Write From The Heart

"Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back."

Living With(out) COVID-19


For nearly all of my life, I’ve been a shy, reclusive person. I usually attribute it to my school life spent being either ignored or bullied, my love for video games overshadowing my want to get out, or just me being too tired for socializing. But, admittedly, I wanted to branch out in college- see the Austin sights, make good friends, and, in general, get out of my comfort zone. These trying days have forced me back into that comfort zone I call my home, yet I’ve never felt more hopeless and useless than now.

COVID-19 was confirmed to be a global pandemic at around the time in my university life where I was exhausted and aimless, sometime around midterms. I was getting well adjusted into my apartment on South Congress St., trying to hype myself up out of my mental block. The semester was almost over, we were quickly barreling to the end of our lesson plans, so I knew I needed to bring my best to the table. But, during what I thought would be a normal Spring Break, the university staff sent out an email informing all students that the rest of school would be online. The pandemic wasn’t a background worry anymore, it was going to be reality.
My daily routine changed drastically: I woke up, walked to the kitchen, made a bowl of cereal, then got dressed for a Zoom meeting at 3:30 p.m. I was back in my family home where I spent countless nights playing games by myself, only seeing my college friends through a fuzzy computer screen.

I had a childhood friend over before social distancing was enforced, then only a few weeks later we were lamenting together in a Discord call about our inability to see each other. A few days earlier, I was comforting another friend from Canada, who’s struggling to pay rent after he became unemployed. And even earlier, I cried myself to sleep because my mom had a dangerously high fever and I knew she was out and about for work. Anxiety is the normal nowadays. It’s hard to get through without thinking of the horrible conditions we’re stuck in at least once. It’s harder to fight the feeling that I’m dead weight on everyone because of my powerlessness.
Still, I think of the genuine smiles my mom gives me when I offer to stay by her side- safely, of course. I think of my friends who say that they miss me and wish me goodnight every time we talk online. I think of the people who tell me that I’m wanted and the urge to self-deprecate fades into obscurity.

The pandemic is testing our love for each other and for life, but it can’t win. It didn’t win over Europeans fighting bubonic plague and it won’t now. We’re too resilient for viruses like COVID-19, I feel. We can be fickle, antisocial, hateful, ignorant, or selfish, but the goodness in us comes out in times like these. I truly do believe we’ll be fine. It’s difficult to maintain this thought, but I know it’s true. I just can’t wait to finally eat ramen at my favorite spot in Austin with my friends again. It’s called Ramen Tatsu-Ya. I hope they’ll survive and go back to serving delicious noodles soon.

Below is my submission to The Munday Library COVID-19 Perspective. It’s not much, but at least I can say I’m a part of the history books now.

My card on the front page

A Look Into Robert Denton Bryant: St. Edward’s Professor and Visionary


St. Edward’s University had but a small, fledgling video game department before Robert Denton Bryant showed up. Upon putting out an ad for a professor to help “shape an existing major,” Bryant offered his assistance to the department. What got him accepted was demonstrating his lecture about the “Aristotle VS Mario” problem, in which he highlights the conflict that nuanced storytelling has with interactive experiences like games. It helped that, not only was he a veteran of the industry at this point in time, he also co-authored the acclaimed book the lecture was coined in.
Bryant is a man of many trades and many accomplishments. Before coming to St. Edward’s to teach, he began his career in screenwriting with a degree from The University of South California, even making it to Hollywood. His love was for writing, but he became tired of the daily grind. Then, as a self-described “happy accident,” Bryant began freelance work for Mattel. He was enamored with technology and wanted “to do something with computers,” as he puts it, which began the period of his life working as a tester for toys and games alike.
Mattel eventually made a bad bet on The Learning Company and needed lay offs to continue functioning, so Bryant moved on to a up-and-coming development company, Crave Entertainment, where he would help reboot the company into a massive value publisher by making games for the value market. By focusing on smaller, more niche games, some of the company’s biggest successes were created such as “Pinball Hall of Fame” and XBox Live’s “World Championship Poker”, both pitched by Bryant.

“Pinball Hall of Fame”
PlayStation 2 PAL boxart.

Taking a cursory glance at Bryant’s office in St. Edward’s will tell anyone how much his early career shaped the man he is today- with memorabilia littered throughout the room, framed posters of the games and movies he helped come to fruition, old products from his Mattel days, and a shelf filled to the brim with Crave games.
It’s evident even in his teaching style, too. What he’s been trained to do in the workforce is what he wants to bring to his students, to help them feel like a “big fish in a small pond,” in his words. He’s brought his own work, “Slay the Dragon: Writing Great Video Games,” as part of the curriculum, even putting major emphasis on the Aristotle VS Mario lecture.

