Saturday, July 30, 2005

God-damn hovercraft!!!!!

How far will game PRs go to to ensure positive coverage of their client's latest product?

Drinks at the local bar? Dinner in some flash restaurant? If a game's really bad, maybe even a room in some flash hotel, a visit from a strangely lost 'madam' halfway through the night an apparent 'goodwill gesture'.

And so it was that I arrived at Stansted Airport on Thursday morning for the European Press Conference for NetDevil's new MMO Auto Assault already convinced it was so bad PR company Barrington Harvey were going to fly us out to the Riviera for an all expenses paid holiday in the sun.

What actually happened was very different, but probably more expensive.

I'm not going to talk about the game here, because the place for that is on a proper game website. I'm going to talk about the PR stunt BH threw to take Europe's finest game writers minds' off Auto Assault and onto . . . crazy mutant army chicks.

It was farely obvious something was going to kick off. Split into three groups (Humans, BioMechs and Mutants - we all had colour co-ordinated caps too!), we sat down in the hotel, a coach ride from the airport itself, and looked at our maps.

PRs are extremely excited by everything in the world ever. A few of them were cheering, slagging off opposing races and what not. I felt embarrased.

Then military guys burst in, shouting bloody murder and acting all in character. Their faces were painted, one of them was huge and bald, which helped I guess, and they had big black boots. I hid my face and died.

A small young woman, who was quite obviously considering a career change in front of our eyes, was wearing a green mutant mask that covered half her face. She put on a robot voice. First mistake people. The BioMechs are the cyborgs, not the mutants. How can I take any of this seriously now?

We put on combat gear, big black boots and strolled out of the hotel into the expansive and regal grounds the site afforded these kinds of events. Explosions either side of the path nearly made me crap myself, but I put on my 'I'm too cool for this stupidity' face and pretended nothing bothered me. Underneath, I was hurting.

We took turns on hovercrafts (I was first and worst), a quad bike (the guy in front of me crashed and went head first into a tree, which was nice), paint ball (had no idea if I was crap or not), drag cars (quite fun) and Quazar (we did OK I thought, although I headbutted on of my team mates in the darkness).

It was all good fun. The stinking humans won (we BioMechs hate them for ditching us before going underground and nuking the Earth apparently) and I didn't break my knee. But it had absolutely nothing to do with Auto Assault whatsoever, despite NetDevil head honcho Ryan insisting it 'tied in nicely'.

And it will have no bearing on my opnion of the game, which, at the moment, isn't much because we didn't get hands on with it. So why go to all the trouble to send 50 or so journalists out with an action events company in the middle of nowhere, pay for half of them to have a posh dinner in the hotel afterwards and even pay for a room for a select few?

I've no idea - but Barrington Harvey must have taken on a few more clients lately, because they obviously have money to burn. Although I suspect others love these sorts of things, I'd have been happy with a few hours hands on in a dingy London office. I'm told we need to be ready for extreme heights at the upcoming press event for City of Villians. Oh what fresh hell is this . . .

Saturday, July 09, 2005

for once, I completely forgot about videogames, as perspective came crashing down on my head like some meteor hell bent on the Earth's destruction

On Thursday morning, terrorists bombed London. My home city, my town, my village. A place I was born, raised, left and returned because I missed it. How dare they? HOW FUCKING DARE THEY?

I'm angry. Not simply because they bombed London, nor because they nearly bombed my girlfriend on her way to work, but because I feel they have sullied my soul. As I was reflecting on this reactionary feeling this morning, I came to a conclusion: American's are not all dicks.

I'm trying to come to terms with my anger. I know it's irrational, unhelpful and pointless, but, like a scratch in the roof of your mouth that you can't help tonguing, I can't shake it.

I remember 9/11, which was far ahead in terms of scale than the London bombings (although this fact seems to have escaped the UK media). I remember thinking how stooopid those American's were for getting all hot-blooded and calling for everyone to nuke Bin-Laden's ass. I remember thinking how bloody irrational those red-necks are. Now, I have begun to understand them.

I guess it's part of human nature that no-one can escape. The irrational immediate reaction to something that has hurt you. Ancient Greek philosophers believed we would only find truth and enlightenment when we could cast aside these feeling s and see the big picture - a bit like Spok really.

Well I can't. I know I'm being irrational. I know I'm being a dick. I know I'm being narrowminded. But If I ever find the bastards who blew up my town, I'm going to rip out their balls and shove em down their throats. A bit like Bruce Willis in Sin City, except in full colour.

It's only been two days since, so I'm sure this anger will subside, but really - the Government must do something about this. They must catch these people. They must prevent it from happening again. Whatever it takes. Although I'm not going to hold my breath. Last time I checked, Mr Bush still hadn't caught Bin-Laden. If the US can't find one man, what hope do we have of finding four?

Saturday, July 02, 2005

making money

How hard is it to make money from game journalism?

Think about that for a second.

The answer? Very.

Now, ask yourself this: how hard is it to get rich from game journalism?

The answer? Impossible.

There are extremely rich political journalists, extremely rich showbiz reporters, extremely rich sports reporters, extremely rich music and film critics. There are no rich game journalists. Forget it.

Now, a more interesting question: why?

Because gaming, like it or not, is still a niche hobby. It's becoming more mainstream, but is not, yet, mainstream. Halo 2 might make more money on an opening weekend than Spiderman, but at £40 a pop, compared to an average £7 a pop to see the film, less people are playing games than watching films, DVDs, CDs, going to gigs and most other forms of entertainment gaming is competing with in the big bad world.

So, a lot of people buy game magazines, but not a hell of a lot. Compare the readership numbers of the biggest selling game magazine in the UK, Official Playstation 2 Magazine, with, say, an average selling womans glossy, and OPSM2 gets shat on every time. I know which I'd rather read. But I'm not most people.

£10,000 a year for a staff writer position on a certain game mag? Forget it - an aspiring game hack, with ideals, ideas and a glint in his or her eye can make more working in GAME. No wonder game journalism is so turgid - there's no fresh blood. They're all in bloody PR.

What to do? Well, as gaming breaks into the mainstream, theoretically speaking, more people should buy game magazines, read game websites and generally be interested in games. If, as the publishers say, the industry needs to double to fund next-generation development, then the readership should double. Then, pay your writers more.

For now, still pay your writers more. Don't moan, just do it. Your copy will be invigorated by an enthused new generation and your pay offer will catch the eye of better journos with national experience.

P.S. I will be the first person in the history of the world ever to get rich from game journalism. You heard it here first. I shall not be buying you a drink, I shall be buying you out.