My Best of 2014

I had a great year for writing! I want to thank everyone who supported me this year. I noticed, and I said a little prayer for you (even though I am agnostic).

That image you are seeing at the top of this post is by the very talented Irene Koh, who drew this motivational picture of me screwing Captain America, and we embarked on a very exciting partnership this year (me and Irene not me and Captain America). My life is very much enriched by her existence. Her triumphs this year include being commissioned to draw part of the Batgirl Origins comic at DC, which will hopefully bring her to become more famous than Jamie McKelvie next year, at least.

EMBED WITH GAMES

In January I pledged, in a wild-eyed daze, to leave home to travel the world to write about game developers if I was crowdfunded $1000 or more a month. You didn’t let me stay at home, to your credit.

Crowdfunded by subscriptions from readers and backed by a huge amount of emotional support from peers and everyone who reads me, I left home on the most exciting and challenging adventure I’ve ever been on. Every month I put out work I was so proud of, met up with familiar faces and total strangers, and I am happy to say I will put out the final two entries soon for the Embed With Games series. It will become an ebook and a printed book early next year.

I am proud of all the Embed With essays, and extremely grateful to all of the people who allowed me to cover them and their work on games. Amongst my favourite tidbits of the journey include Brandon Boyer’s buying the German shower gel I mentioned Stephen Lavelle bought eight bottles of in my first Embed With entry, Teddy Diefenbach’s making N***** in Paris beats inside Brendon Chung’s game Quadrilateral Cowboy, Trent Kusters hitting on a hot girl in Amsterdam for two hours when I was delirious, and Cassandra Khaw’s holding a dodgy taxi driver at arrow point to get her home. Katharine Neil also told me that she thought that games were a working class medium when she was young because she first encountered arcade machines in chip shops, which made me think about games in a completely different way. There are so many stories I haven’t even had room to tell, and they will go in an afterword to the book, no doubt.

Liz Ryerson’s words and the Irene Koh header image were wonderful together. Elizabeth Simins also knocked the header of Nina Freeman‘s Embed With out of the park. Thank you ladies, you are all so talented.

You can read Embed With Games from the start here, but don’t worry about reading it all, I’ll be paying a literary editor to put it together into a better, purchasable format soon.

S.EXE

An unfortunate consequence of blasting all my literary power and possible conservable energy at the Embed With series has been that my actual freelance work has been less varied this year. The essays I have written have had a more limited scope due to resources and time than I’d normally write for you. But I am so proud of the S.EXE column on sex and relationship games I write at Rock Paper Shotgun. I’m particularly proud of it because it has become a resource, a library almost, of a topic that before many people didn’t think existed in games, or if it did, they had a very dim view of it. So many lecturers and academics have emailed me to say that they use it to source games and to point students towards new approaches in their work. It has become a round up of the most diverse and interesting games as well as an adventure into the other baser nature we hardly indulge in games.

I’m also proud of S.EXE because it provides a solid argument for games with a much more sexual nature being allowed on mainstream platforms like Steam. Some critics read my last entry on the gay dating sim Coming Out On Top and asked me if I was making an implicit argument juxtaposing Coming Out On Top’s hardcore sex scenes and delicately approached moral quandaries with Hatred’s hamfisted and irresponsible approach to video game violence. I think the simple answer was: yes I was, though at the time of writing it might not have occurred to me. It seems strange to not allow acts of love on Steam but to allow, ahem, acts of hatred. The entirety of S.EXE stands to attention on that point.

My proudest S.EXE moments:

I wrote about Gone Home, on my relationship to women and how fantasy spaces are important.

I also wrote about the absurd museum dick mod Schlongs of Skyrim, which some claimed I should receive the Pulitzer prize for, but sadly I don’t think they do a prize for ‘best gonzo journalism of dicks’.

I’m also proud of this piece of speculative fiction on Gateway Shuffle, which is a design analysis and a piece of Cowboy Bebop fanfiction in one.


