At my family’s New Year’s Eve celebration, as everyone started talking about their resolutions over Irish coffee, I realized that I had left myself with few things to feel resolved about. As work wound down in early December, I had a chance to critique my habits and take steps to improve the flow of life and work. It’s life as a racing game: where am I losing time, and where can I gain an edge? What’s the best line through a workday?
This can be carried too far. One thing I realized is that I lose the most time when I start to fixate on productivity, and dwell on unmet goals. My entire life, I have told myself I need more mental discipline so I can stay on-task. Now I start to think it’s more important to have the discipline to avoid giving free rein to my doubts. Bailing on work to play a game or watch a movie only takes a couple hours out of the day. Panic or frustration can cause a complete unraveling. That accounts for a lot of my fits-and-starts pattern last year.
Even with some missteps, however, last year far exceeded the expectations I laid out at the beginning. I started working for a lot of new outlets, and I branched out into new kinds of work. Hopefully that trend will continue into this year. But if I enjoyed a more successful year in 2010, it was in large measure due to Three Moves Ahead and my friendship with Troy Goodfellow and Julian Murdoch. 3MA and PAX East turned a lot of casual internet acquaintances into dear friends, and neither my work life nor my personal life would be as half as satisfying without them.
I also made it into print last year with Kill Screen. It was a huge honor to contribute, and I’m sure it made my parents very happy to actually see my work on the printed page. Working with Chris Dahlen and Ryan Kuo was eye-opening: they put me through three or four rewrites (and I had more drafts in between) until they were finally satisfied, and that is just not something you find in most places. My father, reading my article in Issue 2, said that he was amazed at how precise my phrasing was, and how neatly the article flowed together, and complimented me on my writing. I had to admit that it was their editing that made me look that good.
It’s also nice to get recognition for your work, and there was a lot of that last year as well. My friends at Gamers With Jobs brought me aboard to do some writing for them, and I got some of the biggest responses of my career after I started writing there. GWJ is a blast: I get some good editing (particularly from Sean Sands and Shawn Andrich) and near-total freedom, and then I get to put my work before a big audience a great group of commenters. The guys at Critical Distance, especially Ben Abraham and Ian Miles Cheong, were also kind enough to spotlight a lot of the stuff here on the blog and over at GWJ, and that definitely helped some of my pieces reach a much bigger audience, as well as gave me confidence that I’m doing worthwhile writing.
So in some ways my goals are modest as I approach the end of my vacation. I have more work now than ever before, and my focus must necessarily shift to quality rather than quantity. This blog is likely to change as more of my games writing ends up elsewhere, but there’s still quite a lot that I’m more comfortably jotting down here than publishing for someone else. No matter what, though, I will probably update it a little less regularly now that I’ve got a lot of commitments elsewhere. But I’ll be more diligent about drawing attention to what I’m up to.
In fact, this would a be a great time to mention that I just published some more thoughts on Civilization V over at GamePro. Civ V has changed a lot with patching, and my views on it have evolved quite a bit from when it was released. But even as I grow to appreciate the design more, I am also realizing why I still prefer the type of Civilization game I grew up with: they had more faith in progress and the future. Civilization V is touched by the pessimism of the present.
Furthermore, if you’re looking for that special belated Christmas gift, you should grab Issue 2 of Kill Screen, where I contributed a story about attempts to use games to teach foreign languages. It’s on sale now, and it’s become much more affordable in the time since it launched. I highly recommend grabbing a subscription.
As much as I’ve enjoyed being back with my family this break, I’ve also never been happier to finish a vacation. I’m excited about what’s next. I’ve been given a great platform over at Gamers With Jobs to practice and hone my skills in front of a big audience and a great community. Look for me to be doing a lot more over there on Tuesdays, because I will be trying to stretch myself once I’m back in the Boston swing of things. There’s a lot of other irons in the fire, a lot of pieces I’m excited about writing and new directions to take my particular brand of criticism. I’ll probably over-reach at times, but that’s the kind of risk I’m looking forward to taking.