Yet another new gaming blog!

Hey-dee-ho

I think a key reason for the stop-start nature of this blog, in addition to several other much more valid but less humorous reasons, is my commitment to opening every post with a pseudo-conversational opening. ‘Hello’. ‘Hi’. ‘What’s up fothermuckers?’ None of these actually fill the role of being conversational, as that would require multiple conversing parties, and the closest thing we can get to equal discourse on the Internet is the one-sided, I-write-a-big-long-post-and-you-write-a-tiny-comment mechanic that has dogged YouTubers for over a decade now. But persist I shall, writing as if I’m speaking, and communicating as if there’s someone there to communicate to.

And communicate I shall, for I have embarked upon yet another gaming writing project. Tentatively titled Dodge Rolls & Determination – bonus points if you can identify which game series those mechanics come from – this blog covers sports strategy games, and dives into the nuts and bolts of their mechanics, rather than the loftier, more artistic approach to games I’m taking over on The Game Shelf and in my impending Skyrim dissertation.

Speaking of The Game Shelf, briefly, that is still very much a thing, although it is going through a rough patch as I’ve been struck by creative lethargy (one of the previously-mentioned ‘valid’ reasons for the lack of updates on this blog). I plan to combine the two projects in a monthly ‘here’s an interesting game mechanic’ piece on The Game Shelf, and leave Dodge Rolls & Determination for more in-depth and frequent trips to the GameFAQs pages of obscure RPGs; seriously, my first post – an introduction to the races of Bloodbowl 2 – pushed 4,000 words.

The reason that I have a shiny new blue-backgrounded site for these latest gaming ramblings is that I’ve become much more interested in the mechanics of game and game design lately, rather than my initial focus on ‘games as art’. Oddly enough this started last month as I watched several Let’s Plays of crappy noughties Sonic games, and I started to think on what makes a good game; how are the levels designed, how is plot presented, how is the player made to care about the characters and worlds of the game. These are more functional questions than ‘Is the opening of Super Mario Sunshine a feminist battle-cry?’, and ones I’m currently more interested in answering; I also feel like these questions are fundamentally different to the more artistic ones that float around on The Game Shelf. The subject matter – games – may be the same, but how they are engaged with is a totally different process; a thesis on the content of a Dickens novel will be entirely different to a thesis on nineteenth-century book-binding and distribution methods.

I’m becoming increasingly aware that, for better or worse, games are my thing. They’re the medium I feel most drawn to, the subculture I find myself most at home within, and the world that is accessible to the point of copyright-infringing democracy. But with great certainty comes great uncertainty, and I’m still not sure how I want to contribute to this growing world: do I want to be a gaming academic, preaching in lecture halls about queer theory in JRPGs; or a reviewer providing a service that is part-political, part-informative to gamers around the world; or even a gamer myself, making guides and tutorials, competing in tournaments and having a more personal connection to the games I play.

In all likelihood, I’ll settle for a tedious office job somewhere near a particularly shite part of Edgware and write game reviews on a half-arsed-looking blog when I’m in my forties and get a spare weekend. But that’ll be a source of delight few people will be able to lay claim to, and I’d love to live such a life; in the meantime, I’ll keep playing, writing, and badgering you to retweet my articles.

– Casey

Practice essays

It burns.

Oh, it burns.

Hello mortals,

I’m of course referring to my hand, my hope, and my dreams of getting anything other than a 41% ‘you’re just barely intelligent enough to be here’ mark. Because today I did a practice paper – timed, no less – and I have unleashed a terrible curse upon myself.

The curse of knowing exactly, and in the precise ways, that I’m going to fail these exams. Ignorance may not have been bliss, but a few weeks ago I could shunt all my doubts and feelings of insecurities over the effectiveness of my revision as a problem for Future Casey. But now Future Casey is here, and ruing the day Past Casey shoved their problems down the pipeline.

I’m exaggerating, of course. The essays weren’t great, but they were very good in places, and knowing one’s weaknesses in detail is always preferable to stumbling about in the dark like a mole playing pin the tail on the donkey in a particularly ill-conceived addition to the games list of the Sylvanian Families cross-species birthday party.

