A New Beginning and No Ending

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Hello, again! πŸ‘‹ It’s been a few months since I’ve been in your inbox. Love what you’ve done with the place! Those “time sensitive” political donation emails are so you.

I think maybe a re-introduction is in order.

Equip Story is the newsletter formerly known as Adventure Snack. To be clear, Equip Story is gonna be a departure from what I was writing before. It’s more like Equip Story is the legacy sequel to Adventure Snack. If Adventure Snack was Ocarina of Time, then Equip Story is Breath of the Wild. (Wow, that Zelda comparison is gonna be super hard to live up to!)

I’m the author of Adventure Snack. Yup, it’s lovable ol’ me, Geoffrey Golden! You know me from publishing 100 text adventure games via my Adventure Snack newsletter over the past 4.5 years. I’m a 15 year veteran narrative designer and game developer. I’ve worked with Ubisoft, Capcom, Square Enix, and indie studios around the world. My independently produced games have been featured by IndieCade, Narrascope, WordHack NYC, San Diego Comic-Con, and other fine folks. It’s been a good run so far. Lots of career achievements unlocked.

This is a newsletter about how to make game development as fun as playing games. Every week, I’ll be writing to you about about the strange and exciting new games I’m developing and how I’m making my creative process more fulfilling. Adventure Snack was a show, but now I’m taking you behind the curtain. I hope what I learn will be useful to you, whether you’re a game designer, a writer, a visual artist, or some other type of degenerate weirdo. (As a degenerate weirdo myself, I’m reclaiming the term.)

If the new direction of my newsletter doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to unsubscribe at any time. The link is at the bottom of the email. No hard feelings, I promise. Only soft weeping. Kidding! I’ll be fine! Maybe!!!

For those of you brave enough to take this journey with me, thank you for your support. It’s been a longer, weirder road to get to this launch than I thought it would be at the end of last year, when there was all this dumb drama with my old email service provider. I never thought I’d write “drama” and “email service provider” in the same sentence, by the way. I’ll talk more about Substack and why I left next week. Today, I want to write to you about endings. In this case, the lack of one.

Honestly, I’m very excited and a little anxious about this project. Why anxious? It all goes back to my teen years in the late 90s. Back then, before video game writer was a profession, I wanted to be a comedy writer and performer like my hero Steve Martin. I was a total comedy nerd. I might be the only teen at the time who bought Limp Bizkit’s “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water” specifically to hear Ben Stiller’s outro.

So, I was an awkward teen, and I couldn’t figure out how to write a screenplay. I reverse engineered adjusting the tabs in my pirated copy of Microsoft Word to imitate the way a professional screenplay looks (sloppily). I could write the opening pages, no problem. Openings are great! Beginning a new project is the best! I’ve got so much energy and excitement let’s-a gooooooo! But inevitably I’d get stuck in the middle, usually on how to resolve a tricky plot point that came up as I was writing. This thorny plot point would then derail the vague idea in my head of how the story would end. That’s how my Powerpuff Girls spec script broke down. It was like I had the sugar, spice, and everything nice, but I was missing the binding agent of Chemical X to turn the script into three superpowered preschoolers.

Eventually, I figured out “Chemical X” is a well-crafted outline. As a writer, I needed to know where the story was headed, so I could plan the route to get there. Now, whenever I begin a game story I write with an outline or a visual diagram. They give my stories a proper backbone. If I get stuck, I can always turn to those docs to remind myself of what I’m doing. Of course, I still run into plot detours as I write. I’ll even change the ending in the middle of writing, or add two new endings in the case of interactive fiction. Sometimes you discover a miraculous new direction in the middle of the process. But when I do, I rewrite the original outline or change the diagram, so the new destination is clear to me.

But with Equip Story, the destination is not clear to me. For the first time in decades, I’m writing without an outline. It’s invigorating. It’s dangerous. It’s a more accurate reflection of my life. The anecdote above illustrates how I’ve thought of my creative career. When I was a teen, I wrote TV spec scripts – not fan fiction, like most young writers do, inspired by love for a fandom – because I wanted to get a job in Hollywood. The motivation behind my childhood creative pursuits was generally to (1) make money now or (2) make money later. This continued into my… uh, now. That’s basically where I am now, and what I’m hoping to change.

This newsletter will chronicle my trials, and crucially, my tribulations, as I create art for myself for the very first time in a concentrated way. I have no intention of making money, raising my profile, receiving glowing reviews, earning awards, or licensing characters for the creation of poorly manufactured consumer garbage with these projects. If I happen to receive outside validation, I won’t swat it away like the fly that landed on my keyboard right now hold on a second faesfsadc got it. The point is that the creation of the work is the reward. By design, they won’t be stepping stones to something else. I want to create art in the same way a monk rakes sand in a zen garden, only my “zen garden” will be designing a Street Sharks VCR board game, or something equally meditative.

