Tuesday, 2 December 2008

NGJ (New Games Journalism)

I'm not one for trawling through newspapers, keeping up to date with news sites or reading different sources of information on a regular basis. Its just who I am, if a teacher was to ask me to review a work of Shakespeare, chances are, I would rent the DVD then spend the night rattling away on my keyboard.

But I have been known to read games journalism, it is fair to say it has almost always been a part of my life. Starting back when I was around nine years old, in the days of 'Ultimate PC' I would beg my mother to buy me a copy of the magazine when she did her weekly shop. Sadly, after time, Ultimate PC was no more, and I don't have any idea where it went. As my computer childhood developed, the comforting friend of a trusty PC mag vanished... And became PC Gamer.

And, things haven't changed, PC Gamer still resides on my desk, and my biased view of magazines still resides in my heart. I must be very closed minded, monotonously boring, or devoutly loyal, but I can't bring myself to read anything else.

But I am a fan, of New Games Journalism, I prefer it because it is much more personal, almost like having a conversation with someone about a game, not only do you get someones opinion on something, which I personally prefer with games and other forms of entertainment. This is because there really aren't many technicalities of right and wrong when it comes to entertainment, a game could be very cheap and visually shit, but could still be fun and addictive. Therefore I find a well written opinion, using references to support arguments, gives me a better background with which to make an opinion of my own.

I also enjoy the fact you can get to know someone's personality as well as their opinion, after months of reading, you almost feel like you have made a reliable friend in someone (providing they have an appealing personality).

But are magazines really a reliable source of truthful and honest reviews?

Computer games magazines use a ranking system, in order to rank reviewed games amongst the rest. However, with a game, or anything for that matter, is it really possible to give it an accurate rating using numbers? The problem faced with this technique of describing the experience of a game, is that every experience is different, and peoples personalities vary hugely.

A more accurate way of describing the contents of a game, would be to rate different aspects of the game it self (for example, storyline, graphics etc.), but this in turn takes longer, is possibly too in-depth for a relaxed reader and generally complicates things past our attention span.

However, a bonus of the Rating system is that it provides a very quick reference for any reader to decide what game is worth investigating, and what game is not likely to be very good.
Providing the reader reads the review as well as the rating, they would recieve much more information about the way the game makes the player feel, due to the use of personality in New Games Journalism.

However, New Games Journalism faces issues and Challenges which are many and varied. One is that it relies on the writer's personality, to help furnish the review. Being that personalities are always biased, it is safe to therefore recognize that reviews are also biased.

Another, and almost definitely influential challenge is that a magazine must be produced in approximately 19/20 days. With often huge contents , this forces reviewers to make quick and not always well researched decisions and ratings.

Many people accuse Games magazines of being corrupt and offering bad ratings for games. However, with only a short amount of time to review, mistakes are made, and can be seen my the ignorant as signs of corruption.

"And Games Journalists are corrupt because an incompetent or rushed decision when viewed from the outside can appear to be entirely identical to a corrupt one.We’re not perfect, because we haven’t time to be perfect. Just like developers." - Kieron Gillen

SOURCE: gillen.cream.org

There are also issues facing reviews from the 'Moneymen' or the 'Publishers' to be precise. The publishers pay the wages for the Reviewers, and ultimately sack them if the magazine stops selling. This is becoming more of an issue in today's industry as the internet is doing the same 'shit filtering' job of the magazines, for free and often faster.

This internet competition in the market has hit the sales of all magazines and is one of many popular sources of game writing, and has put huge pressure on the publishers to maximise profits. The publishers want to reduce costs, and as a result are reluctant to add extra features, or attempt to revolutionise a potentially dying market. While the creative types, want to do exactly that, in order to re-establish previous selling figures.

"When things are bad, it’s a war between money-men who want to keep profits by reducing costs and the editorial who want to keep profits by being better. The idea of “being better” is somewhat alien to the money-people, who’ve pretty much forgotten any idea of what creative impulses actually are – or, more relevantly, the ability to have faith in anyone else’s." - Kieron Gillen

SOURCE: gillen.cream.org

But all this talk about NGJ begs the question: How do I write? What kind of writer am I?

It is fairly apparent that I do not write often, my literary skills are not well practiced and finely tuned, and maybe as a result of this, or as a result of my love of socialising, I find myself to be a subjective writer. I much prefer to express my opinion, this is neither because I think its the only right way, or that I insist on others believing it. It is rather because I can find listed critique as being boring. Wholly useful, and reliable, but boring and without personality.

People are amazing, and we should get to know more of them.

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