Erik Twice in Review: Celebrating 100 articles
Last week I published my 100th article on this blog. While I’ve been writing about games for almost a decade, it was only recently that I began publishing every week. As I look back, I’m amazed at how much I’ve achieved and how many of you have enjoyed my analysis and reviews. Let’s celebrate by looking at our favourite articles and my plans for the future.
By far my most popular articles are my strategy guides. As it turns out, there’s quite a few people who would like to play better, and I think that’s great! Playing better makes games more fun and allows us to experience their subtleties. Given the choice between learning a new game and digging deeper into one I already know it’s great, I’ll always choose the latter.
My most popular piece is my Beginner strategy guide for Terraforming Mars. Even though I published it almost two years ago, it’s still being read by hundreds of people every day. It’s so popular it actually matches the readership of larger channels! I’m humbled it has helped so many people and it has been key in making me a little more well-known.
My favourite strategy guide, however, is much older. How to play board games faster has an unusual subject, but it’s useful for every game! It’s a bit rougher than my newer articles but it’s a good piece nonetheless. I’m also incredibly fond of my Beginner strategy guide for Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. I think it’s an incredible game and it becomes even more entertaining for the serious investigator.
I also pride myself in how much I’ve talked about the culture of games. Criticism is not just about reviewing newer titles, but also discussing the broader issues of its industry and its communities. It was tough, but I feel my response to Stegmaier’s article asking if “Is it unethical to pay the media?” was more important than any of my reviews.
However, my favourite article was the one in which I argued Why Tragedy Looper should not be westernized. I believe it touched some vital aspects of representation, art and the importance of themes and settings that are almost never discussed in board games. It was a far more popular article than I expected too! I never thought it would get as much traction.
Still, I am fond of my reviews because I’ve touched all sorts of games. I’ve written about Dune, Battlestar Galactica and The Republic of Rome, all great games I’ve showered with praise. But I’ve also been middling on Root and downright negative on Wingspan, despite its popularity. That variety is invaluable. What gaming needs is not more “correct” opinions, but views that challenge our narrow understanding of the medium.
NEW EDITORIAL LINE
As I reach this milestone, I’m taking the chance to take my blog in a new direction. While my articles have been great, my approach has been kind of scattershot. I jump from old to new, from video to cardboard, from news to strategy. That’s kind of fun, but it’s not the best in the long run. Going onwards, I want to be more focused on my coverage.
My goal is to simply be more coherent. I often write about unusual topics that don’t really have much to do with the rest of the blog. My analysis of Dungeon Master‘s opening was fun to write, sure, but few were interested in an analysis of a 1987 Atari ST video game. I can only write three or four articles per month. Better make them count rather than let the opportunity go to waste.
I’m also taking the chance to fix a long list of small issues. My scoring is a bit wonky, being overly harsh on good games and leaving barely any entries on the 2-star range. Some older articles should get a makeover and I want to revise all my pictures to be prettier and load faster while browsing. It’s a lot of work, but it will be worth it.
Above all, I want to interact more with the community. Talking with other players and critics has made my writing better. The help of my supporters of Patreon has enabled all sorts of great articles and the feedback on Reddit and Twitter has been invaluable. What should I write about next? Let me know in the comments! Here’s to another hundred articles together!
Did you end up getting into Flesh and Blood? If so, that’s a thing I’d like to read about! Or some 18xx stuff.
About the scores, to be honest, I don’t see what they even add to longform reviews. Is it important to you to give every game a score?
I am indeed getting to Flesh and Blood. After much thinking I decided to go with it over VTES and I so far it has proven the right choice. I got a couple start decks a week ago and I’ve now jumped deep by buying a whole competitive deck and a half. I do plan to write about it since it’s an interesting game and there’s not a lot of information about it. I should also review at least one 18XX game as well.
Scores are not important. However, I do like them for a small numbers of reasons. In this case, I think they highlight a small hitch in my writing and how I communicate different qualities. So I do want to improve on that even if it’s a small detail.
I’m curious about the changes in scoring. Enough to read an entire article about how you (now?) approach and evaluate games, even.
I’m assuming when you said you didn’t have enough 2s, you meant less of “I expect a certain distribution” and more “if I don’t really like a game, I give it a 1. If it’s middling, I give it a 3, and there’s not much that isn’t in those categories.”?
I’ll eventually write a brief guide to my scoring system and a small piece on how I approach my reviews. But, in the end, for me it’s mostly about classification. You may not be interested in reading a review just by the title, but you might if I gave it a good score.
But what you say is pretty much it. It’s not so much that I expect games to fall into one category or the other, but that it’s a small bit of nuance I’m missing sometimes. Also, as I review more and more games, I get a better idea of where games fall. For example, one issue I’ve ran into is that I’ve ocasionally thought of Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri as a typical 2-star game. However, it is not. It is a very ambitious, if flawed game, with some trully brillant parts. Hence, it would have been better to see it as an atypical example of the category and probably at the top of it rather than the middle or the bottom.
It’s just a small detail. But now it’s when all those small details become important to fix.