A couple years ago, we tried to start a recurring feature on GamesIndustry.biz called "Why I Loved." The idea was simply to have game developers write about the games they've loved, a chance to see how they appreciate the work of their peers. In the debut column, then-Failbetter Games creative director Alexis Kennedy wrote a wonderful piece on Deus Ex. You can read it here if you like.
Sadly, that debut column was also the last column. We had tremendous interest from virtually every developer we spoke to about the idea, so we took Kennedy's column live and said it would be a monthly feature, figuring that would give us enough runway for some of our interested developers to finish up their contributions. But development being what it is, people got busy. It didn't help that the time in which we were supposed to line up future columns was also the run-up to E3. By the time we'd recovered from the show, we'd missed the monthly deadline we set for ourselves, whatever traction we had was lost, and the window of opportunity seemed to have passed. So we wrote it off as one of those really cool ideas you experiment with but just doesn't pan out.
And that's the way it stayed until a couple months ago, when we saw a Twitter thread from Guillermo del Toro in which the Pacific Rim director gushed about Baby Driver, the new film from Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright.
13 Tweets on BABY DRIVER. 1: A long, long time ago (my generation's youth) a maverick filmmaker named Walter Hill made two promises-— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) June 27, 2017
Vlambeer's Rami Ismail had retweeted the thread, along with a note saying, "This thread is how I wish game developers publicly discussed each other's exceptional work, too."
That got us thinking about "Why I Loved" again. The idea still faces the same logistical issues today that it did two years ago. Developers are no less starved for time, and it can be tough to justify using that time to write nice things about somebody else's work.
"We believe there's value in having something unapologetically positive on the site, but also undeniably worthwhile for the reader."
That said, we've been working over the last couple months to bring it back. We believe there's value in having something unapologetically positive on the site, but also undeniably worthwhile for the reader. The hope is that the series will show how developers appreciate each others' work, providing insight on qualities that would typically be overlooked by players or pundits.
It doesn't matter to us if the game in question is a brand-new AAA blockbuster, a much-heralded classic, or an utterly unknown indie. Some may be about board games, pen-and-paper games, or in at least one case already, hardware. We don't care if the column is an in-depth discussion of what makes a single mechanic work, an anecdote explaining a game's personal importance to the author, or any of a thousand other approaches. What the developers praise and the form in which they praise it are choices that can provide their own insight into how these creators view games. And while it's essentially the same idea as last time, we're also slightly changing the name to "Why I Love," to reflect that the subjects of these columns needn't be older games, and acknowledge that our appreciation of games is typically a present tense kind of thing.
So why will it succeed this time around? Hopefully because we've learned from the past and are doing things a bit differently. For starters, we're making this announcement story. The hope is that it not only creates awareness and interest from developers to participate in the series, but also sets expectations for us in a public way that will ensure we don't backburner it again if things get hectic or we have a few columns fall through on us. We're going to be banking columns further in advance than last time, and will only add them to our editorial calendar once they've been received. We'll also publicize that calendar to build buzz and awareness for specific write-ups in advance of their publication.
At the very least, we can safely say "Why I Love" version 2.0 will run four times as long as the original. We waited until we had four columns ready to go before running any of them or even announcing the series. We'll begin publishing them next Tuesday, with the debut column coming from Fullbright founder Steve Gaynor. Rather than discuss influences on Gone Home and the just-released Tacoma, Gaynor will be talking about this summer's breakout hit PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and the way it deals with failure. Two weeks later, veteran designer and Deus Ex project director Warren Spector will write about his experience playing the 1995 Japanese role-playing game Suikoden, including a certain element he's unsuccessfully tried to borrow for his own games ever since. That will be followed by Ghost Town Games' Phil Duncan talking about a couch co-op hidden gem from Xbox Live Indie Games that influenced his own hit Overcooked in a number of ways. Finally (for now), Blitz Games co-founders and Dizzy creators The Oliver Twins will revisit the hardware that got them their start in the industry, the BBC Micro.
It's a strong lineup that will carry us through until early October, and we're going to continue actively searching for developers to contribute. That said, we can't expect them to prioritize this column the way we are. We're offering our contributors a modest payment for their columns as a matter of principle, but it's unlikely to be the determining factor in whether or not a developer takes the time to write up their thoughts for us. We recognize that this is the kind of extracurricular activity for developers that will get done primarily because they want to do it, not because we enticed them with money or badgered them into meeting a deadline.
With that in mind, we're hoping interested developers aren't shy about contacting us to propose their own "Why I Love" entries. If you're up for contributing a little more positivity to the games media landscape, drop us a line at email@example.com and we'll be in touch.
Upcoming Why I Love columns:
- Tuesday, August 29 - Steve Gaynor on PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
- Tuesday, September 12 - Warren Spector on Suikoden
- Tuesday, September 26 - Phil Duncan on Storage Inc.
- Tuesday, October 10 - The Oliver Twins on the BBC Micro
- UPDATED Tuesday, October 24 - Playtonic studio director Gavin Price on Super Mario Kart
Developers interested in contributing their own Why I Love column are encouraged to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.