January Jollies…

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January was not a busy month; I accepted a new job early on, meaning most of my time was then spent running out remaining assignments prior to the new start. I also collected outstanding interviews for Unlimited Hyperbole‘s next season. Squeezing production in on weekends will cause delays, but Harriet and I are keen to keep the show alive – particularly since this season features several heroes of mine who are too cool to ignore.

Even though I’m not taking on anymore commissions or journalistic work at the moment, it’s likely some of my work will continue to trickle out for the next month or two. I have unpublished pieces still waiting with Custom PC and Gamasutra, for example. I’ll try to cover those as they come out, but in the mean time here’s what I did in January…

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December Dreadlines…

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After 11 months of saying how busy I am, I finally had a quiet month. That’s because I deliberately turned away a lot of work in December so that I could focus on other stuff and have a jolly old Christmas instead. That meant I had time to catch up with old friends, see my nephew and get some decent walking done on the moors. It turns out that some of my friends had even listed to Unlimited Hyperbole – they described it as ‘about as pretentious as I expected of you‘.

Now the quiet period is over though, I’m back in London and working on stuff full time again – which means it’s time to look back on what I did last month, as well as how 2012 went as a whole.

There’ll be minimal grumpiness, I promise.

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October Obligations…

October was busy, because I’m always busy and I wouldn’t have it any other way, etc. I even managed to get out of the house a fair bit, assembling a game of Artemis: The Spaceship Simulator with a bunch of other games journalists and somehow attending the Games Media Awards too, even though I wasn’t nominated.

Oh, yeah. The GMAs. I should probably talk about that.

Understand: I don’t actually want to. I feel like, between them, John and Dan have said everything which needs to be said – but I’m still getting people asking me for my thoughts. In brief they are: Yes, there are problems. No, I did not enter the competitions. Yes, the abuse being thrown around over all this is terrible. Yes, so is the censorship.

Other than that, I’m more interested in actually trying to solve the (very real) problems, rather than talking them to death. To that end I’m working with my some of my editors to outline an informal Code of Conduct for the younger writers we work with to refer to; because if anyone is right about anything in all this then it’s Lewis Denby about everything.

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September Send-off…

September was a busy month, partly because every month is a busy month and partly because it really was the busiest I’ve ever been. Moving house on your first day back from holiday is not recommended; neither is going straight from having moved in to attending the Eurogamer Expo and the string of associated parties.

It should say something about how busy it was that Unlimited Hyperbole has been delayed. I’m hoping to put the first episodes out early this month, but I’m not going to skimp on quality just to meet a self-set and arbitrary deadline. Do it right or don’t do it.

So, sorry about that – especially to the guests who’ve been forced to wait before hearing the final thing.

Apologies and explanations aside though, here’s what else I did this month…

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August Ordeals…

August was a spectacularly busy month, but it was also a rewarding one. It saw me realising a lot of the goals I’d set for myself at the start of the year, such as attending a foreign show as a freelancer and releasing a game. I also met several heroes of mine, got published on another big site and made my Kindle debut.

August was also the month that I ate zebra, alligator, kangaroo and barracuda all in the same bowl.

And that’s just the start too, as a lot of the projects I started or worked on this month are part of larger projects which will trickle into the future. I wrote a script, did some proper investigation and started to formally present some ideas I’ve had about creative industries as a whole.

That stuff is for the future though. Here’s what I did this month.

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June Jobs…

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original”

If May was a difficult month, June was a pleasure. Not only was it the first time in ages that I managed to go 30 days without my personal life exploding in some manner or other, but I also got loads of work done and spent time refining my approach to games in general. 

And there was Unlimited Hyperbole‘s first season, obviously.

One of the highlights however, was Thomas Was Alone, which I just finished playing and which made me happier than any other new game I’ve played in a good while. We need more games like that, I say.

Here’s what else I did in June… Continue reading

May Mayhem…

“If I can give you the words you need it will be a great victory”

May was a difficult month as, again, I spent a large portion of the month away from London, unable to work and caught up in so much family drama that I wasn’t able to even chase new work properly. My output was less than I wanted it to be as a result and the fact that I launched a new podcast didn’t help me focus on paying the bills either.

The good news though is that, by focusing towards the end of the month, I recovered lost ground at the same time as launching the podcast more successfully than I had hoped would be possible. Within two days I’d blown through the download limit for new shows, thanks to simultaneously hitting the front pages of Reddit and SomethingAwful.

