Thanks to AK from Everything Is Bad for You for this new tag! This is the Blogger Recognition Award, and it differs from most tags you see floating around in that the questions are set in stone. With that established, let’s jump right in.
The rules are as follows:
1. Say thanks to who nominated you and leave a link back to that person’s blog.
Thank you very much for the tag! Comparatively speaking, AK is one of my more recent followers, but he is definitely fun to speak with on an intellectual level, and hearing what he has to say about my pieces is something I look forward to every time. His blog is great as well, picking up the slack of professional journalists by highlighting efforts they often overlook. He talks about a variety of things too, so I think regardless of what medium you prefer, you will find his is a blog worth checking out.
2. Give the story or history of your blog.
2013 may have been a great year for me personally, but I stand firm that it is one of the absolute worst years in gaming. The AAA industry had lost a lot of goodwill the previous year when the highly anticipated Mass Effect 3 turned out to be a turkey, but they managed to sink to new lows in 2013 with several high-profile disasters such as Call of Duty: Ghosts, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and Ride to Hell: Retribution. When I’ve mentioned what I think of 2013 as a year for gaming, many people were quick to point out that it was the year The Last of Us was released, but I see that as further evidence for my position. Between its bland gameplay and a story poorly optimized for its medium I still consider it one of the most disappointing games I’ve ever played, which isn’t to say it’s bad, but like Naughty Dog’s other fare, it comes across as way too safe and unambitious for what is supposed to be a game-changer.
Now, as disappointed as I was in The Last of Us, it was a significant inspiration for me to begin critiquing games in 2014. Indeed, another part of what made 2013 such a bad year for gaming was that the games critics were praising weren’t that much better. The Last of Us is almost always the worst game on any given “best of” list, and if it isn’t, chances are good that it’s because Gone Home is also on the list. Even BioShock Infinite, which was more ambitious than The Last of Us, paled in comparison to Virtue’s Last Reward, touching upon many similar themes less skillfully. Being unsatisfied with the sheer amount of unprofessionalism and lack of strong voices surrounding gaming critique, I therefore decided that a change was in order and that I should lead by example.
I also don’t especially care for how unhelpful review scores were given that many people hand out 10/10s like penny candy, hence my signature tough rating scale. Under my scrutiny, a work needs to earn every single point. It doesn’t matter how much of a sacred cow it is, how much goodwill the series or creator had beforehand, or how much it lines up with my beliefs; if a creator wants a passing grade, they need to work for it.
It is somewhat regrettable that what got me into reviewing games was a negative experience, but I did turn it around and shaped it into something positive. While my piece on The Last of Us along with its revision I posted three years later was my longest review for quite some time, all seven of my reviews to exceed 10,000 words have been positive with none of them scoring fewer than eight points. Those games in question are: Ace Attorney Investigations: Prosecutor’s Path, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Persona 4, Dark Souls, and Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom.
3. Give two or more pieces of advice for new bloggers.
To take a page out of AK’s book, I’ll just say to make sure you actually care about whatever your chosen subject happens to be. This does indeed sound stupidly obvious, but there are so many content creators, critics, and journalists who disregard this simple rule.
The worst offenders include people such as Jonathan McIntosh, Patrick (H) Willems, Bob Chipman, and Owen Gleiberman. Between assuming people who don’t enjoy a piece of media are morally deficient louts and telling people that glaring contradictions in a film’s plot don’t matter, reading/watching pieces from those four and people of their ilk reveals a distinct lack of passion. Instead, they tend to go into a given work already having made up their minds about how they’re going to feel about it, and praise/criticize a work purely based on whether it lines up with their viewpoints or not. That can get you the support of people already dedicated to your causes, but good luck trying to convince anyone outside of that circle that you’re anything other than a snobbish hipster.
A good critic needs to be an apt persuasive writer. When you read what a good critic has to say, you don’t necessarily have to agree with them to find their pieces interesting. With those four, I find myself shaking my head even when I do technically agree with them. That and their insufferable amounts of snobbery and stubborn refusal to consider alternate viewpoints really shoots holes in their credibility. I feel a similar principle applies to blogging; if you care about your chosen subject, that passion will be felt by your readers.
The other piece of advice I have is learn to roll with the punches. People aren’t always going to agree with your position, and you need to accept differing viewpoints. Opinions can be challenged, and you’re not always going to be 100% correct in your articles – even if you’re always checking your facts. Whether it’s a differing viewpoint or someone bringing up legitimate problem with your piece, you are obligated to respond in a mature fashion. Naturally, this assumes the person in question was at least somewhat civil. At the same time, don’t automatically conclude that someone is wrong just because they’re not nice about how they choose to criticize your work; a stopped clock is right twice a day, after all.
Indeed, the likes of Rian Johnson and Phil Fish stand out as prime examples of how badly one’s reputation can sour when one approaches detractors with a hostile attitude. As a result of their social media shenanigans, they have become highly controversial figures. In both cases, I’m positive that if they had the self-respect to tone down their vitriol, they would have spared themselves a lot of grief. Many people rushing to their defense claim that the internet would have hated on them regardless of their own level of civility. I can’t deny that possibility, but we’ll never know for sure because that isn’t what happened.
In short, don’t be afraid to challenge your readers, but take dissenting opinions gracefully. If you’re to the point where you mock people for having a differing opinion, using your fans to make dissenters uncomfortable, or slavishly latching onto those who blindly hang on to your every word, you are a bully with a serious lack of conviction. If you lack conviction, then you will never grow, and nobody will have any reason to follow your blog in the long term.
4. Nominate 10 other bloggers and link their blogs.
This is going to be a bit more difficult with the static questions, but I’ll just pick these ten and hope I didn’t double tag anyone.
- Honest Gamer
- Book Beach Bunny
- Wizard Dojo
- Professional Moron
- A Little Nerd Told Me
- Gaming Omnivore
- Swords & Spectres
- Hamlets & Hyperspace