Blogging for Justice
The following was written for Chalk Talk:
If its one thing that is guaranteed to generate talk across the internet, it is whenever a new console is rumored or details of said consoles appear. But there are always two sides argued. One side insists its the only way forward and once we all have new hardware everything can progress exponentially. The other protests and strongly believes more time with the current generation would bring about greater games than advancing to new technology so quickly with possible higher production costs.
The interesting thing is a predominantly PC gamer like me never really gets bothered by all this.Sure we get flashier games too but we dont have to wait for the next generation to shell out a load of cash as the PC hardware market is almost constantly evolving. Obviously though, to those who are using current generations of consoles, this is a massive deal.
So Im going to take a look at what we have, what we might get and maybe what we need from the future of our beloved hobby.
What we have: What we have now is incredible, look back 15 years and we were all on repeated textures with low polygon counts and not much in the way of artificial intelligence. Stories were limited by what the developers could achieve and games simply couldnt compare to the other media out there. We now have sophisticated graphics, AI that at times, have their moments generally are of a much higher quality. And stories that are no longer defined by what is possible, but rather by the developers imaginations.
I think that with a longer time in this generation we actually could see some truly great titles. Developers can push the engines they use further - a lot of what weve seen can be advanced and changed to create new opportunities. Only when the current technology is truly mastered would we see the best results and some developers believe that there is more to come from the current generation.
What we might get: Now this is the part where I needed my crystal ball to predict the future but as I seem to have misplaced it Ill just have to go on what little info we have. The advances we may see in the next generation all depend on the hardware that is used. But there are a few that say the next generation is where all of the best advances dwell, and that our current generation is in fact holding us back.
It becomes easy when looking at the next developments in consoles to focus on the visuals. Yet there are many features that will actually benefit from the increase in power and resources. Simply having more processing capability and a higher RAM will mean that tasks can be handled quicker and in greater quantity allowing more sophisticated on screen action. Will it be a big enough jump from what we have? I think is the most important question though but it is only time that will reveal the answer to that one.
So we might get some something spectacular that can only be achieved with the latest and greatest hardware and tech. But wasnt that true in the previous generation switch too? And are we only now starting to see what these consoles can truly achieve? When they first released it was said that Crysis would never come to consoles. And not only has the original come to them but two sequels also is this proof that we dont yet need another cycle? Releases like Halo 4 are also proving what can be achieved on this generation. Then there is cost to consider. How much will the new generation cost and what cutbacks will be made to keep costs reasonable?
What we need: Is to take a step back, really look at what we are chasing. Developers making completely opposite claims and a community who just want to see more of what they love and less of what they dont. It seems every time a console releases the world stops and looks for a second. But what are they seeing, what has actually been promised? We are told a new generation would herald a new era, but what exactly would that era bring?
I think the next generation needs to have a large advancement in almost every aspect to make the grade. Last time HD gaming meant upgrading was worth the investment. We are now however at a stage where we have a lot of the shinier graphics and sophisticated gameplay. Would you shell out the cash for a new console that only improved a small amount? Do you think the next wave of consoles has been much needed and the sooner the better?
A game is a game, separate from reality. The notion of games glorifying and encouraging violence is no different from the way film and music have done. Escapism is a huge part of the gaming concept, whether you actively seek it or whether you just enjoy it. But are we seeking escapism and being delivered something more sinister, are we actually being fed propaganda in modern shooters?
No, absolutely not. Dont be foolish, to say that modern military shooters are created to make us believe in an ideal could be applied to almost anything. Does shooting Covenant and Prometheans in Halo mean we are being conditioned to act negatively against an alien race? Could it all be a metaphor for extreme xenophobia? Would you believe that we are being encouraged to selflessly volunteer ourselves as the soldiers of tomorrow, unaware that death is final?
That is not to say that these shooters get away with everything though. Whilst military games are not modern day propaganda, they do play with the notion of war in an avant-garde way. There is a valid argument that bringing current conflict and war scenarios in to the games desensitises us from what is happening in our current world.
To a lot of the gaming community, the levels in Medal of Honor: Warfighter were simply a list of levels. Many claimed these levels to be boring and uninspired. Yet these were based on real situations that have happened in the past decade. Real soldiers experienced similar situations with fear, they had to use their wits to stay alive and to them this was anything but boring.
It obvious that through experiencing the levels in your home where you know you are safe can blur the feelings you get from these scenarios in a massive way. If you experienced a life threatening situation that others shrugged off because it wasnt interesting to them, would you consider that reaction normal?
The other issue at hand is; where is the line drawn? When have we gone too far? We have played through levels involving the slaughter of civilians and voluntary acts of friendly fire. Weve seen games try to play on our hearts by depicting child casualties and the effects that losing a loved one in the military can have. Is this a realistic, necessary part of the game? Or simply a ploy to make it seem more real, a detail to be added in to encourage you to want to fight on.
These aspects should be allowed in our games, like they are in our other media. My question would be if they are being added for the right reasons. It would seem that we are being sold an action game on the premise of fighting off a terrible evil, and to convince us that the evil is real, we are being shown and made to do things that are simply exploited to provoke a reaction. The death of thousands of innocent people should not be a gameplay tactic to create a reason to fight on. Especially when the consequences are never properly dealt with, the game carries on, and we forget all about the massacre that we just witnessed.
That is where my main issue lies; the loss of life is a tragic event. No matter in what scenario, yet there never seems to be any consequence to it. I understand that it is difficult to create a game where if the player dies that is it, but I feel the constant disregard for gunning down hundreds of people without it taking its toll on the soldier a little too left out.
There is nothing that really connects the consequence to the action. Real soldiers are trained to deal with the situationI know, but there are some that still struggle with the concept. Im not saying everything needs to be all Im a terrible person, Ive taken a life, but some emotional effect showing on a character or those around them should be apparent at times. It isnt often that we see soldiers feeling anything in these games. That makes it all too easy to forget that they are humans.
The question we must ask ourselves is not are videogames encouraging violence but rather are we seeing the true consequences of actions carried out in a game. That question need not only apply to military shooters either. This is an important question that needs answering, not only to see delicate situations handled correctly. But also to maybe enhance the experience we receive when we pick up these titles.
The following piece was written for this weeks Chalk Talk task:
Representation, respect, rights. All of these words are key when the topic of girls in gaming shows up. Since the early beginnings, women have struggled to make an impression or even be respected within the gaming universe. How many women can you name in the gaming industry? There are some catastrophic issues with being female and into games, none of them to do with the women themselves, but rather what transcends.
