Fighters Block: A Gaming Platform for Writers or a Writing Platform for Gamers?

Fighting writer's block is already hard enough, but add in the incentive of a cute avatar and the chance to level up -- and fighting writer's block has suddenly become literal.

Writers hate having writer's block almost as much as they hate the phrase "writer's block." Most already know the usual advice: "write what you can" or "write what you know", but sometimes that isn't enough. Instead, writers are left with blank pages that have been stared at for hours, or work that they're not proud of. But, hey, at least they wrote something.

There's little doubt that many writing websites try to help, like One Word and Write for Ten, but sometimes, having fun and imaginative prompts just isn't enough.

So it's a good thing a website/game like Fighters Block exists. Fighters Block, a writing website for gamers (or a gaming website for writers?), aids writers in their journey of simply getting started by giving them an actual entity to fight other than their own lack of motivation or inspiration. Writers select an avatar -- although there are only a few to choose from their first time playing -- and then they set a word count, say 500 words, that they have to reach in order to defeat their adversary.

After selecting who they are and what they fight, the site takes them to a blank text screen with their avatar and enemy "Not-A-Block" as a header. The battle begins as soon as the writer (player?) starts typing. As the word count decreases (read: the writer starts putting words on the page), their foe's life force depletes, but the longer the player spends not typing, the faster their own health bar depletes.

Pressing backspace relieves health, as does just writing any combination of letters with a space between, meaning if a player still struggles with what to write but fears their 50/100 HP, they can just bust out the good ol' "blah blah blah, kldjfkljd lkdjflkdj lkdjfljd," which still counts as words and regenerates their vitality. 

But at what cost? Just writing letters with a few spaces in between doesn't count as writing (wow, did I just hit something deep here?). But sometimes, people are more gamers than writers and just want to defeat the monster than face why they searched for the website in the first place.

For the writers who want to game casually, Fighters Block has a pause feature, where the player's health won't decrease when they stop to think about what they're writing, but the word-count still depletes their foe's health. This feature remove some of the anxiety from the writer who panics and writes less when they see their health bar going down 1 HP every second. As soon as the player reaches their word-count goal, that's how much experience they gain. 500 words = 500 XP, which will help them increase level as they go. Players can change the difficulty of the monster, so that HP depletes faster, and the higher level the player is, the faster the monster (writer's block) attacks. 

It's still difficult to say if Fighters Block is a successful solution to the pesky problem writers face. Certainly, it's satisfying to watch Not-A-Block fade as the text box fills with words as a sign of progress, but if it's easier to write nonsense than to surpass the root of the problem, Fighters Block hasn't solved anything other than giving people another game to play -- or another way to avoid writing.

On the other hand, some writers and gamer perform better when achieving small goals on the way to ultimate victory. In games like Resident Evil 7 and Outlast, players know that they have to escape the "prison" the game places them in. But instead of having a singular objective ("Get out of the creepy asylum, dude", or "Maybe I should just leave this house, like, now"), the games provide players with smaller objectives that distract them from the looming end-task.

Of course, there are people who prefer the single-objective style. Learning -- and playing -- styles are different for everyone, and that's okay. The same goes for writing. But no matter the style in which someone learns or has fun, Fighters Block at least gives people the opportunity to do both: surpass the evil within themselves -- and defeat the evil Not-A-Block on their screen. 

Published Oct. 19th 2017

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