Wild Musing

Writing – Diary of a Budding Freelance

No Sex In Games Please-We Are American

Working on the gig I have at the moment which involves writing about games I have become quite the campaigner against censorship in games, you are likely to hear a fair bit about that in the future. I have also learned quite a lot about the way sex is used in video games. I thought I would share some of my thought with you.

In actual fact it is not just America but actually most of the Western World that has a problem with sex in games. It just opens a whole can of worms, I covered the early versions of ’sexy’ games in the first part of this series. I would now like to move into the more modern era and see how attitudes to sex in games and the depiction of sex itself has changed over time. And the truth of the matter is that this rather depends on where you live and your culture’s attitude to such things. America seems to be the least tolerant, quickly followed by the rest of the Western World. Japan on the other hand does not seem to worry about anything to do with sex, to the point where even the most liberal of us worry if things can go too far.

Let’s start with a character that actually managed to create very little controversy anywhere, just wonder at her awesomeness and awareness that people could consider video game characters sexy. At the beginning of the modern era we see Lara Croft (if you do not acknowledge Tomb Raider as the start of the modern era then you are too young to have an opinion.). This little lady changed the way people thought about video game characters forever, as author Damon Brown puts it in his book Porn and Pong

In Lara well adjusted men were contemplating sleeping with a bunch of pixels, lusting after a digital diva that didn’t exist -and actually admitting it to other people. Lara represents the first time America fell in lust with the idea of someone in a video game.

Even though there was no actual sex in the game Lara changed our attitudes to sexuality in games, they were becoming sexy in more than one way. Years later when Playboy did its first spread of video game characters, Lara would not be in it but make no mistake without her it would never have happened.

It would take the GTA titles to really make people sit up and take notice of sex in games again. Grand Theft Auto Three would cause comment because of its scenes with prostitutes. This franchise had the most disturbing sexual overtones to any set of games yet. It was probably the hint of violence with the sex that took it to a new level. As most of you know you could pursue the prostitute and kill her to retrieve your money. Was this justified in a game? A few things need to be taken into account when answering this question.

The first one is that the game already had a mature rating. It is clearly not designed for children. So the question of whether the sex is appropriate for children is no more relevant than it would be with a mature rated movie. This brings me to the second point. The sex in GTA is in keeping with the plot of the story and the character you are playing. If this was a movie it would probably be praised for its gritty realism.

The next time the GTA series got into trouble was to involve the subject of interactive sexual content in a game. The ‘Hot Coffee’ scene that was accidently included in San Andreas is too famous for me to have to recount here, suffice to say that accident or not, this game gave the gamer the first chance to actually participate in the sexual act since Custer’s Revenge. It went down like a lead ballon with the campaigners. There was a huge backlash against the series.

It is probably due to this backlash and a desire to avoid a repeat that Fahrenheit or Indigo Prophecy as those of you in the States know it, shipped without the interactive sex scene that people in every other country in the world would be able to play. It is probably fair to say that though the culture of America is very similar in a lot of ways to that of countries like Britain and Australia, the latter two do not have as many fundamentalist Christian pressure groups. It is probably the slightly more religious basis to the culture that stopped Americans from seeing this content.

And where is Japan in all this? How have they fared with sex in games in the modern era? Well, while we are debating the presence of tasteful alien sex scenes in the game Mass Effect some Japanese are legally playing what can only be termed as rape simulators. Nobody seemed to be at all bothered about this until someone tried to sell a second hand copy on Amazon to a British audience This caused a massive furor.

Back here in the Western World though, taking the vocal minority out of the equation, most people seem comfortable with sex in games so long as its inclusion is not obviously just there just for its own sake. Some don’t care even if it is, though most of those are likely to be under the age that is legally required to purchase the game. The average, mature gamer likes strong storylines and realistic layered characters, if this includes a bit of sex and sexuality then so be it.

March 12, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Confident Elance or Guru Pitch.

I was looking back over some of the templates I had created for these sites at the very beginning of all this and I was struck by how much they differed from the ones I send out now. In the early ones I was pathetic, I sounded like they would be doing me a favour throwing any ill paid rubbish my way. Here is an example

Thank you for the opportunity to submit my proposal for your project. Enclosed please find all information relative to my skills and experience.

I believe I could do an outstanding job of this project. I consider myself to be a very persuasive person who has an exceptional way with words. In my previous career as an English teacher I was often required to mock up advertising campaigns with a strong element of persuasion. Not to mention motivating the kids to complete the project which is perhaps the biggest challenge of all.

