Unwritten Anger

As I mentioned previously, I tend to carry a chip on writingmy shoulder at work, which can increase or decrease in size depending on the derp that is being thrown my way by customers, coworkers, and the company I work for.  I recently had an instance where working on a story during my lunch hour improved my mood and I felt happy throughout the remainder of the day.

It happened again.  I got worked up into a lather one morning thanks to a coworker who couldn’t follow simple directions.  I reached the point where I had to walk away from my desk because I wanted to hit something or someone.  Lunch couldn’t come too soon because doggone it, I needed a break.

I returned to my desk and lunchtime soon arrived without incident.  I tapped away on my tablet, looking for some mental respite from the day.  I had earbuds on and was listening to music in an attempt to blot out the office noise.  As is often the custom, I opened my ‘To Do’ directory and scrolled down the list of unfinished short stories, blog posts, podcast scripts, and book drafts for something to work on.  I opened up the short story that I had started before.  The words flew from my fingertips and I had a completed first draft by the time lunch was through.  As was the case before, I felt better after the fact.

It then occurred to me that I hadn’t written any fiction in quite a few days; I had been spending them formatting “Fuzzy Words” for publication and recording and editing podcasts.  I started to wonder: was I more easily upset because I hadn’t worked on any stories in a while?  Have I gone from ‘I like to write’ to ‘I need to write?”


Create or Consume?

meI remember reading an interview with an actor that was on a popular TV show many years ago.  In the interview, he mentioned that he had never seen the show that he worked on and went on to say that he didn’t watch much television at all, for that matter.  This struck me as a little odd, because at the time, I thought that seeing yourself on TV would be the Coolest Thing Ever.

I have noticed that something interesting has happened as I have started to use my creativity more these past few years.  I now spend more time writing and working on podcasts and not only have less time to watch TV and play games, but less desire to do so.  I’m creating more and watching and playing less.  While I suppose it is good to be making things, part of me wonders if it has to come at the cost of consuming it.

Sure, the tramautic few months I spent working for a cable company helped kill my desire to watch television, but that’s neither here nor there.


Stories Write Themselves

My short stories usually begin with an idea that gets expanded into an outline, and then written.  While this works fairly well most of the time, sometimes a story will go off into a different direction than I had initially intended.

A fairly straightforward story might jet off into the Twilight Zone or one that was supposed to be funny will become sad.  It is often at these times that I will become stuck as I think over just which direction I want to take the story in.  Once when this happened, I wrote two stories: one that went off in a silly direction and another one that played out more straightforward, because straightforward had been what I had originally envisioned.  Sometimes I will just keep writing even if the story isn’t going in the direction I want it to, just to see what comes out of it.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

No matter how much you plan, you really never know where a story will go until you actually start writing it, because as crazy as it sounds, stories write themselves.


Reviewing Musings

Reviewing videogames‭ ‬sounds‭ ‬like a‭ ‬really cool thing to do:‭ ‬you get to play games before they are released,‭ ‬you get to keep them if they are downloadable games,‭ ‬and well,‭ getting to play ‬games‭ ‬without having to pay for them is nice, too.‭  ‬I’m not lucky enough to actually get‭ ‬paid to review games‭ (yet‭!) ‬but‭ writing and editing ‬for gave‭ ‬me the opportunity to attend E3‭ ‬back in July.  Totally worth it.

So yeah, on paper, reviewing‭ ‬games‭ ‬sounds like loads of fun,‭ ‬but in practice,‭ ‬it loses a little bit of its luster.‭  ‬When I’m not playing awesome games like‭ ‬Rock Band‭ ‬3‭ ‬or Kirby’s Epic Yarn‭ ‬I’m struggling through crapfests like Power Gig or enduring kiddie games like EyePet.

Yeah.  EyePet.  That’s hardcore.

