Are you talking about… ? Oh.

Update: TWIVGB is not the problem, but an easy target for these troubles. I’m the one working 32 hours a week and taking four classes, not the editors who do good work according to their passion. As with the comments and now this post, this has everything to do with me and very little to do with them.

I left two comments on a blog post by Eric Swain the other day. In his post, he was trying to bring some transparency to the process of curating the This Week in Video Game Blogging list that is put out by Critical Distance — notably this post. After going through his struggles filling in for Kris Ligman on short notice, the problems trying to put something together in just a few days and having limited resource to do all those things, he felt he had to present his reasons and trials in putting together the post.

He mentioned that the editors “were debating what exactly TWIVGB and Critical Distance are for, or rather what their direction is.” Clarifying that thought, he said:

“The short of it was, none of us knew or were quite on the same page. Critical Distance had some vague ideals of archiving and pointing out good critical pieces because the community was scattered and disparate, not even knowing the other end of the sphere existed. All of this was way back in ’08. Now 4 years later we haven’t defined it much beyond that. Each element being trial and error.”

That was what caused me to leave the first comment. I’m suspicious of Critical Distance and TWIVGB. And, after saying as much, Eric replied saying, “I’d be more interested in hearing about your previous doubts and your doubts now. We are on the inside and are clueless to how this is all viewed. We can only guess.”

And so, as you can imagine, I left an even longer comment detailing, I hoped, why I was worried about the power that TWIVGB wields and what my own personal journey has been like within the video game blogging space.

The long and short of it is that I’ve been on the peripheral of the video game blogging community for many years now. I can remember, since I was following their blogs at the time, back when many people who are game designers now were just bloggers then. I can remember when other people, who are now getting paid to write, were just posting random articles and thoughts they had that day. I have been following some blogs for years now and, if you were to just look at my own archives, I have been posting things here since 2007 — yes, this blog is nearly five years old.

At Play Podcast Logo
That's me in the middle. Yup, that is the same picture I now use as my avatar in many places too.

Back in May of 2010, I got two other friends together and we recorded our first pilot episode of what would eventually become the @Play (At Play) podcast. We decided, after that first session, to invest in microphones, a soundboard and arrange our schedules so that we could record every week. And, over the following months, we found hosting on a site and started to slowly build up an audience. We liked what we were doing and thought, perhaps naivety, that others would too.

During our run of a little over a year from May 2010 to August 2011, we recorded 50 episodes. We interviewed Shawn Andrich (Gamers with Jobs); Leigh Alexander (Sexy Videogameland); Chris Furniss and Jinny Koh (The Weekly Geek); Scott Juster and Jorge Albor (Experience Points) and Jenn Frank (Infinite Lives). We had a Twitter account. We had plans of doing cross-over episodes with other podcasts.

That podcast is dead. I could go into why it stopped, how much work it became to manage (mostly for me) and the fact that we were dropped from the site we were on for budget reasons. I could even go into what lessons I learned and how everyone we interviewed was pleasent both on- and off-air.

For right now, I want to make the point that I have interacted with and even spoken to many of the respected members of the video game blogging community in the past. I’ve even had e-mail conversations with many more people who, if I could get a chance to do it in the future, I would love to interview and pick their brains about things.

I’ve been around for a long time now. But, as I mentioned in that second comment and is definitely the case with this blog, I’m not known. It’s that last point that has become extremely frustrating to me. From my point of view, I have had to keep saying again and again what my credentials are and why anyone should care what I think and say. I have to keep proving myself over and over and over. I had to write for a year straight before I even showed up on TWIVGB!

That’s why I am suspicious of TWIVGB. It is, not unlike Metacritic, the ruler by which material is measured in this space. The editors there, for better or worse, are the judges of what articles and posts hundreds if not thousands of people will look at and discuss the next week. They are the gatekeepers for this space. To matter at all, you must be on the list. To have a voice, you must continue to appear over and over.