But this isn’t the place for talking about Unlimited Hyperbole; this is the place for saying what work I did last month.

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Bit-Gamer.net

I’m tempted to write about one of a half-dozen issues and problems right now, but that would probably be unwise. Instead, I’ll limit myself to saying that Project Incredibleness has been unveiled – Bit-gamer.net.

One of the biggest problems facing bit-gamer at the moment is that nobody has yet defined what it is exactly. Is it a channel, a wholly new site or just a refresh? Really, it’s all of the above. As the person who’s going to be responsible for it in every sense of the word, I think I can safely say that it’s a channel that will, over the next six months, grow into something more. It’s also a rapid branding prototype, which is what corporate types call it when someone has to put a new brand and portfolio together without going through the proper channels. It feels like Bit-Gamer came into life as a result of me running desperately from the photography studio, to the sales team and then to Jamie’s desk, begging for favours. Thankfully, everyone I asked is a lot more competent than I am, especially Jamie, Jenny and Danny.

Part of the way I’m going to grow Bit-Gamer straight away is through competitions; lots of them. I’ve got shed loads of gear to giveaway from some of the publishers who’ve supported Bit-Tech the most in the past, such as EA, Paradox and CD Projekt, and the competitions will be running weekly. You can keep up best by following @Bit_gamer on Twitter, where I’ll also be handing out stuff through quick-fire competitions.

My links are below and it’s an odd assortment this week.

In other news, I finally collated together some of my ideas about Canticle for Leibowitz, which I finished reading not long ago. It’s a good book, but I think it’s wounded by the epic scope it tries to rush into towards the end and the predictability of how the plot unfolds. Dan Gril told me not long ago that he loved the book because it wasn’t afraid to murder off main characters, but it struck me that that tactic is only really effective if you’re telling a story that drives itself forward on the characters. Miller doesn’t do that. Instead, he focuses on the era of each sub-book, bringing in little mysteries and bits of backstory to make each interesting. It’s not the characters that are important, at all – so, when they die, it doesn’t feel like a big loss. I never invested in Character A, so when he was very abruptly murdered, I was quick to recover.

Here are things by other people, some old, some ours.

The only other links worth sharing at the moment are my favourite bit-gamer articles of the year, which I singled out in another post somewhere else earlier this week. My favourite of my own was the Fabled Lands: The MMO That Never Was feature. My favourite by someone else was Craig Lager’s The Price of Neptune’s Pride.

Out.

Backseat Gaming…

Backseat gaming; the act of sitting behind someone playing a game and just watching them and giving advice, is one of the things I love most about playing computer games. I love doing it and I love it when people do it to me and there’s a long, long list of games I’ve had my enjoyment of increased by the addition of a second or third party.

The oldest example that springs to mind is probably Cryo Interactive’s Dune/Bloodwych on the Amiga A500+, which my Dad used to play late at night when my Mum had gone to bed, letting me and my brother stay up late to watch him. I remember I kept a long list of all the different sietches in Dune in a notepad – such was my fascination with the sandy world on the other side of the screen. At breakfast I would get my Dad to tell me of how the adventure continued after I had finally gone to sleep and he’d fill me in as he got us ready for school like some sort of absent-minded, domesticated bard.

Duke Nukem 3D was another one I enjoyed with my brother and some friend; four of us swapping places depending on what skills were required. One for shooting, one for solving puzzles, one for something else and me, the secret finding guy. It was all very similar to how I enjoyed Serious Sam at University, my girlfriend and best friend sat on my bed behind me and laughing along as I gunned down the masses.

Unsurprisingly, Monkey Island was a big part of my backseat gaming history too. My brother would sit on the floor and watch me solve the games. Years later, in the same albeit redecorated room I’d watch him play Half-Life 2 through to Half-Life: Episode 2 even though I had finished them years before. It was part of some vague effort to recapture that earlier joy and slightly-rotted friendship.

Now, I’m doing the same thing with Mass Effect 2 and loving it. My girlfriend sits behind me as I play, loving the stories and asking questions about the fiction. I consult her on difficult quest choices and she obligingly does all the mini-games for me. It really is the best way to enjoy playing a game, in my opinion.

Also, I joined twitter – @Joethreepwood -, recorded two new gaming podcasts – one and two -, and have a nice little plan for something cool to do on bit-tech.net in the future. I also wrote a Mass Effect 2 review and did an interview with TIGA founder Jason Kingsley.

Joe, Out.