a funny thing happened to me on the way to the blog

Hi there! Ya miss me? I’ve missed writing here. Here’s the big irony: I haven’t been a “gamer” for very long, and I’m running a network of gaming sites and podcasts. Odd, right?

A couple weeks ago, my partner and co-founder of the Games Are Evil and The Portable Gamer websites emailed me and said he needed to move on. Aside from the obvious reaction (how the hell do I do all this on my own?!?!?!?), I’m glad for Jason, and I notice that he’s getting back on track as the main driving force behind Insomnia Radio. I wish him all the best.

But now, here I am, running some serious sites, with serious traffic, serious growth potential, and serious staff. I’ve got Wii, PS3, Xbox 360, PSP, DS and iPhone games to solicit from developers and get to staff reviewers. I’ve got advertisers to network with, publishers to notify when game reviews go live, news to cover and website issues to deal with, graphics, layouts, CSS, plugins, posts, updates, and the like.

For the past week, I’ve gotten a new game in the mail every day. I’ve sent tons of email to publishers, developers, and staff members. I’ve mailed out a game daily, as well, and provided promo codes across platforms. I track each and every transaction in a spreadsheet, using google docs and google email for domains.

Suddenly, I’m the guy with the podcast cred on the team, as well. I can do audio, use GarageBand, tag stuff, upload stuff, post stuff. Make sure it all works across Feedburner and iTunes. Then promote it all, on twitter, reddit, digg, etc.

I have a staff of 22 writers, 4 of whom are editors. I’ve got one guy per site to run things and make stuff go when I can’t be directly involved. You know, like when I sleep. Carter and Cory do an AWESOME job of keeping the reviews flowing, the news posting, and the random volunteer staff happy. Two other folks fill out the editorial staff, but aren’t quite as confident as my two main dudes, so there’s a lot of gentle and not so gentle prodding and requesting.

That leaves 18 folks to do the reviewing and the writing. You’d think that getting free games would be a motivator to keep writing. It’s not. Getting free games that writers WANT seems to be the secret. An iPhone game review of a $.99 game is also fairly different than even a $20 DS game, let alone a full on triple A title for the big consoles, which tend to come in at $60 a pop. We have some folks who can write iPhone reviews like a machine, and folks that write an amazing review of a big game, then disappear from the email for weeks at a time. Meanwhile, we’re getting games in, games that need to go out to be reviewed. I can’t review them all on my own. No sir.

So I’m rushing around, spending far more of my time off from being an education technologist on the internet instead of outside in the sunshine with my family, and my wife asks, “so, why do you do this?”

And that stopped me. Why DO I do this? Why not go back to the guy who had one console and a PSP, content to play through games because they were fun, not because he needs to get enough info to fairly review it? It’s a question I’ll still continue to answer, I hope, here in this blog as I help create the network of sites and podcasts that The Games Are Evil comprises.

For now, though, my immediate answer was, “It’s a ton. Of. Fun.” Because it is. I’m learning about games, how they work, what makes them compelling. I’m learning about the many consoles and their strengths and weaknesses as platforms. I’m playing games I get for free in return for a few hundred to a thousand words written on the internet. I’m learning all about advertising, how it works and new terminology. I’m checking site stats and finding new ways to reach our readers and find new readers and make them all come back a second, third, hundredth time.

I’m involved in one of the big cultural shifts of our time. Film is a grand old daddy compared to television, but even that is old-guard compared to video games. Gaming accounts for more and more time and money spent by our current and future leaders and every day folk. Why is it that a large group of people would rather spend their time in alternate worlds, playing games? What sweet ambrosia is created by the fusion of social gaming, high definition graphics and sound, and a controller nestled in our hands?

I’m getting to be a part of all this. I’m getting to not only contribute to, but help steer the discussion, in my own small way. That’s why I do this. That, and hopefully help folks find intelligence and connection among the bits and bytes of the internet and gaming journalism.

I’ll write more on this soon, but as my role changes in this wild ride, I thought it important to mention it, as well as begin to reflect on what that new role means to me as a gamer, a writer, a business person, and a human being. Thanks for listening along. Now it’s your turn to contribute, in the comments below.


Our Unique Perspective


Its very possible that the meaning I derive from these images is quite different from the meaning others derive, and Im not prepared to accept the idea that this difference is proof of my enlightened social consciousness versus someone elses ignorance or self-delusion.
–Michael Abbot, The Brainy Gamer

You can be right…or you can be married.
Brett R Williams, psychotherapist

You’re no doubt wondering what these two quotes have to do with anything. *I* think that they really have something to do with everything. Let me back up.

A lot of the discussion that I see on the intertubes is centered around who has the correct interpretation of a given news item, game review score, or …well, anything really. It’s in our nature, I think, to want to convince others of how our view point is just that much more correct than theirs. I don’t see anything wrong with that, specifically.

I do have a problem with what seems to be the common battle tactic: tear down the other perspective as being “unenlightened,” “moronic,” “ignorant,” etc. I believe that it was the current Dalai Llama who said something to the effect of everyone is working from their own best set of beliefs, experiences and ideals. Now those ideals, beliefs, and experiences will necessarily be personal and unique to each individual.

The other thing I believe we humans (of which gamers are a subset – grin) do, is try to feel a sense of belonging. I know I fall into this trap occasionally. We want to believe that because the folks around us in our tribe have similar likes, dislikes and interests that their point of view will necessarily be like ours. This isn’t always so. The cognitive frission that results from an assumption of likeness with the reality of unique perspective can erupt most painfully sometimes when we disagree, and begin to use our tactic of tearing the other viewpoint down.

None of us is capable, in my opinion, of truly understanding the unique perspective we each bring to the gaming world. As writers and journalists (not always the same thing, in my view), we tend to be able to express subtle thoughts and ideas, and we get caught up in arguments over shadings of meanings that would make little sense outside this particular circle.

It’s important to me, in my own blogging and journalist activities, to remember to include as many perspectives as possible, and to encourage discussion. It’s the strategy that Michael uses on his blog and in his podcast that most resonates with me, both as a gamer and as a human. Because, after all, isn’t art about what it is to be human? it’s my viewpoint that when the metaphorical aliens from the future come down to see what life is like on Earth, they won’t just be looking at Easter Island, Rembrandt, or Liszt, but video games and other interactive media as well. What we do and enjoy says something about us as humans, as does the way we interact and respect or disrespect each other’s unique viewpoints.

We are all in relationship with each other. Not married, not in long term, intimate connections, but in relationship. And we owe it to each other, from my perspective, to try and let go of our own need to “be right.” Because that values other folks’ perspectives and ideas. What better way to ask for a little understanding by modeling the very behavior we’d most like applied to our own very unique way of being, or weltanschauungen.

I’d like to remind us all to think about this when we’re in the heat of a conversation about something we feel passionate about. The next time someone insults Mario or praises Gears of War 2, we can try and look at it from their point of view. We may need to have a discussion about what makes up that point of view, as well. I think it will enrich us all. Whether we live a life of privilege and relative ease or we experience racism and oppression, we all have something to bring to the conversation. Of course, that’s just my unique perspective. Feel free to discourse in the comments below.