Monday, September 01, 2014

Won't Someone Spare A Thought For The #GamerGate 'Journalists'

This last couple of weeks there's been a storm in a teacup that seems to have culminated in the gaming community doing a sea cucumber and eviscerating itself, turning itself inside out and ejecting all it's internal organs as a defense mechanism. You can follow the 'story' on the social media under the hashtag GamerGate. We won't go into the specifics of how this kicked off because the spark that lit the part of the fire we're interested in is sort of irrelevant. The short version is that some pretty strong evidence has come to light reminding us once again of the rampant cronyism and amateurism within games journalism. The funny thing is that what may or may not have happened to kick this off is almost completely by the by. In between the feminists, the white knights, the trolls, the griefers, the journalists and the developers all rallying to four or five different calls and fighting with each other, some are using the #GamerGate to call for clearer transparency and ethics amongst game journalists, an ugly beast that occasionally rears its head. It's just there's never been a hashtag for it before. 

Our issue is that expecting games journalists to conform or to act in a certain way is verging on pointless because aside from a few organs of repute, most games journalists are nothing of the sort. Here's a bulleted list.
  • Games Journalists Aren't Professionals. We've seen our fair share of job adverts for 'journalists' for various outlets over the years from Rock Paper Shotgun to the Official Nintendo Magazine. Our interest piqued, we've made enquiries (because professional industries never, you know, list a salary or rights and benefits for a job with the advert right? If there even is an advert...) to have received responses like; 'If you're asking about pay, it's not the role for you' or just not hearing anything back at all about the job, the role, the pay, the ha ha ha pension. Much like the games industry that apes a proper industry by mimicking them from it's cage, 'games journalism' parodies proper journalism by using words like news, exclusive, feature and sometimes even calling themselves journalists but it's just a bunch of people who write about games.
  • There's No Association Or Accreditation For Games Journalists. Well there may be one or two but I've never encountered them. Anyone can (and does) write about games for a website. But unlike the proper press there's no way to lodge complaints or issues aside from emailing the author, who can and will in all likelihood ban you, tell you to fuck off and then subtweet about you. They may then adapt, delete or rewrite offending content and they may or may not flag or make transparent that they've done so. And why should they? They've got nothing to lose. They're people who get paid (sometimes) to write about games. Nothing more. Go ahead, find a list of 'approved' games journalists.
  • Anyone Can Be A Games Journalist. Seriously. I have a couple of Internet acquaintances who do just this. Try it. Find the right distribution list to get yourself on as a 'journalist' and voila, you'll get free games, get taken on press junkets, sent free junk and invited to 'conferences'. Publishers don't care. They barely check credentials and again, why should they? Send out a bunch of games to outlets and they'll write about your game. If your game is shit you can 'embargo' reviews but the only threat from breaking embargo is you won't get sent review copies from that publisher in the future.  
  • But The Websites Look Legit. They Have Ads For Games On Them. I really think that this confuses people. Having ad banners from the latest blockbuster is in no way an indication of legitimacy, in fact it's probably the opposite. Again, think about it. There isn't someone at EA or Activision who goes through a list of websites they could run their ads through, screening for journalisti integrity. If anything it's a popularity contest not a discerning process at all.  
  • The Lines Are Blurred. We can all agree that the following aren't journalists; Youtubers, people with Twitch channels, Redditors, most posters on NeoGaf. We're all fine with that. So why would you expect some sort of higher behaviour from people whose only qualification is they upload content to a website? Even more worrying are websites like Kotaku who used to have a ban policy on comments telling them their articles aren't news. That's not really a part of journalism. 
  • Some Game Companies Don't Bother Anymore. Nintendo is a great example of this. By releasing their announcements, interviews and trailers [direct to you] through 3DS and Wii-U they bypass the 'gaming press' altogether. You wouldn''t interpret Nintendo's content as journalism right? It's marketing. So then why oh why are you surprised that your sacred journalists are the same people who fight over themselves to live tweet and report the information you can go and see for yourself first hand and in many cases they barely interpret it. They're just churning out the marketing but on their URL. And you and I know this practice is rife. Press release goes out and like a row of dominoes the websites report the release sometimes illustrated or edited, sometimes almost unchanged. Rarely is it labelled ADVERTORIAL or PRESS RELEASE. 
  • There's No Such Thing As Investigative Games Journalism. We all know that there are many many ills with the games industry. Dodgy practices, poor finances, sweatshop sourcing, abysmal job security, lacking basic employment rights, unsustainable hardware, dodgy trading not to mention the games which employ the same tactics as highly addictive gambling  machines. Even worse many 'games journalism' sites don't even pay their writers or in the case of one Official Magazine in the UK get under-age writers to contribute to their content in return for the 'privilege' of writing for them and the odd exclusive access to conferences and expos. Yet I'd be hard pressed to find a single genuine piece of journalism investigating any of this. Sourcing 'quotes' from 'anonymous' 'unconfirmed' 'leakers' doesn't fucking count either. Where's your journalists now?
These are just a few points that have sprung to mind during this whole #GamerGate affair. Expecting 'game journalists' to maintain a baseline code of ethics or practice is ridiculous. Yes they're all mates, yes it seems ridiculously easy to segue from writing about games to making, consulting on or writing games and back again. Yes, they may have a press pass but in reality it should take a lot more to fool you into believing you are accessing content that is in any way different to losers like us writing here or worse, it's agenda driven content. Content to get more clicks. Content to squeeze more 'exclusive' content from game makers. Content to earn enough to pay the 'journalists' employed. I can understand the anger from many gamers but at the same time we can't all be that naive right? As for what we can do to change the situation, we'll see if #GamerGate starts the ball rolling to inject some accountability within, so called, games journalism. And if they're smart about it, 'journalists' could use the opportunity to professionalise the field they work in and distinguish themselves from hobbyists who make content on the Internet.