It’s that last point that is the most frustrating to me. My local friends don’t talk about video games much anymore. Even when we had the podcast, we only talked about what we had been playing, with me perpetually the “Jake Rodkin” (i.e. making games and not playing them) of our ‘cast too. I was a student then and I’m still one now. I can’t afford the latest games. I don’t talk about what is upcoming. I talk about what I have and, when I get new games, I talk about them then.

If I look at TWIVGB as capturing the current conversations, I won’t be among them. I’m not part of the zeitgeist. And, as it has been the last few months, I’m getting to everything late. I’m not known and, because of that, I can’t find a conversation or a place to fit into that model. I don’t have that local conversation anymore and I have tried — and often failed — to strike it up with many others using e-mail, Twitter and blog posts. I want to talk about video games with people and, outside Twitter, I can’t find a place to join or a community to be a part of.

I know this is less uplifting than I usually try to be. It’s also a great deal more information about my past than I usually give out too. But, I’m frustrated at where I am right now. Every time I think I have a chance to get step forward, I get pushed back. When I think I have finally settled into a role, I find out I was missing out on something. When I think I might finally be able to freely spend time analyzing and writing about games, I get pulled back down.

Are you talking about… ? Oh. No, I see. Yeah… days ago. That conversation has moved on, huh? And… ? Yes. Okay. You don’t want to talk about it anymore. Do you mind if I… ? Oh. Okay. No, I understand. It’s cool.

4 thoughts on “Are you talking about… ? Oh.

  1. I’ve been wondering how Critical Distance works too. I think the resurrection of “Blogs of the Round Table” is a great way for people who want to be seen to call attention to themselves in an appropriate way.

    I’m not sure why you’re not more Internet famous, because it seems like you do all the right things–engaging in dialogue, reading/commenting on lots of video game blogs, and writing consistently. Therefore, the reasons you’re not more popular in the writing community would be that you’re not discussing topics that are “in” right now, that your writing isn’t as good as theirs, or that you’re not part of their little writer’s club (I’m not saying any of this is true, just trying to understand your logic here).

    I think there’s definitely a time to discuss games themselves, and for video games it tends to be the year after they come out. On the other hand, I think some discussion of video games is timeless–discussion of how they work, how we define play, etc.

    The downside of the “perennial” questions for video game journalism/theory is that it’s hard to get everyone on the same page. I admire your dedication to actually reading Homo Ludens and Bogoost, and I’m usually impressed by your discussion of game literature. But if you’re looking to grab a reader and keep them interested, I think that we need to use less technical language and shorter posts (I’m switching pronouns around here, since I think I struggle with this too, and I don’t want you to feel like I’m singling you out about using academic language in a gaming blog, and I think in an ideal world it wouldn’t be an issue, but unfortunately it is).

    Another thing I’ve noticed about the most popular writers (switching gears) is that they usually post on many different sites. It’s one thing to say something intelligent on your own site, but for some reason it’s even better if you wrote it for someone else and they liked it enough to post it on their site. And I think writing that goes through an editing process usually _is_ better than the stuff I put on my own blog.

    I can’t believe I had this much to say about being famous in video game journalism land. In short, I think you have important things to say, and maybe there are ways you can write things to make more people interested in them.

    • I’m not going to kid myself by saying that this doesn’t just boil down to me saying, “Hey! Hey! Look at me! I’m important.” It’s pride. And I often recognize it… hours later.

      I think the resurrection of “Blogs of the Round Table” is a great way for people who want to be seen to call attention to themselves in an appropriate way.

      Yeah, I agree with you. I liked your post on pushing (and punching) women in Assassin’s Creed. Even if David Carlton didn’t quite agree with the first topic, it was a nice start to what I hope will continue for quite awhile. I’m still thinking about February’s topic.

      Therefore, the reasons you’re not more popular in the writing community would be that you’re not discussing topics that are “in” right now, that your writing isn’t as good as theirs, or that you’re not part of their little writer’s club (I’m not saying any of this is true, just trying to understand your logic here).