The simple act of enjoying a game online boils down to either being insulted or being subject to crude remarks and offensive slurs. Of course I am not female; I know nothing of really how it feels to be on the end of the following borderline abuse, but this is not something that is acceptable in anyway. Where it comes from does not matter, it needs to stop.
Years of mistreatment has meant that girls have had to stick together and become more secluded to keep gaming hassle free. We now have a divide; hostility has now formed in both camps. Women have learnt to keep a distance and males have seen this as rejection. So the way forward is difficult, in a virtual space full of anonymity what can we do about making things better?
Well the best answer is for both sides to just get on with it. If you find a decent human being in your game and they happen to be of a different gender, dont make a huge deal of it. Just be nice, like you would to any other gamer out there. We can all coincide without special treatment or abuse. The middle ground is where success lies.
This of course is only half of the battle; there is that old chestnut, the portrayal of women in games. This is for me the biggest problem, forever the damsel in distress, the distant hero with a bad past, the abused, the helpless; it seems that whenever there is a girl in a videogame she has a problem, a problem a male must fix.
This is one of the biggest problems throughout the gaming world. There never seems to be a strong female character. Of course there are some examples, but the common trend is to make you rescue or fix the female characters around you to make everything better. One of the few games to get this notion of a strong female character right is Lollipop Chainsaw; even through the poorly chosen camera angles and lacking amount of clothes one thing remains. Juliette is a strong woman.
Of course the most recent example of controversy surrounding the portrayal of women in games comes courtesy of the upcoming reboot of Tomb Raider. The details have been discussed at length but it did cause me to ask an important question. In 2012 why do we find ourselves still having this conversation?
Why hasnt this been eradicated? It seems completely crazy to think that women are still getting a hard time in gaming. Gaming has evolved so much from what it once was. We have characters that can show emotions, we have the capability to create games that are only restricted by what our minds can conceive. So why cant we take the step and start treating everybody equally?
Regardless of how we do it, it needs to be done. But Id like to end on a better note than this, so Im going to highlight someone for whom I have the utmost respect for.
Most know for whom I speak of when I say one of, if not the best female FPS player out there. Kelly Kelley (MrsViolence) is a brilliant example of how great this industry could be if we forget for one moment about gender and let our pastimes bring us all together.
She is an amazing gamer and a strong woman, and that is exactly what this industry needs more of. Ive recently been watching her livestream on twitch.tv and it is fair to say that the comments made on the video couldnt be more misogynistic. The mods, who are also girl gamers, on the channel are permanently in action yet this doesnt discourage either them or MrsV.
I encourage everyone to check out the channel, http://www.twitch.tv/MrsViolence if you dont think there is a problem in the way females are viewed in gaming it will certainly change your perception. It will also show you that great gamers are out there, and they arent all men. Neither do they have to be.
Though it has come a long way since the days prior to readily accessible internet connections, gaming to me has always been a social concept. The stigma that gaming is for the antisocial has always bugged me, as even the earliest games have been meant for more than one person. Pong for example wasnt just for one; it was a two person experience.
To look at the social aspect of gaming further we need to first understand the average gamer. This is no easy task but industry figures would say most of those who game regularly are your 16-24 age bracket males. Even the demographic figures I found for Gamespot give an overview of "Based on internet averages, gamespot.com is visited more frequently bymaleswho are in the age range18-24, haveno children, receivedsome college education and browse this site fromhome." So that is our snapshot of the average gamer for all intents and purposes. It is also handy as Im in that exact demographic. Although these demographic figures should be taken with a pinch of salt.
So where does the image of a gaming nerd sat in his underwear, eating Cheetos, drinking Mountain Dew while playing games come from? In a world where millions interact from all around the world playing games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, are we seen as forever alone?
Surely this is a question of what a person would consider socializing to be. I sit regularly at my computer and talk to many people; I network through various social medias and I often play games online with chums. Yet I dont have a bustling social life outside of my computer screen, does this then mean that I am antisocial? Or have the days where you need to physically be in the proximity of people to be considered social passed? Am I the aforementioned forever alone? Ive never sat in underwear and eaten Cheetos, yet I dont yearn to have constant interaction with others in the same place. I simply dont feel you need to.
Before Steam, Xbox Live and PSN there was only really one way you could game with others, System link/LAN. This meant dragging multiple consoles, PC, TVs and all the trimmings to a friends house, connecting it all up and having a blast. I have taken part in some of these and the persistent technical issues or lack of effort from other participants always meant these events didnt go to plan. But it did mean that you all got to share that experience together, in the same place, which is more social at first to those looking in from the outside.
That is where most of the stigma lays, with the opinion of the outside world. The image Ive been referring to doesnt come from inside the confines of the gaming community, but rather what the non-gaming population perceives. That has always been the case, we have always been the kids with the dorky glasses and the braces. The ones with the obscure reference t-shirts and love for all things virtual. So has time changed that perception?
The answer is twofold, partly yes, partly no. Whilst companies such as Nintendo have attempted to dominate that casual market, the term we use for everyone that wasnt there from the start. Services like Xbox Live and Steam mean we have actually gone from being in each others homes playing and sharing the experience to talking over headsets and sitting miles apart from each other.
This creates an odd parallel where we have one hand reaching out to the masses to show them we arent really what they thought we were. Whilst simultaneously using the other hand to slap them across the face, as we sit in our homes shouting insults at them over an internet connection because they have braved the dangerous waters of our favorite pastime.
But there is more to it than that, we arent monsters and the majority of us do have social lives and care about the outside world. It is this that makes me feel like in a way, gaming has become more acceptable. We have more exposure to the outside world now, more ways to let people know what it is all about and why they should be interested. Things like Extralife and Childs play mean that now gaming has a charitable side, doing great things for fantastic causes. Our nerdy hobby can now make difference to those in need. A truly great time for gaming is upon us.
So is gaming unsociable? Most certainly not. Even the single player experiences cause us to flood to our respective networks and close friends to discuss what just happened in our story and games connect literally millions of people together every day. Are we forever alone? That may have been the perception once upon a time, but it is changing. People are beginning to get what we are all about. They may never understand why we choose to spend over 200 hours playing just one game, but I dont believe gaming culture as a whole is seen as the dorky kid it once was.
