On memories and writing about video games

Today I sat down at my computer intending to write a blog post. I had a game in mind and a story to go along with it – that’s usually how my posts germinate in the first place. I fired everything up, logged onto WordPress, and started a draft. And then…I just sat there staring at the blank screen. My fingers were ready to type, but my brain had other ideas…as in no ideas. The light of what I thought was inspiration shone very dimly. I managed to get out a few fragmented thoughts before the words vanished into nothing.

“Damn,” I thought, “maybe I really don’t have much to say about this game.”

Teh Vulcan mind meld, ur doin it rong.
Teh Vulcan mind meld, ur doin it rong.

I saved my sad draft and started perusing the web hoping to gain a burst of creativity from other authors. I have a cache of video game blogs that I regularly visit (hint hint, blog/podcast rolls over there on the right), and every now and again, I venture out into new territory, either searching through WordPress or Google for new blogs. I looked at images and videos of the game I had intended to write volumes about. I listened to commentary about the game industry and read some gaming news. And then, as resentment at my lack of creativity set in, a horrible thought crossed my mind. That one, horrible thought that’s guarantee to invaded every writer’s psyche at least once during their life:

“Why am I even doing this??”

I mentioned before that I didn’t really have a goal in mind when I started this blog. Early on, once I had started writing I had to continue writing. The memories came fast and furious, and I had to get them out of my head or they’d just rattle about incessantly causing constant distraction. And that hasn’t really stopped. Once I get a blog thought in my head, I have to get it out somehow, otherwise it nags at the back of my mind – it talks to me and, at worst, makes me feel absolutely loopy. And when I start typing, what comes out ranges from a paragraph of sense to a deluge of random thoughts.

Perhaps this way the computer will just magically absorb my thoughts...
Perhaps this way the computer will just magically absorb my thoughts…

But some days, there are no words. Only fleeting thoughts that I think are something, yet turn out to be nothing. While some video games have definitely wedged themselves into my conscious mind for good, the honest truth is that many of them are simply drops in the entertainment bucket. Like seeing movies…that one that was pretty good with whathisname…what was it? I tend hold onto ticket stubs because sometimes it’s the only memory I have of ever seeing a particular movie in the theatre.

Like most, I tend to attach memories to things. And now that I’m writing about video games, I regret that I never thought to keep at least the ones I loved most (let alone every one that I have ever played). So sometimes, when I’m recalling a game, I have little more in my mind that a vision of the cartridge and me with a controller in hand. Had I thought back then “I’m going to write game about this someday!” maybe I’d have committed more to memory.

I'm glad some people are doing all the collecting! © Syd Bolton
I’m glad some people are doing all the collecting and remembering! © Syd Bolton

But it’s not just conjuring up memories on cue that’s the problem – it’s writing about the games themselves. Even with the help of the internet to job my memory, what’s difficult to translate on the page is the experience, especially if the experience wasn’t all that personal (or personable) to begin with. The thing of it is, I’m writing to a very specific audience here. It’s actually a little easier to write straight posts about the middling games, the ones I neither liked nor hated, because there aren’t a ton of emotions to deal with. So then, when I’m writing about a game that I simple adore, I feel as though I have to balance my fangirl with facts, and I don’t really know why. It’s a weird conundrum that has plagued my ability to write of late. It’s part of the reason I needed that vacation from blogging.

To a certain degree, this form of self-restraint and reflection has quelled possibly insulting rants directed towards the gaming community at-large. For instance, I haven’t been able to write about Wolfenstein 3D, a game that is beloved by many, because I despised it so severely. The memories of it bring forth nothing but rancor that has nothing to do with the game and everything to do with problems in life at the time that I don’t really want to discuss (but maybe need to if only to explain my hatred). I don’t have issues doing this with games I loved (i.e. Banjo-Kazooie), but it can be extremely difficult with the games I disliked. Not that I care about trolls leaving mean comments — I think it has more to do with rectifying my current warped sensibilities against the composition of my actual gaming memories.

And now I’m pretty sure I’m over-thinking this, because I’m using big words and phrases and I’m pretty sure I’m just rambling in run-on sentences now. But at least all this stuff is out of my head. Thanks for reading. If you made it to the end of with strange discourse, congratulations, you get the “Traversing a Writer’s Tangled Thoughts” achievement!

And I'm very proud of you.
And I’m very proud of you.

On my end, this flushing of thoughts has uncovered a little inspiration. Maybe now I can get back to that post I was going to write.

**********

For further insights into blogging and blogging about video games, check out So You Want to Write About Games on Phoenix Down and 5 Tips on Running a Video Game Blog on Ninety Nine Percent Gaming.

14 thoughts on “On memories and writing about video games”

  1. I’m expecting your next post about this game to be something great, if you’ve put your idea on hold then xD

    While I did just start my FE blog, I have been running a different blog somewhere out there in the interwebs (won’t share on that xD), and the main thing is to just keep plugging away, even when you think you have nothing. As for any advice, I have a set number of ideas with basic notes hiding on my Google docs, then I sometimes write on paper and expand on said idea. Do you have games you want to talk about? You might want to write a list either on WP and save that as a draft or just use a writing program, then jot down one or two things to say about it, then eventually get to posting it sometime down the road. Basically, it’s something productive!

    Other than that, it’s really a mental game. Writer’s block happens to the best of them, so you’re not exempt! It’s a case of what you can do to get the ideas flowing again. For me, that would either be reading, watching a film, anime, etc, etc. Why do something that has nothing to do with what I really write about? It’s just something fresh and can get things flowing again.

