ELSIE.NG

Product Designer from Toronto, currently working in stealth (prev. Unity3D and Twitch). Traveller and Collector of old, obscure, retro video games. Currently making a unique role-playing game and probably bouldering. MORE ABOUT ME →

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Is this thing on?

A review of this unprecedented ™ year

I’m beginning to think “hindsight is 2020” was some kind of message from a future time traveler that we all misunderstood.
I‘m not going to pretend that this was a great year. Millions died. Millions more filed for unemployment. There was injustice. I consider myself lucky to be able to more or less keep living and paying rent. Others are not so priveliged.
But let‘s try not to focus on the negatives here. 2020 was actually a great year for me in personal development. In work and in life, I‘ve made significant improvements to skills I wanted to have and better placed myself where I wanted to be. This year was not without its setbacks however. Physical health was a bit of a regression and something I‘ll need to work on in the new year. And my mental health is definitely an improvement over last year (something I will likely never talk about in a public manner) but still has room for improvement.
Officially moved back to Ontario 👍
Last year I made the move back to Canada, but wasn‘t quite living where I wanted to. I had accepted a new job and for 6 months I‘d be working in person at their offices before I could move to full-time remote work. At the end of February I moved back to my homeland of Ontario near where the rest of my family lives. It has been interesting being back. Yes there is weather and snow and seasons, but it is also nice to be in a city that doesn‘t revolve around startups and VCs and funding rounds and overpriced coffee. That is the trade-off I suppose for the city having less of a tech job market than Silicon Valley.
I was also successful at bringing Lacey across the border! This little munchkin was unfortunately not having a good time in the airport and on the airplane. Taking her through a needlessly slow security line was traumatic for the both of us and I hope to never have to do that again. On her first night at her new home in Canada, she was already exploring beyond her safe haven of the second bathroom. And in her first week, she would wail in the living room every night causing me to wake up and come out and sleep on the floor with her. But she acclimated after a few months and now peacefully sleeps through most nights in our bed except when she randomly decides she wants to be a terror. Thanks Lacey.
Full-time Remote Working 👍
Part of the agreement for accepting my latest job was to go full-time remote. It‘s something I‘ve always wanted to set up for myself, and I personally work better this way. I suspect a lot of people would be more productive if this option was available to them, but it is definitely not for everyone. I‘d say productivity at my place of employment is actually higher than it was now that we‘ve all gone remote, partially due to the flexible hours we work. Reid and I are lucky in that we forsaw the need for separate offices and opted for a three-bedroom apartment when looking in January. So working from home isn‘t as terrible as it would be if we still lived in San Francisco. Speaking of San Francisco, just looking a the rent numbers will show you just how many people were begrudgingly living in that city for their job when their hearts were telling them they wanted to be elsewhere. I suspect many are forced into this situation due to...
COVID-19 👎👎
Sigh. Nobody saw this coming, except for the people who saw this coming last November when the first reports from China started to pop up. I remember seeing news about this deadly disease as early as November of last year and immediately went out to buy a few personal hand sanitizers and some vitamin D. If you know anything about virus transmission, you‘d know that it doesn‘t take very long for a deadly virus to become worldwide in this day and age. We are more connected than ever and that includes viruses. And lo and behold COVID started making landfall in Europe in January, then spread to North America by March. That timing also happened to coincide with when I was supposed to be bringing Lacey to Canada, but threats of lockdowns and airport closures loomed. We figured lets not take the risk and bring her to the country ASAP. So I - along with many others trying to change their travel arrangements - waited on the line for Air Canada for hours. And hours. And actually nobody was getting through because Air Canada has maybe three people taking phone calls.
So we pulled some strings with Reid‘s dad who happens to fly a lot and is in Air Canada‘s top tier. They have a separate phone line apparently. I was able to get through to them fairly easily so I guess money can buy anything. HOWEVER, I still ended up waiting for over 2 hours because all requests to get accurate air fare still go through one bottleneck which is what was likely causing the most delay. I was able to fly the next day and bring Lacey back with me. San Francisco actually went into shelter-in-place on the day I was to fly out, so I suppose changing my flight was worth it.
