Conversations between languages


Some time last year I stopped blogging here and started using Medium instead. More recently, I’ve started writing more ‘interlingual’ pieces. That means trying to write in response to pieces written in languages other than English, to try and break out of the usual circle of English-language critically-minded games writers. These pieces have been getting a lot of traffic, and it’s been exciting to see people get enthusiastic about them.

Oscar Strik wrote a great post on this topic, calling for more effort to bring the linguistic periphery closer to the center of critical discourse about games. I agree with him, and I want to see more blogging that interprets ideas that were initially expressed in a language other than English. Interlingual writing does take a lot of extra effort, as Oscar points out, so whenever this work happens I want to help celebrate it.

I’ve set up a collection for writing of this sort on Medium, so that when other people publish interlingual criticism they can send it through and I can help to signal boost. If you’re doing interlingual critical writing about games or any other media, drop me a line. I’ll invite you to write for the collection if you’re comfortable publishing on Medium. Even if you don’t write on Medium, I still want to read it and share it with people, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Meet me at GDC

Hey. I’m going to GDC this year on a press pass, and the emails from PR companies are starting to come through. It’s always great to meet new people and learn about new things, but I tend to be limited to only getting to spend time one-on-one with people who are spending lots of money trying to get their name out there. I don’t think this is right, and it feels like a missed opportunity for me.

So, if you’re going to be in San Francisco during GDC, and you have a project that you think I might find interesting, please go to this page and set up an appointment so that we can hang out. This is the kind of thing I particularly like to hear about:

  • Experimental indie games
  • Free-to-play social games
  • Creative funding for creative work
  • Alternative games writing projects
  • Archive, preservation, and historical writing about games
  • Community initiatives that involve games or other aspects of geek culture
  • Challenging hegemony in games (gender and sexual minorities, race, cultural imperialism etc.)

Again, the page for requesting an appointment is right here. Be careful if you’re currently in a time zone other than PST, it makes things go weird and you’ll have to do some maths.

13 things I wrote in 2013

It’s been a good year. Here are thirteen of the things that were in it:

1. Silliness

I shifted most of my ad-hoc blogging to One of the most popular posts there has been What do you think of when you think of Batman? It was a very silly write-up of a totally unreliable survey, refuting something foolish that a games publisher said in an interview.

2. Schadenfreude

What has EA done now? was a blog that I was updating regularly for a couple of months when EA seemed to be perpetually upsetting people.

3. Heroism

On Gamesbrief this year, I started writing some feature-like articles based on interviews with developers. One of my favourites was a write-up of how 5th Planet Games kicks ass at community management.

4. Worldiness

I can’t do this list without mentioning Dreamcast Worlds, the book I crowdfunded in 2012 and published in September.

5. History

I also started Memory Insufficient, an ezine exploring games history from perspectives that are normally ignored. I think I did some of my best writing here, covering digital games, board games and folk games from personal and documentary perspectives.

6. Heritage

I also got to write historically-informed articles in traditional magazines. I’ve written a few pieces for Comics and Gaming Magazine, an outlet that focuses on writing about geek culture for a grown-up audience. One of my more art-historical articles there was about three games that use “retro pixel graphics” in a way that goes beyond nostalgia to something complex about craft and culture (preview link dead but maybe it will work again one day?)

7. Legacy

Then at Australia’s leading gaming magazine Hyper I wrote about games that address an anxiety over leaving a legacy for future generations. If you’re keen, you can get issue #242 through the Android and iOS newsstand apps.

8. Solitude

On a more personal note, I was feeling lonely for much of this year. Sometimes I had this strange sense of being with people but not really being with them, both online and in real life. One piece explored how that could be better represented in games.

9. Ambivalence

During re/Action’s pre-crowdfunding phase, I contributed two articles. One of them was a complicated response to the state of queer games discourse at the time, called “Why invisibility isn’t a superpower“: which is not to say that invisibility is not a privilege, but that it is an ambivalent state that lends itself to a sense of isolation and hopelessness.

10. Community

Those feelings did start to change. In a Borderhouse post about Gaymer X,  I mentioned feeling less isolated, and discussed safe spaces and different approaches to queer games community building.

11. Attraction

Samantha Allen and I started writing queer readings of romance games together in a Borderhouse series called Bunk Bed, where we share our different experiences playing the same games.

