Goodbye, Origins (2016-2022)

A group of youtubers has been making Minecraft roleplays since 2016, and yesterday they officially closed it down. Shortly after I became invested in it, of course! Minecraft roleplays, a form of collaborative storytelling that takes place with Minecraft characters and settings, have piqued my interest for a few different reasons. I like the idea of stories told collaboratively, I love that Minecraft handles the mechanics of animations, and I am fascinated by artists for whom character creation comes easy. (To me, it’s the most terrifying part of writing stories.) On top of all that, I got invested in the voice actors and the plots in the #OriginsMCRP universe.

Yesterday, at the #OriginsIsOverParty on twitter, on youtube, and on Twitch, various content creators gave their perspective on what went well and what was difficult, and I learned a lot from their retrospectives, not just about the experience of making Minecraft roleplays but also the particular challenges of making art on youtube and of building a community.

Minecraft roleplays are not as popular as they were two years ago. Roleplays got a huge boost at the start of the pandemic when people were stuck at home and afraid for the future. Serial episodes came out several times a week, from a variety of perspectives. A fan community grew up, made fan art and fanfiction, and shipped characters. Some of the youtubers — not all — started making a livable income from their roleplays.

Some Origins creators found that content creation caused serious mental health issues. The pressure to always be bigger and better, combined with a general drop in viewership that was completely outside their control, must have been intensely difficult. Other forms of content creation, like playing video games, got more viewers for less work. Some of the Origins folks started leaving the group for jobs or Twitch or mental health breaks. Because it is a collaborative story form, people leaving messed up the storylines that other creators were actively working on, raising the pressure. Meanwhile, some who stayed behind worked hard on “cinematics.” These look amazing but are hand-animated, so they take a lot of time and effort. Sometimes the cinematics delayed the release of episodes, and youtube is not at all forgiving. The dreaded “youtube algorithm,” which ranks and recommends videos, penalizes breaks.

Let me take a moment here to rant about the youtube algorithm. This impersonal and ever-changing set of automated rules has a direct impact on folks’ livelihoods and also often on their perception of whether they are crafting good or bad content. They have to constantly watch the analytics to see how they are doing.

That’s deadly to art.

I’m impressed with what these folks managed to create even despite those hurdles, and I hope they will keep making roleplays or some other form of collaborative storytelling, and I hope they will end up being compensated for their work.

Shout outs to @CrazyMtch42, @Captain_Froggie, @FourOhFourEnt, @nayaVT, @plulesser, and all the rest. Keep telling stories.

Fairy Tail Origins: cookies were thrown

The Fairy Tail Origins series of Minecraft roleplays is a response to the Fairy Tail anime and manga. Its first three seasons had some story content but mostly consisted of gameplay on a Minecraft server. (I find it deathly boring and do not watch them.) In the fourth and fifth seasons, storytelling took over.

Season 5 might be the high point of the Origins series in terms of youtuber participation, with twenty-eight youtubers who posted online and twenty-seven other players all coming together to form intersecting storylines. It gets really confusing when three or more characters are on screen at the same time, because it’s often unclear which Minecraft figure is attached to which voice, and the characters speak in different volumes. But those moments when multiple players interact are amazing feats of coordination: players have to get together across multiple time zones and juggle their schedules around their work, school, or family responsibilities.

My introduction to the Origins series was Fairy Tail Origins Season 5, with Kay’s perspective. Kay, a shapeshifting wolf, is friendly to everyone she meets, throwing dozens of cookies at them whether they want cookies or not. She considers her guild leader, a cat, to be her pet — “pet” defined not as someone you own, but someone you take care of. Hence the throwing of cookies. She is oblivious to rudeness and befriends the character Viper, who keeps insulting her guild leader and friends.