Well, it has been a while, but I fancied doing some writing away from the usual stuff I do, it gets the fingers typing and the brain moving.
So recently my mind has been plagued much like the city of Dunwall, but with an ever present sense of anxiety kind of plague not the actual 'I'm going to make pustuals bleed until your fevered brow can take no more and you die a horrible death' plague.
So what, you may be asking, has caused this? You didn't ask? Oh, well I'm going to tell you anyway.
Well there is a couple of things causing this. One of them is the 'always on' voice in the back of my head screaming "you're still not a proper journalist!" as if the latter part of my mind has been over run by that **** in the back of class at school who insisted in taking my lunch money every day for two years. The other is that the search to once and for all prove this 'back of the mind bully' wrong is taking up all my time, and therefore I'm getting absolutely no gaming done.
I think we can all agree this sucks. So what is a person to do?
There is one option, let that back of the mind bully win. Yes it would mean the next month or so would be feelings of failure and the inevitable "I told you so" from Mr know it all back there. But I'd have more time to play games and get on top of everything again. But I started doing this because I wanted to, so it makes no sense to quit when I've put time and money into it. Plus I still want to prove you know who wrong.
Another possible option is to simply not write or search for opportunity again until I've completed at least one game. This sounds great, but with only a small gathering of followers it would seem that any time away from persistantly shouting "LISTEN TO ME PRETTY PLEASE BECAUSE I CAN WRITE STUFF" would mean that I'd be effectively throwing all that previous work to the porcelain gods still like scenario one.
There are other things I've tried but it seems like I've tried everything, I'm not sure if there is something I'm missing or not at this point, hence the reason for this blog post. Who knows? Maybe I'm already mad and Gamespot is simply a figment of my imagination. For all I know I could be sedated in a mental asylum tripping out of my eyeballs on just about every suppressant known to man.
Either way this has been two birds with one stone, a nice writing excersise and a brilliant chance for me to show you all just how crazy I am confirming your original suspicions. Until next time folks! Now where is my doctor? Those suppressants won't take themselves!
The dream of many who play games is surely to be paid to do so. The idea that one can turn playing games into a living seems crazy to those outside the gaming circle. To those in gaming it is a much sought after opportunity that many see as the almost unreachable goal.
Games journalism allows just that though, right? Well yes and no, there are certainly aspects of gaming journalism that allow you to spend your days playing the latest games and still be on the clock. The job as a whole though is a lot more involving.
How would I know you ask? Well the answer is simple, Im one of the people trying to get into the industry. Having been trying to do so for only a short time means that although I may not have the most profound wisdom on the subject, I have the initial passion and intensity that has got me to where I am now. Where that is, Im yet to decide.
Now there are many approaches a budding journalist can take but we all share the same goal, reaching the widest audience possible. Some may start their own sites and hope to grow that into the next big thing, some may prefer to join an already existing outfit. There really is no right or wrong answer when it comes to starting out, whether this is good or bad news, is down to the hopefuls own views.
You see, there are many formats and techniques when getting involved in games journalism you need to be familiar with. Writing, video editing and production, presenting, researching and interviewing are just some of them. If you plan on taking the route of making your own site be prepared to take a crash course in website development and maintenance too.
So contrary to popular belief journalists dont sit around playing games all day and do little else. So why on earth do people want to do it? Who the hell subjects themselves to this simply for the once in a lifetime shot that may never happen? Well that is a question Ive asked myself many times, and one I still cant answer. The love of writing and games got me into this, everything else, Im picking up along the way. I wouldnt say there is one thing that makes someone want to do this, the costs are high and the chances are low, so deciding to dedicate your time to games journalism isnt one made in a moment of whimsy.
But just like there isnt just one way into games journalism, there is also more than one way to making a living from it. Many choose to freelance, writing for many publications and being their own boss. Others are video journalists, creating new and exciting gaming series for everyone to enjoy. There are those who love the community side, getting in and amongst the gamers themselves discussing all that gaming has to offer and there are a fair amount of behind the scenes people making the everyday stuff happen to keep the sites alive. Now I cant tell you all about those specific jobs, Im simply starting out and exploring like many of you. But I know some people that can.
Ive spoken to three of the above and asked what their views are on gaming journalism, about their jobs and the rise to where they are now. Ive asked what advantages and disadvantages there are in aspects of the job and just what made them keep trying and trying even when all seemed lost.
Before we get to them though, there is a point Id like to make. Often in games journalism there is a large amount of accusations and negative thought thrown around. These mini interviews were simply me talking to a journalist and asking questions. There is barely any editing from the responses they gave and nothing has been taken out of context or changed. What you read is what they said. It wasnt a formal interview and Ive kept it that way to make sure that the message they gave me stayed the same.
Kicking things off we shall take a look at the Video journalist, or at least that is what the site description under his name says. Danny ODwyer is one of many who create content for the massively popular gaming website Gamespot. His work includes the show Escape From Mount Stupid, a series that takes a look at whole gaming genres, series and more, condenses them into about 15 minutes of information and humour and beats you over the head with it. He has recently stepped into reviewing games for the site too. I asked if I could use him in an article, he said sure, consequences below.
What in your opinion would be the required skills of someone looking to get into game journalism?
Danny: There is no just job title - and that's the thing. If you want to work in video, then learning how videos are put together is important. Good videos. So the pros and cons of presenting (even if you can't do it right away) what makes a well edited piece, and all the technical camera stuff. If you want to be a writer, then learning how to express your thoughts in words is important. Obviously enough. But for me, the single most important thing is to do something different. 99% of wannabee games press people just copy what has gone before. Previews, reviews, opinion peices. They're good for practise, sure, but just doing what professional games writers do - for free, is amateur. Folks need to be smarter than that.
What was the first time in your attempts to get into the industry that you felt like things were really beginning to become successful?
Danny: Never. The day I got the call about the GameSpot position maybe, but really never. I tried for years with what little time and resources I had. On a personal level I was very proud of my website Citizen Game and the show we did. But I knew not enough people were paying attention to it. So never.
During the period pre-Gamespot was there ever a time that you needed to progress to that elusive 'next level', and how did you manage your own expectations to avoid the inevitable low moments?
