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Avery Mcdaldno
doubt and hope and fire.
doubt and hope and fire.


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+Hilary McNaughton has a patreon for her sentimental smut writing, and you should support it:


Recently, I was having an awful day. Distressed, crying for no clear reason. Syr came over, brought chocolate, held me. But stil I was beside myself.

So we poured a hot bath, poured epsom salts into it, wreathed the tub in tea lights. I slid in, mostly-empty bottle of wine in hand. And Syr sat on the bathroom floor, wrapped up a blanket, and read to me. Specifically, Syr read from this zine that Hilary had given me - Sentimental Smut Volume One.

It was such perfect writing. Hot, brazen descriptions of bodies and sweat and hands-gripped. But also space held for all the emotions that people feel during sex, captured with thoughtful clarity. Stories about lust and care and weariness and trepidation and anger and grief and elated ecstatic climax. Little mundane details that ground everything and kept it human.

That bath was magic. I have never felt so soothed and healed in my life. We passed the wine bottle back and forth, little sips until it was gone. We let the tea lights flicker out.

Hilary's been writing beautiful words for many years now. She put out an amazing smut zine and plans to assemble more. You can support her work on Patreon by visiting

I sincerely hope you do, because my life is richer for her and her words being in it, and yours probably would be too.
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Hey! Today, me and +Katrina Elisse Caudle announced a game jam that we're hosting. It's on from now until January 25th. Join us in creating games - digital, analog, whatever.

The theme and inspiration for this game jam is rentpunk. What is rentpunk? It's a not-quite-existing-yet genre. We talk about it over on the game jam site.

Check it out! Spread the word!
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Some end-of-year gratitudes, for people who made my life better this year. Avoid reading if you're not into senseless cuddlefest shout-outs. No particular order.

(It's non-exhaustive, I'm sorry if you weren't included, you're still included in my heart.)

Allison, mom. Thank you for making space in your heart for another daughter.

+Cheryl Trooskin-Zoller. I consider you a mentor, in addition to being an amazing friend and confidante. I would be lonely and probably dead without you in my life. I feel so thankful that I have a home away from home. I feel so grateful for all our conversations – from giggly gossip to serious difficult critique. Thank you.

Lila, thank you for being one of my tiniest and most enthusiastic friends. Thank you for letting me play dolls with you, and Minecraft, for letting me read to you, and for making me feel like a part of your household.

Syr, my lover. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for spoiling me. Thank you for being rough with me when I ask you to, and unimaginably gentle with me the rest of the time. I've met so many cool people because of you. I feel more beautiful for having been seen by you, and more brilliant for having been heard by you. Gosh.

Emily, my youngest sister. You've become one of my best friends, over this past year. Thanks for introducing me proudly to your friends. Thanks for drinks at the Narrow, for poutine at the Black Lodge, for sharing our lives with one another. Thanks for stealing my clothes and also for returning them. I love you a million.

Jesse, my only full-blood sibling. Thanks for letting your guard down around me. Thanks for giving me space to let my guard down around  you. I feel like we're finally becoming close, and I'm so thankful for that.

+Avonelle Wing  thank you for creating the most welcoming inviting spaces I've ever been in. I consider you a mentor and a role model. I look forward to your conventions and your presence. You've made the world feel like a more hospitable place, for me and for lots of other people. You're an amazing organizer and a beloved friend.

+Kira Magrann, you entered my heart like wildfire. Thank you for making me feel so fucking beautiful. You've become important to me in an amazingly short span of time. I'm excited to see where this goes.

+Gray Pawn, you gave me such a beautiful birthday gift. Thank you for providing me with tools to better know myself. Thank you for being a friend to me all these years. Thank you for making beautiful mixes and books and art, and for sharing them with all your friends.

+Jackson Tegu, thank you for noticing and pointing out little beautiful things whenever we're out walking. Thank you for accompanying me on both literal and figurative journeys over the past year. Thank you for being there for me but also for lots of people. Thank you for being a weirdo.

+Naomi Clark, thank you for modelling how to be a force for change and a responsible game designer. You say such brilliant things in such an unassuming way. I want to be you when I grow up.

+an sheep, thank you for walking home with me, tipsy and tired, for letting me air all my grievances about the world, for letting me share all my stupid little joys. It means a lot to me to know that even though things are different now, we can still collaborate and really actually talk. Thank you for being a flawless mess of a human.

+Hilary McNaughton, my dumpling sister. Thank you for being vulnerable and honest with me. Thank you for telling me when I fuck up, even if it might be easier not to. Thank you for teaching me how to be a better friend to you, even though you were under no obligation to do so. You're amazingly talented, amazingly caring, and I want the best in the world for you.

Eva, thanks for all the tattoos.

+Joli St. Patrick, thanks for being such a fierce, vulnerable, gentle, compassionate woman. Thank you for serving as a role model to me on many occasions. Thank you for staying alive even when things are hard.