My introduction to the Origins series was Fairy Tail Origins Season 5, with Kay’s perspective. Kay, a shapeshifting wolf, is friendly to everyone she meets, throwing dozens of cookies at them whether they want cookies or not. She considers her guild leader, a cat, to be her pet — “pet” defined not as someone you own, but someone you take care of. Hence the throwing of cookies. She is oblivious to rudeness and befriends the character Viper, who keeps insulting her guild leader and friends.

Viper arrives in season 5 as a tormented and grouchy character, trying to pay off a debt he incurred in season 4 as a villain. He is kind to Kay by order of both his guild leader and his seeing-eye snake, and she immediately falls in love. Many cookies are thrown. Their growing relationship is one part comedic, one part angst-ridden, and one part sweet.

By the time she wins him over, unfortunately for the both of them, he’s dragged into somebody else’s storyline and stuck in a world without magic for a while.

These things happen.

Breast cancer treatment, in fast-forward

The short version: some time ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment. After a round of chemotherapy and surgery, I have no detectable cancer. You never know with cancer, but this is as close to a happy ending as I’ll get any time soon!

Why I’m making this post: Breast cancer happens to so many people that it ought to be discussed as matter-of-factly as, say, a broken arm or leg, but it usually isn’t. And not talking about things can make them scarier, and people who are scared sometimes put off their mammograms. Don’t do that. They can save your life, and they can also save your breasts.

Preliminaries aside, here is a collection of social media posts that chart my journey over the course of about six months. They’re all pretty upbeat and optimistic, and yeah, that was my attitude overall, but do bear in mind that I made these posts when I was feeling well enough to post.

OK, so – deep breath – a couple weeks ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Routine mammogram, stage 1, and because I am “young” (for breast cancer at least) I will start an aggressive chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Obviously I have all kinds of feelings but it’s easier for me if I keep things matter-of-fact when I give news. Any and all good thoughts / healing prayers / whatever you’ve got are greatly appreciated. Also, if you’ve been delaying anything: GET SCREENED! Cancer=bad but early=good. In all likelihood I will not need a full masectomy. Because early.

Grateful! For all the support expressed regarding my breast cancer diagnosis. Various people have offered help and I haven’t responded yet but I will, and also appreciate greatly. My chemo/hormone infusions will start on the 9th. It’s good because the longer I wait the more anxious I get.

First day of chemo today. I have an awesome support system at the ready so my plan is to go there and then somebody else takes care of everything.

Yesterday’s chemo went well and I had lots of family to take care of everything! Mom took me to the infusion, made sure I had food & drink, got the attention of the nurses, figured out my “cooling gloves” and footies, plugged in my cell phone etc etc etc. No reaction to the drugs. Went home and went to bed and got waited on. Spouse made up a chart of which medicine to take when. We had a family activity of Kahoot! which we always find hilarious. I’m expected to have some energy through the weekend because of a steroid they gave and then crash on Monday. Today’s main job is drink 2 liters of water.

EDIT: 2 liters of water accomplished and it’s only 9:47 p.m. Dang, that was hard.

One week in to chemo, and with luck I’m past the worst of the side effects. Tired but doing well. The oncologist took blood (why does everyone want my blood???) and everything is going as expected.

Before I lose all my hair – a new haircut!

General update: Chemo yesterday, went as well as can be expected, I’m feeling reasonably well today. I had my very first Definite Hot Flash after chemo was done.

General update: About 10 days into my 2nd chemo cycle, I think I’m past most of the worst side effects. And they weren’t too terribly bad. But I’m more tired than last time around. Spouse gave me a 1/4 inch buzz cut yesterday! No pic to share yet – must figure out a pose. My hair had been hurting quite a bit and the buzz cut helps a lot.

Today’s update: Yesterday’s oncologist visit showed me on track with stuff. She was quite happy with the quality of my food intake. “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” White blood count is up after Granix shots (they stimulate the bone to make more cells). Red blood count is gradually going down, accounting for my tiredness, and will continue to go down thru the whole thing. Next treatment is on the 20th, and over the weekend I plan to have some ideas put together for what kinds of help to ask folks for. Food is a tricky wicket in our household as everyone eats something different, but I’ve got some ideas.

