So You Want to Write About Games

cheeba wrote:
Tanglebones wrote:

I got my 'nay' from the powers that be as well. Thought I'd post my piece up here for commentary/savagery/unabashed praise:
http://tanglebones.tumblr.com/post/5...

As an Editor of a newspaper I can tell you what I think about it, if you'd like. But I have to warn you I can be harsh. So don't click unless you can take it :).

Spoiler:

You need to vary your sentence structure more - in nearly every sentence you used a comma. In several sentences you used many, many commas. It's a bit melodramatic, like where you say you are no longer two people in solitude. It lacks action - the passive tense in which you write makes it lifeless. It reads like you made an effort to be eloquent. What I tell my writers is their articles need "teeth". They need some kind of bite that provokes some kind of reaction. The article lacks teeth.

That's not to say it's a bad piece. You just need to let go more and give it some pop, some personality.

The second part of what you say is about how I felt about it after I was done and reflected a bit. I'll look into the first part, re: sentence structure more.

Thanks!

Wow I just checked back to see a lot of great feedback and even words of encouragement from the great leader himself. While I'm still a little bummed, it's good to remember that it took Zacny a few attempts, and he's definitely one of my favorite industry writers now. Honestly, the hardest part for me is recognizing I have lots I want to say and it's time to get off my duff and start a gaming blog.

@ Tanglebones - I really liked your entry and it certainly mirrored some of the experiences I've had with my wife. Of course the difference is she's a hardcore "social" gamer who loves Bejeweled, Bingo blitz, etc. I can also recognize myself in how you described the phase of your life that WOW consumed.

As far as constructive feedback, I'd have to echo Cheeba's comments. You could use to set apart some of your ideas as separate sentences rather than using commas. From a content perspective, I wanted to know more about your newfound love of boardgaming. But I also recognize 1K words is a very short amount of space.

At any rate, I'll continue to check out your blog. Now I have to be brave enough to start mine.

Tanglebones wrote:
cheeba wrote:
Tanglebones wrote:

I got my 'nay' from the powers that be as well. Thought I'd post my piece up here for commentary/savagery/unabashed praise:
http://tanglebones.tumblr.com/post/5...

As an Editor of a newspaper I can tell you what I think about it, if you'd like. But I have to warn you I can be harsh. So don't click unless you can take it :).

Spoiler:

You need to vary your sentence structure more - in nearly every sentence you used a comma. In several sentences you used many, many commas. It's a bit melodramatic, like where you say you are no longer two people in solitude. It lacks action - the passive tense in which you write makes it lifeless. It reads like you made an effort to be eloquent. What I tell my writers is their articles need "teeth". They need some kind of bite that provokes some kind of reaction. The article lacks teeth.

That's not to say it's a bad piece. You just need to let go more and give it some pop, some personality.

The second part of what you say is about how I felt about it after I was done and reflected a bit. I'll look into the first part, re: sentence structure more.

Thanks!

I haven't read your piece, but I want to add that passive voice and long sentences are symptoms of the same problem. If you tighten up your sentence structures, you'll fix both at once.

It's not always wrong to have long sentences or use passive voice, either, but the trick is to do it sparingly and effectively. When you want the pace to feel slow, longer sentences can help elicit that patient/plodding feel for the reader. I also love passive voice for comic effect.

I forgot what "passive voice" is, actually, just like I keep forgetting what "don't end a sentence in a preposition" is. I learned a bit during my journalism minor in school, but it quickly gets forgotten and I just hunker down to "what sounds like it flows best".

Which is probably not the best thing to do at certain times.

I have a writer who I'm constantly correcting for passive voice. Finally I looked up some tools to help her and stumbled upon some great advice found here. If you can insert "by zombies" after the verb, then you are using passive voice.

She was chased [by zombies] = passive.
They chased [by zombies] her = active.

I learned to identify passive voice by the presence of the verbs "to be" and "to get", like "my friend got injured" or "the window was broken". Who or what did the action? If the sentence doesn't say (or says in a separate phrase that starts with "by"), it's passive. "The window was broken by zombies", as opposed to "Zombies broke the window."

