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ccesarano's blog

The Engaging Dead
9:31 AM on 08.07.2014
My Year as a Games Writer
10:23 AM on 07.30.2014
Violence: Sky Hook to the Eye
9:53 PM on 05.28.2013
10:17 PM on 05.22.2013
To Write, To Write, L'Chaim
10:39 AM on 05.16.2013
Aliens, Mandarins, Ghosts, Oh My
1:44 PM on 05.13.2013

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Community Discussion: Blog by ccesarano | ccesarano's ProfileDestructoid
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After a little over a year's hiatus I have returned to the Destructoid Blog fold. Despite how thinly-spread my writing efforts have become, I still sometimes feel the need for a canvas in which I can sloppily splash the paint of my thoughts upon in hopes to have something resembling a thing.

So who am I? Right now I'm a writer over at GamersWithJobs, a blogger, a YouTuber and a Podcaster. I specialize in games analysis and criticism, and would like to use the Destructoid blog to share in some of my experiences working on these projects.

Note that I will be linking things I've been working on, but I will do so with the intent of embellishing on thoughts unsaid or detailing some of the work for any interested in also being content providers. Perhaps some of my experiences can help you out along the way.
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9:31 AM on 08.07.2014

For the past few months I've been working on the various parts of my video analysis for season one of Telltale's The Walking Dead. I always come away from these experiences with a number of lessons learned and things to look out for next time, but one of the lessons this time around was completely unexpected. I have resolved to never do a video review of a game I've played only once through.

There are many reasons I came to this conclusion, one of which being that I'm not merely seeking to do a consumer review. An in-depth analysis requires a much closer look and understanding of what ties a game together thematically and mechanically, and you typically won't have as good an understanding of that if you've only gone through the game a single time.

What I will be focusing on today, however, is a slightly different experience you get revisiting a previously played title. Upon playing a game a second time, with no surprises in store and an idea of what to expect, the game's highlights and flaws become notably stronger or weaker. In the case of The Walking Dead, a game that was only bested by Dishonored in my choice for Game of the Year in 2012, I realized that this "excellent" experience was nowhere near as good as I had once thought it was.

Before I explain why, I need to first explain what I consider the most crucial aspect not only in video games, but in all of entertainment; engagement. A lot of simple terms like "fun" are used to describe a good game, but such phrases are extremely limiting. Can you truly describe every game that you've ever enjoyed as "fun"? Are horror games, for example, "fun" even if the sheer feeling of terror and shock is anything but?

It is much more accurate to refer to these experiences as being engaging. A game doesn't need to be designed for fun, nor does it need to be designed for joy, in order to effectively engage the player. When you are solving a puzzle in The Legend of Zelda, you are engaged. When you're low on ammunition and outnumbered by Covenant forces in Halo, you are engaged. When you're hurrying to harvest all the tomatoes in time to go into town and see your preferred love interest in <em>Harvest Moon</em>, you are engaged.

The most important part of entertainment is to make sure the audience's brains are still operating. Even the most basic, simple piece of entertainment requires the audience's brains to be working in some fashion. From more conscious efforts as following the plot to subconscious ones that translate that quick cut into a scene change, the brain is always working. So a good video game is one that has the player engaged at all times.

Perhaps another day I'll go into how and why this can create a huge rift in more "gaming literate" players than new or "casual" players, but let's keep this on topic with The Walking Dead.

It's not easy to craft an interactive experience that keeps a player invested in its story. Most action-oriented games are broken up into long segments of combat arenas followed by brief, rushed moments of story. It's hard for a player to become invested in characters and the world in this manner because very little time is being spent with them, or at least outside of combat. Western role-playing games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect try to make up for this by allowing the player to speak with and get to know their comrades, but each character has a limited set of actions as they go on long monologues detailing the universe as much as their history. It becomes too easy to just tune out during this exposition because very little effort is made to pull the player into the moment.

