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ON PUBLISHING ERIN ESCOBEDO'S MELTWATER (by Amabel Holland)

Mary Russell

Meltwater is probably the most important game we've published.

I'm not saying that because of what the game says or how it says it, though I do remain in awe of how cogent and expressive it is. And for a debut design? Jeez louise.

And I'm not saying it because it's been a bestseller, a critical darling, and a flagship title – all things that have gone a long way toward bolstering our reputation as a publisher.

All of the above is true, of course, but the reason why Meltwater is the most important game we've published is that publishing it is how I met my friend Erin.

While working on the game, Erin responded to our questions promptly, had a clear vision for her game, and pushed back (politely but firmly) when something didn't gel with that vision. She was professional and polished, and we didn't get any great sense of what she was like as a person one way or the other.

But then, we found her twitter. And on that twitter, she has no filter. She is funny, profane, angry, horny, depressed, messy. She's completely and distinctly and authentically herself, without apology.

 

Kind of the opposite of me, really. I spent so long desperately wanting people to like and accept me, and it was really exhilarating to see someone who didn't seem to care who liked her or who didn't. She was someone who promised, as she memorably put it, to never stop being gross and weird just because she wanted to sell you shit.

 

My online persona – one that was partially, but not entirely, informed by the desire to sell games – was clean, chaste, guileless, sometimes even clueless. It's something I leaned into in my interactions with Erin online, and from that schtick a friendship emerged.

Amabel had a hundred mothers – trans women and trans femmes living unapologetically and sharing their experiences. In their accounts of their dysphoria, I finally recognized my own; in their reflection, I saw my own face. Erin was one of those. She helped me see who I was. But more than any of the others, she also showed me who I could be. Someone who was achingly alive, who didn't give a shit what others thought about her, who could just be.

After Mary, Erin was the first person I trusted with my secret. I was a wreck – terrified, vulnerable. She understood: "It opens you up something fierce, when it first breaks." This is something I've noticed talking to other trans people and queer people since, this immediate understanding. With cis hets, I'm always trying to explain myself to them, and they never quite get it. Not from lack of trying, or lack of empathy; it's just not an experience they can ever understand. But with other people like me, there's no need to try and explain and contextualize. I told Erin things that had always felt so singular and isolating; she had felt them, too. So had so many of our siblings. I had gone through my life thinking I was alone and broken. Erin assured me that my experiences were actually pretty ordinary, and that was comforting. "You're right in the strike zone, sis."

During those early, messy months, Erin was exactly the friend I needed. I thanked her for it profusely, but she said not to worry about it – that the time would come when I would do the same for another.  (It did.)

As I've moved forward with my transition, I've gotten more comfortable with myself – found that I cared less and less what other people thought of me, was concerned less and less with whether or not I was gonna alienate or scandalize potential customers. And part of that has been due to Erin goading me on.

 

And, well, I'm not quite there yet, but I do feel a lot less guarded, a lot more genuine, a lot more alive.

Last year, another (much larger) publisher reached out to us, asking to sub-license Meltwater. That kind of arrangement isn't something that really works with our business model, but we knew that the other publisher could bring the game to a much wider audience, and that Erin would earn more money than we're able to give her. And so when the license came up for renewal, we let her know of that publisher's interest, and that she had our enthusiastic blessing if she wanted to pursue that.

For that reason, the game is leaving our catalogue during this year's Hollandays Sale. I suspect there will be some delay between our license lapsing and the other publisher's reprint, so if you've always wanted to get your hands on a copy, well, now's the time.

And finally, in case you're reading this, Erin? Thank you for being gross and weird.


5 comments

  • sincerely glad my low rent colin spacetwinks act was so inspirational to you, sis. im glad someone appreciates my real life’s work :3

    for serious, glad to know you, fam. i’m hype af to watch just how weird and gross you can get <3

    erin escobedo

  • I’m glad to read of the game’s (and Erin’s) success, and I am even happier to read that you found a confidant, supporter and friend. Good!

    brian train

  • Hello, Just a question, are we going to be able to buy Meltwater during the hollanday sale or it will be gone before the sale starts? Thanks for your games :)

    Roberto

  • Be who you are and damn the torpedoes. If they were gonna get you they woulda already.

    Jason Lisan

  • I never purchase a game from US Publisher due to the expensive shipping fee but Meltwater is the game that bring my attention to Hollandspiele. Never regret having Meltwater and it is the only game that I played more than multiple time.

    Although it would be sad to see Meltwater leaving Hollandspiele for greater audience, but both of you (Erin and Hollandspiele) will always get my support from here.

    Thanks for everything.

    Yung

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