The Space Between

So a few weeks ago, I volunteered to do a post for Critical Distance. It’s a great weekly round-up of games-related criticism from blogs and websites, and while I’ve always skimmed its entries and clicked a few links – mainly those pertaining to games I was familiar with – I volunteered because I thought it could get me reading much more deeply into games criticism than I had already been doing.

And it did. I did the round-up again last Sunday, and while I was stressed out and barely had the time for it, I was fulfilled by all the great writing out there. It had me thinking miles a minute about games I had played and games I’d never even heard of.

It also had me thinking about the way that we use blogs.

It’s amazing what a person can achieve through something that sounds so inconsequential and ugly (seriously, say it to yourself: “blog”. Don’t you feel ridiculous?). Some use it as a diary of sorts of their gaming adventures, random thoughts and anecdotes collected in one space; others post veritable essays about very defined topics. It’s quite brilliant, looking at all the other bloggers out there, seeing how they’ve used the medium to carry their message.

It inevitably had me thinking about my own blog. What the hell is my message? I actually have no clue. I know that it took me two weeks to come up with a name for this thing, and that my mission was to have a site on which I could say, hey, I am capable of writing and thinking!

… But I don’t think the thinking part of that has come through very clearly. I was new to the games criticism scene a year ago, and pretty much blissfully blind to how volatile opinionated discussion can get. (You’d think this was politics, not video games.) While I enjoyed putting my thinking process here on the internet to begin with, I’ve been in enough heated arguments by now to need to think twice, thrice, and too many times again before stating anything that falls outside of popular opinion. Frustratingly, it’s been quite detrimental to my output, and you’ll notice how infrequently I update this blog. I play it safe now. Most of my recent entries have simply been links to my writing elsewhere on the web. I avoid stating certain opinions because boy, am I tired of arguing with people so set in their views. I avoid getting truly honest here because unlike a year ago, I have a few people watching this blog now, and revealing such honesty makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. I feel like my breathing room is limited so as to avoid offending anyone I respect and don’t want to damage relations with.

I’ve kept – and you’ll pardon the pun – my own critical distance from this blog. When it comes to writing, for some reason I feel that something huge but unknown is expected of me, and I’m scared that I won’t deliver. So I don’t. At all.

This is why I’m so grateful we have a place like Critical Distance, and that I get to participate in it. It makes me feel a little better about having a dissenting opinion sometimes, and it’s made me realise that I don’t necessarily need to write in an essay-like, emotion-free way to get a point across. There are so many bloggers doing such a good job without seemingly stifling themselves, and I envy that. I’d like to work my way up to it again.

So you might see some changes here at Alive Tiny World. I might get a little more ranty, a little more emotional, a little more personal. I have other interests I’d like to touch on now and then – fashion, travel, droning indie music (seriously, I’ve not listened to anything but a single Belle and Sebastian album for a month). I might even share some fiction, because fiction is, after all, what I started blogging with some ten years ago. How do these things even intersect with the nerd culture I’ve settled into? I don’t know, but it might be fun feeling out the corners of this strange space myself.

I’m sorry if it’s just the nerdery that you visit for, and I understand. In the end, though, I have this online space that I’d like to use a lot more, and I really do feel that honesty, flippancy, and I’ll-do-whatever-the-hell-I-like is going to help me improve, both as a writer and a critic.

But then there’s that other side of blogs. The public side, the fact that a blog is on the internet and open to readers and their interpretations. So to the few of you who read this regularly, I’d like to know: what do you visit for? What have you liked and disliked about Alive Tiny World? Where would you like to see this thing going in the future?

In any case, it’s been a great ride so far, and I’m appreciative of anyone who has stuck with me so far, even in spite of my inconsistency. If you haven’t already, hit me up on Twitter. Say hi. I’d love to get to know you. (And visit Critical Distance. It’s hyperlinked. Go!)


7 thoughts on “The Space Between

  1. I’m always interested in reading what other people have to say. I started my blog because I wanted some place central to just discuss whatever I wanted to. Originally it was meant to be dedicated to just rants and gaming reviews but I’ve find myself posting more about my take on current affairs and just topics of interest to me. I love how I can be purely honest and open and for the greatest part – its been welcomed with positive reception. Don’t let trolls deter you from posting – people will always disagree but if they can’t discuss their opinion without being rude, then don’t even bother trying to explain yourself. Bring on the rants I say!

  2. This is like reading a post from myself circa late-2009! Although It probably took me a year of doing CD to get to the same point though, so props to you for being such a quick study. There really is something about reading the weird breadth of the blogosphere that gets you thinking about it in this very material but also very social, very big-picture way. It’s definitely worth thinking about.