I gave up my teaching job to concentrate on my writing very recently, as a result I am eager and determined to produce a fantastic piece of work to satisfy your requirements.

Give me a go: you won’t regret it.

Please contact me on michellejbuss@googlemail.com to further discuss pricing and project details.

Regards Michelle Buss

How awful. And it elicited very few responses except the odd ” Do these really well for $1 each and I might have some more work for you” kind.

The type of proposal i send out now is much more confident. I know I can do the job well and expect fair pay for it. The bonus is that this is actually more professional and attracts a better quality of employer. If you come across as under confident you frighten the employer. Most of them are there because they don’t know how to do the job themselves, they are hardly likely to hire someone who comes across as if they haven’t got a clue either. Who can blame them? My bids now are more likely to sound something like this.

I was drawn to your advert because it sounds like you want quality articles, it seems to me a lot of employers are not the slightest bit interested in quality. It also sounds like a lot of fun and I gave up a fifteen year teaching career to write because I enjoy it so that is very important to me.

I write articles for an Australian gaming magazine. They are a journalistic endeavor as I decide each month what topics are hot in the industry and do the research and interviews to put the article together. They pay very well but there is not enough of this work to earn a full time living.

As I have great difficulty turning out rubbish low fee articles take me far too long to be worth the effort. Your project sounds just right for me. A chance to reflect the true quality of my writing for fair pay would be very much appreciated.

It is hard to give you a truly reflective price as you do not mention how much writing would be involved. I would be happy to discuss this with you.

Please visit my website at

https://michellejbuss.wordpress.com/

This will give you a feel for my style and writing ability. I have also attached an article I had published in a gaming magazine. I can provide the contact details of the editor who will be more than happy to provide me with a reference.

I look forward to working with you on this.

That is slightly generic and clearly i respond to each project on an individual level so I would add the following;

– A few sentences on why I am the best person for their particular brief.
– If possible a pertinent question to show my understanding of the type of project they are asking for.

This has worked loads better and jobs do come to me quite regularly. An up date of my profile to include my new improved writing ethos has also started bring employers to me. So, at the risk of repeating myself my number one tip is to be confident, it is vital.

On another note if you found your way here looking for a view on these sites from a web designers point of view the following site is worth a visit
http://rubiqube.com/elance-tips-top-5-projects-you-should-run-away-from/


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January 21, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Getting published, Guru, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Boy Shoots Parents Because They Won’t Let Him Play Halo 3- Daniel Petric

Wow this is an extreme story. I am currently writing an article on it for a magazine and another for a website so I thought I would share my thoughts with you on here. It will help me to organise them.

Firstly, the story itself for those of you that are unfamiliar. Daniel Petric was raised in a religious family in Ohio. His father was a religious minister and by all accounts pretty careful ( some may even say a bit over cautious) about the kinds of entertainment his children were exposed to.

Daniel was involved in accident the year he turned 16 and was confined to the house for months on end, during this period he apparently played a lot of games and watched a lot of TV, as you would, no surprise there.

The trouble started when Daniel’s father, Mark, decided that the Halo series of games that Daniel was particularly fond of was too sexually graphic and took it and hid it in his lockbox with his own handgun. Daniel apparently knew where the key was and retrieved the game and the gun. He took the gun into the room his parents were sitting in and told them, chillingly, to close their eyes because he had a surprise for them, then he shot them both. His mother was killed and his father suffered a severe head injury. There is something even more heartbreaking about the way Mark Petric testified that he closed his eyes expecting a nice surprise from his son only to feel his head go numb from the bullet Daniel had shot at his head.

Daniel was recently convicted of this crime after the court rejected his plea of insanity. He is to be sentenced at a later date.

The blame game is, of course raging full steam ahead on this one. A lot blame the video game industry and there are none of us dropping
dead of shock over that. The judge really did not help with his comments.

“In the game you shoot aliens, and they are there again the next day. You have to shoot them again, and I firmly believe that Daniel Petric had no idea that if he killed his parents they would be dead forever”

I am not pointing my finger at the judge, a case like this has got to put you under immense strain, but neither can I accept his comments.
It would suggest that a sixteen year old boy who two experts had already ascertained was not suffering from a mental defect or disease did not understand the concept of death. That just beggars belief, I don’t care how many hours of Halo he had played. What, had he never had a pet cat, dog, bird die? Not had an auntie, uncle or grandparent pass away. Nope, sorry not having that. Anyway, it occurs to me that if Daniel Petric thought his parents were just going to spring to life again then he had no motive for what he did, it was not going to get him any closer to being able to play Halo 3.

