Around a week or so before posting the latest chapter, in a tweet I mentioned that I once got a good piece of feedback that I didn’t really delve into a character’s hobbies as much as I could, and another one pointing out that I don’t mention my characters playing video games enough, and I mentioned that I never thought to put a lot of effort and writing into a character playing video games because a scene of only that would be boring.
I don’t regret making that tweet, but it was devoid of a lot of context, and I got a lot of feedback from it to the extent where I feel I need to point out the full context behind it. Because of course, welcome to twitter, where they literally want you to respond on impulse, and through their combination of limited characters and a drip-feed of constant content, context is near impossible.
The original tweet reads as follows:
I love this question I once got – “if you like video games, why do your teenage characters barely ever play them in your stories?” Because writing a scene about a character only playing a video game is boring. I’m not going to write about everything the character ever does.
Then a relevant follow-up tweet reads as follows:
I remember a perfectly valid criticism I got of Being More Social once, that Adam doesn’t seem to have any hobbies or do anything outside of school. In my mind he absolutely had hobbies, I just didn’t think to dedicate a thousand words to Adam reading a book alone in his room.
There were a couple of readers that took this as, “I will never write about a character playing video games ever,” and, in good faith, demonstrated how I could write characters playing video games to serve as a plot device. Three things popped into my mind – A, multiple people were saying this, so responding individually “I know, my point was more specific than that” would be missing the forest for the trees; B, I had no way to respond with “Yeah, I know that” without seeming like a conceited jackass…
And most importantly, C, I’ve done this exact type of scene before. In the final few chapters of Being More Social, Adam sits down with Paul and plays Skyrim. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, Adam also played video games with Nicole multiple times throughout the story. Some people have taken my tweet as, “I could not possibly write a character playing video games at any point ever,” to the extent where a reader replied with, and I quote, “…bullshit can you not think of a way to weave videogames into your stories. You successfully have data management interactions, but Bloodborne is too much?”
Again, this is a combination of my and Twitter’s fault because context is missing. Of course Bloodborne isn’t too much, but if I, or anyone, is writing a scene about playing video games, we understand that video games aren’t really what the scene is about. It needs to serve another purpose. Nicole getting Adam into video games is to show she’s clearly the dominating and initiating one in their friendship. Adam played Skyrim with Paul in the scene where Adam finds out about Paul’s past.
Apart from what I’ve already written about Bloodborne, I can’t really go much of anywhere with it. Video games are what Quinn did and does when he’s alone to emulate social contact. The story is about Quinn getting a social life. My hands are kind of tied. The data management conversations happened because if two strangers get into a peer tutoring relationship and eventually become fuck buddies, their first few conversations aren’t going to be about sex.
This situation was made all the more hilarious because of that one scene where Quinn is discussing Pokemon with James, his coworker. Some readers noticed and speculated about this being about my tweet about video games, with one commenter saying, “This entire chapter was a fuck you to the people that complain you don’t write about gaming enough.”
I promise it wasn’t! I have absolutely no resentment for people that point out or suggest anything like that. At most, I disagree creatively with them. First of all, I would never write a scene as a “fuck you” to anyone. At worst, it would be “challenge accepted.” Not to mention, if I did write a scene with someone gaming after criticism came in, I should hope it comes across more as “I heard what you said, how does this work?” rather than just “fuck you.” Secondly, and more importantly, this scene was already planned before I wrote the tweet and and written shortly after it.
The tweet was a thought connected to an idea a lot larger than 280 characters. It was missing its context, and I got a lot of responses to it. So, for the record, I’m not saying I won’t write a character doing their hobbies or enjoying normal life, and I know that I can write a character playing a video game, which is why I have, several times. Again, my bad for boiling down such a long-winded thought to a few short sentences. (I told you that I would suck if I ever did brief writing!) I’ll talk to you all next week.
One thought on “Video Games”
Hmn. I really don’t see why your charaacters need to talk about video games – but then my close involvement pretty much started and finished with Jet Set Willy, plus some Tetris even today. It’s interesting to know what activities a main character likes, whether sport, games, reading or something else, but it doesn’t need to be an integral part of the story unless you want it to be.
There is, I think, a tendency for some people who get certain kinds of ‘satisfaction’ from stories like this on the internet to assume that all you need for life comes from a screen. (I’m not knocking ‘certain types of relaxation’ obviously – I’m here, aren’t I?) But actually there are many young, or youngish, people even today who don’t necessarily find video games that important – or so my grandchildren tell me!
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