Apologies! This should have been posted in 2011 but there just wasn’t any room in the schedule. Better late than after I’m the late HM, though. If you’re wondering what Electron Dance goodness you might have missed in 2011, then this post is your compass to great destinations of word.

And dear sweet babies of Jesus, I realise how much I’ve written last year for no pennies.


These Aren’t Reviews, No

Even fucking Kill Screen thinks Wizorb is a great “reboot” of Breakout. Hello? Is this on? Jesus Christ, did no one notice Shatter a year ago?

Wikileaks Stories, managed by Jonas Kyratzes and Gnome’s Lair, is a political game project. Does it work? Maybe.

I described Cryostasis as “the bastard child of genius and train wreck” . This is still true. Beautifully nuanced narrative work, gameplay that’s like claws down a blackboard.

Gregg B and I loved Portal 2 Co-op far more than Portal 2 single player.

I took a walk through Charlie Knight’s 2D shooters and ended up making sweet love to his latest work, Scoregasm.

Douglas Wilson thinks I forgot to link to my piece on Wither, a decidedly odd RPGMaker game. No I didn’t Doug!

Richard Perrin’s atmospheric exploration game Kairo reminded me of Atari 2600 Adventure. That’s not a bad thing.

Absolutely everyone should be watching Proteus, though. A game without achievements, score or puzzles. It is wonder and joy. Urm, I probably need to explain why it’s not like Dear Esther.

And don’t forget the dirty love letter I wrote to Rob Hale’s twitch-or-perish arena shooter Waves, which will kill your hands stone dead.

The Aspiration

“To my mind this was an even better write up than the one on RPS.”

–Badger Commander, Arcadian Rhythms

“I’m excited to see how this ends, got chills up my spine.”

–BeamSplashX (Sid Menon)

“I really should go to bed, but I can’t tear myself away.”

–Armand, BnB Gaming

“At turns hilarious and heartbreaking, even emotionally exhausting, it is always epic and written in a classic Harbour Masterian style that many can emulate but none can match.”

–Steerpike, Tap-Repeatedly

The Aspiration was a mighty Neptune’s Pride AAR/game diary, also included in the Critical Distance Best of 2011. The game, originally played in the summer of 2010, was a motherfrakking nightmare but made one insane story. I’d love to re-write the first part of The Aspiration because it’s a little slow but, get through it, and you’re in for a nail-biting rollercoaster.

Part emotional honesty, part space opera role play and part 4X strategy: this is probably the best Neptune’s Diary you’ll ever read. It earned Electron Dance a boatload of new readers.

A follow-up series, The Xmaspiration, ran at Christmas to cover a few stories and thoughts I felt I’d missed during the main series. This is a set of standalone essays.

Where We Came From

“The entire series is well worth your attention…”

–Steerpike, Tap-Repeatedly (writing for IGDA Culture Clash)

“It’s just been one inspired read after another.”

–Max “xtal” Boone, Tap-Repeatedly

“I must say, I am astounded that anybody would take any time with that 30-year-old software.”

–Chris Crawford

“Some of the most interesting writing on games in a while.”

–Jonas Kyratzes, author of The Infinite Ocean & The Book of Living Magic

“Seriously, if you care at all about videogame culture and history, you owe it to yourself to leaf thru the full series.”

–Douglas Wilson, author of B.U.T.T.O.N. and Johann Sebastian Joust

Whereas The Aspiration was about a game that nearly killed me, Where We Came From was a series that almost killed me. The effort involved in putting together this three-month project got me to the point where I almost quit Electron Dance. But I am incredibly proud of the result, a serious look at 1980s gaming that questioned whether anything was lost in the subsequent decades. Well, at least, that’s what it appears to be on first glance…

The big highlights:

  • Stanley Kubrick Is Gone: 2nd most popular post this year (2,000 views). Game programmer Bill Williams knew his time on Earth was limited – and in his short time innovated with every one of his games.
  • The Fukushima Syndrome: Can a 1981 nuclear reactor sim tell us anything about Fukushima?
  • The Last Dream: The grand finale. All roads lead here. Something of import was lost and cannot be saved.

I’d recommend the whole thing really. The best writing on Electron Dance? Probably.

Electron Dance In Motion

Ah, videos are like a beautiful woman I’d do anything for… but she keeps treating me like dirt. Most videos don’t get anywhere near the number of views of the associated articles. I present below the popular and the important.

Top video of the year, with nearly 1,000 views at the close of the year, is a three-minute summary of The Aspiration’s story. It’s basic but does the business.

Men of Science demonstrates that Portal 2 co-op is more about two people having a laugh together and less about puzzles. This brings a smile to my face every time I watch it. I love you, Gregg B!

Exploring SCRAM (Where We Came From). I really thought no one would watch this but it got flagged up on Hacker News and became surprisingly popular. A detailed walk-through of Chris Crawford’s 1981 nuclear reactor simulator SCRAM.

