Sunday, 26 December 2010

A Gamer's Year Part 3: May


When I started Well-Rendered, I was looking to create an outlet where I could write once I finished my degree. I missed writing: the discipline of researching, the chaos of composition and the sense of order that comes with editing.

I can't remember when I decided to write about video games. I can't even remember when I decided to write a blog (as opposed to, you know, a novel). All I really remember is writing this post, hitting the "Publish" button and then sending the link to almost everyone in my address book. If you want to do something big, it's best to tell everyone about it because it'll be harder to give up.

Not that I realy had a goal in mind when I started. I still don't. I just wanted to write, and I chose video games because I didn't want to write about myself. Video games made sense. The research (playing lots of video games) was fun and I had a large bank of knowledge to draw upon.

But most of all, I wanted to devote the same level of attention to video games as I had been devoting to American Literature (pretentious graduate alert). I have yet to write anything that I am as proud of as I am my undergraduate dissertation*, an exploration of the narrative devices in Tim O'Brien's Vietnam War literature, and the relationship between story-telling and experience. Specifically, the relationship between story-telling and trauma, and the way people use stories to address the most painful things that have ever happened to them.

To me, art is what human beings use to express themselves and to communicate their experiences to others. If it takes you out of yourself, I think it's art. I have always thought video games are art, and I can't count the number of times I itched to mention video games in an essay.

bioshock Rapture

So I wrote about video games.

Being a fairly self-indulgent sort, I relished the opportunity to talk about stuff that I cared about without worrying that I was boring anyone. This is what's great about the internet. You can write about whatever you want, and if someone is interested then links are formed and new channels of communication open across the world. If no-one is interested then it doesn't matter, at least you've expressed yourself.

With that in mind, it is baffling that I waited nearly six months to write an entire post about Tomb Raider. This game had the most enormous impact on my gaming life, and a significant impact on my "real" life as well. I could write a whole book about Tomb Raider (though I wouldn't be the first). The game has this effect on a lot of people. As Katie discovered on her recent Tomb Raider survey, it's not unusual for people to have been playing for well over a decade.

My Tomb Raider post was gushing, and it's definitely on my list of things to edit. What I was not expecting was that my reference to Stella's Tomb Raider Walkthroughs would be picked up on by Stella herself. It simply hadn't occured to me that traffic could flow in both directions. Stella followed me, I sent her a thank you message, and she asked me if I'd like to contribute something Tomb Raider related for her blog.

Would I!

Eventually I wrote Following in Lara's Footsteps, a comparison of the Egyptisn locations in Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation to their real-life counterparts.

The Temple of Karnak
The Temple of Karnak in Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation

It's still one of my favourite things that I have written. I love how it explores the way video games interpret the "real" world.

But it also brings back so many happy memories for me. Playing Tomb Raider as a thirteen-year old, travelling around Egypt, and sharing appreciation for my favourite game with other like-minded people. 

This is pretty much my favourite thing about the Internet. It takes a patient person indeed to share a "real life" conversation with me about Tomb Raider. But there's a lot of Tomb Raider fans on the Internet, who have many different perspectives and ask many interesting questions. I am thrilled to be born at a point in history where I can communicate with these people, share my enthusiasm and hear what they have to say.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider II Flight Jacket

Raid on!

*Pretentious? Moi? It's boxing day, I'm allowed.


  1. Yeah, thanks for writing about Tomb Raider again. Just as meaningful to me, those games have been.

  2. Thanks gary.

    I can't think of anything to say to that because I love Tomb Raider too.