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Friday, October 25, 2013

Weeks 39 to 40 iFest, GCAP and RSI Physio Storytime with Leonie

Leonie's small blog island says hullo! (:
This island's not big but there's enough room for you to sit at the campfire.
Let's reflect back on the past 2 weeks together. *amused grin*

Metaphors aside, resting from drawing or working with my right hand continues.
Let's not dwell on unhappy things though. This post is brought to you by my tired left hand.

In this post: RSI part IV lessons, an embarrassing Maya video tutorial that I've voice recorded and recaps for some game industry events. No art though; but you're here already so read on if you'd like!

Let's go slowly again! Journal Time! 

Preview's basic but it works; reusing what I've made before works well for my left hand (:

Week 39 

9th Wed: back to class for a day

  • PV progress: Will and Victor both started trying a weekly schedule so they could juggle both portfolio work and student film work. Tony's been lighting and troubleshooting his shot for most of the day while I still couldn't do much towards the project (I woke up feeling sore in my arm again). 
I can't do much at this point so I decided to rest up at home from here on. But it seems like when I do get better, I may need to do much more on my part so that this film gets done before November ends. I hope I won't have to use all of my class time for it (versus portfolio work) when the time comes but knowing how long lighting and rendering takes us and how long and uncertain I'm taking to recover, it's starting to look that way. Onwards! (Unless my team finishes the film before I return? Too optimistic.)

    10th Thur & 11th Fri: resting period continues

    • Arm strain updateI haven't been feeling good in the past few days while the arm has been fluctuating in pain intensity...shall keep exercising and try more things out from now on. Aside from more investigation into the matter, tried out some more RSI related yoga to cool down. 
    I also tried sleeping with my arm above my head which made things a bit better. Beware of pins and needles though. Shall try deep heat cream next.

    Many thanks to a small handful of people for the kind words of support and/or company during this time. (:
    • PV progress: loose project planning for what's ahead and passed the baton onto the team; the team's doing what they can!
     

    12th Sat: iFest for the first time & making a video tutorial

    For those who don't know, iFest is an Independent Games Festival where Indie developers showcase their prototypes or games for people to play for free to gauge for feedback ranging from PC to mobile games. It's not art learning related but it's great to see what other people come up with through gameplay and art design.

    Wait, I know this isn't a games focused blog! But I'm talking about it anyway because it's still learning and fun to see all the different art styles and gameplay mechanics people come up with.

    Still, did not know what to expect. Glad I bumped into a few familiar, friendly faces here and there. I spent a lot of my morning and early afternoon wandering around and watching people playing indie games instead of attending any of the talks. I forgot the time sometimes too.

    I did manage to play Flying Fish, Rope Jacks (fun lumberjack co-operative game; might have gotten the name wrong), the Occulus Rift with Wander (interesting and cool flying experience as a griffin though I was too conscious of the low res screen and the slight discomfort of having the device pressed into my face) and two other tapping based games before deciding to hold off completely from game playing due to my arm (RSI foiled me once again! *shakes hypothetical fist*)

    There were some others I would want to play but can't. Namely CRAWL seems to be a wonderfully fun multiplayer game to look out for (am I starting to plug other games even when I haven't played them?). I felt slightly terrible every time I said "no, I can't play" to a game though. Ah well; my arm tends to go super tense when I play games so I'd rather not risk it any further than I already have.

    • PV Progress: got notified that my team needed a tutorial. Decided to put together a video so that they could keep pumping out the film and composite it. This is for making Contribution passes for rendering purposes in Maya (that I learned from Tonko). I'll post the link here in case it might be useful but I'm doubtful as it's personalised for my team, not for the general user. My left hand did what it could in terms of speed and accuracy so please be gentle in your judgments.
    It's my first video tutorial; the video itself I did it in two takes and the voice...probably 3 takes for a few sections but the rest was within one take. Witness how I embarrass myself with my stumbling voice for the first time online! No I don't sound extremely high pitched and I have an Australian accent (with perhaps a tiny pinch of my heritage somewhere).