Today’s update: chemo today. I actually enjoy the infusion because they pump me full of Benadryl and then I sit there in an easy chair with a pillow and blanket and my mom next to me, listening to an audiobook and dozing while people bring me drinks and stuff. I put cold packs on my hands and feet for part of the time and that is less fun.

Reckless human experimentation on myself: I’m going to drink 4 ounces of milk and see what happens. (Lactose intolerance is a chemo side effect. Because I might have it, I’ve been off milk for nearly a week, which is the longest since I was in elementary school and allergic.) Should be informative.

EDIT: I appear not to be lactose intolerant. That’s good. I like milk.

Update: my chemo infusion got postponed by a week because my white blood count was too low. On the plus side, I temporarily have extra energy. On the minus side, that extends treatment a week. I am eager to have it done with.

Update: It’s been about two weeks since my last chemo infusion and I’m feeling pretty well. The first 7 days I was much more exhausted than any time prior. The first 10 days I couldn’t really eat what I wanted. My digestive system is saying, “excuse me, WHAT did you just put into me? Effective immediately, all food subject to inspection and expulsion.” On the happy side of things, yesterday I discovered hot almond milk with carob powder. Yum. Midwinter break was a welcome interruption from life stress and I went for walks in the park with family. My next infusion is scheduled for the 9th and the LAST ONE (knock on wood) the 31st. That would put my immune system back on track in a few weeks. Lumpectomy probably a month and a half later. Then radiation. And a year of hormone therapy – more infusions every 3 weeks but nowhere near as bad as chemo.

Infusion today! 5th out of 6th, so the end is in sight. All well wishes are much appreciated and do help me keep my spirits up

This is the day in my chemo cycle where I’m emotionally at a low point. I’m feeling “left behind” with so many people lifting covid precautions — it’s like the rest of the world gets to go back to normal, but not my family. Seattle Public Schools made an abrupt change in plan to eliminate universal masking earlier than previously announced, and that just makes me feel worse. Tomorrow I’ll feel cheerier, but honestly, today I just want to wallow.

On the upswing. Mood, energy, and digestion all improving. I craved tater tots, which is a good sign. On the down side, they weren’t tater tots! They were “crowns.” Like if you took out the middle, which is the potato part. Don’t get me wrong–I still ate them. But the actual tater tots will have to be another day.

Ran a fever yesterday – my white blood counts got low. Rest, water, cranberry juice, and Granix (a shot that tells my bone marrow to make more blood cells) and now the fever is gone. But I am in my “nadir” – the point where my white blood count is lowest. The chemo drugs are still killing them for about another week, and I get these Granix shots, and with any luck everything balances out. I will rest more today.

Good energy today, and my white blood count is up. Looking forward to 8 more good days until the next (and LAST!) infusion. (Knocks on wood.)

Tomorrow’s chemo will disrupt my ability to read; nonetheless, today I went to Third Place Books and treated myself.

Today was my last chemo infusion – now I get 3 or 4 weeks of feeling crappy. But every day will be a little bit better. Also, I LOVE the book Ten Steps to Nanette. Everyone should read it. Humor, wisdom, perceptiveness, an unflinching look at reality, being unabashedly herself, exceptional comic timing, good buildup, empathy, forgiveness, I just don’t even know what-all.

When I am feeling better, I will have to pick up the parts of life that I have put down. I am frankly terrified at the concept.

Spent the morning polishing up a chart I made of my symptoms over the course of chemo. I recommend doing it because it helps things feel less unpredictable. Notable findings –

  • worst exhaustion was days 1-9
  • stomach acid worst days 3-8 but improved from cycle to cycle because I learned to eat smaller and simpler meals
  • if I ran a fever, it was day 8 or 9
  • thrush of the mouth happened days 4-8
  • if I had a nosebleed, it was day 7
  • diarrhea was days 4-10

I’m on day 11 of my last cycle! Not fully out of the woods . . . I expect some symptoms to continue a while because effects are cumulative. I’m also continuing with hormone therapy, so some will continue to recur but with me being much more prepared. I plan to make good friends with Imodium.

