2016: A Year in Review

We’ve reached that time of year again, a time where snow seems like a memory from years past, where most supermarkets seem to be preparing for Easter and where it’s almost impossible to avoid a certain Christmas song. It’s also a time to reflect, to look back at the year and remember the good that has happened. So, what I’ve decided to do is write a post about how my year has been.

From about December last year until the end of June, I was one of the writers for a community story on a Minecraft survival server (Minecraft is going to become somewhat of a theme here, I’m guessing). Our main plot was of a Mafia aiming to spread its reach throughout the world and of a small group of people (hello!) with a fairly foolish goal of stopping them. We tried to create our story in a different way to what we’d seen before with machinimas. Our entire story took place live on Twitch (as if the pressure wasn’t already enough) with the person who’s perspective was being streamed not being one of the writers - he was reacting to our dialog without any preperation and without quite knowing what was going on. He could talk to us and, in character, we could respond with dialog that would progress the story. It was a big project to take on, because we didn’t want to put on an entirely improvised show - by the end of the narrative, we had about 50 pages of scripts in a shared Google Doc. We also had scripted branches, so that the illusion of choice could be presented whilst we kept control. I’ll admit that it was a lot of work, but seeing the reaction from the chat to the small thing we decided to add (such as an in-game radio station that the characters would hear in certain locations) made the entire thing worth the effort.

Another project that I was a part of, this time from about April onwards, was a full Minecraft gameshow (which I’ve talked about before). Since that post, we’ve had another show, and in an effort to make our lives ever harder, we streamed the show ourselves with multiple camera angles. And, in the end, it wasn’t a complete disaster - in fact, it actually went quite well! Instead of our normal “choose six contestants ourselves” method of preperation, we chose three contestants and hoped that at least three people from the Twitch chat would want to join in as well. Lo and behold, we had a few (read: enough to be a scary number) people try to join in! It was fantastic fun, and I’m incredibly thankful to be able to take part. The nights can be stressful (that’s another theme, by the way: live events are scary) and a lot of work needs to go in before them, but seeing people reacting in chat and rooting for their favourites? The feeling that gives just can’t be matched.

Personally, I have been trying to improve my own programming skills. This has taken a few forms: at various times through the year I completed challenges on CodinGame in Python 3, in May I started playing Human Resource Machine - a brilliant game about solving puzzles in a version of Assembly, and throughout November and December I have been working on a website in HTML/CSS/JS for a Minecraft MMO server that I play on to show statistics from their public API. I also created a small quiz game that runs on a hosted server (using the python library hug) and is able to keep track of many different players at the same time. Though the projects I’ve been working on are relatively simple, they’ve been invaluable for me. In the past I’ve generally stuck to smaller scripts, but these projects have required that I start working on a larger scale than I’m used to, and this will undoubtedly come in useful in the future.

Speaking of the future, I spoke in this post in September about the fact that I was quite scared of the prospect of going to university next year. I’m further along the process now, to the point where I have 2 offers back, and 2 interviews to attend. Somehow, I’m less scared than I was then - probably due to the fact that, at the moment, there isn’t anything I can do other than wait for my interviews and the final university to respond. Oh, the joys of the application process. Incidentally, this post has turned out to be longer than my personal statement. How come I was able to write this much about the year but hardly anything about myself a couple of months ago!?

There are so many things in this world that I am thankful for, and I don’t think I say it nearly enough. I’m thankful for the community that I’m a part of - there’s no way I’d be the person I am without it. I’d not have written dozens of pages of scripts, I’d not have spent hundreds of hours working on a gameshow without them. I’ve spent literally thousands of hours this year alone talking to them. Through highs, through lows, we’ve been there for one another and I genuinely don’t know how I’ll ever repay them. Or you, if any of you are reading this. :-)

I’m thankful to my friends at school. They’ve been there for me, some of them for the best part of a decade, through GCSEs and now A Levels. They’ve been there whilst we tried to understand the meanings of poems, or why balls on slopes are assumed to slide and not roll, or how to implement a bubble sort. Friends with different areas of interests but all still important to me.

I’m thankful to my family, too. There are days when I seem to cut off contact from the world outside of my bedroom, but my family have always been there for me when times have been difficult (*cough* university application *cough*). There is so much to thank them for that I simply won’t be able to fit it all here, but thank you all. <3

And so, I’ve reached the end of my Year in Review post. I won’t say to expect another one next year (what with university being a thing), but I’ll try to keep this blog active throughout 2017.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and, until next time, o/