GROUCHCLAIMER. Yes there are some exceptions and there are some great writers but from the grubbiest of websites (Escapist) to the heady heights of EDGE it all smacks of an exploitative and 'grey area' industry far too often.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Valkyria Chronicles errr Review?

Recently I was gifted a PlayStation 3 and a fairly comprehensive catalogue of games which is great for two reasons. Firstly, free games! Secondly by being gifted one it allows me to maintain that the PlayStation 3 never reached a critical mass of games for my tastes that warranted a purchase of the (still) overpriced console. One of the games that was on the shortlist that never reached critical mass was Valkyria Chronicles. 

Released in 2008 to generally positive reviews, Valkyria Chronicles is a mix of all the best bits from Advance Wars, Battalion Wars and quirky PlayStation 2 game Ring of Red. It's a 3D turn based strategy game which is a lot of fun with a beautiful art style. Playing games slightly time shifted from the climate in which they were released is interesting. Although I can see the appeal of VC when it came out, having played and loved Fire Emblem: Awakening last year, VC is probably lower in my estimations as there are some great mechanics which should have been in VC but weren't.

To set the scene, it's a fucking turn based strategy war game. If you've ever played one your pants will remain firmly unblown away to discover that; there's a Europe but not Europe, ravaged by war, time of peace, shortage of MacGuffin resource, conquering Imperial force, an unlikely but gutsy crew of spunky teenagers turn out to be brilliant military strategists that fight the Imperial forces whilst growing together as a team. Fine. So far, so blah. 

One of the great things about the game is you get to choose the members of various rock/paper/scissor classes that will make up your squad. Pleasingly, it's entirely possible (barring the boring protagonist) to make an all-female squad. However, due to the misogyny still rife in game design, the ludonarrative is dissonanced somewhat by the might of the Empire being continuously thwarted by an all female squad of former singers, dancers, bakers and florists who have an average age of 'just turned 18'. 

