Mega-Self-serving Anniversary Jib Jab

May 30th, 2009

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Consider the past weeklong vacation as a short respite to pace out the writing routine. I’ve been maintaining a steady pace since January and although I could easily keep the flow going, I wanted to just relax for a few days while I round up the rest of the working semester and finish the latest column for GSW. I’ve also managed to clear off two games in the downtime too, which should pave the way for upcoming content.

In a few days it’ll be the second unofficial anniversary of this blog. That is, two years ago I separated my game-related writing from my personal blog and channeled it through here. In reality though, I’ve been writing for maybe two and a half years plus, it’s just that when I made the cross over I timestamped the older content with more recent dates to give the site better structure. Confusing backstory aside, I think it’s worth reflecting on my blogging journey, particularly as I’ll likely be sharing E3 commentaries next week.

A Story of How I Found Some Words

I’ve always considered myself lucky that I’ve been a retro gamer before such a term even existed. Even though I’m only 20 years old, I lived through the remaining parts of the NES era playing catch-ups as the system was fading out, thanks in part to later PAL release dates. Eventually I migrated to the SNES and Gameboy. Years later I finally caught up in the Playstation era while simultaneously enjoying games handed down by family members on the Amiga 500 and so it goes..

This scatterfield history as a player always on the fringe of the latest releases, trying to cover his tracks, ensured that I was always mining for information on past-hit games. I spent healthy amounts of time investigating old games, when I started coming across topics that were unfamiliar and decided to investigate those as well. It was this curiosity which lead to the post ‘The Official CD-I Reference’ on my long-running personal blog.

From there I slowly started to migrate from writing routine diary entries to writing about games. I started blogging about games before I’d even consciously read a video game blog. I just pursued games writing for my own interest in mind as I wanted to not just learn more but to fill a void where I had no one to discuss games in such a light.

Although some of the earlier pieces of content were solely news pieces cribbed from other sources, I began airing concern over a series of congruent topics that I felt were being overlooked elsewhere. Such as; how gamers play a role in representing the medium, the hardcore disregard for casual games, the mix of quality titles for traditional players on the PSP and retro gaming.

At this stage, I still didn’t have much faith in other gaming blogs. The first time that I actually took an interest in other blogs was after landing on Retro Gaming with RacketBoy for the second time, where I spent maybe 9hrs straight reading every article on the site, as well as finding other sites such as Press the Buttons and Siliconera through the portal. Racketboy really opened my eyes to another side of retro gaming and it was from there that I started having faith in other people’s opinions on games.

After stumbling across Racketboy, I began to find my place within the blogging community. From there I began to come in contact with more academic blogs such as the Brainy Gamer, both of these writers influenced the type of content I was producing. Like a young infant I was replicating what I consumed. This second phase brought about a greater critical perception of what I was reading and my tastes shifted accordingly.

Then in July last year I brought out a redesign of the site (the same design you see now). The new design idealized the direction I wanted the site to move. A month after the re-design I was living in Shanghai. The experience of being away from everything that previously defined my place on the earth, allowed me to find my writing slant as well as become re-accquainted with myself in an almost enlightening manner. The process allowed me to think through my future direction and form a methodology to approach it. I applied this to the only game I was playing at the time; Quake and it was met by some kind words by Simon Carless over at GameSetWatch, confirming that I was on the right track.

Since then I’ve managed to take aspects from all of the previous forms of writing and turn it into a style of my own. Last year, I expressed concern about my writing level, and while I’m miles away from the dream, I’m rather chuffed with how I’m going. Proofreading this article displeases me, but I still have a solid handle on my words and a level of writing that can get me into sites like Racket Boy, Video Games Blogger and Gamasutra. I guess GameSetWatch/Gamasutra is more or less the top of the unofficial hierarchy of video games writing, so I have little to fret over.

Writing Voice

With all that behind me, I want to quickly map out what I consider to be the skeleton of this blog as well as the pieces I write externally.

Anecdotal Writing

Games are deeply personal experiences. They have to be, we all have different mental, cultural, and social make-up that colour our interpretations – there is no way they aren’t personal so we should speak in a way that justifies this ideology. I’m not sure how well my writing achieves this, but it’s an unwritten rule.

Approach to Criticism

There is an awful amount of noise relating to what insecure individual might call “games criticsm”. The unanimous part is that there is a lack of it. I personally feel weary of using the ‘c’ word simply because of the snotty-nosed stigma that’s associated with the term in a gaming context. In anycase, there is no doubt that much of what I write can be classified as critique.

People make a big fuss about the methodology towards criticism, when actually it’s really simple. Criticism requires one to explain how something achieves a set task, so all that’s required is choosing what those things are and investigate. The difficult part is making it sound interesting. Games are just sets of rules (factor in presentation if it’s relevant) therefore explaining the rules sets and design, and relating them to a 3rd party topic can be kinda tiresome. ie. Part A works with part B to achieve segment C which is part of overarching topic. It takes a really good writer to weave it well. Oh, and be sure to talk about the game too, 99% of people that attach the ‘critique’ banner to their writing often talk phat air.

Writing Content

There are four self-explanatory areas that I write about, being;

Editorial
Retro Games
Games and Culture – My calling card
Criticism/Games Discussion

The editorial ranges considerably as do retro games. Games and culture is obviously what I am slowly becoming famous for while at the same time trying to avoid people falsely perceiving me as some kind of expert. And of course, study games as texts, talking about the merits of games.

I’ve found that every time I try to work outside of this rubric, my writing suffers greatly. Makes it difficult trying to write for external sources after the news-reviews-previews trifecta.

