The power of the multitudes

I have an Escapist feature up this week, “Someone Stole My Magic Sword”, with many thanks to Dave Weinstein and, of course, to Michelle, for coming forward and sharing her story. There was a lot to compress here — my interviews with Michelle alone totaled over 5,000 words — but hopefully we got the meat of the story across. I know I say it for just about every one of these things, but this one was difficult, due to its importance. It’s getting some interesting feedback on the forums, all naturally flowing into much of what we’re dealing with with Settlers of the New Virtual Worlds, so it’s cool to see these conclusions being drawn ‘live’ in the interactive space. But Michelle’s story itself is worth reading — I’ll be including an expanded version of it inside Settlers itself. After awhile you get to thinking you’ve seen it all when it comes to the behavior of big game companies, but I was astonished at some of the things she went through with Square Enix.

It’s also been interesting to watch the Escapist’s effect on pagerank. Prior to the article going up, I googled “someone stole my magic sword”, and of course all of the news-feeds from Dave’s interview popped up — many from high profile sites like Slashdot and the Washington Post. I thought, crap — it was the perfect title for the article, but I assumed it would be buried beneath the bigger sites.

Not so. It’s only been up for two days and it’s shot to the top of the page-rank, likely due to the number of times the Escapist syndicates across various blog feeds, and how many hits it racks up on individual articles and every time someone accesses its forum thread. I checked out “Slave to the Beat”, and sure enough, it’s there on the first page, despite being a relatively common phrase. Conclusion: the Escapist owns at the pagerank game.

Determined to foment a rebellion 2008-06-17 18:39:22

So, I am sitting here in my silk kimono robe (don’t get too excited, I’m also wearing a t-shirt and jeans) and my slippers and I’m feeling very writerly. It’s a nice feeling considering that over the past few days I’ve been going through one of those crises of conscience about what constitutes “important” writing (thanks, Time book). But now I have to go buy groceries. It’s a glamorous existence.

Sometimes, though, there is praise. The writing life is enough of a persistent beatdown that I am always shocked when this happens.

First, Kieron Gillen enjoyed “Slave to the Beat”, which went up a week ago and I kind of forgot to tell you folks about (oops):

Erin Hoffman writes about Audition Online for the Escapist. I’ve played a little of this MMO rhythm action game, and went away a tad depressed, but Erin goes completely native in an entertaining fashion. I’m probably alone in my wish for an actual game-of-the-film Audition though, in a kirri-kirri-kirri kind of way.

Kieron recently made yet another top-game-journalists list; he’s certainly one of the better guys working in the field, so anything from him feels like high praise while I trudge along as a sort of confused non-game-journalist.

And Alvaro Zinos-Amaro Reviews issue #27 of Lone Star Stories at TheFix, including “Whatever Shall Grow There, Dear”:

Annamarie’s viewpoint is expertly developed. The way she catches fragments of conversation and meaning from her parent’s arguments but is completely sensitive to the underlying emotional reality of which those arguments are symptomatic rings true. There are numerous images that are beautiful without being ornate, touching and innocent without being sentimental (“Pale late afternoon sunlight filtered through the gauzy white curtains in the living room and made the oiled oak floors glow burnt orange.”) They place us in Annamarie’s world and convey a sense of ethical sensitivity, an almost ennobling naivete, by acting as metaphors for her thoughts and emotions.

The storytelling technique is deceptively simple, and the characters all fully realized. Hoffman centers the tale around Annamarie’s coming-of-age, to great effect, and delivers a knockout ending that bears the bountiful fruits of transformation.

As mentioned when I announced the sale, it’s a special story and a difficult one for me, so it’s extremely gratifying to see someone “get” it, reviewer or otherwise. I would say there’s even a difference between “praise” and when someone “gets” your writing — they extrapolate meaning from the original work that was there in your heart but not obviously stated on the page, painting a picture that resonates with the emotional framework of the story’s origin. It’s a feeling of kinship, and it’s at the core of why I send this stuff out, to test for those precious connections between experiences and minds. Otherwise it could all just stay in the trunk; it’s dangerous, after all, to dissect a part of yourself and spin it into something that you invite people to poke with sticks. But I’m glad this one got out.

Alvaro’s review is worth note because he actually covered the poetry in the issue, too — something that I wish more reviewers would do on The Fix and in spec-fic reviews in general. The poetry in that issue was terrific and well deserving of contemplation and highlight.

Okay, groceries now.

