Category Archives: clips

Five Games That Have Me Tamed

[I was lucky enough to correspond with the folks at Official Xbox Magazine about a year ago. I applied for a staff writer position, but I didn’t make the cut seeing as how I didn’t have a UK work visa. Womp womp (hey, I got to write a piece for the print magazine, which was a life goal). They did ask for a summary of what I’d been playing, and I really liked the end result. So here it is.]


Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

The poster child for internet outrage, Watch_Dogs served as a warning about big promises for little packages. I picked it up from Games With Gold with expectations lowered after three years of reading threads featuring the internet’s anger. Several hours and one spider tank later, Watch_Dogs is arguably my second favorite freebie in the program’s four year history, passing up hits like #IDARB and Sunset Overdrive (and falling behind Dark Souls).

Rightfully criticized for its misguided promises and bland plot, the game’s problems are easy to spot. The charm of the game, though, is in its stereotypically gritty protagonist. Sure, he’s your classic too tough tough guy, but his interactions with his sister offer a bit more than flaccid badassery. Her criticisms aren’t about his vigilantism or certain set of skills or whatever—instead, she begs him to snap out of his delusions and actually change for the better. Aiden Pearce isn’t a hero. He’s a man too stubborn to change, despite proof that his misguided coping mechanism (beating petty criminals with a baton) is only harming his remaining family and himself. Pearce is relatable in the most painful ways, making him one of the most human protagonists I’ve gotten to play.

A Dark Room

Developer: Doublespeak Games

A text-based idle game, A Dark Room pits the player and their growing band of apocalypse survivors against the ever hostile wilderness. The player, along with a mysterious stranger that offers prophecies and settlement expansions, must find a way to survive by exploring the wild remains of the world. The mystique is quickly outweighed by the tedium though. Resource management is more waiting than balancing, meaning the mysteries of the ruined world are locked behind hours of leaving the game actively running.

Fortunately, or unfortunately for the survivors, there’s no shortage of grues.

Mortal Kombat XL

Developer: NetherRealm Studios

Whereas Mortal Kombat (2009) was a breath of fresh air in the long-running series, Mortal Kombat X is a whole lungful. Of course, that lung is quickly ripped out in one of the many fantastic fatalities and brutal, er, brutalities. The new characters are all solid, making even well-explored playstyles, like Ferra/Torr’s slow but strong bashing or Erron Black’s gunkata, just as fun as series’ staples like Johnny Cage and Scorpion. Unfortunately, NetherRealm’s post-launch content continues to be sketchy. Just like Injustice 2, it feels like the complete version is only available about a year after initial launch.


Developer: id Software

When you’re in the mood for Doom, it’s hard to argue with the fwoom of a grenade firing out of a shotgun tube. Doom’s always embraced its absurdities, but Doom 3 was more slow tension than speedy slaughter. This version shoots beyond breakneck to crown the player champion of carnage; Mick Gordon’s brutal metal soundtrack is the perfect fuel on the hellfire. With the effective death of rhythm genre, Doom’s the closest thing to a music game we’ll see this generation. Every riff is an invitation to massacre demon and monster alike on Mars, come Hell or…well, Hell.

Madden NFL 15

Developer: EA Tiburon

Madden is a lot of things now. All of them are pretty much the same game, but that’s beside the point(s). Everything else I’m playing offers fresh experiences, new worlds that make me want to talk about them the second I turn off the console. Madden, on the other hand, is the gaming equivalent of my worn out, threadbare pajamas. It’s the easy comfort I can turn to when I need a no thought distraction. The mechanics are shoddy, the graphics and animations are more terrifying than not, and it’ll never be patched. But damn is it comfy.

Essential writings

Every time I fill out an application, real or fake, I initially panic about clips. The reporting one, the interview one, the review one, oh no, which one should I choose. When I finally sat down to review, I realized I could condense my style into three pieces.

