modern culture since 1991

Wings over Sealand


Pussies galore

Posted on November 01, 2010 by RevStu

Alert readers may recall a few weeks back I gave an interview to a blog written by a bunch of – well, let's call them "games journalists" for want of a more accurate term. A straightforward enough business, you might think – ask questions, get replies, publish, done. It didn't work out quite that simply.

Andy Kelly (left) and Mike Gapper (right), yesterday.

While the interview caused a huge hit spike on the site and an unprecedented number of comments (over 100 compared to their usual three or four), this sudden influx of visitors and attention caused great consternation among some of the blog's editors other than the charming and talented young writer who'd done the interview.

Two of them – a pair of particularly lily-livered Future Publishing corporate drones – whined all over Twitter and elsewhere that the (incredibly mild) arguments in the comments were so beastly and upsetting that they were considering deleting the entire site, rather than attract all these awful, horrid people (ie, readers) to it by speaking to such a nasty man.

Long story short, to spare the hurt feelings of the less-popular stories on their blog (which is to say, all of them) the interview has been quietly deleted. So I've retrieved it and posted it below for posterity.

So where the hell have you been since the Future fallout, Stu?

Hanging around outside schools, selling heroin to kids. It's a living.

How did you get into games writing in the first place?

For the free games. I started a fanzine ("Between Planets", for the Atari ST and ZX81) so that I'd keep getting freebies after winning the ST in a competition when I was an unemployed youth who couldn't afford to buy games at £25 a time. If I'd known then what I know now, I'd just have stuck to good old-fashioned piracy.

You’ve been writing for a good two or so decades, compare the writing industry of the ‘90s to today for me.

Well, in the old days we wouldn't have said "two or so", for a start. You're telling me you can't accurately report how long your interview subject's been doing their job to within the nearest DECADE? Tsk. Bloody kids today. As it happens it's been just over 20 years, and the biggest change I've noticed is the way writers identify and align themselves. Nowadays, pretty much every games journo I see considers themselves to be a part of the games industry, which to be honest I find despicable.

When I got into it – and it was certainly the reason I got into it – writers saw themselves as servants of their readers, protecting them from games publishers trying to steal their money with bad games. Nowadays it seems to me very much that they see themselves as servants of the publishers, with a vested interest in trying to get people to buy as many games as possible. Slowly, over that long period of time, games journos have managed to convince themselves that there's something honourable about that. They're wrong.

Part of it is a simple abdication of responsibility – the idea that with demos so widely available and YouTube footage and so on, consumers make their own decisions rather than listening to critics. (And of course there's some truth in that – it probably seems unimaginable now, but when we were making mags in the early 90s the internet essentially didn't exist, so if there wasn't a demo tape or disk or CD sellotaped to the front of a magazine you were pretty much knackered.)

In that scenario it's easy to decide that it's okay just to turn yourself into part of the PR business, and if anyone's stupid enough to trust you rather than doing the work themselves that's their own problem.

The other part is rational self-interest, and that's also something that's changed since I started. Back then, most of the management above editor level at games-mag publishers came up through the ranks of editorial staff. Now the vast majority come through the advertising side, which means there's very little scope for career progress for a writer. If you make it from staff writer to editor the chances are you're not going to climb any higher, and you're still not going to be on a very great salary. The only way to move on is to go into games development or PR, and for either of those you better not have burned too many bridges along the way.

What do you think happened to the style of writing (concept reviews and the like) that had been propagated throughout Amiga Power and earlier [issues of] PC Zone?

I think that – not unrelatedly to the last paragraph – the position of editor became increasingly filled by dull careerists who were less tolerant of such non-standard approaches.

Which media is more conducive to quality games writing, print or Internet?

That depends entirely on the personnel and methodology involved. There's no inherent reason, for example, why online media shouldn't utilise sub-editors, which are one of the keys to creating the sort of coherent character that made mags like Your Sinclair and N64 so loved and which I've never yet come across on a gaming website. But they don't seem to.