Minarchist wrote:

I learned to identify passive voice by the presence of the verbs "to be" and "to get", like "my friend got injured" or "the window was broken". Who or what did the action? If the sentence doesn't say (or says in a separate phrase that starts with "by"), it's passive. "The window was broken by zombies", as opposed to "Zombies broke the window."

Even apart from passive voice, "to be" is a flimsy verb. Punch with your verbs.

ccesarano wrote:

"don't end a sentence in a preposition"

That's about style, not grammar — style rules only mean business if you're writing for a business.

wordsmythe wrote:
Minarchist wrote:

I learned to identify passive voice by the presence of the verbs "to be" and "to get", like "my friend got injured" or "the window was broken". Who or what did the action? If the sentence doesn't say (or says in a separate phrase that starts with "by"), it's passive. "The window was broken by zombies", as opposed to "Zombies broke the window."

Even apart from passive voice, "to be" is a flimsy verb. Punch with your verbs.

That's true. "wordsmythe has poopy pants" definitely doesn't punch as well as "wordmythe's diarrhea exploded all over the interior of his khaki trousers like Vesuvius during a tectonic shift."

Minarchist wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
Minarchist wrote:

I learned to identify passive voice by the presence of the verbs "to be" and "to get", like "my friend got injured" or "the window was broken". Who or what did the action? If the sentence doesn't say (or says in a separate phrase that starts with "by"), it's passive. "The window was broken by zombies", as opposed to "Zombies broke the window."

Even apart from passive voice, "to be" is a flimsy verb. Punch with your verbs.

That's true. "wordsmythe has poopy pants" definitely doesn't punch as well as "wordmythe's diarrhea exploded all over the interior of his khaki trousers like Vesuvius during a tectonic shift."

A hit! A most palpable hit!

"To have" is a different verb than "to be."

Compare:

  • Minarchist is a poopyhead.
  • Minarchist has a head composed entirely of excrement.
wordsmythe wrote:

"To have" is a different verb than "to be."

Compare:

  • Minarchist is a poopyhead.
  • Minarchist has a head composed entirely of excrement.

I will have had an education on grammar when I let myself learn the subjunctive.

Fine. You wanna play dirty?

WordsmytHe it's a gaint poopyface…

IMAGE(http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/250x250/37162448.jpg)

When I got the negatory e-mail I didn't respond out of fear of what someone would say about my piece. Upon reflection a pretty stupid decision on my part especially considering the subject of my article.
So if anyone out there would be so kind as to critique my writing postumously that would be awesome. I threw it up on a very old tumblr so you can also marvel at my writing proclivity. Two articles in five years; note to self slow down.

Here it is: wasateenagehandmodel.blogspot.com/

I'll be happy to offer a critique when I can. Unfortunately right now I'm hitting a deadline and going psychotic with editing, lol. Bump it in a couple days if no one's critiqued you yet.

So my contract with my current job won't be renewed, which means I want to use my new free time to write about games more and such, but then I realized that isn't paying the bills. So I started thinking about how I could unrest my web development skills after 18 months of copy/paste, and remembered I was thinking of doing a website collecting a few writers.

So now I'm all excited and about to put together a prototype layout of what's coming to mind. I might share it here, but basically, my idea is something similar to GamersWithJobs. One article per day, five days a week, each article by a specific writer. Basically, a bunch of nobodies who(m?) each have a column.

I'll post the general outline of what I imagine of the front page when I got it together, but since there's a few folks here who were woken up by the Call for Writers (and in my case, kicking themselves for not putting anything in), I may have a home for you yet.

What I really need help on is the name, though. I'd like to avoid using the word "Game" or "Gamer(s)" if possible, unless it's something so...perfect as Gamers With Jobs. I'm more thinking something along the lines of The Escapist.

All I got so far is Coalition of Geezers (or Coalition o' Geezers, HUGE difference lemme tell ya), and that sounds like something that can make me sigh and think "What was I on?"

horatio sanz pantaloons wrote:

When I got the negatory e-mail I didn't respond out of fear of what someone would say about my piece. Upon reflection a pretty stupid decision on my part especially considering the subject of my article.
So if anyone out there would be so kind as to critique my writing postumously that would be awesome. I threw it up on a very old tumblr so you can also marvel at my writing proclivity. Two articles in five years; note to self slow down.

Here it is: wasateenagehandmodel.blogspot.com/

Never stupid to try, especially given how little effort it takes to throw one's hat in the ring.

