Holy crap on a stick. I’ve been doing this for four full years. That is gratifying in some ways and utterly depressing in others. But as many laments that I have over myself and the path that my career, or rather lack of one, I choose to spend this time over what I have accomplished than what I have failed at. It seems year over year I have posted more despite a 4 year stint of stagnation of which I can’t remember what happened at all. 47 posts here at The Game Critique over last year’s 33 and the year before’s 24. However, the vast majority of them are link pieces to my writing elsewhere.
I fell down on the job. I had weekly stints at two sites and by February I had tripped and was unable to keep up with the schedule. I was unused to that type of work and I’m extremely grateful that my own failings were not enough to burn bridges. Both Patricia of Nightmare Mode and Christopher of PopMatters were willing for me to come back. Poor timing on my part in the case of the former as NM soon went into a big restructuring. But with PopMatters I emerged better than I was before have kept a weekly schedule, plus or minus a hiccup or two with the back end and Hurricane Sandy. It happened by accident, but I noticed and it has been the most helpful thing it keeping a schedule.
Last year at both PopMatters and Nightmare Mode I was given any writer’s dream. A weekly column where I can literally write about anything I want. You know the phrase, “be careful what you wish for” say to a writer they can write whatever they want and their mind immediately goes blank. I got lucky early on, but soon the freedom was too much. I soon learned I need direction and it just so happened when I was succeeding I had inadvertently given myself direction. I had given myself a monthly topic where every post would relate to it. Before my collapse I wrote four pieces for PopMatters on Driver: San Francisco (plus one for Nightmare Mode), which are still held by some as the gold standard on the game and me the expert. Then at my return I did a month on the Uncharted franchise. This was about when I realized what I needed to do and with October on the horizon it was easy to figure out. October was horror month, focusing on a different horror game each week. And November, running into December, was for a different big profile indie game – Journey, Papo & Yo, The Unfinished Swan, Mark of the Ninja and Primordia.
I’ve also made some internal decisions about my PopMatters column, in that it will focus on the games. I did it by happenstance up until now, but it has served me well as a catalyst to actually play the games I have and write about them. This was the first year that I’ve done traditional commercial reviews. I’ve tried to take what I’ve learned about criticism and everything I’ve said against other reviewers into my own work. If nothing else, I find it a truly cathartic process.
After my work on PopMatters, the biggest thing I did and the project that completely derailed my efforts to do anything at all with my work was my Clarification of Genre series. With as much effort, thought and work that I put into it (doubly so on a plan to release a post a day) I am really disappointed with how much it failed. Some found it interesting and I know at least one designer found it actually helpful, but ultimately it is one of those useless categorization efforts that I am want to rail against. Even I was unhappy with it almost as soon as it was done. I don’t know if that’s due to the actual content or the fact it cause me to lose 4 months of my life in between updates. Either way, it’s something I did and I must recognize that.
Finally, there was a bunch of miscellaneous writing pieces I did here and there. Two link round-ups of other people’s thoughts on Girlfriend Mode and Political Correctness in video games. Neither as impressive as The Ebert Response, but then what could be. I posted my RPG Lineage Chart, which was really my prewriting for a post no one remembers, which got traction by virtue the gaming community really likes charts. A takedown that I did more out of obligation to the writer who was hurt by a tweet of mine and I felt I should fully explain myself. I also wrote a critical response to some post I don’t remember, a rebuttal to the examples used against video game twists and a nice piece on Flower as a sort of capstone to last year’s Limbo hate. Then two BoRT entries and a review looking for a home.
I said jokingly to Kris Ligman, my compatriot over at Critical Distance, that my greatest remembered accomplishment of the year would be the first 50 seconds of part 4 of the year-end podcast. In looking over everything I’ve published this year, I think that might be more accurate than I realize. The CDC podcast is another thing I fell down on. I release episode 9 (out of order) early in the year and the next episode was the year-end spectacular, longer than ever, 11 months later. What sticks the knife even further in is that I have 4 episodes waiting to be edited in the wings. That will be rectified.
All in all, it wasn’t a terrible year. I’m really excited for the year to come. I’ve got a lot of games to catch up in 2013 and a few ideas knocking about in my head. Who knows maybe I’ll actually finished one of these rough drafts that have been sitting on my desktop for nearly two years. Maybe that Brendan published his book of criticism on a single game, I’ll get my notes together and finally do the same. Maybe my brain will be fresh with new writing ideas and maybe I’ll finally learn how to work in an industry rather than just blogging all on my lonesome. And maybe I’ll stop kidding myself and burn the whole endeavor to the ground. The best part is that I don’t know and I feel the future filled with potential good or bad. I haven’t felt like this in a while and I want to use it keep my momentum going.
From TheGameCritique to all of you, have a Happy New Year.