Trump Card

One more! Here’s my March #1gam:

Trump Card
a 2016 republican primary card game

Play as Republican presidential hopefuls debating a series of faux political issues through nonsensical arguments. A print-and-play card game for 2+ players.

It’s my first ever card game! I’m proud. It was so exciting, printing out the cards, putting them into sleeves and playtesting with some friends this week. Almost none of the things I usually create (songs, words) take physical form. But I can look at the stack of cards on my desk and see this game. It’s very satisfying.

The instructions cover the how, so I’ll talk briefly about the why. The prompt this months was “Arena”, and McFunkyPants (the organizer of #1gam) had suggested ‘the political arena’ as a possible take on that. That idea was percolating as I watched the March 3 Fox debate (the one where Trump reassured us there was “no problem” regarding his penis size) and I thought, YEP! this needed to be made.

My hope is that playing this game will get people familiar enough with the various fallacies that, the next time they watch a debate, they’ll recognize them. “Oh, that’s an ad hominem; that’s a slippery slope; that’s an appeal to authority…” That sort of knowledge is power. It lets you see the bullshit for what it is.

Finally — huge thanks to Kaley, Dan, and Matt for all their ideas! This game owes so much to their input and criticism. Standing on the shoulders of giants.

Wishing you as bullshit-free a 2016 US election as we can hope for,


If I Can Make It Here

Okay, just under the wire: my February #1gam game!

If I Can Make It Here
the indie-musician-big-city-misery rpg

You decide to leave your hometown, Toronto, to see if you can make it as a musician in New York. But jobs, apartments, and the sheer emotional strain of the city have a way of complicating things…

The theme this month was “home”, and that got me thinking about the tensions I’ve felt between New York, where I’ve lived for the last four-plus years, and Toronto, my hometown.

In this game, New York is an extremely demanding place where it’s very hard to stay on top of everything that matters to you: art, friends, work, and mental health needs all demand your attention, and unless you make some lucky rolls looking for jobs and apartments, you’re either going to run out of money or collapse emotionally. When that happens, you get bounced back to Toronto, which refreshes you but erases all your progress (effectively restarting the game).

The mechanics here are inspired by some of my favourite recent not-fun games — Darkest Dungeon, Papers, Please, and Depression Quest. The fact that just being in NY is draining is a riff on Darkest Dungeon hitting heroes with stress just for being in a dungeon. The central happiness stat draws on both Darkest Dungeon and Depression Quest. I’d love to make it even more DQ-like in a fuller version: ideally, being sad would limit the number of actions you can take in a day. The game loop centred around a day/night cycle of mostly unrewarding uphill struggle reminds me of Papers, Please.

What I’ve posted is just a prototype, but in a fuller version I’d like Toronto to be more than just a spawn spot. I’d like you to be able to do most of the things you can in New York, with the numbers balancing out a little differently: it’s hard to get terribly famous as a musician there, but it’s much easier to lead a balanced life. I’d be interested to see whether players of that more developed game would choose to keep trying their luck in New York  and keep going to pieces financially or emotionally, or whether they’d just settle for Toronto — where you can’t be as famous, but you can be happy.

Hopefully I’ll make that fuller version and find out! For now, enjoy… if that’s the word!



So: Werther-time has come and passed. That was a fantastic project, and I’m very proud of how it came out.

One aspect of it that worked very well for me was having a built-in structure of deadlines. As I turn my focus now to game development, I’m happy to have found something that offers the same combination of self-directed work with public-facing deadlines: the One Game A Month, or #1gam, challenge.

I’ve already got January’s game up: Dark Thoughts, a brief Twine game that I’m calling “An absurdist suicide comedy.” It draws on some of the atmosphere from the end of Werther and takes it somewhere a little weird. Check it out and let me know what you think!

My friend Daniel King, an experienced designer and terrifyingly clever person, turned me on to #1gam. His January game is Papillon Panic, a butterfly-hunting game.

Here’s to a fruitful year of game design! I’m looking forward to digging further into Twine. Unity too: I would love for February or March’s game to be in 3D. Whoo, so much to learn!

xo Arden

What’s Old Is New Again

I’m happy to announce that the Werther translation/adaptation I discussed so fervently two years ago and then put on hold is…totally happening now!

