Friday, 14 February 2014

Waaa, blogging is hard

It's been about month since I started writing this blog and so I've been reflecting on the experience. The first thought to spring to mind is how moronic it was to start blogging in the middle of exams, the second is that it turned out to be easier than I thought, and yet at the same time, much harder. These conflicting feelings are best explained by describing my goals for the blog. I'm going to leave out the standard "lack of fulfillement" and "desire to prove I'm good at writing" reasons that I suspect are at the heart of why many start blogging and focus on my initial ideas of what the blog was going to be about. Like Batman, the Eyemoustaches origin story begins during childhood. 
When I was younger, I loved games magazines, arguably more than I liked games. Magazines such as Nintendo Official Magazine and the sadly closed down NGamer provided me with hours of informative coverage, and much more importantly genuine laughs. These magazines had the perfect mix of humour, creativity and journalism and when I was younger, the notion of becoming a games journalist did pop into my head. I never pursued, possibly because the Sunday Times already had a games review guy and I knew of no other Irish jobs in the business.
This changed when I stumbled upon the website Old Man Murray. Old Man Murray was and still is well regarded for its occasional genuinely insightful discussion of videogames but to me is first and foremost a humour site built around the topic of games. Their reviews were hilariously vicious but also inventive, such as when in the Rune review they refer to Timothy Gerritsen from the games development team as being responsible for the game's sound throughout the review, a job title they randomly conferred on him early on. For the last couple of years, I've had these illusions of becoming a comedy writer ("I gonna make the best damn sitcom about talking chess pieces the world has ever seen!" ~ Me circa 2010) When I read the line ""What if we get rich slow", I told Mark, "only we do it really fast" I saw the kind of crazy, character driven, narratives that could be achieved within the framework of a videogame website.

And so, a dream was born. I would start a gaming blog, reviewing "games that came out years ago" as a skeleton to add joke muscles and character based organs to. I would emulate the style of NGamer and perhaps one day get a job in one of its Future Publishing affiliates, this blog would be step one on my quest to NGamer Towers to slay the evil corporate overlords! If you're wondering why I use footnotes, its because of the good work NGamer did with them, natch. Alternatively, my career would follow the path of Erik Wolpaw or Chet Faliszek of Old Man Murray, whereby after a few years writing and making games about  alien psychic child predators who are also astronauts I would get a job working at Valve (my knowledge of their pre-Valve careers may not be entirely correct). There, I would write Meet the Team videos and Portal (it would probably have to be some kind of gritty Christopher Nolan-esque reboot, where GLaDOS is the head nurse of an insane asylum and the portal gun is powered by dead kittens).  Hell, by the time I joined the company, they'd probably be ready to start work on Episode 3! *reclines back in chair and prepares to bask in the warm glow of the internet gaming community for making a "Golly isn't Episode 3 taking a long time" joke* I found a post on another website that I disagreed with and I was on my way.

No sooner had I set foot on the yellow brick road to Gabe Newell's emerald city then I was blinded by the glare and fell over. The article that inspired my first one no longer seems to exist. Part of me is tempted to claim that the writer was so convinced by my arguments that he removed his in fear of shame, but I know that's not the case. You see, one of the first things I realised as I wrote the piece was that I hadn't the stomach to be genuinely vicious. This is even more clear from the apology in the footnotes of the Star Fox review. I've since come to wonder whether this is actually a bad thing, while they're very funny, some Old Man Murray reviews resort to personal attacks and insults and I have to wonder if that's taking it too far. At the moment I'm genuinely considering not publishing this for fear of invoking their wrath. A whole month's worth of hindsight has also led me to wonder if they are perhaps dependent on the shock factor. The realisation that "moustaches" probably looks wrong to an American  (as does "realisation") didn't help my confidence. The difficulty with saying mean things doesn't just come from my being a wuss however.
The games I play are another factor. As I've said elsewhere my choice of Star Fox 4D 36 as my first review may have been a mistake. The best Old Man Murray reviews and some of the better NGamer reviews were fueled by rage and spite. But as an avid reader of games magazines, most of the games I play have received positive reviews. Without any major flaws, there's nothing to get fired up about. I'm considering buying games on eshop without researching them in the hopes that it will give me some material.
Another problem is with the idea of reviewing "games that came out years ago". Put simply, I'm not sure I can remember them well enough to do a thorough review. For example, I had planned to tear into Paper Mario Sticker Star for being such a letdown compared to the rest of the series, but only a year later I can barely remember it (that sentence is arguably harshest thing ever written on this blog). I'm thinking of doing a roundup of mini reviews to get around this.

But to return to the problem I alluded to in the introduction, my major finding is that reviewing games is actually much easier than I thought, the humour is the hard part. For every post I've made, I've had a moment where I finish a paragraph and then realise that I've just given a sincere, factual opinion of the game. That's not what I set out to do, let other people who know more about what makes a game good do that, I'm supposed to be cracking wise, not talking wise. A good example of this is the Mario 3D Land review which has three lines I was really proud of.
 But it's not just the use of the 3D that impresses me about this game. I also like it's use of the third dimension! I've always found the recent two dimensional Mario games (the New series) to be kind of flat.
What I like about these lines is that they're amusing, but they also contribute to the structure of the review, they're not a Family Guy-esque humour tangent. The rest of the review's fine, but it's a little dry.
That being said, I find one part of reviews to be especially hard to write — the introduction. For some reason, the only one's I can think of seem to involve stating an obvious fact, and the sentence usually starts with the game's name (or it's doppelganger: "This game..."). This is a problem I've noticed on the games review subreddit also. The introductions I'd like to write would be like the cold opens on Breaking Bad. These openings are often strange and it can be difficult to see how it'll feed into the episode/review to come, but you know that somehow, they will.
As I mentioned when I talked about Old Man Murray, I found their use of fictional and semi fictional characters to be inspiring. I especially like how the writers often depicted each other and their lives. I had planned to write this blog as if it were the work of two people to facilitate this kind of humour. In practice however, thinking up two distinct voices to write as proved harder than I thought and that idea may have to shelved. I do intend to create some stories about Miister X, Eye Moustache's miiverse celebrity mascot.
To conclude, writing this blog has proven challenging in ways I had not foreseen.
Edit: Some appalling grammar errors

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