Until I actually looked back, I hadn’t realized quite how much distance I’d covered in 2014. It’s been an eventful year, and some recent events loom so large that articles I’d written even as recently as 5 months ago now seem almost something from another era. What follows, then, is a brief recap of (almost) everything I wrote that was published somewhere other than Upstreamist this year.
Two years ago, a list like this wouldn’t have made much sense. I was writing and publishing a great deal more at the time, but it was one-stop shopping, nearly all of it appearing on my own site, Culture Ramp. I didn’t really start picking up freelance work until after I shuttered CR in early 2013. Unwinnable EIC Stu Horvath gave me my first consistent work, writing for a short-lived geek culture collection on Medium, and I was still contributing there when Stu put it to rest early this year. That’s where you’ll find “Our Story So Far…“, a background piece on FX’s underrated Justified that takes as its starting point events in Ulster, Ireland 400 years before the first episode. “Instructions For Play” looks at one of The Lego Movie‘s greatest strengths, its moral’s accessibility to children. And in “Gangsters and Wolves” (an essay that received pathetically few readers for the amount of time and effort I put into it), I analyzed the shape and development of the narrative form common to three of Martin Scorsese’s best known and most ambitious films.
I wrote a number of articles about the culture of technology for The Daily Dot. In “Is Twitter eroding critics’ credibility?” I looked at a possible misuse of social media for marketing purposes. “Open Source and the Big Data dilemma” detailed the ways in which the adoption of personal devices like the smartphone have upended our perceptions of ethical tech. “Candy Crush is everything that is wrong with trademark law” criticizes King’s predatory use of dubious trademarks over the words “candy” and “saga.” I turned my attention to Google’s already nearly forgotten Glass device for “The trouble with marketing niche products to average consumers.” I explained “Why you should be concerned about Russia’s Facebook.” Hint: It has to do with who owns the platforms we use to communicate. I took a skeptical view in “Virtual Reality is poised to be a technological triumph—and a commercial flop.” I compared the sometimes beautiful geometry of herd movements to “The search of the next big tech breakthrough.” Shortly thereafter, I accepted a terrific new job, and my freelance writing slowed significantly.
The inaugural year for Unwinnable‘s download-only Weekly ran two of my best game-related pieces from this year. The title of “Marjorie,” contained in issue #4, refers to the 1940s machine that was the inspiration for a meditation on the semantics of pinball. Issue #10 featured “The Myth of Choice,” about the origin myths surrounding the classic Choose Your Own Adventure series, and how they inform our perception of what’s at stake in books with branching narratives. Both stories were accompanied by some fantastic artwork, the former by Chris Martinez and the latter by Amber Harris.
Starting in September, I wrote a string of articles and essays criticizing #GamerGate. The first was “To Fair-Minded Proponents of #GamerGate,” written in response to a series of conversations I had with Gaters on Twitter. That was also the most popular of the lot, currently holding steady at about 83,000 views. The following week, in an Unwinnable post called “We’re Not In That Business,” I interviewed the founding editor of GoodGamers.us, a site that promised to satisfy some of GamerGate’s demands for neutral gaming coverage. I followed that with an essay, “Subjective Virtues,” that never directly references GamerGate, but which was written to outline the alternatives once we admit that actual objectivity is an impractical ideal for journalists to pursue. After that came “The one analogy you need to understand #GamerGate” for The Daily Dot—an unfortunate title, maybe, since the bulk of the article concerns the diversity hidden by the “core gamer” label, rather than about GamerGate directly. More directly focused on GamerGate, “Boycotts and Blockades” outlined the problems with their tactic of contacting advertisers to retaliate for negative coverage on gaming sites. “Censoring and Redacting” unraveled the common claim that GamerGate was a necessary reaction to censorship on the forums of those sites. The bookend was “To the Rest of #GamerGate,” which covered a lot of ground but mostly focused on demonstrating the hollowness of the phenomenons ethical claims.
But enough of that. To end on a more positive note, the October issue of Zoya Street’s consistently interesting journal of gaming and history, Memory Insufficient, included what is certainly the most far-ranging and perhaps the most challenging piece that I wrote this year. “Divining the self: Sortition as a window onto the soul” is the first substantive piece I’ve written on a cluster of themes that I’ve been studying and reading about since the turn of the century. It also cuts close to the core of what I mean when I say that games are capable of doing something fundamentally different from the mediums we’ve traditionally identified as art and literature. Hopefully, “Divining the self” is only the opening salvo, as I expect to return to some of the claims put forth there.
All in all, not a bad year. Thanks to everyone who read and talked about any of these essays. Thanks also to the editors who published them.