Saturday, April 9, 2016

Genericide Update: Retrospective Ramblings

As of a couple weeks ago, I’ve made 100 posts here on Genericide. Considering the amount of verbiage I vivaciously vomit, this is an impressive amount indeed. For me, I mean. I assume those people I hear about with “competency” and “standards” and “real jobs” would aim higher. But that last point has changed for me recently. Those who read my last update will know it was a goofball throwback to a bunch of my previous hijinks, all under the guise of me not having time to write. In a case that basically never ever happens, it takes inspiration from what’s actually going on in my life.

After a period of post-college unemployment, which allowed me to start these consistent updates, I secured a full-time job about a month ago. Between the job, the commute, and trying to work on an indie game on the side, the 8ish hours a week spent on these blog posts is tougher to maintain. That being said, I want to make it clear: I am NOT going to stop updating, or even stop updating weekly. It won’t be easy. Sometimes I may miss Friday, though I hope never more than a weekend without an update. Forcing yourself to start a creative project after a work day is rough, and I’m not going to pretend I’m immune to distraction and procrastination. But even though my audience remains nearly nonexistent, I’ve had fun with these regular updates and I want them to continue, for myself if no one else.

That being said, I’d like to look back at the almost four years(!) of this blog with a little retrospective this week. I thought it would be a fun change of pace. It turned out to be a mix of self-congratulatory pride, awkward cringing, annoying bookkeeping and vague bewilderment. The last was caused by articles I had completely forgotten as I’d never finished writing them. I suppose you want a look at those? Very well, here’s a Link.

In my defense, this image WAS from one of the scrapped articles.

In actuality, I don’t want to discuss any of my scrapped articles because they contain topics or games I still want to talk about one day. Who knows when that day may be, but trust me, in their current form you aren’t missing much. Instead, let’s start by giving some general statistics about Genericide that I’ve painstakingly assembled for your viewing pleasure. Well okay, most were painstaking but some were easy to find. Alright alright, one of them was painstaking and the rest were lifted in like a minute from the built-in stats blogger keeps. But you guys, counting numbers is haaaard.

Get Me A Numeric Representation of Data, Stat!

In the 102 posts on this blog, I’ve had a total of 23807 pageviews. There’s a reason I always make so many jokes about my nonexistent audience. I’m sure most of these views are random passerby from google. No doubt many don’t even read the posts. This is reinforced by the fact that in over 3 and a half years I’ve received 30 comments, 19 of them from people I know in person and 6 of them from me. To be fair, there are some justifications for that low number. For one, Genericide runs the default blogger comment system, which seems kind of awkward. Also, since my most loyal readers all know me personally, they just talk about my writing with me in real time. And of course, the conventional wisdom is that far fewer people comment than those who read in the first place. I have some actual evidence to support this saying, but I’ll get to that later.

Here’s the big one: word count. Over all my years writing on this blog, I’ve output a grand total of 274,611 words. For reference, National Novel Writing Month lists 50,000 words as the minimum. The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy (according to the first page I googled, because I am not particularly thorough about this) stands at 481,103 words. My blog is just under the length of both The Two Towers and The Return of the King combined (minus appendices). That’s...a lot of words, one way or another. An average of 2,693 words per post, proving that even with some short posts like my blitz last year’s April Fool’s, I maintain myself self-held reputation as one wordy father mucker. Whether this is a good thing? Ehhhh, it varies.

For instance, I think we can all agree that one post I made on The Most Philosophical Butts of Gaming absolutely deserved it’s 15,000 word total.

The Cream of the Crop

Though there are more pointless statistics I could rattle off, none are very interesting. Ultimately there’s only so much to be milked out of the premises of “I get to feel self-important about typing too much” and “people with an actual following can point and laugh”. So now I’d like to view a bit of data in finer detail. Specifically, we’re going to look at the most popular posts of all time on Genericide. Not only is it interesting from a “what the young’uns is talkin bout” perspective, but I’ll go back and actually read the top five and we’ll see how they’ve aged. Trust me that no one is cringing harder at this prospect than I am.

5. Some Top Video Game Songs with Organs in Them – 674 views

Majesty. Austerity. Severity. Dick jokes.

Why is it popular? If I had to guess, all the game references and name drops. Most of my traffic seems to come from ambient google noise, so the more I reference popular search topics the more “readers” it draws in. The other top list articles are also pretty high up in traffic, supporting this theory. Or perhaps it was just immature people googling the word “organ”, which I say a LOT.

How does it hold up? This was a fun one to revisit, because I can ignore the stupid words some moron spilled all over the page and just enjoy the kickass video game music. In all seriousness, the writing in this is...decent. It’s certainly snappier than some of my earliest work. There are less blatant run-on sentences or meaning buried beneath mountains of qualifying statements. Plenty of the jokes got smiles. All the same, it isn’t perfect, and I think a lot of its issues come from the format.

List articles have shown up less as time has gone on here on Genericide. I tried to write multiple unfinished ones over the years but I never liked the direction they were headed. My personality has a strong tendency towards being, for lack of a better word, comprehensive. I always try to account for all sides of an issue, think things through, and give all information available. This led to my earlier issues of excessive prose, but also leads to a different kind of excess.

In these list articles, I always try to cover as many examples as possible, leading to massive 5000+ word affairs. Yet despite their size, there are so many entries and so much time is spent giving background that they still seem rushed. The first half of the piece always feels as though I’m twiddling my fingers and waiting for the stuff I actually have things to say about. The last few entries get significant coverage, but it makes the earlier parts feel like a waste. If I ever do one of these in the future, it’ll probably either have fewer entries or be split into multiple parts.

On the upside though, these songs are still friggin’ fantastic.

4. Sonic Adventure 2 Battle Review – 923 views

Do we even need to ask why this pulled in views?

Why is it popular? Sonic is an immensely popular topic of discussion online, especially his 3D outings. On top of this, older posts accrue more traffic than new for obvious reasons.

How does it hold up? What struck me most when re-reading this is just how much damn time I spent explaining things. I explained the history of the series. I explained the previous game and every mode in it. I explained the bonus modes within the game. I explained and explained, getting down to minute mechanics that really weren’t necessary for the review. I’d like to think that since then, I’ve learned to slow down an article with explanations only when they’re relevant to actually unique or interesting commentary. I also think I’ve come to better understand how to present information in a comedic or interesting way. Your mileage may vary of course, sometimes I still struggle keeping word waterfalls from streaming out my ears.

The one thing from this review I find holds up okay is the explanation of early 3D platformers. It isn’t particularly hilarious, and you can find similar opinions elsewhere. Nonetheless, I think it explains an era of gaming and its effect on this specific series. As for the rest of the review? Meh. It kinda sorta almost captures some unique opinions about SA2, but that’s lost in all the explaining. There are some alright jokes, but nothing great. Even if these one-liners were hilarious, my delivery back then was crippled by my verbosity. Past Me should cut down on the avalanche of qualifying statements and sprinkle in some more periods. A lot of these sentences sound awkward when read aloud. Sure hope we don’t come across any writing even OLDER, eh?

3. Spyro the Dragon Review – 1322 views

Okay, this one surprised me.

Why is it popular? Honestly, I’m unsure on this one. I presume some of the popularity for this one comes from nostalgic google searches, but he doesn’t have near as much pull as Sonic does. Either something popular linked the post or there’s something I’m missing, or this little dragon mascot is less forgotten then I’d thought.

How does it hold up? This is the oldest article on the list, from only a month after I started the blog. Related note, did you know I wrote 14 articles in the first month and a half? Sheesh, I sure was eager to vomit my opinions all over the internet. Despite the age of the article, it could be far worse. It conveys the basic ideas well enough, like when going over the interconnected nature of Spyro’s level design. The humor is sparse and questionably executed, and the lack of mouse-over text on images (introduced months later in my Sticker Star review) feels strange. It’s also blander than my more recent work, with lots of statements like “some are better than others” that sacrifice engaging writing on the altar of technical accuracy.

Another thing I latched onto is that my newer posts have benefited from being more organized. The clearer segmentation and headings in my recent work has made it easier to compartmentalize, and also seems to improve the writing on my end. It’s a minor detail, but one worth noting.

2. Shadow the Hedgehog Review – 2414 views

My only regret is that I couldn’t get more mileage out of how HILARIOUS this is.

Why is it popular? You know how Sonic is a popular topic? Well the more controversial the game, the more people want to discuss it. Most of the gaming populace no doubt looks to articles like these in search of a good verbal thrashing. Meanwhile others are searching for a counterpart to all those aforementioned critics abusing a game they enjoyed. Did they look him up to mock him, defend him or learn how he styles his hair? Either way it’s traffic.

