Catching Up (2021)
(If you want to say hi you can leave a comment below! Would love to hear how people are doing. This post is mainly for FB friend eyes only).
Hello! Melos here (you might know me as another name - S.H. - more on that below). Maybe we met in Vernon Hills, Chicago, New York, a random games conference...
I'm sure you've noticed that Facebook has kind of a peculiar 'texture' to it, especially since we've been on here for what, 10-15 years now? All sorts of friends or acquaintances from different moments in life, jumbled together into a timeline. Sometimes I search a friend to see what they're doing, but only get a single photo of mayonnaise from 2018 and a profile picture from 2014.
I thought it would be nice to write up this post to 'catch-up'. Generally I don't do many personal life updates on social media, mainly because my job is slightly public-facing and I like to keep personal/public separate. But Facebook feels private enough to link this post.
So the first thing is my name! It's not uncommon for people to have joke/pseudonyms online or on Facebook (I was Scoops for a while), but last year I changed my name to Melos Han-Tani. This change happened over a long time, a few years prior, I switched my last name from H. to Han-Tani, which is taken from my mom's dad (Taiwanese) and dad's mom (Japanese) respectively.
My birth last name never felt representative, especially since growing up I barely interacted with that side of my family. I recall moving to Vernon Hills in 3rd grade, where, after transferring - I would ask classmates what they predicted I'd look like. The answer that stuck with me was "a tall redhead", which, if you know my birth name, feels plausible, but also planted the seeds of a disassociation of my identity and the name people use on me.
Inspired by friends/acquaintances who also changed their names, I changed my first name to Melos. If you're really curious (and I don't expect anyone to be), there was a blog post I put out last year with a bit more detail: https://meloshantani.wordpress.com/2020/01/13/new-name/ But the gist is that S doesn't fit - I grew up online, between MMORPGs, chatrooms, forums, with many screennames and handles, and over the years my sense of identity - mainly based in Vernon Hills and Chicago, where I no longer live - drifted away from my previous name, so I felt I needed to pick a new name. It was much the same with screennames online, so it feels natural to also treat 'real life' names the same way.
I guess I don't really mind being called by my old name, but it's best to just go with Melos since that's what most people call me.
After High School
One thing I think about is the concept of someone's perception of me being 'frozen' as a 'past me'. If you search my old name, I think it pulls up a math team article or maybe college, but after that, I don't "exist". That has always felt kind of strange to me, but it's what's been the norm for most of history - when you mutually fade from someone's life, they become someone to speculate about when you're doing your laundry or making your way downstairs.
Unrelated, shortly into college (I went to UChicago in 2010 where I did Computer Science and graduated in 2013), I deleted my Facebook for not much of a good reason. In hindsight this was a mistake (...I could be weirdly searching so many more past classmates now!).
I did college (my favorite part was sitting in the computer lab), which was occasionally enjoyable but traumatizing - I feel like most of my time in college I was like this awkward, half-evolved Pokemon - and in the last year I released Anodyne with Marina Kittaka. It sold pretty well and we ended up going into independent games full-time. My alternative was... I don't know!
We put out Even the Ocean in 2016, Anodyne 2 in 2019 and are releasing Sephonie later this year. I also put out a game, All Our Asias, in 2018. Before and throughout that I put out a bunch of other smaller games. A lot of our games are on console as well as PC (if you're interested, heh...)!
From 2016-2019 I taught game design and game music part time at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago - ultimately not really a good fit for me (also the curriculum wasn't structured enough), but it was interesting to do. I liked teaching game music and socializing with students the most.
It can be hard to set a schedule/work on one's own, but it's also been fun meeting so many people from around the world and also being able to research lots of things. Also, I can just take a day off whenever I want! Working in independent games doesn't pay that much (unless you make a hit, which isn't one of my goals), but it pays enough to live comfortably.
In college I took some music classes and learned how to write music with computers. I write the music for my games (which you can find here https://htch.bandcamp.com/ ). It's kind of funny thinking about this turn of events in relation to my high school self's priorities, especially after I quit orchestra in my senior year to focus on STEM, but I guess once you're a musician it's hard to get away!
Nowadays, music is a fundamental part of my life and it's actually why I picked the name Melos (similar to melody). I don't really perform/play nowadays, I pretty much only write music - But hey! Never too late to get back into performance...
I like live music and any kind of (well-written hehe) music. Actually if you do music stuff I'd love to hear what you're up to.
First, I have to apologize for my weird Facebook posts - I spend most of my internet social time on Discord and Twitter so usually I don't have the energy to approach facebook seriously which is why I post stuff like "40" or "aaaaaaaa". My studio, Analgesic Productions, has a discord server I'm active on (https://discord.com/invite/analgesic). I'm on twitter at han_tani and han_tani2 although I'm not a huge fan of Twitter... I'm on instagram at http://instagram.com/han_tani !
That being said, I have been writing regularly about games/books/other stuff since college. (Depending on who you are, maybe you know that I kept a lot of blogs on Xanga back in high school! Some things never change..)
My blog from 2012ish-2020 is here: https://meloshantani.wordpress.com/ and my newest blog is here https://melodicambient.neocities.org/ . It's mostly a lot of game design criticism / music stuff / theorizing but might be of interest to you.
Relationship to games
On that last note... my relationship and view towards games has shifted a lot since becoming a game designer. In particular, outside of occasional hyperfocused research motivations, I'm not as interested in the games that I was as a kid (although I have a soft spot for some or aspects of some). Thinking back as a kid, I mainly appreciate games' abilities to let me tap into far away social, artistic and musical contexts, as an 8 year old sitting in a big suburban house.
It's strange, going into making something you love - and then developing a particular style of creating that is misaligned with what affected you as a child. Outgrowing your childhood influences, in a way. I don't feel like I have many meaningful experiences playing games compared to other Life Things nowadays, but I do like the 'medium' of games and 'making games', if that makes sense? There's a lot of untapped artistic/literary/expressive potential in the medium of games (I don't mean 'better graphics' or 'more cinematic games'). And I enjoy exploring that, while outputting games that hopefully speak productively to the human experience.
Other Personal Life
I graduated UChicago in 2013 and lived in Chicago (Argyle/South Loop/Hyde Park) until 2019. I met my partner Sandy (in one of my recent profile pictures) in 2013 and we moved to Japan in 2019. Like me, she's also from Taiwan. She teaches English at Sophia in Tokyo. Sandy's nice! And easygoing. Well, I honestly don't remember what I was like much in high school or college (actually it's a bit much for me to ask but I'd be curious to hear any memories you have...), but I'm fairly easygoing too, now (unless I get worked up over the game industry).
I speak/read Japanese (not fluently... but not poorly either!) I don't golf (too time-consuming/expensive) or bowl (Which I miss - I have wrist RSI) anymore, but I would theoretically still play tennis.
I don't have plans to move back to the USA (Japan's great!) but I will probably visit Chicago/Vernon Hills from time to time (unless my parents retire and leave VH.)
Anyways, if you're ever in Tokyo feel free to message me! Or just say hi in the comments here.