Thursday, December 31, 2015

On 2015

Was It A Good Year?
Honestly, yeah, pretty good, all things considered. The road to the ending has been mercilessly stressful, but I think I'll be alright.

Greatest Professional Accomplishment
This year was chock full of 'em: Moving out, the Alternative Digital Arts Festival, finishing the first draft of the FFVII book (tentatively titled Heroism Is The Labor of Sacrifice,) but probably the biggest is now being able to earn all of my rent and utilities entirely through freelance writing.

Biggest Personal Accomplishment
Coming out as agender? I guess? It feels like a non-event honestly, probably since it means identifying as a non-gendered person.

Best "Weird" Console Title
None. (Technically MGSV, but, eh.)

The Reason There Is No Best "Weird" Console Title
I'm really not sure why I held out hope for Xenoblade Chronicles X to be any good.

Best PS4 Game
Well Metal Gear Solid V is great, but it has a hot contender in Final Fantasy VII, new and improved with a no random battles feature that more easily accommodates low level runs.

Best Indie Game
We Know The Devil

Worst Game

Least Favorite Game
Xenoblade Chronicles X

Best Old Game Austin Just Played This Year
Resident Evil (2002)
Best Movie
Mad Max: Fury Road

Only Movie Austin Went Out And Saw This Year, But Fuck It

Mad Max: Fury Road

Movies Austin Managed To See Before The Year Ended He EnjoyedStar Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Metal Album
Two-way tie: M - Myrkur and The Ark Work - Liturgy

Highest Concentration of Bangers
Trivium - Silence in The Snow

Austin's One New Rap Album This Year

Travis Scott - Rodeo

Degree to Which FFVIII Improved With Age This Year
Bigger leap than in any previous year, arguably deserves some kind of "Most Improved" award.

Worst Pieces of Games Writing This Year
Tim Rogers' Bloodborne article on Gamasutra (#GamaHateReads), Frank Lantz's response to "Ludocentrism," (#GamaHateReads) but the worst without question was Phil Owen's What The Fuck Is Wrong With Videogames, which comes to us courtesy of The Year Two-Thousand And Seven.

New Year's Resolutions
Put out the book and make this the last year I don't develop a videogame. Record (and release?) the metal album I've taken the past year and a half to write. As well, take more responsibility for myself, and be aware of and uphold my responsibilities to those around me.

Destroy any doubt that I am among the best at what I do.

- Austin C. Howe, Washington and Florida, December, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Critical Switch: The Joy of Bob Ross

On Bob Ross

Hi, glad you could join me. Today I thought I'd share a happy little page of some thoughts on the benefits of watching Bob Ross before bed each night, for the growing creative.


Bob Ross' gentle voice and tame Floridian accent, along with the comfortable patterns of his speech, (his catchphrases in particular, parental in their practical wisdom and comfort) and the simple, procedural instructions he vocalizes make him the perfect thing to listen to while getting ready to sleep. Sometimes I even turn on an episode of The Joy of Painting and turn the phone over such that the video doesn't glow in my eyes, and simply listen to Ross speak. This is a man of a particular expertise, with decades of experience in his craft. If we are lucky, someday we might be able to instruct in our craft with similar ease and comfort.


Bob Ross shows that anyone can paint, including you, and all you have to do is do it. And he does it by demonstrating his techniques, each day, from a blank canvas (covered in magic white.) This is incredibly important as a rhetorical technique: the first step to doing something is of course to start, regardless of whatever happy accidents we may make along the way towards creating a finished product.


The purpose of The Joy of Painting is extremely simple. Using a limited color palette and a limited set of painting tools, Bob Ross instructs beginner painters in some of the basic techniques of wet-on-wet landscape painting. When we watch The Joy of Painting we are witnessing the practice of craft, in the most literal sense. By the time Bob Ross began hosting The Joy of Painting, he was already a master of the techniques he presents, but each time he performs them for us, he keeps his skills practiced and refined. Ross was lucky that any number of people paid him to practice his craft, many of us are not so lucky, but we should strive to work like Ross and refine our basic technique, constantly, and consistently, such that we get better at what we do, and stay good at it.


Ross reminds us that, when painting, we have control over the world we wish to paint. For Ross, this meant an opportunity to create images of idyllic landscapes, separate from the petty toils of living, and the corruption of society, a world that is happy. As writers, musicians, visual artists, what have we, we often choose other purposes than to make our audience our ourselves happy. But the important part is that we choose, consciously, what that purpose is, and we know intimately what we wish to attain with our work.

In Conclusion

To watch Bob Ross is to immerse one's self in the basics of craft, and as such, serves to refresh our willingness to practice our craft, our want to improve in our craft, and our passion for our craft. He sends us to rest with dignity, and respect for ourselves and our work. 

From all of us here at Critical Switch in Olympia, WA, all one of us, Play is Labor, I'm Austin C. Howe. God bless.