Week 675

What’s this? I’m blogging about my work on a weekly basis – a simple way to track and archive whatever it is I spend my time on.

What’s curious about these weeknotes (or really about me, or my work, or maybe about people and work in general) is that I always sit down to write them feeling I didn’t do much. Then, once I start piecing together what I actually produced, it turns out to be a pretty decent list.

Last week was no different. I felt tired and unorganized, coming out of my trip to Istanbul. By Friday, I’d caught a cold and needed to catch up on sleep badly. I neglected my Wordfeud matches. Even canceled a meeting. Then, to make matters worse, my Wii broke down, dashing the hopes my wife and I had left for us to finish Skyward Sword anytime soon. So surely, my productivity had been low.

Well, first, on Tuesday night, I visited the refurbished Gamelab at Pakhuis de Zwijger, presented by Control, which was entertaining. Personal highlight: the interview with John van der Aart, who’s excellent at telling what it was like to make Commodore 64 games.

On Wednesday I wrote my Next Level column about Istanbul, which was published in nrc.next on Thursday. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out: while the daily reports on Bashers.nl focused on the details of the game jam, here I zoomed out and wrote about the Turkish games industry and its potential.

(On Friday, the paper printed Alper Çuğun’s review of charming Danish indie puzzler Where is my Heart?, which I commissioned and edited. Just yesterday, Alper blogged about cultural criticism — I agree with his points.)

On Wednesday I also delivered a new edition of the games section for Schiphol Magazine, together with Niels Peuchen.

Speaking of Niels, he invited me to the School voor Journalistiek in Utrecht, for a bonus program in which students interview journalists they find interesting. So on Thursday afternoon, I was asked about games, journalism and everything inbetween. Not too many people showed up, but those in attendance were intrigued.

On Thursday I finished my second column for the Dutch Official PlayStation Magazine, too, even though the first one is not yet in print. (Or perhaps it just came out.) Print magazines feel ancient when you’re used to the web and newspapers, where the lead time is either ‘milliseconds’ or ‘half a day’.

Last week’s highlight was probably the release of Items Magazine issue 6/2011, featuring my 6-page interview with Bernie DeKoven and Eric Zimmerman. It’s the first time I wrote in-depth about the broad concept of playfulness, and I’m proud of the result.

Finally, on Sunday, I spent some time wrestling with the Game Maker tutorials by Derek Yu. One thread running through my work, especially when I write about game jams, is that I don’t get what programmers do (and that I’m trying to make sense of this). Slowly, I’m starting to see that I won’t really understand until I learn to program myself.

Game Maker was recommended to me as a simple way to get started. And indeed, I’ve wrapped my head around its basics and slapped together the space shooter from Yu’s teachings in one afternoon. However, while Game Maker seems to be a pretty powerful game-making tool (which is attractive by itself), I still don’t have an answer to my fundamental question: how programmers go from 100 PRINT “HELLO WORLD” to an insanely detailed 3D game.

I guess I should just delve deeper.