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What I’m working on

March 2, 2012

Okay, so I’ve been tweeting occasionally about a project I’m formulating, and I feel it’s a good time to talk about it in its preliminary stages.

As a person, I have two serious interests: games and fiction. Sure, I love music, and I love sports, but those two are the big ones. I love stories. I love writing them, I love reading them, and I love playing them.

I’m also a struggling games writer and fiction writer. Neither has taken off in a big way. In both I feel very much like I’m just writing for my own improvement, rather than for any specific gain. So, I thought, why not combine the two? I love writing fiction, and I love writing about games. Why not write fiction about games?

So here’s the deal: I want to write a book, probably of very short novel length, about video games. I’m going to structure it along the lines of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities; that is, there will be a frame story featuring an advocate and a skeptic, followed by numerous stories told to elucidate the advocate’s point of view to the skeptic. In many ways Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams will be more inspiration, because it shows how a tribute to Calvino can work in a serious setting.

What it gives me is the ability to practice writing very short fiction, micro fiction, a field that’s taken off in the past few years. It gives me a chance to focus exclusively on craft, something I really want to do. There doesn’t have to be plot, because the individual plots are: I start playing a game, and write about the best thing I think of while playing it. If I play Final Fantasy for the NES and begin to think about the characters’ roles in the group, well, I can write that. I’m not bound by the facts like I am in games writing, but instead by how I imagine things to work. I can tell stories, very short stories about the reasons we love games. Around this I can tell a longer frame story which I’ve already begun to develop. That’s not the important part, though.

Where my trouble is is in scope. What kinds of games do I want to write about? Classic games, naturally. I want to write about games someone could realistically pick up and enjoy. And I don’t want them to fall into the realism trap that modern games do, because they I’m just talking about things that have been fleshed out by the designers. I want games where there’s room for me to imagine.

As such, I’m limiting myself to the “big three”: the NES, the SNES, and the Genesis. I’m considering other platforms, but honestly I know so little about them. And here’s the thing: I’ve already got a journey of discovery awaiting me. I’ve played pretty much every SNES game worth playing (with only one SNES title on my list of possible games being one I’ve never played: EVO: Search for Eden), but the Genesis and NES have plenty of unplayed titles for me to search. For instance, here’s my list trimmed to “Games I haven’t played”:

Sweet Home
Solomon’s Key
Legacy of the Wizard
Journey to Silius
Rygar
Metal Storm
Gargoyle’s Quest 2
Over Horizon
Guerrilla War
Ufouria
Dragon Quest IV
Little Samson
Solstice
Salamander
Crisis Force
Starflight
Warsong
Light Crusader
Flink
Shining Force (I know!)
Crusader of Centy
Streets of Rage 2 (Yes I know)
Herzog Zwei

That’s a lot of games! I love it as an excuse to explore titles I otherwise would never play, but it’s a lot of hours of games there. I’m not sure I want to take on whole new systems.

But honestly I’m excited. I’m not envisioning it being a massive project: big, certainly, but fifty 1-2 page stories about video games I want to play anyway is a great alternate project. At worst, I’ll have written a lot of valueless fiction I can publish on the internet. At best, I can try to self-publish it, make a little bit of money, and use it to BUILD THE BRAND. Eww.

So, final point: I’d love recommendations for more obscure games I can play. Especially things like shmups. I don’t play a lot of those, and I have little knowledge of them. Or if someone can direct me to a good primer on the best games for “alternative” consoles from this time period I’d be grateful. Also, just if you think it’d be an interesting project. My goal is pretty much to do one or two games a week, so it wouldn’t be done until the fall, but I’m trying to pace myself. It’s a fun little project, and I need one of those. xD

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4 Comments
  1. Dan Cox permalink

    “At best, I can try to self-publish it, make a little bit of money, and use it to BUILD THE BRAND. Eww.”

    I’m disappointed in you for writing those sentences. I was right there with you in learning about your project until you decided to slam the path I have seen many of my favorite authors take: self-publishing and brand building.

    People may scoff at it, but the reason I know the names like Cory Doctorow, Peter Watts, Mur Lafferty and Scott Sigler off the top of my head is they self-published or otherwise released their works for free and then plugged their works on other sites, podcasts and even at conventions.

    (For my money, in case you might be interested in reading his stuff, Peter Watts is one of the best hard science fiction authors out there (http://rifters.com/real/shorts.htm). Him and Alastair Reynolds write some of the craziest deep science stuff I’ve ever seen. I highly recommend Blindsight, by the way.)

    That said, go for it! Don’t like the “book” idea? Make a website? Look at webzines or self-published magazines. I have seen that scene explode over the last few years: GameSpite (http://www.gamespite.net/verbalspew2/gamespite-quarterly/), Scroll (http://scroll.vg/), Ctrl-Alt-Defeat (http://ctrlaltdefeat.me/) and, of course, Kill Screen.

    You are also going to need more than just some micro-fiction or random thoughts. That’s been done too (http://onevideogameaday.com/archive). You need a hook for other people. Why would we want to read your stuff?

    I mean, don’t get discouraged by the links. I would read your stuff, but that’s only because I missed most of the SNES/Genesis games and would like to see what another person recommends to play and read memories/stories about it.

    From one aspiring book writer to another, make it happen. I’m excited to see what you come up with in the future.

    • Yeah, the academic community has poisoned me away from self-publishing. Though it’s not a bad idea. Probably even a good idea. Just prejudices.

      And telling people about this project has told me two things. One: I am rubbish at explaining it. Literally, I explain it like a bag of fish bones and cartilage. Second, that I have a relatively unique idea as far as I can tell, because people keep running to touchstones that aren’t the same.

      (Though I’ll admit to being inspired by Gamespite’s posts about random games. I love those. They’re closest to what I’m doing, but not very close.)

  2. yes, this sounds interesting! I don’t know any awesome NES games for you to play, sorry. But do you need to play them all? You could make up games too, that could be cool.

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