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Berlin – Week 6 & 7

4, Nov 2018

It’s Sunday
It has only been over a month but I somehow feel like I have known these people for a long time, and this place for a lifetime. I reconnected this week with Parham, one of the first people I talked to in university, and for some reason did not interact with as much again. And it was fun, he is a good man and quite smart, who I feel like has been unfairly ostracised, but he is doing very little to help his case. But I am not really sure if he even wants to correct it, I get the feeling he is fine with it.

But what I am definitely sure about is that I hate being the third wheel, I think everyone does. And I especially do not like it when people blame their shitty relationships on you just because you kind of interact with both of them. People are who they are, they are capable of change but will hardly make an effort to do so because the world already revolves around them.
Chemistry is a powerful thing, you might walk into a bar start talking to someone and then stop only to realise it has been hours or you might get stuck in a forced friendship with someone you have to see everyday but don’t really care for as much. In my experience the latter fizzle out but the former is forever.

I spent the Friday evening with Robyn (a woman, unlike any I have ever met before), Christopher (my partner for game mechanics class), Freddy (the human form of the words “Geek” and “German”) and Justin (he is Californian, but believes he is German). We had dinner together and then spent hours playing Mario Kart and Wii Sports. We chatted about everything and nothing, like you do, and got to know each other a little better. We are in the same class but it was the first time we hung-out outside of university you see. I like them.
And on Saturday, Tung and Hari came for a visit and we stumbled around the pool table and just ended up hanging out for a bit. I was kinda feeling gloomy so it’s good that they came, it’s always fun when we get together.

For the first week here each day was an adventure but just in a few weeks now, days have started merging into one and I can’t really tell one week from another. In one of my earlier blogs I complained about how monotonous life had become in India for the last year I was there. I fear if I don’t shake things up every so often I might end up in the same place again. But even if I do at least this time it’s a choice, my choice.

These past two weeks have drained me, not physically but emotionally.
I cried, for the first time since I moved here, and the weird part is that there was absolutely no reason, sometimes you just need to cry. No one hurt me, I am obviously not sad or depressed or homesick, I am having the time of my life. But still for some reason, last night, I just burst into tears and cried myself to sleep.

Why?
Samartha Ingle

Berlin – Week 5

21, Oct 2018

It’s Sunday
Unlike the week before, a lot happened this week. Interesting dynamics among friends were observed and shocking new information was revealed. For the sake of their privacy I will not write about this in this blog as it would then be public information and as such not be fair to them.
Lets just say their is a lot of DRAMA !!!!! both in and outside the university and I am trying my very best to not get sucked into any of it.

The goal is simple and it is clear and I cannot afford unnecessary engagements and distractions lead me astray. Thankfully, my blog, my reading, my shows, my games and my work all keep me extremely busy throughout the week.
Me and a couple of my new friends, Hari and Tung have made a pact (sort of) to do something together every weekend. I enjoy their company, they are honest, fun and hardworking guys with whom I am getting along very well.

I know I didn’t have a lot of friends back home but right now I find myself really missing the ones I had. I often find myself making comparisons between these new and old friends as if in a way I am trying to replace them.

How stupid is that ?
Samartha Ingle

Berlin – Week 4

14, Oct 2018

It’s Sunday
Not a lot happened this week so this will be short.
It’s been a month. That means I now have 41 months left to go before I graduate. This feels weird. I feel like I just got off the plane yesterday but in many ways I also feel like I have been here forever.
I am sure this does not make any sense to you but it does to me, it is the only way I can explain what I am feeling right now.
Have you ever been someplace you have never been before, but, for some reason, don’t ever feel lost or scared and just feel like you belong.

Anyways, classes are getting more and more interesting now that we have started with more practical work and are done with introductions (Thank God). There is a lot of creative and artistic freedom with how you go about your assignments which is something I really hoped for. I have been trying to do my best to take advantage of that and explore ideas and concepts I was too tied down or scared to try before. I Particularly like the ‘Mechanics’ and ‘Art ‘classes and even ‘Theory and history of games’ which I assumed would be boring is turning out to be quite interesting.