The gamers focus more on the humans involved and seem to predominately make two sorts of comments. Some make comment on Mark’s parenting skills, I think we have to tread very carefully here to avoid tipping over into blaming the victim but some people put forward ideas of a repressive regime in the home. Halo 3 is after all an M rated game and Daniel was 16. Not that anyone is suggesting that this one piece of discipline was a reason for murder.

Others, of course, blame Daniel himself and it would be easy to say that this is clearly where the real blame lies but I can’t help thinking that even though Daniel may not have been insane by criminal standards any boy who shoots his parents must have been in dire need of some sort of help.

Anyway, the most heartbreaking detail in a heartbreaking case is the fact the fact that Mark Petric looked at his son in court with forgiveness and told him “you are my son, my boy”. I am not sure how to comment on that except to say, for some reason, it nearly made me cry.


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January 21, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Sex in games, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

My Freelance Writing Ethos.

When I first started this caper I used to look at all the profiles of writers who knew exactly what they could bring to a project with envy. People were chucking around terms like value added and I really did not have a clue. I certainly had nothing approaching an ethos or a mission statement but as I have gone through the process I think I have started to develop one. I am quite sure that it is not fully formed yet but if I was pushed for an ethos now I think it would go something like this

I produce quality products. I do not copy sections from the internet or re word other people’s articles . Inserting a bit of spark and personality is my specialty.I love to write and anything I produce will reflect my genuine love of language.

I strongly believe that top notch writing can add value to a website or product and help increase profit. I also believe that poor writing can harm the image an employer is trying to create and therefore cost them money. That is why I will strive to give them a product that is of exceptional quality every time.

I don’t think I came into this expecting to have to convince people of the power of words. I suppose as a former English teacher I should know better than anyone that not everyone appreciates how important language is. But somehow I expected that if someone was hiring a person to write for them then they would understand this truth. Some people seem to think that any words will do. The way these people totally underestimate the power of language still astonishes me.

This freelance writing thing has really focused me on the pleasure of earning a living from something you are passionate about and so far I declare this career change a success.


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January 20, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Gaming, Getting published, Guru, Uncategorized, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Small Victory For Me- Writing For Guru And Elance

It looks like there really might be something in this holding out for decent money and delivering quality. Yesterday I got this letter from someone I wrote for on Elance

Dear Michelle,

If it was possible, I would give you an eLance standing ovation. The article was exactly what I wanted. I decided to skim over the article late last night and all of a sudden my already exhausted eyes perked up and by the end of the article I was watching the trailer for World of Goo and looking where to play the demo. The only thing I need you to include is just your name at the end of the articles so my readers will know who to thank for such engaging articles. Keep up the excellent work.

If you think I am showing off, you may be right. It is just that I am a little proud of myself and my two Staffordshire Bull Terriers don’t seem to care. By the way I highly recommend the Indie game World Of Goo. A fabulous achievement by the little guys. Huge budget of $10 000 and second on the amazon best seller list at Christmas. Imagine the envy of the tens of millions of dollars game developers.

Anyway, getting back on track. Remember the people I politely declined for offering me a silly small amount of money for my writing (if not you need to read this post https://michellejbuss.wordpress.com/2009/01/14/silly-offers-for-your-writing-politely-declining-guru-employers/ Well, I’ll be darned if they did not get back to me this morning accepting my original offer. It just goes to show you sticking up for yourself not only feels good it can win you customers.

Of course my original bid was still pretty low because I need the experience in writing eBooks, and they need the whole sixty pages in a week, eek. I best get started, I will let you know how it goes.


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January 17, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Gaming, Getting published, Guru, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Silly Offers For Your Writing-Politely Declining Guru Employers.

I have to admit that I am joining the ranks of the fans of Guru and Elance. I am well aware of their downsides but the bottom line is they facilitate a link between you and employers. What you negotiate from there is up to you. There is no doubt there are employers on there that think they are doing you a favour by offering to let you write and you should gratefully work for under minimum wage but no one makes you work for them. I now have $400 of continuing work a week through these two sites. Granted this is a recent development and I have not been paid but as this week’s money is held in escrow accounts I think I can be fairly confident.

I have one small job writing tiny blogs for a landlord. Another one that requires 3 articles on gaming a week and yet another that is currently a set 5 articles but looks like it shall continue beyond that. In each case I am being paid fairly. Two offered a fair price up front and one had to be given a gentle prod but all in all it is my ideal of fair pay for decent writing.

