I wanted to write a book. I love games criticism, but there’s a segment of my heart that has always longed for the rigors of storytelling. And so, I went off, jettisoning my duties as the chief jetpack jouster, to write a novel with countless other aspiring authors. National Novel Writing Month has been an amazing learning experience, with practical teachings that I’ll certainly apply to my work here; but perhaps most interestingly, it taught me as much about my approach to discussing video games as it did my approach to building fictional worlds.
What follows might be considered a revision of our mission statement, but hopefully it won’t be quite as boring.
This summer, the internet gaming community was torn asunder. We all know by what. I won’t bother to mention its name, because frankly, I’m not interested in stirring up any controversy and it’s been talked about much more eloquently in other corners of the web. What I do want to talk about is its effect on me personally; a syndrome that came in contact with a large number of my good friends.
It bummed us out. The yelling between the two sides became little more than white noise, containing almost no real meaning. The death threats, the trolling, the finger-pointing, the misogyny, the harassment; it soiled much of my enthusiasm for my favorite art form and for the community that’s gathered around it. I’m aware that it was a small minority participating in the more heinous activities, but the spillover into news outlets ranging from Kotaku to MSNBC was a kind of cultural saturation that made me sick to my stomach every time I thought about picking up a controller. That sucked. Lots of great games came out this year.
But one night, after a particularly harrowing session of Dungeons & Dragons, several members of the Jetpack Joust team stood together outside my house and proclaimed that we were so exhausted by all the infighting that we’d largely stopped playing anything. We were a bunch of wannabe games journalists who didn’t want to have anything to do with the format. Video games were tainted.
We knew our ambivalence wouldn’t be especially good for business or for traffic, but we plugged along anyway, largely shifting our focus towards tabletop roleplaying games and unsung indie heroes. However, there came a point when even that wasn’t enough to alleviate the stress and the burden that I was feeling. I needed to make an escape run. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, after all, and I knew that if I took a well deserved break, it would put the whole thing into perspective; I would reassess my relationship with video games and with the website.
So I wrote a novel, or rather, the better part of a novel, which I’ll be finishing over the next few weeks. I left behind the complex universe of gaming for something far simpler; for a girl, and a town, and a little bit of existential mystery.
For some time, I was quite happy. But I slowly grew to miss all the pixels and menus and belligerent online competitors and quirky indie soundtracks. I especially missed the small, yet mighty community that’s grown around Jetpack Joust over the last year. I like writing for you. I like making videos for you. I think I bring a unique, philosophical view to the discussion of interactive media, and as a man with a keyboard and a long history with both games and criticism, I’m happy to have my voice heard.
This year, we were just putting our feelers out, experimenting, and attempting to find our niche. Our Word Press was supposed to be a temporary skeleton site for us to practice and refine our craft, whilst gathering an audience. It became a bit more permanent than we’d predicted. Eventually, we will migrate to something prettier and more useful, but we’ve gathered plenty of experience and have grown to understand what Jetpack Joust is, at its core. November taught me just as much as the previous ten months.
As such, here’s what you can expect from us as we continue down our road of discovery:
Jetpack Joust is not a news outlet. We do dabble in the stories of the day, but always with an editorial edge. This means we’re subjective. Our opinions are our own and they should not be taken as objective fact. We value the interpretation of media through the personal lens of our writers. Our reviews are about more than whether or not a game is fun. We analyze their value to the medium and to society as a whole, because we believe that like all art, games can be powerful emotional tools that change the inner lives of people and thus, change the world. It’s a lofty goal, but one that we think is fitting with the strong traditions of academic and social criticism in film, literature, theater and art.
I’m not disparaging the entertainment value of video games, that’s a huge part of their appeal, but it’s not something we’re terribly interested in exploring with JPJ. There are other places to find that particular brand of review and if you’re not a fan of our approach, we happily understand if you don’t want to be a regular visitor. What we can promise is engaging material that will likely reflect our open-minded, progressive, humorous and intellectual approach to criticism. And sometimes, when a game is just a bundle of joy, we’ll talk about how fucking fun it is too. See: Hypership Out of Control.
We hope, regardless of your politics or personal opinions, that you’ll be a part of the discussion as well. There’s nothing that we enjoy more than a rousing debate, as long as that debate is friendly, humane, and informative. There will be zero tolerance for harassment and hate speech – and there has never been any, as far as I know – because we want to foster a positive environment, where everyone feels welcome. Gaming is awesome and we want to spread it as far and wide as we possibly can.
Our other goal is to focus on quality instead of quantity. Jetpack Joust is an incredibly small operation, and I do much of the creative work alone. I started with the relatively ambitious aspiration of producing five pieces of content a week, but that was quickly derailed by my day job and by my desire to remain somewhat sane. Instead, you can look forward to a combination of three solid articles and videos week-in and week-out. This will give us an opportunity to actually play the games we’re writing about with a greater attention to detail and will hopefully lead to a better product in the long-run. With any luck, we’ll also add some new contributors that will assist us in filling in those blank spots in the schedule. This is a process that’s already begun.
It’s also likely that you’ll see a greater emphasis on tabletop experiences. We love our little indie gems, and even some of our big, explosive corporate behemoths, but the fact is that our readers adore board games, card games, miniatures games, and roleplaying games just as much as the digital stuff. It’s the topic that seems to have gained the most traction, if our metrics are to be believed, and we are here to give you what you want and sometimes what you need. If that means more dice talk, than we’re excited to deliver it to you.
Ultimately, little at Jetpack Joust has changed. This is more of an affirmation than a transformation. It’s important to remember that it’s still the best time ever to be a gamer. We have access to more content than I could have ever imagined as a kid playing my Sega Genesis in the early ‘90’s. And though things got dark, and there’s still some healing to do, the controversies of this summer have largely faded away and it’s okay to peak out your head and take a look around at all of the new goodies. There’s been enough division. It’s time to come back together in solidarity, for a better future for all gamers.
December is a month for playing catch up. There are plenty of games left to be played before we construct our “Best of” lists for 2014, so we’ll be digging into our backlogs and reviewing some titles that passed us by. I’ll also be finishing that novel, so bare with me if we’re a little slow.
Thank you so much for letting us take the last thirty days to clear our heads. We’re back, and we’re going to be better than ever, with podcasts, new episodes of fan favorite web series, and a renewed passion for the gaming medium. We love stuff and we hope that comes through in our writing.
Until next time, Bill Murray to you.
—Cory Stine, Editor in Chief