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Sorry for any RSS flooding

My apologies for the spamming this blog may have wrought on your feed reader (twice over, if you're subscribed to the comments feed as well). The new templates had a different idea of entries' unique ID strings than the previous ones did, probably confusing most RSS readers into displaying duplicate Gameshelf entries. I've now reset the IDs to their old patterns, and so that should be that.

Related: I purposefully chose to not import the old video-only RSS feed to this new blog. That was an artifact from back when I still considered the Gameshelf to be a video series with a supplementary blog, but all that changed last year. Little is lost: you can quite easily access all the videos we've published by visiting the Gameshelf TV category.

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The Gameshelf: now wider than ever

[Update: Comments should be working again; thanks to all who alerted me. Send me an email or a Twitter DM if things still seem amiss.]

This evening I switched The Gameshelf’s blog software from Movable Type to Melody. I also took the opportunity to finally roll out an entirely new site theme (a customized version of TwentyTen), something I’ve been meaning to do for months.

The sidebar’s blogrolls and links and such have all vanished, but they’ll bubble back presently. The old site had grown a lot of cruft that doesn’t really apply the to the blog anymore, and I decided to just scrape it all off and then re-apply the good stuff.

System-wide changes like this always carry a raft of hidden bugs. If you run into anything that looks or acts flat-out wrong, leave a comment here or shoot me an email. Thanks!

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A Journal of Independent Game Criticism

chess.jpgThe Gameshelf’s new header graphic represents this website’s first public acknowledgement of the philosophical shift it has undergone since its launch, now over two years ago. As the new subtitle suggests, this blog today tosses aside the notion of supporting a TV show, and instead embraces its identity as a source of independent, original game criticism.

At the start of 2008, I still thought of The Gameshelf as a Siskel-and-Ebert-style television program for reviewing non-mainstream games, with its new blog as simply a place for its cast and crew to note interesting news related to unusual games in between episodes. Two years after that, I had produced only one new episode. While the Diplomacy show stands as one of my proudest creative achievements to date, it’s not something I ever see myself replicating (at least not as a hobby), and my vision of producing new videos at a regular pace began to falter.

Over those same two years, however, the blog grew in its own directions. Zarf posted long essays on topics ranging from the continuing Myst saga to the pixel-art renaissance, and these drew new readers and comments. Kevin started making corkboard-style announcements of interesting events (particularly involving interacive fiction) around Boston, and I personally witnessed people at these events saying they’d heard about it on the blog. Clearly, while the TV show called The Gameshelf grew cold, the blog called “The Gameshelf” didn’t much care, and was finding its own ways to be awesome.

So, at the start of this year, I tried something new. After a rewarding wintertime stint of playing Team Fortress 2 with some new friends, I wrote a longish essay about my experiences, and the aspects that interested me the most from a critical standpoint. I really liked the result, and — crucially, for my needy ego — other folks around the web seemed to like it too. So I wrote some more, a new essay every other week or so. You can currently find the collection-so-far in a new category I humbly call Jmac on Games. (That name is subject to change, along with a hundred other details as I continue dinking around with styles and widgets.)

Writing these critical essays has not only changed how I see The Gameshelf, but how I see my own place in the world of digital games. When people ask me what I do now, instead of shruggingly saying “Well, I make a TV show, sort of, sometimes,” I say “I produce game criticism.” It’s clear to me that this is the broader aspect of what I wanted to do with the TV show all along, and by switching my primary medium from video to text, I’m able to actually ship new stuff with some semblance of regularity. While I’m not abandoning video-based criticism, I find it immensely relieving to let go the fiction, held for years, that I’m somehow a stronger video producer than expository writer.

I feel fortunate that, through the efforts of Andy, Kevin, and the less frequent posters, The Gameshelf proved a ready receptacle for this new effort to actually play to my own creative strengths. My hope is that the mix of all the authors’ posts gives us both the independent game criticism and the “other interesting stuff” promised by the new subtitle in the header.

And while I haven’t written much this month, I have a good excuse, anticipating the rollout a couple of new features (in the periodical sense of the word!) over the next week or two. I appreciate your continued reading the The Gameshelf, and would love to hear what you think, as always. In the meantime, watch this space…

Image: Amphora by Exekias of Ajax and Achilles playing a board game.

