Tag Archives: Skyrim

My Five Favorite Critical Intel Columns of 2012

Critical Intel is off and running.  Originally, I’d thought the column would provide an interesting side note with niche appeal, but instead I’m seeing comments from regular readers and getting appreciative messages in my inbox.  (That’s always humbling, wonderful, and weird.)  It seems CritIntel‘s audience is larger than I anticipated.

Given that, I really want to thank everyone who’s read, commented, tweeted, and shared in support of the column. At the risk of sounding biased, CritIntel readers are my favorite audience on The Escapist.  You’re overwhelmingly positive and engaged, and when you disagree with me, that dissent is (with only a few exceptions) well-reasoned and polite.  Moreover, you’re all pretty kind to each other even when discussing controversial topics.  I think it says a lot that I wrote a column on the Mexican Cartel War the comments didn’t explode into xenophobic tirades. Despite writing about contentious political topics like conflict minerals, drone warfare, gay rights, and BioWare, I haven’t received a single piece of hate mail to date.  You guys are amazing.

So here’s to another year of thoughtful analysis and clean comment threads.  To celebrate, here’s my favorite columns of 2012:

1) King Washington the Wicked

This column was the essence of why I stared doing Critical Intel – I wanted to bring players smart, detailed analyses of the real-world content in games that include the perspectives of subject experts.  I’m still on pins and needles waiting to see if my predictions for The Tyranny of King Washington come to pass.

2) Desperate Housewives of Skyrim

Skyrim is one of my all-time favorite games.  That being said, Skyrim‘s stilted social relationships are an endless source of unintentional hilarity.  I love writing humor pieces, and I’d like to do more in the future.

3) Killer Robots and Collateral Damage

Articles that post on or near a holiday tend to get a lot less traffic – which is unfortunate, since this piece on the portral of drones in video games was one of the better things I’ve done this year.

4) Conflict Minerals in the Game Industry: A Two-Part Series

Yes, it’s cheating to post two as one.  Conflict minerals haven’t gotten a lot of traction in the games media, and it’s a topic I’ve wanted to address for years.  I still have a lot of unresolved feelings regarding Part II, since I’m honestly not sure where I stand on what we should do to address the problem.  Still, I’m proud that I took it on.

5) Cuddly Pokemon and the Demons That Spawned Them

Confession: I don’t like Pokemon.  I’ve never played it because I can’t stand turn-based games.  On the other hand, I love Japanese folklore, especially stories of violent spirits and creatures.  Originally, this was going to be a two part column, but it dragged so I cut it down to one.  There are lots more bizarre spirits that influenced Pokemon, and I highly suggest you check them out if you’re interested.

Half-Finished Games and the Puritan Choir

I have a terrible habit: I tend not to finish games.

Between my 9 to 5, my freelancing, a role at another company, writing fiction, spending time with my girlfriend, and occasional dinner parties or movie screenings with friends, I don’t really have much time to game.

This dramatically affects both the kind of type of games I buy and the possibility that I’ll finish the longer games I do purchase.  Call of Duty games, for instance, reliably clock in at the eight to ten hour mark, meaning that I can beat one in a week or two without trouble.  An Assassin’s Creed or Grand Theft Auto, however, can lie half-finished on my shelf for a year or more.  While others bristle at a game being too short, I sigh with relief that it’s not going to cut into my writing time.  I avoid RPGs and MMOs of all sorts because they’re such a time drain, but I made an exception for the magnificent Skyrim, which was my Soma-like escape from MFA applications .

The last six months have been especially bad, with grad application season, PAX East prep, and novel edits chewing my personal time to bits.  I have a six inch-wide rack of games on my shelf that I haven’t finished.  For a long time, I just couldn’t—I had so much to do that even when I was being productive, taking time off led to a feeling of guilt I couldn’t shake.  You have things to do! said the voices.  Playing games isn’t helping you get into an MFA program.  And what about that novel, eh?  Didn’t you want to have it sent to that publisher by the end of the month?  I call the voices “The Puritan Choir,” since they’re a remnant of the WASP-y work ethic that’s the gift of growing up as a liberal Protestant.  Catholicism and Judaism might have guilt complexes on lockdown, but Martin Luther and John Calvin perfected the crippling terror of laziness and familial disappointment.

If I have any hope of actually making it in games journalism, I need to play more games—that’s just the long and short of it.  Even writing about the intersection between games and the real world, which is my primary focus, I find that I’m hobbled by the fact that my base of play experience is narrower than most freelancers.  To fix this, I’m making a concerted effort to work on my backlog as well as stretch myself by playing other genres.

It’s time to realize that playing games is just as much work as writing articles about them, and not feel guilty about the time invested.

Dear Puritan Choir: Shhhh, daddy’s working.

De-Pixelated’s Inaugural Episode: Operation Raccoon City

Sound the sirens!  Throw the ticker-tape!  Find an unemployed blueblood to smash a champagne bottle against the keel!

This morning, a new show called De-Pixelated launched on GameTrailers.com.   De-Pixelated was created by my friends at Blue Goggles Films, a scrappy Austin production company that focuses on videogame-related content.  I’ve worked with them as a script consultant on shorts and served on the writing team for their upcoming webseries BIT Parts.

Recently, Blue Goggles caused a bit of a splash when their short films Skyrim Intervention and Twisted Metal: Be Mine logged over 600,000 combined views on YouTube.  On the strength of those successes, they pitched GameTrailers on the idea of featuring their short films once a month under a single brand.  GameTrailers said “Hell yes,” and De-Pixelated was born.

Enjoy Blue Goggles’s take on Operation Raccoon City, and keep on the lookout for more content coming this way.