Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 11:00PM
It's been four years since I published my first post on the Critical-Gaming blog back when it was hosted on blogger. And now, I'm seriously thinking about quitting. With a full time job I have less free time than ever before in my life. The weeks fly by quickly and blur together. And in the swirling calm I wonder if I'll be able to attempt my other dream projects. For 2012 I want to write a few books unrelated to video games. I'm supposed to be a creative writer, at least that's what my degree tells me. As for other dream projects, I want to begin developing indie video games with real development teams. And I want to start a podcast too. But to cut the suspense off right here, I can't see myself stopping this blog. Every article I write makes me a better writer and game designer. With every post I see more clearly. With this kind of trend, I don't know why I would stop.
The Critical-Gaming Blog is 536 articles that total over 700k words. And the Critical-Glossary features 450 terms for about 19k words. That's so much content it's hard to understand how much there is. Though most of the concepts I write about build on the concepts of previous articles, it's still difficult to get a sense of it all. Because I needed a backup of my writing and taking a suggestion from many of you, about a month ago I started working on a quality hard bound book of the Critical-Gaming Blog. After spending about 40 hours formatting pages and editing every glossary entry, I now have perspective over the last 4 years of my work. And I want to share this perspective with you.
Every year on my birthday-blog-posts I highlight the articles that I'm most proud of from the year. These posts are typically articles series because they tend articulate substantial design concepts. In 2011, I think most of my articles were part of larger article series. They include About That Indie Feel, Appraising the Art of Combat, Metagame Meditations, The Coefficient of Clean, Complex Time Simplified, Design-Space-Time Continuum, Interesting Choices: Interesting Gameplay, Competitive Multiplayer: Collective Misunderstanding, Story Design - Story Telling, Controller Design: Buttons, Save System Design, and The Zero-Sum Funomaly. Truly these articles represent the best of Critical-Gaming.
I want to also take the time to share with you some of my mistakes and short comings over the years. After all, you wouldn't get the perspective I have on Critical-Gaming without knowing my failures. When I write I do my best to research all of my ideas and think through all of my terms. Of course, I'm not perfect. I've had to make numerous clarifications and corrections to my statements and terms over the years. In fact, in the latest version of the Critical-Glossary I had to correct many of the definitions to my terms rendering them obsolete. In other words, there are some terms that I made that are now useless. Other terms had definitions that were overblown and confusing to say the least. Just look up what I wrote for "counterpoint" for a good example. I try to create terms for concepts that we don't have the language for. And if you couldn't tell before, I flex my creative writing muscles whenever I think up terms or titles. "The Coefficient of Clean" just puts a smile on my face even if I had to work a bit to get the title to work. I hope it's not too distracting.
And it's not just the terms that I made up. I grew a lot as game critic. My love of Mario and Nintendo is obvious. The DS is my most played system by far for the past few years and then the Wii. I've done in depth studies of Mario, Smash Brothers, Mario Kart, Pokemon, and Pikmin to name a few. With nearly every design concept I cover on this blog I try to include some reference or analysis of Super Mario Bros. for the NES. I do this mainly to see if the classic and beloved game holds up to our new insights on game design. As it turns out, it does, but this isn't the point I'm trying to make.
I freely admit that my initial study of game design on this blog was motivated by my desire to figure out what made Nintendo games so good. I needed the language to explain it so I can better understand myself. Since I started blogging, I've come to appreciate more types of games and gamers. Learning to explain and defend Mario has also given me the understanding to defend many other types of games. But I struggled along the way. Perhaps you've noticed that I've stopped doing as many repairs on games. Though thinking of what to improve in a game is a great design exercise, it's difficult to find the balance between making repairs to a game and changing it to be more like the games I like. I still have my opinions. And I can certainly make strong arguments for my choices. But I feel that my efforts are better served not trying to fix a world that doesn't need fixing. So for all of the game industry people I've unnecessarily upset from N'gai Croal to Jonathan Mak to Dylan Cuthbert, I apologize.
I've said this before, but I feel that I've done a pretty poor job at my networking responsibilities. I have my blog chat, email, twitter, and blog comments that I address with high priority. However, my facebook, google+, stumbleupon, reddit, and other networking efforts have been almost non-existent. As a result, my RSS subscribers, twitter followers, and general blog traffic has been stagnant over the last year or so. I've had a few people reach out and ask to trade links or to participate in their growing gaming communities. Though I'm interested in working with a strong dedicated community of gamers, I haven't found that community yet. You readers are great, but mostly silent. And when you do speak up, our conversations mostly take place person v person via email, chat, or skype.
On a similar note, I haven't updated the background to the blog in a long time. I meant to update it bit by bit every week so that by now it would be a detailed backdrop. By the way, did anyone get that the theme is supposed to be "under construction?" Can you see how the normal Super Mario Bros. level parts are being built over the Donkey Kong framework? I guess the theme doesn't come across so clear because I stopped working on it.
I thank all of you, my readers, for taking the time to read, comment, question, and link on my writing. Some of you have been with me since very beginning days. You guys are the only ones that can tell me if I've been making any sense all these years. Your comments kept me going for years.
Soon I will have a 2 volume set of the Critical-Gaming Blog. It is so massive that I had to split it into two 800 page books. And this isn't even including any comments, any of the posts from the Mixed-Media blog, or any of my email conversations. For many reasons, I've decided not to try to publish and sell these books. Between the copyright issues, the expense of printing, the fact that I haven't read through it all, and the blog is filled with hyperlinks and embedded videos that don't translate into a book its seems clear that I have to consider other options. If you have an opinion on the matter, let me know what you think. If you want to pay what I'm estimating to be about 70$ for the two volume set, I may be able to print extra copies. If you want just the best of Critical-Gaming Courses in one must smaller and cheaper book, I can do that too. Or if you want me to publish an ebook or a PDF of just the glossary including all the hyperlinks so you can download it to your ipad or kindle, that is definitely doable. I don't intend on making money off of this effort, so maybe I can work it into some kind of charity. I wonder if I go get in on the Humble indie bundle.
I will resume blogging in a few weeks or at the start of 2012. I already have a list of posts I want to write. Look forward to...
- An article about combos, chains, and other video game motivators
- Knowledge: Have it your way. An article about the different ways to be exposed to information for the purpose of learning.
- A Knights in the Nightmare post
- A Radiant Historia post
- Emergence: The Open and Shut case. A an article on how troublesome emergence and open level design is for finely crafted challenges/experiences. Also explaines the difference between user added difficulty and game added difficiulty. It's about who does the work and the how to get the most focused and refined experiences.
- Embrace the Abstraction: A article clarifying what abstraction is and why it's so important in video games, stories, and how we understand people. From mechanics to metaphors.
- Game Mental State 6 & 7
- An update to the Measure of Mario series including Super Mario Land, Land2, and 3D Land!
- Maybe I'll finally review a Zelda game.
I'll be attending GDC this year. Let's hope everything goes well. Until next time...
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid)