Legitimate Critic

Written on September 8, 2011 – 12:58 pm by Ding

I have a problem whenever I review things.  There is an inner monologue that I seem to maintain that repeats the phrase “Who am I to say this?” over and over again driving me into a guilt spiral if I’ve been asked to review something that I deem to be not-very-good.

As far as I am concerned, the best critics have a deeper understanding of whatever it is they are critiquing.  As my field at the moment is predominantly games, I have a wide range of peers to look to for inspiration or despair.   As an example of a good critic, Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation is someone I appreciate not because of his oft hilarious turn of phrase but because I always feel he has a grounding of knowing what he’s talking about.  He can be pedantically critical, but that’s the best way to help a medium improve and it is always very clear just how much he loves the games he reviews.  Most importantly for me, his understanding has come from his contribution to the Indie games field and he has self published several titles and following his blog will reveal that he often works on several more that never see the light of day due to a mix of inertia, lack of time, or a realisation that the idea was better on paper.

Other reviewers also tend to read better in my opinion when they have game design experience.  The Rock Paper Shotgun reviews are always solid because they are also written by people who not only have a passion for games, but also have some experience with designing games or mods.  Likewise the Bit-Tech reviews (and yes I am a little biased here) are generally good because the guys that write them have dabbled in game design as well.  In this day and age, if you are interested enough in games to write about them, it would be crazy if you hadn’t dabbled in a little hobby-coding at some point, even if it’s playing around with a level editor or something.

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How to Make Comics Part 1

Written on August 12, 2011 – 1:30 pm by Ding

I have picked up my fair share of “how to draw comics” books that purport to tell you all there is to know about making comics in the vain hope that by reading about making comics, I will become really good at it.  These are the type of Teach Yourslef books that instruct you in the manner of creating sequential art and tend to start with the materials that you need and build from there.

Although I have several books that vary in quality, they all have something in common:  They have all universally intimidated me in terms of the materials needed to the point that it has often scared me away from doing any significant practise.

My message to anyone who wants to draw cartoons, comics or just general illustrations is to follow the only piece of advice that I have found works for me.  Practise.  Just get on and draw something.

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Listening Post

Written on August 4, 2011 – 9:09 am by Ding

Sometimes I’ll work on something and completely forget to mention it at all to anyone because it’s actually completed and completed work is something I’m so unused to that it somehow drops out of my brain and scurries away from my conscious mind.

This short film is something I wrote and starred in to help a friend over at BBC Research & Development in testing a new piece of broadcast technology (which I think ultimately broke, but in a way that was useful to the development process).  It was recently shown in a “BBC Shorts” short film festival and presenter Francine Stock  thought I might be an actor.

I can’t watch this without cringing because I wrote it and had a very firm idea of what Tim was supposed to act and sound like and this wasn’t it.  It’s a bit like if you’ve ever tried to draw something that looked so good in your head but came out oddly deformed on paper; a mocking and twisted facsimile that taunts your inability to produce art (cf. every comic I have ever drawn).

Despite this I am oddly proud of it because it is something I have worked on that is complete and Not Completely Awful.

By some odd coincidence, my friend operates under the banner of  Tortoise Butler Films and other things that she has done with various other artists can be found by clicking that link.

I’ve worked on several of them in various capacities, including some photoshop work for an amazing Portal 2 video.

I also did a little logo for her which I think is still being used.

The Writer’s Quest Continues

Written on August 3, 2011 – 10:33 am by Ding

When this blog goes for any length of time without an update it’s normally because I have succumbed to my tortoise-like nature and become incredibly lazy, but this time it’s mostly because I have been incredibly busy.

What follows after the jump is a brief summary of my last five months or so, what I have learnt about myself, what I have done and what I am doing.

I am earning money as a freelance writer

If you want to employ a freelance writer, please drop me a line on davidDOTofDOThingATgmailDOTcom, replacing the capitalised DOTs and ATs with their relevant symbols.

At the moment I’m probably not quite earning enough to give up the day job, which is a shame, because I gave up the day job, but that just means I need to find another day job in the near future.

I am now (results pending) a fully qualified NCTJ journalist.