The big thing I see is that I get two paragraphs in -- and they're not bad paragraphs -- and I still don't know what the point is that you're trying to make. I was also just chatting with C. Cesar Ano here about structuring something he's working on, and with the same point: Lead with the point you're trying to make, and then back it up.

wordsmythe wrote:
horatio sanz pantaloons wrote:

When I got the negatory e-mail I didn't respond out of fear of what someone would say about my piece. Upon reflection a pretty stupid decision on my part especially considering the subject of my article.
So if anyone out there would be so kind as to critique my writing postumously that would be awesome. I threw it up on a very old tumblr so you can also marvel at my writing proclivity. Two articles in five years; note to self slow down.

Here it is: wasateenagehandmodel.blogspot.com/

Never stupid to try, especially given how little effort it takes to throw one's hat in the ring.

The big thing I see is that I get two paragraphs in -- and they're not bad paragraphs -- and I still don't know what the point is that you're trying to make. I was also just chatting with C. Cesar Ano here about structuring something he's working on, and with the same point: Lead with the point you're trying to make, and then back it up.

I'm wondering if this has more to do with the subject I decided to write about combined with my writing process. Trust me the irony of submitting a piece about crippling writer's block was not lost on me. I just wanted to make sure that I submitted something that I just fell back on the old adage of "write about what you know" and at the time that was all that was on my mind.

I'm curious to hear anyone's thoughts on focusing ones writing style. I tend to meander when I write (much the same when I talk) and I get the feeling that from paragraph to paragraph the points I'm trying to make are only tangentially related. Therefore, to me, it seems that while I can construct a perfectly servicable paragraph when formed together they look like a jigsaw puzzle in which the pieces were put together using a hammer and only vaguely represents the picture on the box.

The problem I have with this is that I like to write in this style. I feel that I get the most out of my writing process when I just write freestyle and let the words flow as the form. Really the only self editing I usually do is to make corrections to tense and syntax and care little about how the story as a whole is formed as long as I feel the points I want to make are emphasized. Any suggestions or tips?

If you want to be Tim Rogers, you're going to have a lot of competition. If you look at a lot of pro writing that you might think is rambling, though, you'll probably still find that there are early hints about the path that the writing is going to take. It might not be fully structured and signposted, but you'll at least find gestures about the rest of the article toward the end of the opening paragraphs.

That's a really tricky thing to do well, though.

In terms of how you can work with a rambling writing style (that is, if you're not into planning your writing beforehand), the trick is editing. Once you "finish," go back and build structure in. Move sentences around. Add an introduction and conclusion. Slash paragraphs entirely. Kill your babies. Think of the text you originally wrote as raw material to purify and shape into something new. Good editing can be a lot like sculpting.

While I rarely ever plot out my article out, I also tend to go in with a structure in mind. The Tim Rogers method is something most folks just don't have time for.

Sometimes just going with the flow can help. I am really happy with my Bioshock Infinite write-up, as I feel I hit all the points I wanted while the article flowed naturally. I envision it like water running through a stream. Just follow the twists and turns as it leads you.

Yet these sorts of pieces don't come often, and usually I find myself having to go back, move paragraphs, cut some out, and do rewriting. I have to do this less often if I already have an outline in my head of what I want to do. But just sitting down and typing thoughts out as they come to you is usually how you end up with a rambly mess, and those are the hardest for me to edit down to something better. Hell, I have a number of incomplete articles because I dislike their current form, but it's too much trouble to go back and edit it into something worthwhile.

Figure out a place you can get a lot of positive thinking done. Sometimes, the shower is where I get my best inspiration. Write down thoughts and ideas after that.

Oh, and keep notes when you play games. I've started doing that, and it helped keep things fresh. It's like how writing down notes in high school and College helped the memory process. You're committing it to memory as well as paper. Then you can go back, reread the notes, and it'll help you form your thoughts as well as see your thought process while you played the game.