…And My favourite Posts

You thought it was about to end right? No, not before I spout out my favourite articles from the past 2 years. Sorry;

Retro Review Lufia 2: The Rise of the Sinistrals
Thorough for the time of writing, I was particularly proud with how I handled my write up on my most liked RPG.

Hidden Secrets/Clues in the Resident Evil 5 Trailer
I’ve always felt as though us bloggers are the chief scrutinizers who are quick to react to the latest stories with keen investigation, surfacing any hidden details. I learnt that from Stephen Totilo and I think that this article was the first instance where I applied it.

Super Mario Land 2 and Totally Rad Retro Review
Matt sounds rather terrible voicing the reviews, we just couldn’t work around noise issues with the mic, in anycase, I’m proud of the two video reviews we produced.

DP’s Retro Gaming Compilation Wishlist
During this time I was on a high of unique ideas showing off another asset that all bloggers should strive for; a constant stream of creative ideas.

Watch Morgan Webb Totally Degrade Video Games on the Tyra Banks Show
The language analysis is pretty weak, but again, I came across a good idea, fleshed it out and made it into a rather successful post. I don’t think I like it as much as other people did.

We Place Faith in The Conduit
I just enjoyed writing this piece. I really ought to do another posts that looks at the way IGN stimulates the Nintendo fan culture into supporting Red Steel, Conduit, Nitrobike and now even the latest High Voltage software.

MGS4 After Thoughts
I covered MGS4 quite extensively and through many articles I eventually articulated myself decently. The series is very grey in a world that only accepts black and white. It’s still a pity that people either evangelize or crucify the series.

How Does it Feel to Play a Video Game?
This article represents me finding my feet and summarising my feelings at the time to a tee. Reads poorly now. Second favourite.

Culture Bred Through Game Design
Up to this point I’d made a raw mess when discussing games and culture, this post is the first step in the right direction.

The Love of the Land – Zelda: Twilight Princess
I just love the eloquence of this piece. I hope to follow it up, but I’m bloody stuck again. Argh!

Marketing Stimuli, Previews and Chicken Feathers
This reads like a dog now, but it represented the raw state of mind I was living through at the time. Wrote this while in China, killing myself through meditative jolts of culture shock. I cringe to read it again, but easily my favourite article.

Quake and the Feeling of Nightmare
Nailed my new approach for the first time, rather pleased. Also feel like I represented the strengths of the game, particularly the way the assets take on new meaning in a modern context.

Yakuza 2: The Cultural Dynamite
Finally nailing this cultural thing. Still rather scratchy though.

Downloadable Drug
I like describing gameplay and game experiences, it doesn’t work with all games though, but it worked here.

Play Impressions (And the Rest #1)
There’s a lot of dribble regarding Flower out there, I bloody hate it.

Bookworm Adventures Deluxe – Linguistic Observations
Angled this one well, related to an academic discipline too, which always makes me appear cultured.

Hyper, Print Media and Tips for Survival
I have second thoughts about some of my points here, but still a strong article that drummed up some attention.

Metal Gear Solid Novelization Break down (Part #2 Tangible Differences)
Thinking outside the cube again. I need to submit this to a MGS fan site someday.

Tuition of Curves: WipEout HD
I failed to capture the feeling of playing this title due to my weak English skills. Very difficult to describe, feels deeply intimate and much like women – I hope I got that message across.

Opinion: The Place Of Games In Culture
Yeah, they posted it on Gamasutra, yikes! This post represents the footing that I can now step off from to talk about games and culture.

Classic NES review: Nintendo World Cup
I liked all the reviews I contributed to these guys, and hopefully I’ll do some more sometime. This one was probably the best.

Conclusion

So this is what happens when you become over accustomed to writing disrespectfully long articles. I ought to finish on a high note, so with that in mind, look for more content on the way, as per usual. I’m also writing for another source now, I just hope that I’ll be able to talk about it real soon. Sorry for making this so self-serving. Toot toot!

  • http://chungking.wordpress.com Simon Ferrari

    Hey man, really glad you popped up an explanation of how you get your prose so crisp. I wish I had this kind of structure; the weird thing thing is that although I’ve done “media studies” for awhile, videogames weren’t something I realized I could study and write about. I’m constantly striving to figure out my “party line” or philosophy, writing style, analytical methodology, etc. In short, it’s good to see somebody who’s gotten it all straightened out.

    I share your distaste for the word “criticism,” not because it’s snobbish but because, as a philosophy and cultural studies person, “critique” has a very specific meaning: to reveal, examine, or invalidate the underlying assumptions of an artifact, system, or statement… instead of analyzing the thing on its own merits. *Usually* (not by any means always) what we do as games bloggers is analysis, and even great analysis isn’t critique (it’s not a question of degree, but method). I think you recognize this, because you separate the two in your blog’s subtitle… but most people don’t.

    And props on being able to decide which of your posts are your favorite. I’m slowly making my way through them. Got stuck on the Morgan Webb one. The weird thing for me about that whole explanation she gives of the three gamer archetypes is that she fawns over people who like shooting games and RPGs, yet denigrates sports game fans specifically as people who chase false digital dreams of a life they’ll never have. I really don’t know if I agree that her insult can be generalized to gamers as a whole (though of course your breakdown of Tyra’s attitudes was perfect).

  • http://www.danielprimed.com Daniel

    Your writing is really great too, Simon. I only just realized that you have an RSS feed and since then I haven’t had the time to sit and read through the latest stuff.

    It pains me reading some of the older articles with their atrocious spelling and grammatical errors. My arguments too were often pretty retarded. They’re probably not so bad though.