I think this has been bought about by my deciding and openly stating in my bids that I will not accept less. People still occasionally offer me silly money but I doggedly decline their offers and hold out for something better. It really is the only way. Just today I received a counter offer to my bid to write 60/100 page EBook, the gentleman wanted me to do it for $200! Apparently the hook is there may be more in the future, at that price I could not afford to do any more for him. Anyway, he received one of my thanks but no thanks letters. In each letter I try to set out how long a quality job would take and then put it into pay per hour for them. I am not being patronizing, I really think some of them just don’t realize what they are asking. Unless they actually write themselves this is understandable. I include a mock up of the type of letter I send to politely decline an unrealistic offer.

Sixty pages of well written, researched copy would take at least forty five hours including proof reading and editing. Anyone who tells you different is not intending on giving you quality. This works out at less than five dollars an hour. I usually work at a very low minimum of ten to fifteen and had only gone below that because your project sounded interesting. I literally cannot afford to work for you at that price and must admit my astonishment that anyone can. They must have much lower house payments than me.

So I politely decline your offer.

I recognize that we all do what we need to do and I wish you all the best.

I will admit to a small sense of satisfaction when I press the send button.


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January 14, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Gaming, Guru | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fair Pay For Good Writing- Good News Guru/Elance Update.

Just a short up date on how our two favorite writers for hire sites are treating me. To be honest things are on the up and up. Even though I spent today plugging the virtues of timeshare in Florida, I have some real hope of a job writing some quality stuff for a reasonable rate from an employer on Elance.

It is writing content for a new website that is not interested in SEO; they are interested in a good reader experience. Wow, what a novel idea. How refreshing is this statement?

Firstly, I am not looking for SEO writers who optimize their articles for search engines sometimes at the expense of the quality of their writing. Rather, it is precisely quality writing that I am looking for.

Wonderful. And for once that statement does not seem to be followed by rates that make it obvious they want this quality at the same price everyone else is paying for crap. Like we should be grateful that anyone cares about quality at all and should , in fact, perhaps pay them for letting us write it.

So the idea seems to be that I write a column three times a week in my own area of expertise, about 500-700 words. For the week’s work they will pay $100 USD if they agree to my quote which they seem to be doing. This is obviously not a fortune but it sure beats the tripe out of $10 for 1200 odd original words. now I am still a little sceptical that everything will work out as it seems to be but I am hopeful. If it all goes wrong I shall of course crawl back here with my tail between my legs and tell you all about it. For now though, it seems that holding out for a fair deal and continuing to stress the quality of your work may bring results on these sites. I will be pleased if that is the case.


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January 9, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Getting published, Guru, SEO writing, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seriously Bad SEO Writing- Funny Examples Competition

My post yesterday got me to thinking about all the examples of truly bad SEO writing I have seen in my time. Some of it is really very amusing. Either because the writer has completely lost control of what they are writing (overuse of thesaurus or just lack of grasp of the language.) Or, just occasionally, because you can see the bored to tears SEO writer behind the copy deciding to have a laugh.

There have always been examples of bad writing my personal favorite example currently is an opening paragraph that was recognized as one of the worst of 2006.

Her angry accusations burned Clyde like that first bite of a double cheese pizza, when the toppings slide off and sear that small elevation of the oral mucosa, just behind the front teeth, known as the incisive papilla, which is linked to the discriminatory function of the taste buds except, where Clyde was concerned, when it came to women.

I had to find a way to include that because it really mad me laugh. If you interested in some other creative writing train wrecks check this out http://www.ieplexusblog.com/featured/90-great-design-wont-mask-bad-writing/

Back on my original topic though, once I started to actually look for funny, bad SEO examples I found it quite time consuming and being so impatient I decided to kick off with the first two I came across.

Firstly, in the category of: Is There Actually Any Meaning Left In That Sentence?

Because the desire for a bigger penis is both a carelessness and a beginning of care for many men, the penis enhancement ‘store’ has flourished.

What? I apologize for using such an obvious topic but I just had a feeling it might throw up some examples.

Secondly, and my personal favorite category That Writer Is Having A Laugh: I Wonder If Anyone Will Notice.

(Before you read this you need to know the title of the article was The Three Products Most Likely To Be Top Sellers for Your Internet Business)

Hair loss products. No man likes to lose his hair, forget the old adage that baldness is a sign of virility. That phrase was coined by a bald man. The desperation men feel at losing their hair resulted in the invention of the comb over. If men were willing to believe that looked better than going bald then they will buy just about anything.

Classic. The, your customers are dumb and desperate sales pitch.