+Jeeyon Shim, thank you for staying up late with me, thousands of miles away, getting drunk in front of our computer screens and gossiping about cute boys.

+merritt kopas, thank you for consistently saying challenging things. Thank you for serving as a mentor as I nervously approached the precipice of trans womanhood.  Thank you for being a provocateur and unapologetic about it.

+Mattie Brice, thank you for sharing all your thoughts on ceremony as play. Thank you for calling out bullshit in your industry. Thank you for writing amazing manifestos that help me remember what my goals are.

+Samuel Stevenson, I'm so thankful that we're able to slide so easily back into our friendship. We don't talk often, but I cherish every smile and word you share with me. Thanks for being there when I look for you.

+Katrina Elisse Caudle, you were the first person I called. That wasn't by accident. You are warm and gracious and inspiring. You make me feel valid and real. I'm so consistently impressed by the grace with which you share your experiences and talk about difficult subjects.

Leigh, thank you for letting me read your tarot. Thank you for ripping out the throats of your haters, and for doing it with teeth. Thank you for being a brilliant writer and a lovely friend.

Chris Jonasson and Thom Kirali, thank you for flying me halfway across the world, pampering me during my stay, and introducing me to some really amazing people.

Karl, thank you for brunches. Thank you for teaching me what little I know about C#.

Scott Foster & Tiffany Sostar,  thank you for bringing me out to Calgary. It was such an amazing opportunity. You have such an amazing community. I'm grateful for the brunches, for the workshop, for being invited to speak in front of all your friends, for the conversations we had, for your existence.

anna, thank you for sharing my work with so many cool babes. Thank you for consistently being kind to me. Thank you for being honest and visible and creative.

+Mo Jave, thank you for getting drunk and yelling about labour activism with me. Thank you for all the hugs and kind words. You're such a magnetic person. I'm so excited to have met you. Brand too.

+Daniel Wood, thank you for being my friend. This is my longest-running friendship. Thank you for making space for me in your home and your life.

Aevee, thank you for Zeal.

+John Stavropoulos, thank you for inviting me into your home. Thank you for being such an awesome friend. Thank you for modelling how to build community. I am constantly amazed by all the work you do to build connections and make shit happen.

+Sean Nittner, thank you for being such a supportive friend. Thank you for working hard to build community, and to make sure that community has space for everyone. It's always amazing to get to watch you interact with others – as a father, as a husband, as a friend, as an organizer. Thank you for sharing your house with me when I travel, and your life with me when you have the opportunity.

+Karen Twelves, thank you for inviting me to your bachelorette party. Thank you for inviting me to your wedding, and for letting me help. You're so rad. You organize great parties. You stand up for people and you call out bullshit. You've got impeccable style.

+Elizabeth Sampat, thank you for being a total babe and for speaking publicly and regularly about the injustices around you. Thank you for trading tarot readings and taking me to Expatriate.

+Mark Diaz Truman, thank you for collaborating with me, for challenging me and my thinking, and for being such a friendly face. You do great work.

Bavita, thank you for all of the difficult conversations. Thank you for living with me for a spell. Thank you for trading sad songs and fucked-up feelings over Facebook chat at all hours of the night. Thank you for letting me take care of you sometimes, and for taking care of me sometimes. Thank you for being rowdy and unapologetic and a fierce little dirtbag.

Mayari and Isaiah, thank you for letting me into your lives. Thank you for the house of witches. Thank you for continuing to let me into your lives now that I've moved out.

Torrid, thank you for being the only company that consistently stocks shit in my size. Thank you for having welcoming staff members who make me feel like I'm allowed to shop there.

Thank you to every trans woman who reached out to me.

Thank you to everyone who kissed me.

Thank you to everyone who asked me for support when they needed it.

Thank you to everyone who offered me support when I needed it.
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+Mark Diaz Truman and I released a game today! It's a re-imagining of The Quiet Year that focuses on decolonization, monstrosity, and individuals.

Please check out The Deep Forest. Free, thanks to Patreon.
This is one of the coolest projects I've ever worked on, and I'm honored that +Avery Mcdaldno asked me to be a part of it.
The Deep Forest
The Deep Forest
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Hey, I've done very little larp, and want to explore more. Specifically interested in freeform (maybe jeepform?) stuff with a small cast and charged emotional content.

I've been considering Previous Occupants, but can only imagine being okay playing it if the gender roles were changed for the old couple (either a murderous wife or a gay couple, maybe).

If it's helpful, in making me recommendations, I really enjoyed A Flower For Mara when I played it.

Larp nerds can y'all recommend me some stuff to look at?
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So, +Jason Morningstar wrote me this morning to follow up on something I'd said at Metatopia, asking about creating queer-friendly games and spaces. My answer ended up being a big one, and we decided to share that conversation.