  3. You write well, and you have the eye – one that I remember, that I keep remembering, is your observation about a whore in New Vegas, that even the possessions in her room weren’t marked as hers, so you could steal them right in front of her.

    There’s a lot in game worlds that you seem to pick up on, that textualizes it, and turns it into more than I’d seen.

    As for controversy: I’ve been a political blogger for years. For a long time I was a-list, and was the managing editor of a-list blogs. There are always going to be people who get heated, people who are not polite, ad-homs, incredible ignorance, and even people who act downright evil. There are days when I don’t read the comments on my own blog, just can’t handle them, and I’m no shrinking violet.

    But I have made it a point over the years to not let what I think others will say about my writing change what I write. As I told the writers on a blog I edited once “I know of no rule for blogging but this: my readers may trust that I tell them the truth as I know it.”

    Sadly, that rule impels me to note that if you are career oriented, you do still need to know where the lines are. Know the politics of your field, and know what will offend whom and how petty they will be about it. The world is not always meritocratic in the sense we are raised to think it is.

    But mind those lines too carefully, and too often, and you will deform your own talent. And sometimes sheer talent is its own protection. You have glimmers of sheer talent, both in your prose and in your eye.

    Anyway: long winded screed aside: I personally would prefer you write what you believe, because that’s what I want to read.

  4. I’m with Ben, though I think I blew past that point too fast for it to take hold and am now stuck in the next phase called “The RSS event horizon” where posts come too rapidly to ever keep up. Critical-Distance is a massive endevour, espeically one run obstensively by 6 people. I’ve been working hard on it almost as long as Ben and it’s nice to hear that it has had a positive effect on somebody. I mean you always hope that you do good by brining enlightening posts to people who may not have seen them otherwise, raise awareness and all that other good stuff they taught on Seseme Street, but it’s nice to see it once in a while.

    As for the why you write concept,, it helps to have a focus. It can help immensly. It’s taken a while for me to realize my own focus, but itse helping in the long run and cultivates a space where I never had the kinds of arguments you described. It’s best to soldier on and I’m glad to see you are doing that.

    Once the blinders and gloves come off that’s when a writer really stats to cook. Can’t wait to see what your output now that you’ve reached this stage.

  5. Hi Katie,

    My two cents…

    I’ve only just visited your blog (after you sent me the nice Twitter in support of me striking out on my own as an indie game devleoper!), so I don’t have a history with your writing, but I like the sound of what you’re suggesting, even if just because for me personally, I have several interests, and they all vie for attention in my life. Most often it’s MUSIC, FILMS and GAMES. The idea of keeping them all separate can be frustrating, and daunting, and somewhat of an exercise only in keeping them apart for branding, not out of any essential disconnectedness between them.

    Part of the appeal for me of doing indie game development is that I can combine so many of the different artforms that I love into the one medium.

    The beauty of games is that they have moving image, stories, text, music, sound effects, AND gameplay of many different sorts.

    Like “Rock Paper Shotgun”, the idea of bringing the personal to bare, I think, is powerful and engaging. And can touch you more deeply than some careful objective analysis.

    So go for it! :) I think that real people out there like to find a person with a unique voice – the combined result of all of their idiosyncrasies and foibles all in one – and to experience the (honed) creative output and expression of that person. :)

    I think that as long as the experience is consistently polished, that’s the important thing. You need to be releasing HITS, not DRIVEL. :) Not an easy thing to do (and something that I don’t think I’ve achieved nearly as well as I’d have liked with my music blog!

    But I think you’ll notice that people with tons of followers, and real fans, are the people who manage to release consistently awesome, unique, idiosyncratic artworks, even if they deal with different subject matter each time…

    David Lynch.
    Neil Gaiman.
    Tom Waits.

    These sorts of people are all unique, hard to define, and tackle different subject matter and formats over their careers. And people love them especially for just that!

    All the best!

    Murray Lorden

  6. I can’t quite remember how I got here but I remember it was one of the Fallout posts that brought me. Your looks at little things I missed during my playthrough of New Vegas made me want to play through it all over again, pouring over every little detail to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I love hearing about little things like that but am really bad at noticing them myself.

    Once I was already here, I figured I’d read some more posts, like I usually do when visiting a new blog. Your voice is interesting and made me bookmark the site. I visit it every few days now, looking for new posts. Your tweets are both amusing and interesting to me.

    All in all, you’re a unique blogger and that’s why I keep track of your writing.

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