Thursday, April 21, 2011

One Year In...

A few days ago I woke up to find the following in my Droid's overnight Twitter alerts:

I was, as you might imagine, ecstatic.  Blog love from a complete stranger, with no mutual friends!  I followed it through and came across the following conversation:

I've left everyone's names off because I genuinely don't intend to call anyone out -- rather, I would like quite sincerely to thank these two gentlemen.  First and foremost, for reading!  It is a writer's greatest pleasure to find that she has an audience.  *bows*  Second, for leading me to this post today.

It's been exactly a year since I first started this blog -- and I'm happy to report that I've moved well beyond Roger Ebert.  I started with him, though, because for between six months and a year I'd been saying to myself, "One of these days, I really need to start writing about games..."  That moment provided impetus to make "someday" become "now," and I was happy to run with it.

I feel that on the one-year anniversary of this blog, I get to do a wee bit of navel gazing -- and I'm going to explain what started me writing critically about games in the first place.

In the fall of 2004, I was still working on my Film Studies MFA, and that semester I was enrolled in one of my favorite classes.  It was called something like "International City Film," but it was a great course that really looked at how space inside of film and space outside of film worked together, and also talked a lot about the rise in and perceptions of urbanization in the 20th century.  Trust me -- it was much less dry and more interesting than I make it sound.

Near the end of the semester, the professor excitedly brought in a DVD-ROM that would allow us to navigate interactively through the Ambassador Hotel.  He explained what was innovative about it, and how it connected the viewer to the space, and how it worked as experimental art, and some other things.

But what I remember most clearly is that another student and I both raised our hands, and nearly in sync asked, "Um.  Haven't you ever heard of Myst?  This is an old kind of gaming you're talking about..."

And just like that, sitting in Roy Grundmann's class, the connection was made.  I finished up grad school with a thesis on David Lynch films (I know) but sat at my computer the whole time thinking, "games?  It's like a game.  How is it like a game?  Everything applies to games!  Game game game game game game."

But as much as I enjoy writing and talking about games, games haven't always wanted me.  And that's where we come full circle: part of the reason it says "K. Cox" in the sidebar there and not my full name is because of the culture and assumptions out there.  Gender representations in games and gamer culture became a flag for me to wave because it's a flag stapled to my back anyway.  By being here, by talking, by playing -- I'm part of that system and part of that solution.

For what it's worth, the Tweeter up above figured out that Your Critic was a she pretty damn fast after reading other posts, and said so.  I don't exactly hide it!  But I don't go around shouting it from the rooftops, either.  (This blog never has been and never will be themed in pink.)

And all of that is why I write.


  1. I appreciate your respect for the power of internet identity, but I'm okay with this. I was the twit in the middle there. Yeah, I was stupid and assumed you were a he until I read the third post and actually looked at the whole site. Also, glad I'm not the only one in this field who had to write papers on Lynch.

    As of now I'm about halfway through your backlog. That's what I do when I find a new game criticism blog worth reading, I go through the back catalog. I really wish I had found it earlier. I'm a member of Critical Distance a serious game criticism aggregate site that looks for the best writing every week and links to it. There was some stuff I wish I had seen before I would have loved to add to the round ups.

    Well not to be too...jerky...welcome to my RSS feed. Feel free to submit any post you've written you think is good to @critdistance. And congratulations on the one year anniversary.

    P.S. The Roger Ebert thing was because I was cataloging every response I could find on my site and had just announced I would stop and then your site came to my attention. It's the sheer number of them and cataloging them that has got me exasperated on the subject. ;)

  2. When I first started dialing up local BBSs, I went by the handle "InternalChaos." I didn't use emoticons and talked openly about my love of computers, games and the outdoors.

    After a few months, I said something that caused someone to inform me, "No, you are not a girl." I remember asking, "Is it because my interests aren't 'right'? Do I need to talk about pink and :) :) :) :) :) a whole lot more?" It amazed me how many people could not believe I was a girl.

    Even Nathan was incredulous, until he met me. Afterward, he'd join in reassuring folks that I was a girl. But they never quite believed me. After a while, I gave up. As I tell my officemate all the time these days, "Your belief is irrelevant."

    It does seem there's been some progress since 1993, fortunately!

  3. Is my critic's name derived from Braid?

  4. Glad you were pleased by the Twitter mention; I've certainly enjoyed going through some of the back catalog of your blog!

  5. 55 pages on using Foucault to analyze David Lynch films. I really, really don't even want to know what I was thinking. On the plus side, almost every strange thing I've read or watched since has been less painful in comparison.

    I'll be keeping an eye on those Critical Distance round-ups, I've peeked through a few and there's definitely some good stuff out there I hadn't come across before. Thanks for reading And I'm not offended by either the gender thing or the Ebert one, for the record; I think it's all funny.

  6. It is not. Your Critic shares a name with a certain K_bee of our mutual Horde acquaintance. ;)

  7. Ha! I'm overmedicated. I meant the url. A nice droopy dinosaur in Braid just regretfully informed me that the princess is in another castle.

  8. This is actually the original reference:

    (Braid was also referencing that)

  9. Serves me right for being late to the party. I started with the SNES version.