Danny: Yup. Around this time 2 years ago I told the staff (at Citizen Game) that we were going to go make or break. I said if we concentrated on increasing the quality of our video, articles and the podcast - and be cleverer about getting the word out - that we could increase traffic. I gave us the ultimatum of four times the traffic we had. By January we had failed - traffic was the same. At the moment I decided to stop trying to get into games journalism and move to Dubai. That was going to happen if Chris Beaumont in GameSpot hadn't emailed me about coming to GameSpot 5 weeks before myself and my girlfriend were set to leave. She now lives in Dubai. http://www.citizengame.co.uk/editorial/staffblogs/dannyodwyerblog/5715/so-long-farewell-auf-wiedersehen-dubai That's the blog I wrote about that whole chapter
How has gaming changed for you since it became paid work? Are there any parts of being the hobby journalist that you miss?
Danny: I think if you really love games then you play them as much as you can. I still play loads at home on the evenings and weekends. I guess I also work in that time too (force of habit perhaps) so sometimes I don't have the time to play everything I want. But it hasn't affected how much I love playing games. I still feel the same about games. More telling probably is I still feel the same about games journalism. In that the majority of it is awful and doesn't speak to real gamers.
So you get the idea, this isnt an easy journey and if you want to get involved it doesnt always mean itll happen on a big scale. As stated earlier though, journalism doesnt have to mean working on the latest gaming videos, presenting and reviewing games. Without a community to keep watching these videos we see stories like Dannys pre-Gamespot story of struggle and tough times.
That is where the community managers come in, these brave souls are tasked with keeping the passionate rabble that is the gaming community happy and informed. A monumental task one would imagine with larger sites. The roles of community managers are varied much alike those who are writing the main content with a whole host of responsibilities.
Synthia Weires is one of these brave souls. Whether it is updating the community blog with great activities to keep members, well, active, to moderating masses of forums she has a pretty hectic day, every day. A crucial part of the member to staff relay, you can bet your last coin if there is something going on with the site Synthia has to know about it. I caught up with the lady herself to ask some questions.
What would you say are the skills required to be in a community based role within a major gaming publication?
Synthia: An open mindedness when it comes to any and all forms of gaming is essential. You know how, you might have a particular flavor as far as the style of games you like to play? You have to throw about 70% of that out of the window. You have to be willing to free your mind and be open to all gaming experiences. Though if you're looking for more "hard set" skills, articulation would be one of them,creativity, critical thinking skills and time management skills also.And of course a wide birth of knowledge when it comes to video games. If you can't identify some of the "sacred cows" of gaming on sight you might want to do some studying before applying.Also demographic insights, big, big thing for community roles is knowing your audience.
Would you say connecting to people is a major part of the role, is an amiable personality key to success when it comes to community?
Synthia: YES! Yes yes yes, and erm more yeses. I would say that making a connection with a person as a CM is one of my primary tasks during events and even during a daily basis on the site. As far as having an amiable personality goes, I wouldn't exactly say "yes" to that.Something better might be a mixture between anticipatory and insightful.
What are the challenges faced when putting yourself out there in the sometimes less than pleased public and working essentially on the front line between customer and product?
Synthia: Oh geeze, I could write pages about the horror stories I've seen and put up with from my (what I consider to be) short time in the front line. Complaints about site performance, an editors review of a game (I still get hate mail about Mc Shea's Skyward Sword Review). You have to constantly watch what you say, about what/whom. People can also sometimes get very personal with attacks, but that's a different story.
What would be the average day of a community manager such as yourself?
Synthia: Average day, hah that's adorable. About the closest thing to "average" in my day would be the chore like tasks that I have. Pending account X needs to be reviewed because of Y, moderation disputes, board monitoring, answering bug or site enhancement posts. But other than that my day can go from being "standard" to being totally chaotic and random (which is something I love). This is the first job I've ever had where my boss tells me "We need marshmallows so we can build a tower and set on fire, for the community!" or "Go buy 500$ in video games, for the community!" or "come up to the 6th floor so we can paint you up as a zombie for the community!"
The community manager then ending on a high note, with clearly some parts of the job requiring a thick skin and a tough mentality there is also an incredible amount of fun to be had doing things just for the community. It is also important to remember that Synthia will need to play games just as much as Danny will, both are still heavily involved with gaming just in different terms. Both need to be as current as each other and have plenty of experience in gaming. Just because you arent going out there with the goal to make your opinion known to the masses as a community manager, it doesnt mean that you can sit back and take it easy.
Other jobs in the industry require the same up to date knowledge and gaming and even expand that into actually seeking out the latest and greatest games. Those who work behind the scenes are some of the people required to know what is happening, before it happens.
Erick Tay, a member of the technical team behind Gamespot and also a major part of the eSports coverage on the site kindly agreed to let us know a little bit about the difficulties of maintaining a huge gaming website, what the perks of getting behind the scenes are as oppose to being directly in the limelight and what to expect if you are looking to be one of the crucial team that keeps the site churning.
Was it always part of your plan to be more behind the scenes and less on the face of the site?
Erick: It wasn't always my expectations to work behind the scenes in terms of the site, I always wanted to work in the video game industry. I was never sure how I would get in, but I happen to have the skills set for this particular job opening and was able to land the job. I've been slowly but surely making my way to the front of the scene though, be it through live streams, tournaments or other things. I help out where I can as I can.
When looking to become more a part of maintaining the site what path would you advise in terms of getting to a role similar to yours?
Erick: Make sure to pay attention to the details, for example we have to try to stay on top of release dates, proper box art, esrb ratings, etc. Be ready but willing to do some tedious tasks some times. Data itself might not be the funnest thing out there but it is definitely needed. Also, because of the nature of the business, timeliness is everything. Try to get things up as soon as possible and most importantly never break an Embargo.
What would you say the most enjoyable part of your role is?
Erick:The most enjoyable part of my role is probably getting to see things or find out things before they are made public. Watching trailers, or finding out when games are coming out, and getting early media access is definitely a perk. Above all else working in a field you love as well.
Just how hard is it maintaining a website like Gamespot?
Erick: It's pretty difficult to maintain GameSpot in terms of the vastness of the site and all it's other outlets. There's always new games etc coming out, and these aren't just the big AAA titles, it is also about Mobile, indie, etc so we try our best to stay on top of all of it.
Whereas some may perceive the behind the scenes roles as the least glamorous, there actually isnt much glamour in the games industry to start with from the stories you hear above. As you can see above those involved get access to the things not yet public. If you love gaming and are always interested in what is happening, this is a nice role to aim for. The bonus being that you are one of the first to hear it!