The Walking Dead has these moments as well, but what Telltale excels at in this series is providing the player options and, most importantly, conflict during many of these sequences. Hershel pries deeply into Lee's business, and is frequently trying to catch him in a lie. Lee has to decide to be honest about the death of Clementine's parents or to try and hide the information from her. Every interaction with Kenny, no matter how civil, is like a battle to be for or against him.

Conversation becomes engaging in The Walking Dead because you have to manage your relationships with a variety of characters, all while under a time limit for each option. The more heated a discussion becomes, the more distractions present, and the more intense the experience becomes. This makes every interaction with the other characters of The Walking Dead more interesting than interacting with nearly any other character in a video game, all of which feel so, well, video gamey. Relationships aren't measured by some "likability" bar, but instead through notifications of what a character will remember and how they felt about it.

Even on a second playthrough, even when I knew what course the game's story would take, these moments had me on the edge of my seat, eyes darting from one corner of the monitor to the other, mulling over my choices. Equally thrilling were the brief moments of combat, where the game placed a gun in my hand and expected me to start shooting zombies. The less calm things became, the more interested in the game I was.

Then there were the moments of calm, and this is where The Walking Dead fails spectacularly. While many games have two states of being, action and cut-scene, The Walking Dead tries to provide a variety of different moments throughout. Intense action, dramatic dialog, calm discussion, and slow-paced puzzle solving. The problem is that the slow-paced puzzle solving isn't, well, very puzzling.

Most of the time spent "solving puzzles" in The Walking Dead will simply be steering Lee from one end of an environment to the other, then back and forth again. Telltale was no doubt trying to avoid another "Cat Hair Mustache" fiasco of poor puzzle design, but they ended up falling in the exact opposite hole. It's all way too easy, and when you're playing through the game a second time, walking from one end of a yard to another becomes boring and tiresome.

Yet every episode but the fifth is filled with such filler. The only time the game manages to break away are in the first and fourth episodes, where Lee is forced to try and manipulate the environment to avoid or kill zombies. These are, perhaps, the best puzzle solving moments in the entire game. Everything else is just making sure the episode doesn't end too quickly.

Oddly enough, many of these moments feel like they eat up the most time of the game, even if that's not quite true. Yet they are bad enough, especially when you already know what to do, that it drags the entire experience down. Episodes I used to speed through in a single night were now split into two because I would grow bored.

A well designed game doesn't need the player to be ignorant of its systems or solutions in order to have fun. Even a game like Harvest Moon or Phoenix Wright are entertaining throughout their repetition (though for the latter, much of that is simply due to how much evidence you must burn through in order to complete the game, much of it becoming jumbled in one's memory). Yet the puzzles in The Walking Dead require no skill or thought at all. They fail to effectively engage the player.

This has actually caused me to be hesitant about playing The Wolf Among Us, despite getting the entire season for free, and The Walking Dead season two. I'm afraid that I will not enjoy either now that I've realized how terrible much of the design in The Walking Dead season one is, that I'll be looking at both with the same critical eye.

I really enjoyed playing The Walking Dead and I feel it does a lot of great things that other games can learn from. However, it is no longer as beloved by me as it once was, and I am more sure than ever that the massive praise it and other Telltale games have received are in large part due to the widespread desire for games to "grow up".

Yet, for me, a game that fails to keep me engaged at all times is a heavily flawed experience. This process of making a video for The Walking Dead has forever tarnished my once wonderful view of it. Honestly, I prefer it that way, too.
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10:23 AM on 07.30.2014

Two major events in my life occurred since I last wrote on Destructoid. The first was that I had lost my job at the time, leaving me unemployed. The second, in an ironic twist of fate, was that I was invited to be a front page writer for GamersWithJobs.com. This came on the heels of my To Write, To Write, L'Chaim blog post, where I bemoaned the feeling that I was no closer to being a games writer than ever.

A lot has changed for me in that year, and I figured I'd share some of my experiences in that time period with you fine folks of the Destructoid community.