A small bouquet of updates

Of the publishing variety. “Whatever Shall Grow There, Dear” is now live in the current issue of Lone Star Stories, along with other excellent fiction and poetry that you should imbibe immediately. Take a look at [info]sovay‘s “Firework-Makers”, and the poems of [info]papersky and [info]seajules. Everyone seems to be on LJ these days. 😉

While you’re at it, head over to Schezerezade’s Bequest, the online edition of Cabinet des Fees, and check out [info]sovay‘s lovely “Bonny Fisher Boy”. And before you conclude that I am stalking [info]sovay, I say this as segue to the update that SB has recently accepted my poem “The Fall of Fairy Castle” for their September issue.

When you’re done doing that, you should hie yourself out and purchase a copy of the first issue of Tales of Moreauvia, containing as it does [info]jsridler‘s very excellent “Engine of Desolation”, as well as a story by the habitually skillful and entertaining Rita Oakes. Can’t lose.

Last but certainly not least, feast your eyes upon the snazzy page that is Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which will be debuting this Fall under the steady hand of Scott H. Andrews.

Being that I’ve been in Albany and New York City in the last week, I was in range of the Kindle’s Whispernet, and boy did I use it. The Kindle can in fact be used to surf the web and check email, but what got me in trouble was the ease with which I could download free book samples. I’ve also downloaded books from Project Gutenberg and piped them onto the Kindle; I have not yet attempted [info]boonofdoom‘s clever notion of reading slush on it, but plan to soon. It has already caused me to purchase three books I would not have otherwise, and sampled over a dozen I likely would not have picked up anytime soon. I suppose I should be lucky I was only temporarily exposed to Whispernet. In preliminary conclusion, the Kindle is not quite the Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, but it is clearly Australopithecus to that line, and I remain both impressed and frightened.

Well, they’ve done it – America’s Next Best Game Designer

I can’t really begin to tell you how ill-advised an idea this is.

<< Date: May 31, 2008 5:55 PM

Subject: Do You Have an Idea for the Next Big Video Game? REALITY TV SHOW

Do You Have an Idea for the Next Big Video Game?
Lamont Pete Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions, the producers of “American Bandstand” and “Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Christmas Eve” are casting “America’s Next Best Game Designer.” They are looking for aspiring game designers with big ideas to compete to be crowned America’s Best Game Designer. We are interested in all types of games from people with huge personalities! Seeking all types of people from quirky to cool and nerdy to sexy, we’re looking for you! Submit the following form PLUS your pix!

1. Name
2. Location
3. Age
4. MySpace or personal URL

Answer the following questions (50 words or less)
1. Why do you think you would you be good for the show
2. What’s your favorite video game and why?
3. If you could design any type of game what would it be?

To submit, email Incomplete and blind submissions will be deleted. >>

I suppose there’s no way it can’t be good publicity for an aspiring game designer in a field where it can be difficult to achieve positive name recognition, but I do wonder who they’re going to get involved with this.

My gut reaction is that it preys upon the pre-existing adverse predilections of game dev students to think that their ideas are what are so precious and irreplaceable, that a game designer just farts ideas into the atmosphere and of course they translate into award-winning games. The same problems exist in games this way as they do in writing; I have yet to speak to a group of students and not get asked “why aren’t the development studios that I’m pitching my Deathless Game Idea To not responding” and corollary “zomg how do I pitch a game idea to a dev studio and make sure they WON’T STEAL IT?!”.

I don’t watch MTV, so I likely won’t know if or when this actually materializes, and I suppose these shows can’t take in someone who isn’t ready and willing to be taken in on the idea that you can become a superstar game designer by firing off ideas into a reality show — the same might be said of American Idol, with the exception that mass market publicity is likely to help you in a music career but isn’t going to be worth much to most game dev companies. I’d imagine they’re giving away a job at a big studio to the winner of this contest, or possibly even a budget and a team (which would be more catastrophic for the winner) — objectives that could probably be more cleanly and honestly achieved just by learning the craft and getting a real job.

I would say that the standard for talent-based reality shows applies: you don’t audition for American Idol because you want to be a great musician (first, last, end of story), and so you don’t apply for America’s Next Best Game Designer if you want to be a game designer.

If you want to be a game designer, you make games.

End slightly sleep deprived rant. I am back in Kingston and hopefully not traveling for a little while (I’ve been in Seattle, Albany, Kingston, Ottawa, Buffalo, and New York City in the past month — average velocity is too high). I am again behind on email and everything — catching up soon!