The Preamble that Became a Post

There are a lot of things I’d like to create. Honestly, it has never been for lack of inspiration that my pages go silent. More often than not, it’s about time and energy. To do this kind of work without pay, on a weekly basis, simply for the love of the material, requires a lot of faith in yourself. It’s a serious commitment, for you and your reader. I feel like I owe you a little bit of myself when I sit down to write. You could go literally anywhere to read about media, but you came here this time. Maybe you subscribed. That’s not a legal obligation; that’s a covenant. It means that I’ve got to do my best to output something worth reading. I don’t always know what “worth reading” means.

The reason I started with this unsolicited exposition vomit is that I didn’t post last week. Yeah, I had the time, but I didn’t feel like I could create anything of worth. I had a serious existential crisis as a writer. I’m not always sure what it means to create something of value, nor am I sure that I’m up to the task. Last week, I wrote something that I believed in whole-heartedly. I sat on it for a day, then posted it. Afterwards, I took it down, because it would have just been adding to a mucked-up situation. I felt like that wasn’t the purpose of my writing. I would be doing a disservice. That left me with a host of inconvenient questions for myself. What is value? Has anything you’ve ever created added to the world? If you believed in something you wrote, then why did you take it down? Doesn’t that perforate the layer of authenticity you try to ladle onto your work?

Who are you if you aren’t willing to stand by the beliefs represented in your work? Who are you that you think your beliefs are worth inflicting on your readers?

These two questions butt heads constantly. I know there are legitimate, valid answers to both of them. I know that there are many perspectives to look at this with. It doesn’t change how I feel in a moment, though. My breath catches in my throat and everything I’ve ever written is laid bare before my mind’s eye. A single question burns itself into my being:

“WTF?”

So, yeah, I had to get my shit together. I also started working in earnest on a few projects I’ve had in the wings for a bit. Don’t expect to see anything of them for a while, but still, it’s cool to get started. I critique a lot of hard work by a lot of brilliant people. I couldn’t replicate or improve upon any of it directly. I’m an end-user, sitting at the ankles of God, going, “Yeah, but carbon nano-tubing would make a way better skeleton.” I’m honestly a bit oblivious to how much of the programming works or how the detailed, layered art-styles are rendered. I’m not privy to all the processes of every game-writer or the necessities of behemoth developing companies in which the writers don’t know the level designers. I like to make fun of studios like Bungie and BioWare, but I truly admire their work. There are a billion-billion possible things that this many people working together could create. Some of them nothing more than foetid effluvia. Others, great and terrible tools of creative destruction.

My point is that they reach into this aether and pluck, from nothing, an experience. Then, they deliver that experience to us. Through so much red-tape and bullshit, they make something that shines with its own tender palette. Its own flushed cheeks and micro-grins. Its own life. The life it took from them in its creation.

I just want to acknowledge that before we get to the meat of this article, World War Z, because I admire what they were trying to do and the challenge they had in doing it. If you read World War Z, then you’ll know how brilliant it is. It’s not perfect or revolutionary, but it’s so good. For a zombie book, it might actually be revolutionary. Zombie-anythings have got their own… tropes. I’m honestly a bit sick of it. I play survival horror games a lot (in case you didn’t know >.>), so I fight a lot of zombies. Or half-zombies. Or ghost-zombies. Or fast zombies. Shambling grotesqueries make up the bread and splatter of my everyday gaming experience. It gets tiresome, especially when you’ve seen them used so effectively at times and not at others.

Imagine walking to the store and buying a really fresh batch of grapes.  You get them home, maybe sneak a few on the way by widening one of those tiny holes in the plastic bag, wash them off and chow down. Sure, it tastes nothing like “grape,” but it’s delicious and refreshing. Then, you realize that while you were away, a vagrant wandered into your home and broke out the scented markers. Seeing you enjoy those grapes so much inspired the vagrant to draw a beautiful picture of a bunch of grapes. Or, perhaps purple swirls would be a more apt description. Either way, you don’t feel like offending the individual and decide to eat some of the grapes. Yeah, they look like grapes. They smell like grapes (a bit). But, the vagrant has missed something in the cre-grape-tion process. There are subtleties to Grapes Classic that just aren’t being captured by this representation, even though it was drawn with a prime resource (smelly markers) and crafted with care.

That’s basically what playing a badly put-together game with zombies in it feels like. It’s like, “Shit! You need something to shoot at? Umm… how about zombies? They’re a lot like the human models we have already, but we can paint them with ketchup!” At the end of this pre-amble, I guess I could say that that’s what I came away with. I can’t always tell you how I think a game should be improved. I can’t always say why I like it. I can’t do what those game developers are doing right now. All I can do is endeavour to be honest, be thoughtful and improve.

Shit, this pre-amble is like a thousand words in. Okay, I’m going to post this as its own thing, then get right into it for World War Z. That way, if you’d like to read the pre-amble, you can, but readers won’t have to go through a thousand words of pre-amble to get to the post I said I was writing.

Cheers!

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