The most direct effect of reviewing games is that it has turned playing games into work (albeit volunteer work).  Its a mental thing: instead of playing games because I want to, I now play them because I have to.  It gets a little annoying at times when I have a stack of games I need to plow through or when I get asked to play games in genres I don’t particularly enjoy such as fighting or driving.  The most aggravating bit about the whole thing that it takes time away from games that I want to play, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

The first thing I do when I get assigned a new game to review is I write the review’s introduction.  I like to have it done before I even start playing, and in my opinion it should give the reader some context in regards to my relation to the game.  Is it something I have been looking forward to, or something I’ve never heard of?

When I play a game for review, I keep my laptop handy so that I can take notes while I’m playing it.  That way after I’m done playing the game I just have to flesh out the bullet points I have marked down.  I’m not sure if I should be admitting this, but I don’t always finish games I review.  Usually its because I don’t expect to see anything new after having played a game for so many hours.  Let’s be honest, after a certain point, few games really offer anything surprising in terms of gameplay.

One game that bit that strategy in the pants was Gladiator Begins. I played through about 30 days of the campaign, probably about seventy or eighty nearly-identical fights, figured there was nothing else in the game, and wrote my review.  I went back to the game and soon discovered that the levels did start to occasionally change up, and upon seeing the box in a store, I learned that there were even fights against animals.  D’oh.  It was either my fault for giving up on the game too early or the devs fault for taking too long to open up the game’s interesting parts. Probably a little bit of both, oh well.

Writing reviews is a balancing act.  On the one hand, I don’t want to look like a fanboy by gushing praise all over a good game, nor do I want to simply verbally vomit all over a bad one for the sake of being entertaining.  Great games have minor flaws that have to be explored, and bad games sometimes have good ideas that were not executed well.

Picking out a numerical score can also be a bit of a headache, because I want my score to reflect what I have written.  I still read reviews myself, and I get annoyed just like everyone else when the two don’t jive.  I go by what the site says on the “About” page, supposedly we work on the ‘bell curve’ model where the middle point is average.  Despite the occasional “10” handed out, nobody’s really perfect.

At the end of the day, though, the site editor is the guy that says what goes up on the site, and while I haven’t always agreed with Oscar, I think he’s doing a good job for the most part.  Working with him and the rest of the crew has been lots of fun.

And now, back to EyePet…whee


Why So Serious? WHY NOT?

I’ve been writing opinion pieces, game reviews and doing voice-overs for (and occasionally here) for a few months now, and for what its worth, I always try to play it straight.  Well, except the voice-over stuff, unless its something I wrote myself, I don’t have much of a choice there. -shrug-

I play it straight because I don’t believe in pandering to the least common denominator.  If gaming is an artform that is just now ‘growing up,’ as some claim, then the people that report on it are probably just a few steps behind.  As I said at the end of my second article, The Numbers Game: “if we want others to take games seriously, we must take them seriously ourselves.”

But why aren’t videogames taken seriously?  Is it because of their relative youth compared to other artforms such as television and film, or is it because of the immaturity of those that cover it?  Granted, this is the internet, but there are very few places where videogames are covered without a wink and a snarky attitude. What the gaming press needs is the equivalent of The Wall Street Journal or Variety, but what we’re getting is Mad Magazine.

Now, I openly admit, I don’t practice what I preach: I crack jokes in my reviews and perhaps I shouldn’t ‘write myself’ into them.  The latter, I do because think it is important for the reader to get a sense of where I am coming from.  For better or worse, my score will be influenced by whether the game was something I was REALLY REALLY REALLY looking forward to or was just something that got tossed into my lap.  I think it also helps the reader if they are made aware of my biases for or against the game coming in.

Am I impartial? Admittedly not, but let’s be honest, nobody truly is.

In any event, while I am pointing out the problem, I don’t really have a solution.  The best that I can hope for is that the ‘serious guys’ get popular enough to, well, be taken seriously.  Now, does everybody have to take gaming seriously? Not really, there will always be a place for the snarks and clowns, and if worse comes to worse I can always go back to joking about how much I suck at fighting games.


Tweet-kus are smart fun / a quick creative brain snack / thanks furry person!

Inspiration is a curious mistress. Much like her sister Lady Luck, she plays by her own rules and can strike without warning at the most odd circumstances.