This weekend was a snooze fest. I just spent it in my room and down in the lobby mostly. It was kind of on purpose, didn’t feel particularly social this week.
Hey, but that’s what happens when you are an introvert, loner pretending to live like an outgoing, extrovert. You just stop functioning and spend the entire weekend getting drunk by yourself and watching emotional movies on Netflix all weekend.
Samartha Ingle

Berlin – Week 3

7, Oct 2018

It’s Sunday
Another week flew by and just like before a lot has happened. Back home I could not tell you what day it was. I was caught up in an infinite loop of doing the same thing over and over again, my own personal Groundhog Day nightmare. But I was in such a rhythm, so accustomed to my routine that one of my biggest fears was I would not be able to survive out of it. But the human mind is incredible, it forgets just as easily as it remembers and I count on that every single day.

I have met new people, made some new friends, every day I learn new things in and outside of class. This weekend I saw the Kreuzberg monument although I did not get to visit it. And explored a tiny bit of the Kreuzberg area with my German friend Klaus, a beautiful part of the city steeped in history. With old structures repurposed as residential and office buildings. Klaus’s apartment for instance is in what used to be an old brewery, Victoria Brauerei.

At university things are slow, a lot of things the professors teach I know already but it has not discouraged me enough yet. After three weeks of classes, it is pretty clear now what the first semester is going to be like for me. Not to say that its too easy for me, assignments still take time and are just as time consuming for me as everyone else. I have noticed that I have fallen back on my reading I still haven’t finished the two books I started in my first week in Berlin. Lets hope I find a way to fix that.

Also for some reason I have ate more butter chicken and Indian food in my three weeks in Berlin than I did in an entire year while in India.

Hmmmm…….wonder why ?
Samartha Ingle

Berlin – Week 2

30, Sept 2018

It’s Sunday
Another week in Berlin has gone by. Things have changed considerably. I no longer spend all my time cooped up in my room. When I came here there was hardly any one living here but since then every day people are moving in and now it seems full even a little crowded. Spending the evening downstairs in the lounge reading my book is now my favourite time of the day. I could just read in my room but I love sitting down here watching people doing there thing. A group of asians gathered around the pool table, playing, yelling at each other in Chinese. Two arabs hitting a tiny ball back and forth at the ping-pong table chatting, slipping in and out of Arabic. An American sitting on his own on the couch with his laptop staring into his phone bursting into little laughs and smiles once in a while. So many cultures, traditions, experiences all living next to each other in this German brutalist style student apartment building in the middle of Berlin.

I am no longer the only game designer living here which is good. In fact, my friend Ousama (spelled Osama… I know) who is in my class is the other game designer who lives here. He is from Syria. We leave for our classes together and seem to be spending most of our weekdays with each other given that our schedules are the same. We almost lost our voice on Friday uncontrollably laughing on the S-Bahn for no apparent reason when coming home from university. Aziz, another one of my neighbours who studies language is from Tajikistan. On Friday evening we went on a long walk across the city looking for alcohol and ended up at a bar where we bought two six-packs of beers with a little help from two very helpful German ladies who were smoking and drinking at the pool table. Along the way we swapped our stories. He seems to be one of those people that once you meet them you feel like you have known them all your life, like an instant best friend. He is funny, a joker, a care free person. But i sense pain in his past. Pain I will possibly never experience and might never truly understand.

Introductions to all my classes are now done, real work begins in the coming week. Oh, and just as I suspected I seem to be the oldest guy in class except for Isba (not sure if I spelled that right), an artist from Pakistan still figuring out her place in the games industry, who is a year older than me.
University assignments seem to be quite easy for now but then again we have just had one class for each course yet. But I have a feeling that first semester would go more smoothly for me compared to my peers some of whom have come here fresh out of high school or with very little game development experience (not that I am an expert or anything).

Have to keep my eye on the ball though, can’t let myself get too cocky.
We all know how that ends, especially me.
Samartha Ingle

Berlin – Week 1

22, Sept 2018

It’s Sunday,
I have now lived an entire week of my life in Berlin.
That is the most amount of time I have ever been outside the familiarity and security of my home and my home country.
The moment I walked out of Tegel airport I knew things had changed forever. Actually, now that I think about it, was it earlier than that ?
Yes, it was definitely way earlier that that, when exactly I could not tell you. Maybe when I first found out I got into the university, maybe when I booked my plane ticket, or maybe when I said good bye to my family at the massive gates of Chhatrapati Shivaji international.

