"Don't be a dick." That simple notion is the first of Victor Lucas' 3D rules. The others? Don't dick around and don't hang out with dicks. Some would lead you to believe the games press is filled with dicks. It's not. With this in mind, I seek out the best games writing - from news to interviews to reviews and beyond - and highlight it here.
Satire is an escape rope games are all too willing to utilize to get out of tricky situations they themselves have created. And you thought dropping a deus ex machina was a cliche.
David Chandler argues that GTA V is not satire, and hey, while we’re at it, neither is Bayonetta nor Far Cry 3. David, take it away:
GTA V’s gameplay lacks both an ironic punch and a didactic end. As often as the game seems to make judgments about a player’s operating in a morally bankrupt world, the gameplay only reinforces the virtues of morally bankrupt activity. We steal cars and shoot people because that’s what people in San Andreas do. If the game were satire, there would be some type of mechanical, formal acknowledgment that the roles the player perform are repugnant and awful, but there’s no mechanical comeuppance for the sins of the player.
So, what games are satire then? Hotline Miami certainly counts.
Abrasive, pixelated visuals and repetitive music accompany hyperactive violence. Braining an unsuspecting guard with a crowbar or shooting up a room sends red and purple pixels across the floor and walls, but the walk back through the building after everyone has been killed slows the gameplay just long enough for you to take stock in your handiwork.
Chandler hedges his bets, noting that his choice of language—in breaking down “satire” — may be “splitting hairs”. We’re using language, though. The words we use makes a difference. If a developer claims their work is satire, then it needs to be satire. Otherwise, they’re making use of that escape rope.
Chandler, David. “Video games and the struggle with satire” (AWESOMEoutof10: September 30th, 2013) <http://www.awesomeoutof10.com/features/video-games-and-the-struggle-with-satire/>.
Phil Kollar, in his review of Batman: Arkham Origins on Polygon.
A very good review — one of our favourites thus far on the game — that notes the tenuous relationship between the game’s solid core and its changes under a new team.
The Pitch: I will create an event that draws writers from various backgrounds together to hone their pitching skills. They will pitch to an Avengers-esque line-up of talented writers and editors and receive feedback based on their pitches. The twist? It’ll all be done in a weekend.
The Feedback: Immense.
Allow me to take a moment, on behalf of Team GGW, to thank everyone that submitted a pitch, tweeted about the event, or—bless your souls—critiqued pitches throughout an incredible weekend. We received a whopping 123 pitches and doled out 259 helpings of advice. Take that all in, breathe, and process that for a moment.
123 pitches. 259 pieces of advice.
These are pitches that may or may not have received an answer otherwise, and despite some delays, received them quickly. I will be forever grateful to Susan, Dan, Fran, Nathan, Richard, Ed, Alan, Steve, Patrick, Brian, Andrew, Jamie, Cassandra, Miguel, Rob, Neal, and Mitch for the feedback they provided and for believing in us to pull off such an event. I’d further like to thank Dylan and Adam for the organizational work that went into this, and Scott Nichols for participating in our PM Chat.
Speaking of chats, the ever resourceful Richard Moss logged the second chat, so feel free to read and enjoy that.
If you want to interview us about the event for your website, podcast, or whatever please get in touch!
If you enjoyed the event and think you got something out of it, please email your comments and I’ll send it to our experts…I’m sure it’ll brighten their days when they need it.
To answer the question of whether or not this event is happening again…heck yes it is! But let’s get to the announcements.
Ahoy-hoy and welcome to the #PitchJam.
This is your shot to get two pitches looked at by some of the best writers and editors in games writing. Not only will you have their attention, you’ll also get guaranteed feedback. Yeah, we’re going there.
Here’s what you need: Just send us an email with the subject line being the title of your proposed pitch, and the pitch in the body of the email. We want the pitch itself, and not necessarily the trappings around it (we don’t need to hear that you read our publication/s - that’s assumed) unless you feel that’s crucial.
What email are you sending to? thepitchjam [at] gmail [dot] com, of course!
Make your pitch inspiring. Unless you’ve something earth shattering to say, you probably want to avoid sending pitches about, say, BioShock (the first…Infinite is still fresh). Get creative, and make us salivate thinking about how great the final product of that pitch will look.
Also, keep it short and snappy. That’s part of keeping us entertained and intrigued. Also, like with real pitches, we’re expecting a lot of them. Respect our time just as you would an editor’s.
TWO BIG HUGE LEGAL DISCLAIMERS:
1) This pitch is yours and you own the creative rights to it. But similar pitches are out there (through RSVPing we’ve seen what may be two near-identical pitches) so understand that you may not be alone. Your pitch, and the feedback we give it, belong to you.
2) Given the above, this is NOT A SOLICITATION OF PAID (OR ANY) WORK. We’re not implying that anywhere. If, after you’ve received feedback, you think your pitch is salable then you can pitch away. Have you seen the great publications we have on board for this? They’d probably love to receive a great pitch.
What else can you do to improve your pitch?