Note that I'm not really a professional writer, in that I'm not being paid to regularly write about games as a job. I'm back to working a crappy 9 to 5, this one paying less than my previous job whilst forcing me to use a mangled network of back-end systems and rusted, broken tools to perform essentially the same tasks as my previous gig. So, in essence, I'm still struggling to claw my way out of the mire and muck of cubicle work so that I might find a place in the world as a real boy... erm, I mean writer.

Even so, there's a lot that has been learned in this struggle, most importantly the knowledge that I am good at what I do. It feels conceited to say so, but I've spent enough time speaking with other writers and helping to provide feedback to know that I'm not just some hack trying to play against the big leagues. Sure, there's still plenty of room for refinement, and I'm always in search for how to write a better review, how to expand my vocabulary, and traveling that fine line between entertainment and insight. The fact that I'm still working on these skills, however, means I have developed enough to acknowledge strengths and weaknesses within not only myself, but others as well.

Which still makes me sound a bit like a prick, but hopefully you get me. As someone that has struggled with a low self-esteem their whole life, it is very valuable to be confident in one's abilities.

Valuable and important, because you'll always be misguided into believing that you're pretty much nothing. I don't even have the pleasure of being trolled, oddly enough, and Lord knows I've said things that might warrant trolling. I try to avoid it, but sometimes you cross into controversial topics and spit out an opinion that goes against the grain. I don't even have enough of a following for people to scream at me when I say controversial stuff that pisses them off.

Every week Twitter sends me an e-mail letting me know how many people see my tweets, respond, and click the link to go check out what I've written or shared. Facebook provides similar feedback on my page whenever I post something new. What I've learned from these analytics is that, even if I get retweeted by notable people, nobody seems to give a damn.

Somewhere in there is God's indecipherable equation for a Hot Pocket heated to a perfectly consistent internal temperature.

A lot of experts (at what?) will tell you about the importance of social media, but the reality is that social media does not build up a decent following. Or at least, it cannot be relied upon. If you pop up on someone's Twitter and they don't know you, they're more likely to skip on past. Why should they care what your thoughts on Way of the Samurai 3 are? They have important cat pictures to share!

If anything, social media has begun to take the form of randomized RSS feeds. A small, dedicated following will share what you've written, and if your headline is click-baity enough or already pertains to some hot topic of interest, then you'll get a bunch of people checking out that one page. But they will skim the article, close the tab, and move on back to Facebook or Twitter. Maybe you'll manage to obtain new followers, but, well, that leads to the next problem.

Obtaining followers willing to share your work is a whole other trial I haven't even figured out. Chances are when you're just starting to write, the only people that will be following you on social media will be friends and acquaintances. Now the question is, are they a part of your target demographic?

For me, the answer is, sadly, no, not many. As a result, very few people will share what I've written, and as such my works don't get spread very far beyond a limited network. As a result, it is very, very easy to get lost in analytics and numbers. Only a couple of my YouTube videos have surpassed 100 views, this article barely broke a dozen comments, so on and so forth.

This is where I've found myself struggling, wondering what the whole point was, if I should even bother.

Perhaps the most important lesson of all is that the numbers don't mean much. While my name hasn't exactly exploded across the games writing sphere, being on the front page of GamersWithJobs has certainly gotten me exposed to people that otherwise wouldn't have been reading a single word I've put online. I frequently get members of that community telling me that they make time to read every article I post on the front page there, and even looking out for when I update my blog or other projects with new content. They may be quiet, they may not always comment and they may not have the dedication to social media to share my work, but it is doing its job. It is entertaining and providing insight to people that are as enthused about games as I am.

That's the real lesson to anyone looking to write about games. It's not about instant gratification and it isn't about numbers. It's about satisfaction in your own work, followed by the sincere satisfaction of others that read it. What matters is getting it in front of people and letting them know who you are.

If you're writing a community blog here, you've already got a good start. Destructoid has a very diverse community not only in regards to what people play, but simply what sort of content they're looking to read. But it's also important not to become too comfortable in just one place. I myself am struggling with getting my work out to other locations, taking that all too intimidating step into freelancing.