I’ve never done this before, and thus, I have no idea how this story ends. I told the basic premise of Equip Story to my longtime friend and collaborator Patrick at a party recently. He suggested I might find commercial success accidentally, when I’m not looking for it. Could be. Maybe this newsletter ends with me being a wealthy, highly successful, bitter middle aged white guy writing frustrated essays about how unfair it is that I’m not quite as wealthy and successful as another wealthy, highly successful, bitter middle aged white guy. Or maybe I will eschew capitalism altogether and go live in an artist colony where I sew my own Samurai Pizza Cat graphic tees and trade copies of my handwritten “pick your path” gamebooks for fresh eggs. I’ll tell you what won’t happen: any outcome between those two extremes. It will be one or the other. Wealth or Eggs. There’s not enough scope on this project for more than two endings.

No, joking aside, that’s the thing. I’m giving myself infinite scope. Well, semi-infinite. I’m allowing myself to make anything I myself can afford to produce. I feel like a kid again. Actually, in a way, I feel like a kid for the first time.

🎲 Your Turn: Do you have questions about narrative design and telling stories in games? I want to hear from you! Reply to this email with your questions and I’ll answer them in a future email. Or hit the comment button below and let others know how crazy insightful you are.

πŸ—“οΈ Next Week: How I learned to stop worrying and leave Substack.

Image Credit: Freepik

Geoffrey Golden is a narrative designer, game creator, and interactive fiction author from Los Angeles. He’s written for Ubisoft, Disney, Gearbox, and indie studios around the world.

17 responses to “A New Beginning and No Ending”

  1. Jesse

    Aw hell yeah I’m excited about this direction. I’ve also been making art for me lately after basically not doing art for years. I’ve written like 30 songs in the past 6 months and have been making art and stuff. The making-it-for-myself part of it has actually been extremely important, to the point where I wrote a song about it to get me back on track, because I was struggling my songwriting trying to find out what the “ending” is and being preoccupied with how other people might interpret the songs. I’ll share that here actually, why not!

    Verse 1

    Caught in a feeling
    Tears stream down my face
    A pocket of grief
    Bursts out of its place

    There in the background
    Behind all the tears
    What do I hear?
    What do I hear?


    This’ll be good on the album
    This’ll make all their hearts break
    This’ll help all of those people not
    To make the same cruel mistake
    All of my pain a production
    Look at me dance on the stage
    How can I trust what I’m feeling when
    I’m flaunting a mask of my pain?

    Verse 2

    A two sided moment
    I’m sharing my grief
    Becomes about them
    Should be about me

    There in the background
    Behind all the tears
    I hope to hear
    You start to cheer


    This’ll be good on the album
    This’ll make all their hearts break
    This’ll help all of those people not
    To make the same cruel mistake
    All of my pain a production
    Look at me dance on the stage
    How can I trust what I’m feeling when
    I’m flaunting a mask of my pain?


    Hey there little buddy
    What are you leading me from?
    Perfection’s what we say that we’re seeking
    When really we’re keeping things mum

    Do you think that they cannot handle
    The truest and blackest memory
    That they cannot handle me
    Why don’t we see?

    Verse 3

    We’ll call it a rough draft
    This one’s for me
    And once I am wading
    Through songs to my knees

    Sift through the wreckage
    And then on that day
    Pick what makes me say
    What makes me say


    This’ll be good on the album
    This’ll make all their hearts break
    This’ll help all of those people not
    To make the same cruel mistake
    When all of my pain’s in the past and
    I feel I am finally free
    I’ll sit down assemble the album
    For all of you from me

    1. I’m so glad you’re writing music for yourself, Jesse. I hope the songwriting process brings you joy!

      Thanks for sharing your song! I particularly liked the third verse. “We’ll call it a rough draft / This one’s for me.” I can relate to that, especially right now. Let’s make some stuff for ourselves.

      1. Jesse

        Thanks Geoffrey! And hell yeah let’s do it ✨

  2. Hey it’s me, the degenerate weirdo Michael. Glad to hear if this new venture, I can think of few that are as well (pause for effect) equipped to do so.

    Looking forward to what you come up with!

    1. Degenerate Weirdos, Unite! Great to see you here, Michael. Thanks for reading!

  3. great to hear from you and excited for the new direction! actually quite curious about what went down with substack, it’s been working well for codame overall to bring the mailing list back to life. hearts and health!

    1. I’m so glad you’re reading, Jordan! In the future, I’m planning to take on projects directly inspired by what I learned at Codame.

      Substack as a blogging / newsletter tool is great. It worked well for me, too. Substack as a company was the main issue for me.

  4. Gillian Blekkenhorst

    I loved this. It was lovely to read!

    1. Thank you, so was your comment! ^_^

  5. Intrigued to see what you’re up to next, Geoffrey!

    1. All will be revealed. So glad you’ll be reading, Simon!

  6. Michael

    What story trope do you think lends itself best to games? And which is the trickiest to pull off?

    1. Ooooh, what a great question. *Puts on thinking cap* *It’s an actual, physical cap and it’s surprisingly big!*

  7. Dakota Duncan

    This seems like fun for all of us! I’m looking forward to following your journey. Best of luck to you!

    1. Thanks, Dakota! I’m happy to have you along for what I’m planning to be a fun ride. ^_^

  8. Hell yes! Congrats on the next act!

    1. Thank you! It means a lot that you’re the first commenter.

      Wow, a new act. I’m like Sonic the Hedgehog over here!

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