A Work In Progress

I think today is the day that I finally made the decision as to what I want to do with this site, and my online writing career (if, indeed, you could call it a “career”).

The truth is, I haven’t really written anything of import since September, though I felt half motivated to change that since then and now. It’s just trickier now than it used to be. I first started as a solo political blogger, not sure where I was going or what I wanted, but positive that in only a year or two I would be this wildly famous voice for… well… for something, that would be for damned sure. That’s not how things happened of course.

I’ll spare you the long and somewhat sordid history of where my journeys in online writing took me. I’ll only say that I’ve been some interesting places (metaphorically), spoke to some interesting people (corresponded is more accurate), and accomplished much I am proud of. Hell, I’ve even pulled in a paycheck for the words I’ve written, something that, two or three years ago, would have been little more than a pipe dream.

And so here I am, 32, and looking at re-kick-starting my writing career again for the umpteenth time. Not much is firm about what this next plunge in the world of words will bring, but I’ve two guidelines, compass needles that I hope steer me true as I make my way to what one hopes is an amenable final destination.

1) When I recommence writing, it will be to a purpose and it will be planned. I’m not foolish enough to think that once my path is selected I will not veer off that path for nothing, but I think I’ve finally learned that if I hope to have any measure of success a plan not be necessary, but at least the general flavor and shape of a plan would be beneficial. All this to say that I’m going to take my time getting ready to start things up again, and when I do, I’m going to do so with a certain amount of deliberation and even caution.

2) I’m going to stick with gamingj. On twitter today, Gamezebo highlighted this NYT article that at least partially informs why independent gaming remains such a cherished passion of mine.

Let’s face it, I’m a product of my generation; video games are the medium that grew up with us. We watched these creations evolve from Pong to Modern Warfare 2. Think about that for a moment. What other medium of creation had so humble of a beginning as pong? Cave drawings were more sophisticated in relation to the Mona Lisa than Pong is to, say, Metroid Prime 3. This was, as I grew from child to adult, the meter of a counter culture. Just as kids before me watched Rock and Roll evolve into Nu Metal and Alternative, or Superman evolve into Spawn and The Maxx, I watched mushroom stomping plumbers evolve into trained tactical espionage experts with reptilian names.

Now, at 32, with a wife and two kids, the Wii sits in my living room as a testament to the possibility, even the probability, that my days as a “hardcore gamer” are over. I’m now, for want of a better word, more casual than hardcore, and more indie than mainstream. Of course, there are still holdovers, tributes to my youth. In betwee Wii Sports Resort and Dance Dance Revolution sit Metroid Prime Trilogy and Dead Space Extraction. Resident Evil 4 and the Umbrella Chronicles stand there defiantly reminding me of when I used to care about frame rates and graphic intensity. About button mashing and feeling the sweat trickle down your forehead as the blood splashes across the screen.

But there’s the kicker. Even though I still have these mainstream titles, 90% of my gaming remains independent. I’ll tell myself that tonight, after the kids go to bed, I’m going to finally beat that tenticle boss at the end of level 6 in Dead Space, but instead I’ll find myself three hours later trying to figure out how to get past the first Epic Boss in Gemcraft Chapter 1. I’ll play my brother-in-law’s Playstation 3, and indeed, the graphics will be gorgeous, but the aesthetic beauty found in the PS3’s titles hardly match in my mind the more metaphysical beauty found in Roehrer’s pixelated offerings. I’ve yet to come across anything in the mainstream that is as deep as Gregory Weir’s Silent Conversations or Bars of Black and White, nothing as just outlandishly freaky as Cactus’s Mondo duet, nor any story at once as heartbreaking or as uplifting as Kyratzes’s House at Desert Bridge.

Within the world of independent gaming there is this lush jungle of textures for the spirit and soul. It’s not just a choice between which kind of badass hero with which kind of badass weapon goes after which kind of badass enemy. There’s depth and sincerity and more often than not an invested effort towards introspection. To this degree, I disagree a bit with the developers talked to in the article linked above. From Blow to Roehrer, they all speak as though there is still this uphill struggle to turn video games into an acceptable forum for the creation of art. In my mind, we’re already there. Okay, sure, you’re not going to see single games being sold in galleries for thousands of dollars, but each medium is different in the way that it defines success. All that matters is that the vehicle is being used to express, to package thoughts and emotions and ideas in powerful ways and subsequently given to the public to experience.

Across all mediums, the creation of art has still this thing in common–the artist creates, expresses herself, and the audience experiences. That’s really all that is necessary, Roger Ebert can go screw himself for all that. Almost two decades ago a virtual god in the world of video game development said the following in an interview:

I think great video games are like favorite playgrounds, places you become attached to and go back to again and again. Wouldn’t it be great to have a whole drawer full of “playgrounds” right at your finger tips?

Mr. Miyamoto’s words have never left me from the moment that I first read them so many years ago. Now, I find that most of my fingertip playgrounds are not shrinkwrapped in plastic on store shelves for 50 bucks a pop; they’re downloadable for chump change, or more often, free online. The swingsets and slides I’ve grown most fond of more often than not can be played right in your browser. When you’ve played some of these titles and seen the blood, sweat, and tears that were poured in until they start to leak out and spill onto you, it’s not hard to see how I’ve grown so passionate about this world of independent gaming.

So yeah, this site will be dedicated to indie games, and casual games, but not yet. Like I said, if I’m going to do this, I intend to do this right, so I’m going to spend some time making sure everything is in place before I do. I have some folks I want to talk to, and some old friends I want to dig up. There’s some organizational stuff I need to handle, but I’m hoping to be in a position to do this thing here sometime early in January. Until then, the only updates I intend to post here are how things are going in working to that goal.

Until then, should you feel the need to catch more of my raves and rants, you can always follow PROTIPZ on the twitterz.

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