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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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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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.

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