This post has not been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.
Editor's note: Be sure to check out the collected works of Michael's most ingenious Writing Challenge yet, the last one he'll be organizing for the community. But don't worry: August's challenge is in the capable hands of Chris Hoadley. -Brett
This represents the results of my final Writing Challenge. Over the past six months, I've presented some rather difficult challenges to you, the Bitmob community. With prompts as varied as encouraging rhetorical balance to staging an all-out war against overly complicated writing, these challenges were designed to improve the overall quality of your writing in the shortest time possible. In spite of the rigors I put forth, you impressed me with your willingness to improve. And while I'm nowhere near the most experienced or proficient wordsmith on the site, I hope my efforts benefited you in some way.
I designed Pressing Issue to mimic the work environment of a professional game magazine. For every applicant, I devised a personalized task meant to push that writer out of his or her comfort zone. Many writers applied. Some quit after receiving their challenges. A few didn't make their deadlines, and were cut from the challenge. Those who remained now stand before you. They're the writers of Pressing Issue.
5 Fighting-Game Bosses Cheaper Than SF4's Seth
By Chris Hoadley
Chris Hoadley, my partner in crime, was my first victim. To help him grow, I had to hurt him. Taking his love of fighting games into account, I asked him to write an extended addendum to a hypothetical strategy guide for Seth, Street Fighter 4's move-jacking antagonist.
The article I assigned was a breakdown of five fighting game bosses even more annoying than Seth. My goal was to get Chris to really explore the annals of the genre through a deep exploration of its worst elements, so that he would come out of the experience with a better understanding of its history. Turns out he had already scoured those depths, but perhaps reliving those memories of cheap deaths and ridiculous A.I. would shake him up a bit. It got him a front page promotion either way. I'm glad I didn't have to battle White.
Pressing Issue: August 2010 Release Calendar
By Marty Hess
Marty is an undergrad student specializing in game reviews. What better way to introduce him to the real world of magazine writing than to subject him to some of the grunt work he may have to encounter as an intern?
A release calendar is one of the most banal things a young writer will be asked to produce in their career. However, it's a necessary part of a gaming rag's content, and Marty pulled it off quite well. While I would have limited the Blu Ray releases to a handful of notable titles, his thoroughness reminded me that Dexter Season 4 is out soon. That alone was worth putting him through this mess. Hopefully, he'll keep it up, as his commentary on each title was interesting enough that I'd like to see a calendar from him every month on Bitmob.
Finding Fulfillment in Farming: Real Life vs. Farmville
By Meghan Ventura
Meghan Ventura's assignment was one of the cruelest I could devise, so I let up slighty to give her a fighting chance. Since Meghan loves Japanese games and is an experienced feature writer, what better topic to assign her than Farmville, the one "game" that's probably furthest from her radar?
I asked Meghan to write a piece about Farmville, leaving the format and content open to her discretion. She impressed me by writing a thoughtful, well-researched piece on the subject — without actually playing the game. She found a way around my spirit-breaking intentions, producing a front-page article. In my books, that's a success.
Bitmob Writing Assignment: Letters to the Editor
By Jon Shults
Jon Shults specializes in reviews, op-eds, and achievement guides. But could he handle correspondance while toeing a company line?
I asked Jon to write a reader mailbag in response to several questions I generated. A few of the letters had missing information, which left Jon with the task of either making up the answers, or contacting me, his editor in chief, for clarification. I also gave him a very short deadline to spur him into action.
While he didn't contact me for the missing information, he did produce an entertaining series of replies to my faux letters. In the end, I decided not to berate him too much for taking liberties with his answers.
I'm not a big fan of academic writing, so I decided to mess with Jeremy when I handed him his assignment. Instead of his usual intelligent discourse, I tasked him with a simple write-up of E3 2010 for a general audience, touching on each of the major press conferences in turn. To throw a curveball into the mix, I also instructed him to leave some glowing comments about Microsoft's conference, under the premise that they bought extra advertising space in our magazine this month.
Jeremy wrote a thoughtful piece about what came out of E3 that we still care about right now. I had hoped that Jeremy would have pointed out my unethical request and brought up his issues about being asked to become a corporate shill. Instead, he ignored the instruction altogether. In the end, he still proved his ethical balance, and that's what matters most.
Daniel's first — and only — mistake was letting me know that he was an avid gamer with no real writing experience. That's like telling a hungry lion that you're a small, timid field mouse. In response, I told him to write a guide to pitching magazine articles in order to give him some idea of the kind of hoops he would need to jump through should he ever pursue a career in writing.