This past New Year’s Eve weekend, I went with a friend to Ikkicon in Austin. It was something to do, and if nothing else, cosplayers always make for an interesting and fun time people-watching.

I had a feeling that the flavor of odd that is usually associated with anime conventions was going to be a little extra-spicy by virtue of the con’s location, and Austin did not disappoint. As I walked around enjoying the spectacle as it lay before me, I saw something that struck me as odd.

Okay, MORE odd…

It was a person wearing a full head-to-toe red animal/critter/Pokemon-looking-thing costume with what appeared to be a fox’s head and tail. That in itself isn’t unusual, but the kicker was that this person was WALKING AROUND ON THEIR HANDS AND KNEES like an animal. It threw me for a loop; crossing into that “dangerously geeky” territory that I try to avoid like most people avoid regular geeks. Sadly, I was too transfixed by the specacle to take a picture with my cell phone camera, but I did get a picture of that person some time later, this time on two feet, as they assumed some kind of “battle pose” while facing another cosplayer in full regalia.

Now, this is just one of those events that is just DYING to be posted to Facebook. Its nice to have something unique to report besides the usual “I’m having a good/bad day” or “work sucks” or “OMG my child just did something for the first time!” stuff.

Playing with words is something I like to do, and I pondered over how to report this person’s rather successful attempt to “Keep Austin Weird.” I thought I’d borrow a meme from and go with a 1-2-3 type of post, showing how this individual went from “Geeky” to “Super Geeky” to “Dangerously Geeky.”

I liked the words, but the format looked ordinary to me. Granted, that may be an effect of spending too much time on, but in any event, I thought I could do better. While riding that train of thought, I got the idea of putting it into a haiku style. That is, a three-line verse with the first line containing five syllables, the next, seven and the last, five. I came up with:

bright red furry suit
walking around on all fours
what the frak is this

It was even short enough to fit into a tweet, which delighted me to no end. I then decided that it would a fun to put my postings for the rest of the week into what I call “tweet-ku” format, which adds a 160-character limit to the haiku structure. Despite my tendency to get “wordy,” I don’t think the character limit ever came up, and I only goofed up once on syllable count, so it went well.

A pleasant side effect of the exercise is that those self-imposed limits forced me think creatively in order to stay within them. At times, I struggled to keep my syllables at the correct counts, and I would find myself reading aloud while counting syllables on my fingers. Luckily, I would usually be inside at the time, or in the presence of other like-minded geeks who didn’t ask me why I was counting on my fingers.

Stretching that creative muscle helped me to finish other things, and I think I might be onto something. I may take to writing tweet-kus whenever my muse is tired of the drudgery of my nine-to-five and needs a quick snack to get it going.

Needless to say, that won’t take long!


Artists Are Jer…um, I Mean, Interesting People!

I’ve never been in any “leadership positions” in any of my jobs thus far, save for the occasional minion or two that got tossed my way.  Thus, being “in charge” (big finger quotes there, I’m just the writer) of our first project at First Storm Manga is a new experience for me.

One thing I learned quickly is that artists are a lot like programmers.  We are touchy-feel-y people, prone to being easily distracted, and believe that we are special because what we can do something that not anybody can.

Oh yeah, we can also be jerks…especially that jerky-jerk AUSTIN!

In the workplace, programmer ire is generally directed at management (for example, Dilbert).  I am rapidly learning that artist ire tends to be directed at writers such as myself.  It also doesn’t help that I am out-numbered.

I am the only person at First Storm Manga (so far!) that does not draw, I could call myself a “pure writer” with an exaggerated air of self-importance if I wanted to sound like an arrogant jerk.  I was puzzled for awhile as to why I was getting all the writer-hate from the other guys.  Actually, “writer-hate” is a bit strong, it was actually more like “treat the writer like a red-headed stepchild.”

After awhile, though, I figured it out: when doing a manga (or comic), the art is done first, and then the words are slapped on top of it.  Thus, the more words I come up with, the more the art is covered up! So, yeah, I guess they have a point.  I suppose the occasional barb or two is a small price to pay for seeing a “pure writer’s” story come to life in pictures, though. *smug*

They’re still jerks, though.