Friday, June 28, 2019

State of the design blog

You may have noticed this blog has been a bit quiet lately. There's a few incidental immediate reasons for that: (a) it's summer so it's nice outside, (b) I'm doing a lot of holiday traveling, (c) my laptop recently broke and I have to coordinate loaner laptops and repairs, etc.

But those are just convenient reasons, instead of the more difficult reason that I'm reluctant to face:

I've decided I'm going to blog here less, and I'm not going to feel bad about it.

Don't get me wrong. I still enjoy writing about level design and sex games etc, but it's increasingly difficult to find time to do it consistently, especially when I have all these other projects and obligations.

Writing is really time consuming for me. I'm not a great writer or a fast writer, and I obviously don't have an editor. I have to spend a lot of time on rewrites and editing, just to produce some merely readable words like this. And all for free? Shit.

There's this rather perverse incentive for me to save my "good shit" for talks or pitches, where I can premiere them for much more attention and coverage (or even money). Like right now I'm in the middle of edits for a longform feature on climate change games, which started as a draft for this blog, but then I thought I had to extract more value from it and so I pitched it to a publication. The article is actually much better for the second set of eyes on it, but it does mean that it's not on my personal blog anymore. It'll belong to someone else.

For a few years, this blog felt like a heavy obligation weighing down on me. "Oh, I better blog this week. What can I write? I should think of something." From 2010-2012, I was managing 2-3 posts a week! Some of that stress was certainly beneficial and I learned a lot, but using the word "stress" implies that I still respond to the pressure, when I don't anymore. Now the stress has melted into a weird shame spiral about being less productive.

Most of the critical games bloggers I know from "the golden age of game blogging" are long gone, having moved on to other fields or careers. I actually got relatively late into it, in 2009, when apparently (I'm told) the discourse was already waning. But now, where's the conversation about games these days? I don't have time for stressful Twitter threads, these days I'd rather just close Twitter and drink an aperol spritz while sighing in relief.

For a time, I was proud to stand among other "veterans" from pre-2010 who still believe deeply in the idea of writing paragraphs that basically no one reads anymore; we are critics who remain skeptical about the pivot to video / streaming, and what it does to criticism and ideas. (Video essays also just take way too long to make, fuck that.)

Who still blogs anyway?

Years ago I was blessed to speak with Emily Short, and I confessed that I admired her ceaseless energy and productivity and blogging. It seems like she "has it all," a vibrant creative practice and a nice personal life and a continuing history of community organizing AND she consistently blogs, wow! EMILY SHORT YOU ARE THE BEST

She politely entertained my fanboy rambling for a hot minute, but then she said something I'll never forget -- though now I forget her exact words -- anyway it boiled down to something like, "it's ok to work less."

And so that idea has been bouncing around in my head for the last few years. What is "this" (gesturing wildly), why do I want it, should I want it, and what can I want instead? I should find out, instead of chaining myself to this thing that doesn't make sense to me anymore.

So what does all that blah blah blah mean for the future of this design blog?
  • I will still post occasionally about new game releases, talks, or publications. I'll still put my artist statements here. I'm not deleting my old posts, though I might disable comments so I don't have to worry about moderation anymore.
  • Expect much fewer of the longer "design theory" posts than in the past. When I do feel the itch for these, I'll probably use the material for talks or publications instead.
  • Basically, this is just me giving myself permission to post here anywhere from 0-1 times a month, and still feel OK about it, even though I feel like I'm failing Emily Short, even though she literally told me that it's good to work less, wow what a mess
Thanks to all my longtime readers and visitors. It's been a lovely 10-ish years. Don't worry, I'll still be around. I'm just making myself a bit... scarce.