Also I’m getting a 2nd Covid booster on Monday, so next week might be a roller coaster!

Update: With chemo finished, I got an MRI and it showed an “excellent” response. What exactly that means I don’t know for sure, but it’s looking likely that the cancer is all gone. If that is the case, I still have a lumpectomy in my future, most likely in late May, and then nine months of hormone treatments, and then five to ten years of estrogen pills!!! If I am unlucky and it is discovered after the surgery that any cancer was left, I will have to do more chemo. Grateful for the state of modern medicine, that all this is possible.

The lumpectomy is Wednesday, along with the biopsy that will tell me whether or not any detectable cancer is left. Obviously, I’m shooting for NOT. Currently pondering what kind of foods I will want to eat as I recover. Tapioca pudding is as far as I got so far. Maybe pumpkin pie. Tuna fish? Pros and cons there.

Hooray!!! The post-surgery pathology report showed no detectable cancer! The chemo + targeted hormonal drugs got rid of it. Woohoo! There’s always the chance of some sneaky cells hiding out, so I still have to do four weeks of radiation and seven more months of drug infusions (just not chemo yay) and then ten years of pills. Yeah that’s a lot. But I’m very happy.

Words in My Mouth, Like Soup

“I woke up and I felt words in my mouth, like soup.”

The Origins MCRP character of Plant, played by Plu, began with access to only one word: Plant. They were accepted all the same, adopted and included in conversations, and later taught to talk, haltingly. And then, all of a sudden, in a one-episode visit to the world of Pixelmon Origins, Plant was fluent.

I could say more about this, but all those words, I don’t know where they are.

Here’s a clip:


“Are you speaking more, by the way?” asks Cecil.

Plant replies, “Yi, I woke up and I felt words in my mouth, like soup.”

And here’s an image of Plant:

Caption: The character of Plant, from

Sword Art Origins

Image caption: The Town of Beginnings! – Sword Art Origins #1 (Minecraft Sword Art Online Roleplay. Uploaded to youtube by: Hayden Blake, Mar 18, 2022

Lately I’ve been interested in Minecraft roleplays, specifically the Origins series. I’m not their target audience: they’re mostly made by gamers in their teens and twenties, whereas I’m a book reader and author in my . . . well, let’s just say “middle age.”

Minecraft roleplays are a form of collaborative, animated storytelling, using Minecraft worlds as the theater. They’re tough to watch if you don’t play Minecraft. Compared to a TV show, their production quality is terrible–but that’s part of their appeal for me, because it means a low barrier to entry for creators who don’t have tons of money or access to television executives and whatnot, so I get to see raw creativity. Sometimes, what comes out of it is amazing.

Here’s how it works: a group of people will have a shared world and some general idea of a shared plot that goes on for a season. Some are there to play, while others have youtube channels where they post their final, edited videos. One of the biggest Origins series, My Hero Origins, had 30 youtubers and 32 other players. Their fans, which number in the hundreds of thousands, are constantly commenting and participating in the shared world with fanfics and fan art.

The full list of series is on the OriginsMCRP Wiki, but my personal favorites are Fairy Tail Origins Seasons 4 and 5, Origins of Olympus Seasons 2 and 3, and My Hero Origins. I’m hoping to have some time to point out some of my favorite characters and moments.

Sword Art Origins is in the Isekai genre and is a fan response to the manga and anime Sword Art Online. All the characters joined a virtual game, some serious gamers and some just to try it out, and were trapped by “the godfather” in a game world, where they must clear 100 levels to escape. I’m not a fan of that plotline, but the series is more polished and more consciously crafted than previous Origins series. It also represents a turning point because a wave of players have departed the Origins group, including @ItsRichieW (the original creator of the group), @ReinBloo, @TheFamousFilms, and @_HaydenBlake. Hayden Blake’s departure is a mystery to fans and colleagues alike: she just made a Twitter announcement that her YouTube channel, with its 50,000 subscribers, was for sale. Her character’s story arc in Sword Art Origins, like many others, will stay unfinished.