12. Complexity

Then I had the amazing honour of speaking at Queerness and Games Conference about queering histories, by disabusing them not just of great men, but also of grand theories. I wrote up the talk here.

13. Transformation

More recently, I wrote about Twine game Pure Again, discussing why it feels like such a good representation of much of my experience of transition.

2012 in writing

I’m expecting to hit a big milestone for Dreamcast Worlds in the next week or so, so detailed updates and lots of extracts should be on the way soon. But in brief: it’s taken a lot of hard work, but the end is in sight, and I’m expecting to be ready to publish at the end of this month.

Don’t leave me in a ditch: why you should self-censor the em-dash

CC Paul de los Reyes

When I’m editing prose, my main concern is readability. Normally the entire process is mostly made up of adding subheadings, breaking up long sentences, and removing parentheses.

Language is a very crude way of expressing yourself. As a writer, you can only say one thing at a time. Film directors have full use of a two-dimensional image plane and sound, and can pack in lots of carriers of meaning at the same time. Lighting, music, script, acting, body language, mise en scene, setting… all of these things and more are actively communicating to the viewer all the time. Game designers have all that, plus haptic response and input, range of movement, rules systems, and space design. Multiple things can be communicated at different levels of explicitness at the same time.

Written language has to struggle with putting three-dimensional ideas into one-dimensional form. Readers have to be able to walk in a straight line, looking straight ahead with blinkers on, and still see everything they came to see and understand why they should keep on walking.

This is why I hate the em-dash. Continue reading

The science behind non-virality

FlickrCC, Gideon

When I’m in London, my favourite hobby is to go to cafes and eavesdrop. I particularly enjoy it when a boy speaking in flawless RP is telling someone else his brilliant ideas that will make them all famous and successful. “Facebook is the future,” he declaims over a soy chai latte, “it’s all about advertising.” He takes a sip, nods and pretend to listen while the other person speaks, and then announces, “what we need to do is make a viral video.” Continue reading

Landlords are arseholes: on Steam Greenlight

For a much better post on this issue, go here.

Remember that theory that the internet is morphing from anarchic communitarianism into restrictive cyber-serfdom?

Valve’s crowd curation platform for video games, Steam Greenlight, has only been around for a week or so, and already it’s managed to annoy almost everyone. Users who want to review games have to wade through piles and piles of crap before finding anything of interest. Erotic content has been summarily taken down out of fear that it might cause offence, regardless of how artful or interesting it might be, putting an early question mark over how far Valve are handing over gatekeeping responsibilities to the crowd. Continue reading

I love YouTube comments

It’s so nice when people clear up complicated issues in a single paragraph. Show’s over folks, I don’t need to write a book anymore!

Good idea about release book for the history of Dreamcast.But everybody knows the story,so if you want know the real story what happen to Dreamcast,you should ask Peter Moore,Bern Stollar and another ex supervisors of Sega.First,I will tell you what happen before of downfall of Dreamcast. It was Microsoft plan from the beginning,the Dreamcast it was an experimental console.End. ;)

Video is below the cut, go join the YouTube comments here. Oh, and for the record, I already cite more than one Bernie Stolar interview in the book, and I interviewed design and planning leads for Skies of Arcadia at Sega headquarters last summer. Continue reading

“How frustrating this whole business of studying is”

I’m wading through Bruno Latour and finishing my dissertation this month, feeling ever more terrified and hopeless. There is so much to do, and too little time in which to give the material the quality of treatment it deserves. But in the middle of my despair, Latour presented me with an encouraging rant part-way through Reassembling the social. Paragraph breaks have been added, because Latour’s overflowing, impassioned verbiage does not translate well into blog format.

What is an account? It is typically a text, a small ream of paper a few millimetres thick that is darkened by a laser beam. It may contain 10,000 words and be read by very few people, often only a dozen or a few hundred if we are really fortunate. A 50,000 word thesis might be read by half a dozen people (if you are lucky, ever your Ph.D advisor would have read parts of it!) and when I say ‘read’, it does not mean ‘understood’, ‘put to use’, ‘acknowledged’, but rather ‘perused’, ‘glanced at’, alluded to’, ‘quoted’, ‘shelved somewhere in a pile’. At best, we add an account to all those which are simultaneously launched in the domain we have been studying. Continue reading