“The English Civil War was England against England, like when someone accidentally puts England versus England in FIFA 14.” – John Campbell, 2014
This is a public record of the questions I sent to a man called Roman Shapiro about the game, Bomb Gaza. Here’s the full story.
Can you confirm that you made the game?
How do you feel about the game being pulled from Google Play?
It’s been about six months since I published a novel, using Amazon’s pretty fantastic self-publishing systems.
Piranha Frenzy has so far sold over 100 copies, roughly the number that I had sorta hoped for, with another few hundred downloaded for free during an E3 promotion. It will be included in a forthcoming Story Bundle.
The most satisfying thing has been hearing from people who read and enjoyed the book. That, and just completing a coherent 50,000 word story. Thank-you to everyone who took the time to give the story a chance.
I worried, when the story was done, that the amount of effort involved would be too much of a discouragement to try again. It’s taken six months, but now I’ve started on another story, without really setting out with any plan or goal.
The new story, which I aim to complete in 2015, has nothing to do with games or games journalism. That was a useful thing to write about in Piranha Frenzy, because I knew the subject well and had something to say about it, generally focused on corruption, belonging and the nature of hierarchies in specialist journalism.
The new story is about something else; it’s about America just prior to World War 2, about how people on the outside of a fight against evil decide whether or not to contribute, and what drives their motivations.
I’ve knocked out some chapters just to get the feel for the characters and I’ve sketched a plot, but am now spending my time researching (and obsessing over) the period.
I self-published Piranha Frenzy because I knew the subject would be interesting to a limited, and easily reached audience and that it would struggle to find a mainstream publisher. But there is no doubt that a publisher adds immense credibility to a book, and credibility is everything when it comes to fiction.
Credibility is not easily won for a self-published novel. Many people assume that self-published = shit, and there are certainly a lot of bad self-published books. There are also a lot of bad professionally-published books. In any case, this time I’m going to at least try to pitch it to publishers.
Writing fiction is incredibly time-consuming and hard work. There is no way I would spend my spare time writing, if it wasn’t inherently and immediately rewarding; just the doing of it. But all writers yearn to be read by as wide an audience as possible and this is also a motivation.
Like an RPG character, I have a finite number of resource buckets available to me, during my working day. They generally begin at a high level and deplete as the day goes on.
Sometimes, they deplete very, very quickly. Social media, like Twitter, is the single biggest source of depletion. Here are my resource buckets…
Time: I work about eight hours a day. Because I work from home, there is very little time wasted in meetings or company BS. But if I am not careful, my time can be wasted on just reading and viewing stuff on the Internet, especially as the line between what is useful to my work, and what is not, is blurry.
Energy: I find that after writing about 2,000 words, my desire to write drops significantly. So, if I write a bunch of Twitter updates, or comments, those are words I might be writing more usefully.
Focus: My best work comes out of directing my attention wholly to one story, one subject. I can write about a bunch of different stuff, but the general quality dips. The more fragmented my day, the worse my output. Online dramas are, almost always, a waste of focus.
Balance: If I am angry, confused or depressed, I find it difficult to work. Although my own idiotic actions are often responsible for negative emotions, the single biggest source of negativity, honestly, are people behaving badly online. If I want to invite negativity into my life, the single easiest way to do that is to spend time on social media or Internet comment threads.
Intelligence: I’m a reporter so I need to be connected to outside events. I can’t afford to disconnect from the outside world. I have to be plugged into RSS feeds, social media and other information pipes. This is the one resource that can and does go up as the day goes on. I have to manage it, so that it does not become overfilled. I have to filter that which is relevant and disregard that which is not.
I’ve taken a few steps to help me manage these resources.
1. Silence the Drama. Filter out people online who are liable to attract drama. They may be smart, entertaining and relevant. And, of course, it’s their business how they interact with the universe. But they are not going to bring me much that I can’t find elsewhere. Generally, they are to be found talking about the awfulness of other people and engaging in some form of ego-centric hostility. I can live without it.
2. Avoid Irrelevance. Filter out feeds that, while agreeable and friendly, are focused on issues that are not relevant to my work. Goodbye beloved soccer pundits, jokesters, pals-who-like-weird-stuff. Also distant acquaintances who, while always a pleasure to see from time-to-time, I do not need to engage with every day. I’ll catch up with them online at the weekend, or while I’m on the couch, not watching True Blood on the telly.
3. Expunge Time-wasters. Delete media outlets that overshare and retweet aggressively. Most of the feeds I watch are media outlets that cover the same issues as one another. The ones that do it briefly, that don’t waste my time with self-promotions, are the ones that last.
4. Keep it Close. My opinions on most issues are not that interesting, and are quite happy inhabiting the space in between my ears, or floating around in my house, boring my poor family. Sharing them to a wider audience takes time and effort and invites tedious conversations. These days, if I want to talk about Aston Villa, the Middle East, the best meatball sandwich in town or whether or not I enjoyed Movie X, I can usually find someone in the vicinity of real life.
5. Limit Open Conversations. Given a choice between talking to someone in a place that is public or private I will always choose the latter. It astonishes me how much people are prepared to share about themselves in open, permanent forums. I think that turning these conversations into a performance elongates them and takes up more time than necessary.
Twitter is powerful, useful and entertaining. It’s also a pain in the arse. Figuring out how to get the good out of it, and lose the bad, has made my life a lot easier, and more productive. Obviously, everyone is different. I am sure that many people gain sustenance and creativity from exactly the things that drain my resources. This is just what works for me.
