Penang is almost half Chinese, and we live close to the heart of Chinatown. So it should be no surprise that the phrase “Happy New Year” has been the favoured greeting the last few days (without the “Chinese” qualifier). The new year is celebrated over a full week, culminating in what promises to be a giant party this coming weekend. It starts with a bang, too — fireworks, strung lanterns, drum playing, and tiger and dragon dances. But, between the first and last days of the celebration, the streets are unexpectedly calm. Based on our own New Year celebrations, I expected an eastern Mardi Gras this week, but it’s exactly the opposite. Every Chinese shop is closed (I mean, all of them — we have to go to Little India for food). Most people fly back to their hometowns, taking a break from work, restarting the year with their loved ones. The closest western analogy is Thanksgiving. Not exactly what I envisioned in the land of dragons and fireworks. But, talking to the few Chinese friends we’ve made, I’ve begun to admire the tradition — even if my favourite pork buns aren’t around for another week. It’s a time of family, reflection, and wishing for prosperity. Hope this year goes well for us too! Gung hay fat choy!

This is The Year of the Fire Monkey in the Chinese zodiac, characterized by ambition, adventure, and a tendency towards irritability. The most apt description I’ve heard for the year thus far. Want to get in my head? I’m writing this post in the most frustration I’ve felt since leaving California. I’m finally realizing the mountain between me and writing a murder mystery — who am I, trying to scale this beast? Maybe the Fire Monkey calls it ambition, but there’s a bit too much hubris here too. And this adventure I’m on? What’s the point? How is this helping me get to my dream? Am I just too distracted out here? It’s been four full months and I barely have anything to show for it. What type of game developer doesn’t even make games? You see where the irritability comes in?

But the step backward only comes after two steps forward. I am making progress. Slowly. Painfully slowly. But it’s happening. Earlier this week I finished writing an interactive introduction to my game. I mean, the introduction. The will-be-in-the-game introduction. The first thing I’ve written that I intend to actually have in the final piece. Sure, it’ll change — it’s just the first draft. But that felt good. Now, I just need to set up the mystery and let my players solve it any way they want to. How hard could that be? Time to get back to it.

Background image by Amanda Gansfield

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