Thursday, July 1, 2010

On Reading and Proofreading

I enjoy reading Kotaku. Whether I agree with the person posting for them or not, they are on top of most of the goings on in games and I have fun commenting on their forums. Two days ago Stephen Totilo of Kotaku wrote about his hesitation to kill buffalo in Red Dead Redemption. I had written of the same hesitance in a post on the 20th of June, so I linked him to my blog to show him my thoughts. I guess I could have copied and pasted it into an email, but I thought it would be fun to send him along to my blog and see what transpired. Much to my chagrin he wrote a Kotaku post about it, with a very large image of a Bison, and at the time of this writing has received over 18,000 hits and nearly 400 comments on the subject. Not the highest Kotaku reading of the day, but on average not too shabby.

It was pretty neat seeing my name on there, and completely unexpected. I had anticipated some kind of email from Stephen, but not a direct quote to my shitty post I wrote when I was very, very tired and on the verge of passing out from sleep deprivation and gaming to all hours of the morning. And in a few ways, maybe this was a bad thing. A lot of the Kotaku readers who shared in their comments were either upset and criticizing me for not being able to discern reality from fantasy, and others were agreeing and sharing their own hesitation to kill the buffalo in the game because they found it deplorable (though there were a rare few, and you know who you are, and you are rad). To me it was very odd because in a lot of ways my blog post had nothing to do with either opinion and I probably did a shitty job making this clear.

For the most part, it was an introspective look at WHY I was having any hesitation at all. I was actually quite shocked that I felt any hesitation as it was a rare occurrence when playing most of these games, and I commended Rockstar for inciting this kind of reaction in me. It is something I rarely encounter and I found it fascinating and thought provoking and I had to let it out in writing. And now I am struck by a whole new fascination; the idea that people do not read shit.

As a video game developer I am starting to get used to it, and that kind of sucks. For each game design document I write, I can tell who does and does not read the design document and/or pitches, and who just looks at table of contents and pictures. "Please make sure we do this in the game" a publisher will say, and all I can respond with is "oh, did you miss page 37 of the gdd?" when all I want to say is "yeah, I know, I already accounted for that, read the goddamn gdd motherfucker!" But of course someone paid to read documents would read those, but why would some random person cruising Kotaku bother to follow Mr. Totilo's link and read my blog post, even when instructed to "Read the whole post. And explain your buffalo-killing ways."? I mean, why would they bother to read beyond the two paragraphs Mr. Totilo felt were a good representation of what I had to say, to be sure they didn't take anything out of context, or to be sure Mr. Totilo didn't grab paragraphs in which I did a shitty job fully encapsulating my thoughts?

I can not IMAGINE being a writer, especially on one of these blogs. It must pain people like Stephen Totilo to write an article only to have a majority of people read only the headline, misinterpret it, and then post their messages as fast as they can just so people can see what their opinion is. That kind of thing would aggravate the shit out of me to no extent. Although, I can relate in a few ways. In my short five years in the industry (I am a veteran in gaming years mind you) I have released a handful of games mostly to shitty reviews, and I have seen a very similar thing in both reviews and message boards. Some people want to go out of their way to have an opinion and beat down your game, but not really take the time to understand it (I guess this is kind of a vague statement, but anyone who has worked hard on a project can relate in one form or another I am sure.) I am really hoping people will be able to play Galactic Tazball, Despicable Me, and the game I am currently directing, and look at them objectively for what we attempt to do, and not just what the reviewer is expecting from the game based on some arbitrary biases they bring to the table. But in some ways, every review is approached with this same shitty bias, so maybe the playfield is even.

In other ways, I should be a better writer and a better proofreader. If, in the future, I want people like Stephen Totilo to quote me and take my professional opinion seriously, then I should have paragraphs which are easily more quotable with less that can be misinterpreted. I may forever go down as the wuss who could not shoot Buffalo in Red Dead Redemption when googling my name, when I could have just as easily (with the simple stroke of some keys and better grammar) been the guy who pointed out how buffalo don't come back and it is a rare thing in games. I suppose from here on out I will proofread my writing better, and become the writer and designer I want to be, and perhaps incite as much thought and debate as I did today with a large number of Kotaku readers (but after tonight, because I have had way too much wine to validate any proofreading.)

And to anyone who actually ventured to this blog and read through each shittily worded paragraph, I thank you and ask you to comment here so that I can someday high five you and call you my friend.


Treehouse Photography said...

I followed the link from Kotaku and I'm glad I did. From all I've read about RDR, this was the first article I've read that actually made me want to consider playing the game.

I think you were clear in making a distinction between killing replenishing non-entities and removing, possibly permanently, a character/item/animal and how that affects your gaming experience.

I interpreted your view as this was an anomaly for you in your gaming life and that Rockstar did a good job in actually tugging some emotion out of what could be seen as a weakly-told narrative.

Don't forget there are more people who read Kotaku but don't post their opinions in the comment section.

Jeff Nachbaur said...

I followed the Kotaku link as well... mostly because it was fun to see that you were being quoted on there. I understood what you were saying and agreed completely. And yes, people don't read shit. It is true... maybe especially so on Kotaku. People are so busy wanting to have an opinion that they forget to actually form one based on fact. It's all about the "sound byte."

Anyway, just thought I'd lend my support. And I think Galactic Taz Ball is rad.