I thought I would be scared, in fact, I know I was definitely nervous about being scared before I got here.
But, I am not.
For some reason fear eludes me. I cannot put my finger on what it is exactly that has transformed this nervous wreck into a passable pretend Berliner. Maybe my need to fit in, or the instant connection I felt with the city, I do not know. But whatever it is, it wakes me up in the morning and keeps me going. I can honestly go on for hours about the wonders of this amazing city but that would have to be on another day. Today I wanted to look in, feel everything and try to make sense of those feelings. I try as much as I could to avoid doing this cause it sends me down a spiral that I really don’t want to go down, but if I don’t do this at least once in a while I feel like I won’t remember any of this.

It is funny how much life changes its shape, its meaning and its very reason as you flow through it. If some one had told me a year ago that today I would be in Berlin, I would not have believed them. But thats the thing, a year before that I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do next. Every option was an option for me then. And as freeing as that sounds, it is in fact quite frightening, I cannot live like this and I barely did back then. And a couple years before that I spent most of my time thinking to myself ‘what the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.’
Do I belong here ?
Time will tell.

I hope I do.
Samartha Ingle

Reading Update #2

May, 2017

So this is the first time that I am posting on a Sunday like I had assumed when I worked out my new schedule. This being the first week of the month, I didn’t do much of anything else other than read some of the books from my Want to Read shelf on Goodreads. But before I get into that I would like to say that the reason why I did not post anything the last week of April is because I just didn’t feel like I had anything worth sharing, you know? I spent the entire week on my playstation and just generally staring into empty space. Anyways, here are the books I read this week.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, parts one and two
by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage.

I am pretty sure that some of the hardcore Harry Potter Books series’ fans are going to be really disappointed with this, but I personally loved it. First of all, this is a play and so you must not compare it with the previous books and secondly, I am glad that it is. The Harry Potter series had an incredibly sad, melancholy but satisfactory end for me and many others, I do not want another Harry Potter book. So, this was really refreshing to go back to this fantastical, magical world and its quirky characters in a more emotional, dialogue driven and dramatic rendition. This is also possibly the first and only play that I have read so I can’t really compare it with anything but I would say that I did really enjoy it. It was fun to meet, once more, Harry and the rest of the gang, to see them tackle with issues of parenthood, family and work drama and so on. This is a definite must-read for all Harry Potter fans.

Glitch
by Hugh Howey

Glitch

When a robot defies his programming, is he broken? Or is he something else? A short story of 5,000 words.

Artificial intelligence and its boundaries is a topic that is dissected to the bone and in that way their is nothing here of novel value; but Hugh Howey’s incredible writing style, fantastically imaginative work building, incredible characters and intriguing plot did turn this short read into one of my all time favourites. Although it did feel solid and complete when I first read it, after mulling over it a few more days, I can no longer hold back this feeling of wanting more. To have some way of taking a quick peek somehow just to see what happened next. But overall, an Hour well spent.

Gutenberg the Geek
by Jeff Jarvis

Gutenberg the Geek

Johannes Gutenberg was our first geek, the original technology entrepreneur, who had to grapple with all the challenges a Silicon Valley startup faces today. Jeff Jarvis tells Gutenberg’s story from an entrepreneurial perspective, examining how he overcame technology hurdles, how he operated with the secrecy of a Steve Jobs but then shifted to openness, how he raised capital and mitigated risk, and how, in the end, his cash flow and equity structure did him in. This is also the inspiring story of a great disruptor. That is what makes Gutenberg the patron saint of entrepreneurs.

