Building A Better Future

Building A Better Future

We’d like you to join us in supporting Critical Distance’s current fundraiser.

This is a fairly long text extoling the virtues of quality curation, but in case you don’t need convincing, you should know there’s a bit at the end where we talk about what’s in it for you. Additionally, we’d like to mention the upcoming fundraising stream hosted by our own Joe Köller this Friday between 7PM and 12PM GMT. Keep your eyes peeled.

Haywire has not always been the site it is today.

It was only about a year into running it that I recognized the world didn’t really need another small site with unrealistic goals. What it might need was a place where people could find the guidance to avoid repeating my mistakes. We began seeing ourselves as a stepping stone for new voices, and the site slowly took its current form. The many great editors who rallied behind this cause gave me confidence that we were on the right path, and to this day I can see the need for our existence every time a basic question about how to get into games journalism is answered by the aggressive recruiters of exploitative sites.

Still, one nagging doubt has never left my mind. Are we setting people up for failure? I know the frustrations of this field as well as any other writer: you trade long hours, economic instability and a lack of long-term career perspectives for bad rates and a chance to be viciously abused by strangers on Twitter. Even if we warn people about these risks, it would be a cruel joke indeed to offer a point of entry into this scene without campaigning to reform it into a more habitable environment – like ushering our bright and hopefuls onto an escalator that proceeds to drop them off a cliff.

There was no way we could do all of this alone, but luckily we didn’t have to. I soon discovered that some great minds were already working on the issue: the people behind Critical Distance, who I have been proud to call my colleagues for a few years now.

It’s easy to lose sight of just what an essential resource Critical Distance is when you are already immersed in the day-to-day discourse of games criticism, and encounter it mainly as an after-the-fact list of interesting articles that happened in a particular week (although let’s not forget the fantastic podcast interviews, monthly writing themes, critical compilations, resources for writers, agony auncle column, etc. etc.).

The importance of that list lies in its historic dimension. Critical Distance has been curating articles non-stop since 2009. Just let that sink in for a moment. It has seen studios rise and fall. It has seen sites come and go. It has seen critical conversations flare up, simmer down, and flare up again a year later. Ever the diligent librarian, Critical Distance kept track of all of these threads and it makes them all available to you.

More importantly, it makes them available to everyone. It provides an easily searchable database used by lecturers, researchers, and designers. These records are one of the strongest arguments available to us when it comes to showing the need to fund, produce and study both games and games criticism. Sure, all of us reading this right now know that there is merit to these new digital media, but the only way to make that claim to the general public is to show them specifics, and there’s no better example than the treasure trove of resources provided by Critical Distance. It demonstrates both how to approach games critically and what kind of interesting results you get by asking the right questions.

The site serves more than representative purposes, however: it is equally important to the dialogue within our scene. Every week, critics are treated to a digestible summary of current trends and topics, allowing them to easily enter into conversations that transcend the borders of individual blogs. New arrivals are given a chance to orient themselves in this field and find a place to pitch in with new viewpoints, gaining the attention of their peers when their writing is highlighted the following week.

The simple act of week to week curation enables the cross pollination of ideas and the rise of new voices in games criticism. Understanding the power of curation, it is especially important that those we rely on to record our history and facilitate dialogue understand the gravity of their choices. Curation efforts in the form of reading lists and Best Of’s exist, but tend to be short lived and fraught with questionable assumptions – what exactly makes a piece of criticism good?

Critical Distance is well aware of these issues and trying its best to navigate them, not by refusing to take a stand, but by acknowledging the political nature of its work. Instead of creating a restrictive canon or reproducing our community’s biases unchallenged, the site explicitly aims to combat bigotry and elevate marginalized voices. It accepts no toxicity or bad faith arguments, and provides content warnings for sensitive material.

That’s enough words for now, however, it’s time for action! To support Critical Distance in their fund-raising efforts, we here at Haywire are offering our services to anyone kind enough to contribute. If you sign up for the seasonal $10 reward on their Patreon campaign, you get a one-time coupon to summon our team for your needs. Anything that’s within our expertise as editors to provide is on the board here, for example:

  • Feedback on pitch emails
  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Freelancing advice
  • Editing passes on your writing (within reason, no novels)
  • Proofreading for your essay assignment
  • High-quality comments for your blog posts

This offer is valid only until December 16th 2016, when the fundraiser ends, but you can cash in your reward at any time during the next year. Be sure to check out the official fundraising page to see what other awesome reward you can get and what new features will be unlocked at the next targets. The current level of $1,300 covers continued operation, but at $1,900 Critical Distance will bring back Let’s Play coverage and the Critical Discourse letter series. At $3,000, they’ll be able to start new features: monthly video updates on current trends in criticism, and monthly roundups dedicated to non-English games criticism.

If there is merit to the old adage that those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it, perhaps the inverse holds true as well: those who understand the past can steer the future in the right direction. Critical Distance is exactly who we need at the helm for our journey. Join us in creating a history, and future, for games criticism.

Joe Köller founded Haywire, is contributor to Critical Distance, and occasionally writes for German sites such as Video Game Tourism, Superlevel, and WASD. You can follow him on Twitter.