I love this old Rock Paper Shotgun story about Pathologic:
That piece is almost ten years old now…which is wild to think about. I first read it about a year after it went live, and I return to it every so often. It’s one of the best pieces of long-form gaming criticism ever written, in my opinion.
I never would have known Pathologic was even a thing until I found that article…and that was what opened my eyes to the whole world of mid-budget indie games. That size of game is almost the norm for the indie scene now, but ten years ago it took rare ambition to try and craft something huge on a tiny budget.
Pathologic is not a very good game, but it’s a very interesting game. I’ve tried to play its original form a few times and bounced right off of it. The experience was not as fun as reading the RPS article.
It did receive a Special Edition re-release not that long ago, which I think was meant to make it a little more palatable to modern players, and also to help it run on modern machines. I think some crowdfunding was involved too. They’re also working on a brand new full remake of the game, so I’m pretty stoked about that. The header image is concept art from that remake. (Check out their site!)
This RPS article series is always in my mind when I write pieces like Skyrim Mondays and Fallout 4 Fridays. I’m trying to evoke the same balance of commentary about what I’m doing in the game, commentary about the design of the game itself, and lightness that keeps the writing fun and interesting.
It’s not always easy.
I didn’t study creative non-fiction writing very much when I was in school. My focuses as far as writing went were literary criticism and film analysis. It takes a surprising amount of work to craft a readable piece of critical writing.
THE HARD TRUTH
Fallout 4 Fridays, in particular, did great readership-wise in its first installment and then kind of dropped off of a cliff.
A really big cliff.
Both it and my Skyrim series have built a small and dedicated following…but by “small” I mean “less than ten people.”
I know I’m not supposed to talk about this, that I should just be confidently rolling along and pretending this isn’t happening…but I think it’s interesting to think about.
With strong starts out of the gate for both articles, I thought okay great, this is actually going to work!
But after a few weeks…I realized all the issues that long-form criticism presents.
Sure, it’s easier than ever to have access to everything in our pockets now.
But the deluge of information is such that it’s often easier for people to eat it up in one big gulp rather than remembering to come back over and over.
Heck, I didn’t even read the Pathologic series until RPS had posted the whole thing. And that was in a world that only barely had smart phones.
Look at the success of Netflix streaming. Often, the younger demographic that would probably like to read my articles will wait until a whole show is available for “binging” before they even try it.
Will the same thing hold true with my rambling articles? Maybe.
Or maybe they just don’t have a very wide appeal. They’re not reviews of popular headphones. They’re not articles about how to win at Overwatch. They’re just rambling pieces which over-analyze some games that I love.
This sounds like I’m trying to justify an impending cancellation, but I’m not. For the time being, I have no plans to cancel either series. I just wanted to let you know how they’re doing in case you’re an aspiring writer looking to find something that’ll hit big with an online audience.
Maybe stick to short punchy stories about hot button issues, food, or technology instead. :)