April 6th, 2011
It’s been a surprising 2 weeks absence, hasn’t it? This post isn’t a tail-between-the-legs apology though—writing is hard and I just gotta map out some of my ideas of where exactly I’m heading with it.
Firstly, I haven’t posted anything new on the Wario Land 4 levels because the process of writing out my ideas, editing them and then uploading them here in the one go doesn’t make for the most favourable analysis. Instead I’ve decided to write the “Room Analysis”, the core body of the level analysis, for every level first. This will be a thorough review of everything note-worthy in the levels: how the game elements work together, convey meaning, teach the player, extend the game idea etc. By process of me hashing out the room-by-room analysis, I will then have a clearer idea of how best to introduce and interpret the data. After that I can decide on a model for organising the analysis. Finally, I can review and edit the posts to fit the clearest model, while catching up on any details I might have missed and tweaking for readability. This way I’ll be covering my tracks as best as possible. The posts on the levels will constitute about half of the material in the project, so I really need to be clear and methodical with my writing. This extended process will allow for that.
Currently I expect to finish the room analysis part in a few days. After that I will write a few posts about the presentation of the data and then proceed to edit the articles. So, I’m guessing that by the 20th of April the blog should start seeing a new 3000 word article posted once every couple of days until about the 15th of May.
My original plan was to have completed most of the project, ie. the hard stuff like game elements, the levels, core design essays by the 15th of May because my 2 week holiday and hopeful transition into Shanghai should start then. I also liked the idea of a 4 month crunch as a test of my conviction in my writing and as a precedence for future projects. I look set to meet this deadline. I plan on spending the 4 months after May 15th slowly editing and rewriting the articles to perfection and filling in the gaps of topical and design essays until I publish it into a book. If I take until the end of the year to do that then I’m not too worried. I’m really only gunning for the May 15th deadline as a test of my critical eye, polish should be applied over time.
My plan is to self-publish and self-market out of my own pocket. Frankly I know that the book won’t sell and that’s fine, it’s a labour of love. So long as I can get it out there for people who want it, then I’ll be content.
Because of the nature of the project the book won’t actually have any pictures for reference. Instead I’ll be putting up all reference images, video etc on a separate website and refer to the site in the writing. There are 2 reasons for this 1) some of the images of rooms or levels clearly won’t fit on the page of a book and they’d look bad in black and white 2) it is easier for the reader if the reference material is separate, that way they don’t have to turn back and forth between pages.
So from now until whenever I publish the plan is to finish these posts on the levels and their design then slowly edit what is there and add what’s missing from my list. My plan is to make this book the definitive source for analysis and interpretations on the game. What is posted on the blog now won’t be the final cut. Although I will upload more articles to the blog when they’re ready, I won’t be uploading the final edited versions of what is in the book.
What I’ve learnt through writing this much, is that committing to writing a book forces you to really understand your subject matter. And when I think about it understanding games is the very goal of my writing. The more I’ve been writing, the deeper I can delve into the analysis and writing books is perfectly in line with that pursuit for depth.
Last year I was really puzzled about what exactly I wanted to do with my writing on this blog. I tried dabbling with the enthusiast press which left a sour taste in my mouth. I tried pitching to the more respected, pseudo academic publications, but they weren’t interested either. The enthusiast press didn’t care for analysis and I was too grounded in practicality instead of fancy for the “critical” sphere of thinking. So I decided it was worth a shot blazing my own path and this is where it has got me, writing a book on a single game.
Like I said, writing a book can help in understanding something more deeply and deep is where I’m looking to go. So, I may as well just come out and say that, as exhausting as it has been so far, nothing has made me happier with my writing than going down this path. Writing has become my passion and when life keeps me away from it for too long I begin to lose my sense of self. I said to myself a month ago that I want to keep doing this forever. Wario Land 4 is just the start. I have other ideas for future projects that I’ve been considering for some time. Here are my ideas for the future:
Metroid Prime Project
Originally I didn’t plan on writing about Wario Land 4. Rather I’ve been wanting to do a Metroid Prime project since August last year. My Metroid Prime 3 diaries were the grounding for this project. Considering the time and difficulty it has taken me to ship a Wii and the Metroid Prime Trilogy to where I am now, China, I decided to do something in the meantime, that being Wario Land 4. In this way Wario Land 4, being a smaller project, would act as a stepping stone to this larger project.
The idea remains the same as the Wario Land 4 project though, to cover the one game as extensively as I can. The thing with Metroid Prime though is its scope. Not only am I going to have to cover the game design, I need to look at the artistic design, forms of storytelling, atmosphere design, 3D perspectives, the Metriod lore, alien fiction and so on. That’s not even considering that the game is several times the size of Wario Land 4. In the end I’m expecting that a book form of this would be larger than 500 pages, so I’m not exactly super willing to be giving myself another 4 month deadline. Instead I want to tackle this project over a year or more.
I chose this game because it not only is it one of my favourite games, but it is such an under-appreciated masterpiece on many levels. Metroid Prime exemplifies great qualities of what video games can aspire to be and yet I don’t feel that it has received the justice it deserves. Writing a book is one way to make that change.
100 Games, 3 Lessons for Each
This is something a little different from the other 2 projects. Writing full bore about a single game can really wear you down and even once it’s done it will only appeal to the limited audience who played the original game. This project is sort of like a smartened up compilation on what I was doing before I was writing about Wario Land 4. The idea is that for 100 games I will write 3 individual articles per game focusing on important aspects of their design. See. Just like I was doing before. The plan is to cover a wide range of games in which I must be able to write 3 good articles about. I like this concept as it should be more palatable to a wider audience and, doubly, it’s a great excuse to catch up on games in my collection.
Games and Education
I mentioned this on Twitter the other day. Writing about Wario Land 4‘s levels and actually trying to improve as a teacher (I’m a full time teacher don’t forget!) has got me thinking really hard on games and education. I’d like to write something extending on from this book, adding more case studies as evidence. I’m not too sure that this would be such a great idea though. It is something I am considering however.
So there you have it, the next 3 years of my free time planned right in front of you. Well, maybe not. The current Wario Land 4 project has burned me into the ground and I don’t plan on putting myself through this again. So I’ll be taking everything far more slowly.
I want to share my ideas on these future projects now, not to distract you, the reader, from the lack of new material as of late (I’ve been working my ass off in secret, you’ll see), but to put out some future goals for myself and to actually fill you guys in on what’s going on. I have already started taking some notes on Metroid Prime, but don’t expect anything to materialise from that for at least 2 months yet. Even then it’s still early. For now, I gotta finish writing about these levels and stay true to my convictions.