Expo Man 2011. I went to Eurogamer Expo 2011 and planted my ugly mug in front of the camera to talk indie stuff. I will be back in front of the camera at some point. Oh yes.

Proteus.  A much-loved video of the Little Harbour Master talking about Ed Key & David Kanaga’s spellbinding Proteus as we play together. This is one of Doug Wilson’s most loved videos of the year.

Eulogy for an Atari Childhood (Where We Came From). Intensely personal revisit to my Atari childhood, two weeks of late nights in the making. The last three and a half minutes were metaphor: the Atari’s death and ascension to memory; my decision to move on and bury my Atari past; and finally, from the soil emerge the flowers of modern gaming. I always get upset watching the end, but that’s because I’m a John Walker crybaby. I tell you all this now because hardly anybody played the video, probably because it was loooong and few site readers are Atarians.

Broadcast Prime. Burned three weeks of saved-up Electron Dance time to produce this, the over-ambitious and frankly surreal commercial for the series “The Xmaspiration”. This is fairly close to what I envisioned, although I cut out the destruction of the Nursery Fields of Azelfafage because it looked pants. Another perfect example of killing myself on something which has no audience: this “commercial” has taken a month to get just 100 views.

Bonus DLC

Following Why Do Christian Games Suck? there was a great discussion in the comments.

While I was off on sabbatical, Doug Wilson talked to Martin Jonasson, Petri Purho and Ramiro Corbetta about exhibition games.

Disappointment #1 I’d heard talk that the indies had taken a beating sales-wise in the summer of 2010 and was hoping to get various indies to say something on the subject. But, other than Chris Park, no-one came back to me. So I was left with an article that was just Chris saying “summer was disappointing”. It didn’t help that this was the only thing I posted on Reddit before Reddit decided I was a dirty link whore.

Disappointment #2 The Where We Came From series was a mixed bag in terms of initial reception. A big interview with David Fox, for example, received poor attendance. More painful, though, was the flagship essay Where We Came From which involved a lot of work and actual expenses. Unfortunately I’m not the only person writing about game archiving projects so this just didn’t have enough click magnetism. It eventually picked up 200 views by year end but bombed during the actual project run. Was a warning in bright neon letters not to invest in articles too much.


Lastly, thanks to all the readers for your support. Whether it’s writing comments, saying nice words, tweeting tweets, posting links, making jokes at Steerpike’s expense or even forwarding links to the Sunday Papers – it’s all appreciated. Your karma cookie jars are all very healthy.

Right. That’s enough navel-gazing, I think.

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9 thoughts on “Electron Dance 2011 Review

  1. You’ve been a busy HM, haven’t you?

    What a rich, excellently written and utterly fantastic blog you’ve created.

    Thanks and congratulations. Also, please, do keep it up!

  2. Gnome came from an alternate future where I said that very same thing.

    Don’t worry too much about putting so much effort into things that don’t get much attention. Your writing connected to the videos speaks for itself.

    That said, videos are just about the only thing we could collaborate on, which I did enjoy as a one-night stand. We could be so much more, though, Joel. So, so much more.

  3. And one day I’ll get back to you about that “other project” I promised would be happening last September. LIKE ALL MY PROJECTS THEY ARE JUST NEXT MONTH. I told Dan Pinchbeck in November that I’d get in contact with him at the start of December. OOPS DEADLINE BUTTERFINGERS.

    Although actually Sid you were effectively a collaborator on The Aspiration, you were a pretty big part of that if I recall. Your dying words were, “Just… write about me…”

    (Videos are genuinely troublesome though as they take hours and hours and hours to do. Instead of writing a new article or getting some sleep, I’m playing with audio clips or sequence transitions. When an article isn’t popular it’s something that’s easier to live with than a video sinking without trace. I constantly question my devotion to the Medium of Moving Pictures.)

  4. You keep writing ’em, Harbour Master, and we promise to keep tweeting, forwarding, linking, commenting, and saying nice words. You have a gift and it’s my personal mission to ensure more people appreciate it.

    Making jokes at my expense is allowed, however, each joke has been noted and cataloged for future vengeance.

  5. It’s always interesting to see annual round-ups, especially in this case as I think I began reading ED regularly partway through the year and never stopped.

    Keep up the damn fine work, that man!

  6. Thanks Steerpike. You’re also getting a nod for your Dark Souls diaries on the next Link Drag whenever I put one together for your heroic efforts in spoiling the game for me when it hits PC.

    And Shaun, cheers. If you’re bored there’s always the 2010 round-up too which seemed just as busy but probably not as momentous =)

  7. You’ll notice I made no promises for this year =) There are a bunch of plans but the lesson of 2011 was not to tie myself down. I’ve still got to finish bloody Armpit Empires, the series that no one was reading.

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