Angbeen:

there.

Spencer:

Beautiful. Thank you so much for joining us on Pixel

Spencer:

Therapy.

Angbeen:

Thank you so much for having me. This was so

Angbeen:

beautiful. Thank you. [music break]

Jamie:

Time is up for today's session of Pixel Therapy. Thank

Jamie:

you for tuning in. And we hope that listening to our thoughts

Jamie:

and feelings gave you some thoughts and feelings of your

Jamie:

own. If you want more Pixel Therapy, come check us out at

Jamie:

patreon.com/pixeltherapypod where you can snag that monthly

Jamie:

bonus episode for just $2 a month, plus opportunities to get

Jamie:

involved with the community and influence the show directly. If

Jamie:

you're not up for contributing monetarily. But you enjoyed this

Jamie:

episode. There are lots of ways you can support us for free in

Jamie:

particular by reviewing us on Apple podcasts and podchaser.com

Jamie:

as part of their Review4Good month and following us on

Jamie:

Instagram and other social media @pixeltherapypod. That stuff is

Jamie:

just as important and we appreciate it just as much.

Jamie:

Remember that Pixel Therapy is a happy member of the But Why Tho

Jamie:

Podcast Network so you can support us by supporting them

Jamie:

and heading over to butwhythopodcast.com-that's

Jamie:

though with a t-h-o. Take a peek at the inclusive geek community

Jamie:

they're building around pop culture news, reviews, and kick

Jamie:

ass podcasts like yours truly. And you can keep up with all

Jamie:

this stuff and more by visiting our website at

Jamie:

pixeltherapypod.com.

Spencer:

Finally, since we like to put our money and our energy

Spencer:

where our mouth as we end every episode with a recommended side

Spencer:

quest. Thank you so much to Angbeen for the recommendation

Spencer:

this week. This week's side quest is the Let Us Breathe

Spencer:

Fund. In their words, "The Let Us Breathe Fund is the only

Spencer:

NYC-based fund led by and for Black activists organizing

Spencer:

around police reform and building Black liberation. We

Spencer:

started the Fund in 2015 following the death of Eric

Spencer:

Garner at the hands of the NYPD. The Fund provided rapid response

Spencer:

in that crisis moment and now supports the long-term

Spencer:

leadership of Black New Yorkers who are fighting police violence

Spencer:

and structural racism.

Spencer:

in Minnesota and its devastating similarity to Eric Garner’s

Spencer:

death, communities across NYC and the nation began marching

Spencer:

under “I Can’t Breathe” banners in unprecedented protests

Spencer:

against anti-Black racism and police violence.

Spencer:

witnessed the communities of Black, Indigenous, People of

Spencer:

Color face the compounding crises of the COVID-19 pandemic

Spencer:

while also envisioning and leading calls for systemic

Spencer:

change across all sectors. This led to renewed attention within

Spencer:

philanthropy to answer calls to increase support for BIPOC

Spencer:

leadership in addressing institutional racism.

Spencer:

Historic moments like these require an ecosystem of groups

Spencer:

to make demands and to implement transformative change.

Spencer:

cannot predict how the long-overdue reckoning that

Spencer:

began in 2020 will unfold. What we hope is that the challenge we

Spencer:

seek to address—building and sustaining a deeply underfunded

Spencer:

Black-led organizing infrastructure in the city—will

Spencer:

have new champions, including you." You can join the New

Spencer:

Yorkers who have contributed to the Let Us Breathe Fund by

Spencer:

visiting NorthStarFund.org. North Star is the steward of the

Spencer:

Let Us Breathe Fund, a social justice organization envisioning

Spencer:

a world in which resources and power are equitably shared, and

Spencer:

a future where everyone can live with dignity and thrive. Again,

Spencer:

that’s NORTHSTARFUND DOT ORG!

Jamie:

Thank you for that side quest, Spencer. That is our show

Jamie:

for today. So go forth, run a story mission, level up some

Jamie:

stats and don't forget to hug an NPC every now and then. We'll be

Jamie:

back soon with some more.

Spencer & Jamie Together:

Pixel Therapy

Jamie:

Buh bye