But that is a topic for another time.

Until then, I hope you enjoyed reading this, I hope it was encouraging to a number of you out there, and I also hope you'll stick with me as I continue to post more thoughts on my blog here.
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Most good stories involve conflict. It presents an obstacle to the protagonists that is easy to understand, creates motivation for the characters, and provides a perfect physical manifestation of our hero's internal conflict. The easiest way to represent this conflict is through physical violence.

Why do we want our hero to defeat the villain? Well, the villain is out to harm the innocent for his own selfish gain. Oh, well, okay then. Bad guy is clearly a chungus and Hiro Protagonist is definitely our idealized savior we all strive to be. I'm on board with that!

Of course, there are other forms of conflict as well. In shitty ass romantic comedies, there will usually be some sort of misunderstanding between the Two Fucking Idiots[sup]TM[/sup] that results in conflict. Once that conflict resolves, they can resume being a pair of morons engaging in coitus together. Hurray!

In video games, however, it is rare for conflicts to manifest in a form other than violence. Conflict can be engaging for a player, and the easiest way to present the conflict is through violence. Combine this with how much easier it is to tell a story where the conflict is violence, and you have a medium built off of physically pummeling the opponent into submission.

It is a disturbing thought, especially when you begin to consider how many turtles and sentient fungi Mario manages to kill in a given adventure. Yet violence itself, as used in story-telling, is a mere tool. It is not inherently evil in a fictional setting. We're not drawn to the entertainment because we want to pretend to kill people, we're drawn to it because it is exciting. Having to duck and dodge fireballs, arrows, or bullets while knowing precisely when to toss the grenade, where to fire the hook shot, or when to jump gets the player's mind going. They're always thinking, always observing, and always looking for a new solution to the obstacle before them.

Tetris is a simplified version of all these ideas. What is the conflict? Pieces continue to fall from the sky, and you must get rid of them. How does one do this? By arranging the blocks in an uninterrupted line across the screen. The more rows you have stacked, the more will vanish. This conflict is only made more rich by providing the pavlovian temptation of a score system. How high in level can you get and how high of a score can you achieve? Now the player is striving to arrange those blocks in much more efficient patterns. All the while the blocks fall faster, making the obstacle more difficult to overcome. The player soon must sacrifice the high score chance for simple survival, a small reprieve from the pressure of blocks falling from the sky, buying at least one more additional row.

Tetris, however, has no narrative. While the "end" of the game results in a rocket taking off to the stars (or the White House), it was not the player's goal. The outcome is not representative of the mechanics.

Now let's examine Catherine, a puzzle game that throws a story into the mix. Each night protagonist Vincent has nightmares where he is forced to scale towers of blocks. As time progresses, row after row of blocks fall into the empty abyss below. Vincent must move the blocks so that he can continue to climb, but there are a variety of puzzles that threaten his life.

Vincent must climb the tower to survive, but he must also be careful to avoid all the deadly traps. Now we have a narrative explanation for the mechanics of failure. The inability to solve a puzzle results in a fail state, a fail state represented in the story as the death of our not-quite-plucky protagonist.

Characters can die in Catherine, yet when people say things like "violent video game" I highly doubt it is one of the titles that comes to mind. Why? Well, simple. There's a lot more going on than just the puzzles. Vincent is also going to the bar with his friends every night. He's interacting with fellow patrons. He is drinking more than he probably ought to be. He is also gripped by indecision. Does he want to stay with his girlfriend Katherine and get married? Or does he want to continue living a free, laid-back life with the much less ambitious Catherine?

The mechanics, the climbing of the tower, are meant to be representations of Vincent's internal struggles. The nightmares are forcing him to confront a lot of his inner fears and determine what course of action he should take. While the gameplay mechanics and story seem completely separated at first, the two are actually linked together in symbolic ways.

So while there is a good deal of violence in Catherine, it doesn't come off as violent.

