razieltwelve

Because writing should be fun

Sometimes Less Is More – Adjectives

Adjectives are wonderful words. A few well-used adjectives can add spice to a passage of writing. However, a few poorly used adjectives can lead to disaster, and two of the easiest ways to misuse adjectives are to either use too many or to use adjectives that are just over the top.

Let’s start off with an obvious example of using too many adjectives.

The big, blue, shaggy, happy, fast, playful, excited dog ran toward its owner.

Clearly, that’s too many adjectives. But how many is too many? A nice, simple test is to read the passage aloud. If you find that the adjectives sound a bit drawn-out or strange, then you’ve probably used too many. Remember, you don’t have to described every single little thing about everything. Sometimes, less is more. Sometimes, you can just call a dog a dog without delving into all the minutiae of its breed, colour, temperament, etc.

Generally speaking, it’s rare to see more than three adjectives being applied to a noun right next to each other, and many writers will never use more than two. There are even writers who won’t use more than one adjective at a time, save for extenuating circumstances. If you really want to describe something in detail, you can do so in stages, describing one set of properties at a time and spacing the adjectives out.

Using over-the-top adjectives can lead to prose sounding quite purple. At the same time, however, we don’t want to always use the same adjectives to describe things. For example, there’s nothing wrong with using ‘huge’ to describe something if it is, in fact, very, very large. However, varying the adjectives you use too much can make prose sound quite bizarre.

Some adjectives are popular for a reason. ‘Big’ is popular because it’s easy to understand, and it covers quite a large range. In contrast, if something is humongous, then it better be large indeed, otherwise using ‘humongous’ just comes across as weird. Furthermore, some adjectives just don’t sound that sensible when used with certain nouns.

Consider a few of the following examples:

  • Humongous sword
  • Ginormous building
  • Minuscule person
  • Berserk poodle

Now, there’s nothing to say that a sword can’t be humongous or that a poodle can’t be berserk, but those combination are more likely to inspire giggles than awe (which is fine if you want people to laugh).

A good rule of thumb is to just ask yourself if you could imagine someone else using the adjective you want to use in the way you want to use it during a relatively normal conversation. If you can’t, then you might be better of looking for a different adjective. Of course, this is just a rough guideline. If you’re writing using a particular style (e.g., a more ornate style), then stick with that.

Adjectives are powerful things, so we should always be careful to use them properly.

If you want to read more about my thoughts on writing, you can find those here.

I also write original fiction, which you can find here.

The Illusion Of Choice In Writing

One of the most commonly discussed concepts in writing is that of fate, the idea that an individual’s destiny is pre-ordained, that their actions are bound to lead to a particular outcome or set of outcomes.

Naturally, this suggestion produces a strong, often visceral, response in readers. The idea that we lack free will, that our choices are merely illusory, is extremely disconcerting. There are at least two reasons for this. The first is that phenomenologically speaking, we feel as though we have free will. Our everyday experience is that we are able to choose our actions, whether it is something as simple as selecting what to have with our toast each morning or as complex as deciding which company to invest in. The second reason relates to agency, the idea that we are responsible for our actions. If free will does not exist, then do we have agency? Can we hold a criminal responsible for their crimes if rather than choosing to commit them, they were destined to commit them?

Because the concept of fate can inspire such a strong reaction, it is ideally suited for evoking emotions from readers. It is not a coincidence that the concept of fate drives so many of the great classical tragedies and heroic tales. There is something horribly fascinating about watching a hero fall and wondering if they could possibly have done anything to avert their doom or if they were doomed from the start but never knew it.

But this is where things get tricky. A story can operate on at least two levels: the level of the reader and the level of the characters. The reader has the benefit of seeing the big picture, of understanding that the story is a story. The characters within that story do not generally have this same privilege. This distinction has implications when it comes to writing about fate.

