Tuesday, December 30, 2014

In Conclusion

It's been a year and a day since I posted anything here, so I figured I'd post something to put a bookend on whatever this blog has meant to me since I started it in 2010.

A year ago Transistor had just hit alpha, so in a lot of ways some of the hardest work was over. I had already been working long days for some time getting my part of the game to that point. Last year was tough but this year proved even tougher overall. The lead-up to Transistor's launch was physically taxing, and the aftermath was emotionally draining, as game launches tend to be -- but for me, more so than usual. While there are a bunch of reasons for that, the simplest is I've never worked on anything for as long as I worked on Transistor. It wasn't in development for a huge amount of time in the grand scheme of things (about 2-and-a-half years), but that's a while for me, especially given my background of web publishing and its very compressed deadlines. I like when things move fast.

I've now had plenty of time to reflect, and can say the experience of having worked on that game changed me both physically and psychologically if not spiritually. It's reinforced to me core truths about myself, about what I'm capable of despite all my self-doubt, and about games. It's caused me to shed about 40 pounds and counting (through a combination of exercise, giving up eating anything I like, and giving up drinking except in situations where it's socially awkward not to). It's filled me with a mix of hope and fear for the future, a good set of feelings overall. Like many people, I attempt to apply narrative tidiness to make sense of life's meaningless turns, and through that lens I feel like I have some closure on a finished chapter.

I also became aware I almost never posted here during Transistor's development. That's less for lack of material and more for lack of conclusions, and I suppose a sense of fear that anything I wrote before the game was out would just make trouble. As the point of this was to be a free-form environment in which I could write whatever I wanted at whim, I realized I had to find another outlet.

Besides, I feel there are more great narrative games now than in years past. The Independent Games Festival now recognizes excellence in narrative among other craft categories. I think game players are discerning about good writing -- they know it when they hear or read it. This year alone there were games like The Banner Saga, 80 Days, Kentucky Route Zero Episode III, The FallWolfenstein: The New Order, and Telltale Games' entire line-up to name a few. While debate continues, and I think will always continue, over whether narrative is necessary or even relevant to games, I think the evidence stands that for a number of games each year, their use of interactive narrative is essential to the lasting positive impressions they create for many players.

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I got into game development because I was interested in speaking through my actions, having spent a long time speaking mostly through words in my previous line of work. It turns out I need the balance. It's important to me to keep writing as part of what I do. Writing for me is a form of exorcism. It's a way of heeding the voice that's never steered me wrong. And now that voice is telling me I ought to wrap this up. Don't be a stranger,