“Slay the Dragon: Writing Great Video Games” cover image.
Cover design by Johnny Ink

Such being, he draws from past experiences to give a clearer picture frequently. He re-adopted a test question for his Mattel position as an exercise for his Analog Game Design course in which he was asked to write step-by-step instructions on how to operate a landline touch telephone for someone who has never seen a phone. It ended up being a great tool for game design, more specifically for understanding how to properly communicate to clueless players and break down simple actions.
It’s this expertise in navigating game design through multiple lenses that makes Bryant respected by the video game development community and his peers. Fellow professor, Jeremy Johnson, recounted being scouted by Bryant for the department after presenting his game for an Interactive Fiction class at the Bullock Texas State History Museum, then working under him. Johnson believes that Bryant “has strengths everywhere,” regarding his talent in game design fundamentals, and commends his leadership skills, jokingly remarking that perhaps “he likes doing it.”
Because of the unfortunate timing of the COVID-19 pandemic closing down the department’s crown jewel event, Game Fair, wherein all the students’ own developed video games, board games, animations, and such are presented to a crowd, the university will be left without arguably Bryant’s best development for the school. But, Toppers in the video game development major will have numerous future events to look forward to, and hopefully be pelted by the Bryant’s traditional congratulatory Cheeto’s toss.

Campus Organization Aims for Warmth and Support With Immigrant Community


Previous officers and new students of campus organization, Monarchs on the Hilltop, met up on the final Tuesday of January to meet and greet under the mission statement of uniting immigrant, mixed race, or otherwise marginalized students of St. Edward’s. Monarchs on the Hilltop’s mission of making students from these walks of life feel at home is emblematic in the movements and activities laid out at the meeting, such as protesting the presence of Border Patrol and ICE on campus for job recruitment. This is a philosophy embraced by the organization and its president, Sussy Tellez Pantoja, senior at St. Ed’s and fellow Latina. Of the notable activities that the organization plans to take part in, Pantoja encouraged participation for direct relief towards the immigrant community, such as Legal Aid and Undocupeer Training- the financial backing of consultation fees for immigration cases and volunteer work to translate important documents such as wedding papers or green cards from English to Spanish respectively.

As discussion in the meeting continued, Pantoja provided the basis for her involvement in Monarchs; which stems from a personal feeling of duty to help others among the community, shared by other members of the organization. As fellow member, Heather Hawley, says, “… [we want to feel] inclusive, that everybody’s voices are going to be heard… That the university cares about us as people,” a sentiment echoed in the initial mission statement. The Monarchs began as a reaction “during the [2016] election” started by now graduates of the university: Joseph, José, and Carlos, (surnames not given), when seeing Mexican students on campus being harassed in lieu of Donald Trump’s anti-immigration campaign. Since then, the organization has gained followers and held various events for the benefit of the immigrant community on campus, including the Student Food Co-op and Monarch Library, providing much needed resources for those without enough funds. With the meet and greet’s goal to get feedback and advice, the organization feels hopeful regarding the future.


Visual Studies Seminar Post #11: Final Reflection and Closing the Semester


Part 1: Faculty Presentations

I think I’m pretty biased on this one because Mr. Bryant is actually my History of Games professor, so I do know more context regarding his career and his thoughts about the video game industry. I think he did an excellent job personalizing his experiences while also providing an insider’s look into the industry. He was able to make the presentation emotionally engaging and informational, which I appreciated a lot. Plus, his sense of humor and comedic timing makes him all the more entertaining to see on stage; it adds in a touch of personality that suits the topic.

The other presenters were odd to me, though. First off, I don’t know if they coordinated their presentations to focus on children and development of family over time, but it was weird to say the least. The first, regarding the “downfall” of artistry to motherhood, then back to artistry again wasn’t as resonant to me. There was too little explanation to the current art the presenter makes due to her children’s influence, and what stuck with me instead was how she felt no qualms with blurting how her child was “an accident” and effectively destroyed her career. I appreciate honesty, and certainly empathize with people that have doubts about parenthood, but this is kind of on a whole other level of being brutally honest. It was very distracting, especially during her rants about how cute her kids were in the photoshoots, since I couldn’t get it out of my head that the same presenter a few minutes ago essentially condemned her same infants for wiping out her livelihood and crushing her dreams. It’s too mean-spirited to off-handed-ly mention as she did. None of the art pieces, to me, were able to communicate her change of heart and new creative outlet, however. I don’t know if it’s just not my style of photo-taking and editing, or my discomfort at the beginning of the presentation, but it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as Mr. Bryant’s was.

The final presenter’s art was intriguing, but, again, there were some points that left me uncomfortable. It’s a nitpick, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the theme of family using a CONSISTENT element of teenage pregnancy and motherhood. That issue has been a huge cause of stress for me, and being unprompted to watch girls younger than me pose for empty, monochrome shots holding their baby made me feel very sick. And it certainly didn’t help that the presenter made a comment about a few of the subjects that looked young being dead now. The photos stopped conveying family over time and instead made me think about tragedy, destiny, and societal expectations. It was very clearly not supposed to be a critique or a particularly sad piece, just an observation of some people over time, but it rubbed me the wrong way that teen mothers were a part of that message and intent. It was very unnerving to me.

