Travelogue Excerpt: CHASM

So, the thing I first envisioned solely as a “GDC Travelogue” has expanded a little in scope (write a book with game developers in, start having the same problems as they do?!) — it explores the experience of GDC and the people I visit with there, but it’s also got broader thoughts on games writing, travel, and on being someone who does both those things for a living. I’m really excited to be able to publish it for you.

So, release date slightly delayed, but only so I can make it WAY BETTER. We have all heard this one before.


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New video: ‘Narrative immersion’ in 1982

Thanks to everyone who tuned in and watched my very first vintage Apple adventure game let’s-play last week. There’s a new one this week for you, but first order of business is the cryptoquote from Death in the Caribbean last week.


The first to solve it was Greg Sabo, who translated: “PYRAMID MARKER GUARDS BURIED CHEST. EXCAVATE WITH GREAT CARE.” He writes, “even revealed mysteries are entrenched in dread in this world.” Indeed!

I really was scared by Death in the Caribbean as a kid. This week’s game, The Quake, actually wasn’t one I played in its time, but I had to spend some time with it when I saw how serious its ambitions were for 1982, when it was made. It aimed to be a game about the experience of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, with all the gravitas you’d imagine — it would be dynamic, it would shake and surprise you, the graphics would be breathtaking, the storytelling intense.

I was fascinated by comparing the creators’ goals, as you can see stated right at the beginning of the video, with the result (and I even had a little fun getting all Serious Game Critic on its themes toward the end). Hope you enjoy coming along with me on this one!

In other news, I talked to Ryan Payton about Republique, the App Store’s… Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness? and I also dared to have a critical opinion about Sonic the Hedgehog in The Guardian. I wanted to write about the surreal fan reclamation of a mascot who no longer has a serious franchise — it’s very Liquid Television, very much in the spirit of the 90s ‘attitude’ that birthed Sonic to begin with. The time since has been a bit of a trip for internet stress, although if people hadn’t come out in force with incredibly puzzling, emotional, personal reactions to my criticizing the old games, I would have worried about whether I’d proved my point.

Thanks to everyone who’s asked after my Game of Thrones recaps, but I won’t be doing them this season at Boing Boing, sadly. The site has a designated recaps person now. And a couple of you have noticed my column is missing from your latest Edge magazine — I won’t be doing that one anymore, either. Time for me to keep fracking the new content economy, as I put it during my bit of the soapbox session at GDC recently.

Speaking of GDC, you can now see video of this year’s #1ReasontoBe panel that I co-chaired with the incomparable Brenda Romero. All of the speakers - Anna Kipnis, Colleen Macklin, Deirdra “Squinky” Kiai, Laralyn McWilliams and Lauren Scott — give incredible and different talks and I really recommend listening to them! There is a rousing little intro from me as well that felt great to give.

I’ll be talking at Different Games this weekend rather than going to PAX (duh), so if you want to go to a cool games conference, come check it out!

Entering the VR World

Hi everyone! My GDC travelogue is still underway and should be ready for you to buy in just a couple more weeks — featuring the cover art work of someone I like a lot. It’s become a bigger, but hopefully a more interesting and broadly-relevant project than I first envisioned, aiming to show you the experience, people and stories that make traveling to events as a games writer some of the most beautiful and meaningful times in my life.

As for everything else I’ve been up to — and my first “let’s play”-type thing — !!

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Travelogue, Day 4: ARMOR

[Each day I'm publishing little excerpts of an ongoing travelogue I'm writing about GDC,  games and my work here. The full piece will be for sale when it's finished, but the daily excerpts will be available to all. If you've missed previous installments, just check prior entries on this website.]

If I’m being honest, even though I go GDC every year and I love it, it makes me a little scared. Suddenly the internet is real, and it’s all around me. My double life — where I do a thing on the internet all day that very few people in my real-life physical space know about or care about — suddenly resolves. The world is full of game developers. The people I’ve never met who read my drunk tweets are here.

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Travelogue, Day 2: LUXURY

[This is an ongoing travelogue of my life and work in games journalism as I travel from London through New York to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Regular excerpts will be available at this website for free, and a full version will be available to buy for $3 in digital formats when it's finished. Hope you enjoy coming along with me!]