  1. Drink pairings for your favorite game franchise
    • My pièce de résistance. The appeal of alcohol and the magic of video games. I’ve never had more fun writing.
  2. ‘London Has Fallen’ means standards have fallen
    • This is where I truly let loose with the bite and the silly. Switching out generic man hero character’s name brought me the sanity I needed to make it through this trainwreck of a film.
  3. New video game release: ‘The Beginner’s Guide’ review
    • Being serious is insanely difficult to me. This game was powerful enough to make me put on a serious face; it also gave me the challenge of reviewing a game without saying anything about it.

Weather Whoas

A persimmon seed, Jupiter and the Bering Sea walk into a bar.

“What are you looking at?” a surly patron asks.

“I’m just looking at warm spells,” the persimmon seed says.

“I’m looking at frigid air and snow,” says Jupiter.

“Well, I’m looking at a back loaded winter and your stupid face,” the Bering Sea says before sweeping the patron away in a rush of freezing water and sending him to his watery grave.

Despite the setup, winter weather is no joke. Predictors use a variety of factors to determine what the quickly approaching winter season will hold in terms of temperature and snow. Here’s a few of the predictions for this winter.

The seeds of winter predictions have been growing for months– years even. Only the arrival of winter’s actual weather will determine which of the seeds actually blossoms. The rest will probably just be cut in half for next year’s winter predictions.

That was my first (and favorite) lead for my winter weather story and my fourth or fifth ending. I knew the lead wouldn’t make it through due to its length and the fact it wasn’t exactly that funny or insightful. But it appealed to my niche-ish humor. I remembered what I had thought when I wrote the lead for my leaves story. “It’s always better to just try,” I thought.

Of course, there is no black and white in the world of newsprint.

That was awful. I’m sorry I wrote it.

Regardless, the actual point is that just writing obnoxious leads isn’t the best route in journalism. There’s a fine line between writing for yourself (and your stupid humor) and writing for actual people. Writing for yourself is barely okay on a super-personal blog. If it’s getting published, you have to be aware that what you think is perfect is always flawed for others. It’s way too easy to just wrap it up in your head and pass it off as okay.

Remembering the reader is harder than actually writing.

There aren’t any stories that are made for you. They’re made for everyone but you. Most of the time, you have to get that story to them without your fingerprints all over it. Your signature is meaningless if it obscures what it’s written on.

Georgia clip.

During GA, I picked up a quick story from another reporter. Honestly, these stories are crazy nice. I love doing them. Brief, efficient phone calls are my absolute favorite type of phone call (behind non-existent phone calls). I called two people, got maybe twenty words total from both of them, typed it up, and sent it in. Beautiful.

The only frustrating part of these stories is that due to their limited scope, you only have so many words to write. You fight the question of, “Do I say ‘four were referred’ or ‘they referred four’?” The lack of room is constricting and comforting. It’s easy and hard. It’s frustrating and relieving.

It’s delightful.

(Derby) Damed If You Don’t.

If roller derby had a ball, I would make a great metaphor about dropping it. It would’ve been especially great if the ball was small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but I’m just complaining about an imaginary ball.

The Derby Dames package finally came out, Missourian Minute bumper and all. Immediately after, I got an email about three mistakes in the brief (I handled the editing, video, and corrections)– using blades instead of skates, implying the Dames were unaware of the birthday party, and that the Dames were looking for a new place to practice (not play games). I knew each of those three but each slipped right past me.

My personal reaction to most of my mistakes is to simply ignore them or cut the person that saw them out of my life. Possibly a bit unfair, but it hasn’t given me any mistakes so far.

Each was corrected and it looks better now, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t bug me. I felt like I had really gotten to know and understand a little bit about the Dames, and to let stupid mistakes get by makes me feel like I betrayed the trust of a subject. I’m sure they’ll just as easily forget about it and move on, but I think the feelings of embarrassment and annoyance will stick with me for a bit.

I didn’t pay attention and let stupid things slip by me. If I remember these feelings of idiocy, I will sit down on every article and read the hell out of every draft. Search for common sense before sending it off.

It’s a Dame shame it happened, but I’ll be Dame’d if I let it happen again (I probably will, but not anytime soon).

Mistakes be Dame’d.

I’m done now.