My favorite episode in this series is “Found in Minecraft SAO,” which aired May 18, 2022. Previous episodes took place before the first-floor boss, which not all the characters would necessarily survive. This one skips forward in time, bypassing the boss fight, and treats us to a rendition of Scarborough Fair by the characters Crocus, Enzo, Sierra and Venom. After that, they wander about home a bit in domestic bliss, eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and then they chase each other off into the sunset.

Obligatory pandemic post

I see it’s been two years since I posted last. The pandemic knocked me for quite a loop. I didn’t get Covid, not yet anyway, but everything about my life feels different now. I think I’m back to posting to my blog, which makes me think I might be adjusting — question mark???

Minecraft Writing Prompts

Back In 2016 I participated in a Minecraft Club for Sacajawea Elementary, and I developed a curriculum for 15 minutes a day of writing about Minecraft. I’ve revised it a little for home use. 

Please feel free to adapt and share widely. It’s available under the Creative Commons license CC BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommercial) meaning that you are welcome to adapt and share it, but not to sell it, provided you give credit. An example of how to give credit is: “Minecraft Club Writing Prompts by Kristin King, used under CC BY-NC” or “Adapted from Minecraft Club Writing Prompts by Kristin King, used under CC BY-NC”. Here is a link for more information:

The prompts are all in one file, Minecraft Club Writing Prompts. Enjoy!


Fanfiction for Kids

Some time back, I taught a fanfiction workshop for the fifth and sixth graders at my kids’ elementary school. Disclaimer: I have no formal education in teaching. Now that everyone is homeschooling for a while, it seemed like time to dust off my work and send it out. This is made for elementary school but could also work for middle and high school. The important part is: Writing ought to be fun.

When planning a fanfiction workshop, I thought about what would have helped me as a young writer. I was constantly writing stories, but I felt like they all had the same character in them . . . a girl with an embarrassing similarity to me! There’s nothing wrong with that, but it made me feel self-conscious about my writing. I was also self-conscious about writing stories featuring my favorite book characters. I didn’t realize that authors are always borrowing characters and plots and then reworking them. Why not just make it explicit?

Here are links to my posts. Use these because it looks like the links internal to my posts are broken. . . and I don’t have time to fix it.

And here are links to some of the materials I made, including worksheets, overheads, and a booklet I wrote as a kid.



Long Time No Post

Well, then, hello. I’ve been off WordPress a while, working on my novel in the meantime, meaning I haven’t had much creative energy left over. But I’m getting back on so I can post some resources that folks might find useful for homeschooling. Because that’s where we are now, and for the forseeable future: many kids on their own to learn as they personally see fit. Of course, that will be a whole lot of screen time. So I have a couple projects to share that I hope kids will enjoy. They’re targeted at elementary students but could certainly be adapted for high school and if anybody wants to work on that with me, let me know.

I’m not planning to share much about my personal life, but our family is healthy, sheltering in place, and has lots of groceries. So that’s good.

Stay safe, stay well, et cetera.

Compatriots in writer’s block

This is the week that some of my fellow writers are bringing me inspiration, not because they are putting out stellar work but because they’re being honest about the struggle to put words to paper, or, once they’re written, submit them for publication.

Some stuff happened in my life (which is now done with) and I had about a 3-month interruption in novel writing, and I’m finding it hard to pick it back up. It’s a self-confidence thing. Also, until recently it had been two years since I’d submitted one of my stories. Pretty darn hard to get published if you pre-reject yourself! I now have three out of six out, with a plan to send one out per day. In theory, it will get easier.

Anyway, I’ve ordered this book, penned by a friend whose words always encourage me: In the Quiet Spaces by C.E. Young. It’s en route and I’ll report back.