How to Suffer

First, an apology. I'm very sorry that I got off my rhythm with these articles. We entered a very busy fall right around the time I started running out of ideas for articles to write. As time went on, it became easier to continue not writing them than it was to get back on track. However, I've got enough in the hopper to catch up and slam-jam all of the articles I owe you. So, thank you for your patience.

This popped up in our Slack group a while back: People are curious how we pick games for Abject Suffering. We allude to the process being random, and we thank those who suggest the games we play. But that's not the whole story. Let's all put on our hard hats and respirators, and tour the Suffering Factory.

Abject Suffering topics begin here, on our Suggest-a-Game form.

All three fields are required so people don't stuff the ballot several times... Requiring a name or a handle makes it easier to filter out junk. Of course, we have a comments field so people can share their personal stories, or tell us about something weird we should pay attention to.

This form is plugged into a big spreadsheet that collects all of the responses in order.

But there's a flaw here. This is just raw data. What if someone recommends a game that has already been recommended? Well, that's where the data grooming happens.

I copy/paste all of the suggestions into another sheet for processing, where I sort the games alphabetically. About once a month, I comb through the game list and see if there are any duplicates. I collapse these down to a single row (this is important) and I add columns to maintain info for everyone who suggested a game.

Why is it so important that each game gets its own row? Because it helps in the randomization. If I didn't massage this data, games that are recommended more often would have a higher chance of being featured. Here's why.

At the beginning of each month, I count how many random episodes we need, and I go to to get a truly random row number. Then I go to the corresponding row and see what's there.

If the game is easy to emulate (NES, SNES, Genesis, PSX) then it immediately goes onto the list. If it's tougher to run on modern systems, then it gets some more scrutiny. Can I find a good way to install it? Is there an obscure emulator I wasn't aware of before? Can we acquire inexpensive copies from Amazon? If it ends up that we can't run a game, it stays on the list. The next time it comes up at random, we may have a way to run it.

The games that "won" are added to our master planning spreadsheet, which is a schedule of all upcoming sessions for all of our shows. Then it enters our usual recording workflow.

The exception to all of this is the Exquisite Suffering/Abject Suffering workflow. The added wrinkle here is that we need to pull up a crop of four random games for all of you to vote on. These games are chosen from within the master suggestion list by pulling out ALL of the games that have been recommended more than once. These are added to their own list, and I pull games from it randomly every time we need to assemble a poll. Being added to this list (or being featured on an Abject Suffrage poll) doesn't exclude a game from coming up randomly for a mainline episode.

And that's the story. Hopefully it wasn't too terribly boring (I mean, isn't anyone else excited by pictures of spreadsheets? Am I right?). I'm positive there's a more a efficient or effective way to handle this with databases, but that kind of coding work isn't my forté. As it stands, I just felt like it was important for you to understand how much information infrastructure is required for us to pick a game, talk about it for five minues, and then spend the rest of the episode talking about how weird cum is.