Let us assume for a moment that fate is completely real, that a person’s destiny is completely decided. On a reader level, we can appreciate the tragedy of this. Indeed, we can either recoil from it in horror or be drawn to it in fascination. But the characters will almost never perceive things in this way. To the characters, there exists the illusion of choice. The characters can believe that they are in command of their own destiny, that their choices change their fate even if that isn’t the case.

Consider a story about a man who is told that one day he will save the life of the person who eventually kills him. One possible response from such a man will be to simply refuse to help anyone thereby avoiding their fate. A canny reader will, of course, expect some twist and so will read the story with an eye to that outcome.

Imagine then that the man encounters a drowning mother and child. The man wants to walk away because he remembers the warning. But he is not callous enough to walk away from this. He jumps in and tries to save the mother and child. The mother dies, and filled with guilt, the man raises the child. After all, what harm could the child do to him?

At this point, the reader is curious to know what happens next. And the man, the character, is confident that he can continue to avoid his fate by continuing to not save people. Sure, he saved a baby, but what harm can come of that?

Fast forward eighteen years. The man is teaching the baby, now a young man himself, how to drive. Through some unlucky (or perhaps destined) confluence of circumstances, the young man panics while taking a particularly treacherous turn. The car crashes, killing them both. The man’s fate is fulfilled.

A reader reading this story has no doubt, or very little doubt, that the man’s fate is sealed. That is, after all, the whole point of such stories. But the character, the man himself, has the opposite experience. The character believes that he can avoid fate, that he can be master of his own destiny. Yet in doing so, he creates the very sequence of events that leads to his demise.

What makes such stories compelling, and many a story has travelled a similar road, is the illusion of choice that the man experiences. The man believes he has a choice, and certainly it seems like he does from his point of view. But the reader knows better, and that is what draws the reader in, that is what creates the tragedy.

A more recent example of this is the unfortunate demise of Ned Stark in A Game of Thrones. A rational person would have pointed out that Ned was at least partially responsible for his own death by choosing to warn his enemies in what could only be termed an act of mercy. Yet did Ned ever have a choice or was his fate determined right from the start? I would argue that Ned never had a choice at all. If we examine his character (i.e., his system of morals and beliefs), he could not have done otherwise and still been who he was. As a result, there was only the illusion of choice. He was always going to approach Cersei, and he was always going to get killed for it. And that is part of what enthrals readers. They long for Ned to make a different choice but understand that he was never going to make a different choice because of who he was.

So much of tragedy comes from understand that the choices people make that lead to their downfall were the only ones they could make given who they are. But are such choices really even choices? It is quite arguable that they are not.

Stories are often cast as a series of choices that characters make, but one could take the opposite view: stories are a series of choices that characters don’t make. In other words, a story consists of a series of events that push or otherwise force characters into a particular sequence of decisions. Their choices are illusory because the events they encounter force them along a certain path.

Consider the typical coming of age heroic story in which a stout-hearted young man finds his homeland besieged and imperilled, his comrades at arms routed and betrayed. In such stories the young man typically embarks on adventure, gathering sufficient power and forces to take back his homeland and free his people. Such stories are often quite obvious about the role of fate. Indeed, they often include suggestions of prophecy regarding the emergence of a hero in troubled times. But, in something of a contradiction, they also often describe the young man as embarking on adventure or going on a quest. Such descriptions imply a level of choice, which you could argue does not exist.

If we look at the typical characteristics of such heroes, they are often young, highly loyal, brave, patriotic, and family- and honour-oriented. Given these qualities, could they ever do anything but seek to become heroes? Their choice, the decision to embark on a quest, is not a choice at all. It is the only decision they could ever make given who they are. Does this mean they lack free will? It depends on how you look at it.