How does it hold up? The first joke of this article makes me cringe. Sometimes people tell bad jokes. But you know what feels worse? Humor that would’ve been good, had it not been for botched execution. Take a sentence like: “Funnily enough, this is an eco-friendly rip-off of the series containing the game I am talking about.” That’s less of a punchline and more of a slowly-rubbing-a-fist-against-your-face-line. This post is plagued with qualifying statements and unnecessary words bogging down both jokes and explanations. There’s some potential here, and I still wouldn’t call it a bad article, but my writing had a ways to go. Yet again I didn’t have much interesting or unique to say on the game. Were I to rewrite it, I think I’d cut out some of the explanations and add some discussion of the story or mechanics in finer detail. See if I can’t tease out some underlying issues or cause-and-effects of the design that aren’t so obvious.

One a side note, seems I was reluctant to praise the soundtrack of this game back in the day. I still did so, but perhaps the game’s reputation made me hesitant. It helps that I stopped and listened through the whole thing sometime in the intervening years. For the record, I think Shadow the Hedgehog has a great soundtrack. Yeah some songs are forgettable, but there’s way more good than bad and I am completely unapologetic about liking the  good  stuff.

1. Undertale and Completionism – 2480 views

I’d use a more descriptive image and caption, but I’m DETERMINED to keep spoilers from leaking outside the post in question.

Why is it popular? This is one of my only articles on a recent topic. That topic is a game that’s been a huge viral success on the internet. More importantly, it’s the first article I’ve ever posted outside the blog, to the Undertale subreddit. An interesting thing to note is that the thread in question obtained about 70 upvotes and a dozen comments, as opposed to the well over two thousand actual views. This supports the notion that there’s a vast silent majority of non-commenters, especially given that people are more comfortable posting on reddit than elsewhere.

How does it hold up? I’m pretty pleased that this is my most popular post. It’s only a couple months old, so perhaps my opinion on it will sour in time. But for now? I’m quite proud of it. Though I occasionally have asides during reviews, I’ve only written two articles focused on game design in the past three years. This one spoke on a topic not often discussed but that I’m nonetheless passionate about. I feel I conveyed some unique opinions and presented them in an understandable manner. I think the article covered a lot of ground but maintained good pacing. Comedy isn’t the focus and it’s not my most amusing work, but the humor sprinkled throughout still made me smile.

Is it perfect? No. There are always small improvements to be made, and I’m sure with time I’ll understand them better. Perhaps I could’ve tightened the focus here and there, integrated the humor better, or touched on some yet-unrealized genius revelation of game design. But there’s a stark contrast I see looking between my early work and this. My authorial voice is still in there, but the writing is tighter and punchier and has more worthwhile to say. At time of writing, this article sits somewhere on a list of my favorite posts I’ve ever written. The thought that it’s my most popular is pretty satisfying.


I ‘unno. I’ve written a buncha crap and I should write more, I guess. ARTICLE OVER.

...okay okay, I do actually have something to say. Throughout this post I’ve spent some time poking fun at my past writing. Past me totally has that coming, his writing isn’t as good and I don’t want him to get any ideas about travelling to the future and usurping my current self in an alternate timeline. However, these new posts that I have a higher opinion of? They wouldn’t exist if I couldn’t build off earlier work. To make something worthwhile, especially in the case of creative work, you’re first going to make something worse.

This can be a distressing, depressing realization to deal with, and you will have to deal with it sooner or later. Often times, you’ll realize it before you’re even finished.

“This isn’t working out. It doesn’t match the ideas in my head. It doesn’t match the standards of what other people have done. It won’t be something anyone cares about. I’ll put in a bunch of effort for something that I’m not happy with that no one else will see.”

I have thoughts like this all the time, and I’m sure others do as well. My advice? Ignore em. If you get some measure of personal satisfaction from whatever you’re making, that’s all you need. The more you work, the more comfortable you get, the better you and your standards become. Of course, this means when you get too comfortable you’ll try something else you’re not good at. A new medium, a new genre, a new format. But don’t let future embarrassment or frustration with your current skills stop you from trying to improve. For all the (actually fairly tame) awkwardness of my early posts, I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done here in the past four years. I don’t know what the next four will hold, but I’ll still be here writing as long as I enjoy doing so, which I don’t see changing anytime soon. I’ll keep creating, and hope anyone else out there struggling to create does the same.

And to every one of you out there who follows me through it all? I’m happy I could make something you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

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