Featured Contributor: Seth Amery

finalWho was the most entertaining person you’ve interviewed throughout your career? There are two in particular who stand out to me the most, although for one I had only transcribed the interview. I interviewed the guys behind the No More Room in Hell mod for Half-Life 2, which adds a ton of realistic zombie gameplay and a barricade mode, and it really impressed me how much effort they were pouring into this detailed mod that they released for free; it was a glimpse into raw passion. It stuck with me.

I transcribed an interview with Doug Kennedy of Reverb Publishing, and during that they discussed fixing the standard developer-publisher relationship that favored big guys at the literal expense of their development team. It was reassuring to read about at least one other person who wanted to fix a very real problem in the industry and was actually trying to do something about it.

Writing strategy guides for video games can be exhausting. What’s something most people don’t realize when a writer tackles this type of assignment? On the one hand, you’re getting paid to play video games, which is already a dream come true. On the other hand, you’re looking in every nook and cranny, copying important detail in the middle of quests, trying to figure out how to survive situations that nobody else has yet–they need you to figure it out first–all while you want to move on and see the next part of the story and even during the hours you’re sick of playing and just want to do something else. But again, you’re getting paid to play a video game… so I try not to complain.

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Game-wise, what are you currently playing? I’ve been alternating between a few of them. Hearthstone actually takes up a fair amount of my free time since I can just pick it up and go for ten minutes between articles. There’s also NEO Scavenger, a really incredible old-school CRPG where you fight your hunger, illness and several unusual creatures just so you can remember who you are in post-apocalyptic Michigan. And of course, as a fan since the age of eight, I’ve picked up the remastered “Resident Evil.”

2015 is finally here. What entertainment/technology/game are you most excited for? It’s sort of a weird bag for me every year. I’m always excited for new Magic: the Gathering cards, and I’m also eager for The Witcher 3. It feels like it’s been forever since CD Projekt RED announced it, and I’ve been foaming at the mouth since then. Who doesn’t love a story with choices to make?

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Do you attend conventions like CES, or E3? If so, what’s the worst part about them? When a friend of mine and I ran our old gaming website, we nearly had the opportunity to attend E3 but finances got in the way of that. I don’t otherwise attend conventions, and that’s largely because of the “worst part” I’m about to describe. There are few things I hate more than crowded areas and everyone reporting the same thing in the same way. If you’re going to fulfill what is probably a dream come true, you should at least put effort into your job. Be unique and show your own personality instead of rewriting someone else’s.

What is the first game you remember beating?Resident Evil 2,” I’m pretty sure. My dad and I would play that together—although, between you and me, he preferred it when I had a strategy guide in hand. Maybe that’s where the seed for writing video game content was planted.

Which video game development studio would you kill to work for? Bioware. Sure, they had their problems once they fell into EA’s umbrella–show me one person who doesn’t wish they shut off the last five minutes of Mass Effect 3–but they’re also miles ahead of other developers in terms of storytelling, and they’re always improving. People loved Baldur’s Gate and KOTOR, and they’ve only told more entralling stories since then as Dragon Age: Inquisition has shown us.

Actually, let me add to that. Telltale also does an excellent job capturing real human personalities. I would love to be a part of that team too. Especially with my interest in expanding interactive fiction, which Telltale does beautifully.

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What is one of your favorite articles you’ve written for the studio? I have a few of those lately with the new markdown language. Before, my favorite was an article about winning with black cards in Magic: the Gathering since it gave me a chance to show off my developed deck ideas and in-depth knowledge of the game. But actually, some of what I’ve written in the last few days are favorites, like choosing a “Mass Effect” character class—I’ve written that strategy guide, so that came easy!—and lock picking in “Oblivion,” another game I spent hundreds of hours with.

Do you have any sure-fire writing tips? Treat every single word like it’s on death row; if you can drop it without interrupting the flow of your work, it’s gone. Keep only those irreplaceable words. That pretty much goes with any piece of professional writing, I’d say. One thing I like to do is fill up my queue, take an hour and write the intros for all of them first. Take a break from that, come back later and read them over. It lets me maintain a writer’s mindset now, clear my brain and return with an editor’s hat.

I’m also a big fan of adding personality into my work, adding a joke here and there. It’s easy when you’re actually that familiar with the topic because your words flow like natural conversation instead of a research paper. Consider the differences between when your best friend and a cranky college professor ask a question; only one of these answers will have a natural, likeable you in it.

What’s the best part about working with the Studio? Honestly, the best thing now is the level of involvement. A couple of years ago, it was easy to get frustrated at duplicate, outdated or even impossible titles. As a Topic Editor, I can create new assignments that better encompass the things gamers are still searching nowadays as well as clean up old articles that said “You can’t technically do this, but…” since it’s not actually fulfilling the title.

As a writer, I want to put my best efforts into the content I create. Working with the Studio in 2015, I feel, allows me to do that.

Be sure to check out some more of Seth’s work

sethsmallSeth Amery is a long-time writer whose specialties extend to all areas of video games, having written thousands of tutorials, fully-featured strategy guides and reviews across all platforms. His experience also includes one-on-one relationships with major gaming publishers to write previews on upcoming games, establish interviews with game designers and hold early game giveaways.

School: Marylhurt University
Degree: Music Therapy
Sections: Hobbies and Games (Writer, Topic Editor), Tech (Writer, Topic Editor)

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