Our retrospective look at Late to the Party continues with Part 2 today. In this issue I’m going to go in-depth with the methodology behind the process of writing the commentaries. Taking screenshots and gameplay videos for a commentary are a different process that I will not be covering here.
Before starting any game that I was going to write about, I created a text editing file for my notes. As I played I normally would have my laptop sitting next to me with that file open, and whenever a thought crossed my mind about something that might be notable for the writing piece I would pause the game and type it up. This at times could cause a lot of stop-and-go with the game I was playing, but I favor this process of actively taking notes because I’m prone to coming up with a lot of ideas on things to say about a game but then forgetting them if they’re not recorded. After many hours, my text document tends to look something like this:
As you can see, I have a lot of thoughts on this game, which in this case was Tomb Raider, but they exist in a disorganized, jumbled mess. Once I finish a game and have no more notes to type out, the process of taking the raw materials and forging them into a finished product begins. Not all of my notes make it into the final product, and certainly I’ll get new ideas on things to say as I’m writing, but at this point I have a good grasp of what’s going to be in my commentary. I start with the first paragraph, which is largely the same for each commentary, and then work my way from top to bottom, following a particular outline that I developed with the first commentary and then stuck with for nearly all the others. Below is the outline, broken down section by section. Depending on the game, not all of the following items may be in any given commentary.
Opinion of Story
Visuals, Audio, and Performance
Notable Game Flaws
Structurally, my commentaries are fairly blocky, with rigid, predefined sections for particular aspects of a game. This is something of an archaic way to write about and review a game, but it keeps things simple and appeals to my inner need for order. It also means I know approximately where on the page any given note is going to appear in the commentary before I start writing it.
As the process of generating a commentary continues, more and more notes are converted into complete sentences and the commentary slowly takes shape. After awhile, the Tomb Raider commentary looked like this:
In the screenshot above, the initial drafts of the three paragraphs are done, and the large block of notes at the bottom of the text file is starting to shrink. Normally I will keep grinding out paragraphs in the order of the outline, but invariably I sometimes get stuck. Even with all of those notes, Writer’s Block still finds way to attack and I can find myself not knowing how I want to phrase something, a good way to transition between thoughts, and/or what extra details to add or omit. When these or other problems hit, and I’m unable to break through the wall, I’ll leave that particular section of the commentary behind and move on to the next one. Below you can see a screenshot from when I was getting bogged down in one are of the Tomb Raider commentary.
I was having trouble deciding exactly what I wanted to say in that part of the commentary, and the notes weren’t quite coming together into good, readable paragraphs. Later on I came back to this region to take another crack at it. After two or three days of thinking, writing, deleting, and rewriting, I finally got it to what you can see now in the finished Tomb Raider commentary. Interestingly, if you look at that finished commentary you’ll note that some of the things in the screenshot above ended up getting deleted from the final product.
Slowly but surely I grind my way to the end of the first draft of the commentary, and when I hit that point I stop writing for the day. While I could immediately start the process of editing, I have found it’s best to wait at least a day to put some distance between me and the initial euphoria of having a first draft ready. Editing can be a protracted engagement, with me rereading the commentary in its entirety several times over as I search for errors and better ways to say what I’m trying to say. A good method for doing this I’ve found is to copy the first draft of the commentary out of the text document I wrote it in and paste it into a different text editing program. For whatever reason, the act of viewing the same words in a different program helps me see them in a new light and spot things I might have missed while still viewing them in the original program. Awkward wording and sentence structure, incomplete or incorrect thoughts, and the excessive repetition of certain phrases are among the common things that require fixing, but the most pervasive flaws in my writings are basic typos. If you think my published works have a lot of typos, you should see what my writing pieces look like before I edit them. Getting a commentary from first draft to being ready for publishing sometimes requires a substantial time investment, but then again great things in life that are worthwhile frequently require extended effort, so I’m willing to put in the time needed to produce quality content.
Eventually I get to the place where a commentary is finally done and as ready as it will ever be for being published online. I log in to Blogger, create a new post, and then copy and paste in the commentary. The images and videos I prepared for the commentary also have to be imported, but as I said earlier that’s a whole different process I’m not going to detail here. When everything is formatted correctly, I do a quick preview, and then if it all looks ok I click the publish button. The commentary is then unleashed upon the online world. Thus the process of writing a commentary comes to an end, but soon enough it will begin all over again when start the next game.