Nevertheless, the role of fate in such stories is again powerful. The idea of a promised hero coming to provide salvation is one of the oldest in the world. It is present in every single mythological system in the world and continues to resonate with readers today. Part of what resonates with readers is the suggestion that the hero is not someone who seeks power or glory for their own sake, but for some greater good. They are not seeking fame. They are destined for greatness. Yet, despite this, part of what makes such stories so interesting is seeing the hero struggle to make the choices we all know they will make anyway (e.g., choosing to suffer to save others or choosing to fight against hopeless odds when they know the end result is death).

The illusion of choice is a powerful thing in writing. It relates to the idea that a character can completely believe they have free will and agency, indeed that is the experience they have, yet still be bound up in some larger fate because who they are dictates, perhaps even preordains, the choices they will make. As a reader, this tension is easily appreciated. In fact, it can be one of the major reasons that a story resonates with readers.

If you want to read more about my thoughts on writing, you can find those here.

I also write original fiction, which you can find here.

My Face Hurts…

I wouldn’t say that I’m accident prone although I have had my fair share of them over the years. That said, I have suffered through some fairly humorous incidents.

Yesterday was another one.

I was opening my bedroom door and walking out of it in a hurry when something went wrong. The plan was to swing the door open, step out of it, and then rush out into the corridor. What actually happened was I stepped first, swung open the door (which rebounded off my foot), and then ran straight into the edge of the door.

Whack.

Cue instant agony.

At first I was worried I’d cracked my eye socket or given myself a black eye since it hurt a lot more than being kicked or punched in the head (something I’ve had happen to me before). Luckily, however, after poking around at my face and looking at in the mirror, it seems that I managed to avoid doing any serious damage. My glasses also managed to avoid getting broken. It seems that paying extra for the titanium frames was worth it…

It kind of makes me laugh, now that it doesn’t hurt much anymore. I almost got killed by a door.

And it’s not even the first time.

I once ran right into a doorknob. Until you’ve done it, you have no idea how pointy a metal doorknob feels. It was like getting stabbed in the chest by the end of a baseball bat.

Gah.

I’ve also been hit on the head by the edge of a metal door while at university. One of my colleagues was responsible, and they were worried they’d given me a concussion because they really threw the door open (I was standing on the other side of it). Luckily, I was okay.

Hmm…

It seems like I have a problem with doors.

When To Step Back

One of the toughest things to do in writing is to honestly evaluate your own work. Writing can be such an intensely personal endeavour that it can be difficult to adopt a relatively objective and balanced perspective of your own work. But the ability to accurately assess your own work is critical. It is what allows you to take on advice from others, and it is what allows you to know when to go with the suggestions of others and when to hold firm.

One of the best ways to get a more objective view of your own writing is to step back. Stepping back means putting some time and emotional distance between you and something you’ve written. Here are some tips that can help you with stepping back:

  • Don’t begin revising something immediately after you’ve finished it. After you’ve just finished something, it can be very easy to look at it with either an over or under critical eye. Taking a day, or even a few days, before coming back to it can help you look at it more objectively.
  • Remember that you are not your work. No matter how much time, effort, and emotion you’ve put into writing something, always remember that you are more than what you’ve written. A writer can be who you are, but something you’ve written does not define you. Even fantastic writers can write poorly. Criticism of something you’ve written isn’t criticism of you as a person or individual.
  • Don’t forget that writing is an iterative process. It is extremely rare to get something completely right the first time. Finding things to fix should be viewed as a positive: you’re getting one step closer to writing something really great.
  • Try to read reviews and criticism when you’re feeling calm, and don’t be afraid to take a break. Reviews and criticism can really hurt, so try to approach them when you’re feeling calm. If it gets too much, then you can always come back later when you’re feeling calmer.
  • Remember the things you’ve done well and the things you’ve done poorly. It is incredibly easy to get overwhelmed by the things you’ve done poorly and which need fixing. But take the time to remember the things you’ve done well. Remembering the things you’ve done well will make it easer to make the necessary changes without getting frustrated or overly worried.
  • Revise your work in sections. Revising something long or complex can be a very draining process. It can be tempting to try to do the whole thing in one sitting, but that can lead to you getting tired, both physically and mentally, which is not going to help. Break things down into manageable pieces and make changes in increments.
  • Develop a routine for assessing you work. Having a routine, a set process by which you evaluate your work, can help take the emotion and subjectivity out of it. Developing a highly practiced routine will also make the process quicker and more familiar. In my case, I always start by assessing if the story works on a more general level before working my way to the specifics like punctuation and grammar.

