Sunday, September 05, 2010

On Writing

A few months ago, I put up a post here about the history of video games I'm writing. This project is continuing, but I'm having some conceptual and practical issues with it.

I've realized that a full history of games, in the way that I want to write it, is just too big for a book. If I have 20,000 words on Japanese role-playing games in the 1990's, and the average nonfiction book in bookstores is 80,000 words, I've got way too much detail. It needs to be narrowed down in some way. Obviously I can (and will) edit the chapter, but that's as likely to add as it is to subtract.

In a practical sense, there are also just too many games I haven't played, and playing them now is a major time-sink. It also, for the newer games, requires much more money than I have at the moment. So with those two things in mind, I've decided to simply focus on the 1990's (or more accurately, 1990-2001). I believe that it's the most important transitional era in gaming (especially from 1994-1997 or so) and by some happy coincidence, it's also the one I have the most pre-existing knowledge of.

There are still big problems, though. I have over 30,000 words in two and a half chapters (two on JRPGs, half on PC RPGs). Granted, these are the kind of games I'm most interested and knowledgeable regarding, and also some of the most timeless and continually interesting games. But I've been working on this for maybe six months, and expect the book to need about 20 chapters. Two and a half is too little for me to be at now, and 30,000 words is too many.

I feel like I'm going to have to do something to continue narrowing it down conceptually, but I'm not sure what. The most obvious choice would be to divide it between console and PC games, but I'm opposed to that for a few reasons. First of all, I've divided my work so far roughly evenly between them, so it would force me to have to ignore a few months for a while. Second, I don't think the two platform styles are so different. I don't have specific theses for the book, I prefer to see what emerges, but comparing the similarities and differences between console and PC games is one of the main recurring concepts I've written about. That's seriously diluted if I divide them.

If I do manage to complete it and start shopping it around, I'd ideally like it to be a volume in a larger history of at least three volumes, which includes the 1980's and before, and the 2000's +. This adds the extra issue of shopping around the second volume in a series without the first or third. But to be honest, I'd probably be pretty happy about getting the point where I'm shopping a completed book around.

I do think I have at least half of the title: Spoony Bards, Vespene Gas, and the Chaingun Cha-Cha: video games in the 1990s change everything something something.

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