You might have heard of Gutenberg but not necessarily know anything about him. He is basically the man who invented the printing machine a technological marvel that changed the world for the coming centuries. The book is quite informative and such amount of facts from so little a number of pages is always good. Some people scowl at the analogies made to compare Gutenberg’s endeavours to the Silicon Valley startups and him to Steve Jobs; but being a tech person myself I didn’t really mind it as much. I’ll be honest this wasn’t the most well written thing I have read but it was informative, to the point and if you put aside the unnecessary plug to the authors other book at the end it was a fine read overall. If you aren’t that interested in Gutenberg, the IT sector or the technology industry you can skip this one, don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.

Safety Tips for Living Alone
by Jim Shepard

Safety Tips for Living Alone

In “Safety Tips for Living Alone,” Jim Shepard weaves the stories of four families whose lives are upended when the men go to work on a dangerous and isolated surveillance platform off the coast of Long Island. After working his way up to Captain, career serviceman Gordon Phelan is offered the command of Texas Tower 4—a wobbly “box over the ocean.” Among the team of military personnel and civilians joining Phelan aboard the platform are Roy Bakke, Wilbur Kovarick and Louie Laino, three strong and dutiful men trying to ensure better lives for their families. But when a powerful storm approaches the Tower, the four men—and everyone on board—must face their increasingly probable deaths.

In his introduction, Joshua Ferris writes “There’s no better way to describe the experience of the reader of Shepard’s reimagining of this forgotten, misbegotten episode in American history” than to say one is “moved and appalled.”

Games Design Update #1

April, 2017

Being a game designer is hard, for you have to religiously invest a bulk of your time in doing two important tasks, playing games and making them.

Playing Games

When I say, a game designer must play games. I do not mean play only that one game that you really love. That won’t teach you anything, you must play all kinds of games even the one you necessarily won’t play in your spare time. When a game designer plays a game he or she dissects every game mechanic and inspects it thoroughly. Investigates why a particular design element or mechanic is part of the game? Does it achieve what is expected from it? Does it seem forced? Why is it designed the way it is? Is it balanced? What does it contribute to the game play? and so on.

It is a chaotic but educated study that happens at any and every given moment when a game designer plays a game, as a designer. That is the difference between a gamer and a game designer. That is the difference between saying “This is a good game” and “These are the exact reasons why this is a good game”.

I don’t remember the last time I played a game where I didn’t immediately stop and start analysing it. I do have to force myself and remove the designer within me so as to enjoy a game through a gamer’s perspective. I know it sounds really pretentious but it happened so gradually that I never even realised when did I transform in to a game designer from an avid gamer.

The sheer amount of games out there is mind numbing and one human being couldn’t possibly own and play all of those games in a single lifetime. Although I must say I do play as many games as I can on console and on PC. But classical and modern board games is something I have never truly gotten into from an educational or a professional perspective or even just for fun. Something that I have been wanting to do for a long time. For surely nothing is more purely a game than a board game.

This is where I give my eternal thanks to the power of the internet. It is a powerful enlightenment tool. I recently happened upon Geek & Sundry on YouTube and have been practically addicted to their Tabletop series with Will Wheaton where he plays the best of modern board games and which introduces me to new games that I do not own or have no time to play. Because I spent most of my time watching Tabletop on Youtube and reading my Bible (The Art of Game Design) I felt educated and inspired enough to set out to design board games of my own and so I did exactly that.

Making Games

I had so much fun making board games and me and my family have been playing them non stop for the past week. One of them is a quick card matching game and the other is a tile placement board game. They are still prototypes meaning most of the game pieces and cards are just cut out pieces of paper coloured in with sketch pens and it does not look pretty. But still I will update the complete rules and final art when it is done in the future. But for now here is a quick overview of what these games actually are,

Game #1 – Super Market Rush (Working Title)

Time – 10 to 15 mins

Super Market Rush is a quick card game where 2 to 4 players try to be the first to complete the set of items on their Shopping List either in hand or on table to win.

Game #2 – Zoo Mania (Working Title)

Time – 60 to 90 mins

Zoo mania is a card and tile placement board game where 2 to 4 players compete with each other to create the most amazing zoo by building unique Habitats and adding cute Animals that live there. You get bonus points for creating special combinations of Habitats and getting special Animals to live in your zoo.

I will probably now continue to work on these games a little bit more, play test them with my family, watch movies and Table Top, write and read something new and pondering over the questions of the irrefutable existence of the universe.