Keeping a level head and looking at your own work objectively is important. No writer will improve without being able to honestly assess what they’ve written. Honesty and objectivity can be difficult to maintain, but they will lead to success in the long run.

If you want to read more about my thoughts on writing, you can find those here.

I also write original fiction, which you can find here.

Don’t Be Afraid To Use A Thesaurus Or A Dictionary

When I was young, I was told by certain people that relying on a dictionary or a thesaurus was a sign of weakness. Particular contempt was heaped upon the thesaurus. It was, I was told, a crutch, something that an intelligent person should not have to consult.

Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that such views are, to put it bluntly, mostly crap.

In my opinion, the best way to improve your vocabulary is to read widely and often. It doesn’t matter if it’s fantasy novels or economics magazines. Reading more will almost certainly improve your grasp of the English language.

That said, the dictionary and thesaurus are both still quite useful.

Once your vocabulary reaches a certain size, it is often possible to identify the meaning of an unfamiliar word using only context. However, if you can’t tell what a word means, then looking it up in the dictionary will definitely help. The dictionary definition also provides a much more precise and nuanced answer when the context a word is used in leaves some degree of ambiguity as to its exact meaning. I often keep find myself opening an extra window in my web browser, just in case I need to look a word up, and my vocabulary isn’t exactly small. It never hurts to add another word, or to get a better grasp of a word you’re already familiar with.

The thesaurus is handy because although the number of words in English is enormous, the actual number of commonly used words is substantially smaller. Talk to anyone on the street and ask them another word that means big. Here are a few of the answers that you’re likely to get:

  • Huge
  • Large
  • Massive

But here are a few others that would appear in a thesaurus that you are unlikely to encounter in everyday use:

  • Humongous
  • Gargantuan
  • Titanic

Again, reading widely is likely to help your vocabulary, but using a thesaurus allows you to target specific words. That’s not to say you should simply switch words out when you’re writing by using a thesaurus. Words with similar meanings do have nuances to them that makes simply swapping them out dangerous. Instead, use the thesaurus to get familiar with new words by anchoring them to words you’re already familiar with.

A thesaurus can also come in handy because many older words no longer appear commonly in modern fiction and non-fiction. One of my favourite writers of all time is H. P. Lovecraft, and I picked up a whole slew of new words when I first started reading him, words that I looked up in the dictionary and thesaurus to help get a better idea of. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • Eldritch
  • Vigintillion
  • Krotala
  • Domdaniel

If you love learning new words, then there’s no reason not to use a dictionary or thesaurus if the need arises. And given that you can now access these online for free, there’s even less reason not to do so.

If you want to read more about my thoughts on writing, you can find those here.

I also write original fiction, which you can find here.

Dialogue Versus Actual Speech

Dialogue is one of the most important parts of writing good fiction. Good dialogue not only fleshes out the characters but also the world they live in. Consider something like a period romance novel. Exactly how people speak creates a lot of the atmosphere and allows the reader to identify what period the story is set in.

But dialogue is not always the same as actual speech. The next time you talk to someone, listen very closely to what they say. Apart from the words that actually convey what they want to say, there will usually be some amount of hedging and some idiosyncratic verbal tics.

Very, very few people speak perfectly in casual conversation. More often than not, the actual guts of a conversation are interspersed with varying levels of “um” and “ah” and “uh” because we don’t generally plan out what we want to say, right down to the last word. We also tend to have our little idiosyncrasies, little verbal tics that we use when we’re thinking or trying to buy time. Some people use phrases like “but, anyway” and “you know”, but there are a host of other phrases that people employ to fill out gaps in their speech.

