2011: A Year In Blogs Pt.2 - Chats, Charity and Cologne
The first seven months of 2011 were pretty great - meeting my brilliant girlfriend, the beginnings of writing a book, a couple of trips to London, some game reviews and the birth of this very blog. Frankly, the second half blew me away with the amount of things that went on from August onwards.
August turned out to be a stunner of a month. In between taking pot shots at Cheryl Cole Cher Lloyd and trying Minecraft for the first time, I was to be sent off to Germany later in the month for Gamescom 2011 by Electronic Arts. In between writing up previews of Mass Effect 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Bethesda’s RAGEand interviewing Need for Speed: The Run’s Jason DeLong and the legendary Ken Rolston of Morrowind and Oblivion, I found a little time to explore an amazing city and perfect the art of asking Germans if they spoke English. And catch a stomach bug from the Harmonix boys, who agreed to back me once again for a Rock Band charity marathon, this time split into two 12-hour sessions of drumming for Edinburgh Sick Kids, to take place in October.
In September, part of me hoped for a quieter month but with Eurogamer Expo around the corner, it wasn’t to be. Eurogamer brought with it more insane experiences, between hosting two live podcasts with game industry elite and podcast fans alike and carrying out my first ever freelance work, interviewing Chris Rhinehart (Prey 2) and Tim Willits (RAGE) about their new titles. On top of that, I was able to interview the Bioware Doctors, Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, about how they started out and built a career as two of the most prolific designers this industry has to offer. I’m not sure any interview will be able to top that.
Outside of interviews, there was plenty of time for gaming: previews from Eurogamer included Starhawk, Ridge Racer Unbounded and Uncharted: Golden Abyss on the PlayStation Vita; I even managed to review Resistance 3 in time for the game’s release, and worried about Nintendo’s ever-declining share price. Getting home from Eurogamer Expo proved tricky, as some light-fingered Londoner made off with my Oyster wallet, which had my train ticket home inside. Virgin Trains were not sympathetic, and it was only after an intense Twitter campaign and the support of some amazing followers that I was able to get home - you can read the entire saga here.
Outside of all of this excitement, I used September to discover The Twilight Zone for the first time, tell the entirety of Facebook to cheer the fuck up and try some excellent coffee from the guys at Loading in Falmouth.
October was, thankfully, a little quieter. Steve Jobs’ passing was given the appropriate attention and respect and I prepared a smorgasbord of reviews: Nicholas Lovell’s GamesBrief Unplugged Volume 2 (the review of which was later republished on his website); Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, which I called “a treasure trove of storytelling”; and RAGE, which I had to borrow an Xbox 360 for a week to review. I even found time to whinge about games and gamers alike, criticising Arkham City’s not-so-online Online Pass and those who treated Battlefield 3’s stress test beta like a demo representative of the final game.
I also, perhaps less notably, completed two 12 hour Rock Band drumming sessions, raising more than £800 for Edinburgh Sick Kids, who I also delivered a Rock Band drum set and some games to later that month for them to give away in a raffle later in the year; the raffle raised £1,300. After all that, I even found time to swear never to take a camera to a gig ever again. The unfortunate death of Stuart Walker, a man found burned to death on a lampost who just happened to be gay, prompted immediate calls from all sides that the killing was homophobic; I argued that jumping to that conclusion was probably homophobic in itself and so far, nothing has suggested the killing was motivated in any such way.
As November rolled around, my book was published. Global Game Jam: 48 Hours of Programming, Persistence and Pizza at Scottish Game Jam hit the figurative shelves of Amazon and its Kindle Store at the start of November. With the help of an elevator pitch of the book on here and pushing on Twitter, sales so far have been pretty steady: as far as I’m concerned, if it’s selling at all, I’m happy.
The Christmas deluge of games began too this month, and I found myself reviewing the so-so Medieval Moves, the terrible Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One and the equally bad (but ultimately disappointing) Need For Speed: The Run; if it’s any comfort, the review notes for NFS were pretty great. I also managed to get myself hounded out of an independent games store for daring to question their lenient attitude to game release dates, documented my first hands-on with Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, defended a game writer’s right to not give Zelda an automatic perfect score and talked to a camera about Grand Theft Auto V for a few minutes.
My inner music hound even got a few minutes at the helm of my fingers, tapping out pieces on the true purposes and best uses of both last.fm and Spotify; the former an exercise in extending your internet phallus, and the latter a music discovery service more than it is a channel to free songs.
As December rolled around, the final big steps of the year were taken. At the start of the month, I announced my departure from Sarcastic Gamer: the circumstances are unwritten and complicated, and will remain this way as long as I see fit. Outside of courting minor shock from my 2 entire superfans, I found time to write up my thoughts on the death of sarcasm (puns related to recent personal events should be kept to yourself), beg the transport network of the UK not to quiver at the sight of snow (they didn’t) as well as ponder the nature of the console fanboy and the average attention-seeking internet user - the outlook isn’t looking great.
Global Game Jam continues to sell and TheSixthAxis gave the book a strong write-up, along with some other gaming sites and Amazon users, as detailed here. The road to writing the book, while not detailed in the writing above and in the previous post, was a long and tricky one which took a lot of staying power, dedication and not getting distracted by the internet every five minutes. But finishing a book and having it published is ultimately extremely rewarding; my next goal is to have one published without pictures in, so it can be read by big people too.
As I sign off from 2011, I’m sort of worried for what 2012 might hold. With writing gigs at 7 Bit Arcade and hopefully more to come, I’ll be kept busy in front of the keyboard, but whether it will measure up to the bombastic explosion of awesome that has been this year remains to be seen. I suppose I’ll have to give 2012 the benefit of the doubt for now - at least I can look back and say this year has been the best I’ve lived yet.
Have a good New Year.