Peace.

Reading Update #1

April, 2017

This month I was not able to read as much as I had hoped but still I was able to finish two very short but amazing reads namely ‘The Call of Cthulu by H.P. Lovecraft’ and ‘Guns by Stephen King’ I also read ‘The Art of Game design : A Book of lenses by Jesse Schell’ but that book is more of a bible, in that it is referred to almost every time I design a new game.

The Call of Cthulu
by H.P. Lovecraft

The Call of Cthulhu

The Call of Cthulhu is a terrifying trilogy of horror stories that has influenced writers like William S. Burroughs, Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti and Stephen King.

This story highlights many of the, now famous, lovecraftian themes like pre-human civilisations, occults and secret societies, lost or forbidden knowledge, old gods and unspeakable horrors. This short 32 pages book is a must read for any fan of speculative fiction, horror or someone who just wants to know how to write a story that keeps your readers stuck on your every word from the beginning to very end.

A quick google search will give you many images of Cthulhu himself but none will terrify you to your core than the image that Lovecraft paints in your mind with his words. I literally jumped off my bed when I heard a low grumble from my neighbours apartment. This is my first Lovecraft experience and I can’t wait to read more by him. I Can’t recommend this book enough.

Guns
by Stephen King

Guns

In this essay Stephen king sets down his thoughts about gun violence in America. Me not being an American slightly had difficulty to wrap my head around some of what Mr.King was talking about. I did try to research almost all the shooting incidents that were mentioned and read as much as I could about the people involved and I was already aware of the Sandy Hook tragedy. I am personally in favour of banning all guns outright but as Mr.King points out that is just not going to happen (which I don’t really understand but I also don’t mean to offend). King, who is apparently a registered owner of three handguns and have written ‘The Gunslinger‘ Series, gives his opinions and facts on America’s ‘Culture of Violence‘. He also mentions a book that he authored in his teens called ‘Rage‘ which was found in possession of multiple of these young shooters and he felt responsible to take it down, which he did. Regarding which he says,

” I didn’t pull Rage from publication because the law demanded it; I was protected under the first Amendment, and the law couldn’t demand it. I pulled it because in my judgement it might be hurting people, and that made it the responsible thing to do. Assault weapons will remain readily available to crazy people until the powerful pro-gun forces in this country decide to do a similar turnaround. They must accept responsibility, recognising that responsibility is not the same as culpability. They need to say, “We support these measures not because the law demands we support them , but because it’s the sensible thing.”

If you are concerned or even aware of the seriousness of the state of America’s gun control you must read this. Because in most cases the lives lost are regrettably of young children who didn’t even had a chance at life.

Biting off more than I could chew

April, 2017

So as it turns out trying to write, read, design and be a socially acceptable human being all at the same time and retain a shred of my sanity is something that is really hard to do, who knew ? and somehow cramming all of that in a 24 hour day and then trying to accomplish a fraction of each is just not getting me anywhere.

I accept it.

I am not a Muti-tasker.

As a human man my brain is just not equipped to process so much information at the same time. But I am an excellent organiser, so here goes…

I have decided to split up everything I wish to accomplish into separate categories and then record and keep you updated of my progress here on this blog.

Reading

In these posts I will record and briefly review the books I have finished reading since the previous update, simple enough.

Writing

Now I know I am gonna get some flak for this one. As artists we know that inspiration won’t come to you when you want it to, in my experience it comes any time other than when you want it to. And I know a writer must write everyday, But unsettled ideas get turned into short scribbled notes all the time and characters get developed in the subconscious as you bathe, eat, sleep and carry on with your dull lives. What happens to these ideas, characters and their stories WILL be explored by your truly and then of course I will let you know about them.

Games design

I think you have an idea by now what I am trying to say here. yes, you guessed it right. All the game ideas for either board or digital games, designed and prototyped will be kept record of here in these games design update posts.

 

I am hoping that with this I will be able to successfully focus on my separate pursuits and have a record of it somewhere for myself and for you the readers.

“A jack of all trades and a master of each one.”

(Wow! I am really full of myself)

Wish me luck.