After these three interviews I hope you start to see the picture behind what it takes to get into games journalism of any form. A dedication to games is required as standard but a lot of these jobs require passions beyond just simply knowing about games. Gaming culture is also something you have to be in tune with across the board, the willing to be just as dedicated on one subject as another is also crucial.
From what Ive garnered out of these industry folk whilst going through interview, the path is long, the goal is in the distance and the obstacles in between are numerous. We all knew that though, but there is something else. What these jobs describe is what I do now, only I do it on a small scale, maybe with less quality.
When I started this whole journey I had 3 word documents, a review of a game, a news piece and a feature article. I wrote these to see if I liked writing about games and the pieces happened to click together. Four months in, I have a group of followers to keep pleased, I write and create as much new content and review as much as I can, and I keep up to date with the latest news and try to catch the latest as it drops. Also maintaining a site is a big part of my day. So when starting out you get a great taste of all the above professions. At the cost of maybe not being able to perfect them as quickly as you want to.
My point? Enjoy the journey you are on, just because you are not in the position you want doesnt mean that you cant enjoy what you have now. There are little victories to be had along the way that make a big difference, for me this was one of them. Earlier I made the point of saying I couldnt tell you why I got into games journalism, and there is a truth behind that. There are much easier ways to make a living.
This is the first and probably the last article I'll write on games journalism itself, these type of articles are far too self-indulgent and dont have a great deal of info. Im hoping where I failed the knowledge of professionals has helped to keep things informative. As a newcomer Ive certainly learnt a lot from writing this out, so I hope it has given some insight into the world. Speaking of self-indulgence, incoming.
I started writing this a week before my trip to the UKs biggest games convention Eurogamer Expo. This article had a secret agenda, I wanted to write something on games journalism that was informative to the reader, but I also had to ask myself if I really wanted to do this, you know, be a journalist. So I devised a cunning plan. This very article was to decide if I should go to the show as press, or to let the dream go and just enjoy the trip for what it was, use it as a great last hoorah.
I asked each of the interviewees if they wanted to ask me a question in return. I got two responses each relating to the same thing in different ways. One asked if Ive ever thought it isnt going to work out, and what presses me to go on. The other was about my biggest fear and how it is rationalized.
Well my fear like most newcomers is that is isnt going to work out, so these questions are linked for me. I rationalize my fear of not making it with a constant barrage of self-criticism. What causes me to carry on? The progress Ive made and just what a brilliant time Ive had in the past 4 months. Ive met some incredible people, had some great opportunities and I get to be passionate and knowledgeable. If I didnt write about games I would only be playing them anyway, Im just into it.
Most importantly to those looking into the industry, there are many ways you can achieve it, but a wise man once told me that youll know in your heart if you are good enough. So think long and hard, it is a big commitment. My decision, Im sticking with it, come Friday I travel to London with the sole goal of being the best journalist I can be.
Its never something Ive been shy about; Ive always been an audiophile. Music and games have always been intrinsically linked, and Ive always had a strong passion for a great soundtracks. This is a passion Ive always enjoyed and to this day most of my music library remains to be soundtracks Ive collected over the years.
Music and games are like are like Apples and Pie, when alone they are great, mixed together, they become awesome. Whether it is a complete soundtrack or just that one moment in the game where the music and gameplay collide in perfect harmony, the best soundtracks always grab you and elevate the game to a whole new experience.
Getting the soundtrack right in a game is a critical process. The music must ebb and flow with the on screen action in cut-scenes, the background music whilst you are playing must reflect the situation and not become a distraction. Music is the perfect companion of games, and has been for some time. It is an art which captures a moment and when done right can completely immerse.
There are so many stand out points in gaming soundtracks, the tear jerking Aries theme in Final Fantasy 7, the music as you complete a level in Super Mario Bro, the music as you complete a view point in Assassins Creed and even that level up sound you hear in Call of Duty. All of these are well known sounds to many gamers. And the list goes on.
There is of course more to music in games than just the 10-20 seconds of memorable sounds. Many games have officially licensed soundtracks. The Fifa soccer series of games often has licensed tracks from all over the world; in fact I have discovered many great tracks just by hearing it in the game. Very rarely though do licensed soundtracks have that same effect on the game that you get from a specially written score. Trailers are more often than not however designed to bring the two types of Music together.
If I said Woodkid Iron, I can be safe in the knowledge that there are only a handful of people in a group would know instantly where Im going with this. Now if I say the music that accompanied the Assassins Creed Revelations trailer, everyone should be thinking of the same song. And that is the power of music and games combined. The song was a perfect fit for the trailer but is still a licensed song from an artist and not especially created for the franchise.
But trailers have a different place in the mixture of music and games. They are often used in a completely different way and as great as the Assassins Creed trailer was that song during gameplay would have been severely out of place.
There arent many places where a licensed song during a game with deep story has worked; to my mind there is one definitive attempt at this but beyond that Im a little blurry. Breaking Benjamin licensed a song to Bungie for use in Halo 2. I still remember the song today and the moment first hearing it in game. The song was instrumental in the game but still had a great effect on the moment and complemented that scene brilliantly. There is that Leona Lewis song in Final Fantasy 13, but for all our sakes can we just ignore that one?
The last licensed song I can remember affecting me as greatly that Halo scene was the introduction to Borderlands. A game that couldnt have picked a better song, the attitude of the song fitted perfectly and still today whenever I fire the game up I always sit through the introduction. It would seem licensed songs certainly have a good place in games and I hope that there will be many more times for us to experience such great combinations. But the best soundtracks have always been purpose built.
There have been so many great soundtracks to games that it would take a lifetime to list and discuss them all. From the Zelda melody to Metal Gear Sold 3: Snake eaters intro there are certainly some really awe inspiring soundtracks out there. The Most recent soundtrack to amaze me has been Guild Wars 2, an incredible soundtrack that seems to define an epic experience. (note the use of the word seems there, I have only seen and heard Guild Wars 2, not played)
Game soundtracks were once like the games themselves were, 8 bit marvels that completely capture you and hold you in a moment. To this day I still listen to awesome soundtracks like those found in the original Metal Gear games. I have friends who actively seek out 8-bit game mixes or even 8 bit remixes of todays soundtracks. But as time has gone on we have seen soundtracks become less of an endless albeit brilliant piece of background music, with composers developing them into fully formed and more movie styled art forms with soundtracks often driving the emotion of the game.