The issue with violence is that a lot of games are gratuitously violent, even when trying to attach meaning. This is a lot of what Spec Ops: The Line was trying to tackle. These Call of Duty games cannot treat war as a serious subject when the violent scenarios they portray are depicted in such a ludicrous, glorified manner. In Spec Ops: The Line, the violence is used to drive the point home. In Call of Duty, the violence is the entire reason for being.

The recently released Bioshock: Infinite also happens to link violence with the narrative, but it seems to have been in a much more subtle manner. Many players and critics have been noting how the game almost feels like it should be an RPG instead, that the violent shooting and melee mechanics just clash with the tone.

I'd argue this is intentional. Booker DeWitt is an outsider. He does not belong in Columbia for many reasons, one of them involving the twist at the end. He is a foreign element in this wonderful, colorful, blissfully ignorant city in the clouds.

His mere presence results in a sky hook to the eye.

It is almost foreshadowing the events to come. Booker's first real interaction with the denizens of Columbia ends in blood and bodies littering the celebration. Over time, his presence gives fuel and fire to a revolution that tears the city apart.

This is all core to who Booker DeWitt is. He's a flawed human being with blood on his hands. It would not wash away in water, and try as he might he cannot find redemption with a gun in his hand. Yet fighting and dying is all he knows. He tries to fight for something righteous, but it all ends in death.

Then there's Elizabeth. Introduced as a Disney Princess (quite literally), this young, idealistic woman follows Booker as a form of savior...and is then appalled when she witnesses him fighting and killing other men. "Monster!" she cries.

Yes, Booker is a monster. Elizabeth, however, is not...yet. And this, I believe, is one of the core themes of Bioshock: Infinite. As the game progresses, Elizabeth becomes more and more accustomed to the violence surrounding her. The clothes on her person change with her, becoming less the young, innocent girl locked in a tower and more a powerful, decisive woman...capable of horrifying things.

The violence is shocking at first, yes. I, too, was stunned at seeing a man get a hook to his eye, or shoving the whirling blades into another man's jugular. It seemed out of place, like it was intended for a much more juvenile game.

Yet the shock and surprise, the discomfort, it's the point. Over time the player adjusts to it as well, just as Elizabeth does, as Booker already has. The shock and surprise is the entire point.

It's just one of many tricks Ken Levine pulls in Infinite. He's a man that likes to take gameplay mechanics and twist them around in a narrative manner. As a result, the violence is given purpose. It is a tool, and it is a tool well used.

We should not jump to the conclusion that violence in video games is inherently bad, or that we have too much of it. While it is true that there are far fewer creative types of game than need be, there are still plenty of games like Harvest Moon, or Animal Crossing, or Cooking Mama. Not all games are violent.

Video Games. They're violent.

Yet if a game does make use of violent mechanics and design, we should not automatically reduce its value. Otherwise games like Catherine, 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors, Phoenix Wright, and yes, even Bioshock: Infinite would not be as valuable to our medium as they are.

Instead of seeing a man take a sky hook to the eye and thinking "That's horrifying, it shouldn't even be there", try considering why it was put there in the first place. The answer you find could be surprisingly enlightening.
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10:17 PM on 05.22.2013

I'm not really bothered by Microsoft's press conference. Sure, I've tossed my fair share of snark onto Twitter as anyone else has. That's what it's there for, right? That and retweeting everything George Takei says.

Thing is, I got exactly what I was expecting. In fact, I got more than I could have bargained for. Microsoft has been using the Xbox 360 as a testing ground for all of their upcoming projects, and in the end their new interface was just a beta for the Xbox One (which I shall simply refer to as the XOne, and imagine it capable of transforming into some sort of murderous death drone because that's what a name like XOne brings to mind). All that television talk? The logical next step. ESPN and Sports? Business as usual. Call of Duty DLC lands on Xbox first? Spoilers, Jesus dies.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't care about it, though. I'm an enthusiast. Of course I care. I want a gaming machine to be targeted my way first and foremost. I want Microsoft to care about me, and to cater to my wants and desires.