My idea is this. Let’s find the best examples of truly bad SEO writing and post them here. It will be good for a laugh if nothing else. If I start getting in some replies I will write up the best ones once a month or so and create a new page for them.

I may not get enough traffic for this kind of idea but if not I will continue to post any funny examples I come across.

Please be aware that I am not having a go at underpaid and over worked SEO writers, I feel their pain, just at the system as it currently is.


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January 6, 2009 Posted by | Diggit, Elance, Gaming, Guru, SEO writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

SEO Writing- Is There A Way We Can All Make Money?

As I was ploughing my way through my present bread and butter work of SEO writing today, I suddenly had an epiphany. It is actually possible to write SEO quite well. You may mock but it is true. If you have a strong grasp of the English language and a bit of talent with words then SEO’s can sound quite professional and even show some personality and humor. They can flow well and actually make the product sound like it really would be worth checking out. Here is the bad news though. It is impossible to make a 500 word SEO article sound like real quality in half an hour. I do not care what anyone says; highly competent, compelling articles of 500 words take an hour to write and if there is research involved add at least another half an hour. So why is this bad news? Because most SEO employers pay about five dollars USD for an article. So that means SEO writers are on way less than minimum wage. I have got news for you SEO employers, the articles you are getting are not quality.

Now this may not come as a shock to most SEO employers but how about this for a thought; what if the articles you are publishing are actually damaging your sales? I have no proof of this except common sense but hear me out. If I was after a good or a service and googled the name of it to be taken to an extremely poorly written or uninspiring article, I would not click on the link, in fact I would look at the company name and warn myself it was one to keep well away from. I would not be the only one.

None of this may matter if you are selling some dodgy hair replacement or penis enlargement product (though come to think of it if I was the poor guy who had googled those terms I would probably really want an article that inspired some confidence, especially in the case of a penis enlargement) but if your product has some real quality to it you may actually be damaging your product image and therefore losing potential sales.

Even if you believe none of this, even if you think rubbish SEO articles will not hurt your reputation or your image there is still the fact that you are missing out on the opportunity to actually use the articles to really add value to your product or brand. Don’t you think a brilliantly written SEO that really sells the product could actually help you get sales over competitors whose links are attached to rubbish articles? Maybe you don’t, but I do. If you pay more for fabulous SEO’s but it increases your sales exponentially then everyone is a winner. We all make money.

SEO’s have the potential to actually be quality advertising but nobody seems to see that.


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January 6, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Getting published, Guru, SEO writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Will SEO Be The Death Of Freelance Writing?

No, probably not, but it may be the death of me. Only joking, of course. Those of you who have been following my blog will be pleased to hear I am now back on track and being paid for my writing. It is mainly SEO at this stage though and that provides some unique challenges. I am not talking about any moral issues people may have with SEO writing ,I have done those to death, just the practicalities.

I think we would all agree that SEO writing is the bottom rung of the writing ladder and as a result not very well paid. Most of us starting out in freelance writing accept that and perhaps even see it as a way of paying our dues. The difficulty comes when you have some much higher value writing coming in and you have to balance it with your SEO stuff.

I am not ashamed to say I earn about ten quid for a five hundred word SEO article at the moment, I am not ashamed because it is largely what is keeping the wolf from the door and I am grateful for that. The good news is I now also have some ‘real’ writing starting to come in, in fact I have three articles to write this month at the much more pleasant rate of fifty pounds per five hundred words. This is great but it does present me with a bit of a dilemma. SEO employers tend to be very demanding employers (no offense intended). By the nature of their business they need you to be quick and reliable. The good news is they tend to pay quite quickly and that really helps the cash flow situation.

By contrast the magazine editor I am writing for is more relaxed about time and more concerned about quality. This sounds great but most editors also seem to be quite relaxed about when they pay you. A lot won’t pay before publication, and your article can be in a queue.

So this is my problem, to write my magazine article I need to take time out from my SEO writing. The worst thing that will happen is that the SEO employer will see me as unreliable and cease to deal with me (yes, they are a dime a dozen but writers are a penny at this end of the market). Even if that does not happen a couple of days out of SEO writing will seriously slow down my cash flow which, to be fair, has only recently started re flowing.

I think I may have to accept that the temporary poverty is worth it for the improvement in the quality of job I am getting. I will have to try to balance the two types of writing, because far from being the death of my freelance writing career SEO has actually kept me afloat long enough to start reaping some benefits.

I could just cease to sleep.


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January 2, 2009 Posted by | Getting published, Guru, SEO writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment