A series of posts concerning

the writing of essays

OMC must be stopped!

Come with me this far, at least: March Fadness is in truth an essay made of essays, a great metaekphrasis using art and memory to heighten and sharpen one another’s mystery. March Fadness is rooted in a belief that art—even the one-hit wonders of the 90s—offers access to humanity.

These votes are immensely complex; if two of us vote for the same song, can we say with any certainty that those two votes mean the same thing? We cannot. Are people voting for the songs? For the videos? For the memories? For the essays? For the essayists? For the preservation of their own brackets? Or against any of those things, as I always root for whoever the Jets are playing? Or do all these strands braid around the maypole of a single radio button? Can we have a meaningful conversation about “which song is the best” if we are not in communion about what purpose art serves?

That last question is why Justin St. Germain—and, by extension, OMC’s “How Bizarre”—must be stopped.

On Microwaves and Human Dignity

Let me finally add that these calculations leave out the moral and emotional aspects of this process. Certainly, we can reduce microwaving to a question of mere efficiency, but this loses all of the complicated nuance of the task. How does one account for the feeling of pride one gets with a careful, accurate estimation? How does one factor in the way the food tastes just a little bit better knowing that its perfect temperature is the result of my own insight and forethought, rather than haphazard button-slapping? How too the knowledge that those who share the microwave with me will feel my respect and admiration manifested in a clean timer?

The Phenomenology of Purpose

How do you negotiate … the conflicts/tensions between student purposes in their writing and the purposes we assume they have to learn about in academic writing?

Allow me to interrogate your slash. Does it stand for “or?” Does it stand for beziehungsweise? Does it clarify? Tension is not always conflict. Think tensegrity: impossible things stand tall because their tension balances them. Tension is sometimes harmony, or at least tension can sometimes be harmonized.

Events! Excitement! Exclamation Points!

As you can see, I’ve shifted things around a bit.

I’ve been wanting to do this for some time, inasmuch as my old site—lovely as it was, to be sure—had a few key limitations, namely:

  • being Wordpress
  • being exclusively gamery
  • being dated
  • being boring

And so. Because I am a geek, I have made things as complicated as I possibly can without having my wife kill me.

Heavy Rain, art, and craft

Recently, I was fascinated by Brainy Gamer Michael Abbot’s response to Heavy Rain designer David Cage’s talk at this year’s GDC. Unlike Abbott, I did like Heavy Rain, although at times I found its interface maddening, and I felt like there were a lot of untapped possibilities in the story. The game was rich, though, in what I value about gaming, which I have talked about at length elsewhere in other games: empathy, shared subjectivity, difficult non-binary choices, moral and ethical ambiguity, and origami.

Reviews as a Lens

Recently, I had a conversation with Ryan Kuo of Kill Screen on the question of whether or not it made sense for KS to review games that are less than timely. Would it make sense, for instance, to review something like Angry Birds? The game has been around a while, and is hugely popular, but it’s easy to see why a review would be less than fruitful. Everybody already knows what Angry Birds is, and whether it’s worth buying.


The holidays have taken me away from the blog, but there is good news to be had: I’ve started doing some work for Kill Screen online. I’ll post here when my pieces go up there. The new website looks great, and I’m excited to be involved with it. My first piece, “Here I Am, All Dressed in Drakeskin” may look familiar to readers of this blog, but the next one will be brand new. Check it out.

Why videogames

I have made several attempts at writing this post; this is the first I have deemed an adequate answer—or a beginning to an answer—for the question. As a dog returneth to his vomit, so I return to this question.*

Sometimes—when I get rejected by a mainstream journal with a note like, “Loved the essay, too much video game stuff,” for instance—I see myself through the eyes of my non-gamer readers. I see a competent writer who, for reasons incomprehensible, devotes himself to writing about a hobby that is immature at best and an active waste of time and talent at worst. They likely see it as uninteresting or irrelevant to the interests of readers who are not gamers, and I can empathize. I imagine some readers of this blog, too, sometimes ask the damnable question I ask my students all the time: why is this worth writing about?


