My Wife Is an Omega Level Collaborator

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Cyclops VO: “Previously, on the X-Men-inspired dating sim.”

🔄 Recap: I decided for my first creative project on Equip Story that I’ll be developing a sexy dating sim influenced by my lifelong fandom of Marvel’s much maligned mutants. It’s an off-beat idea that the mobile game publisher Dorian is getting behind. And I’ve also told you that my wife, creative partner, and cat co-parent Amanda Meadows will be working on this with me. That was fast, right? No need to push the “skip” button.

Since Amanda is going to be a main character on this creative x-cursion, I thought I’d give her a proper introduction. Specifically, I’d like to talk about our ongoing creative collaboration, which is almost as old as our relationship itself. We’ve been together since 2008 (remember “Hope,” lol?) and began making things together the following year. We’ve been creative co-conspirators for 15 years. However, since the pandemic we haven’t made much of anything together except… ugh… happy memories we’ll cherish forever. Why is that? I have a theory. More on that later.

Amanda and I met at what used to be a legendary annual Halloween party thrown by LA comedians. The hosts went all-out on the theming. I remember they did Ghostbusters one year. They rented an ECTO-1 and drove it onto the front lawn. They put a lit-up Slimer figure on the roof. Ecto Cooler punch. Perfection. That was the year I met Amanda. We were both in line for the bathroom. Romantic, no? I was dressed as the Swedish Chef with big furry fake eyebrows, holding a wooden spoon and a rubber chicken. She was dressed as a beautiful woman who was way out of the Swedish Chef’s league. I asked if she was on Facebook. She gave me her number instead. It must’ve been the chicken.

On our first date, lunch at a Chinese restaurant in South Coast Plaza (I drove out from LA – now that’s love), she struck me as a potential soulmate. I just knew. She was incredibly smart, witty, caring, self-assured, yet easy going. We both loved to laugh and grew up watching the same type of irreverent 90s late night sketch comedy, like Conan O’Brien and Mr. Show. Our conversations were fun, exciting, and thoughtful. We showed each other a lot of care and patience. It’s weird to write this paragraph in the past tense. This is all still the case after nearly 15 years together!

In 2009, I was putting together a humor zine ripping off… er, in the style of George Meyer’s Army Man. Amanda and I were both freelance writing for internet comedy websites, back when “websites” and “comedy” were a thing. We were both bummed about how ephemeral our work was. One day, I topped the front page of Digg.com with my comedy piece about the parallels between characters from the hit television drama Mad Men and the hit comic book series The Uncanny X-Men! The next day, my timeless humor masterpiece was completely forgotten and my check for $50 wouldn’t cash, because the website that published it ran out of money. I thought making comedy in print was the answer. Books live on people’s shelves for a long time. I still have my copy of Catcher in the Rye from high school, even though an adult reading Catcher in the Rye in public is considered a red flag.

Amanda told me about a new fundraising website called Kickstarter. She thought that my humor zine idea could be something bigger. A series of perfect bound, full color quarterly books of humor. That’s one of Amanda’s greatest gifts as a collaborator. She’s a plusser. She’s brilliant at taking something good and making it amazing. We’re cooking a can of lentil soup for lunch? Amanda adds spices to give the soup more body and flavor. We’re taking a quiet trip to a little town in California? Amanda finds the perfect vintage shop where they sell used books and a Ziggy rotary phone. She’ll come up with a funnier last line to my comedy article and a better font for the header. Amanda makes my life better in so many ways. I can’t even list them all, because many of her plusses are probably happening without my knowledge. I’m like Sweet Pea blissfully crawling through the scaffolding of a building under construction and she’s like Popeye quickly using a jackhammer to create an impromptu bridge for me to walk on.

We ended up publishing a humor magazine turned small press called The Devastator. We brought together a talented group of misfit writers and artists from The Daily Show, The Onion, and Adult Swim to make books with us. We were a scrappy outfit. We made the majority of our income hand-selling novelty books at comic conventions with titles like The Presidential Dickerbook (a sticker book where you slap Lyndon B. Johnsons on presidential portraits), Restart Me Up (a fake oral history about the making of Windows 95), and our best-seller We Don’t Think You’re Racist, a hilarious photo book skewering white fragility that Amanda co-authored.

The Devastator’s catalog sold about as well as mid-list titles at mainstream publishers with dozens of staff and actual marketing budgets, but we couldn’t find a breakout success along the lines of Go The Fuck to Sleep that would’ve given us desperately needed financial runway. After eight years and dozens of titles, the travel was too much. Going to 15 comic-cons in a year is about 14 too many, in my opinion. Just thinking about a box of books gives me back pain! So we closed up shop in 2017. Amanda stayed in publishing and became an Eisner Award nominated editor, where she’s worked for Oni Press, Wizards of the Coast, and currently Andrews McMeel. After a stint of heartbreaking drift, I dove head first into video games and became and narrative designer, a field I absolutely love.

That wasn’t the end of our collaborations, though. Through Devastator, Amanda and I got the opportunity to work on two podcasts. We wrote and produced a show called Mystery Solver for Stitcher, a parody of Gimlet’s Mystery Show about a clueless podcast host who tries to solve the mystery of why her original podcast got cancelled. (Ironically, Stitcher cancelled our podcast midway through post production. They were worried the project would offend the real life host of Mystery Show. It did!) Years later, in 2020, the producer of Mystery Solver ended up hiring the two of us to host a show called Dirt Cheap for Sony Music. I read a terrible pulp detective novel from the 1930s to Amanda, chapter by chapter, and we stopped periodically to make fun of it.