The internet has made it possible to do the sort of things that have been largely eradicated from print (see above), but the opportunity has only rarely been grasped, and when it has been it's exponentially harder to find it amid the oceans of garbage you inevitably get when any previously-professional occupation gets democratised.

Barriers to entry are a good thing, within reason. You wouldn't trust some random clueless 15-year-old twat off the internet to do your plumbing, so why would it be good that he's doing your videogames writing?

What’s your opinion on rating systems in reviews? What system is the most useful? Five star, 100 point, etc

If implemented correctly – that is, in such a way that at any given time you're aiming to have roughly the same number of games in each division of the scale – marking out of 10 is probably the least flawed.

Give me the worst aspects of modern games journalism.

As noted above, the belief that you're part of – and therefore responsible to – the games industry rather than your readers.

And the best?

The extraordinary depth that it's possible to go into about a game when not constrained by the physical limitations of finite page-space.

Tell me about your hard-on for Apple.

Apple are made of liquid evil, and should be subjected to a war-crimes trial for the PC version of iTunes alone. But App Store gaming (and also the likes of XBLA, XBLIG and PSN to varying degrees, and previously the DS) is like all the best aspects of the early years of gaming, only with good graphics and instant loading and prices that are somehow lower – MUCH lower – than they were in 1982.

In at least 99 cases out of 100, the best games – the best anything – come from the vision of one person (or a very small team), rather than being made by 500 people spread across half a continent to specifications designed by a marketing department as the result of endless focus testing among cretins. The variety, invention and creativity of iOS gaming is absolutely astonishing, and the accessibility of it – to both creators and consumers – is little short of Utopian.

(There's a bizarre delusion that it's expensive to get into, but the entry-level iPod Touch costs the same as a DS or a PSP, and when you factor in the cost of games it's the cheapest handheld format by a mile.)

For developers, from the moment you first scribble an idea on the back of an envelope to the point where it's fully realised in front of 100 million potential customers can be a matter of two weeks, and you can make literally millions of pounds out of your bedroom. (Which is another area where it kicks the crap out of the 1980s – the creators get to keep the lion's share of the money this time.) It's videogaming almost without limits and almost entirely without middlemen.

Conversely, the self-styled "mainstream" games industry has about 20 middlemen for every person whose job it is to think of game ideas, which is why only about six games ever get made on "grown-up" formats nowadays – Grey Space Marines 12, Yet Another "Edgy" Urban Racing Game Aimed At Prepubescent Boys, Wasn't World War 2 Awesome Part XXVIX, Expensive-Plastic-Instrument 80s-Soft-Metal Tap-Along Party, Dragon Fantasy For Friendless Overweight Shut-Ins 9 – Frarglax's Quest: The Second Wankening and Let's Somehow Turn Football Into The Fucking Krypton Factor 2011.

The criticisms commonly levelled at iPod/iPhone gaming – "Oh, it's all fart apps and Flight Control" – tend to come from the spectacularly ignorant, and/or teenage fanboys terrified of being marginalised as gaming becomes truly mainstream, ie not their exclusive "hardcore" preserve any more.

In fact, in addition to all the original gaming styles of its own, the App Store offers fantastic games in almost any current console genre you could name, only at a hundredth of the price (you can pick up the excellent Resident Evil 4-alike Zombie Infection this week for 59p, for example), as well as many of the genres that have been long abandoned by the "mainstream" industry (such as ultra-intense arcade shooters like Cave's immense Dodonpachi Resurrection).

Basically, if you love videogames, or if you just want to be at the cutting edge of gaming for the next five years, and you don't have an iPod Touch or an iPhone, you're a brainless tool. And you can tell your mum I said so.

Why are you such a twat when it comes to PC gaming?

Because I don't give a shit about orcs.

"Waahh! Waahh! People are reading our crappy website for once! We don't like it! Make the nasty people go away!"