Anhedonia is one of my favorite words. It’s a symptom of depression, generally speaking, but it’s such an elegant word for such a specific concept that I can’t help but love it. Anhedonia: the death of pleasure. It describes the feeling of no longer enjoying something you once enjoyed. This is how I feel about Crackdown 2.

Ah, love, sweet manufactured binary repetition that you are.

I have been playing Fable III, lately, and I really can’t get over how extremely short the game seems to fall of its goals, at least as expressed by this interview with Bit-Tech (discovered, and post in part prompted, via The Brainy Gamer). Abbot of the Brainy Gamer says it this way: “In Fable III, Peter Molyneux wants us to feel loved.” The game is supposed to be about connection, about relationships, about choices that affect our ability to live in the world of Albion, and most of all about people. But whether because of technical floppery or design misunderstanding, the very attempts the game makes to be personable for me make it emotionless.

Feminism! Marriage proposals! Comics!

I feel compelled to comment on this series of tweets from Kate Beaton (utterly fantastic webcomic artist and one of my favorite tweeters), and on this tumbld response from a reader, because I think I feel like the latter is missing a key point about feminism that is worth elaborating on. It’s something that’s easy to forget when thinking about feminism, and even when thinking as an aspiring feminist: even if men and women are equal in every form of capability, men and women are not the same, because they have different histories.

Games, class, and "literary merit"

This post over at GameSetWatch lays out some of the basic arguments we can expect to hear from the EMA side of the table (i.e., in context, the good guys). One of the “vagueness problems” Smith mentions is that the law in question “limits restrictions to games that ‘as a whole … lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.’”

This is an epic assertion. Count ‘em, folks: there are four good reasons for a videogame. As I’ve blogged before, there’s not even uniform agreement as to whether games are capable of being artistic or literary, though my own views on the matter are more certain. To me, the problem extends well beyond “vagueness.” Questions about “art” and gaming run into the same problems that all questions about “art” do—problems of canon, which are problems of audience, which are problems of race and class.

I like your bounce.

There exists some question as to whether or not I can be a feminist, so prior to writing this post I had the following conversation via GChat with my wife (who definitely is one):

me: Do you think I’m a feminist?
(No wrong answer here, and feel free to not answer. Just have it on the brain.)

Megan: Yes.
Not a hard question.

Which I guess means it’s okay for me to comment on this post about the new game Hey Baby. The game’s premise is simple: wander around the city being harassed by male hecklers, jeerers, catcallers, and wolf-whistlers, and then kill them all. My first reaction—for which you may be justified in stabbing me in the eyeballs—has more or less held since watching the trailer: they should really be marketing this to men.

Sometimes, comics are essays too

Right? 1

1Although, this of course raises the question of “what is an essay.”  To which there is no good answer, and to which there are many good answers.1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, 1e

1aA good essay is like a lonely cat: it rubs up against everything, until it finds something warm.

1b Or a good essay is like Thomas Edison, playing with filaments until something lights him up.

1c Or a good essay is like an unremembered injury, which seems to throb only until its cause is remembered.

1d Or a good essay is like your mom.1d†

1d† Or a good essay is really like your mom: warm and loving an comforting, but resolutely insistent that you own your shortcomings.

1e Or a good essay is like a writer with no paper and no shoes: too many footnotes.

Revision and Narcissism

Working with the tutors at the Writing Center I coordinate this week, we came across the perpetual and exhausting question of what to do about student writers who come to us for help, but then immediately get defensive of their writing.  I’ve worked with a lot of these students myself, both as a tutor and in workshop.  We talked about the issue as a tutorial problem—how do we facilitate a productive session in that context?—but since then, I’ve started thinking about it from a writerly perspective.  What do I do when I realize that I am that writer?