EDIT: Also, for some topics, do research. I'm working on an idea right now to discuss how some female characters in Japanese games are scantily clad and yet still have personality and greater purpose, but before I even begin writing or outlining I'm going to read up on how "fan-service" got its start in anime and manga and the motivation behind it. This knowledge could help inform my article, especially because it's about a foreign culture I'm not totally familiar with.

horatio sanz pantaloons wrote:

When I got the negatory e-mail I didn't respond out of fear of what someone would say about my piece. Upon reflection a pretty stupid decision on my part especially considering the subject of my article.
So if anyone out there would be so kind as to critique my writing postumously that would be awesome. I threw it up on a very old tumblr so you can also marvel at my writing proclivity. Two articles in five years; note to self slow down.

Here it is: wasateenagehandmodel.blogspot.com/

Horatio, finally had a chance to read your article and want to give some feedback. What I liked is how you had 3-4 good ideas that would have made interesting articles. For example, I would have loved to hear more about whether you are as picky about certain games or genres as you were about foods as a kid. The problem is I never felt any of the good ideas gelled into a coherent finale. Truth be told, I did the same thing in my submission.

I'm kind of the opposite writer than you as I'm a bit of a perfectionist and try to fuss over every little detail and word. The problem is I don't get as much as I'd like done and overthink things, which is why I've started adopting the stream of consciousness method to get my initial thoughts on the page. It works pretty well, but it does require a bit of editing in the latter stages. in addition to all the advice given above, I'd like to add that you show your work to someone you trust to give decent feedback. I also helps to read certain parts aloud to see if they sound natural.

Also now have the chance to give the above a read, so here are some of my thoughts.

It has flummoxed me so much that it’s grown into a fear that video games will be brought up in casual conversation and I’ll have nothing to contribute except to curl up in the fetal position in the nearest corner and hope the subject would change soon

This is too much of a run-on sentence and needs to be trimmed down. I find myself running into these as well, trying to create a nice visual to describe the emotion I feel, but it's best to reread it and trim it afterwards. Otherwise it runs on too long and by the end of the sentence the reader has lost the message you're trying to send.

The overall message of the article has me curious, though. You have trouble describing why you like video games, but you want to write about video games? What exactly is it that you want to write? Is it more that you want to write, and video games are the first thing you feel you should write about? Perhaps instead of writing "philosophically", so to speak, or as a critic, write about "how the sausage is made". Find stories of a game's development that you find fascinating. Find indie devs willing to tell their story. Get an interview and make something like Rabbit's Sparkle Ponies piece. Hell, that could even make you marketable. There's a million and one of us assholes that think our opinion is worth a damn, but not as many willing to put in the research to make someone else's thoughts or story organized and readable.

Figuring out how to write about video games is step two. Figuring out how or what to write is step one. I'd figure out just what it is you want to write before focusing on video games.

ccesarano wrote:

Also now have the chance to give the above a read, so here are some of my thoughts.

It has flummoxed me so much that it’s grown into a fear that video games will be brought up in casual conversation and I’ll have nothing to contribute except to curl up in the fetal position in the nearest corner and hope the subject would change soon

This is too much of a run-on sentence and needs to be trimmed down. I find myself running into these as well, trying to create a nice visual to describe the emotion I feel, but it's best to reread it and trim it afterwards. Otherwise it runs on too long and by the end of the sentence the reader has lost the message you're trying to send.

The only thing that technically makes it a run-on is the lack of a comma after "conversation." A run-on isn't just "a long sentence", but rather two or more independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction but lacking a preceding comma.

ccesarano is right that the style is a bit circuitous -- the first clause having two embedded relative clauses ("that blah blah blah that blah blah blah") after the main clause doesn't help.

Grammatically, a comma before the first "and" does the trick (and a fair argument could be made that the syntax demands excluding it, but I'll leave that for someone else).

Such improper characterizations are precisely why I'm not an editor.

The Tim Rogers method is something most folks just don't have time for.

For everyone involved.

Alright, I think I'm going to work on a list of places we writers-in-training can pitch to, be it for free or for pay. Naturally, the "free" list should be limited to sites that, yeah, might be free, but are at least significant (such as this little Net-Borough known as Gamers With Jobs. You might've heard of it).

Unfortunately, most of this list will more consist of "places I need to research". I also won't have a proper Google Doc for it yet because laziness and formatting. But here's what I've got so far.

PAID:

The Escapist
Actively seeking submissions. Problem is, there are a lot of people submitting. I still haven't gotten a response for my last pitch, which was in April. Even so, doesn't hurt to try.

