Dire Critical Distance

It’s been observed that under my direction, TWIVGB roundups have gone up later than usual. There are a couple reasons for this, partly internal and partly related to my work schedule: I tend to work eight-hour shifts on both Saturday and Sunday, and the last thing I want to do after those is spend another few hours at the computer.

I’m looking at changing my work schedule to free up more time on the weekends in the future, so hopefully they’ll start appearing closer to their normal time (although probably in the afternoon, to accommodate last-second submissions). Also, I’m finally on my winter break from work this Thursday, so we might start seeing these changes before the new year (cross your fingers).

All this said, I thought it’d be valuable to outline just what goes into a TWIVGB– at least those that I write. Keep in mind that we still have a large stock of regular contributors. One of them, our ever-diligent Eric Swain, has even done his own post about it (a post which eventually would result in me joining the CD staff). My process isn’t his, but there is a bit of overlap.

(Also, mine will use Phoenix Wright pictures for illustration, because I don’t know how to capture your attention except with funny pictures.)

Stage 01: Shortlisting

I get between 500-1300 articles on my feed reader in a given 24-hour period. Tuesday through Thursday are peak days; Sunday is a ghost town. Regardless, this ends up being an awful lot to sift through on a daily basis. So rather than methodically read through each one, I highlight the more promising ones (based on title, author, publication, subject, opening paragraphs, etc) to take a further look closer to publication day. I try to be as generous in this process as possible and give authors the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. Not everything has a strong opener or a provocative title. And just because something has been addressed before doesn’t mean another author can’t put a unique spin on it.

Stage 02: Submissions

Per TWIVGB’s tradition, we welcome submissions by email and Twitter. Some choose to send these directly to my personal email, which is fine. Some of the links overlap with the shortlist but many do not. Indeed, if not for a reader submission, I would have overlooked Robert Yang’s war piece on Radiator (I know— it just goes to show what a deluge it’s been that I could’ve overlooked such a feed), which is easily one of my favorite blog posts from the last few months.

Stage 03: Trimming and Blurbing

I load collected reader and submission links into browser tabs and go through them one by one, creating a running list in a Word document with author, URL and a summary. This is where the second shortlist takes shape. Generally I look for the following things:

  • Length. I don’t do word- or paragraph counts, but I’m a firm believer that you can’t truly engage in a topic without taking up a bit of space on it. An article which is composed more of splash image than text is automatically closed.
  • Depth. Does the article show a willingness to get elbows-deep in their subject matter? Do they elaborate on the claims they make? Do they reach interesting conclusions?
  • Clarity of voice. I’ve been marking other people’s English essays since I was in high school. It’s easy to distinguish which authors have a comfortable grasp of their language and which don’t. This is a particularly big problem among young academics. As a result, I’m far more inclined toward presenting authors with clear, accessible language and a distinct point of view over either ambivalence or jargon.
  • Significance. Part of participating in any ongoing critical conversation is keeping track of important (or at least recurring) subjects on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Grouping together articles which share a subject or theme helps get a real discussion going.
  • Uniqueness. As much as I can I want to showcase outsider posts, whether that means posts only tangentially related to electronic gaming or posts that come from authors outside the straight-white-cismale hegemony– or both. Cries of affirmative action can go hang themselves. I’d rather run a slightly denser article from a minority gamer than read yet another well-intentioned straight-white-cisman’s fluffy gesture toward feminism. (By all means, straight white cisdude authors, keep writing ally articles! But please do your homework first, or you end up sounding condescending and, worse, boring.)

If an article manages to grab me (and I do listen to input from submitters, especially in the case of including time-sensitive pieces), then I’m left with a Word doc of 18-30 fairly strong to very strong articles.

Stage 04: Sorting

To the best of my ability, I try to arrange the articles in my shortlist according to subject matter or theme. Articles regarding the same game may not always be grouped together, but articles which address similar themes will likely be grouped. Sometimes I create subheaders to make a note to myself how all these articles relate. I like to believe this gets me a multiplier bonus.

Stage 05: Write-up

Only then do I open up a new post in WordPress and begin actually doing the write-up, based upon my Word doc notes. I’ll generally re-open article links to grab pull-quotes, if I haven’t extracted them in advance. This can end up being the longest part and why my posts have been going up closer to midnight than 22:00. (Sob.)

Stage 06: Isn’t That Cute… BUT IT’S WRONG

The post is live! Celebrate! I can sleep! Crap, it has a typo. Crap, it has another. Crap, why do I even bother, why did Ben ask me to do this gig for him, why do I always end up doing them at the last minute after an eight hour work shift, FML, my world is empty, I feel hollow inside and sad.

Stage 07: DEATH

I resolve never to wait until the last minute again.

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