With a Sunshine Blogger Award in our area of WordPress, the questions usually posed to those nominated are on the subject of video games. But the awesome Jonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog has decided to do something a little different this time: he has selected a different topic and his thoughtful questions are all about writing. To show him my appreciation for the nomination back in August (and to apologise for how long it’s taken me to respond), here are my answers.
At what point do you decide a certain game is good enough to write an article about?
Does a game need to be ‘good’ for it to be written about? For me it doesn’t matter how much I enjoyed it but rather if it contains something unique. For example, the way Resident Evil 7: Biohazard handles its flashbacks and Lake Ridden uses a lamp path-finding mechanic were the subject of posts and both happened to be titles I thought were good. Downward Spiral: Horus Station unfortunately was the opposite, but it inspired me to write about how important narrative is when a developer adds a non-combat option to a video game.
How would you describe your own writing style?
This is the toughest question on the list and I’m not entirely sure of the answer. I just put down on paper how the words sound in my head and cross my fingers! Hopefully they sound honest because I try to be truthful with my opinions; and constructive too because I think it’s possible to find some good in a video game experience you didn’t enjoy. And as my day-job requires me to write processes and communications, I love a bit of grammar so hopefully I haven’t misplaced any commas or semi-colons.
About what would you want to write if you weren’t allow to write about games for a year?
Playing video games has been my main hobby for so long now and I’ve been writing about them since I started blogging in 2013, so take the subject away and there’s a chance I wouldn’t know how to continue. Maybe I could use that year out to play more games and then have material for loads of new content upon my return? Or perhaps I’d host a 12-month blog party instead and help others spread the word about their awesome sites. We’d definitely end up beating the record of 29 posts shared then.
Would you wait on the DLC release of a game before you review the game or do you review the DLC later?
In pondering the answer to this question, I came to a surprising realisation: I think the only time I’ve ever purchased DLC has been when I’ve bought the complete edition of a game some time after its release. One of the most exciting things about completing a title is then having the opportunity to choose the next adventure, so picking up the additional content has never been something that has appealed to me. I therefore write about what I’ve played without waiting for the DLC as default.
What inspires you to come up with ideas for articles and events?
There’s so many places I find ideas for posts. For example, an interesting aspect of a game I’ve recently played as mentioned above; a news article about gaming that I strongly agree or disagree with; something stepson has said about our hobby which turns out to be incredibly insightful (out of the mouth of babes). When I’m stuck for something to write about, I’ll often turn to the WordPress reader because seeing how creative other members of the community are usually makes me want to get out my laptop again.
How do you write? Do you create a draft first or just start writing?
While I’m writing the first paragraph, an idea for the rest of the post structure starts to form in my mind. I’ll then make brief notes on what I want each following paragraph to cover; experience has taught me to jot this stuff down straight away otherwise I forget it! The next step is to flesh out the rest of the post, usually reading sentences I’m not sure about out loud to my other-half for his feedback, and then I may do a second draft depending on how ‘serious’ the subject matter is. It’s a process formed over several years of blogging.
Do you write while listening to music?
I tend to write at our table in the kitchen on weekend mornings while my other-half and stepson are still asleep (before the chaos commences). I’m an early-bird and really enjoy those hours of the day where everything feels new and it seems as though you’re the only person awake. It’s therefore usually quiet so as not to disturb everyone else; but if it’s later in the day then I’ll turn on an 80s radio station while I’m working. Others may listen to video game music but I find there’s nothing like a bit of Aerosmith or Chaka Khan to get you going.
Do you have hobbies and activities you do outside writing and gaming?
When I’m not playing a video game in my spare time, you’ll find me in the kitchen baking something sweet or cooking a meal with far too much chilli in it. I recently remembered how much I like making muffins so there’s been a new batch every weekend throughout September, and that seems to be keeping my stepson and other-half’s work colleagues happy. I picked up a book of 500 recipes a few weeks ago so I’ve got plenty to test out on them – the buttered popcorn cupcakes were a particular hit.
What games are underrated or not well known enough in your opinion?
Back in the day it used to be entries in the adventure genre or games with a strong narrative focus; if it didn’t have action, guns and explosions, people didn’t want to know. But that has changed over the past few years and now there’s acknowledgement for the power that video games have to tell stories. There’s an appreciation for all kinds of titles and we praise games that do something established particularly well, introduce something unique, or share an experience that opens gamers’ eyes. It’s an interesting time.
Are there genres you don’t like reviewing and why?
I learnt a long time ago that it’s no fun having to write about games you don’t enjoy playing, so when I started Later Levels I made a promise to myself to never do that ever again. My favourite genre is adventure and I love a good point-and-click so they’re what tend to feature most in my posts; and I’m not keen on strategy or FPS titles so I stay away from them. If you’re going to blog about video games, it’s important to play for playing’s sake rather than just having something to write about otherwise it turns into a job (see below).
Would you considering writing / blogging as a job?
Some days I think it would be great, and if I won the lottery I could see myself using my time to play video games, volunteer for SpecialEffect and blog more often. But would it be so good if it was my day-job and I was reliant on it for an income? I’m not so sure. The pressure that comes from turning a hobby in to a career and making a living from it has the potential to change it from something enjoyable into a chore you don’t like waking up for in the mornings. Perhaps I’m just not a big enough risk-taker.
What you dislike doing the most when writing or publishing an article?
If I’ve written a really long post, the thing I dislike most is having to go back over it and add in any links as it can take ages! I think it’s important to include them however as it shows you’ve done your research and gives a polite nod to any developers and bloggers you’ve mentioned. The other thing that bothers me is when I don’t have a schedule. Knowing what I’m going to blog about over the coming week keeps me motivated; if I’m not organised and don’t have a plan, I’m all over the place.
Thank you once again to Jonez for the nomination – if you’re not already following this man, get over to NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog right now and click the button! I’m interested to hear everyone’s answers and find out more about their own writing processes because there’s a lot we could learn from each other. If you’re up for the challenge, I’d love to hear your responses.