The troops on down time. I grew up in a Barracks City and this is definitely what squaddies get up to when they aren't on active duty.
 And here's where the game could have been much better, taking a leaf from the recent Fire Emblem. Aside from the main cast your squad members may be heroes from conflict to conflict but there's nothing to reward player attachment to characters. At the moment, sadistic emo shocktrooper Jane and Irish sniper Catherine have been the backbone of virtually every conflict but aside from an in menu biography generically filling out with use of these characters I feel that their story remains unpreserved. There's no way to see the statistics of individual squad members and classes are leveled up on mass rather than character specifically. Each squad member is recruited with pre-existing character traits, flaws and best buddies which again is a bit jarring seeing as Catherine and Jane have been through some serious scrapes together yet they remain besties with the generic male characters who never got out of basic training. 

I'll admit I've been spoiled with Fire Emblem: Awakening, an amazing game that came out five years after VC but I can't help but think the character and relationship development from FE, in VC would have turned a good game into one of the great games of the last generation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Omastar Comics #38

This week, Omastar gets his tentacles in a twist about that OTHER Omastar, in particular the lucrative merchandise deals and TV spots. 

Fucking religion.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Dead or Alive: you are bathing with me

You know what,  I dislike the Dead or Alive Series:

Way back in the heady days of 2010 back when we cared about the Chilean Miners and Wikileaks. I wrote a blogpost about a game I played back in the heady days of 2006 when we make crass Steve Irwin jokes and the danish drew some cartoons.

And frankly I have not played a Dead or Alive game since then, the combat is clunky, random and just plain frustrating!


They have bath and bedtime DLC!!! A fighting game in PJs and Towels.

I'd pay money for that.

Love and Remember when phones didn't have touchscreen?

Richie X

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I remember when we blogged about Resident Evil

On this day, July 24th 1998 The S.T.A.R.S. team first investigated the mansion...

You gotta fucking love that opening. Real people... Not mo-capped. Got i miss those heady days of the PS1. Sniffle.

Love and dont open THAT door,

Richie X

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tomodachi Life

Earlier this year, life-sim lite, Tomodachi Life came out for the Nintendo 3DS. Unfortunately 90% of the coverage from the red top gaming sites exclusively focused on Nintendo's controversial decision to exclude same-sex relationships in the game. In itself that decision rightly deserves highlighting but as ever, the proper journalism parodying gaming press reported nothing but this, resulting in a lot of coverage that failed to explain what a 'Tomodachi Life' was in the first place. I don't know if Nintendo were happier to receive any coverage at all or unhappier that it was all negative. Interesting, especially given how the press fall over themselves to create content every time a GTA or Saint's Row comes out, with only a handful of the more thoughtful hacks sparing a sentence or two for the inherent misogyny, sexism and racism that those games portray (hastily followed by hand waivey 'but it's alright cos it's GTA isn't it?'). Anyway, turns out it's pretty good but I've got no idea how well it sold because that would be useful information. 

In short, Tomodachi Life is a life-sim lite a la Animal Crossing but with all the legwork taken out of it. If you're the kind of mouth breather who can't sleep at night if they think that they may have accidentally played a 'non-game' then do steer well clear of this. It's essentially a doll's house populated by your Miis be they friends, family, evil dictators or religious figures. For those of you whose real life is tragically pathetic then you can drop into Tomodachi Life, occassionally stuffing your resident's faces with food and helping them out with their trivial daily shit. What makes this 'game' is the suite of social tools so now you can get revenge on all those couples you know who think everything their spawn does is worthy of a Facebook header change and relentless spam them with the Japanese mentalness sprinkled daily comings and goings of your Miis. 

I'll shut up now. Here are some pictures and you can make your own mind up about it.  

9/10 probably better than your real life but you're too chicken to kill yourself.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

More Project X Zone Brilliance

The above video shows all that is glorious about Project X Zone. Firstly you have Xenosagas KOS-MOS and T-ELOS (the scantily clad curvaceous androids) teaming up with Tekken's suicidal Pink-haired android Alisa which already is a crazy mind-blowing cross universe groin explosion.

Just skip to 40 seconds in.

Love and Jiggles,

Richie X