Friday, November 2, 2012

October Writing

(I don't actually talk about Binary Domain in this post but I played it this month and it is awesome so there you go.)

It's getting a bit cliché to start these monthly writing summary posts with a comment about how fast the month has gone but my god how is it already November? I thought October was going to be a slower month than the previous two, but I was sorely mistaken. Still, I may have nearly killed myself in the process, but I wrote a few things this past month I was really exceptionally proud of. So that is okay.

First, the regular gigs.

At Unwinnable I wrote quite a few pieces this past month. For my Pocket Treasures column, looking at iOS games, I started with a review of Cool Pizza. This is perhaps the first time I fell in love with a game that I first heard about through a press release. It's really something special, which makes it all the sadder that it ends far too prematurely. I also looked back at Pix'n Love Rush, which was one of my first iOS loves, and a game I was reminded about recently when playing Rayman Jungle Run. And the third Pocket Treasures for the month was a look at Shadegrown Games's first release Starbloom. Shadegrown Games is Matthew Burns's indie team, and I really love what they do in the realm of music-based gameplay. I'm really looking forward to see what they do in the future.

Still at Unwinnable I had two non-Pocket Treasures posts this month. Firstly I looked at guns in Borderlands 2, and the way simply choosing what gun 'feels' right changes your identity in the game as both a player and a character. I am still playing a ridiculous amount of Borderlands 2. It's exactly the kind of grind that I love, despite all the terribly problematic sexist humour which I really wish wasn't there. I forget who said it on Twitter, but games really have to stop trying so hard to look like they aren't trying hard.

And my last piece for the month at Unwinnable is not about videogames at all, but about my grandfather who passed away last week. It was not something I intended to write, but the words just came out, and Unwinnable were kind enough to post it. As an aside, I think it is a testament to just what a special site Unwinnable is that I can post something utterly unrelated to videogames but still 'cultural' and that it does not jar at all. I think that is really special and invaluable, that we have a site that talks about games but which doesn't always have to talk about games.

Okay, so at Games On Net I had three editions of You Know What I Love? this month. Firstly I got a bit emo and looked at dying in FTL and DayZ and tried to draw out what effect ultimate death has on the way I live my life. Then I looked at nostalgia in Retro City Rampage. I don't think this piece quite gets to the heart of what I wanted to say, but ultimately I am sick of 'nostalgia' being dismissed as the antonym of 'innovation', because it isn't. And finally I looked at Carmageddon's Pinball Mode and how it breaks the game in great ways. I'm kind of embarrassed to say I am still playing the iOS version of Carmageddon, and even more embarrassed to say I am still enjoying it. But seriously, this happened and it was great:


Ahem. Moving on. At Gameranx this month my A Sum Of Parts column looked at Halo Reach, perhaps my favourite game in the Halo series (but not by much). To start with I looked at the juxtaposition of the game's character customisation screen and the opening cut scene and how this conveys the game's overall sense of tragedy. This is a thing I've wanted to write about for ages, and I'm glad I was finally able to do it. Next I looked at the game's pacing that has you take two steps backwards for every step forward. I then looked at how the game frames its story with the natural world itself, directing the player's eyes and feet in nuanced, elegant ways. Lastly I looked at how the broader Halo universe has a story that it refuses to 'tell' its players, instead demanding fans come to it through actively researching this universe.

And that is all I had online, I think. But I had a pretty epic month in print, too. In Edge E247 (with Metal Gear Rising on the cover), I have a "Things" column looking in great detail at Rage's Wingstick, and how it brings together the pleasures of throwing a boomerang, firing a precise headshot, and sticking a plasma grenade all at once. As an aside here, if you have an iPad, the digital version of Edge is absolutely phenomenal. Not a mere pdf of the magazine, the digital version adds a whole lot of beautiful but not forced interactivity that feels really great. It feels like a 'digital magazine' should feel. So if you can't be bothered waiting for Edge to make it to Australia or you don't want to pay the high import costs, I recommend this greatly.

In issue 209 of PC Powerplay (with Dishonoured on the cover) I have previews of both Assassin's Creed III and Far Cry 3 from last month's trip to Montreal. Similarly, I also wrote about both these games for issue 230 of Hyper. Since Assassin's Creed III was being reviewed in the same issue, I didn't write a preview of it so much as a character bio of Connor and how the team are trying to bring his interesting ethnicity into the story in a natural, not terrible way. It truly sounded really fascinating when I spoke to Alex Hutchinson in Canada, but the reviews I'm reading of the full game suggest they didn't quite succeed. Alas.

My Far Cry III piece for Hyper (which, may I add, is also on the magazine's cover omg) is not a straight-up preview but an 'experiential' preview, where I simply narrate my time with the game. I wrote it as a series of postcards (as to write the entire three hours I spent with the game would take up the entire magazine, I'm sure). It is still very much a preview, with all the problems and Doritos-baggage that come along with being a preview, but it was really interesting to try to write it in a more interesting style than a straight up features list. Really, you can't mess around with the preview model too much, but it was still really fun to do.

I also ended up with two reviews in this issue of Hyper for Retro City Rampage (eh) and The Unfinished Swan (OMG PLAY IT). So the cover story and four articles all up in that issue. That is a little bit exciting.

Aaaaaaaand I think that is all I wrote this month. Big Spec Ops Thing is still on its way, I promise. Exciting things are happening with it, and I plan to write an announcement post about it tomorrow to let you know what is going on and when it will be out. Short answer is soon. It's all very exciting.

And in the academic world, I had my confirmation milestone for my PhD two days ago. It was nerve-racking and traumatic but I was "confirmed with minor edits" which is really exciting and means I am a few changes to a Word document away from being a confirmed PhD candidate. So that is exciting!

Also, I have a tumblr now that I am using to share and archive games criticism/journalism/other that I think is well worth reading. You can find that here if you are interested in that, which you should be.

But ultimately, the most important thing to happen to me this past month was this.

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