You can join in a big ol Twitter discussion with all of us by using #PitchJam. If you have a really rad question, we’ll even make sure it gets published, fully thought out responses that 140 characters just can’t provide. Use that tag to promote the event (please), cheer others on, and engage in a healthy discussion.
There’s also two Google Hangouts scheduled for Saturday at 10 AM Pacific and 6 PM. Pacific. That’s your chance to get some facetime with the rad folks here, and they are rad.
We also have a bunch of blogs on the subject matter across our panel’s network, ranging from a writing prompt (here on GGW) to Pitch Etiquette on susanarendt.com. We’ll share and collate those articles all weekend. In the meantime, you’ve read Up Up Down Down Left Write: The freelance guide to becoming a video game journalist, right?
Finally, who will be fielding your pitches this weekend? Our CONFIRMED list includes:
There’s 18 reasons to join the #PitchJam right there!
Good luck and good pitching!
Our Pitch Jam is rapidly approaching — we hope you’re getting your pitches started by now. If you haven’t yet, that’s OK.
One of the most important parts of pitching is being concise. If you can’t zoom-in and highlight the thesis of your topic—and do it error free, to boot!—then how can you be trusted to tackle a larger treatment?
The Rock Paper Scissors (or is that Shotgun?) Writing Prompt: Your challenge is to concisely describe the game rock, paper, scissors. It’s a game we all know, but putting what we know into simple (and interesting) terms can be a challenge. Your pitch is similar, except instead of everyone knowing it, as they may well with the above game, only YOU know where you want to go. This is an exercise designed to get you writing tight, engaging pitches.
Let’s highlight that again: Your challenge is to concisely describe the game rock, paper, scissors.
The great game journalist Ian Fleming does just this early on in his book You Only Live Twice. Under fair use, here are two parts of his description.
1. Simply descriptive: “The fist is the Stone, two outstretched fingers are the Scissors, and a flat hand is the Paper. The closed fist is hammered twice in the air simultaneously by the two opponents and, at the third downward stroke, the chosen emblem is revealed. The game consists of guessing which emblem the opponent will choose, and of you yourself choosing one that will defeat him. Best of three goes or more. It is a game of bluff.”
Wow, not too shabby, eh? Fleming manages to describe the core mechanics, building to that powerful short sentence at the end. Is this necessarily how you want to present your pitch? No. But the descriptive aspect is what you need to get—just because you know the game or your pitch doesn’t mean your audience, the editor, will.
Update: A quick note here…Fleming describes the hierarchy here just as aptly. In the interest of not having publishers yell at me I’ve left that out. Read the whole section—or the book—for a better view of the game as a whole.
2. Contextual: “Should Bond try and win at this baby game of bluff and double-bluff, or should he try to lose? But to try and lose involved the same cleverness at correctly guessing the other man’s symbol in advance. It was just as difficult to lose on purpose as to win. And anyway did it really matter? Unfortunately, on the curious assignment in which James Bond was involved, he had a nasty feeling that even this idiotic little gambit had significance towards success or failure.”
If your pitch must go on, it absolutely must connect back to the beginning—we want to see the theme explored here—and be written every bit as effectively as the first part. What you get from this excerpt are the stakes of Bond’s gamble: Your pitch may be high stakes too.
If you take a go at this prompt, feel free to submit your attempt here on the blog or via whatever means. We’ll highlight exceptional efforts.
**Adapted from Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice, pp.4-5 (Thomas & Mercer: Las Vegas), 2012.
Read first: Introducing the GGW Pitch Jam
Hopefully you’re gearing up for next weekend’s event. Today we have a few more details to share about the event, including the anticipated reveal of more experts.
If you’re not following along on Twitter @GoodwritingVG - and why aren’t you? - you’ll have missed the additions of Alan Williamson (Five Out of Ten) and Ed Smith (freelance for The Escapist, Unwinnable, etc.) to the lineup.
The jam will officially start at 12:00 noon on Friday, September 20th and go through the weekend. Each jam participant will be allowed two pitches, however the second may not be submitted until the first has been critiqued. This may mean some strategy in terms of your pitch development…
Starting this Friday, Pitch Jam participants will be required to RSVP to the event (through one of a few avenues). This allows us to start gauging how many pitches will be submitted and streamline the process. This is for our sanity and your convenience during the event - it does not obligate you to pitch or set out anything further.
One final point for today, then: you must submit a polished pitch. This means that this is, without our feedback, the pitch you’d send to an editor for consideration. Is it viable? Is it spellchecked? These are the things you’ll want to consider - stay tuned for posts related to improving your pitch. Or ask away on Twitter using #PitchJam.
In other words, even though the Jam starts next week…start thinking about your pitch(es) before then!
See also: Rob Rath Welcomes You To The Pitch Jam
Well then, here’s the news you’re here for…the next five experts aiding the Pitch Jam. They are:
And of course it wouldn’t be us without having a bonus announcement that Gamesbeat’s Dan “Shoe” Hsu will also be on our panel.
There’s 13 reasons to join the pitch jam in our expert panel. On Friday, we’ll give you five (other) reasons.
The Pitch Jam runs September 20th-22nd.