I did a full time course set by the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists:  An acronym that I still embarrassingly enough get muddled up whenever I say it) that finished a couple of weeks ago.  I met some fantastically talented people there, some of whom will undoubtedly be the next big thing in your favourite paper, on your favourite website or your favourite news broadcast programme.  The rest are probably sick of journalism right now and will need a break because the course is rather intense, unrelenting and tends to beat the journalism into you so hard that some of it will occasionally go right through and come out the other side.

Incidentally, if anyone reading this is interested in a career in journalism, do an NCTJ.  You won’t realise how little you know until you do.  I did mine at News Associates, who have centres in London and Manchester and although they are pricey by comparison, it is the first piece of education that I have paid for that I feel I not only got a good deal but probably didn’t pay them enough for all the work they put in.

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Note Taking

Written on June 6, 2011 – 1:16 pm by Ding

I can now officially write at 100 words per minute and then, most importantly, read it back afterwards.

LEGO: Selling Papers

Written on May 19, 2011 – 9:28 am by Ding

Today I received a ninja running away from a dragon.

In days gone by, papers were sold by plastering a big scoop on the front page. This morning I have witnessed a far more efficient way of selling papers.

Give away a free Lego kit.

This morning I wandered into WHSmiths with my head hung low in shame, prepared to lie that it was for my little brother, with the intention of buying a copy of the Sun for the sole purpose of getting the free Lego kit offered on the front page.

It soon became clear that I was not the only one.  A queue formed from the till to half way down the shop in the quiet Wimbledon store, everyone lined up clutching their copies of the Sun.  After a brief chat with the woman in front of me who was most definitely not a Sun reader, it was clear that this had been a daily occurrence while the offer had been running with parents and grandparents being sent out  to pick these kits up, but this was not what made my shame disappear.  These were after all devoted parents looking out for their young charges.

What made my shame vanish utterly were the people buying bundles of papers to get more kits.  An overheard conversation going on behind me revealed the snippet “oh, I see you decided to stop at 20 today” as more boxes of free Lego kits were frantically opened by till staff.  I half expected to see a mountain of discarded papers immediately outside the shop.

The Sun newspaper is on to something here.  This offer must have boosted their daily sales by a huge amount.  As a journalist, it is slightly worrying that a free plastic toy can pull more readers than hard journalistic graft, this is slightly worrying.

Of course, can free Lego really be such a bad thing?

Game Review: Who’s That Flying!?

Written on March 21, 2011 – 1:38 pm by Ding

Here is a link to a review for Who’s That Flying!? over at Bit-Tech.

This is a published game review.

This was written by me.

This is a published game review written by me.

Tags:  Excited, Happy, A-Little-Bit-Too-Proud

More Bit-Tech

Written on March 18, 2011 – 8:41 pm by Ding

I’m published again!

Here is a brief little rambling on the Rise of the Hobby Developer over at Bit-Tech.

I also have a couple of news items up again here and here.

I am yet to see where this ceases to be fun.  I realise it is only my second day of work experience at this place so maybe hubris will come back to bite me on this one, but they just keep giving me amazing things to do.

Technically Officially Published

Written on March 13, 2011 – 1:32 pm by Ding

After having probably the most jaw dropping working day I have ever experienced which consisted of me continuously repeating the phrase “people are getting paid to do this” over and over again as I was playing a computer game as part of my working day, I technically finished last Friday as a published writer.

Nothing terribly ground breaking, but this and this over at  Bit-Tech were written by me.

The review I wrote might even be going up early next week unless I’ve made any assorted stylistic faux pas.

New Research and Gaming

Written on March 9, 2011 – 2:04 pm by Ding

I often pick up a copy of the Metro in the mornings these days and one jumped out at me this morning declaring “Gaming Children ‘unfit for school’”.  The article was a short piece about primary school children falling asleep in class, missing meals (although if they’re missing meals in school I’m not sure that’s entirely their fault) and being unable to concentrate.

The reason for this, as declared by one particular teacher, is that they are addicted to gaming.

This may well be shooting fish in a barrel but let’s dissect that a little.

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