Man, I owe you guys an apology. I’ve been violating our tacit agreement, the quiet pact we’ve had for years. You come to this site, maybe browse around, use the forums, possibly send me a little cash to help keep the servers running, and in return I write a steady stream of interesting words for you. I’m sorry to say that stream has been more like a trickle, and the trickle hasn’t been very interesting. I am a terrible person and should be publicly admonished.
So let’s get on that. As I write this, I am standing in front of a mirror, wagging a finger at myself in an accusatory fashion. You’ll understand if I don’t make this admonition public, of course; at the moment I am wearing only a T-shirt and underwear, and I’m pretty sure no one wants to see that. But take my word for it, I’m duly chastised.
I have to admit it has grown more difficult to find time for the upkeep of this site, between work, and the quarterly print publication, and my fiancée, and spending a couple hours every day exercising so that I don’t get fat and ugly again, and my irritating need for several hours of sleep per night. But more to the point, I’ve been suffering a crisis of confidence lately as I wonder if I made a terrible mistake in choosing to become a writer.
Writing is looking more and more likely to become the next obsolete career selection, a once-proud vocation made redundant by the fact that no one gives a crap about quality work anymore… at least not on the Internet, anyway. I made this lamentation on last Friday’s podcast, but a few years ago the quality of writing in magazines was being pruned and demolished in favor of compact, bite-sized fluff, whereas the Internet was a boundless horizon full of potential in which every possibility was open. Somehow, the poles have been reversed; now those few magazines that have survived into 2010 are producing more and better content, while the Internet has been reduced to a noisome den of noise and din. Writing online has been replaced by traffic-baiting, by search engine optimization and trolling for links from Digg/Twitter/Facebook/some other damn thing. The problem, of course, is that a few years ago no one knew what worked online, so it was anything-goes until someone found the magic formula. Now we do know what works, and everything else is moot; unfortunately, “everything else” includes the sorts of work I’m actually good at.
I’m certainly not the only writer feeling this way. It’s a universal shift; think about the sites you frequented five years ago, your online reading habits. Now, think about your choice of venues today and how you approach the web. Think about site layouts then versus now, how article structures have changed, how the art of long-form prose has all but vanished from any site with an even vaguely commercial charter. I’m not just talking about game sites; I’m speaking of all sites, everywhere. If people make a living from a website, it is SEO-obsessed. You’ll see several dozen headlines at various game blogs and news sites that, say, decry how some dude at BioWare who hasn’t played Final Fantasy XIII doesn’t think Final Fantasy XIII is a real RPG, but good luck finding a thoughtful editorial at those same sites that explores the comparative approaches of BioWare and Square Enix — and if you do, you can be sure it’ll have far fewer hits/diggs/thumbs than the five-sentence piece quoting some guy you’ve never heard of out of context and painting his opinion as his employer’s public company-wide stance on some non-issue that was artificially inflated and invented for the sake of provoking hits.
Anyway, all of this makes me fear for my future, because I’m pretty OK at writing, but I just can’t get my head around the art of traffic-baiting. I’m not really future-proof! I am old, and I am rapidly growing obsolete. It’s pretty depressing to think about.
That just makes me feel worse about neglecting GameSpite, of course. I’ll never be able to make a living off the work I do here, but at least it’s something I can approach any way I want. Even if that does mean it will grow less and less viable as the Internet causes us how to forget to read fully developed thoughts and, eventually, complete sentences. At least we can all fade into irrelevance on our own terms: That is, with subjects, verbs, and punctuation.
Daily updates resume tomorrow. Let’s make this slow ride into the sunset a memorable one.