RE: Productive Citybuilding at the End of the World

Dormancy can be a fine thing, provided you're not slowly bleeding energy or subscribers. It can mean sustaining an effort long past when others might have given out.

Productive Citybuilding at the End of the World
As dark clouds draw nearer, Against the Storm keeps its eyes firmly on the bottom line.

Dormancy can be a fine thing, provided you're not slowly bleeding energy or subscribers. It can mean sustaining an effort long past when others might have given out. Better for the rebels to take to the mountains in the deep jungle and replenish their ranks than to have the revolution lose out in one fell swoop. No apologies, then, for low writing output. I'm simply thankful that I still want to write at all, and that I have the time and space during my commute by train (2 hour 15 minute! one way!) to occasionally do so. One of two things Joe Biden, Selphie Tilmett, and I all have in common: we all like trains, we're all a little slow on the uptake.

An increasingly busy schedule at my full-time job isn't the only thing putting a hard cap on my output. It's also a dispositional thing. I've always taken pains to try to ensure that my writing holds up in posterity (and yes I recognize that we're talking about video games). This is partly a futile legacy thing—look upon my archive, ye mighty, and despair!—but it's also part pragmatism. At this point in this little side-career of mine, I'm too well acquainted with criticism's paltry valuation, seen too many skilled-but-workaday writers get shitcanned, seen too much generational knowledge evaporate. So I've naturally come to the conclusion that the path for me is the one of the sniper: you stay a bit outside of all that, and you put everything into the one shot you take.

This all means being a bit choosy about when I write and what I write about. Sometimes that can be a game whose own inner workings are really that fascinating in a void. But more often, it'll be because a game provokes thoughts that relate to broader culture. It's that relevance which will carry the writing out into the world, mooring it to ideas more durable than one video game. I'm thinking about Black Lives Matter vis-a-vis NBA2K17, gun culture vis-a-vis Control, the Pandemic vis-a-vis Crusader Kings 3. Thanks to Rob and the crew at Remap, now it also means Disaster Capitalism vis-a-vis Against the Storm.

I don't know quite what it ended up at, but I probably wrote about 10,000 words on that subject. A side effect of this methodology, you see, is that when I really crack into a game, sometimes that context that I'm depending on to keep the writing relevant keeps on reasserting itself, again and again. On that subject:

Winning the bet that climate change is going to stay relevant doesn't pay out much, of course. But when I first started the piece I didn't appreciate just how much the El Niño cycle we're currently in the very middle of factored into the consolidation of colonial rule. It also just so happens that I've been on a Mike Davis kick, and reading his Late Victorian Holocausts began to reshape a piece that was originally just pitched on Klein's The Shock Doctrine. If I still had the gdoc up, I'd be tempted to add pull quotes from Abrahm Lustgarten's On the Move: The Overheating Earth and the Uprooting of America, which I only learned of the other day and which surely would have informed things too. But at some point, you just have to make a cut off.

On that note, I'll try to wrap this up. One thing before I do: 2024 marks the 10th year of the Games Journalism Award! 9 pages in that link, filled with some of the best journalism and crit of the decade. I'm stupidly proud of that, and of the fact that this award has–on the subject of perseverance–endured long past when a lot of similar ones gave up the ghost. I'm hoping I'll be able to do a little bit of press for it in the run-up to the show early next year, and maybe we'll come up with some other little ways of marking the occasion. If you've got any ideas, dear reader, you know where to find me, I think. Cheers, - Nick

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