I lived in New York City for ten years, and I come and go a lot these days. But it never really goes away, that thing where I’m riding the last escalator out of Penn Station, with its unmistakable collision of food smells and noise, and the corner of 34th street appears, in all its un-splendor, suddenly. It’s ratty and smoky and lousy with fake Irish pubs and “stage door” bars blocks away from any actual stage, but it feels like I’m home.

“Hello, Baby,” I mouth softly to no-one.

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Travelogue, Day 1: Level Grinding

[As I travel to the Game Developers Conference in the week ahead, I'll be keeping a daily travelogue of sorts about my life as a games journalist, the experience of the industry event, and the colleagues, developers and friends I meet there. I'll gather, edit and digitally self-publish the full diary for $3 when it's all finished, but for now, select portions will be available for free from this website. Please come with me as I experiment with new (to me) types of writing and new ways of monetizing my work! I hope you enjoy it!]

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Let’s go

I stand on the precipice of a very busy period of time, friends. In just two days I leave the UK to return to the states, stopping by friends in New York City for a couple days before I head West to San Francisco for GDC.

Some things I’ve written lately:

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I can’t see you every night

Thanks to everyone who’s been buying, sharing thoughts and Tweeting about my book, Breathing Machine. Lately I really loved this thoughtful review from Cassandra Phillips-Sears, and Boing Boing was kind enough to do a writeup also. I’m told there will be an official audiobook coming soon, so those of you who have been asking about that, stay tuned! No, it won’t be me reading it (I just did this little promo) — probably someone professional who doesn’t lapse into a weird hybridized mid-Atlantic accent, fortunately.

I’ve been pretty busy lately:
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In this, the year of

During the month of January, I did a couple big features that gathered perspectives from many developers — the first of these is about the supposed self-promotion age and how it affects game developers.

Inspired by a blog post of self-promotion tips from Raph Koster, I spoke to a range of developers, from grad students to visible indies, about the pressure not only to do marketing for one’s game, but for oneself, in a sense — how necessary it is to stand out in the landscape as a creator and ways to go deal with the complicated feelings that arise.

This becomes increasingly relevant as artists and creators are looking for ways to make a living outside an increasingly-strained infrastructure, and seeking funding from fans is a major avenue. I wrote an editorial about the launch of Double Fine’s Broken Age (which I backed, but still have yet to play) — it helps encapsulate the ways that for every new opportunity crowdfunding offers, there are new disruptions in the traditional creator-audience relationship, and things get complicated.

Last year there was much talk of “developer dads,” and the tonal shift in commercial games that comes from devs having kids of their own. But mothers make games too; some of them balance parenthood with indie careers, and want more visibility on their experience. Here’s my feature on indie moms, their unique opportunities and challenges, and how the culture of game development tends to shut them out of the conversation.

I spoke to Samantha Kalman about her multidisciplinary background in music and tech, and how it led to her successfully-funded Sentris game; I also spoke to Mitu Khandaker about Redshirt, her cynical space social media sim, and creating a healthy community around a game about how reality can be awful.

In addition to Kalman and Khandaker, in these and other articles I interviewed Brianna Wu, Katharine Neil, Tanya Short, Elizabeth Sampat, Beth Maher, Leanne Bayley, and Nina Freeman just in the past four weeks or so.

In the month of January, every interview about game development that I have published, am currently at work on, or will file focuses on or includes a woman dev discussing her work and the landscape. Both pieces with more than one source include more than one woman.

I thought I’d quietly see if this was possible in the new year — not everything I file in a given month is an interview or includes quotes, but much of it is, and I wondered if I could spend a month covering game development while always including — even centering on, where possible — the voices of women working in the space, in a way that came naturally and kept the focus on the creative space and the developers’ work.

It came surprisingly easily. It took half an effort. There are so many passionate women in games, many of them eager to share their work and experiences, and not only when it’s time for a “women in games” panel.

I believe cultural change comes with increased visibility on the people who share your wish for change, and that’s something I can contribute as a writer. There is always more to be done — I certainly don’t want to seem to be patting myself on the back for paying attention to a handful of mainly white, young women I know on social media and from events — just to show others how possible it is to take even a basic step; how simple, and how low-friction it is to shift conversation about games to include women without decreasing the utility of the piece or narrowing its potential audience.

It’s easy to get more coverage of women in games; it’s easy to include women speakers at your event (as my friend Courtney Stanton aims to do with her Boston conference, No Show). If you “can’t find” anyone, or if the panels you do attend or articles you do read are always about the same people, you can keep looking, and you can try harder. I’ll try harder.