Some of my personal favourite soundtracks include the soundtracks to Journey, Bioshock, Assassins Creed and ultimately Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Many of the games I love the soundtracks to I havent even played, but nevertheless the music itself is nothing short of incredible and powerful. A well written score can stand alone and still work exactly how the composer intended.
Soundtracks that you see in todays modern military shooters are just as crucial as the smallest sounds you hear when sneaking around in Deus Ex or roaming the mountains of Skyrim. In fact playing over some of the action set pieces in Call of Duty with the music off completely changes the experience even though when you are playing the game that particular piece of music may not be the first thing you notice. Soundtracks have a way of becoming embedded in a particular scene and even though you never listen out for that particular track in some games you would certainly notice it is missing.
A perfect soundtrack for me is one that captures the games messages and feeling and just brings it to life. The best examples I feel are the soundtracks from Assassins Creed and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Ive mentioned both in this and that is for a reason. The games have incredible soundtracks. Both Michael McCann and Jesper Kyd have an incredible way of composing music that makes the game feel so alive and real. If these composers want you to care about an event or a character, or simply want you to feel any emotion in a game they can do so at will. Where sometimes the voice acting and animations may fail the music certainly makes up for.
But that certainly isnt where the list of brilliant composers stops, for further listening I suggest:
Harry Greggson-Williams Metal Gear Solid
Michael Mcann Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Jeremy Soule Skyrim
Austin Wintory Journey, Flower
Garry Schyman - Bioshock
With that I end the musical adventure, to summarise music in a single paragraph is a gargantuan task and therefore Im not going to. Im simply going to say that the next time you hear a song (whether licensed or not) in a game, enjoy it. There is so much great music in the gaming world that I encourage everyone to explore and listen to as much as possible. Let the music take you further and make your experience a brilliant one.
Digital distribution is always a hot topic. There is a huge divide between those on the 'We want physical copies that we have control over' side of things and the 'Digital distribution means quicker access and possible cheaper avenue'. For the longest time I thought I was in the former of these two groups. I pride myself on having nice collectors editions. Next to me sits my signed copy of Diablo 3 to which is now the main exhibit in my collection. Yet there is a problem, I'm a PC player.
This means Steam dominates my purchases, retail stores tend to only stock the latest edition of the various Simulator games and maybe copies of World of Warcraft at phenomenally high prices. Through this I've somehow converted without my knowledge. As someone completely against the digital only approach for a long time I've been downloading games digitally for the past year!
But you know, that is not so bad. Come to think of it, I actually like it! I get most of my games at cheap prices and from the comfort of my chair. With a quick internet connection this isn't a hindrance at all. I am aware that whilst doing that I am part of the reason why my local retailer only stocks the latest simulators and such.
My covert transformation aside, there is an issue when it comes to Digital downloads. Do you ever really own the game? If Valve closed Steam tomorrow, even though I have the data on my hard drive, would I be able to play the games I've bought? It is a constant fear maybe not for Valve and Steam as they have things locked down on that front. But smaller services do have that issue.
Another issue is how the Digital format is spreading. Services like Origin now mean that getting your favorite EA games now require this service on PC. From my experience the words 'great deals' and the company EA don't really mix. If you want to play Battlefield for the PC you are still looking at top dollar for the game. It also means another sign up, another password and another application taking up the computing requirements.
EA for me are the main issue when it comes to downloads though. I don't wish to 'hate' on them as I enjoy many of the games they publish. Yet I can't help but feel in terms of their success they are to use a magicians phrase 'Stacking the deck'. They have boasted incredible number of sign ups, touting their success to anyone willing to lend an ear. Thinking about it for a second of course you will see an incredible amount of sign ups and users getting your service if it is the only place they can access the content they want.
I would love to see the chart of people signing up for the service simply because they had to versus those who voluntarily joined. I'm willing to admit that I may be wrong on this but I have a sneaking suspicion the scale would be in the favor of the former. There are also questions surrounding a recent EU law that was passed. This now means that all future and any past digital content can be re-sold. This means that at least in the EU companies cannot use digital sales to combat the pre-owned conundrum.
Looking at new services Ubisoft has recently re-launched Uplay into a more service like application. As with most distribution services there are many issues, not even Steam started out as a fan favorite. I do however; agree with Uplay more than Origin as Ubisoft are not limiting their content so far to being Uplay only products.
I guess the big question is 'Is digital only the future?' As with many ideas like free to play services, streaming game services and the like, I feel that we haven't hit that magic formula yet. I at this moment in time wouldn't make a call on what will be the future of games. There are many options and many variables, so if I may be so bold I'd like to make a prediction, sort of, thing.
To me this generation signified the change in gaming it took all the established formulas and completely tore them apart. As such we now have a plethora of services in infancy. I believe the next generation will mark which of these becomes victorious and thrives. I believe that with applications starting to hit consoles it won't be long before you see Origin hitting the Xbox dashboard and the PS store.
A digital only future is certainly possible. I feel that if done correctly it could even work. But at the same time there needs to be something that is equal to what we have now. It is like changing from having our petrol powered cars to moving to greener, more environment friendly alternatives. There are other options in place, but they do not offer what we have today. It is the same situation. I'm still going to want to have special copies of games; however all the best will in the world won't make it possible to have a digital copy signed. I know I'm not alone here, so it is up to those at the forefront of the change to provide the alternatives. So EA, if you think you can go into the future being download only, then show us what you've got planned.
The original Crysis was at the time a masterpiece and a lesson to all in how to make an open world sandbox shooter with truly stunning visuals. Even 5 years after the games release it still manages to amaze me from time to time. So you can understand as a console gamer at the time how frustrating it was to not be able to play it when it first released.
Then Crytek did something incredible, after years of hearing "consoles cant run Crysis" Crytek built an engine that could feasibly create the next Crysis for console platforms too. And so Crysis 2 was born, being madly in love with the first game but only from a distance I couldn't help but do some research into what Crytek had planned for Crysis 2.
This is where I started to get mad at Crytek, all the things that made Crysis the game I wanted to play so badly were gone! No more open world, no more tropical setting and a completely different looking enemy. The only thing that had seemed to have made it from Crysis was the Nanosuit. Instead of the enemy freezing tropical islands we were given New York covered in slime and sick people. A setting and a situation we have all experienced through games as well as other mediums a thousand times before.
