And so ends the last of my insanely-over-the-top-frantic-and-busy-months-of-writing. The last few months have seen me take on a truly unsustainable amount of work, and I have at last decided to take a break. I have pressed pause on all my regular columns for the month of December and am not actively searching out more freelancing gigs from any outlet until the new year. I've also handed in the edits for my PhD's confirmation paper, which means no more desperate writing for my PhD until the new year, either. Which, in all, means no more writing for me for this year! Which means a whole heap of reading! This is very exciting!
But that is the month ahead. The month just passed still saw a ridiculous amount of writing, so here be the writing that I did done in November.
First and foremost is, of course, Killing is Harmless, which launched two weeks ago on 21 November. If you are reading this then you probably already know about it so I won't bore you on details again. The book has already sold more copies in a fortnight than I expected it to sell in a year, and is slowly edging towards 1000 sales (about two days ago it was over 850). It has also sparked a whole heap of interesting reviews and discussions about videogame criticism, which is always excellent. In the next month we are working on both updating the text to remove many of the pesky titles that snuck into the first edition, and we will also be releasing a version native to Kindle for all of those asking for it. After that, we will hopefully start looking at how to get a print version up. Also, as part of Killing is Harmless, I compiled a "Critical Compilation" of articles about Spec Ops: The Line, which is both in the book and up for free at Critical Distance.
I was also part of an uncannily similar project this past month called Five Out Of Ten, founded by Alan Williamson. Five Out Of Ten is an independent magazine where five authors contribute two articles each to a compilation. Readers then pay for the compilation and the writers split the profits evenly. It's another great movement to get game critics actually paid for their work and it's really exciting to be a part of it with some really great writers. For my part, I contributed an article about how I consume videogame worlds as I walk across them for the "New Horizons" theme, and my deeply personal "Character Building" article that was first published in the Intimacy issue of Kill Screen. "Character Building" is perhaps the most personal thing I've ever written, and it is equal parts exciting and terrifying for it to now be available in a more accessible digital compilation. Still, I'm happy for it to be part of such a fine compilation.
My "Sum of Parts" column at Gameranx this month was about the surprisingly great Binary Domain. I certainly didn't expect the intellectual hammering this game offered me when I started playing it. Now, it has to be one of my top games of the year. My four articles about it kind of split into two two-part sub-series. My first article looked at the theme of discrimination in the game, and how the robots are othered and treated much like many minorities in the real world. I followed this up with a look at how the later parts of the game introduce the idea of posthumanism as a way to problematise and counter such othering. Then I turned to some of the game's "gimmick" mechanics and look at what they actually contribute to the experience. Thirdly, then, I look at the game's trust system, and how the game uses it to make the player feel excluded from the group in the later parts of the game. And, related to this, the last part looks at the voice-recognition and command mechanics and how these evolve in really interesting ways throughout the game.
At Unwinnable, I wrote an article about Borderlands 2 and how its irreverent storytelling broke me. This was my second article about Borderlands 2 at Unwinnable (after last month's look at guns and characters). I was as surprised as anyone that I got two articles out of that game. I also wrote three "Pocket Treasures" articles throughout the month. I looked at word/strategy game Letterpress, bizarre franchise conglomerate Angry Birds: Star Wars, and super phenomenal shout-at-your-friends Spaceteam. Seriously, go get Spaceteam.
At Games On Net I have two "You Know What I Love" columns in November. The first was about violent videogames being reflective about videogame violence—something I think can be done without being hypocritical. The second looked at game endings that actually end, which was more an opportunity to rant about how franchises ruin stories.
This month I managed to procure a Playstation Vita, much to my surprise. It is a pretty special console with some truly mesmerising games. I haven't had much time to write about Gravity Rush yet, but I used the Vita's ability to take screenshots to post some photos and musings on this blog earlier this month. Now I am playing Persona 4: Golden (my first Persona game!) and it is something special that I will undoubtedly have opinions about in the new year.
I only have the one article in print to talk about this month. In issue E248 of Edge, I conduct a studio profile of Melbourne developers Firemonkeys, a hybrid studio of Firemint (responsible for FlightControl and Real Racing) and IronMonkey (responsible for many EA Mobile games). This is one of those weird moments where I do 'actual journalism' and I am pretty pleased with the result.
I also presented an academic paper at CODE - A Media, Games & Art Conference this month. It was a really great conference with some fascinating papers. I spoke about "Dinosaur Comics as Ergodic Literature", riffing off Espen Aarseth's (super vague) idea of "non-trivial effort" and N Katherine Hayles's focus on the materiality of a text to look at how webcomics generally and Dinosaur Comics specifically foster a particularly 'playful' engagement from their readers that can't be understood as 'simply' reading a comic on a screen. For instance, this XKCD comic. I don't know what will come of this paper but if it ends up published anywhere, I'll be sure to let you all know.
And finally for both this month and the year, I have an article up at The Newstatesman about where to find good writing about videogames. It's a response to a piece that ruffled a few feathers a week or so ago that asked why we are still so bad at talking about videogames. Some people were angry that the initial piece hadn't come looking for us, but I saw it more as us being too hard to find. So it seemed like a great opportunity to expose some of the great stuff that is out there. The vast majority of the links in this article are things written this year. Truly, it's been a really great year to be writing about videogames, and just the small sample that is this article goes to show that.
In that vein, while I won't be writing much over the next month, I will probably still maintain my tumblr Brendan Shared A Link where I keep track of articles (mostly games related) that I read and think are awesome. With the amount of reading I have to catch up on this month, I expect I will be posting there quite a lot.
And that is that. After Christmas I will do my yearly five-part top twenty games posts that I've done the last two years, but apart from that, this is all the writing you can expect from me this year. It's been a pretty intense three or four months. Thanks for coming along and reading my rambles!