I now have a more solid platform to work from than I did before, and I feel like I’ve done some good work today, which is very useful for me when I flip between shattering insecurity and chirpy optimism on an hourly basis.

I’ll just have to work on strengthening my wrist and fingers over the next few weeks.

I still want to do all the things

Hello once again,

I have too much to do and not enough time to do it in, a somewhat ironic statement considering churning out a 400-word blog post apparently takes me upwards of a week these days.

For instance, this summer I want to, in no particular order, finally finish my novel, get a job, massively expand The Game Shelf, complete literally all of my third-year uni work before September, save money, buy about £400 worth of clothes, get bigger and stronger for football, get more toned and agile for karate, get thinner and curvier to fit into dresses, see my parents, not move home and beat the entirety of Skyrim for my dissertation. One of those things is worth a summer project, and it’s insane to expect myself to do all of those, especially considering some of them are mutually exclusive.

But here’s the thing: I refuse to appreciate the idiocy of such a to-do list, and refuse to prioritise the things on it. I won’t cut anything from the list because that would be accepting that some tasks, and by extension some people, are less important than others. Of course, some are more important than others, but I’m not mentally tough enough to dismiss, say, the getting stronger for football thing, because it’ll make life harder for my teammates.

I’ll just shoot for everything and complete nothing in the time-honoured style.

Which sounds like I’m barreling towards disaster – in the past this has led to tragedy after tragedy – but I’m fairly relaxed about getting all of these done. Just maybe not this summer.

I’ve been seeing the end of my degree as the end of my life for too long now, and that’s not really a helpful perspective; when I graduate I won’t be some shrivelled, physically and mentally exhausted shell, but a 21-year-old with a solid CV and a thousand and one interests. While university provides a framework for a lot of these interests to take shape – classes help me make friends, sports clubs help me keep fit, societies and magazines help me write – the removal of uni won’t remove those things altogether. There’s a pretty good dodgeball club in London I could play for when I graduate, for instance, and I can’t be the only person who like writing about games in this city.

So I won’t get a great body, loads of money and flexible groins all in one Summer. But I won’t have to.

Creative Slumps

Hello once again,

Yes, I’m still here. I’m trying not to flip between the two extremes of writing every day to writing on no days, so I’m writing a post about feeling unable to write while feeling unable to write.

Writer’s block, creative slumps, written fatigue, whatever the Hell we want to call it, it’s a phenomenon that’s affected everyone to put pen to paper and keystrokes to screens, so I doubt I have anything particularly new to add to this discussion.

But one relatively original aspect of this literary lethargy is how it’s affected so many aspects of my life. When I was younger, writing was my escape from the mundanity and relentless boredom of school, where subjects like maths and science, at the GCSE level, encouraged blind fact-learning, rather than creative thought. Writing was never boring, it was always the thing I did for fun.

A few years later, when I started blogging and writing some journalistic pieces for the ultra-serious world of student magazines, writing occupied this weird middle ground of being a big enough part of my life that I could be burned out, but not quite big enough that I could ever fully get into it. I still had to study, and go to work, and figure out how the hell to cook vegan meals.

Now, writing is edging towards being the one big thing in my life, encompassing The Game Shelf, a dozen university magazines, social media and my novel that I’m actually still working on; but the weights of university are still there. I can’t abandon studying entirely because I’m still a student.

This is where problems arise; as I encounter the creative slumps all writers do, this has a knock-on effect on both the platforms I write for, and my life outside of writing. First, if I’m struggling to get a match report out, it knocks my ability to write fiction, or blog posts, or Game Shelf pieces, and slowly all of these mechanisms grind to a halt. Then, my studies suffer as I settle into feeling stressed that I can’t write, and angry that I’ve not written, and afraid that I won’t be able to write in the future. Writing is a big deal for me, and now it’s starting to play with my emotions too.

Obviously, this can be dangerous, but I’m also having the most fun I’ve ever had with my work. I write for a magazine that is mine, and that I’m insanely proud of; every dumb tweet and dodgeball email brings me closer to my preferred, and even likely, career of juggling a few social media posts while working on novels in my spare time. There are structures in place – The Game Shelf, my social media roles on societies – that provide exactly the backbone and linear progression that I’ve personally lacked for years, and that many ‘creative’ people lack in general. Things are starting to fall into place, dragging my mood along with it; when I’m down it sucks for me, and the poor bastards I call friends who have to put up with me, but it’s totally worth it.

