Writing About Games is Easy; Writing About Music is Hard

The topics that I write about tend to be, more often than not, game centric. There was no overt decision to focus on this topic on this here weblog[1], it is simply what I know best. Hell, when I started this by creating an account on Blogger I wasn’t even that much of a gamer. Back then, fresh out of high school and in my first (and only complete) year of university, I was a mere dabbler. I had no time or money for games, save for the occasional moments on my then-already outdated PC and the rare bout on my even more dated Playstation.

That was during the start of a new generation. The ill fated SEGA Dreamcast was already three months old and the Playstation 2 loomed over the horizon, four months away. Those were exciting times for videogamers, but I was having none of it. My interests were focused on school and, more so, the internet[2], this whole new “weblog” thing, Napster, design, HTML, Flash 4, and the development and slow acceptance of the many standards that are now common on the web. These were heady one-point-oh days, full of homepages, no syndicated feeds, and teenagers younger than I getting millions of dollars to prop up internet businesses without any business.

It was the most doomed of all these ventures, Napster, that opened my eyes and ears to new things. My relationship with music throughout the 90s, in those pre-filesharing days, was a distant one. I became aware of things going on in the music world around 92 when I was watching Saturday Night Live and its live performances, when grunge was taking over the world. The confluence of these two things, in one set-destroying performance, is one of my earliest musical memories. I watched a lot of TV in those days and my limited contact with the music world came from that; I wasn’t an active music listener. It was around, for sure, but back then I was more intrigued by the sounds of F-Zero and Final Fantasy II and Actraiser.

High school was when I started to listen to the radio and watch MuchMusic, back when they still played music videos. It might be nostalgia, but those post-grunge years produced a massive amount of great music. It was hard not to get into something. While my listening was restricted to what was on the radio, and almost exclusively the mainstream and semi-mainstream new rock content of 102.1 The Edge, I’d occasionally get glimpses of material outside of that insular world. I remember the rare moments when MuchMusic would play Download’s Glassblower, Orbital’s The Box, and I recall absolutely loving and being amazed by FSOL’s My Kingdom.

My Kingdom

Those three examples filtered through to me because they were relatively popular for their time, but anything beyond the fringes remained invisible to me. If it didn’t have a single and a music video, it didn’t exist. I owned a handful of CDs, but most of my money went into games. That was something I was informed about, reading front to back every month’s issue of EGM, the Official Playstation Magazine, and, sometimes, Next Generation. I felt comfortable, as a consumer, that I would make the right decisions with my money. I knew what I liked. I rented games, I bought games, I played games, and I listened to games. Music, in contrast, was a risky venture. It’s funny, then, to consider that my biggest encounter with the electronic music of the day came from a game, WipeOut XL. I remember really digging Fluke’s Atom Bomb video at the time, for obvious reasons.

Atom Bomb

That’s why Napster (and, partly, the streaming online radio of the time) was so important. It allowed me to explore those weird, underground segments of music on my own terms. That made me into a massive consumer of music and instilled in me a fresh passion for it. This has grown over the decade through to today. During my four months in London and Paris earlier in the year, music was often the only company I had and, in that time, I filled my suitcase with a thirty new CDs. 2008 was a breakthrough. This is the first time that I feel genuinely qualified to rant and rave, in thorough detail, about the albums of the year.

Yet, I find it more difficult than ever to express that. As my tastes get more eccentric and I become aware of more history and lineage, I realize how much I have missed and how much catching up I have left to do.

Unlike music, games had a prominent role in my life — bonding with friends, leading me on my career path — since I was six. That little pre-millennial break during my late teens was a mere footnote in my personal gaming history. A two year hiatus in a twenty-three year story. It didn’t last: I bought a Playstation 2 several months after its 2001 launch, after I had my first steady income, further adding to the Dreamcast’s demise. In the years that followed I acquired a further twenty game machines, including all the current systems, a post-death Dreamcast, the Genesis I never had, the SEGA CD I never wanted except for Snatcher, Snatcher, and a pair of Neo Geo Pockets (nice little systems, those.) This is beyond prominent now. It’s a lifestyle.

When it comes to writing about media, five years of passion, and only one of a fervent nature, can not compare to a lifetime’s worth. I might not be the best writer — I’m still learning — but my twenty-five year gaming life gives me enough perspective and cultural history to, I hope, give me a unique voice. It might take me another ten years before I feel as comfortable expressing my opinion about music as I do about games.

So, basically, I just wanted to say that my album of the year is:

Portishead’s “Third.”
  1. I actually get a little miffed when I get labeled a “games blog,” but I’m used to it.
  2. We were some of the lucky few to have cable internet at the time and I was making the most of it.
Modal image