Unwinnable
Sir Smythe of Words pointed me towards this site. They accept pitches on the first week of the month, so if you have an idea and it's only halfway through the month, then you have plenty of time to plan, plot, and/or refine it before pitching.

-

FREE:

Destructoid
There's a bit of a catch here. Destructoid basically hires writers from their community, and any guest articles are typically taken from their community blogs (heyo). I like to use Destructoid as a place where I can write about ideas I don't feel belong on other websites, but because it is unorthodox and they don't accept actual pitches (from what I can tell), I wouldn't advise posting regularly with the intent of getting a job there or having your work front-paged.

-

RESEARCHING:

GamesAbyss
Before I entered the work force proper I had an article or two posted on Games Abyss. They paid at the time, but unfortunately I have no clue if they pay now (nor do I know where the article(s) I had posted on there went. Remember kids: bookmark and save a record of all your published pieces). I need to follow up and get some specifics on submission guidelines now.

KillScreen
When they first started as a print magazine without web presence, Kill Screen was taking pitches based on specific topics for each issue. At the moment, there are no requests for submissions and no information as to when they do take any. I don't even know if they take submissions at all as they've opened up a new focus to web publishing.

GamesBeat
Most of the staff were formed from former members of BitMob, which was a community heavy site. This works similarly to Destructoid, only it seems the staff are even more involved in the process. No traditional submissions, just post on your blog, and if the staff deems it worthy they'll front-page it. Technically paid, as you can link your own Google AdSense account to your account on GamesBeat, and any money made from the ads on your blog page can go to you.

-

That's all I have at the moment. I'll be looking into more places shortly. If there are any websites you check regularly whose About or Contact page has guidelines (or a section specifically noted for submissions), share it here.

ccesarano wrote:

Alright, I think I'm going to work on a list of places we writers-in-training can pitch to, be it for free or for pay. Naturally, the "free" list should be limited to sites that, yeah, might be free, but are at least significant (such as this little Net-Borough known as Gamers With Jobs. You might've heard of it).

Hear that, fellas? We're "significant"!

Huzzah!

So I want to jump back into this thread with an important mental change: just because I'm not being paid to be a games writer does not mean I am not a games writer. As such, I am going to stop selling my own feedback short to other people, and I am also going to take some of my own writing more seriously.

I may not always have the time to do a double check/proof of something I write, but I better be writing with a greater intention than "just to write". Writing just to write is great for practice, but rarely for publication.

Case in point, I've written two pieces for my blog this week. One I'm going to proof so I can improve it, make it more focused, and get rid of some of the more foot-in-mouth ideas I jump into for no reason. The other is a review that I began writing without a clear direction. As a result, I've got some good ideas in there, but the whole of it is honestly pretty crap. Why? Because it's not interesting to read.

One of the things that bothers me about most game reviews is that they read like a checklist. Even if you manage to spice it up, the review doesn't flow. You're not going naturally from one topic to the next. Instead it's more like "Okay, I have a paragraph discussing graphics as a 7/10, now...ah! Sound. Okay, let's see what I can say about sound..."

My current style of games writing has seen inspiration from how Jerry Holkins, a.k.a. Tycho from Penny Arcade, would write about games on his news posts. Though the man has a Goliath of a vocabulary I'll never possess, I always loved reading his thoughts on a game. Whether the game was good or bad (and he has a tendency to like a lot of games), he always had an entertaining way of describing the experience. You got an understanding of how he felt playing the game.

I'm nowhere close, but I try to keep that in mind. Will the reader understand my feelings? Is there a better way to get my frustration across than simply saying "it is frustrating"? Looking back, I've realized that a lot of my write-ups have been sticking to fallback lingo that I despise, such as "visceral" or "breath-taking", phrases that are constantly used on the box at the store despite being used for just about everything on the shelf.

So for anyone else that blogs regularly or is always looking to find something to write, don't be afraid to open up a new Word/Google document and start typing about a game you've been playing. But if you don't have a clear path in mind, then don't marry yourself to it. See if you can find the idea you're looking for by spitting some words up, then erase it all and start over with a new, more focused direction.

That's my piece of advice, at least. That, and if you really mean it, don't strive to be a games writer, be a games writer.