But I'd also be lying if I said I believed I'm their target demographic anymore. Hell, I'm surprised they're even bothering with E3. I really don't think the show has any sort of mainstream appeal, unless maybe the local news stations are trying to explain why the roads are more clogged than usual to the average commuter.

So who is Microsoft's primary target? I really don't know. I don't think it's mom and dad, because they aren't going to be watching the announcement. I don't think it's your typical tech-head, because they already have a Roku box for half the price (assuming they even use such a device at all instead of just ad-hocing their computer into a media server bursting with pirated media across their entire home). Maybe it's the typical eSport energy drink chugging Family Guy loving "bro-gamer" (even though there are a surprising number of females in this category, so that term isn't quite accurate), but I'm even skeptical of that.

Almost twenty years ago these guys were telling me Mortal Kombat was the bomb in Phantoms and that Final Fantasy VI was crap.

I think Microsoft's target demographic is a nebulous, undefined thing that they just imagine is "the consumer". This is why information on used games and always-on is so ill-defined at the moment. They are targeting everyone but the enthusiasts, because all of those other consumers don't ask questions like "If you have to connect to the Internet once a day, then is it really any different from always-on?" They just read the bullets on the box and say "sounds good!", without truly considering why those bulleted points are specifically written to seem better than the competition.

What really bothers me is that this is the typical attitude towards demographics in general in this industry. Big time business men are targeting the 18-35 white male demographic because they believe that to be the typical consumer.

Okay, the 13-35 white male, because no one is so naive as to believe companies aren't counting on little Timmy's parents buying him the latest Grand Theft Auto despite the M rating.

But let's assume 18-35 is still accurate. Have you ever really thought about that age gap? How absolutely huge it is?

To illustrate what I mean, I was kind of a jack ass when I was eighteen. Sure, there were some things about me that haven't changed. I loved Metroid, I was fascinated by games with great mechanics, and I was a greater fan of single-player and co-op experiences than competitive multiplayer. However, I was also convinced that Japan was a backwards country that was falling behind in the realm of good game design. I played very few Japanese made games at this point, was getting sick of anime, and even said a couple of harsh things that caused permanent harm to what could have been a really awesome friendship.

Ten years later, at the age of 28, I wish the Western gaming industry would learn something from Japan. I wish more Western RPG's would play like Dragon's Dogma instead of Skyrim or Dragon Age. I wish we could have the sheer variety of characters and settings that you see in Japanese games. Hell, playing 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors has me wondering what it would be like if a Japanese developer made a game like Telltale's The Walking Dead.

I'm pretty sure I prayed to God for this game when I was six years old. Meanwhile, Bethesda continues to recycle Morrowind's mocap and A.I.

In other words, what I want to play at the age of 28 is not necessarily the same as what I played at the age of 18.

So why is the gaming industry lumping me into a single demographic category as if I haven't changed at all?

This monday Jim Sterling lamented Namco Bandai trying the spray-and-pray approach to marketing that so many other AAA Developers take. With the Xbox One, I think we're seeing that same strategy on a marketing level.

It's astounding to me. The games industry continues to employ marketing teams that have absolutely no clue what they're doing. I mean, that's the only explanation, right? The games industry hasn't truly expanded to mainstream levels, and it probably never will. Games aren't a passive medium. You can't sit down and just enjoy a show of pictures go by like with television and film. It requires input, and it thus requires the user to learn a set of rules, guidelines, and instructions.

That's simply too much work for most mainstream audiences. Video games on their own will never be as popular as those other mediums, because the interactive nature many of us love will never catch on.

Pictured: Apparently, the 18-35 white male demographic

Thus Microsoft is trying to cater to a different audience, cast a net in a different part of the sea. The problem is, does that audience want to pay a minimum of $400 for a device that they have to literally tell to switch to television? Or are they fine with just their television?

If I were Microsoft, I'd be hoping I hired a really, really good marketing team to convince the masses that, yes, they do need to spend $400 on a pointless, bloated, consumer-hating piece of technology.
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In the past I've mentioned some of my history as a wannabe games writer. Once upon a time I thought I was good at it, that I could easily beat out other games writers, and that I would surely be some big name writer by time I turn 30.