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Back to LiveJournal

I have basically stopped posting here due to the fact that I simply cannot find a decent cross-posting solution between Movable Type 4.0 and LiveJournal. Earlier this year I found myself unable to simply walk away from using my LJ as my main blog; the community I've built up there over the years is too strong. It's home. (And one doesn't move house simply by walking defiantly out the front door one day.)

I have been regularly posting to The Gameshelf and the Appleseed blog when I'd like to put on a somewhat more "professional" voice to hold forth about game studies or software development, respectively. The Gameshelf's managed to pick up more than a handful of subscribers, relieving some of the self-consciousness I've felt earlier about having "only" an LJ account, versus a fancy-pants, running-on-my-own-domain blog.

Now, I could make my own damn MT-to-MJ plugin, but I just don't have the resources to spare right now. There are too many higher-priority things on my plate. (Appleseed, for one thing. And then there's Project X.)

So, this blog takes a nap (and I get to definitively cross out the "research cross-posting solutions" item from my to-do list). I'll re-point the "Journal" link on jmac.org to my LJ. Should I come across a cross-posting solution later, I'll babble about it over there, and then posts will start appearing here again. I also reserve the right to repeat truly earth-moving news about myself and my affairs here, should any arise. Until then, good night and good luck.

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Returning to the Shelf

Ahoy, readers! It's time for a meta-post. Another post that's actually about games immediately follows this one, so if this sort of thing isn't of any interest to you, feel free to skip ahead.

When I relaunched this blog in February, I planned it to be an annex of the TV show I produce of the same name. 2008 was going to be a banner year for The Gameshelf. I would produce at least four episodes, continuing the higher standard of quality that we set down with the launch of our new "season" last year.

Ah, you feel you can already see where this is going, eh? Well, it's not as bad as all that. Here's the short version: My life is currently eaten up close to completely by two things. The software consulting business I started about a year ago has become my sole source of income, and my full-time job. While a reorganization of my professional persona, this in itself isn't enough to take over my life. No, that task is filled quite adequately by something I have been calling Project X. This is my attempt to enter the commercial digital game market at a new angle (as opposed to my existing one) by adapting a certain tabletop game for play on home consoles. (I must remain coy about the nature of the game in question until a deal is inked, which is months away at least.)

Many weeks of intense work passed before I finally had to admit that I'd have to put hopes of doing anything on even a semi-regular schedule with The Gameshelf show back into the freezer. This made me shy about posting much to this blog, even though I have more to say about games than ever - it just doesn't necessarily relate to the show so much, lately. However, the blog and the show are less tightly bound than I might assume. There are many more subscribers to the blog's Atom feed than the show's, for one thing, and even during my lengthy quiet period several posters and commenters kept the thing puttering along with new insights and content about the medium of games and the cultures that surround it. That's very cool.

So, here's the plan: The Gameshelf blog sails on, an I return as a poster who is informed and inspired by whatever facet of the world of games that I happen to be closest to at the time. Half a year ago, it was producing a TV show, but now it's transformed into producing a console game, and that's OK. I still have a lot to say about games of all sorts, and shall endeavor to share and engender conversations about the more interesting things I run into. I also plan to start inviting friends and colleagues who haven't been on the TV show to join The Gameshelf as posters.

That's all! I hope that you continue to read, enjoy, and perhaps participate in this nice thing we have. I surely look forward to seeing where it goes from here.

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Welcome to the new Gameshelf homepage!

I checked out Movable Type 4 for a client's sake, as part of my day job as a software consultant. I liked it so much that I decided to learn the ropes by creating a new website The Gameshelf using MT4. The advances this software has made between the last time I looked at it (around 2004) are quite impressive!

It took a little work to get the podcasting features working properly, but everything should be up and running now. (Please comment if it seems otherwise!)

I'll be ramping down the blip.tv Gameshelf site - I grew increasingly frustrated with the lack of control I had with that site's presentation. Please consider http://gameshelf.jmac.org your one-stop shop for all things Gameshelf from now on.

Enjoy the show! (And if you do enjoy it, tell your friends to come visit!)

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