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Why I Write About Games by Caleb Sawyer

by @lorenzoherrera

I have been writing about games for 8 years. I started in college, intrigued by an opportunity to write for the Rambler, the school paper. I had just quit playing baseball, a sport I had been committed to for nearly 12 years, and I had an abundance of time, a love for film and games, and an opportunity. I started by reviewing movies. I saw Drive, Contagion, and many other films in the first few months. It wasn’t until I saw an ad for Battlefield 3, an ad with a cheeky dig at Call of Duty claiming that Battlefield went “Above and Beyond the Call”. It was smart. It may seem silly, inconsequential even, but that small ad sparked…something. 

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In the past 8 years I have written about indie games, AAA games, news, studios, conferences. It has been an amazing ride, even if that ride has been bumpy, inconsistent, or even to a smaller audience than I want. I keep writing, as slow or fast as I can, because I couldn’t live with myself if I just decided not to. And that’s just it. I will never stop writing about games, and the reason (for me) is simple: I believe that games have the ability to touch lives deeper than many people think, and I want to make sure as many people realize that as possible. 

When I started writing about games this motivation made itself clear quickly. Unexpectedly, my resignation from competitive sports had a large impact on my immediate mental state. I had a means of expression and a place to take out aggression for over a decade that was suddenly gone. While I continued to play in the summer for a few fo the following years, It never took center stage again. I became depressed, I started smoking, my sleep schedule fell apart. In the spring of 2012 I got the opportunity to go to a journalism conference in Seattle. Within moments of the first session I knew that I wanted to write for the rest of my life. Upon returning from that trip my uncle connected the dots for me. “You love games, you love writing. Why not write about games.” It was like being punched in the face. But in a good way. 

Over that summer I was given the opportunity to work alongside my uncle and write journalistically for several blogs and author a few comic books. Ben (my uncle) is a comic illustrator, and works from home. Adopting his schedule, I wrote forty pieces in the three months of summer for multiple blogs. At the same time we both realized that going back to school in the fall would prove hitting deadlines for other blogs difficult. After a few days of brainstorming, NerdyBits was born. 

I continued to struggle with my newfound depression during this time, and I authored a piece called Why Games Matter. I wrote about how games helped me through my depression in the last year. How Mass Effect 2 helped me feel like I could solve problems. I wrote about how Skyrim saved my life. 

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I don’t want to sound like I’m saying that people who don’t write emotionally about games are doing it wrong. There is a huge need for news, investigative reporting, and editorials based in fact. There are all-stars doing this reporting, this writing. What I decided, in short, was that I would do the writing I wasn’t seeing as much. Drawing from my own life to tell unique stories about the games that I have played. Confident that others would gravitate towards stories with a strong human element.

Over the last several years I have written about criticism in games, why indie games are saving the industry, how playing MLB: The Show reminded me that losing is ok, how a mobile game prepared us for the death of my grandfather, and how Far: Lone Sails helped me cope with that loss. This writing keeps me going. The more I do it, the validation I receive. People connect with these pieces. 

A few months ago I was approached by a friend who wanted to write for NerdyBits. He wanted to tell the story of how Zelda taught him how to be a better brother to his epileptic sister. Learning to help rather than complain, because she needed help, and it’s “dangerous to go alone.”

Last week I met with another friend, and after explaining my credo for writing games, he told me about a story he wants to write about how doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has made Absolver mean more to him. How doing martial arts in real life has shown him the beauty in movement, the power in swiftness, and the place for self-defense in a fallen world. 

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People connect emotionally to their games. Sometimes that emotional connection is peace in a tumultuous world. Sometimes that connection is a new reason to live. For the next adventure. For the next quest. For the next moment. Sometimes that connection goes unnoticed until someone else, someone like me, puts context to content.

I am going to keep writing this way. I have to. And when I get the opportunity, I will do all I can to signal boost others who want to share similar stories. Because people need to hear them. Because people need to know it is ok to feel strongly about something they played. Because games, and those who make them, need know what their creations can, and frequently do, illicit in their players: Emotion. The kind that sticks with you for the rest of your life.

@LubWub





Apex Legends Crushes First Week by Caleb Sawyer

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UPDATE: Over Apex’s first week, it reached a total of 25 million unique players and more than 2 million concurrent.

While it is too early to tell if Apex Legends will stand the test of time, or even sustain its ridiculous popularity, I feel it is safe to say this: When it comes to guerrilla marketing, surprise, polish, and execution, few multiplayer titles have released with such aplomb. 

Just before the Super Bowl rumors started stirring. Vince Zampella had been abnormally active on Twitter in the last week, streamers were talking about trips to California, in the days leading up to the weekend keywords were being tossed in the air. Free-to-play, Battle Royale, Titanfall. All of them interesting separately, but together, a potentially amazing surprise. Then, during the Super Bowl, Vince sent this tweet:

“Looks like everything is unlocked now? Fun.

So, if you like Respawn, our games or even me, you should tune in tomorrow. Our stream starts at 8am pt and we’ll tell you everything about Apex Legends. Everything.”

There it was. A name. The Apex Predators were a mercenary group in the previous Titanfall games. What does this even mean. Fast forward 18 hours and we got to see Apex Legends, and at the end of the trailer? Available now. Almost literally overnight we got a AAA Battle Royale. For Free. 

The number of times something like this has happened can be counted on one hand (I searched for the actual number and I couldn’t find it). The number of times a AAA title has done this? I am at a loss. What’s more? Apex Legends launched STRONG. With over a million unique players in just the first 8 hours, Apex jumped out of the gate, with barely a hiccup in server consistency. 72 hours in? 10 million players, 1 million concurrent. Dominance.

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For players weary of the Battle Royale craze, this title has an answer for your complaints of there being a lack in originality. Rather than being plain, straight up BR game like PUBG, or having a mechanic as divisive as Fortnite’s building, Apex gives its players Overwatch-esque heroes. Each character (of the 8 present at launch) come with their own Passive, Active, and Super abilities. From Gibraltar’s Mortar Strike to Wraith’s Dimensional Rift to Pathfinder’s Zipline Launcher, the Supers are unique to the BR space. Used well, they are goddamn game changers.

Thirty-nine hours in, Apex is a bundle of nearly endless joy. The controls are buttery-smooth (as per usual Titanfall), the team mechanics are choice, and the map design is solid. I was apprehensive when I heard there were no Titans, and even more worried when I realized there were no jump packs (no wall running). After my time with Apex however, I am glad they aren’t a part of it. Frankly, I have no clue how they could balance a Titan, and the wall running would turn into a mechanic as divisive as Fortnite’s building. 

It is understandable if Titanfall diehards find themselves a little disappointed with this offering. After all, Apex does appear to have come at the cost of Titanfall 3 in 2019 (though Mr. Zampella is trying really hard to confuse us) and, for some, the Titans and free-running are essential to the experience. All of those gripes make sense.

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What I can say is this: Apex takes the Battle Royale game mode in a surprisingly refreshing direction, and it’s one of the most structurally sound shooters released in the last 8 months. They plan to release new guns and characters every three months alongside a battle pass as well. The future of Apex is intriguing, and if its present popularity is any indication, it isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

@LubWub