A common question I’m asked is about writer’s block. There are few things worse than the paralyzing anxiety of trying to make a very specific point and, for whatever reason, it just won’t come out.
Instead of banging my head against the wall, I move on. That’s my solution. Having to write an intro to a review before you’ve written the review itself is such a backwards concept, so I’ve now ditched the idea entirely. Of course, everyone has their own process, but how are you supposed to “introduce” people to your thoughts before you’ve formed them? Start writing about the elements where you do have something to say. Then, come back.
This has never been more paramount than when sitting down to start crafting my TEDx speech.
A little while ago, a fan of the site reached out, and said he was helping organize a TEDx event in Dearborn at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He figured some articles I’d written might translate into a speech. I didn’t take the idea seriously, but going through the exercise of pitching a talk seemed useful, so I submitted something and forgot about it. I didn’t expect an email during PAX that asked me to show up and give the talk.
Woops. Too late now? Yep.
(The speech is loosely inspired by this article.)
My rough draft was due today, and somewhere around Monday afternoon, that notion set in. It was no longer an abstract thing to brag about. Not only did I have to find something to say, but it’s a TED talk, man. You have to say something big and inspiring! What if I didn’t have anything to say? What if what I had to say felt forced?
But I remembered my own tool, and found it worked here, as well. I started writing, and stopped worrying about where it was going. When an idea for a line would arrive mid-sentence, I would stop writing that sentence and jot down the ideas that had come out of nowhere. It was the least amount of fun I’ve had writing anything in my life. Usually, I remove the anxiety of writing anything by knowing I’ll have another chance to redeem myself. There is always another day, another article. In this instance, for the first time since college, I’m staring down the barrel of a piece of work that needs to stand on its own, and there are no guaranteed do-overs.
Several late nights and a few heartaches later, there are 3,343 words in a Google document. These words are my rough draft. It is not final, it is not finished, but I’m not totally embarrassed by what’s on the digital page, either. I got there by saying “screw it.” If you're facing a similar dilemma, stop worrying and get started.
(The talk takes places on October 19. You can apply to grab tickets here. We’ll probably do some kind of Giant Bomb meetup, but I’m not sure of the details. Those will come later.)
Hey, You Should Read These
There’s been so much good writing about Grand Theft Auto V, even if some of it’s spoiling moments I haven’t witnessed myself. This seems to be the new cycle for game criticism. Reviews are in the tough spot of providing advice to consumers about the quality of new game, while also wanting to say something more meaningful about the experience. Depending on the review, anyway. We seem to get the most meaningful, thoughtful pieces in the weeks after, as the game begins to digest, and people are given an opportunity to really reflect. That’s what the next three pieces represent, while the last one is an interesting, provocative Q&A.
"One of GTA V's characters admits at the end of the game, 'I'm getting too old for this nonsense.' And you know what? I felt the same thing numerous times while playing GTA V, even though I continue to admire the hell out of much of what it accomplishes. So if I sound ambivalent, Niko, I think it's because I'm part of a generation of gamers who just realized we're no longer the intended audience of modern gaming's most iconic franchise. Three steps past that realization, of course, is anticipation of one's private, desperate hurtle into galactic heat death. I'm left wondering when I, or any of us, express a wish for GTA to grow up, what are we actually saying? What would it even mean for something like GTA to 'grow up'? Our most satirically daring, adult-themed game is also our most defiantly puerile game. Maybe the biggest sin of the GTA games is the cheerful, spiteful way they rub our faces in what video games make us willing to do, in what video games are."
"Zero Dark Thirty is an examination of the same topic as By the Book, but with an important difference. Kathryn Bigelow’s and Mark Boal’s movie carefully skirts editorial opinion. One of the things I deeply appreciate about Zero Dark Thirty’s narrative arc from 9/11 to the cathartic killing of Osama bin Laden is that it leaves me to examine how I feel. It does not tell me how to feel. It does not exaggerate torture. It doesn’t even demonize the torturers. It is a dispassionate procedural that leaves viewers to decide what they feel. Discussions about Zero Dark Thirty say more about the people having the discussion than the movie. That’s its genius."
"Grand Theft Auto games are conspicuous in the verbs they offer to the player, and those they withhold. You can shoot or not shoot, punch or not punch, steal or not steal. What you can't do are make any meaningful choices that affect the world or the story. You can play a relatively mayhem-free game in sandbox mode, but what's the point? There is nothing else to do. And if you want to progress through the story, you are stuck with even more restrictive verbs. Rest assured, you will be punching, shooting, and stealing."
"GTA is what it is. Anybody that expects anything different is fooling themselves. I love women. I’m crazy about them. I have a beautiful wife, who’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me, and I teach my son to respect women and other people’s position in the world, whatever it is.…People are always looking for something to hate on. If this is something for them to target and hate on, that’s their thing. I look at it as satire."
If You Click It, It Will Play
Like it or Not, Crowdfunding Isn't Going Away
- You might want to run a spellcheck on your PlayStation Mueseum, Max.
- There isn't much time left for Neverending Nightmares. It'll make it, I bet.
- Gonna have to consider a whole room for storing these new peripherals, like STEM.
Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"
Haptics and track pads, too interesting not to try. Those hung up on looks are same who tittered at the names for iPad and Wii for weeks.— ShawnElliott (@ShawnElliott) September 27, 2013
We're super excited for the Steam Controller knowing a bit about its history and direction. Looking forward to getting PA on it.— Chandana Ekanayake (@Ekanaut) September 27, 2013
this old man needs to take a chill pill omg pic.twitter.com/aJtLRL2227— Link (@Linkstagram) September 22, 2013
There hasn't been any controller innovation since Nintendo stopped innovating. We are long overdue for a new idea on that front.— kris piotrowski (@krispiotrowski) September 27, 2013
Oh, And This Other Stuff
- Ste Curran presents a short story about Dwarf Fortress in audio form.
- Medium Difficulty, one of the better places for outside-the-box writing on games, has a podcast now.
- A former DMA Design employee weighs in on GTA V. He doesn't like it much.
- BBC News reports on Valve's decision to get rid of the traditional "boss" structure.
- E McNeill writes down seven reasons why the Oculus Rift is good for indies.
- ESPN interviews NBA Jam lead designer Mark Turmell about designing his hit game.
- This editorial by The Chinese Room probably won't win over any skeptics, but I love it.
- Mike Rose tracks the rise and fall of the games industry in Portugal.
- Emily Yoshida takes a long look back at Myst on its 20th anniversary.
- Terry Cavanagh explains why he didn't make a commercial game right away.
- An inspiring Tumblr of stories of players explaining how video games saved their life.