A purple and blue swirl, into it your soul pours

Illness has taken a toll and I just don’t have the energy to write a proper post this week. You were supposed to be reading about the narrative wonder of Kairo but, er, sorry. Dog ate my homework.

So as not to leave you forlorn, here are a few notes. Link Drag back from the dead, I suppose.

  • Michael “Angelina” Cook has started a new series covering game-related academic research. The first is on auto-generated RPG classes. I put up my hand to review this before posting as I’d love to see good academic work getting more attention, gaining traction in the wild. (Further reference: The Academics Are Coming series last year.)
  • Out of the ashes of Culture Ramp is Upstreamist: “Don’t come here looking for tech enthusiast news or “life hacks.” There are already a number of sites that report on the industry or attack the subject of information technology from the angle of productivity. Upstreamist is about more than coping with, or succeeding on the strength of, those technologies. The goal is not to weather the tide or go with the flow, but rather to find ways of navigating those streams that let us to travel toward a culture worth having.” It’s early days for the site, but this might be one to watch.
  • I asked @bfod and @Jonathan_Blow if they had finished Starseed Pilgrim, because I am finding the end blisteringly hard. Literally, I am screaming no no fuck no at the screen.
  • Chris Priestman writes about the struggle for quality in videogame writing. To be honest, there’s nothing here I hadn’t heard before except… indiegames.com had stopped paying its staff. Then again I unsubscribed from the site a couple of months ago because it had largely become an indie press release feed.
  • I’ve started listening to Joe Martin’s short interview podcasts again (I started and totally forgot to subscribe until he retweeted Ethics last week) and you can listen to an entire series in less than an hour. The latest batch has this mournful quality. It’s either Joe’s voice, the subject matter or the music that does it.
  • Shaun Green reviewed Killing is Harmless, Brendan Keogh’s book on Spec Ops: The Line. Spoiler! He didn’t like it so much.
  • I made a joke on Twitter.
  • Worth a read if you have the time, suggested by Ben Schroder in the open comments thread: Renata Adler takes down film critic Pauline Kael (Aug 1980). When critics turn columnist.
  • In “Psytron”, Rob Fearon writes about his childhood memories of Margaret Thatcher… which reminded me a lot of my own.

The open comments thread is still open for business, of course.

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19 thoughts on “Pause: Recharging

  1. Thanks for the link, HM!

    I will have to follow up on the other link recipients at a later date. VirginMedia fucked up our broadband so am now into week three of Offline Camp (am at work at the mo).

  2. @ShaunCG: Yeah I was surprised it hadn’t been bounced around that much. I did a retweet and saw it on Critical Distance but I thought I should put it out again.

    @gnome: In my feeds I realised I was hitting “mark all read” every time I had accumulated some indiegames.com links. When I started following the site there were more articles and interviews but not any more. At the time I unsubscribed, it felt more like an aggregator. Content was “look a game is out”, Indie Royale game reviews (i.e. advertising) or pieces reposted from Gamasutra.

    I know you had an ongoing series of dev tools, for instance, but the truth is I am more likely to check out what you write if it is on Gnome’s Lair than indiegames.com.

  3. Whilst it’s arrogant and sentimental to admit as much, I have been a little disappointed that none of my last three pieces have really taken off. We’ve talked previously about investment vs. return and I’ve certainly felt that with these.

    Fortunately I’ve had some feedback from people I respect which is great, and for the KiH piece it’s been nice to see a trickle of traffic via CritDist, GamaSutra and now ED, as well as from Brendan’s own twitter feed.

    However, I think I shall flip back to some simpler, shorter pieces for a bit. I will probably still experiment where I can, but I’ll hold off on getting too deep into any one particular piece.

  4. @gnome: Of course!

    @Shaun: Last week’s “The Accidental ARG” took a lot of time checking facts and dates (even though I had made notes at the time) and that didn’t play very well at all. The important bit at the end about developer responsibility requires a lot of grind from the reader to get there so that probably killed off retweeting right there and then. I also know next week’s Kairo spoiler-laden piece is not going to get much traction – typically, going deep on a niche indie game does not earn readers. I get lots of clicks on the Zaga-33 feature link below, but very, *very* few actually proceed onto the rest of the series.

    But I feel like I have to do those pieces because no one else will. The positive way to think about it is this – you have to work on those edge pieces because they define you. If you did “mainstream” pieces all the time, then you’d just get lost in the rest of the VG writing clutter unless you had some particular spin like Yahtzee. All those edge pieces get buy-in from certain readers; likely different readers for each one of those pieces.

    But more than that… take Electron Dance’s successful pieces this year. You’ll only hit upon a gold mine of interest if you keep trying different angles. Into the Black was huge which used Orihaus’ esoteric game Obsolete. Ethics did well, of course, because it was on a hot potato topic; generally, I don’t like to do that sort of thing, but some writers are. Fish Out of Water sits on a sweet spot of populist AAA grumbling with a current mainstream hit. Take particular note that the rest of the series which drills far deeper into Dishonored did not receive as much attention. Traffic virtually died for the other weeks! I’ve been at this three years now and I know this comes with the territory.

    Still you have shoot the puppies in the head sometimes. I know some liked Link Drag while it was alive but I just couldn’t justify the effort there, it was like writing two whole pieces a week and click-through was poor. Looking at this clicks on this post so far, it’s pretty much the same deal. Similarly, Electron Dance videos by-and-large are dead now except for a few special occasions. That just clearly wasn’t worth it.

    Keep the faith, that’s all I can say.

  5. Thanks for the pep talk, dude. I think I needed that!

    I see what you mean about identity. Sometimes I do just want to do a review – half the time I’m writing purely as an exercise to keep my brain happy and engaged because god knows most things in this world don’t get the gears turning – but I’d like to push beyond that. I don’t want to just slot myself neatly into a niche, even if I were to identify one, but it would be nice to… well, I don’t know. Figure out what the fuck I’m doing?

    I’m tired. I’m going home. 🙂

  6. Seems Joe Martin has taken my masterful “mournful quality” insight to heart. It started out as just a tweet, a harmless bit of banter. But that wasn’t enough for Joe, oh no. He baked it into the notes against his latest podcast on Realtime Worlds, hardcore-style.

    In fact, he was so riled that he added a link to that old Electron Dance stalwart Punchbag Artists, calling it “a great and unrelated piece I read yesterday”.

    This war of mutually assured linking could get out of hand. People are going to get hurt.

  7. Came here because of his tweet.

    Not enough Rossignol to be RPS, I am afraid.

  8. @Beam: Totally.

    @bc: Yeah, I was thinking I might have to hire some real writers or something.

  9. How to beat Starseed Pilgrim:
    If you bring extra seeds back into the overworld, you’re able to stack them on top of your default 10 when you re-enter the fleeting world. So you can start the race with like 40 seeds.

  10. Seriously don’t post any more fucking Starseed Pilgrim spoilers without using rot13.

  11. Thanks awkward – but I completed Starseed a day after I posted this! But, yeah, be careful with those spoilers!

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