“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
Welcome back, NPCs.
The writer’s craft is an unusual one but today’s word loaf is brought to you courtesy of an interesting trial unique to writers who primarily review games. I thought I’d take a minute or several to explain myself. Maybe some of our readers out there wrestle with the same situation.
As the founding writer of a blog with the basic aim of reviewing as many games as possible, I occasionally get stuck in predicaments where I’ve not yet properly finished a game to review. Dedicating myself to writing reviews as long and introspective as possible doesn’t help. Also, I make it a personal challenge to ensure I “beat” the game at least once before giving it a tongue-lashing or a lick of praise but if I’m left without a game to review for a few days, what do I write? From the inception of TWRM, I wanted to post daily, or at least every other day. Read: as often as possible. Consistency has been a big motto here.
However, not having any games completed births a situation which gives me only a few options, given my self-imposed standards of frequent posting: I can either write an “opinion” post or I can review of a game I’m so familiar with that I could beat it in my sleep. I won’t sacrifice my values, otherwise.
Time to come clean. In retrospect, that accounts for half the content of this blog. Neither option is truly “organic”. If I force myself to write an opinion post on something I’m not really energetic about or haven’t thought through enough, then the opinion post fails to get my real point across (such as in “Critical aggrandizement or how being comfortable with 10-point scores has atrophied due to hyperbole”) or it sounds like a footnote or an excuse to complain or gush (such as in “Marvel vs. DC: the True Civil War” and “Rose-Colored Glasses and the Nintendo Switch”).
I’ll leave you to guess the nature of this opinion post you’re reading right now, since I’m writing it precisely because of the predicament I described earlier. “Dude, that’s sooo meta…!”
The alternative is writing a review on a game I’m intensely familiar with. This is the reason why I’ve already reviewed so many games which fall into the “legendary” category. Glancing back over our homepage, I dislike seeing so many iconic games clumped so close together but frankly it’s just easier writing about games I know and everyone respects. It’s an excuse to gush and gushing is far easier than trying to find out what went wrong in a mediocre title, or even poke fun at a below average one.
I do keep a mental list of “perfect” games that I’ve yet to review. I try to spread those out as much as possible and review across a variety of platforms and genres as best as I can. Currently, only Super Mario Bros. 3 is sitting pretty at a 10/10, but perusing our Archive by Score demonstrates that a majority of our reviews sit above the 5/10 grading. I would very much like to change this but it should be clear now why this is the way it is. It’s more time-consuming and more researching-demanding to write about unfamiliar, non-iconic games. Further, the nagging reality is always at the back of my mind that obscurer and poorer games attract fewer readers. Though I try to tell myself that this is a tertiary concern, it’s hard to balance that against the time and attention demanded in writing 3000+ words on a game few folks care to read about. You’ll forgive my transparency, I hope.
So what’s a mage to do?
Until I finish my review of Shovel Knight, in which I attempt to say something unique about a much applauded title, or until I can plow through the first Final Fantasy and The Last Guardian, or any other number of the games I’ve started but not finished, I’m stuck up a textual creek without a paddle. I can’t just abandon my blog for days, though. An overwhelming sense of guilt and failure, as well as longing for the joy of the process itself, overcomes me. And that explains why I wrote this post today! I love writing and I wish my game-time could keep up with it. I suppose that’s additionally why I’ve written on non-gaming subjects over the past year and a half (movies, theology, life, books, etc.).
I think the way of escape lies in enjoying the writing process as much as I can. When writing becomes just another time-devouring chore in an adult life already full of such things then adding blogging to my checklist becomes something I dread. It’s happened now and then in the past, so I always try to come at it now with the best attitude I can. Attitude is everything, as they say. If I don’t enjoy this process, then why do it at all?
On a completely different but not irrelevant side-note, this is exactly why I appreciate our contributors so much. Thanks to the magely crew, we’ve been able to feature an article when I personally didn’t and couldn’t have one available. Such was the case over this past week when the Evergreen Sage Mage (wakalapi) and the Spoony Bard Mage (nerd speaker) really came through and voluntarily wrote great reviews of Hollow Knight and Batman: the Video Game, respectively. Not only do these guest posts provide a different flavor to this blog but they help me remember that no mage is an island. Working together with a team keeps my ego grounded and my heart grateful. So thank you, magi buddies!
So that’s how things work around here. I got an article up today by explaining why I wanted to have an article up today but why it’s not a review. It’s just some insight into the mechanisms turning wheels round here and since the occasional commenter has expressed that these sort of “behind the scenes” posts are helpful, I don’t feel too bad about missing out on writing a review.
Am I putting too much pressure on myself? Do any of you fine fellows or fellowettes struggle with this? What are some of your solutions? Does writing infrequently not bother you? Do you only review the icons because of it? Do you spread yourself out over different subjects of writing or do you avoid writing reviews for this reason? What keeps you writing? What’s your greatest challenge to overcome as a writer?
As always, thanks for reading.
-The Well-Red Mage