Frontin’ On ‘Em

So I made (I’m betting every post I make about my clips stars with so) the front page today. I wrote a pretty neat article about the predictions for fall leaves in the coming months. Honestly, it was kind of a nice little ego boost despite its meaninglessness in the grand scheme of things.

Here’s what I picked up:

  • Go with the stupid lead. Go with the joke lead. Just go with it. Face down the embarrassment of looking like an idiot.
  • Sometimes, you just gotta make do. I called nine counties/six people before I got my first source. I ended up getting another source from two counties away before I got a neighboring county source. It was ridiculous, but I ended up getting some crazy cool stuff from a last minute source.
  • Even when you just want to be done with something, make sure it’s okay and not get-the-hell-away okay.

It was really cool. I’m on to another similar, way more expansive story, so hopefully I can retain at least one of the things I learned from this. Hopefully.

Writing about life is easy till it’s someone else’s life.

It’s easy to wax poetic about your own life, especially if you’re a bumbling 20-year-old kid. I could easily write paragraphs and pages about the struggles and thoughts that happen in my day to day life.

“The inner machinations of my mind are an enigma,” said the great philosopher Patrick Star.

Whatever happens in my life, I can question and prod at until I either don’t care or understand. I can shake things around and reevaluate parts of it until I’ve got a full diary or something.

But it’s nearly impossible when it’s someone else’s life.

I got assigned a life story while on general assignment Saturday. I read, reread and re-reread the email and family obituary we had received. I tried to contact the members of the family, but I failed on most accounts. One brother was unlisted, the other had suffered a stroke and was unable to speak. I’m still trying to get into contact with her nephew, who I hope I can finally get in serious contact with to end this extended game of phone/email tag and actually write a life story.

I ended up writing a Missourian obituary, which is effectively a restructured and restyled obituary based on the information given us. Even then, just restructuring factual information was nervewracking. It kept hitting me that this was someone’s full life. Decades of experiences and relationships wrapped up in a few hundred words. My personal feelings about death and legacy mean nothing since this is someone’s aunt, someone’s family member, someone’s best friend that I have to try to summarize. It’s an extremely interesting but uncomfortable process. If done poorly, people would be devastated.

The burden of proper reporting is a lot more visceral when it involves an entire life. But it’s all a part of the process I guess.

1000 Wasted Words

I recently got another story published— exciting as usual. This time though, I learned a bit of a lesson. The first idea of it was that this 15 year plan had been finalized for the Big Muddy Wildlife and Fish Refuge and I should process the document to see what was in store for Columbia. Soon after doing that and talking to my befuddled editor, I realized that something like that wasn’t really a story. I had burned a lot of time and effort into writing a bland, uninteresting, confusing and useless story. After shaking off that realization, I deleted it, rewrote it in terms that someone might actually be interested in and called my source again. Reworking it in its entirety was somewhat cleansing– this shorter, more specific article felt a lot better than my earlier mess of jargon. I know I won’t ever completely shake it away, but I kind of see reporting through a haze. My judgement is still kind of shaky and unsure and I’m almost never sure of where to go with an idea. But this story cleared away a little bit of that haze. I got a few conclusions:

  • I really, really want to write research-based stories. Just dive into 800 pages of jargon and nonsense to try and find something good. Really lose myself in it and truly understand it.
  • The way I want to write is not the priority. The right way to write is the priority; tongue-twister or not, my vanity and comfort have to come behind the story. Not my story– the story. Columbia’s story, the residents’ story.

Learning is hard. I’m not good at it. I’m not quick to understand or question a lot of the time. But I got a nice piece of the journalism puzzle with the story and I’m going to hold on to it.

My first clip. Oh boy.

After a brief failure of a road closure story, I got my first actual article out today. ­­It was a simple recap of the costs of the July 7 storm in Columbia, which was actually pretty interesting. Other than a brief hiccup with a modified personnel cost, everything was fairly straightforward. Columbia Water and Light was excellent– both people I talked to were accommodating and straightforward. I was terrified before both phone calls, mumbled a bit too much and shook a little. I got through though. I can breathe a little easier with one thing done.

My only thought is whether or not I should try to do something about my byline. I’ve dodged William for 20 years– why not keep it up?