Negative Space

I’ve been feeling a bit paralysed by apathy lately, thinking about how fundamentally unfair it seems that criticising something done wrong tends to get way more attention and press than doing something right in the first place. This thought was brought on by a number of current events, but also specifically by reading over my analytics logs for the past year to date and noticing that the post I did about the Penny Arcade brouhaha back in late January got the most traffic out of any other single blog post, and almost as much traffic as the main Life Flashes By page. When you factor in that LFB took around 1-2 years to complete and the PA post took less than an hour, it starts to feel kind of bleak. [1]

There’s been a bit of mumbling online about game criticism as it relates to making games better (spurring from this post by Dan Cook, though it was a lot more inflammatory before it was edited) and it got me thinking about my own relationship with criticism. I’ve dabbled in critique before, but because I also, as you know, actively participate in actual game development for realz, my desire to critique other people’s work falls by the wayside. That’s a big reason why I haven’t written a lot of in-depth treatises lately on, say, how games handle female protagonists – wouldn’t it be a more positive use of my time to write a game with a female protagonist to whom I can actually relate, myself? Feels like a much quicker path to the intended end result. That is, until you factor in the general laziness of the internet, who have enough time to skim through articles but not quite enough to download and boot up a game. I’m guilty of this myself; there’s always a backlog of games I keep meaning to play but keep putting off. And books and movies and TV shows and you name it, for that matter. So in that sense, it often seems to me that critiques do make more of a difference for way less effort, because at least they’ll actually be seen, particularly if they’re especially provocative.

I guess the main thing I need to remind myself is that, even despite the internet’s short attention span, the things that wind up sticking in the long term are always invariably the positives. People are still downloading and playing my past games; just the other week, I got yet another e-mail from someone who’s just discovered the going-on-a-decade-old Cubert Badbone. That’s kind of neat, if I do say so myself. There really is something to be said about all that “long tail” stuff — we all get to that backlog eventually, don’t we? It’s just so easy to lose sight of that sometimes, amidst all the noise and desire for instant gratification. Know what I’m saying?


  1. Admittedly, I was trying to make somewhat of a positive difference by suggesting conventions or events to go to other than PAX, but it was still primarily motivated by other people’s negative actions.
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