“Weekend Thought Dumpster” is a series of blog posts were I dump most of the half-baked and short writings that would normally be posts or tweets, except I'm now putting them here instead. As I previously wrote, having ownership of the space in which I write is important to me. I'm taking the notion of “micro-blogging” literally.

“Weekend” because I'll be posting them every weekend (or two weekends) (or eight weekends). “Thought” because they are coming from my brain (you know how that works). “Dumpster” because where else do ephemeral, otherwise unrelated things end up? I think it's a fun phrase myself!

I've an actual piece of long-form writing that I've been pecking away at for months that I'll publish here at some point. In the meantime, all I've got for you are my thought dumpsters.

I'm not sure whether or not it's the unconscious result of my social gender transition, but over the past year, “shit” has left my lexicon and has been replaced with the softer, gentler “poop.” However, the rest of my language remains as foul as ever. As a result, “fucking poop” has now become my most commonly uttered swear. My partner is amused.

Melos Han-Tani wrote a post titled “Deadgames and Alivegames” that talks about the implications of self-referentiality and marketability for games as an art form. In it, he eloquently presents a point that I've long held but rarely articulated – that videogames "deaden" and become dull as their production teams grow in size.

As he writes: “Imagine a novel written by 10, 100, or 1,000 people. It would be bad. Novels aren’t written by 10+ people, and they would never benefit from being written so! Why did videogames end up being viewed as something many people need to make?” It's a good read and his argument should be read in full.

He further relates this point about scalability to the fact that most blockbuster games are derivative and draw upon previous blockbuster games for inspiration rather than other media, disciplines, and personal experience.

This left me to consider how most mainstream commerical games that are constantly referenced, remixed, and reimagined (Doom, Zelda, Pokemon, Mario) were made by comparatively small teams and likely were so influential because a personal touch can be more easily felt through them.

For example, Doom levels were individually authored, and I think it makes a difference: a John Romero level plays differently from a Tom Hall level or American McGee level. However, not only are these levels differentiated from themselves, but they are differentiated from the levels of the games that followed. Whenever I play Doom or Quake, I'll come across a cool trap, or well-hidden secret, or a hole that drops into the sky, and I'll stop and think to myself, “huh, dang! That's really clever!” I rarely think that to myself when I play a shooter game made since the aughts.

By trying, with a large team and massive budget, to emulate what classics from the 70's through the 90's achieved is to neglect the personal touch that made them so meaningful in the first place.

I took my partner to the emergency room a couple weeks ago. She had appendicitis. Thankfully, we got in before her appendix burst, and she's doing great now.

I spent a long time in the waiting room waiting for the diagnosis – longer than usual, since visitors aren't allowed outside the waiting room during the pandemic. Naturally, you see a lot of people come in and out over the course of the night. However, there's one couple in particular who's since been burned into my memory.

They were a young couple – a man and a woman. The woman was wheeled in on a chair and was moaning and screaming in agony. “She's having severe abdominal pain,” the man told the check-in staff. Same as my girlfriend, same as me when I had appendicitis years prior. I could relate to that. Either of us could have been in that chair.

While this poor woman was hunched over and yelling through what I presume was some of the worst pain she's experienced in a long time, the front desk proceeded to check her in through the standard procedure. Name. Birth date. Gender. The boyfriend was able to supply most of this himself, of course.

Then they asked them for the name of her health insurance – this he did not know. She had to provide it. She struggled to get the name out between her cries of pain. “C-CIG-CIGNA!” she yelled in desperation, barely able to form the syllables. What an inhumane thing to ask of a person in that situation.

“Can you please just take her back and treat her? She's suffering!” the man, understandably, protested.

“The sooner we get this taken care of, the sooner we can help her. This is the procedure,” the nurse replied coolly.

To be clear, this wasn't a wakeup call to me about the shortcomings of the American health care system. I'm a self-described progressive who's received my share of surprise bills for emergency room visits, had to change insurance plans nearly every year for the past 5 years, and is undergoing a medical gender transition. I've had my fair share of bullshit to navigate through. However, the inhumanity of privatized insurance was on full display in that moment in a way that shook me.

A system that forces a patient, incapacitated, in excruciating pain to stutter the name of her insurance plan in between her screams before she can receive care is devoid of basic compassion. "We'd love to help you, but we can't until we know how we're getting paid."