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    1. Hmmm…will my next post be about that fated game or not? I’ll never tell. 🙂

      (Warning, extreme nerdiness ahead) Before I started my blog, I created a color-coded spreadsheet of all the game I could remember playing. I did not not only to ensure that I’d have some momentum for awhile, but also so that I’d have something around to jog my memory at times. Keeping it up-to-date either with games that I’ve recently finished or those that I’ve only just remembered, is a good chore in and of itself. And a good thing to take my mind off writing. Though I will say, it is just a list of games. With this blog, I haven’t ever really thought about writing down actual topics, probably because I see my blog as rather limited in scope. But I should probably try it anyway — brainstorming never hurts! And you’re right, being productive, in some fashion, it much better than worrying!

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  2. I know, it can be hard to write about certain games. There are games I really enjoy, but I have nothing more to say than a summary of what the game is. My favorite posts to write are when I have a specific idea about a game to write about, but I don’t always have those ideas. Then, I’m just like, “This is the story, and this is the gameplay. The game was good.” I find it easier to write about games that are really amazing or really bad because I can go over exactly why they were great or not great.

    That second picture from the bottom, I wish I had done that with my cartridge games. I only kept boxes for a few games, but mostly, I threw them out. It would have been fun to keep them. I just have loose cartridges piled neatly in boxes, which I can’t even easily get into anymore because there are consoles I couldn’t fit on the TV stand on top of them. I did keep the boxes for most of my consoles, though, which really are taking up a lot of space now. And I have a bag of manuals. The games that are in disk form are so much easier to organize.

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    1. Sometimes it really does make me sad that I don’t have any of my old games (I think the oldest one we have is FFVII on the PS1). I cringe a little thinking about all the games I’ve given away away or sold back over the years. I’m truly impressed by those who have collected their games, especially if they’ve been playing for many years. I wish I had been so invested.

      I also wish I felt the same way you do about writing about the really good or really bad games. I do think that I translate my feelings pretty well on the page, but for some with really disappointing games, my initial posts come out so negative that I have to go back and insert something positive to even out the hate. And sometimes, when I’m writing about a game that I loved to the nines, my posts come out sounding fluffy — all sugar, no substance. My terrible need to find a balance sometimes boggs down my writing and gives me headaches, which slows down writing even more. Just thinking about this now is giving me a headache. I think I need some hot cocoa and a nap.

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  3. I can relate to you there Cary.

    It’s really quite tough to find a unique spin on a tired genre/game that’s been talked about for ages. Especially if your view goes against the majority. The way I see it, if you have your view, stick with it and write (as long as you can defend it) and I found that the audience will find it in their heart to accept it. (Except for a few REALLY LOUD ones that complain about everything)

    And I think everyone will run into Blogger’s Block from time to time; when it happens to me I take a step back, hit the gym or go for a run to clear my head and I come back to the blog with a refreshed mind. I hope you can find what I call a “balancer” that can get you writing again when you feel like you’re losing your focus.

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    1. It’s funny that you mention “balancers,” because I do have them, though I don’t think I ever thoughts of them in that way. In the winter and summer, it’s gaming. In the spring and fall, it’s being outside (i.e. today it was gardening, which is why your comment is so timely.) After all that fresh air, I know that in a day or two I’ll be read to tackle another blog post!

      I like what you said in the first paragraph, about how your readers will accept what you write even if they don’t agree with it. Sure, we are writing for an audience, but ultimately, we’re writing about ourselves (if indirectly) and what make us happy (and angry). And sure, some people are always going to complain, but that’s their problem! 😀

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  4. I come across this problem most often when writing my game reviews. I think it’s that overwhelmed feeling, like there is just so much (or so little, in some cases) to say and it’s just not working out.

    Every once in awhile, even browsing the internet for inspiration doesn’t help, then I just have to wait until it all comes back. Very tough stuff, for sure. 🙂

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    1. Though it’s all to easy for us (or maybe just me) to worry about not writing, not writing is sometimes the best remedy. You’re right, the inspiration does come back after awhile; so taking a break every now and again is a good thing, even if it doesn’t feel right at the time.

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  5. I can relate to this really well. There have been times when I’d be set to write a post, whether I’m sitting at my computer at home or writing a few paragraphs on my WordPress app on my phone when I’m on the go, and somehow I realize I don’t have a lot to write about the chosen topic I decided on for my next update. Or memory fails you when you do a reflection post.

    It’s very upsetting when you want to write and you don’t want to let down your readers and followers by not posting something, but for whatever reason you can’t compel your fingers to move. Or your brain won’t work with you. Sometimes you need a few days to let things settle and then come back to it.

    I didn’t think I would stick with my blog for as long as I have, but I’m glad I have. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought I would be part of an amazing community and connect with a bunch of people I would call as friends. So if I ever find myself wondering what’s the point of all this, I remember one thing––it’s for people like you that I do what I do. 🙂

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    1. Right back atcha! 🙂 You’re right, as long as we keep our wonderful readers and this community in mind, it makes blogging totally worthwhile, even when we find writing difficult. They’ll forgive our missteps, welcome us back, and encourage us forward.

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  6. I feel you, dude. I think we all sometimes grapple with finding an angle or something to say about a game that has either A.) been talked about to death, or B.) we just didn’t find that personally moving or interesting.

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    1. It’s so true. That struggle between formulating something unique and formulating something coherent can feel monumental at times. But I suppose it’s the challenge that makes us continue.

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