So suffice to say I wasn't impressed. Crytek certainly hadn't delivered the Crysis I feel the people were hoping for and especially so for those who got the chance to play the first game. So Crysis 2 launched and sure enough I picked it up on the day of release hoping for a still great game but I had a lot of concerns. All of my fears were confirmed and Crysis 2 felt like it was simply another shooter in the rapid river of FPS's that constantly threatens to overflow.
The open world sandbox elements were condensed into scenarios in which when you came to a nice open area for a fight to take place you could look through your special goggles and see the stealth option and which one would lead to the biggest explosions. The game looked pretty but certainly had none of the flare of the first title. I felt as if the sacrifices to bring Crysis to consoles were just too great and that the "Consoles cant run Crysis" statement mentioned wasnt completely true but certainly had a truth to it.
Skipping forward a little in the year I found myself in the position to get a PC, a good one, a PC that could run the original Crysis in all its glory. Of course I snapped up the chance and after playing through the original Crysis I have to say my anger for what Crytek had done to Crysis 2 had only grown.
Now Crysis 3 is on the cards I cant help but forgive Crytek for their past errors as it looks like they have heard the voice of the fans of the series. There is a chance that they are actually going to make a more open world, part tropical, part New York game that is more akin to the reason Crysis had become so popular to begin with. Only time will tell whether they actually deliver a game that can beat the original, but I hope they do and they have my support.
Another reason they have earned forgiveness is that they have released the original Crysis to those on consoles. Now everyone can experience the awesome game that makes your eyes stand on stalks and the awesome open gameplay that truly let's you pick your own tactics. Bravo Crytek, that was a good move.
I have always had respect for those who try to push the industry and I believe Crytek have done so on many occasions. Crysis 2 was a major bump in the road and a big step backwards in just about every way from what I had expected from Crytek. However I feel that Crysis 3 will deliver what we should have had from Crysis 2. In short, Crytek you have regained my faith for Crysis 3, dont let me down.
So life recently has had some ups and downs, here are the highlights of my time since my past blog entry:
Writing is still a thing I do. I've recently put out a review for both Krater and Deponia. But there is more! I am now the proud owner of a fully functioning green screen! which can only mean one thing. I'm going to YouTube! I will be posting my first tester video soon to see how it all turns out. I have plenty of cool ideas though so stay tuned for those. Also I am aware I said I'd write my Day-z diary. This is still a thing, but it will take me a while as playing games has taken a secondary role so that my journalism can improve.
Games have mainly been Deponia and Krater since the last post. I've managed to slip in the odd match of BF3 or the quick play of another couple of games but ask anybody in the games industry. Games are the thing you do the least. I plan to squeeze in a few hours of a couple of games I haven't played in ages over the weekend but I think video creation and editing will scupper that somewhat.
Well I don't really have much else to say, I've been so busy recently with my day job commitments that I haven't got much else to say. Really need a journo gig so that I can drop the monotony of the finanial trade. I spose the most interesting personal news I have is that I am now officially 'Speccy'. It turns out that staring at a screen for 10-15 hours a day really can make you need glasses. I'm now trying to turn my eyes square but I think that one actually is a myth.
Anyway I think that is another blog post done. I usually use this space to waffle on about rubbish and just but with all the cool community blog things that GS offer I might try something more journalist-ey (that's a word... It is!) soon and see what I can achieve. The sky is the limit as they say, unless of course you happen to be an astronaut.
On the subject of being speccy, the random quote! -Never hit a man with glasses. Hit him with a baseball bat.
Hi again all!
I'm gonna continue to follow the format of the last post for now so without further delay:
So I'm still writing, the content has been a bit slow recently but hopefully it should be picking up again soon. Keeping an ear to the ground at all times for opportuinties and now starting the next stage (stage 3) of my plan. Getting some of my work seen by industry professionals for their valuable opinions. So a scary and nervous time lays ahead of me there. Other than that not really much else to say on the whole journo front.
Quite a bit to talk about this time in terms of gaming. Recently picked up a Premium pass for Battlefield 3, yeah boo me for not sticking it to the man, but I see it as a rather good deal. There will be a blog on the 'class war' that has been created by it though so stay tuned for that one. Anyway, so I've found myself playing a lot of the new close quarters maps in BF3 and I have to say, my relationship with battlefield has always been an on and off one at best, but me and battlefield are currently ON! I mean proper eloping to Vegas to get married despite the parents approval kind of on! I am now officially addicted to BF3 and it doesn't show any signs of moving to an 'off' period, but I've said that before.
Now you've all presumably read the title of the blog and so far I haven't mentioned it once, that extreme survival horror mod 'Day-Z' that you may or may not heard of has recently found its way on to my PC and wowee! It's some intense fun, so just for you guys, I'm going to make to a diary, A Day-Z one. Titled "Pushing up the Day-z's" and coming soon so watch out for it!
And that concludes this particular blog. I hope you've enjoyed reading it and I look forward to posting up the first Day-Z diary entry. I'll leave you with a final thought again, "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go" - Oscar Wilde
Haven't posted any bloggy stuff here in a while so thought I'd put up a catchup because obviously your all curious (I'll keep telling myself that). So here's a rundown of stuff that happened.
So as some of you already know I have my own blog space on the interwebs now, mainly to hold all of my writing and such www.thegamerpost.com in a hope to finally start taking steps towards a life in journalism. And to that end have found me a couple of websites to write for. The main one being www.whatculture.com for whom I most recently started writing for just a couple of days ago. First major step forward as they are a well established site so done a little celebration dance for that.
now onto what I've been playing recently. well I've been reviewing Ship Simulator Extreme so thats had the majority, been playing some Battlefield 3 whilst wishing I could get the Premium pack (which I now have!) played little bits of other games here and there like Test Drive Unlimited 2 and F1 2011 all in all a quiet time for playing games for me, that should change this weekend though with any luck. However writing responsibilities take precedence.
Well having recently visited my local book store and picked up 3 books, Mark Billingham's 'Lazy Bones', Jeanette Winterson's 'Oranges are not the only fruit' and Kazuo Ishiguro's 'Never let me go' (also a film starring Kiera Knightley). The latter is the first one to be read and although only a couple of chapters in it seems pretty good. I'll keep you posted.
well thats my little life at the moment maybe I'll list the food or something I eat next time just to make sure we've hit that all important 'why the hell would anyone want to read this?' moment.