Well, next month I turn 28 and, while that still leaves two years for one of my many dreams to come true, it's still no closer to being a reality than when I was 21. The only real change is that now I'm spending most of my day sitting in a cubicle, copy-and-pasting predetermined content into a bunch of text fields and calling it "web development".

Okay, that's a lie. I don't even have a cubicle. I have a shelf.

One day upon my Twitter feed I see [s]VentureBeat [/s]GamesBeat link to this little community article. Trevor Osz reflects on how he started gaming, how he got his job at GameStop, and how he was the font of gaming facts and knowledge amongst his friends. Now, he has chosen to venture forth on that narrow yet crowded path. He yearns to be a games writer.

All I could think while reading was, "Why?"

No, really, why? Why do you want to write about games?

This was a realization that I forced myself to confront four years ago, after I graduated from College and was confronted with unemployment. I tried to join a number of game journalism social networks, all populated by wannabes and hopefuls while very few in the industry contributed. In fact, I'd say the top reason I know the name Ben Kuchera is because he was one of the few that would participate. He was brutally honest, and I appreciated that from him.

Yet when I looked upon all of these other wannabe writers, I noticed that a lot of them weren't...well, good. In addition, whenever asked why they wanted to write, they justified their desire with how long they have played games for, or how often.

Just because you like games doesn't mean you should be writing about them. More so, just because "anyone can write", doesn't mean you can write well. It's like the end of that film Ratatouille, where the critic Anton Ego realizes what Gusteau really meant by the title of his book "Anyone Can Cook". It's not necessarily saying that anyone can cook well, but a great, exceptional cook can come from anywhere.

The same is true of writing. It is something everyone is capable of at a base level, but to be an exceptional writer...that is something different.

Though the cold reality is that a lot of professional writers out there aren't necessarily very talented, either. Or perhaps they are intentionally edited down to be very factual and simple, just as most newspapers are written at a low comprehension level so they can appeal to as wide an audience as possible. That's also where games writing becomes even more complicated.

Okay, so let's say you actually do love writing. You've reflected back on your life and realized that you've always been writing, and if video games did not exist you'd just be finding something else to write about. This is the conclusion I came to, as the first thing I ever did with a computer was open Microsoft Word and try writing my own books. This habit still hasn't died, as on occasion I'll try my hand at writing a story. So yes, I want to write.

Now let's focus on video games. How do I want to write about video games? Well, that's the tricky part. In truth, I think the state of games writing is in a flux. I spoke with the late Bill Kunkel once about the industry, and one of the things he had lamented was that game reviews were an entry-level angle of writing. This seemed strange to me, but in some ways it makes sense. Give the new guy the terrible shovel-ware so the top writers can have the "quality" content. Yet you still have the same people writing reviews as you have churning out press releases. Is this right? Is the ability to find a story relevant when it comes to discussing the merits and flaws of a game? Do we want critics, or do we want consumer advice?

Then there are the increasing amounts of op/ed pieces on the Internet, focusing on a writer's thoughts on a subject. Who should be allowed to write these? What authority do these opinions come from?

It is a reality I've had to face. I've come to the realization that there are certain aspects of games writing that I don't want to do. I'm not interested in the "journalism" aspect. I don't care to find out about what sort of DLC packs this game will have, or shmoozing up to a PR representative in hopes for an exclusive set of screenshots. I don't want to write previews, which are not supposed to be critiques but feature and expectation lists. I want to critique a game, and if it is incomplete I want to give my honest feedback.

Oh look, an image that has something to do with video games

I want to be a games critic. I want to build a career akin to Roger Ebert's in film. I want to analyze and dissect what makes these games work.

The problem is, does anyone want this sort of thing? Sure, a few people managed to build a real career out of it. Yahtzee Croshaw is probably our first real recognizable games writer known for nothing more than his critiques, though he had to package them up with a crude sense of humor. Jim Sterling can also be viewed as a critic at this point as well.

