Saturday, 25 August 2012

Freebooted: Playing it Wrong Since 1975



As a child of the seventies, I have been a gamer for as long as I can remember.

I like to think I was truly "born" as a lifelong gamer when I was entranced by the universe of Braben and Bell's original - and peerless - Elite on the BBC Micro. However, I have indistinct memories stretching back far before that. I recall my first childhood "video game" experiences of playing the original World of Tanks on an Atari console, begging my parents for more coins to play some long-forgotten arcade games whilst they watched terrible cabaret at the holiday camp clubhouse and frantically chewing my tongue as I button-mashed my favourite LCD handheld into the middle of next week.

Throughout the past three decades I have had the privilege of participating in an entertainment movement that has grown from a cottage industry that demanded I spend my pocket money on £1.99 cassette-based games written by bedroom coders, to the multi-billion dollar empire that now arguably eclipses Hollywood. It was Plato who said, "Those who tell the stories rule society" and when the Bible claimed that "the meek shall inherit the earth", it was a misprint - it's the geeks who are now jubilantly delivering the entertainment and the stories to households around the globe.

With the advent of the internet and the rise of social media networking, the means of engaging an audience in video game culture exploded into the mainstream. The entertainment super-highway we now stand on is so bumper-to-bumper with traffic we can only jump on board a passing vehicle or get the hell out of the way. Since 2003, my chosen form of transport has been the wheel-bladed hot-rod from the stars that is EVE Online - an online gaming experience that is unique, brutal and pioneering. It is fair to say that my hobby of playing games truly found a home with CCP's visionary digital creation.

Writers Bloc

In 2009, the internet also gave me the chance to explore my other passion - writing - as I caught the "web logging" bug. With EVE Online as my muse, this gave me the opportunity to explore writing styles and improve my wordcraft. Encouragingly, my efforts got a warm reception as I was inducted into the growing blogging community which surrounded EVE. Now, three years later, I find myself so involved in that community, it's unlikely I'll ever be able to leave. Nor would I want to - I get a real buzz from participating in the writing culture that, only a decade ago, would have been inconceivable. Whatever evils lurk on the internet, the opportunity to engage with like-minded individuals from around the world is a gift and possibly one of the greatest achievements of our species (well, apart from the discovery of fire, the development of agriculture, the wheel, electricity... you know what I mean though, right?).

I am grateful for the opportunity that this internet revolution has given me. With the unexpected foreshortening of my career as a Paramedic due to a debilitating back injury from twelve years of lifting the fat and the dead, I now find myself relying on my writing as a source of income. In some ways I am sad I can no longer pursue my healthcare profession - there's not many other jobs that allow you to speed through rush-hour traffic and bring people back from the dead - but I am viewing this as an opportunity to fully embrace the bewildering phenomenon of video gaming whilst building a career in writing.

Proto-Journalism

This Freebooted blog will continue to be the outlet for my scattershot brand of internet spaceship coverage and its surrounding culture, but I would like to take this opportunity to showcase my first steps into the wider world of writing.

Guild Launch
Earlier this year I was pleased and surprised to win the Guild Launch EVE Correspondent writing competition, with the prize being a regular blog column as their EVE correspondent (and a trip to Iceland for Fanfest). I have been using this as an opportunity to explore the many facets of EVE Online as an embedded journalist in an assortment of gameplay communities. My odyssey is set to take a year with many more interesting communities to investigate, but here are the articles so far:
The Exploring EVE Online column really has given me the opportunity to experience the diversity of the EVE Online gaming communities - and I'm not even half done. Before my year is out, I hope to uncover the mysteries of New Eden's wormhole culture, take a walk on the dark side of EVE as a 'griefing' pirate and I'd like to explore some tribal player Alliances vying in their thousands for sovereignty of unrestricted null-sec space and much more. It would be great if you could come along for the ride.

EON Magazine
EON Magazine is the official quarterly for EVE Online. It is a high-quality publication which enjoys access to many exclusive aspects of the game development process at CCP Games. Magazine editor Richie 'Zapatero' Shoemaker approached me with a view to writing an article in the last issue and I was privileged to be assigned the 8-page cover feature "EVE Rocks" (as seen in the sidebar of this blog). The article explores Lead Designer Kristopher 'CCP Soundwave' Touborg's vision for the future developments of mining and industry as well as grand concepts like the introduction of collision detection and line-of-sight to EVE's combat mechanics. Exciting stuff for the future of EVE.

GameTimeZone
I first met Diana Dial of EVE Time Code when she saved me from a horde of drunken Goons at EVE Fanfest 2011 and she has since become a genuine friend. I've often described her as the surrogate big sister of all EVE players - she has a genuine warmth and compassion for all us gaming nerds. She also sells time codes to enable those same nerds to play the games they love. Diana has invited me to explore the wider world of video gaming on her GameTimeZone site. There, I will be taking an irreverent look at gaming culture and technology in regular microblogs. It should be a comical and enlightening experience. Head over and tell me what I'm doing wrong.

What Hopes for the Future?

Now I am clear of my NHS affiliation and my time is my own, I hope to expand my writing portfolio further with whatever opportunities come my way. I also plan to finish writing my first novel - a dark quasi-science-fiction thriller based on my ambulance service experience. I will continue to enjoy my relationship with the EVE Online community that has nurtured/endured me this far and one day I might even learn how to play the game properly. Until then I'll be quite content to write about how I'm still playing it wrong after all these years.

Cheers

Mat "Seismic Stan" Westhorpe
Writer-in-waiting

6 comments:

  1. Congrats on the writing success! I've only just started scratching the surface of EVE and blogging but it has been a great experience. Hope it goes well, I'll be reading the posts! I've been "playing it wrong" since '73 and your experiences with gaming sound familiar. On a side note, after digging through book cases for a week I've finally relocated my copy of The Dark Wheel, the novella shipped with Elite and written by Robert Holdstock. It's tempting to try some EVE translation...

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  2. Thanks SN, although I'm not quite prepared to call my writing career a "success" quite yet, but it has been an encouraging start.

    Ah, The Dark Wheel - I remember it fondly - I have quite a vivid recollection of the undocking section where the protagonist looks at the other traffic. Or maybe I imagined that. I'll have to root around for my copy, I'm sure it's in a box somewhere (ooh, random thought: Thargoids were the original warp bubble specialists).

    It's great to hear from someone with similar recollections anyway.

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  3. Lord Moose Beaver laughs in amusement at your ham-handed attempts to write anything!!

    (while secretly seething in jealously at your deserved successes)

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  4. Haha Kirith, you blazed the trail long before me. I've got my eye on your former EON gig - with my level of fitting competence, it should be amusing at least.

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  5. Lifting the fat and the dead.... Lol

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  6. funny...just purchased "intellivision lives!" and am thinking of "intellivision rocks!" because it contains 'swords and sorcery'

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Lay it on me.