Cara Ellison is taking a break from games writing

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thatpinguino

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#151 thatpinguino  Moderator

@thatpinguino: It is certainly true that they are both good writers (though their tastes are both far enough off mainstream that I rarely take their recommendations) but there are no shortage of good writers on TV or movies. Go to Rotten Tomatoes for a given flick and you'll find a half dozen other writers who express their opinions as well as Morris does. I think the editorialists benefit far more from being on Grantland than Grantland benefits from having them, though without the site traffic this is all just one man's opinion obviously.

I'm sure that the expanded audience the Grantland affords is super valuable, but I think that having quality writers has raised the site's profile. There is a nice synergy there that allows writers to ply their craft and expand their audience and it allows the site to hold its position as a premiere spot to read strong sports analysis and cultural criticism. I think a lot of the writers were given a big platform and a break by Bill Simmons and the original staff and they validated his decisions by putting out great content.

Its worth mentioning that Grantland employs a bunch of freelancers every week and they frequently have some of the stranger and more interesting articles (the article on the history of the merkin jumps to mind).

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tdervan

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#152  Edited By tdervan

Didn't know who this was... but after a quick google, I have to say, that is a bummer.

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Jimbo

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She's talented, but at something for which there is no longer any significant demand. Being able to write good about games in 2015 is about as relevant as being able to skin a saber-toothed tiger or something. Learn how to be a cynical smart-ass on camera, write rabble-rousing clickbait shite or wear lower cut tops - those are the only real options left to her in this field.

RPS was pretty much the last holdout for decent written games journalism (and GB for like two weeks when it started) but even RPS is in free fall now.

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Jimbo

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@hollitz said:

A lot of the really talented writers are moving on. Cara was great, Carolyn Petite over at Gamespot was great (although that was more of a bullshit downsizing). Guess things are just moving more towards video. There are few people writing about games anymore that are great writers. At least we've still got Alex.

Also if you are genuinely a 'great writer' you typically wouldn't have ended up writing about games forever anyway; you do it until you can move on to better things. Covering games never has been --and at this point never will be-- held in the same regard as 'real journalism', movie reviewing or writing books / movie scripts etc.

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Jazz_Lafayette

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It is a shame. Just the other day, I finished reading Cara's Embed With stuff and followed her blog to some newer pieces I hadn't seen. More than once I've wondered how she's been able to keep sustaining the risks she takes in such an absurdly competitive field as this. My only desire is to see her able to continue expressing herself creatively; she deserves to have an outlet where the sword of a populist market isn't a constant threat.

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monkeyking1969

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@monkeyking1969 said:

Err, not sure a few Tweets constitutes retiring. I say a lot of stuff about my job and life; but I don't always mean it beyond venting frustration or fatigue.

Well, she also said it in an article and has been hinting at the possibility for weeks; so, this certainly seems like a genuine thing. I hope it may just be an extended break from games writing, but that's up to her.

Yeah, her Patron now says, "...But now I am exhausted! I need a rest, for my health at least. And I need to be able to pay rent somewhere. To that end, I will write you an essay each month like I used to, but this time it will be mostly journeys through life and media, rather than specifically about game developers. Please do join me! It will be as interesting, I promise."

So this I buy. I can see her writing about other things that might be tangential to the media or her travels. But, let me point out she will be editing her BOOK on going around teh world writing about games too. So while she might not be writing essays about gaming, her book will be touching on the media and gaming.

No Caption Provided

Honestly, she can do what she wants, she's a good writer she could write about Haggis for all I care because it would be the best damn essay on 'sheep's pluck minced with onion, oatmeal, and suet' we are likely to read.

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huntad

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@humanity said:
@milkman said:
@zornack said:
@milkman said:

I think it reflects pretty poorly on this industry that it's so hard for some of the best writers to hold down a steady job, especially even you look around at some of the "old guard" in the field who have held jobs for years and years.

The issue is that they are writers, almost all of them. Video game coverage isn't about writing anymore, it's about being a personality on video.

