A Tale of Two Semesters

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” carries a lot of weight for me with regards to the fall semester that I just completed.  In addition to my ETC project, I also took RPG Writing as an elective, while simultaneously acting as one of six Visual Story TAs for the first-year students.  I also participated on a successful Pitch Project team and completed an extracurricular project on AR sound design at the same time, so I guess I should solve world hunger next.  Kidding.

Anyway, all of these endeavors carried with them complicated results.  My ETC project never gelled in harmony together the way HomeFront did, and as a result our final product ended up more incomplete than we had hoped, which was a letdown.  Also the stuff I had wanted to do on the project – creative design and a lot of playtesting – ended up becoming secondary, and producing has never been my primary interest.  Also, I didn’t get to do as much hands-on TA work that I had wanted to do, but I got to see Visual Story from the other side, watch first years grow over the course of the semester, and ran some fun workshops, which was good.  And while the extracurricular sound project I was on didn’t end up winning, we had a lot of fun making it.

The biggest successes for me came from RPG Writing and on the Pitch team.  Following the summer, my confidence was struggling to find itself, but in RPG Writing, I ended up back in the environment I feel the most comfortable in – writing.  Me and the team I was on managed to sift through a 500-page book on the IP Mindjammer and managed to create a campaign story that’s pretty cool.  I’ve heard from many professionals that writing in the real world is a team endeavor, and this was my first time being on a writing team.  And – wouldn’t you know it – I felt comfortable and self-actualized on a writing team and felt confident in my ideas.

The same can be said with the pitch team – I was brought on as the required second year, yet I still felt that my knowledge of the process and of general storytelling was impactful in our project getting picked up for next semester – we will be exploring spatial jump cuts in VR, so look out for new links to our project website soon.

Oh, and during all of this, I submitted a VR story I developed, Don’t Be Afraid, to the XR Alliance, a competition for writers.  I didn’t win, but I was selected as one of 11 finalists out of more than 600 applicants, so I’ll take it.

But beneath all of this professional minutiae is the social element.  The pitch team gelled instantly, laughing about movies and having brainstorming sessions that were always full of smiles.   One of the guys I worked on RPG Writing with, whom I had also worked with over the summer, felt like he always had my back, and vice versa.

Beyond that, I made some wonderful friends at CMU this semester.  It’s all well and good to be a part of a great group of people, but that’s not the same as having people to connect to and confide with on a personal level about work, life, anything.  I’m not gonna call you out, but if you were either my co-producer on my project, or my fellow TA who happened to write a script with me about a mindmap, you know who you are.  Thanks folks.

So yeah – my ETC project was not as successful as I or any of us wanted it to be.  But at the same time, I started the semester feeling a bit untethered, professionally and socially, and now it’s better.  In that sense, this has been my most rewarding semester at the ETC.

One more semester to go.  Let’s make it count.

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