Part 2: Final Reflection

This course has been a source for lots of well-needed information regarding Austin and its inhabitants for me! All in all, that’s also how I felt about this semester: I learned a lot about this new city, the new people, and new situations that I would have to adapt to. This course provided some resources to help me fulfill my aspirations in the IGS department to top it all off, too! I got some decent looks into the careers offered by the major, presenters showed what can be accomplished at St. Edward’s in the major, and I was able to have the opportunity to look at the works of local artists.

Sequence Pt.5- Completed Edits


Included in this post are all the final pictures for the sequence book, with proper editing and cropping in InDesign. The pictures all have appropriate coloring and moods to match the sequence of young, dream-like states to a more grounded, familiar environment. All that would need to be done now are prints.

Sequence Pt.4- Demo Book


The first draft of my book includes both work in progress and finished background pieces and fully integrated fonts for page numbers to represent a change in age. This book making progress truly is very laborious, I understand the pain that plagues most other content creators when creating their works, now. The actual printing requires so many steps, messing up the page indents requires a LOT of backtracking, the In-Design program can be archaic at times, and on top of that, there’s still tons of editing that I will need to do over the next few sessions to fully perfect the aesthetic of the book. Some edits were made from the drafts again, namely cutting out the first two pages since the book’s page count was not a multiple of four with them and further abstraction of the final few years to represent a mental development, plus cutting some character sketches needed.

The final steps are to draw the sketched characters, scan them in the pages, touch up existing backgrounds, and finish the remainder of the non-edited pages.

Visual Studies Seminar Post #10- More Presenters All the Time!


Part 1: Wildermyth Developers

The presenters for local game developing were a duo, a game artist and coder, presenting the development process and assets of their game in the making, Wildermyth. In their presentation, they specifically introduced their game to the audience, showed how the game’s aesthetics were created, showed both the problems and epiphanies made during the arduous development process, then discussed pieces of advice regarding their industry, focusing mainly on the differing qualities needed for working individually versus in a group versus at a corporation. While the great majority of their presentation was, well, presenting a game, seeing the actual thought process behind the creative decisions and the steps made to come to a natural conclusion was a learning experience in itself. It’s always beneficial to know the insider’s point of view in game development since they’ll be the most direct source of information regarding what one pursuing that field will do.

Part 2: Some Questions

  1. What students projects impress you the most?
  2. What do graduate students, students from previous years, etc. reflect on the most as their favorite part of learning at St. Edward’s, or more specifically, your class?
  3. Do students often come up to you asking for some help making connections in their respective field of study?

Sequence Pt.3- The Final Photos and Some Revelations


These are the final photos needed for the booklet project. I originally said I would focus on the sketches, but due to some time constraints regarding other classes, I had to focus on tasks that were more readily available for me to be able to work on, so I chose to knock out the rest of the scenery that would appear in the project. The weather really agreed with me, ironically, since the earlier stages in the book are more dream-like due to the nature of young adolescence feeling like a distant memory, something that feels fake but is presented as reality.

Additionally with this week I’ve made a final decision to cut the poems out of my project. It was an ambitious idea to be able to pull off effectively at my skill level with the other Adobe products and it would just clutter the page when the message gets across just fine enough as a textless picture book. Next week will hopefully be some drafts and final designs for the title page and some additional sketches of other characters.

Visual Studies Seminar Post #9: More Alumni and Internships


Part 1: Alumni Presentations

I personally found the presentations very inspirational! The speakers really did highlight how their personal experiences at St. Edward’s contributed to their successes in the working world. Mr. Ura’s work in SXSW was a shining light to me as an IGS major since it proved that the games business can be both fulfilling and plausible, plus he was very charismatic. I got a recommendation from another professor to attend the convention and I remembered about it because of him so it had a lasting effect on my mind. Mr. Zubia’s art was appealing, I enjoyed the simplicity of the designs and the effective shading on the pieces. It’s both aesthetically pleasing and emotionally impactful. Ms. Valle’s work was the most breathtaking for me though- I was captivated by her anecdote and felt the passion in her work. Social justice is important to me, so is striving for detailed art, so her works resonated with me on both a personal and visual level.

Part 2: Internships

  1. Say Sí– Media Arts Studio Intern
    • http://saysi.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/SAY-Si%CC%81-MAS-Intern-2016.pdf
  2. Blizzard– Software Engineer Intern
    • https://careers.blizzard.com/en-us/openings/ome75fww
  3. SXSW– Digital Media Intern
    • https://www.themuse.com/jobs/sxsw/digital-media-intern-bd2056

Sequence Pt. 2- Photo Assets


For this week of the Sequence project I mainly focused on gathering as many of the photographic backgrounds and other assorted assets of the book I would need in Austin. There are some photos I will need to go back to my hometown to use properly in my book, which I will be doing next week. This week is mainly a warmup for myself to get back on track with my artistic vision so I can fully dedicate myself to developing the project’s key aspects in depth later. Taking these photos is also useful in that it gives me a better idea of what tools I have to work with for setting up tone in some of my pages.

Next week I’ll focus primarily on getting the last of the photos and writing the poems for my book, hopefully get some more concrete character sketches to scan in or experiment with colors in the various programs we worked on.

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