That's kind of my point. I like video too but the way that more and more sites seem to want to completely phase out written content is a bummer. Reading a well-written article about a game can tell me a lot more about it on a much deeper level than just a video of someone playing it for a bit.

I don't think the industry itself is to blame because the audience taste have shifted. It's people that don't want to read long articles, not game site that don't want to write them. There is a reason why a non technical site like GameSpot does graphic comparison videos. Pointing the finger at the industry as a whole and bemoaning that fact that esoteric games writing has an incredibly niche audience is a little unfair. You unfortunately need to evolve with the times. Danny O'Dwyer has found the happy medium of exploring original thought in a popular format. He still has to write a good script, but it's not presented as a 5,000 word essay but a well produced video which is obviously more appealing.

Also I would staunchly disagree with what you said about articles versus videos. A 10 minute video of raw gameplay footage can be infinitely more illuminating than a well written article, because the article is written from the subjective perspective of the author while the video presents the game as it is.

That's a very good point regarding the objective and subjective differences between raw gameplay and opinion pieces. This is a slightly derailed take on the topic, but I wonder if the whole "It's my opinion" stance that most outlets take on defending reviews from consumers is even more conflicting with gaming outlets' original intent being to help consumers make purchasing choices. It's a fine line between letting a game speak for itself and potentially coloring game footage with biased commentary. GIant Bomb did great work with quick looks which were only slightly rehearsed and mostly objective looks on games, but those days have passed and now quick looks are more colorful and, as a result, less reliable for purchasing decisions unless your personal tastes fall in line with whoever is conducting the quick look.

The notion behind "get to know me, so you know what to expect from my review material" seems counterintuitive to producing media with intent to satisfy consumer inquiries on purchases. The more someone dives into the mind of another, the less they can produce their own opinions on the game by themselves. It makes sense when you think about it. If you see a new employee at work, and a friend (someone you have gotten to know) tells you the new employee is terrible, you are going to form negative impressions of said person before meeting him/her. The obvious difference is cost. Meeting someone new is free (usually?), and the price of a game is around $15-$60 ($70? $80?). Should not more accountability be taken on part of reviewers and not less? I guess that's why the pretense of "this is my opinion, so don't question my integrity or review piece" doesn't make any sense to me, and seems to only serves to create disparaging views against critics in the game industry. If it's supposed to be taken as an opinion, how can it be taken as anything more?

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TruthTellah

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@truthtellah said:
@monkeyking1969 said:

Err, not sure a few Tweets constitutes retiring. I say a lot of stuff about my job and life; but I don't always mean it beyond venting frustration or fatigue.

Well, she also said it in an article and has been hinting at the possibility for weeks; so, this certainly seems like a genuine thing. I hope it may just be an extended break from games writing, but that's up to her.

Yeah, her Patron now says, "...But now I am exhausted! I need a rest, for my health at least. And I need to be able to pay rent somewhere. To that end, I will write you an essay each month like I used to, but this time it will be mostly journeys through life and media, rather than specifically about game developers. Please do join me! It will be as interesting, I promise."

So this I buy. I can see her writing about other things that might be tangential to the media or her travels. But, let me point out she will be editing her BOOK on going around teh world writing about games too. So while she might not be writing essays about gaming, her book will be touching on the media and gaming.

No Caption Provided

Honestly, she can do what she wants, she's a good writer she could write about Haggis for all I care because it would be the best damn essay on 'sheep's pluck minced with onion, oatmeal, and suet' we are likely to read.

Ahh. Thanks for the update on that. I can see her taking a break like that while still keeping plenty busy.

I look forward to seeing how Drake and butts play into all this.

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Devil240Z

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i had been hoping for awhile now that she would end up being GiantBombs first female personality.

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thatpinguino

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#160 thatpinguino  Moderator

@huntad: Its because reviews were always opinion and were always someone's perspective. The "objective review" never existed and the difference in tone between reviews now and reviews 10 years ago is a mixture of a few factors. Some reviewers aren't trying to provide strict consumer advice. Some reviewers now have distinct and established styles that they write in. Some reviewers feel more comfortable writing about their own experiences as though they were their own unique experience, instead of some objective truth.