Hopefully I’ll snap out of this soon and start writing regularly again.

Until then,
Casey

*touch*

Hello all,

I like touching things.

Ahem.

I was making some notes on poetry today, and these were annotation-type notes, colourful scribbles and circles dragged across a page of verse. I’ve not made these kinds of notes since year thirteen, when we’d be given a big anthology of poetry and be expected to trawl through it for the exam like searching for a needle in a stack of slightly larger and more painful needles.

University, however, appears to not believe in anthologies as a general rule. All my other notes on verse have been made on lined paper, which requires the painstaking process of writing-out quotes of value rather than simply underlining them. There’s also the far less important point that having the poem printed in front of you makes it easier to get a handle on the geography of the poem, but it’s mostly the I-can’t-be-bothered-to-copy out quotes thing.

Most of the work at uni is conducted on computers, as is to be expected in this century. But there’s a glaring lack of tangible resources, and using them is often unweildly, or just difficult: handouts might be printed out for your convenience, but you’ll probably just be directed to some dark, unnavigable corner of Moodle instead; seminars take on a weirdly Wall-E-esque feel as students peer over the tops of their laptops to register the existence of their peers, before scuttling back behind their screens to their Word documents and Football Manager windows. And this isn’t a holier-than-thou boast (honest), as I do it too; this is merely an observation that for a course that was, until say twenty years ago, conducted almost entirely on paper, it’s alarming how quickly such tangible media have been phased out.

The obvious exception to this is the library, a wealth of ideas and confusing Middle English verse printed on actual sheets that one can touch and spill coffee over and attempt to sneak back to the reshelving box without alerting the nearest librarian to the new caffeinated aroma emanating from them. Honestly, one of the reasons that I love the library isn’t that it’s quiet or “feels” like the place to do work, but that it’s a place of learning being literally at your fingertips, rather than everything being wrapped up in the ether of the Internet. I love the Internet, but it always feels more random and spontaneous than reading a book with a single topic, written by someone with a particular goal in mind.

Also, places like libraries remind me of my Sixth Form days, when I was at my most focused and academically productive.

I think that’s why I prefer some artistic media to others. Painting is fun, but I’m less interested in that because the intellectual and artistic merits of it can be somewhat diluted by the fact that you’re gonna hang that painting behind some glass in a corridor somewhere and only use it to show your acquantances how bloody cultured you are. Meanwhile, books are a thing that must be held, and manipulated with the hands; there’s even a certain amount of challenge in deriving meaning from a book, as ideas must be interpreted and, in some cases, language deciphered to get to the heart of the piece. It’s no surprise that my favourite medium, therefore, is the video game, a form that demands engagement from the audience to reveal its secrets, and is entirely meritocratic in its approach; if you want to fully understand what Golden Sun has to teach us about perspective, you’ve got to play both games in their entirety yourself.

While the information era has brought far more advantages than disadvantages – not least the practical concern that if we print much more crap on physical paper there will literally be zero trees left on the planet – there’s something about physical media that excites me. It might be the nostalgia of reading books as a kid before the Internet was really a thing that children had access to, or my scholarly ideal of sitting in an office, drowning in Old Icelandic manuscripts and Skyrim players’ guides.

Either way, I got to hold my latest seminar prep in my hands, and it felt great.

Casey

Lethargic weeks

Heyho,

It’s one of those weeks. One of those endless spans of days that are either full of events but totally tedious, or packed with free time yet still manages to be unproductive.

Take my current essay, for example; in theory, it’s a romp through Norse mythology and my first foray into a topic my tutor is a world expert in and I want to study for my dissertation, but in practice it’s bleh. I feel stodgy and lethargic and just unmotivated, which are all perfectly normal feelings, they’re just happening at a rather odd time.