Dialogue in fiction rarely reflects real speech. Characters do not stutter and stumble over their words anywhere near as often as they would in real life. There is a good reason for this. It can be absolutely excruciating to read through actual speech (try reading a completely accurate transcript of an interview, one that doesn’t cut out all the little verbal tics and hedging – it’s agonising). Furthermore, space is at a premium in a story. The longer something is, the harder it can be for it to hold a reader’s attention. Making dialogue exactly like actual speech distracts readers from what is being said and from what the dialogue says about the characters.

However, there are times when making dialogue more realistic can help. If everyone speaks cleanly (i.e., without breaks and stuttering), then characters who do not speak cleanly stand out. Someone can be made to appear very nervous by the simple act of actually having them use “um” and “uh” when they talk. Likewise, more realistic speech can also be used to convey shock.

At the same time, however, it is important for dialogue to be realistic in other ways. Take vocabulary. If a six-year-old starts talking like a physics professor without a very good reason, then their dialogue is going to come across as strange and jarring. It is also critical to take into consideration how long each passage of dialogue is. Conversation tends to be a two-way street. It would be odd if one character spent pages and pages talking without letting anyone else speak unless they were telling a story or something similar. Likewise, a real conversation has a certain flow to it, a give and take, which is also present in well-written dialogue (see e.g., humorous fiction, which tends to rely on this quite heavily).

Dialogue is an important part of writing fiction and although it is similar to actual speech in many ways, it is not always the same.

If you want to read more about my thoughts on writing, you can find those here.

I also write original fiction, which you can find here.

A Comment On How I Review Things

When I review a piece of media (e.g., a book or a film), I tend to approach it from two different angles:

  • From an audience-oriented view
  • From an author-oriented view

The audience-oriented part of the review should focus on whether or not the media under review provides the audience with a worthwhile experience. Depending on what the audience is looking for, this might mean that the media makes them laugh, think, or even cry.

When looking at media from the point of view of the audience, I think it is important to consider the characteristics of the target audience as well. For example, if a film is clearly aimed at children, it makes little sense to unduly criticise it for not appealing to adults. Likewise, it would be odd to mark an action movie down for not having enough romance.

That’s not to say that a piece of media cannot be judged against media aimed at a different audience. Although there are aspects of media that are subjective, there are also aspects that are much closer to objective. In films, this might include things like special effects, soundtrack, and cinematography. In books this might involve the quality of the prose (from a technical standpoint), the coherence of the plot, and the pacing.

It is because of the more objective factors that intense study of a particular form of media often results in the identification of several classics that are regarded as being superior. Consider fantasy and science fiction. Despite the enormous variation between writers, there are still several that are widely considered legends in the field (e.g., Tolkien).

In summary, the aim of the audience-oriented portion of any review that I write is designed to answer several questions:

  • What did I like/dislike about the piece of media?
  • Who would/wouldn’t enjoy the piece of media?

The author-oriented portion of any review that I write is aimed at providing the author with constructive feedback. In other words, what worked and why did it work? And what didn’t work and why didn’t it work?

The goal of this feedback is to help the author improve. Sometimes, this is relatively straightforward. For example, if a writer has very poor punctuation and spelling, then the solution is obvious: they should improve their punctuation and spelling. However, there are times when it is more complicated. For instance, if a video game has major flaws in key elements of its gameplay, simply stating that the gameplay is broken does not help. I need to identify exactly which elements are broken and then offer suggestions as to how they might be fixed.