This is an amended version of a speech I gave at Santa Cruz Quaker Meeting House in June.
Everyone in this room has a superpower.
I don’t mean you can bend metal with your mind, like Magneto or read people’s thoughts like Professor X. I mean you have some skill that is native to you. It is something that you do better than most other people.
Now wouldn’t that be a waste of everyone’s time?
Instead, here is a panel of Roy Race scoring a scorcher. Plus, a picture of a giraffe. Much better.
Also, buy my book.
Written by Polygon senior reporter Colin Campbell, Piranha Frenzy is a novel about the gaming industry. It takes place on the day of a big E3-like convention in Los Angeles in the near future. The story, which takes an inside look at gaming culture, centers on a game reviewer who comes under pressure to give a AAA game a positive score.
Piranha Frenzy has been received favorably. Writing on the New York Game Critics blog, New York Times’ regular contributor Harold Goldberg called it, “nerd-dishy … with tight prose peppered with humor that is skillfully plotted.”
Microsoft exec and senior industry figure Phil Harrison said it is “a must read for anyone in games.”
Star Wars movie writer and former PC Gamer editor-in-chief Gary Whitta called it “a thumping good story.”
“I’m really happy that the story has given people pleasure, and I hope that this offer gets it into more readers’ hands,” said Campbell. “Perhaps some of the many people traveling to E3 this week will give it a try.”
The book is also available in print edition.
So I got 75% of the qualifiers from the first round, and 75% of the last eight. France surprised me by getting through, but the team I expected to play here, finally turned up against Germany.
My pre-tournament last four was 100% right, but after that, everything went to hell. I predicted a Brazil Holland final. Still, great, great tournament.
My Team of the First Round
Update: First Round Complete.
I got 12 right out of 16 (original predictions below).
I called all final positions in Groups A, B and F exactly right.
Costa Rica instead of Italy.
France instead of Ecuador.
USA instead of Ghana
Algeria instead of Korea
Okay, here are my predictions for the World Cup. I strongly suggest you invest your entire life savings on my expert analysis. But I feel duty bound to warn you that I have not correctly predicted the last four since 1990.
I’ve written and published a story about a games journalist who suffers pressure to deliver a high score in a game review she has been commissioned to write.
Piranha Frenzy is the story of a games website and the people who work there. I have spent much of my professional life in places like Piranha Frenzy, so it’s a reflection of a world that I know very well.
For many years I have worked for magazines and websites that have made their way in the world covering video games and the games industry. I’ve done everything from making the tea to running teams of dozens of journos. So I had plenty of material to work with.
Piranha Frenzy is the story of how small compromises against editorial integrity can have big consequences, and it’s about how editorial leaders, who forget who they serve, cause untold trouble.
Just about everyone in my book suffers from some kind of delusion that they take actions for all the right reasons, and that they are above wrong-doing. The story is about people with individual motivations and abilities, operating in an environment where ethical lines are blurry. It also touches on issues about power and belonging.
I hope that Piranha Frenzy will entertain anyone who takes an interest in the world of games journalism.
Search ‘Piranha Frenzy’ on Amazon for print and Kindle versions. For more information, reviews etc. go to the Piranha Frenzy website.
One of the chief pleasure of writing about video games is how deeply they reach into the broader culture and society as a whole. Games have always been interesting in their own right, of course, but in recent years their capacity to engage on a more complex level has opened up new possibilities for commentators. In short, games with something to say provide journalists with that thing we enjoy most of all; angles.
I had a feeling about this feature, The First Native American Games Company, that somehow we’d be able to connect games which are ephemeral and trivial with the deeply historical current lives of ancient peoples in a way that would be visual and arresting, without resorting to hackneyed juxtapositions
I didn’t get to go to GaymerX this past weekend. It was my birthday and I wanted to hang out with the kids. But there’s this video that came out today (thanks to GameSpot’s Kevin VanOrd) which seems to suggest that a good time was had by all. Also, if I can shill my own work for a minute, there’s this article a few weeks ago, about the event and LGBT issues in gaming.
One of the perils of real life, and of journalism, is the zeal of monomaniacs. The media is a wonderful forum for debate, except when it is hijacked as a lopsided platform for nuttiness. As a reporter, we have to know the difference between a colorful, yet informed opinion, and a barmy obsession.
Rather than a ‘best’ of E3 list, this is, strictly speaking, a personal shopping list. These are the games from E3 that I’m pretty certain I’m going to buy. Links also to some E3 work I did on the games, or my colleagues at Polygon created.
I’m immensely proud of a recent feature published by Polygon about a My Little Pony fighting game. I hope you enjoy reading the story. One of the reasons for this pride is that the original draft was sent back to me by Polygon’s copy-editors with gentle suggestions for significant rewrites. The final product is quite different from the one I originally wrote, and way better.
PLEASE NOTE – Quotes are now posted live throughout the week at TheQuotableGamer.
Relive the past seven days through the silver-words of gamers and game-makers. This week we have 26 quotes that may, at the the very least, divert you from a pretty crappy week IRL.
- If you want to be alerted to this feature for the next few weeks, follow me on Twitter @colincampbellx -
In recent weeks I’ve been talking to a lot of indie game developers about how they view games media. Their opinion, on the whole, is that coverage on the big games news websites is extremely difficult to attain and that the agenda of larger games websites is to serve mainstream AAA gaming, while making a token effort for indie games.