      That’s my logic, yes. Part of it is that my writing is not as best as it could be too. Another part is what you mentioned, I’m not writing about the latest games as they come out. That is the best way, I’ve seen, of being on the fast track to getting known quickly.

      The downside of the “perennial” questions for video game journalism/theory is that it’s hard to get everyone on the same page. I admire your dedication to actually reading Homo Ludens and Bogoost, and I’m usually impressed by your discussion of game literature. But if you’re looking to grab a reader and keep them interested, I think that we need to use less technical language and shorter posts (I’m switching pronouns around here, since I think I struggle with this too, and I don’t want you to feel like I’m singling you out about using academic language in a gaming blog, and I think in an ideal world it wouldn’t be an issue, but unfortunately it is).

      Yeah, that’s part of it too. I practically live in Academia now. I’ve been taking classes for years and years and, with the transition to a TA job, I now spend a huge chunk of my time talking to students and professors on a daily basis. (I also plan to apply to a MA program in a few weeks.)

      I know I don’t know deep theory. So, that is what I decided I would invest my time in learning it. Hence why I bought and have read all the Game Studies books I have. I haven’t been able to find bloggers that cover theory other than linking to Wikipedia and, not unlike me, a grab-bag of various materials. Those bloggers who are making the most insightful posts, I’ve seen over the years, are those who have invested time in either education or research before becoming bloggers

      Another thing I’ve noticed about the most popular writers (switching gears) is that they usually post on many different sites. It’s one thing to say something intelligent on your own site, but for some reason it’s even better if you wrote it for someone else and they liked it enough to post it on their site. And I think writing that goes through an editing process usually _is_ better than the stuff I put on my own blog.

      Yes, you are right about that too. I have watched many different people make the transition between writing on their site, writing for another site to then moving to an even more popular site. Of course, there are people like Leigh Alexander who write good material across many different sites in the same week too.

      I went through some editing for my stuff that showed up on Nightmare Mode. It was better for it too. As I told them, and what I’m mentioning to others now, is that having that process, either internal of via other people, is super important. That’s the difference between Good and Great writing: editing.

      In short, I think you have important things to say, and maybe there are ways you can write things to make more people interested in them.

      I think that is good advice for every blogger. There is hope for all of us.

  2. Dan–

    I think submitting academic essays to journals and conferences might be more up your alley. It’s a slower process–and one that also has its popularity contests–but its probably more suited towards the sort of dialog you’re looking for.

    Also, I know I haven’t posted or commented on anything in a long time, but I’m still a pretty regular reader. Keep it up, please.

    ~hellfire~

    • “I think submitting academic essays to journals and conferences might be more up your alley. It’s a slower process–and one that also has its popularity contests–but its probably more suited towards the sort of dialog you’re looking for.”

      Yes… I often feel like I am being drawn in that direction. The professors and other students I speak to keep suggesting that I submit to a journal or write a paper. Which, you know, is not necessarily a bad idea. However, I like the ability to bounce ideas off people and work within ideas others have posted in the blog paradigm.

      It’s also called an Ivory Tower for a reason. It’s very hard for ideas and theories to get out of that Fortress of Academia. I have also seen, in what I jokingly call my time in the trenches here, several people jump into writing for a more academic setting and then not coming back to blogging. Both environments require very different voices, and it’s hard to transition between two — at least in my own work.

      “Also, I know I haven’t posted or commented on anything in a long time, but I’m still a pretty regular reader. Keep it up, please.”

      While I thank you for your time, please see about writing something should you get the chance. I may complain (often frequently) about not being payed attention to, but most of featured stuff has come from the conversations with other people including you and other writers.

      For example, because you wrote more about the the performativity idea, ~hellfire~, I was able to run with it for many, many posts. In fact, I’m still working that model for different approaches to how players relate to the player-characters. It works really well for many things.

      Actually, you’ve inspired me some here. I’m making a note to bring a greater emphasis on the writing on other blogs. I’m definitely not alone here. There are many other bloggers who are… in a way my Internet Neighbors. It’s probably time for me to highlight their (and your) work.

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