Despite his lack of experience, Daniel produced an extremely in-depth guide to pitches that actually had to be cut down for length. The first draft was a little too thorough. Kids with aspirations of becoming professional writers: Read this piece. Now.
Japan Loves Old Games, Not Older Gamers
By Daniel Feit
What can you possibly do to a Wired.com writer to shock, terrify, and educate him? In my case, not a whole lot. Instead, I settled for taking advantage of Daniel's background by asking him to write about the differences between American and Japanese gaming culture. Hopefully, the experience allowed him to reflect on his position, straddling the line between two gaming nations.
At the very least, he got a front-page promotion out of his discussion of Japan's attitude towards old games. That's something, to be sure.
Head to page 2 for the rest of the entrants.
Site Ownership 101
By Andrew Galbraith
If you can't explain how to do something to a total novice, then you don't really know how to do it. Additionally, attempting to guide others down the same road can help turn that tacit knowledge into something more focal. That's exactly why I asked Andrew — owner and operator of K-Project Eden — to explain to Bitmob readers how to create a flourishing game site.
This is a great primer for anybody looking to break in by their own bootstraps. Aside from the Jim Sterling quote, I wouldn't change a thing.
Are Arcade Sticks Really Better than Controllers?
By Suriel Vazquez
Suriel is a writer I always wanted to test. I decided to give him an assignment that could be completed fairly easily, with very little extra work. Of course, I also gave him the opportunity to delve deeper into the topic and really prove why he's such an important part of the Bitmob community. So, I asked him to write about the difference between playing a fighting game with a controller versus playing with an arcade stick.
Not only did Suriel purchase an arcade stick to train on, but he also conducted some very thorough research by infiltrating the Shoryuken.com forums, a place I would never ask the average player to tread into lightly. Best of all, instead of taking the easy route and simply stating the superiority of arcade sticks based on popular opinion, he kept his rhetorical balance throughout his discussion. I couldn't ask for anything more.
Pressing Issue: 10 Great Game Environments
By Bruno Dion
Bruno is another academic writer, describing himself as an overwriter who leans towards indie games in his writing. The only thing that can counter overwriting is forced concision, so I asked Bruno to write a top 10 list of his choice, with each listing containing 50 words or less.
Take that, academia.
Of course, Bruno surprised me by coming up with a solid list of game environments largely made up of sandbox worlds, which are as far from indie gaming as you can get these days. It's actually one of the best lists I've seen in a long time.
Interview with Bitmob's Rich McGrath
By Daryl Bunao
I'll admit it: I took it easy on Daryl. When he explained his journalistic background to me, I mostly wanted to see what he could do. I decided that the best way to help him grow would be to test his specialty and see what he came up with.
I told Daryl to interview any Bitmob staffer he wanted. He ended up selecting Rich McGrath, one of Bitmob's more interesting unsung heroes. That alone was enough to pass my test. I would say more, but the piece really speaks for itself.
Fitting It All In
By Ryan Machuga
Since Ryan is a Bitmob newbie, I decided to break him in with a brutal one-two punch combo. First, I didn't even assign him an article. I asked him to write a formal query letter, pitching an article of his choice in order to test his persuasive capabilities. If his pitch didn't grab me, that would be it. No assignment.
But Ryan succeeded by pitching an interesting take on the "I'm too old to fit gaming into my life" topic. I then asked him to write the article under a strict time limit and word count. A few edits later, and Ryan is now a member of the Bitmob community, with a challenge already under his belt as he starts his writing career. Welcome aboard.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank Derek Beigh, a Bitmob reader who volunteered to help edit several submissions over the course of the project. Some of the work you see here wouldn't be nearly as polished as it is without his assistance and dedication. The only challenge I put forth to Derek was to put up with me as an editor in chief. He survived the process. Give him a round of applause for that.
And thus ends Pressing Issue. I hope everybody got something out of the experience, and I hope you'll take whatever lessons you learned away with you as you continue your writing careers. Right now, it's difficult to be a professional writer. With the market becoming increasingly flooded with amateurs, a true professional needs to roll with the punches and make the most out of the hands he or she is dealt. Adaptability is key. If you learned how to extend your skillset outside of your comfort zone through this exercise, then my work here is done.
Going forward, it'll be up to Chris Hoadley — and whoever else decides to take charge of the challenges — to help nurture Bitmob's community of talented writers. If you think you're ready to step up and run your own community challenge, there's really no time like the present.
Thanks to everyone who participated in my writing challenges. It's been a pleasure working with all of you, and I wish you the best of luck in your writing careers. Remember to have fun, and no matter what you do, never stop acquiring new skills and honing old ones. That is really the most pressing issue for any aspiring writer.