    I used voice instead as it was faster than typing something comprehensive (ironic as I type this) and it also makes me do something new and actually talk more compared to typing (explaining why I seem so rusty with talking and presenting). Breaking my comfort zone a bit more once again! Here's the link or see it below.




    13th Sun: slow paced day 

    • Listened in during a webinar: about film production design 
    • PV Progress: finished editing the video and uploaded it.
    • Research Assignment: collecting imagery for it and formatting

    14th Mon Storytime: RSI lessons IV from the physiotherapist 

    In the past week, a few people urged me to go seek a physiotherapist. Today, I went from "I don't even know if I can afford and/or find one" to "I'm having my appointment in 20 minutes".

    As I sat down among much, much older folk in the waiting area, I looked around and took in my quiet surroundings which was filled with gym equipment, anatomy charts, qualifications and awards and a whole pile of of neglected magazines and small pot plants. I was a bit nervous as I haven't been to a physiotherapist before but I was glad to actually get some expert advice on what I can do with my fluctuating RSI.

    The weary, friendly old receptionist directed me to wait in one of the rooms and I found myself sitting alone with all sorts of contraptions along the wall, towels, pillows, a mechanical bed/bench, a microwave, a turned on radio, more anatomy charts and a small TV showing CCTV live footage of the waiting area. I was curious with the last observation, and kept wondering about it until the physiotherapist finally came in.

    After telling him what I have he asked, "So how long have you had RSI?...3 months? Half a year? A year?"

    I paused and replied uncertainly, "...a bit over a month?"

    His response alerted me that I'm actually dealing with it relatively early and from there he told me what I need to keep doing (such as frequent breaks, overall exercise and RSI exercises) and gave me further suggestions on what I can do to manage this. This involved me doing some arm exercises to show him what I've been doing based on my previous investigations in the matter and he demonstrated some more for me to keep doing during my frequent breaks from the computer.

    Before long I found myself alone with electrical currents pulsing through my arm and shoulder to help ease its muscles. It was a slightly surreal feeling, sensing the currents ripple across like waves of water and watching your hand and fingers move itself on its own accord as the current passed through. I realised that this only happens if I relaxed and allowed the device run its course. It was painless and strangely relaxing.

    Fifteen to twenty minutes went by before he came back and packed up the device while suggesting what general exercises I could easily commit to such as a sport but I assured him about my regular exercise plan of my own does this well.

    Lastly he had me practice how to sleep with proper posture and actually told me that I should do this during the day as well for 5-10 minutes to help unload the shoulders and back.

    As I left, he commended me for doing this early and being disciplined about managing it. Still he made sure to remind and stress to me that this is something one must manage throughout their career and there is no such thing as a cure-all. "I know," I sighed and nodded; I have known ever since I decided to strive for art making but I'm here because I didn't do enough to maintain this lifestyle and ignored the red flags.

    Moral of the story: take small steps to establish a good habit every week and actively seek a better lifestyle that keeps you healthy physically and mentally.

    • Hope you enjoyed my brief change of writing style! This RSI situation has essentially taken over my art learning journey and this is reflected in my blog posts; had to try something different as it's already my 3rd-ish post about it now. Have no idea if this helps anyone as the exercises themselves are best demonstrated in person (ask me in person or someone knowledgeable like a physiotherapist to show you, or you could look some of the RSI exercises videos yourself like I have in my previous post). 
    In fact, none of the exercises the physiotherapist showed me were new to me thanks to my research and advice from kind people but he did narrow down which ones I should focus on according to my situation.

    Reminder: this is something people working long hours at the desk/computer for their career should do to prevent RSI too, not just RSI sufferers!

    • Research Assignment: finished up my report! Phew! 


