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.

“Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes 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.

The Aspiration Mourns For Baron

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.

Download my FREE eBook on the collapse of indie game prices an accessible and comprehensive explanation of what has happened to the market.

Sign up for the monthly Electron Dance Newsletter and follow on Twitter!

13 thoughts on “Five Years of Electron Dance

  1. Happy anniversary! Take off your clothes!

    I particularly enjoyed the Where We Came From series, I really liked what you set out to do (and what you accomplished) with Warning Signs, and I’ve found myself referencing Screw Your Walking Simulators a surprising amount. Your most recent series I also though was particularly important.

    The Aspiration, of course, is fantastic. I also liked your coverage of the NP game I was involved in, although part of that is obviously because it involve me and I’m a tremendous narcissist.

  2. Thanks Shaun. Those are all favourites of mine too. I’m not too sure what I think about The Petri Dish because it feels like it was a cathartic experience and clarifying where I stood as opposed to being a game changer or anything. I honestly have this weird urge to delete TV Games Are For Boys from the site…

    (There’s also a little surprise for you this month as part of the five year celebrations, if it’s your narcissism we’re talking about. Ssshhh. Say no more.)

  3. So many answers to questions I never asked you (but probably asked Hailey)!

    Was VVVVVV really your first article? I feel like I was there from the beginning… I’m sure I wasn’t though.

    It might not be my favourite article but The Second Game always springs to mind, as well as The Aspiration of course. I think you really captured the spirit of Miasmata too in The Island and The Beast. The problem is Joel, you’ve done a lot of excellent writing god damn it, so it’s hard to– oh! The Stanley Paradox! I love how you unpack so much in that write-up — you really lay bare what’s so smart about the game.

    Anyway, congratulations on hitting 5 years! And here’s to meeting over at Tom Jubert’s site all that time ago.

    By the way, is there a way of flicking through your past work without clicking on ‘Older Entries’ at the bottom or using the search function?

  4. I’m scared now.

    (Also I agree with Gregg, some means of scanning through titles & perhaps précis for all past articles would be really great. Of course this isn’t something that WordPress does out of the box…)

  5. No, Gregg, you appeared a few months in. I can’t remember the exact timings, of course. I suppose I could dig around Tom Jubert’s site for the moment our comments first met each others’ eyes in the internet gloom. Do you remember the pseudo-followup to The Second Game, a post called Broken Glass? That’s exactly the kind of post that time forgets!

    Anyway, it’s not pretty, but you may be looking for every post ever: http://www.electrondance.com/every-post-ever.

  6. Bookmarked, thanks! That’s a handy link that should go somewhere. Sometimes just raw ugly function is what you need.

    Yes, Broken Glass was a great article, and one I apparently didn’t comment on.

  7. OK, I am comfortable in my towel, but where’s the Patreon. Here’s to another 15 years of ED (unless I die and don’t care anymore).

    I do love this place, you know.

  8. Hey, I haven’t mentioned how much I enjoy reading this site. Happy five years!

  9. Thanks Matt! I know many of the comment regulars come and go but you’ve been here quite a long time now, we should probably get you a certificate or something. Maybe a sticker star chart to track your progress?

  10. Congratulations on five years! I couldn’t help but to think, reading through your history, that it reminded me a great deal of my own. I too started with the idea of running reviews — in my own feed reader, the title of my blog is still set to my original “2 Hour Review” — but gradually drifted to other things. I also ran with the crowd of writing more about theory for awhile as well, and even jumped to writing for another site for about a year or so.

    But, like you wrote, change happens.

    Still, five years is a major accomplishment! Most blogs about games in any form don’t last more than months, let alone years plural. Congratulations on that.

  11. Thanks Dan!

    Having kickstarted so many failed blogs over the years I knew that the way to keep going was to keep regular, make schedule. If you turn it into “oh I’ll just post when I’ve got something ready” you eventually wind down and quit. This is what happens to blogs. I don’t think I expected to get this far, but it’s not like I set any traffic records. I still think I’m a bit scattershot when it comes to subjects, so readers never quite know what’s coming next, but I’m trying to narrow that done somewhat this year. I often wonder if I’ll find a unique sort of post that will become “my thing” – which happens to some blogs. But after five years there’s no real sign of that…

Comments are closed.