Critical Path turns 5

by Dan on February 21, 2017

Today marks the 5th anniversary of Critical Path, which blows my mind. I spent so long nurturing the idea, writing drafts, revising my advice, watching the landscape change around me…it’s surprising that it’s been a real thing that lives outside of my brain for this long.

When it was published, online game journalism had started to assert its inevitable dominance, so I had to really make sure my book wasn’t outdated the moment it was published. Looking at it now, I realize new readers might find the frequent use of the word “magazine” to be quaint, but they’re still out there — I still read magazines every week, in digital form on my iPad. But part of my goal with the book was to offer solid writing advice that wasn’t reliant on a medium. I could only offer advice based on my specific experience, but I tried to consciously make the advice as universal as possible.

And that’s the legacy, for me. One of the most gratifying reactions to the book has been people who said it helped them become a better writer even though they had no aspirations to review games. Enjoying or knowing about games certainly makes the book a smoother read, but I’m extremely happy that the book turned out to be more useful than that for some readers.

By the way…only three people have let me know that they found the secret chapter. That’s one of two puzzles hidden in all editions of the book. There’s a simple secret message encoded on the cover, but for the secret bonus chapter, you’ll need to be even more observant.

Good luck, and thanks for five years of support!


This year at PAX East 2014, I banded together with Susan Arendt from Joystiq and Chris Kohler from Wired Gane|Life to revisit some a few of the game reviews that haunt us — stuff that elicited such a strong reaction that we had to stop and wonder if we’d done the right thing. Here’s the description of the panel and its purpose:

Was I Wrong? Revisiting Controversial Reviews

Every game critic has That One Review that haunts them – too low, too high, or just plain unpopular in the eyes of the public. It’s enough to make the writer wonder if they really made a mistake or if the rest of the world is just nuts. A gathering of game reviewers past and present revisit That One Review to talk about their processes, what they did to weather the storm of controversy, the fallibility of human beings versus the assumed infallibility of the press, and ultimately how to handle criticism of criticism.

I’ve finally uploaded the audio from this panel, so if you couldn’t be there in person, you can still hear all about it. I’d include the PowerPoint but it’s embarrassingly simplistic and ugly, because I made it.

In any case, the file is available for download here. There are a few four-letter words in this panel, so parental guidance is suggested. Share and enjoy!

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Up Up Down Down Left WRITE — available now

August 5, 2013

Nathan Meunier‘s Up Up Down Down Left WRITE comes out today. Nathan has freelanced for more than 30 major gaming outlets over the years, and his book focuses specifically on the full-time freelance career path. Nathan goes further into how to sustain yourself as a business than I did in Critical Path. For instance, I didn’t […]

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Satire: It’s funny because it’s true

July 3, 2013

In college, I took several writing courses, one of which was called Humorous Writing. Every style I wrote — parody, nonsense, what have you — turned out to be satire, according to the professor. So I believe in its power; when I see satire done well, it can be the most incisive forms of criticism […]

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How to avoid being a journalist

May 1, 2013

If you’ve read my book (or at least page 22), you know I use the word “journalist” very carefully when describing game reviewers. I see no shame in the titles “reviewer” or “critic” whatsoever, but I feel “journalist” is pushing it if all you do is evaluate software. But over my career, I did a […]

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GamesRadar’s 10 Great Books That Will Teach You About Gaming History

April 30, 2013

Critical Path got a nice shout-out from GamesRadar for those of you looking to expand your videogame library — that is, not your library of games, but your library of  books about videogaming. “Even if you don’t currently plan on joining the freelancer ranks,” writes Henry Gilbert, “his detailed approach to reviews will have you […]

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Come say hi at WonderCon Anaheim

March 25, 2013

I just got back from PAX East, which is always a blast. I sold a few books, but only brought a handful compared to previous years. I am wondering if it might be worth doing a booth at PAX Prime. I’ll do some research. However, I just got a fresh shipment of books today, and […]

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One-year anniversary…and the hidden chapter

February 21, 2013

Critical Path is now officially one year old. It’s comforting to say “it’s been out for a year” after saying “it’s been in the works for eight years.” One day it will be out longer than it took to create, and by that time, I will probably say “I wrote a book? I don’t remember […]

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Rare evidence of a modern TK mistake

September 3, 2012

If you’ve read the book, you may recall me discussing the magazine shorthand “TK” as placeholder text for something that is “to come” in the production of that article. (It’s page 79 of the book if you wanna go check it out.) Kat was flipping through the September 2012 issue of O — Oprah Winfrey’s […]

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Download the PAX Prime 2012 “How Not to Write a Game Review” panel (MP3 & documents)

September 2, 2012

I was able to record the audio of my How Not to Write a Game Review at PAX Prime 2012 (thank you, PAX Enforcers!). Here it is as an MP3 file. You will also want these three examples as you listen along: The author’s raw copy The editor’s notes The rewritten copy Thank you to everybody […]

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