Wednesday, 20 January 2010

New Games Journalism – Just what is up with it?

Games Journalism is a tricky subject, because like art, there is always room for debate and thanks to the magic of the internet, there are a large number of people to debate with, or depending on your forum, a huge flame war, with insults being flung left and right by the new age cultists of Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and the PC, foaming mouths are not optional, but a required tool of the workplace.

But I’m moving away from the subject here; Games Journalism is indeed a tricky subject, thanks to a short time table (they have to pretty do everything in a little under 3 weeks, only to start again for next month), the internet stealing the magazines customers and so perhaps a short road to being laid off, down to boring games developers being unable to exude enough charisma, so that little Bob can take his life giving quotes in exchange for a pay check, so that he may stuff his little face with life giving pies, means that Games Journalism is no piece of cake, its not just about playing games, nor a rock and roll lifestyle of going to places, being treated like a king by games developers, all so that you can give them these few golden words.

“It wasn’t bad, 7/10”

And yes that does mean Peter Monxyew is adored by the press, for the sheer fact that to them, he makes their life a damn sight easier, while for the people who actually play his games for relaxation and find the reality is not the vision that was painted for us (see every game by Lionhead), journalists praise him for the fact that he hands out quotes by the bucket loads, has enough charisma to paint a beautiful world filled with lambs and chuckling kittens and actually gets back to them, something which apparently not many developers do, or at least not in time.

But lets not say that there are no problems with Games Journalism at this moment! Oh no, I for one consider the most damning thing that anyone can do is put a bloody number to an experience (which is what a game is), and the bastards plaster em all over the damn magazines, it reeks of unfeeling, mechanical science and if we go down that route, all games should come with a endorphin filled syringe, filled to the prescribed enjoyment level and then plunged into my brain, for that is what numbers fitted to an experience is to me and if anyone does try that on me in person, I will actually work out for the sole purpose of kaber tossing you into a tree.

If anyone gets the irony in that, then you are either very smart, or very Scottish.

Of course this kind of anger can only be prescribed against those that talk about the experience of the game, but if your talking about the machanics of the game, (good camera, excellent graphics blah blah blah), then yes a number ranking system is good for it, in fact I require it for the sole purpose of glazing over it and then trying the games demo instead. Because if there are any mechanics that spoil the game, then they spoil the experience, and the other guys will tell you that.

And that is what New Games Journalism is all about, talking about the experience rather than the mechanics, to know that you will most likely feel like a kid again when you play this indy game, and you know what?

That’s good, its what my own writing is going to be like if I play a game because I can only write about my own experience and what I felt whilst playing, although most likely a tad more long winded then most journalists, it will have the same character, the joy of a guy who never did grow up fully and thinks that to be an adult all the time is stupid and boring.

But I’m not the only one, there are many people with differencing ways of telling people what’s out there, Yahtzee from The Escapist, a online community solely catered for Gaming, creates Zero Punctuation a kind of video podcast where he reviews games for a living, using simplistic characters and artwork to push forward his thoughts on the matter.

And then he swears and cracks jokes all over it, with the speed of a Lion trying to decide whether to give the Cubs tofu, or a slice of Gazelle, the Gazelle wins of course, much tastier! Not so much for the Gazelle. Thankfully Yahtzee doesn’t butcher the review with all this and actually makes sense and is funny at the same time. He is both objective and subjective, he talks enough about the problems of the game mechanics that ruin the experience, yet he always describes the experience he has had with the game, which means that it all works, because you can be only subjective and only objective in a review, as you need both sides to truly explain the whole experience

And like me, he prescribes to the same idea that number based reviewing is stupid, because we all have our own minds and can make our own decisions. Its just a shame that most people seem to be sheep and will bleat with the herd.

I of course pretty much ignore most reviews and buy and play what games I want to, even if reviewers have said its bad and even enjoy them, why does this happen? Because compared to the bleating herd, I am a Bear that sits in a cave, smoking a bubblegum pipe, occasionally heading out to hunt some mutton for lunch.

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