After Dirt Cheap wrapped, there were no more projects. Well, that’s not exactly true. There was buying a home, which was a BIG and time consuming project that worked out really well for us. After 11 years of living in a small one bedroom above a parking garage, where headlights would blare through our window every single night, it’s nice to live literally anywhere else. It was extremely difficult to convince the bank that I was a reliable, serious-minded person capable of handling a mortgage given my sordid history as… a freelance writer. *Gasp!*

During this time, we talked about collaborating. We’d come up with an idea for a zine, or a game, or a game-zine, or zine-game, but we wouldn’t follow through. The closest we got to making something new was recording a pilot for a comedy podcast that we recorded at the Octavia Butler media lab in the LA library, an amazing resource for LA creative types. The episode took me too long to edit and we lost momentum. I think what our recent ideas lacked was structure. As a creative team, we seem to thrive when an outside force of some type compels us to keep going.

Soon after my meeting with Dorian at GDC, I thought of Amanda and called her. Back when we were first dating, Amanda wrote for a sex-oriented comedy website that I’m guessing even the Wayback Machine doesn’t remember. Many years later, she ran the imprint Limerence Press, an LGBT sex and romance imprint. I asked if she would be interested in designing a dating sim with me. She said it depended on the idea, but she said it in a very casual way that I assumed was a “no.” Another failed attempt to get something going post-Dirt Cheap.

A week or so after I got home from my trip, Jessica from Dorian sent a follow up email. (By the way, a good tip is to wait a week after a conference to follow-up with someone you met there, because it takes a week of mental decompression, at minimum, to re-engage with an overcrowded inbox after a work conference.) So I decided to ask Amanda one more time if she was interested. This time, she said she was! *Spit Take* We batted a few ideas around, but our first was the one we were most excited about. We got deeply invested in a certain Disney+ revival of a 90s superhero cartoon. A game where you, the player, get to have sex with the X-Men? Amanda was in.

So, look out. Amanda and Geoffrey are back to make the world a twinge goofier!

🎲 Your Turn: Have you ever gone through a creative dry spell? Did you manage to break it? Email me your thoughts or leave a comment with the button below.

🔌 Plugs: I play a disgruntled coast guard in the most recent episode of the hilarious scripted mystery podcast Finding Pattersby by Devastator author Ryan Sandoval.

📨 Next Week: Why I think of social media as a virtual casino for artists.

PS – Two weeks ago, I wrote the following at the end of my newsletter:

Enter… Amanda, My Wife! (In two weeks!)

That was misleading!!

In old Marvel comics, when a character debuts, they would put something like “Enter… The Juggernaut” or “Enter… The Spider-Butt” on the cover. So when I wrote the line above, I meant I’d be introducing Amanda to you in this newsletter. Based on the comments, though, some of you thought I was getting married to Amanda in two weeks. We got hitched nearly 10 years ago, so I’ll take your well-meaning “congratulations” and put them towards our anniversary in November.

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.

14 responses to “My Wife Is an Omega Level Collaborator”

  1. Super sweet ^^ in past years I’ve done weeklybeats.com to keep in the music habit. Haven’t been able to prioritize it this year but still making things. What I’m really lacking in my practice is cataloging or archival, I don’t have a portfolio or anything like that to speak of.

    1. Thanks, Jordan! I’m glad you’re making things, because you make rad things. If you can afford it, I think it’s worthwhile to hire someone to design your portfolio and/or archive your work. I had a great experience working with a designer for my current portfolio.

  2. Willa

    I love how much you love Amanda!!! Also what a great meet-cute! And yes, I thought you were getting married in 2 weeks.

    Do I secretly mail We Don’t Think You’re Racist to people?

    1. Thank you, Willa! Hooray for love!!!

      Haha, I need to be more careful with my phrasing and references, apparently.

      You wouldn’t be the first to do it!

  3. Andy

    This was very sweet. I love husband wife teams! There is something very special about creating something with your life partner.

    1. Thanks for reading, Andy! I think so, too. It’s a whole other dimension to our relationship and it’s fun to explore.

  4. Henry Barajas

    AWWW HOW BEAUTIFUL!

  5. Darling! Yay! I’ve never been a character in a newsletter before. All of this is so lovely (and true) to say! <3333

    Everything we do together is so fun but this particular project is going to be special. I feel like the game builds on the weird shit we've done in the past but it's new ground for both of us! We're getting our creative groove back!

    Just realized this is essentially our version of a vow renewal. lmao

    XO/AM

    1. Yay! You’ve crossed over from reader to character, like how the X-Men went from watching TV to entering the Mojoverse!

      I’m really happy you enjoyed this, darling. I wanted to give you a splashy first issue. You deserve it!

      Haha, oh wow, you are so right about the vow renewal. Should we be writing the game on a beach with our friends and family watching?

  6. What a romantic story!! I love hearing the lore of Amanda x Geoffrey!

    1. So glad you enjoyed it, Steenz! It’s a bit more romantic than Wolverine’s origin story. Though I’d get Amanda an adamantium ring, if I could.

      1. An adamantium ring… sounds metaphorically metal on top of being literally metal like most rings… also sounds like even more of a bitch to get resized than most rings…

        I’m actually in a bit of a prolonged creative funk right now. Creative writing has taken a back seat to an addiction to chatting with AI over the last year or so, I’ve got over a decade of geometry geek ideas I can’t get out of my head because screen readers and CAD and digital drawing don’t mix, and while I have an itch to do some crafting or build something with construction toys, sharing a 3-bedroom, single wide trailer with two other people doesn’t leave much room for a workspace.

        1. Good point! I’m imagining a jeweler cussing and shouting as their tools break on the ring.

          Sorry you’re in a creative funk. Have you ever read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert? The book changed my life and the way I think about creativity. I rented the audio book on Libby for free with a library card.

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