14 to “Pussies galore”

  1. bedroomcoder says:

    Haha, that was ages ago, are they still butthurt about that???
    I have an actual web archive of the page with the majority of the comments. I saved it after I realised anything negative about the site was being deleted (although curiously my posts remained untouched). It's a shame for Emily, but to be fair I think she can do better than a site like that.
    If you want the archived page, let me know!

  2. Emily says:

    Neither the site nor the writers in question have anything to do with this. I deleted the post because I had written it and had no interest in dealing with the trolls we were getting from this site and elsewhere on other anti-Stu sites. I had been asked not to by the other writers. This has Nothing to do with them. Implying that they're the ones who have 'quietly deleted' the post is completely false.

    The entire post was rubbish, and I didn't want any real connection to it. I agreed with a lot of what was being criticised, and found the entire thing embarassing. So thanks for dragging this back in view.

    I appreciate that you've deleted links to my personal blog and put me in a fairly decent light, but it's completely unfair to bring this kind of negative attention to a site that I work very hard for. And it's completely unfair to bring negative attention to the people I work with.

  3. RevStu says:

    Not when they're total pricks it's not. You know perfectly well that they deserve everything and more that I've said about them. I'm sad they're using you as a hostage because they're too utterly fucking pathetic and cowardly to challenge me themselves. The blog isn't named or linked to, so the only people who will know what it is are people who have already seen it, and if you think my opinion will influence theirs then you overestimate my power greatly.

  4. Emily says:

    What? What are you even on about?

  5. Skimmer says:

    There's enough information here to find where this interview was published within about 30 seconds on Google. And people will look, after seeing so many insults condensed into such a small space.

  6. Johnny Twoballs says:

    Look at Bedroomcoder trying to score points with Emily.

  7. Johnny Twoballs says:

    Emily, giss a kiss

  8. Andrew says:

    So, why not lock comments on that post? It seems bizarre, but I guess writers have a right to remove whatever they like…presumably more so if it is an interview they don't like (but why post it originally? it's confusing if Emily agreed with Stu's criticism, or the comments criticism – ones I've not read so who knows? If it is the former why post it in the first place?).

    Shame really. Glad you posted it here though. I still think it has several good points on journalism, especially on doing it for readers and not industry.

  9. jerry says:

    Emily, who tasked you with interviewing Stuart? What was embarrassing, the interview or the subsequent comments? Surely XXXX XXXXXXX must have been aware of Stuart's style. I doubt very much there would have been many trolls from this site.

  10. bedroomcoder says:

    @Johnny Twoballs – It was me who criticised the article in the first place. How exactly am I trying to score points?
    I think there were a few trolls from the Other Stuart Campbell Site, the one you don't speak of. A particular highlight of the little discussion was one of the guys from the site coming in, posting something passive-aggressive about Stu and then having a shit-fit when Stu said something (not particularly) nasty to him.
    Still, the article was a bit wanky so it's probably best off gone anyway.

  11. Johnny Twoballs says:

    hmmm?

  12. VinylPusher says:

    Maybe I just don't 'get' what went on, but I give more of a damn about Jade Goody passing away than I do about an interview with Stu being taken down by the person responsible for putting it up in the first place.
    Reviews of chairs though… *they* get me worked up.

  13. RevStu says:

    I wasn't the least bit annoyed at the interview being pulled, I just put it up here for the sake of the record – since it's 98% my content – and took the opportunity for a minor passing swipe at Gapper and Kelly because I despise them for reasons only passingly related to the interview and I'd found a couple of funny pictures.

    But according to WP Stats, today it's become the most-read piece on WoSblog in the last month (overtaking the PS3 one), and the [EDIT 3rd Nov] 2nd most-read in the last quarter (though still a long way behind the Currys story). So go fig.

  14. M says:

    Thanks for reposting such fine rubbish, Stu! I'm sure Emily and, um, the other four players will be relieved that I did not darken their visitor stats even once in reading the interview, nor will I attempt to visit them at all — unless they somehow unwittingly post something else worth reading, which I'll probably read on a different site again anyway.



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