Author-oriented feedback can be very complicated, especially if the flaws in the piece of media are in the less objective areas. Take humour. Even if I find something incredibly funny, there is no telling if someone else will find it funny too. Likewise, I might not find something humorous at all and say exactly that to the writer, only to find that everyone else finds what they’ve written hilarious. Similar situations can occur in film. There is no perfect way to depict combat on screen. The filmmaker may have a good reason to adopt more stylised combat, but I might want to make an argument that more realistic combat would be more compelling. But what one person finds compelling may be different from someone else. My feedback is likely to involve some subjectivity on my part.

As a final set of remarks, I want to say a few words about how reviews are written, particularly acerbic reviews. A cutting wit can be very entertaining. Indeed, tearing into a particularly poor piece of media can result in a review that is much more entertaining than the media itself. As a result, I may not always find it particularly tasteful for an audience-oriented review to rip into something, but I can at least understand why that happens. If the goal is to warn the audience away from something particularly bad, then a truly cutting review works well enough. The audience is forewarned and thus forearmed. They are also entertained.

However, when a review is author-oriented, then I feel that things change somewhat. It is true that makers of media require the ability to accept criticism. But if the goal is to help the author improve, simply heaping scorn and criticism upon them is unlikely to succeed. To be fair, there are authors for whom that works very well (and some may need a firmer hand than others). But the vast majority will simply bear the review as best they can before scuttling off to lick their wounds, more concerned with the cruelty of the review than with its message. Again, one could say that such authors simply need to develop a thicker skin, but the question could also be turned the other way: was the reviewer more interested in forcing the author to develop a thicker skin or did they actually want to help the author improve?

Reviewing is not easy, especially when the goal is to help the author. And there are certainly authors that are oversensitive, for whom even the merest whiff of criticism is enough to induce an apoplectic rage. Such authors truly do need to develop thicker skin, lest they find themselves breaking in a manner not unlike Humpty Dumpty. Nevertheless, I do believe that maintaining a certain level of civility is much more likely to produce results.

In closing, I think it is important to consider what you are trying to do when your review something. A review can vary quite a lot depending on whom you are trying to help: the audience or the author. The latter wishes to improve whilst the former wishes to know if they are likely to enjoy themselves.

If you want to read more about my thoughts on writing, you can find those here.

I also write original fiction, which you can find here.

Despair… Thy Names Is Spurs

I seriously don’t know what to make of the team at the moment. This game against the Clippers was a big one. We could have moved from the 7th seed all the way up to the 5th seed. Instead, we had the lead and, as usual, blew it in the third quarter. At one point the Spurs were up nine. Seriously…

What was troubling to me was Leonard’s play. The problem has always been that of the four best players on the team (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Leonard), we need at least three playing pretty well. Parker and especially Duncan played well today. Manu was… interesting. He had some good plays, but he had some really, really frustrating plays too (e.g., the bit near the end where I swear he had an open lay up and then decided to pass… which became a turn over). But Leonard was well below his usual standards.

It’s like the team can’t get all of its cylinders to fire. I just don’t know what to think. When we play well, we look almost invincible, but we play well so rarely. I still think that we’ll be okay if we can just sneak into the play offs. I doubt there’s a team that wants to face the Spurs in the first round. But now we threw away a game we should have won (if only we didn’t perpetually play badly during third quarters this season) and have to go up against Golden State on the second night of a back-to-back, which is pretty much a scheduled loss unless Kerr decides that maybe he doesn’t want to play Curry and Thompson (unlikely).

Gah.

I just…

Just…

Gah.

The way things are going I fully expect Australia to lose at the Cricket World Cup now. I already miss last season’s Spurs. And I really miss the Australian cricket team with Gilly and the others.

The Sound…

I was up late one night thanks to another bout of insomnia when I heard the most peculiar sound at my window. It was the sound of something scraping back and forth across the window, and it happened every now and then. At first, I ignored it, but it continued to happen just often enough to make it impossible to ignore.

I got up to check what was making the sound. There is a tree in front of my window, but none of the leaves or branches were touching the window. I thought it might be the wind since it was quite windy. But even with the wind, nothing was touching the window.

