When I wrote the first post 354 on VVVVVV, I never thought I’d be possessed with the hubris to write a post called Five Years of Electron Dance, let alone have enough readers to justify it.
There’s only way to deal with this: I’m going to let it get to my head and get drunk and take off all my clothes. Does this mean I can monetize my audience? Should I run a Patreon? Let’s talk about what this means and answer five questions about Electron Dance you never wanted answering in the first place.
Well it doesn’t mean anything, right? Isn’t it just like winning an IGF award? Surely the heart and soul of your creation is with your audience and not some artificial metrics you’ve sold your self-worth to or that pretty piece of glass someone said is really actually a very important piece of glass you should put on your mantelpiece and have pictures taken with, yes? And thus this post will now promptly vanish in a puff of logic.
Despite this being a totally arbitrary line drawn in the sand, I’m going to party around this line in the sand like it’s 1999.
First, you’ll have noticed the shiny new logo. I commissioned my good friend Gregg Burnell, who is a graphic designer in real life, to develop a new Electron Dance logo and we’ve been going through pages and pages of designs over the last month. Change is always difficult but I’m really happy where we ended up. I’m planning a site overhaul as well, once I get a little more time.
Second, this month will feature a number of anniversary-themed posts. Don’t worry, I’m not going to have a YouTube video of indie megastars explaining “why I love Electron Dance so much” because I don’t have the bribery money right now. Neither am I planning a Polygon-style making-of documentary, in which you’d see me sit frustrated before a keyboard facing an empty WordPress blotter while my wife plays Minecraft. At the very least, you’ve got the ultimate listicle to look forward to tomorrow – the Best Electron Dance Posts of All-Time EVER.
I can’t bring myself to write “here’s to the next five years” because I don’t know what the future holds. The site could stop next month, next year, next decade. It doesn’t matter. Let’s take a moment to enjoy the 450 posts that I’ve already written!
Hey, maybe I should mention I post a monthly newsletter as well. Just click this link to signup. If you’re not sure whether it’s for you, you can always check out a recent example from January where I moan about Monument Valley.
But for now, here are answers to five infrequently asked questions. In some cases, never at all! That’s the beauty of it.
1. Why is it called Electron Dance?
You have to go back to 2002, when I started a programming blog called Wander. The name didn’t grow on me and I had to change it. Programming is done on computers, electricity is what gives computers life and electricity can be viewed as electrons drifting very slowly in the direction of an electric field: so I renamed the blog Electron Drift. But I thought making electrons do clever things like videogames could be described as making electrons dance.
I planned to make a games review site, so I bought the domain name electrondance.com at the same time. I even had a review of Deus Ex all ready for the inaugural post, but I never mustered enough enthusiasm to actually make the site. It would be eight years before I would return seriously to the idea of writing about games and as I never threw away the electrondance.com domain name, I just picked up where I had left off. (Minus one Deus Ex review.)
The Electron Drift and Electron Dance logos are intentionally similar, because they were originally meant to be sister sites even though Drift has been dead for years.
2. Why did you start Electron Dance?
I dunno, really, I can’t even remember. I’d quit writing a site called Hammerport (see next question) to free me up for bigger, proper writing as having our first child meant time for side projects was declining. I had begun to acquire my fair share of rejection slips but I’d lost the urge to get writing week on week. So many other people had been starting game writing blogs and new forms of writing had sprung up – Rock Paper Shotgun was a revelation after years of mainstream-focus and 7/10 and I became a dedicated fan of Second Person Shooter.
I just thought, surely I could have a go at that, too. I never intended for the site to dominate my life so much, but here we are.
3. Why do people call you HM?
I practised the art of creative writing for three years on a personal site called Hammerport. A port needs a “Harbour Master” so that’s what I called myself as the author there. When I started Electron Dance, I wanted to remain pseudononymous, so re-used the same moniker but shortened it to HM. I silently put the moniker to bed last year as having four different names in the public eye – Electron Dance, Harbour Master, HM, Joel Goodwin – was probably too much and I was no longer shy about sharing my real name. I am published on Rock Paper Shotgun as “Joel Goodwin”.
I turned one of the many unfinished Hammerport tales into a Twine last year called Truth is Ghost.
4. What’s your favourite Electron Dance post?
That’s a difficult one. In terms of laying out actual game design theory, I’d have to say Stop Crying About Choice is difficult to top. But if we’re talking about fun, I don’t know if I’ve ever bested the emotional rollercoaster of The Aspiration, which I maintain is the best Neptune’s Pride (Iron Helmet Games, 2010) diary on the planet.
But here’s something that I’ve never mentioned in public before. After reading The Aspiration, Jay Kyburz of Iron Helmet asked if I was interested in writing for Neptune’s Pride II: Triton (2013) – and I was, but the eternal battle of Electron Dance vs Life had begun and I struggled to find the time to get back to Jay. The road not taken…
Let me know in the comments if you have some particular favourites yourself. Don’t tell me about the stuff you don’t like because that doesn’t help inflate my ego now, does it?
5. Why do old reviews have numbers in the title?
It was the number of words.
So 354 on VVVVVV is 354 words on VVVVVV. Practically, it was a nightmare: a small amendment to the text would invalidate the number so I did stupid things like add in extra words to rebalance the word count! Obviously I had too much time on my hands.
But I wanted to move away from doing a bona fide review towards writing which had a broader point, something that contributed to the conversation around games beyond a “buy this” recommendation. For example, instead of reviewing Full Bore (Whole Hog Games, 2013), I wrote about how players were demanding incentives to solve puzzles and why this is a problem.