Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Laura Michet

Laura Michet

Game writer, editor

Posted in editor, game, mac, windows, writer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am a writer and editor who works in both AAA and indie game development. During the day, I work for Riot Games' Forge indie game publishing division. During the evenings and weekends, I do contract writing and editing on commercial indie games like Pathologic 2, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, Industries of Titan and other projects. I also do a small amount of personal noncommercial experimental work, mostly in hypertext format.

Most of my work involves narrative writing and editing, but I also have a lot of experience in nonfiction editorial, IP documentation, onboarding creatives into IPs they've never worked in before, and webdev-producer-type roles.

What hardware do you use?

Obviously, the way a lot of people work has changed over the last few months. I have Type 1 diabetes, so I've been quarantining myself pretty hard since early March. As a result, I've been doing all my day-job work from home with the very small amount of work equipment that I was able to bring home from the office. I don't have my work chair, desk, keyboard, or PC tower - just a small laptop. However, I did get a very nice pair of HyperX Cloud headphones, so that's been my one luxury.

My fiance and I live in a small two-room apartment. Before quarantine, I had my home workspace, where I did my indie games work, set up on a built-in countertop in our living room. We didn't really have much extra space to assemble a new "work" desk for my day job equipment, and I don't have the option to set it up in the bedroom. As a result, I've been doing most of my work on that small laptop, either sitting on the couch or at a card table next to the television. When I sit at the table, I use a pretty old and busted office chair that my fiance's dad used to use at his job about 20 years ago. It's been so rough on my back that I've ordered a Steelcase cobi chair which is supposed to be delivered early next week. I'm also trying to figure out how difficult it would be to get a desk that fits in the weird corner I've been working in. Because so much of my job involves attending videochat meetings or calling remotely into voice over record sessions, those fancy headphones are the only piece of high-end tech I actually need to do my job.

On the other side of this single room we now live our entire lives in, I've got my personal workspace, on that built-in countertop. I have a PC tower; it has an eclectic mix of components I've borrowed or bought from friends. My fiance is associated with Glitch City, an indie gamedev collective here in Los Angeles, and when I bought this PC, I walked through the Glitch office and asked everyone working there if they had any hard drives they didn't want. People at Glitch just handed me hard drives they'd recently replaced, so my computer is absolutely packed with a very large number of extremely old and sometimes very small hard drives. I have an oldish graphics card - a GTX 960 from 2015 - which is honestly still good enough to run all the games I want to play on the PC at a graphics quality I can enjoy. Most of the games I play for my own entertainment or for research are indie products with undemanding art.

I'm pretty slapdash and low-effort about most of my PC hardware, but I take my keyboard very seriously. Several years ago, when the keyboard broke on the small MacBook I was using at the time, I wasn't able to bring it in to get fixed because I needed it absolutely every single day of the week in order to do my job and make money. Instead of surrendering my only computer for an unknown amount of time, I realized I could buy a small, portable, yet high-quality keyboard for less than $100, and just continue my life as if nothing had happened. The end result of all this is that I currently use a SABER 68 - a reduced-size keyboard with no f-row keys and no numpad. I use MOD-L switches, which are similar to Cherry Browns. I am rocking SA Vilebloom - a group-buy keyset based on the color scheme of the Pokemon Vileplume. I have o-rings on all my keycaps to reduce violent clacking noises, because I always work in shared spaces with other people. I have a custom padded canvas sleeve from Specialee Made I use if I have to bring my keyboard to a friend's house, or to a coffeeshop. My MacBook is fixed now, so this happens much less often than it used to! These days, I have this keyboard hooked up to my PC tower at home.

Laura's mechanical keyboard.

My mouse is a Logitech G600 "MMO gaming" mouse that I bought almost a decade ago to use while playing Guild Wars 2. It's still going strong.

My speakers are a pair of Bose speakers my father bought for me when I left home for college in the year 2007. They still sound great, though the connectors in the back are getting a little wobbly.