    15th Tues: inspired by others on the net day 

    • Listened to some art talks & videos while the ghostly RSI pain lingers every once in a while. Avoided using my arm where I can as I don't want a jolt of sharp pain returning again like the last few times I believed it was getting better! It still feels tender and sore when I hold the arm muscles in question. My trapezius muscles aren't as sore finally but I'm still not used to the new sleeping setup.
    • Research Assignment: exported my report and created presentation slides. It's been a while since I prepared for something like this. Using only my left hand has become the norm somehow but even then, I can't really do much keyboard short cut heavy tasks that require both hands. Lighting and doing things in Maya requires this the most unfortunately.

    Week 40 

    16th Wed to 20th Sun: life throwing lemons at you? Hit'em back

    • Research Assignment: Had to type up my cue cards (handwriting still not an option) and practice. Took more breaks away from the internet so I could get this finished. I had to cut a lot of the report out and rephrase everything as I want the presentation to be brief but direct (not to mention make it interesting to me).
    • Reading, learning and exercising continues 
    • Windows 7 system failure: just when my lefty is starting to strain, my computer fails to start altogether. Read my book as I waited and hoped I didn't lose all my files or end up with a ruined laptop as the computer scrambled and took ages just to keep rebooting itself. 
    Spent the whole Thursday troubleshooting offline, backing up files and resorted to restoring the system to factory defaults. Aside from tiresome black screens of death, scary boop noises and sneaking on my bro's computer in search for solutions, this really forced me on the computer much more as there's a lot of waiting involved for scanning, for backing up files and so on. I really need to use my patchy back up cloud system and scan my computer more often. I hope I didn't lose my cue cards I made! 


    Kept wondering how PV was going as I was disconnected from the internet over these past days.


    On Friday I was running on little sleep as the restoring to factory defaults took all night and morning. Spent the rest of the day recovering what I can and figuring out how to get back all the stuff from my work files, drivers, Windows updates, programs and registering them all again, firefox bookmarks, passwords, internet security updates...it was tedious and to top it off my RSI decided to act up too. 


    I lathered it up with deep heat cream during the day as a result (and a bit on my left too). Right arm, you confuse me but I'm going to keep stretching you. You can get through this. I hope. 


    I'm treating this as a time consuming "spring cleaning" of my computer spanning over several days in my own time but don't worsen on me again, right arm. It gets more and more unfortunate by the week. I'm not getting student autodesk software this time around yet there's so many files to organise again--I'm going to take my time..! 

    • decided to take an indefinite hiatus from social media until I get better and told my PV team and friends about it. This blog is all I've got left at the moment! 
    • Check out this ergonomics series for creatives by a specialist that works with Pixar, EA, ILM. I moved my laptop and monitor even closer thanks to this.
    • By the end of Sunday I finally installed most of what I've lost on my computer and found my preview image file I use to make blog preview images. Phew! Used up a total of four days to recover my computer to what it was (almost)! Obstacle solved!

    21st Mon: first time at GCAP Day 1  

    GCAP (Game Connect Asia Pacific) as the name suggests, is a bigger game industry event at MCEC (Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre); my ongoing curiosity of the games industry and the fact that I'm still eligible for the cheaper student ticket price compelled me to attend and listen to their talks. Yes, I am tight with money (supposedly making me more "asian") in that I rarely eat out and so forth so that I am able to save up for selective things...I'm unemployed and just getting by really by being frugal and a hermit. Not confident on whether I can afford to go next year. Besides learning and maybe meeting a few new people as a bonus, I had no expectations as I've never been to GCAP!