This is just a matter of game reviews growing up. Many aren't intended to be pure consumer goods reviews anymore.

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Humanity

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@huntad: That is a great point but it delves into the shaky territory of objective reviews which some would say are impossible. How much do you explain? How technical do you get? How dry should the piece be? How much of your own personality do you put into the article? Does injecting yourself into the review automatically taint it's usefulness for anyone else? But how can you remove yourself entirely if your entire knowledge of the game is based on your very own subjective experiences with it? This kind of leads us to think that a review can never aspire to be anything more than an opinion. I think what differentiates a good critic from a bad one is their ability to convince you of the validity of their opinions without actually knowing anything about the person behind them. That I think is the razor thin line you draw between objectivity and subjectivity - the act of speaking of personal experiences in an objective manner.

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huntad

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@thatpinguino: Since I did not provide examples, and probably will not in the future, I don't mind that my entire point wasn't covered in your reply. I must say, though, that the main point of my post was in regards to accountability. Games are entertainment, but since they are sold for a price, they are capable of being critiqued as a product would. I'm not pointing anyone out, or saying not to read reviews. I read many, many reviews when evaluating a potential purchase, so they are helpful. I would just find it easier to do this if reviews split the difference a little better. Being subjective is not necessarily a bad thing and often times gives context and insight into a review, but leaning hard on 'it's just an opinion' does not bode well for a reviewers respect. Hearing a reviewer state that their scored review is an opinion is sometimes a defense for others critiquing said review. Not good.

@humanity: This is an excellent post. Questions are oftentimes more valuable than the answers provided. Humans probably aren't capable of all straddling that 'razor thin line between objectivity and subjectivity', but even so much as striving to reach it is even more respectable. It is probably possible to be more objective than reviews are trying to be now without the art of persuasion (your last line), but that sounds downright fascinating as well. If you ever come across someone who does that reliably, I would very much like to see.

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thatpinguino

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#163 thatpinguino  Moderator

@huntad: I'll start off by saying I think you want something very different from reviews than I do. I don't read reviews for purchasing advice at all, I literally am only interested in them for social commentary and critique on the game design in question. I am fascinated by how games try to communicate meaning and what makes games "work" or not for a given person. So I'm really not interested in someone trying to maintain any kind of objectivity, beside the basic adherence to factual correctness. I am interesting in hearing what someone felt about a game and why they felt that way. Thought games can be critiqued the way you would critique a blender or a sofa, I don't get much out of those reviews (barring some horrible game-breaking bug or technical issue).

However, giving "its just an opinion" as a defense of your criticism is pretty weak stuff if someone raises a fair point about your criticism. A reviewer should stand by their review when pressed on it (assuming the critiques are valid). Engaging with the critique of your work is worthwhile, so long as the amount of critiques is actually manageable.

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Humanity

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@huntad: I don't think any one person does it consistently. You can see it here and there from time to time. I know I've seen it when I read something that I initially don't agree with but when I come around to formulating a counterpoint I find myself at a loss. That said I honestly that read that many reviews these days and opt in for video footage. Like I said many posts ago (which you quoted) I can get more from seeing the game in action than reading 6 paragraphs of someones experiences with it.

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huntad

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@thatpinguino: I was originally skeptical, hesitant and overly pessimistic about hitting "Post Reply", but I've found the conversations so enjoyable and informative that I'm glad I did. You raise a good point about these supplementary pieces on games, and I know I absolutely adore them. Talking about games and what they inspire or how they innovate is extremely rewarding, especially with some amount of deep conversation being lost due to video games' move to pop culture and mainstream appeal. I do, however, think they are perfectly fine being separate from a review, or even if not, there are ways to incorporate some personal intricacies in a review without it being entirely one-sided and losing its merits as an actual review.