My display is a 24" Dell Ultrasharp monitor that Google tells me was first released in 2012. The one I have works very well. I am sure I also got this one for free from a friend, because I certainly don't remember buying it.

All of these things are arranged on a large handmade wooden shelf which my partner built for me. He also built a small wooden platform that holds my PC off the ground under my desk.

And what software?

I do almost all my work in Google Docs. Most of my work involves writing or giving notes on collaborative teams where other people need to be able to see my work at the drop of a hat. I don't personally require any fancy software to do regular prose writing. Although I'm envious that Mac users have access to slick-looking stuff like Highland 2 - I've used it for a little bit on the MacBook I still have - I have never really needed any special "writing software" to stay focused or productive when writing regular prose.

For writing screenplays, I use Fade In. It has a pretty janky multi-user collaborative mode which I've used in the past while working on projects with co-writers. It's otherwise a great piece of software that has generally served me well over the years.

When writing content for games which require special formatting or scripting, I use Atom. I've used this when writing for Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, and for other projects which use the Ink narrative scripting system.

For personal projects in hypertext, I still prefer to use Twine - Twine 1 specifically. Twine is a software that can help people create hypertext art with little or no training or coding. Hypertext is my favorite interactive fiction format - it's accessible, with a low barrier of entry and a very, very high skill ceiling for people who are interested in combining hypertext with other medias, tools, and programming languages. Occasionally, I work on Twine projects which involve JavaScript; in those cases, I'll use Atom to write the JavaScript extensions for my game and then paste them into Twine. This way, I can give my games additional features beyond that which Twine provides. For example, a friend and I once made a single-player Twine game which stores all player outcomes and uses them to calculate the ending of the game for each individual player. We cheekily called this an "MMO" Twine game.

Twine 1.4.2 is a little hard to find on the Twinery website these days, since Twine 2 has been out for quite a long time. I've never fully switched over to Twine 2 because when it launched, I was still working on a novella-length Twine project. Twine 2 is still not the Twine of choice for me. It still suffers from an overly-flexible scripting system which makes it harder for me to teach folks how to use it, or help them choose which story format to use. I've continued using Twine 1 - and some JavaScript extensions I wrote for it - to run multiple-writer game jam projects with my friends. I've also worked on some projects in Unity which used Twine 1 as the scripting tool.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup would involve a huge bamboo-topped motorized standing desk with my extremely nice keyboard on it. Except in this dream scenario, I also have a custom wooden case for my keyboard. I have almost purchased a wooden keyboard case maybe five or six times from various sellers on the mechmarket subreddit, but I keep finding responsible excuses not to do it, even though I know it would make me extremely pleased.

I'd also find the time to replace my random scatter of donated hard drives with a smaller number of larger solid state drives.

I'm not sure if I'd change my mouse at all. It has a pretty gnarled cord, though. I'd probably just buy another one of this exact mouse brand and leave it at that.

I'd love to have a very fancy gaming chair, but this seems wasteful to me, since a stool-style raised office chair would be more useful in my particular case. If someone figured out how to make a kind of... transformer chair which could be both an office stool and a raised gaming chair, and it was also... sustainably built, or something, I'd buy it. For now, I think I'll use regular office chairs.

I would enjoy continuing to use the various strange wooden built by my partner to make my workspace easier to use. On my abandoned desk at work, I have a small desktop wooden bookcase he built to hold some novels and comics I've used for research. I've helped him build some of these little workspace doodads, and it's a lot of fun. I think that learning to build things out of wood is pretty much the ultimate life hack. It allows you to customize your space in exactly the way you desire, and reduces the amount of crap you have to buy from companies that don't really deserve your money. Having all these wooden things around me is part of the reason I want to buy that wooden keyboard case, too.

Perhaps my ultimate workspace would be an entirely wooden one. I could pretend I was some kind of tree.

Uses This is supported by ZSA, makers of the Moonlander, ErgoDox EZ and Planck EZ keyboards. They also publish an awesome newsletter.