eeps & Boops launched one year ago, to this day, with a pretty vague mission statement. The site’s first post promoted a small, quirky adventure game, and the post itself was similarly brief. We probably wouldn’t write another post like that today. Our conception of Beeps & Boops has changed, and we’ve slowly pinned down the site’s goals and scope. In the past six months, updates have slowed not only because of the pressures of life, but because we struggled to define the site for ourselves. We slowly drifted away from the site’s blog/article format, settling on something in between. While it may seem that we’ve become less interested in the site, or even come close to abandoning it, that is not and has never been the case. We just stopped worrying about when to post and started worrying about what to post. If I had a dollar for every half-written post sitting on my hard drive, or even fully-written posts that I was never satisfied with – well, I wouldn’t have that many dollars, but the site would sure look a lot busier.
It’s hard to write about games for a year and not wonder what the point of it all is. Criticism of every stripe risks descending into navel-gazing, and criticism that deals with popular culture adds the additional concern that whatever you’re talking about is, ultimately, trivial bullshit. And sometimes it’s just hard to care about games when there are many more serious problems in the world. At Beeps & Boops, we follow a couple of simple rules to relieve these problems as much as possible. We don’t post anything unless it’s approved by both Jason and myself, and we don’t talk about the site in and of itself. The least we can do is guarantee that both of us care about what we’re saying, and few blog posts are more boring than bloggers talking about blogging.
This post, as you may have noticed, comes really close to violating pretty much every rule we try to follow. I’m talking about Beeps & Boops in and of itself, and criticism in and of itself: a dangerous combination of topics – an event horizon of navel-gazery. But I’m granting myself an exception for two reasons. First: a one year anniversary is a big milestone, and we have some important news relating to the site. And second: as the site has developed and changed over the past year, it’s worth reconsidering and reasserting its purpose.
I won’t dwell on the site’s anniversary, but here are a few points. One: the site will see some upgrades and improvements in the new year, as well as more frequent updates. In addition, we will be more active on Twitter and Facebook, sharing links and joining discussions. Two: we are sincerely grateful for every reader we have, every comment we get, every “like” on Facebook, and every follower on Twitter. It’s hard to express how genuinely flattering it is, every single time, to see someone share a link to our site.
As far as the site’s purpose, we’ve spent months asking ourselves, What is worthy of a post? What standards should we hold ourselves to? At the risk of sounding high-falutin’, what, really, is the purpose of our criticism? We’re not trying to shake the earth with every update, but we also don’t want to waste anybody’s time. And games themselves are still plagued by the question: how important are they anyway? Even professional game writers call the worthiness of our hobby into a little bit of doubt. How much respect do we want to afford entertainment? At what point are we simply, well, masturbating, as the New Yorker suggests?
I’m not going to try to defend the very notion of popular culture criticism, nor am I going to argue that entertainment is art, or art is entertainment, or anything so murky. All I know is this: a lot of people make games, and a lot of people play games. Gaming is old – very old – and it hasn’t gone away no matter how many times it’s been portrayed as frivolous or addictive. A lot of people have grown up with games and care about them, whatever it is they are. And every time the thought bubbles up in my brain that I’m not doing anything important, that games aren’t worth the time and energy I put into them, I find something that I can’t resist talking about. For every post that sputters out half-finished and abandoned, another one powers through to the end, almost of its own volition.
That, to me, is the purpose of this site: to talk about the things that we just can’t help but talk about – those ideas that, once articulated, make you go huh and think about something in a slightly different way. As long as I’m playing games, there’s obviously something that draws me to them, something that’s worth discussing. Are games more important than literature, than music, than anything else? Not really. In another world, perhaps “Beeps & Boops” would be an electronica blog, or a forum for car horn enthusiasts. But for whatever reason, we like video games. We always risk being masturbatory – and maybe sometimes we are – but I’ll risk a little beard-stroking if it means I better understand whatever it is that occupies so much of my time.
Ben Chandler’s !, by the way, is still as much worth playing today as it was a year ago.