For the most part here in Toronto, people are willing to wear masks and distance wherever they can. You still of course have some crazies in the outer Toronto areas so case numbers haven‘t been looking great recently. By months end, we could be looking at over 500K cases. Deaths have also been trending up. We don‘t know anyone personally who has contracted it, but both my family and I live in high case number areas we don‘t dare risk visiting each other for very long.
It has also been kind of awful for us mentally. Being stuck in an apartment all day every day starts to take its toll. We go for morning walks around the beautiful trails and paths at least to keep us moving and to get fresh air. But even the hermit that I am requires some time away from the home. I miss going to the theatre to see a movie. I miss going to the climbing gym. I miss dining out at a nice restaurant. I miss going to Christmas celebrations, travelling to see friends, and just travelling in general. We‘ve been doing our part in social distancing and staying particularly cognizant of folks who are more compromised than we are. But we hope this hell comes to an end soon. But as I said in my opening paragraph, things could be much worse for us.
Animal Crossing 👍
The first four months of this year were rather lonely for me. I was temporarily separated from Reid during this time and so the days and nights were just me, alone, in a mostly unfurnished apartment. But a little ray of sunshine appeared in the form of Animal Crossing: New Horizons in mid March. This game was nothing short of a much needed godsend with all of us being locked in our homes. Animal Crossing provided us an escape from our personal prisons. Being able to build up a fictional town, make friends with cute animals, and terraform an island to be what I want was a perfect excuse to stay inside. I was able to visit and invite friends and we were able to hang out, even if just virtually. I bet Nintendo are feeling pretty good about this release as it seemed like Nintendo Switches were impossible to find when the game came out and just about everyone you knew was playing it.
Added to my collections 👍
Okay this is really a thumbs-down-emoji for my wallet but I would regret not talking about how awesome my retro game collection is. It started with Pokémon and grew from there, but surprisingly I had most of my most-wanted games already in my collection from my childhood. In addition to games, Pokémon cards came back in a massive way this year with many big YouTubers rediscovering Pokémon and putting it back in front of audiences. I did most of my collecting for that last year but it was cool this year to be reunited with some vintage cards I had from childhood that are now worth hundreds of dollars.
Got out of shape 👎
Not going to sugarcoat this one. I dropped the ball this year and definitely became the most out of shape I have been in years. As much as I want to blame COVID or the craziness of moving back, I really had other options for working out more and I didn’t go for it. And on top of being lazy, I was not eating great either. Hoping next year I can get back to a bit of regularity, including physical fitness.
Formula 1 Returns 👍
After binge watching Drive To Survive on Netflix, I got really in to Formula 1. I bought merch, I even went as far as building a papercraft model of my favourite car. This season we watched every race, even when it started at 8am on a Sunday. Despite the shorter season and a generally predictable podium, there were a ton of excellent races at unconventional race tracks. My personal favourite races were Sakhir, Austria, and Mugello.
Went wide with many artistic endeavors 👍
If there’s ever something I want to learn, I’m the type of person who will go out and learn it. This year I:
  • Painted with gouache
  • Did Inktober (one ink drawing a day for 31 days) for the first time
  • Learned how to use ink brush pens
  • Modeled in air dry clay
  • Painted in acrylics
  • Bought my dream digital piano and started learning piano again
  • Started 3D modeling for 3D printing
  • Started learning shaders and rendering techniques
  • Learned techniques for watercoloring
  • Did a papercraft
  • Dabbled in hand-drawn animation
As a creative I just love the "Aha!" moment of creating something great that strikes you right in the heart. Or the feeling of gaining some understanding of how the creative process works. Next year I hope to keep pushing all of these skills and more. I simply just don’t want to stop.
Made real strong progress on game side projects 👍
I have a confession to make. I actually have 2 and a half side projects going on at the same time right now and tend to work on whichever tickles my creative fancies at any given moment. It has worked out surprisingly well so far as I have been able to (slowly) noodle on and build out the exact systems I want for each project and get to a point where all I now need to do is execute. I am currently at that point where I trust my design instincts enough that I’m confident that whatever I start building now will have legs to it and potentially be quite good after a few rounds of iteration.
I did have to make a notable compromise in that I decided against building my own specific tooling. Instead I would make use of tools that people have already made that fit my vision. It is still important to me to write my own core systems like the dialoguer and the battle system as I think that is where the greatest gains of going custom will lie. But for things like level building, where I’m not reinventing the wheel, there are many existing tools that fit well for my needs.
Posted Dec 31 2020
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