Having arrived at the concluding day of a year that ends in “9”, I can’t not take stock.

Carrying over from 2009, and throughout the following decade, I’d spend several hours every week at my day job as a software consultant. I did plenty of good work, but all for other peoples’ projects, so I seldom mention it in detail.

2010: Attended PAX East: an amazing experience, and effectively one of the very first larger-scale interactive fiction conferences. (Zarf’s contemporary account of it jibes with my own.) I started to feel like part of a real movement, and then I wrote The Warbler’s Nest.

2011: Taught a game lab at Northeastern University. I did my best and it went okay, but the experience convinced me that I am not a teacher. Officially closed up shop at Volity, the games startup that I’d co-founded years before.

2012: Published a lot of iOS work. I had a great time, but none of it survives today, because I have turned my back on the platform as a developer. (Today, I keep an old iPad on my bookshelf as evidence that these games ever ran at all.) Visited San Diego — flown out for two weeks on a lucrative consulting gig, a unforgettable experience I’ve yet to repeat.

2013: A black hole of a year. My father succumbed to cancer just days after its diagnosis. I suddenly had to take charge of my mother’s care, as — to everyone’s surprise and dismay — she suffered from profound dementia. I learned a lot about arranging medical care and legal protection for elderly parents. After a very challenging six months, we found a home for mom at a “memory care” facility in Maine. Then I hid in New Orleans for a while. While doing so, accepted an invitation to become IFComp’s next organizer.

2014: An exploding nova of a year. Got married (on my 40th birthday), found my destitute brother a home, created Barbetween, organized the 20th IFComp (after rewriting almost all its custom software), created two Twitter bots, moved to Rhode Island, got paid to make a small IF game, spoke and presented work at Wordplay in Toronto, sold my parents’ house, created Plerd, and began blogging regularly.

Starting here, and for the rest of the decade, I’d spend several hours every week writing articles for this website. I didn’t think I’d manage to keep up a weekly-ish pace with it, but somehow I have.

2015: With friends from the Boston IF community, began to gather together what would become IFTF. Spoke at The Perl Conference (née YAPC) about why I made Plerd. Visited Salt Lake City.

2016: Created Bumpyskies, which I now recognize as my masterpiece as a toolmaker. Started to rent an office in Newport. Visited Denmark. Launched IFTF. Spoke at my mother’s funeral. Wracked with waves of acute anxiety after the American elections, I began to see a therapist. Said goodbye to Ada.

Starting here, and for the rest of the decade, I would spend at least a little time every week tending to IFTF.

2017: Spoke at !!Con about how I made Bumpyskies. Made deep personal connections whose specifics bear no mention here, but they fueled much of my writing at the time. Decided to turn down an opportunity to double down on my consulting work, and instead work on small, fun projects again. This begat stuff like Alisio and Bayamo — neither of which I continue to use much today, but they propelled me on, and I regret nothing.

2018: Moved to Providence. Discovered the IndieWeb and went a little crazy with it. Wrote Bise and Brickfielder, two small fun projects that I do continue to use. Took the reins of IFTF’s accessibility project, leading a great team. Visited England.

2019: Shipped the accessibility project, helped by dozens of volunteer testers. Watched with joy and pride as IFTF ran the first Narrascope, a purpose-built conference for interactive fiction and other narrative games. Joined a writers club in Providence, and thought about switching careers. Launched Sweat. Visited Paris. Moved to New York.


In all honesty, I did not see until just now the obvious bookends — nay, the arc — formed by the semi-accidental IF conference in 2010 and the extremely intentional one in 2019, with IFTF’s genesis smackdab in the middle. I would not say that my drive to support interactive fiction defined my decade, but it does rather seem to have formed the backbone of it.

I have often wondered, in more recent years, if I’ll ever have an explosively creative year like 2014 again. Maybe I don’t want one; maybe it required what came before. I think I would prefer stability over going through all that again.

What else is there to say? We’ve been through a lot together. I’m glad you’re still here, and I hope you stay. See you tomorrow.

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Joe Johnston

Lovely post, Jmac. Here's my dumb version: 2010 - first born son arrived ??? - switched jobs a bunch of times ??? - lost my dad ??? - published D&D stuff 2019, today - ate a croissant

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