OTHER ESSAYS

I wrote two popular essays at Paste Magazine this year:

Games, Noir and the 17%: Where Are the Women? examines how women are being written out of a history more progressive than we are now.

And a gonzo account of my trip to E3, which sees the return of the lesser spotted ‘funny’ Cara. It begins with Tim Rogers quoting Glengarry Glen Ross all the way from San Francisco to LA:
E3 2014: A Week in the Woods

This is a fun and incomplete history of sex in video games for the new VICE UK games column.

And finally, I triumphantly managed to get Keith at The Guardian to publish a piece of game analysis in poem form! I am a poet published by The Guardian now. Imagine that:
A verse about Queers in Love at the End of the World

OTHER STUFF I DID

Somehow I got in The Guardian’s ‘Top 10 young people in digital media‘ at number 10. I don’t know what it means, apart from that they think that I am a person who is young and who makes digital things. This is always useful to note.

This also happened:

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NYU’s reception was excellent. Even Giant Bomb fans turned up!

STUFF I READ THAT I LOVED

Paste have been KILLING IT this year. Maddy Myers’ A Ship Sailed Into Port is one of the most phenomenal pieces of games journalism I read this year.

The prize for the absolute BEST column this year goes to Gita Jackson’s Wardrobe Theory. Fashion journalism in games! God, I love Gita. Look at this piece on Final Fantasy X.

Aevee’s work at ZEAL is always reliably incisive. This gentle piece on small talk in games is wonderful.

I was so sad at Ellie Gibson’s retirement from Eurogamer, so I recommend you catch up on her work here – she’s funnier, more cynical, and more cutting than I am and a really good example of how to entertain as well as inform.

Simon Parkin is probably the most delicate, consistently diligent writer of our little bubble, and it’s always a pleasure to read his pared-down thoughts and occasional (eek!) feelings on a topic. Full disclosure: I used to work for Simon when we made games in Brighton, but we also used to swap work for editing which made me feel like a fraud whenever his work would appear in my inbox. He was extremely good then (I’m so proud that he got a place at the New Yorker, where he always wanted to be) and this tradition has been continued. My favourite piece of his this year was The Kiss That Changed Videogames which even in the title neatly combines Simon’s compassion for people and his curiosity about our medium.

My personal favourite piece of writing on games this year without a doubt came directly from Austin Walker. Sit down to Real Human Beings: Shadow of Mordor, Watch Dogs and the New NPC. It’s a meal.

2015

It now falls to me to try to explain to you what I will do next year. First I am doing a number of talks:

1) I’m excited to say I will be on a panel talk at the National Museum of Scotland in January, where they currently have an amazing Game Masters exhibition. Edinburgh! I love that you love video games too. More info soon.

2) I will be giving a talk with the talented artist and designer Merritt Kopas at Indiecade East in the Museum of Moving Images in New York City in February. It’ll be funny and we will say the word ‘fuck’ a lot.

3) I’ll be speaking at Nordic Game in May with Chris Avellone and a ton of other great people.

I’ve also got this new column at Eurogamer which I am really excited about! I have written the first two already, working with editor Christian Donlan. He’s already had a huge effect on my work, and his editorial help putting these first two columns together makes me think that I’ll write some of my best work at Eurogamer next year. The first one is imminent. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever written, but I say that a lot.

Besides that: I have been invited to do some narrative design on a video game early next year to tide me over, and I’ve also made a concerted attempt to find a permanent job writing at a number of places, because I would like a home now.

And as far as I know, S.EXE will still be a thing.

In the meantime, I’ve started up a Facebook page for just my work, no frills, which you can ‘like’ to subscribe to here.

It’s been so good to work for you this year! Crowdfunding gave me the financial freedom to take a huge risk, and I think it’s really produced something beautiful. Thank you again, and have a really happy new year. I’ll see you on the other side.

<3