Well thats another day and another update WARNING: shameless pleading for views imminent: Please check out my writing the sites listed above and let me know what you think (I can take critisism) and if your on twitter follow me @SuperMassive20 and I leave you with this thought - If something "goes without saying", why do people say it?
Although I do like to follow my usual style of playing the game thoroughly and to completion before making my opinion, I felt as Diablo 3 is such a large game I would give details of my experience and have decided to document hours 0-10to give a first impression before making my final thoughts. Here are the hours 1-10. With as fewer story spoilers as can be. Remember, if something happens to me at 6 hours doesn?t mean it?ll happen to you. I have a slow play style and thoroughly explore my surroundings.
My first steps in Diablo 3 were familiar ones. As the level that was available during beta testing was used as the opening to the game, I knew pretty much what was going on. So I settled down into the game and hammered away at the first few quests. Mid-quest I was treated to a nice cut-scene that the beta had not allowed me to see so that eased my eagerness for new content and I continued forward slaughtering hordes of monsters in my quest to find the fallen star.
After completing the first quest line and thus reaching the beta limit, a new path opened up and it really felt as if this was it. Diablo 3 had put me through the test. I was ready to go forth and begin my journey. So to the next quest I went, travelling to new areas previously unseen and each as beautiful as the last. Encountering new enemies and slaying them for the glory and the spoils. I then reached my first pivotal moment.
Having encountered my first shock, I was only more determined to defeat the hordes that continued to battle me now not for the same glory as before but with a whole new reason to fight. My need to destroy them was only growing greater. I had a true foe and a blade to strike with. I was out for blood. All the time my experience was only growing deeper. I was delving into more places searching for answers, encountering new foes that picked a fight with the wrong adventurer. I was in the world in every way.
Through tough challenges I had begun to see what I was up against. This was no easy task ahead of me, but the hunt continued, and though I had failed many times before I remained undeterred, ready to fight. Through ever darker scenes I descended, slaughtering nightmare after nightmare finding gear that would help me in my quest. Then I was faced with a formidable foe.
Smashing and running. Burning and bleeding. Fighting with every last tactic I knew, through the relentless onslaught of the hell before me. This challenge I feared was going to cost me every health potion I had collected and then some. After feeling invincible I was humbled and beat down. Determination saved this adventurer, with a scene not too far from a last stand where I had one last burst of power before my inevitable defeat. I took my mouse aimed the cursor over the beast and fired? It was over, I had won. My reward? Act II.
After thought on first 10 hours:
The first ten hours I spent in the game were long enough for me to complete act 1. With plenty to explore and many different areas, Items and enemies the game was always fun and interesting. I can only think that further acts will increase the time I need to complete them as the difficulty increases and the levels expand.
Some of you may notice the dramatic change in writing style from hours 4-5 to 5-7 onwards. This was down to the fantastic narrative. I was really suckered in and felt like my adventurer and so began to write in that way. I hope this goes some way to showing how Diablo 3?s story evolves without telling you what happened. In short through my eyes as I had already experienced the beta, the beginning felt slower then maybe a fresh set of eyes would have seen it. Hours 5-7 reminded me of my first Diablo experience and how immersive it is.
Although I am not at a stage to recommend Diablo I will say this, I have gained a lot of enjoyment from my first 10 hours in Diablo and thoroughly look forward to the rest of my adventure.
Those who want to see more of the story can check out my weekly ?Let?s play Diablo? stream on www.twitch.tv/ViralGamersLive Sundays from 7pm GMT till late. Any questions or comments please leave below or on twitter via @SuperMassive20.
I reached the 10 followers mark, and as promised a short blog on the subject of levelling.
My love of levelling started with Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance, I had leveled in games prior to this but none to the extent I did in BG: DA its only then I really discovered how fun replaying on a harder game mode to level higher could really be. Levelling has since become a major part of just about any game whether it's the next level in Call of Duty or Battlefield or levelling in WoW or now D3.
So what makes it so addictive? Is it that short term goal we can easily acquire that allures us to keep going or is it simply proving our online mettle?
Ok first blog, very late to the party but thats how I work. So the premise of one of these is that I waffle on about a particular subject of interest to me and like minded people read it and think 'oh yeah I like this guy' thus creating an online prescense that for so long has eluded me (damn you rural area internet connection!) except here I'm more inclined to discuss games rather than last nights triathlon results.
But where are my manners.... already a paragraph in and you still have no idea why you should read this or just who the hell I am.
Well I'm Stephen (pronounced Steven, not steffan) and like you I play games, how exciting! infact I've played games for about 14 years from around the age of about 7 to date. I'm from the UK and although yes a youtube video is seen by more people these days I like writing stuff and so wish to embark on a journey through games in the text format.
A brief gaming history: from the age of 7 I had my own PC and a shared PS1. I can still vividly remember watching my step dad get frustrated with the original gran turismo to this date (maybe more on that another time) then 3 years later the PS2 released and my old friend the PC got too old to handle games and my paper round didn't cover upgrade costs so I henceforth became a 'console gamer'. Progressing to an xbox and then an xbox 360 until the lovely age of 20 in which I found myself in employment and chose to reconnect with my childhood sweetheart the PC. (yes, your dealing with a HUGE nerd here) I then ditched the 360 and got myself a PS vita. That takes us to today.
So with the history lesson over heres the plan. This will be as weekly as I can make it and may eventually spill into youtube specials and I'm setting up a Twitter account as we speak (or as you read, or as I typed this, infact all of these statements are false. hmm..) and I plan to cover aspects in gaming I like, dislike and all the areas in between.
This doesn't count as this weeks part so without further delay I'm going to make an announcement (or an announcement of an announcement since this has become so popular) I'll tell you what I'm going to make my next entry about in the next paragraph (insert fuzzy pictures or 19 second long video here to induce curiosity and speculation)
so now you're all excited my first blog entry will be a look into my main obsession in gaming, levelling up. Be it Final Fantasy or Modern warfare 3 there is something undeniably satisfying about gaining that next level, so I'll be waffling about everything levelling.
Well to the one person left reading this thank you for your time you have gained +500 xp if you have any suggestions then please do comment (hopefully I'll have commenting enabled if not, fail!)
More coming this week!
SuperMassive20 (Stephen, Remember pronounced Steven, not Steffan)