    Things I've picked up aside from trying to stay awake without coffee (embarrassment ensues):

    • PAXAus is at MCEC on October 31 to November 2nd! Yes! Not good for uni students with exams though. I'm going for it as I'm not going to be a formal student anymore and I've been missing it since it happened this year.
    • Bumped into and met a few new people; referred to myself as a "student who is a nobody" half jokingly as I am not working on any project due to RSI; everything's been halted. Realised afterwards my "I don't belong here/ I'm a fraud" feeling needs to be kept in check.
    • "Persistence, Patience and Passion" - Shainiel DeoCEO of Halfbrick
    • The free food is alright; can't complain! (:
    • Tax obligations and agreements are treacherous and complex and works against what game developers do
    • Watching people play and show their games! And there's many approaches to game development that's not for everyone
    • Japanese mobile users just want short bursts of fun and good looking games specifically and visually translated for them during their busy lives
    • How not to look creepy at a game store as you wait for customers to judge your box for your game
    • Loads of people love coffee (while I'm in the minority)
    And I missed out on the interesting drinks session afterwards; had to leave. ):

    Wandering my way around crowds of chatting people and simply attending talks based on the whim of others was fun though (:  

    22nd Tues: GCAP Day 2 recap 

    Had to give in to some coffee in order to stay awake and points that I got from today include:

    • Mattie Brice's keynote was definitely food for thought - social issues in games design. 
    • Positive talk from Trent Kusters of League of Geeks especially on their amazing process on Armello
    • Chatted to a few more kind people who gave me pointers on RSI
    • Attended the Women in Games Round Table; full of inspiring people. Stay inclusive to all regardless of gender is what I think about it. 
    • Fascinating talk on the dark side of game design from Luke Muscat of Halfbrick
    • Further food for thought on cultures in games from Kate Edwards of IDGA 
    • I need to throw away my broken, floppy umbrella as it doesn't keep people dry well  
    • ADGA was less formal than I thought but its full of finger food & people enjoying themselves in conversation. (:
    I understood that the whole point was to network and show what you've done but I feel like I haven't done either well as I'm still trying to get over my "imposter syndrome" that most people feel as one of the speakers put it. Still, I think I reached my main goal of learning about others' stories and knowing that I was surrounded by inspiring Australian game developers gives me hope in the industry; we're slowly getting there. It's still long, hard and difficult to get by, let alone get into the industry but it's the possibilities that keep us going.

    Thanks to the small handful of people I met with, who didn't mind my quietness and who I hung around with over the two days. (:

    Reflection for the Weeks 

    Don't know what I'm doing but I've been attending more events in this past year and it feels surreal and exciting to me (as a hermit).  I shall have to keep getting used to relevant social events. Next step, I hope to travel more of the world and experience more things! Money is a huge factor for me though.

    Been thinking about what I'd like to focus on as graduation date looms closer. Obviously it's not the graduation itself, as I've gone through it twice before but rather what comes after. Discussed it before here, ages ago though.

    I've got my goals; it's really figuring out how to get there among countless of great, inspiring artists doing the same. A lot of it is planning, trialing and making errors. Choices...there's finding a miraculous part time day job while I keep working on my skills and projects, somehow find an in house studio job at a games, animation or advertising company or work as a generalist freelancer (which is what many concept/2D artists do nowadays but I'm not sure if I'd like to get into this approach immediately).

    Perhaps there are more possibilities but all of which filled with "it's going to be horrendously difficult, full of rejections, failures, uncertainty and fears". Bring it on then, bring it on.
    ...After I recover that is.

    I'm simply embracing this journey (and why, look at how I keep writing!)

    Despite not being able to draw or work with my right hand for over a month and a half so far, I am developing healthier habits and am learning other things in the meantime. I can't say I'm happy with my situation but life goes on, there's always someone better off and worse off than you so make the most of what you've got! Be prepared to fail countless times and unexpected events; just remember to regain composure, refocus, get back up and keep going at it from a different angle.

    Just keep swimming.
    See you in 2 weeks? My arm feels like it's getting better but it could be pranking me again.


    Thanks for reading & feel free to comment below! (:

    Until next time, Leonie
    (UUUinfinity/TripleUinfinity)