Week 703

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.

Last week I made a serious effort to bring daily fiction writing into my life, as opposed to the explosive, Kerouac-ish bursts with which I wrote my novels Toiletten and Sneeuwdorp. After reading a mountain of interviews with writers, this seems to be the most durable tactic to combine novels and a sane, structured life.

It’s a big change though, which at first lead to frustration. But I think I’ve pinpointed the problem: I shouldn’t edit old stuff, I should actually start with a clean sheet and write new stuff.

This might sound obvious, but it doesn’t come easy to me. For years I collected notes and fragments whenever I couldn’t write, which was most of the time, and copy-pasted them into template documents. Then, in theory, I’d piece everything together and rewrite it into actual chapters. But this turns out to be hell, especially if you try to do it in an hour a day, apparently.

Of course my new tactic postpones the editing until a later date. I tell myself, though, that it’ll all be different when I have a readable first draft of the entire thing instead of a stack of story bits that doesn’t quite fit together for anyone who is not me.

The schedule is ambitious: the first draft of De verdwijners should be done sometime in August. Details about a publishing deal will be forthcoming. Which is another way to say: “Yay!”

By the way, I’m still selling the remaining copies of Toiletten for € 5 a piece, including shipping. Send me a note if you want one. Or more than one. That book just screams ‘perfect birthday gift’, especially if your friend or family member is in a breakup or has two bathrooms.

Otherwise, a rather busy week. On Monday I spent some time writing a proposal for a fun Alternate Reality Game (ARG) project. If my offer is accepted, I will be reporting the events in the ARG beat by beat this September, as a kind of gonzo journalist.

On Tuesday, I met with a small group of Bashers.nl writers, trying to come up with a new team structure and working process. The goal is to make the site on a day-to-day basis with a core group of about five, instead of having me as Chief Bottleneck. The meeting felt like progress.

On Wednesday, I worked on my interview with Q-Games, the Japan-based studio founded by English programmer Dylan Cuthbert. The interview was done through email, which I have found works pretty well as long as I do one or two rounds of follow-up questions: the good stuff is usually in the follow-up. The coming week I’ll be processing the interview for the Dutch Official PlayStation Magazine.

On Thursday, I went to Breda to visit the NHTV University of Applied Sciences, where they have an International Game Architecture and Design program. That day, they organised a game event showcasing student work and graduation projects, which was nice. I didn’t know about (nor plan for) the conference they held in the afternoon, so even though the line-up sounded surprisingly good, I went home early.

On Friday, the second Tech spread appeared in nrc.next, featuring my report about DOTA/MOBA/ARTS games such as League of Legends, mainly based on a fun interview with Utrecht-based Ronimo Games, who made the more accessible Awesomenauts. The interview was done quite a while ago, but it took me until last week to write it all down and condense everything into a 800 word story.

Besides my article, the spread featured a column by David Nieborg (about his trip to Asia) and a game review by Rogier Kahlmann (about Awesomenauts).

Last week I also wrote a review of Dragon Box, an interesting educational puzzle game for iOS and Android, which will be on a future Tech spread.

And I started playing both Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Spec Ops: The Line for an upcoming double bill review about the latest batch of near-future warfare shooters.

So far I’ve focused on the latter, which is praised far and wide for its mature take on the war game. The game refers to Apocalypse Now and the Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness which that movie was based on, has an awe-inspiring setting in a deserted version of Dubai, and depicts the madness and atrocities of war more accurately.

I wonder if I’m wrong about this though: isn’t this game still mostly being sold as a bubblegum shooter? Isn’t it a bit like a Trojan Horse, where players get a critical war game, while most of them will expect something along the lines of Call of Duty? And what’s the historical perspective here? It’s not like when Apocalypse Now came out, there was a tradition of fun war movies that the film broke with. Right?

The game’s ugly double title embodies this issue. Spec Ops: The Line is a commercial game in a popular genre and a valuable franchise, or at least the most valuable that publisher 2K Games owns. At the same time it’s a new property and an original story that’s feels almost authored. By a German development studio, interestingly. Why don’t we refer to this as just The Line from now on?