Hey Avery, 

I was there for most of your talk and wanted to hear more from you. The specific question I would have asked had I not had to run is about what comes after inclusion - please forgive me if this is queer 101.

I get that inclusivity isn't a goal but rather a progressive step toward something better, but as a designer I'm not sure what concrete steps come after that. "I have games where queer characters are just part of the landscape" feels pretty comfortable and easy but when I look past that I am a little at sea. I'd value your thoughts and references.



Hey Jason,

Thanks so much for writing and asking these questions. I'm scattered and unslept, so apologies if I tackle them all wrong.

I gave a talk on designing queer mechanics, and that talk is available here: It's an hour long, but I think worth it? It advances the argument that games are built around choice and mechanics and consequences, and so any sincere attempt at queering games must centre upon choice and mechanics and consequences. I break down why representation isn't enough, and point to sets of mechanics that strike me as full of queer potential. I think that's what, as designers, we can do.

Insider vocabulary used in that talk:
Queer World-Building (the project of creating anti-oppressive and utopian space in either the world or our imaginations, of imagining and creating contexts in which queer liberation is not only possible but inevitable.)
Queering (a strategic disruption to normative stories, carried out in analysis or design // a word too-often held hostage by privileged post-structuralist academics.)

Your designs already do a lot of these things mentioned in the talk. Let me know if you want push-back and critique about what you could and should be doing, above and beyond what you already do.


In thinking about queerness in games, it's worth going back to square one and asking: what is queer? what are games? If you have another hour, this keynote by Naomi Clark and merritt kopas is really really good: Queering Human-Game Relations (there's also a transcript available: )

I think they do a great job of doing a survey talk that is still challenging and interrogative. They also talk about moving beyond representation.


We have really inaccessible cultures of play that are mediated by class privilege and social privilege, and we don't really acknowledge this often enough. Creating space for queers means creating space for a group that is disproportionately poor, homeless, incarcerated, disabled, sexually abused, and suicidal. And I think that the queerest and most progressive games in the world aren't very useful or valuable if we create social structures around those games that exclude the people who might need them most. We need to create more accessible spaces.

Part of that happens at a convention-organizing level. Abolish 'real name' policies at registration desks. Offer sliding scale and subsidized badges - not just for known designers. More day-long meetups in free venues, fewer weekend-long meetups in expensive hotels. Meal shares. Childcare. Quiet sanctuary spaces. Dedicated women's spaces. Dedicated POC spaces. The code of conduct made visible and digestible. Conspicuous enforcement of the code of conduct. Actually training your staff.

Part of that happens at a social design level. Creating free games. Creating shorter games. Creating games for new audiences. Game texts that facilitate conversations about player boundaries. Games without components. Games designed for pick-up play. Games designed for a low social footprint. Games that challenge and restructure the privileges that players bring to the table.

Part of this happens at a mentorship and community level. Cheerleading new designers. Making open-ended offers of support to women designers, queer designers, marginalized designers. Sharing capital-intensive resources. Funding each other. Letting others define the types of support they need. Shutting down misogyny publicly. Shutting down homophobia and transphobia publicly. Calling out racists on their racism. Making a point of acknowledging indigenous land occupation at events. Introducing yourself by name & pronoun, regularly and in many contexts, making it easier and safer for trans people to do the same.

Again, I think you do a lot of this work already. And there's probably stuff on those lists you aren't doing yet, also. And there's stuff on those lists that I'm definitely not doing yet, either.


So yeah. Queer representation is cool and important. But I don't think it's the most important thing. I think creating accessible communities && queering our game mechanics are two things that need more priority right now. Some people disagree.


Also, maybe this is an off-point comment, but: I think over the last two years we've begun to see lots of space created for queerness in games. Metatopia felt exemplary in that regard. And I see less progress made in addressing other marginalizations and exclusions.

I think it's maybe more pressing to focus on decolonizing games, on imagining games after capitalism, on combating racism and white supremacy in our games community, and on thinking more about the intersection of disability and games.


Hopefully any of this feels relevant to the question you were asking.

Let me know. I'd be excited to keep talking.

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Game Chef 2014 (English-language) Winner Announced!

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Game Chef Finalists Announced!

It is with great pleasure that I announce: the Game Chef 2014 English-language finalists list is up! Judges will be reading through them in the next week, and announcing our Winner on June 11th!

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Ready to submit your finished game? You can do that here:

Please read the community guidelines here:

Need help preparing your game for submission? (Uploading files, etc) - Email me at

Some ways to displace the core book, initial ideas:
- teach the game via interlinked, non-linear videos.
- put all text on peripherals like cards.
- have no rules, just materials.
- center play around a map or flowchart or other shared poster resource.
- have several contradictory rulebooks, fighting for mechanical authority.

Some people are struggling with "there is no book," do you have any weird ideas to offer them?
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