This week ought to be one of renewal and energy; I’ve started blogging again, I’ve had more ideas than ever for The Game Shelf, and as summer approaches I’m thinking more and more about my dissertation and internships to occupy myself with for the four months between classes. But now I just feel burned out.

It’s probably months of studying and writing taking their toll, as often happens; and while it may be advantageous to start dramatically amplifying my workload in anticipation of the coming exams, I often have a lull just before easter. There’s no point flogging yourself to climb a mountain if you’ve not made camp in eons.

Sadly, my triumphant return to the world of blogging has been rather hamstrung by this; I don’t feel like writing anything particularly inspiring (if ever I do), and I’m still finding a balance between personal posts and oversharing, and comedic pieces and just taking the piss like a dick.

I’ll get over it the way I get over all of such weeks – playing half-decent PS4 games and eating a load of chips – but it’s somewhat annoying that my optimism and excitement at the start of the week for various projects hasn’t translated to actual work towards those projects.

At least not yet.

Casey

Hello again

Hey you,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Well, a while for some of you maybe; others of you might be totally new to this whole experience, in which case welcome! I hope you enjoy what you see.

This first post, however, is directed mainly at the people who followed my last blog, and my real-life friends, because I’ve been seeing you guys for months, after all. As some of you will know, a lot has, and a lot hasn’t, happened in the last few months, and I’ve been personally and mentally all over the place.

And that’s not really cleared up, nor do I expect it to ever fully resolve itself; I’m stressed and afraid and upset as byproducts of my more colourful, varied and wonderful life, and I think it’s worth taking a few afternoons of sadness for the longer periods of joy and great company. So I’m not too beat up about it; my life has changed, and my old blog wasn’t really an appropriate platform any more.

It was too bitchy, too full of knee-jerk reaction posts, and instances of me exaggerating a particular pet peeve into an unnecessary assault on groups of people or, in some cases, poor individuals I was too afraid to name, and too afraid to confront in real life. I started that blog to have a daily creative outlet, but as I took on other, more enjoyable creative projects, that blog shifted to be a daily spiteful outlet, a platform for me to rattle my sabre against all the things that I was too afraid, or too weak, to take on personally. And that’s not a very healthy use of an artistic platform, and it’s certainly not a very healthy use of my mind.

So this blog will be different. And not just cosmetically different – the selfies and white background aren’t just the ‘good’ to the snide grins and black borders that made up the ‘evil’ old blog – but different in a more fundamental way. I realise now – after eighteen months of almost daily oversharing on the Internet – that human beings are built to be social creatures, but social creatures with boundaries. And opening up some of my deepest fears and most harmful gut reactions to the world, as I did on that last blog, can be a very destructive thing; I’d write a post about how medics are bastards, then wonder why my medic friends hadn’t spoken to me in a week; I’d not said anything to them in person, but they’d all seen the post where I called them awful things, and I didn’t even realise.

Eventually, this took its toll; I ended up being stretched between people I engaged with in real life, and online. I wasn’t sure who I’d complimented or offended, and on what platform, and what my current conversation partner did or didn’t know about me. I almost had to juggle two identities – a raw online persona and a restrained personal one – that left me socially paralysed and generally afraid of human contact, all while pouring more and more personal details into people’s minds through that blog. It was a weird disconnect of oversharing, yet feeling like I had no-one to talk to; and it has been a factor, though not the only factor, in my recent bouts of feeling awful for nothing in particular.

So this blog will be different. Cleaner. More professional. Yet still personal. Think a poet who puts slightly more personal details into their work than their colleagues, rather than a random person who starts describing their preferred sexual techniques in limericks, and bellows them to the world.

On this site I intend to tell you who I am, and what I think, but not how I think, and why I think that. Obviously, these are related terms, and I’ll probably overstep the line somewhere, but that’s the plan at least.

And, just to make it explicit, I’d like to apologise to anyone I’ve offended, annoyed or spoken about when inappropriate in the last eighteen months. It was wrong of me – I could kinda tell that at the time – but it took me three months away from WordPress and a lot of reflection to start acting on it. If you were one of those people, and you’re still reading my stuff, thank you for the second, or third, fourth, fifth, chance.

And to everyone else, welcome.

Hope we get on,
Casey