#LISmentalHealth and the state of the me


This is me, all the time, i have no off switch.

Since I last seriously posted on this topic, things are different.  My job is still insane, I wear so many hats, I resemble a hat stand.  I’ve also picked up some professional association appointments along the way, because apparently I seem responsible and competent.  So, with more and more stuff on my plate (oh dear god, so much stuff), how do I keep all my balls in the air?

I have no idea.  I have a to-do list, a calendar, an overflowing email, fencing practice and a running schedule.

The issue with mental illness is that you’re just waiting for the next bout to strike.  It’s lurking there, like that cold your cubemate brought to work from home, and you try to disinfect your side of the desk, but it is no match for the germs.  Eventually it will come.

This seems fatalistic of me, but I’m never far away from a depressive episode.  My goals this year, brain wise are to continue the good habits I picked up last year, and to add a couple of good habits (the first one, “eat balanced meals” has been going well).  That being said, my mental health was not 100% for the entire year.

I am hoping that a raft of good habits can help me stave off depression and anxiety a bit longer between episodes.  It might not.  But every little bit can help, and with something like 24 years of experience with depression and anxiety, I can tell you that it’s a battle fought and won by inches.

There’s hope.  And when every victory is hard, it doesn’t hurt to celebrate a little.  So here’s to making through another year and meeting my goals, and here’s to a year where my goals are bigger and hairier, but achievable.



Authenticity, Archives, Storytelling, and Gaming

As an archivist, I spend a lot of time thinking about documentation, what makes one document indicative of one period or another, what makes the probable date of a photograph be the 1890s instead of the 1870s, what makes this computer file the authentic copy that the donor wanted to send me, versus some weird copy I got off a disk.   Basically, I think about the things that make something real.

Authenticity is important in a host of areas, from relationships (is this person being honest with me?), to websites (What do you mean the certificate isn’t good?), to what your aging relatives say (I’m pretty sure the internet isn’t a series of tubes…). It is especially important in academia, and storytelling.    Writers have this mostly down already.  There’s a whole host of ways to fact check your latest story. There are communities dedicated to checking to see if a story “feels” real. No one expects a 1:1 relationship to reality in fiction, so the feeling of authenticity is especially important.  I would argue that it is one of the things that drags you into the world.

Games however, sometimes seem to miss this, which drives me up the wall.  As someone who spent her early years steeping in history like the world’s strongest tea, watching games tackle various time periods (and/or fantasy worlds) nearly always ends badly, which baffles me, because it’s easy to find various pieces of evidence that will make your world more realistic.  Basically, if you’re making a game located in the last 200 years or so, you have documentation of what it was like back then, often with photographs, or plates, you have newspapers, diaries, invitations, pieces of clothing, artifacts… There’s no excuse to miss this stuff.

I’m going to pick on The Order 1886 (Located in a real time period, in a fantasy London), since it started this whole line of thought.

Ironically, the production designers for The Order did see old photographs from London:

Which is pretty nifty.  That looks like Big Ben.  Good job.

Let’s ignore the landmarks and look at some street views of London:

There are at least 7 questionable things in this image

Ok, there’s a lot going on here.

First, let’s talk about what they did right.

-The post box is pretty much correct.  It might not be 100% accurate, but it’s A.) close enough, and B.) an important recognizable marker of modern British life.

Except it doesn’t entirely feel authentic.

This place is way too tidy.  It feels sanitized.  There are no homeless children ( a HUGE issue during this period).  This looks like England a la Epcot.

The building on the far left is probably more at home in 1930 than 1880.  The overhanging thing looks more French than British.

Weirdly enough, the designers made the woman’s dress wider than it was, showing a lack of restraint in skirt width that fashionable member of 1886 society would have found old fashioned, but I’m tempted to give them a pass on this since I’ve never seen a video game render a skirt well.  Still, one would suspect it would be easier to design an authentic skirt and it’s movement than a wider skirt.  The gentleman on the right is wearing hunting clothing(?) which makes him look out of place on a city street.

There’s a few markers here, but the one that struck me immediately were the fonts.  They don’t look right.  They look very modern. for example, here’s an 1890s picture of Elephant and Castle.

While modern design prides itself on it’s cleanness and simplicity, the Victorians did not seem to care for ANY of that.  Look at all that text. All those fonts. The game image?  It shows restraint, something that Victorian sign makers clearly didn’t think applied to them.

Again with the fonts:


Look at that white space.  Look at those photographs (probably too expensive to print which is why there aren’t a lot of photographs on extant mass media).  Here’s a flyer for an event taking place 4 years later.

1st font, second font, 3rd font, 4th font, floor

I could go on and on with this stuff.

If your story or game play are good, then you can maybe be less accurate in your portrayal of a time period of location. Little details can make or break an environment, and when you ignore them in favor of something else (The Order 1886 did not receive glowing reviews), then you’re basically saying you don’t care if the world is believable. People want to enjoy themselves and will give you the benefit of the doubt.  If your story or game play are not great, focusing on the world building details can help people gloss over the problems (see: Bioshock Infinite).

Authenticity matters, especially if you want to tell a story.  This has always been the case.  Stories are great because part of us wants to believe that they are true, even if the story is as implausible as werewolves and magic in London.  Anything that pulls the audience out of the world will damage your ability to tell a story or create an experience.  People who tell stories must be aware of that and understand the important role it plays in hooking an audience.

Image sources are as follows

  1. Image from The Order 1886‘s website.
  2. In game still from The Order 1886.
  3. Elephant and Castle intersection, taken from playingintheworldgame.wordpress.com. If someone could provide a better citation or repository, that would be wonderful.
  4. In game still from The Order 1886.
  5. From the Jewish Museum, London. Image taken from http://www.theguardian.com/politics/gall/0,,1443388,00.html

Crazy Pants in the Archives


Most of my professional circle does not know that I have major depression and anxiety.  I’ve had these lovely brain chemicals as pets since I was in elementary school, and they’ve continued to tag along to everything I do.  They’re like very creative and poorly trained dogs.

Unless you met me before 2006, you don’t know me without medication. I know many people see medication as something that dulls the mind and creativity.   I see medication as my way to actually live a normal life.  I don’t always freak out about going out with friends.  I don’t always spend my time convinced I am a failure.   I’m not always angry and frustrated with myself for this shit.   I still have those feelings but I don’t feel like dying about it 98% of the time.

I am more confident now.  I don’t apologize for what I like or think as much anymore.  I know I’m competent, despite occasional impostor syndrome.  Part of this isn’t meds, but rather a few years of therapy and self-help books.

To be honest, without some medication, I probably wouldn’t have made it through library school.  I probably wouldn’t have gotten a job.  I probably wouldn’t be here right now writing this.

That brings me to being crazy in the archives.  When I left my first archives job, I was convinced I didn’t want to do archives again, because I had felt so isolated from everyone both personally and professionally, despite the fact that archives are a good places for me to be.

Archives are filled with people.   Mostly dead ones, but I can’t hold that against them.  And as someone who goes in and sees archives as a world of stories to be shared, I think the best thing I can do professionally is share those stories, and occasionally help our students make them up.  The best thing I can do for my collections in the long run is to lower the ratio of dead people to live ones in the archives.


Analog Outreach!


For me, the quiet, sit in the basement archives experience isn’t for me.  Since that’s what I thought I wanted as a young whippersnapper, I am learning the skills to reach my community, in part because I’ve been the super crazy pants in the archives, and I know that’s no way for me to be.