Yet what I end up looking to are the many critics on YouTube. Long-form analysis such as Tasteful, Understated Nerd Rage, Errant Signal, or Matthew Matosis. Just as there was a New Wave of British Heavy Metal, perhaps there's a new wave of games criticism coming. I would truly like to be a part of that wave.

But in the end, I'm going to do it by doing what I'd be doing anyway. I'm going to continue writing about games, and I'm going to do my own video series. I've updated it here a few times, but in truth I'm only doing Ramble Pak 64 because I enjoy it. I like writing it, I like capturing the video footage, and I like editing the video together.

I don't like the audio portion of it, but what can you do. At least 3/4ths of the process is enjoyable.

That, my friends, is the secret, though. It's not about getting into an industry or making a career of it. It's about doing what you're doing. Even if you have some shitty 9 to 5 job pummeling the soul out of you day after day, draining you of the energy, making you lethargic to all things, try and find some time to do what you love.

Writing about games should have no greater goal for you than to have fun doing it. While there may always be that dream, and while it's good to at least put forth an effort such as pitching article ideas to various sites, you should not start writing because you decide to be a games journalist or writer. You should become a games journalist or writer because you love writing.

Which brings me back to Trevor Osz and his article on GamesBeat. I cannot help but sigh, both wistfully and exasperatingly.

Yes, he knows about games. Yes, he loves games.

But does he love writing?
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Man, a lot and yet nothing at all has happened since I last posted here in April. Let me see if I can summarize.

Personal life stuff happened that got me a bit down in the dumps. I discovered some amazing all-female Japanese symphonic metal bands, which kick-started what I like to call "Total Weaboo Mode" in which I started to watch a crap-ton of live-action Japanese film and television. If your interest in Japan extends beyond anime and Japanese role-playing games, then I would recommend checking out the films Shall We Dance? and Departures on Netflix Instant. Note that I specifically mean the original Japanese Shall We Dance? from 1996 or so. In terms of television, you can't go wrong with Densha Otoko, Akihabara@Deep, or Dekichatta Kekkon. Maybe I'll discuss these films/shows in future blogs in greater detail.

Akihabara@Deep is a seriously fun show. Check it out.

On the gaming front, things have been moving slowly. Despite a huge pile of unplayed or incomplete games, I went back and pumped several more hours into Castle Crashers. Ended up leveling an all-melee Peasant character into bad assery and completed all the game's arenas with him. While I recall wondering how that game spent so long in development when I first played, the fact that I could have such an incredible time replaying really stands as a testament to all the effort they put in. At some point, I'll be grabbing a copy of Battleblock Theater.

Other than that, slowly progressing through Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon on the 3DS. It's a great game, but it fails to really have any hooks in me. It's more a game that I really enjoy when I get to playing it, but for some reason I'm never really drawn back to it. This doesn't happen as often as when I was younger, truth told. Now, however, I've started Bioshock Infinite, and I sit here at work typing this up thinking "Man, if only I was back home playing Infinite".

Behold, bad assery is happening

I'll have more to say on that game in the future as well. Short summary: liking it a lot, but there are some ways you can just tell they focus tested the game a little too much with the assumed mainstream crowd. I'll discuss it in more depth on my series RamblePak 64.

Which is where I'll end this brief update. See, one of the other things keeping me busy was my huge and, for me at least, disappointing analysis of Aliens: Colonial Marines. I was so excited for it, but the sheer length and the many flaws with the show's script just has me feeling like it was all a bunch of wasted effort.

Fortunately I also made a much shorter one about Iron Man 3's use of The Mandarin.

I share both with you guys in hopes that you'll find redeeming qualities. Putting these videos together is a lot of hard work, and has only reinforced the knowledge that it takes a lot of effort even to make a shitty product. I hope you'll indulge me and watch at least the Mandarin one (seeing as the Aliens one is so friggin' long), and next time I come around blogging, I'll have something more substantial and exclusive to Destructoid.

Hope you've all been well!

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