I hope I haven't insinuated that reviews that incorporate important discussion topics or social commentary are to be overlooked or shunned. On the contrary, I enjoy reading as much about games as possible if only to expand my way of thinking. I do, however, shy away from having reviews being labeled as opinion pieces, because at some point an opinion is only going to share common ground with those that agree with it. A completely objective review (which may not exist) would be boring in comparison. Instead, why not list details about a game that serve as purchasing advice alongside personal thoughts and feelings. It's to the point where I have to scavenge the internet and youtube for information on what modes the current incarnation of Mortal Kombat has and how the modes have evolved. I have to watch a let's play of a video game to see what options are available to me in terms of adjusting volume settings or how the difficulty settings allow or do not allow for replayability. There is however, no shortage of people who love describing how a game inspired them. I don't know. I think I just made myself sad. I agree a lot and disagree a little bit. My brain's fried, so I'm gonna take a break.

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Slag

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Cara is now officially done with Game Journalism, at least for the indefinite future. The good news for her fans is she got a job writing actually in games. I'm pretty curious to see what her writing will look like in a game.

Her more extended thoughts on leaving Games Journalism

http://caraellison.co.uk/essay/goodbye-new-wave/

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thatpinguino

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#167 thatpinguino  Moderator

@slag: Her farewell essay is touching and I love how she spotlighted a bunch of writers that are sticking with it, rather than dumping on the structures that stifled her progress. That was one of the more feel-good retirement letters I've read, especially for someone so young. You'll be missed Cara (at least until your first game comes out!).

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sparky_buzzsaw

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Good for her. Can't wait to see what she can do with the games she gets involved with.

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deactivated-6050ef4074a17

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Best of luck to her.

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#170  Edited By joshwent

A little odd that her essay repeatedly explains her revelation of wanting to apply her craft to the wider world rather than remaining limited by holding a magnifying glass to the sliver of video game creation... only for her to then be apparently making another game.

But hey, good for her doing what she wants.

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personandstuff

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Wonder what that means exactly. Presumably she'll be writing. Some indie developer?

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thatpinguino

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#172  Edited By thatpinguino  Moderator

@joshwent: I think the act of creating a game versus writing essays on them feels quite different. All of a sudden you go from viewing the world through pre-existing gameplay experiences, effectively using that experience as a lens to see the world, to creating that experience yourself. It can feel like the difference between using glasses and making glasses. I've dappled in both and I can totally relate to the what she describes. Writing from scratch can feel like unchaining your mind, its freeing and a little disorienting.

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joshwent

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@thatpinguino:Yeah, I know what you're saying and agree. I just got from her essay the general feeling of her conclusion being that games and the people who make them are a reflection of the greater world, so now she wanted to move on from games and explore something else entirely.

I'm not her, obviously, so she must, as you say, see the creation of a game as a fundamentally different thing than writing about them. I just got the sense that the was moving on altogether, rather than a sort of lateral shift.

To be clear, not a criticism of her or that essay or anything. Comparing that essay and tweet just struck me a bit odd is all. Hope she makes cool stuff!

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Slag

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@personandstuff: I don't know, afaik she hasn't said who she is working for, but she mentions

"Game narrative designer, AAA & indie projects. Previously gonzo vagabond writer about games"

in her twitter bio now.

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thatpinguino

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#175 thatpinguino  Moderator

@joshwent: I think that spending a year embedded with indie devs probably gave her the urge to try that path out for herself. I think the section on her experience with that Australian/ New Zealand Dev team says a lot.

I'm kind of selfishly gald that she is staying in the game field in some capacity. Her unique perspective would make for some great game narratives and I would think that her embedded experience should give her a hell of an viewpoint on how to convey narrative in games.

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Naoiko

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I wish her the best with her new job. =)

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#177  Edited By monkeyking1969

Making games is cool, and it has the added benefit of being on teh other side. Making something you think a lot about can be very enlightening, and I woudl look at a game she was involved in - on some level. She still has the manuscript to publish, unless that was backburnered.

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Voshterkoff

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I think a lot of people have unreasonable expectations for entertainment journalism of such a narrow scope.

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TheHT

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Awesome! Excited to see what sort of stories she makes.

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