Resolving to ignore it and do something productive, I tried to work. But I kept hearing the sound. I went to the window again and stared out into the darkness. There was nothing there, nothing at all.

It was only as my frustration reached a high point and I was about to go outside that I noticed something on the corner of the window. It was a snail. Somehow, a snail had gotten onto my window. The sound I’d been hearing was the sound of the snail dragging itself over the glass.

Going outside, I plucked the snail off my window and put it down on the ground. Problem solved.

Or so I thought.

I’d no sooner gone back inside than I heard the hideous warbling of a bush turkey.

Damn it.

Video Games As A Form Of Self-Expression

Imagine that you’re playing a fighting game for the very first time. You’re not very familiar with it at all although you have seen a few people play it before. How do you choose which character to play? I suspect that most people would simply choose whichever character seemed the most interesting.

But what makes one character more interesting than the others? The answer is likely to vary from person to person. Some people might pick a character based solely on appearance while others might gravitate toward a character that requires a particular style of play. One of the most important things for a fighting game to do is to provide a sufficiently diverse selection of characters and gameplay, thereby ensuring that as many people as possible find something about the game interesting.

Consider a series like Street Fighter. Some of its characters excel at controlling distance, relying on projectiles and other moves to maintain the space between characters (e.g., Guile). Other characters excel at close range and will attempt to close the distance between characters whenever possible (e.g., Zangief).

One of the reasons that Street Fighter has had such enduring appeal is that it offers a wide variety of characters and playing styles. If someone enjoys doing long, elaborate combos that require skilful execution, there is a character for that (Evil Ryu). Likewise, if someone prefers a character with less strenuous execution requirements, well, there’s a character for that too (e.g., Cammy).

Offering players the chance to choose a character and play style that matches their preferences will make a game much more enjoyable. Imagine that you’re someone who likes to play defence, but you discover that the game you’re playing has no character that can play defensively. You’re going to be disappointed. You may even become frustrated if you’re forced to play a character and style that you don’t like. Assuming that a game is reasonably well balanced, people will generally pick the character and playing style that best suits their personal preferences.

This idea – that games can be a form of self-expression – extends beyond fighting games. It can be applied to strategy games as well. In Starcraft 2, there are three different races, each of which features different mechanics and strategies. This variation is not only intended to produce exciting gameplay but also to give people the chance to choose how they play the game – to express themselves.

Terran, for example, can be played in a highly aggressive fashion, relying primarily on bio units to attack multiple places on the map while applying constant pressure. However, Terran can also be played in a much slower, more deliberate, and defensive fashion by relying on mechanical units, which offer much greater cost efficiency and power at the expense of mobility and the ability to pressure the opponent in the early game.

It is interesting to note that most of the periods in which complaints became common in Starcraft 2 (e.g., the Brood Lord/Infestor era at the end of Wings of Liberty and the Four Gate Era at the start of Wings of Liberty) occurred as a result of both imbalance (i.e., one race being superior to the others) and a lack of diversity in the meta-game (i.e., a meta-game in which only a small set of strategies are considered viable). People got sick of playing the game the same way, over and over. Even the people who were winning got sick of it because they were only able to play in one way.

But nowhere is the ability for games to serve as a mode of self-expression clearer than in the increasing trend toward customisation in RPGs. More games now allow players to customise almost everything: from the abilities their characters have to the appearance, gender, and even affiliation that their characters have. People still enjoy games in which there is a set storyline and cast of characters, but they also enjoy games in which they can express themselves, choosing not only how their characters looks but also how their character acts (see e.g., Mass Effect, Dragon Age, etc.).

It is only natural for people to express themselves. This happens in writing, in art, and even in sport, so it should not be surprising that people also enjoy expressing themselves when they play video games. Giving people the opportunity to express themselves is one way that a game can help catch and maintain the interest of its audience.

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