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 1.08.29 PM

To recap: Werther is an epistolary novel: it’s almost entirely made up of dated letters Werther sends to his best friend from home. I’m going to post each letter online on the dates Werther mailed them.

And — this is the really exciting part — I’ve set up an email list so that you can receive these letters as personalized emails in your own inbox. It’s going to be your friend Werther telling you his all-too-familiar story of obsessing over unavailable women and struggling to find a fulfilling job. I think it’s going to be a uniquely gripping experience.

I hope you’ll come with me on this one. Bookmark the blog or sign up for the emails and relive the joys and tragedy of What Werther Went Through!

Revamp and relaunch

Hi, everybody! A ton has happened in the, erm, embarrassingly long time since I posted here. But! I promise I can explain!

1. I made myself a promise a long time ago that every post here would have a *thing* in it. There are already a lot of voices crying in the digital wilderness, and I didn’t want to be one more nagging for your attention without giving you anything in return. That’s why every post here had a recording, or a drawing, or a bit of pop crit in it. Every post had to give you a produced work.

I’ve spent 2013 so far being good and arty, but not in ways that let me share any produced works. I was in a band for five months with two lovely friends, writing songs, rehearsing every week, and generally having the time of our lives. We never made recordings, though, and since the songs were our common property, I didn’t feel right making demos myself and sharing them here. So there was a lot of creativity but no finished product — and so no posts.

Sadly, that band split up a few weeks ago.

2. Now I’m trying to launch myself as a singer/songwriter/musician at large in New York, which is incredibly scary and is taking…well, just about as much work as you’d expect. (I. am. exhausted.) But it’s also incredibly exciting, and I’m very proud to point you to my new website qua musician:

Arden Rogow-Bales | songwriter/guitarist


That’s where you’ll find my new recordings*, music-related musings, and updates about my hopefully meteoric rise to stardom. You should totally add it to your Bookmarks folder.

“Oh, Something Arty”, meanwhile, will continue to cover the other facets of my ongoing dilettantism, including film/books/video games and whatever musical opinions I hold that are sufficiently inflammatory that I want to keep them away from my professional page. I’m looking forward to reviving the iTunes Top 10 series, and I have some posts about songwriting I’ve been sitting on for a long time. AND I’m even thinking about continuing the A Study in Sherlock series. Stick around!

And as always, my Twitter feed will play the great unifier, spitting out links to posts on both sites. If you’re interested in keeping tabs on both sides of me, that’s definitely the best way.

So! That’s where I’m headed now. I hope you’ll come with me.

Much love,

*A note on recordings: since I’m trying to be all professional and impressive and stuff, I’ve taken down all my recordings except “Whoa, Romney” and “Call Him Out”. All the covers had to go; it turns out I didn’t have the rights to post them to bandcamp, and I want to do this by the book. The other originals weren’t polished enough to stand as a first impression to whatever professional types might (hopefully) check me out. So I’ve also taken down all the posts on this site that featured recordings other than those two songs, which is consistent anyway with the general shift away from Arden-as-musician on this site.

Let me pick my jaw back up off the floor…

Sometimes I forget about AC/DC.

Sometimes I remember.

Jesus Christ.

They…they set the bar pretty high.

I have bands I turn to when I want to focus on some particular facet of pop excellence. The Beach Boys for vocal harmony. ABBA for pop hooks and production. The Police for part-writing. The Beatles for, well, sheer genius, which is a little harder to pin down.

But for power, for intensity, for cohesion as a unit, for drive, for professionalism, and above all for unrivaled, astounding showmanship — I’m telling you. This band. Geez.

Happy Birthday, blog!

It’s been exactly a year since “No-Sleep Blues”, the first post on “Oh, Something Arty…”, went live. What a year!

This time last November, I was struggling with my second attempt at National Novel Writing Month. At two weeks in, I was losing focus: I found myself sketching the characters instead of writing about them, and the writing itself was devolving into an extended rap battle. So I took a step back and said, “Being this productive is wonderful: but I don’t think this is the medium I need.” In that spirit, I launched this site as a place to share all the work I did in whatever “arty” medium pleased me: music, sketches, writing, whatever!

That worked well for a few months. There’s a nice smattering of drawings and recordings from that stretch – most notably “Shady Made Us”, my tribute to Eminem, the most-viewed post by mid-January.

But then – well, Sherlock happened. Continue reading