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    Wednesday, June 21, 2006

    NGJ In A Single Quote

    You should know now that we hate New Games Journalism. We’ve spent many posts trying to explain exactly what it is we loathe about this pretentious form of masturbation dressed up as journalism, an excuse for the writer to talk about themselves instead of telling the reader about the game, but we’ve found something that does the job much better than we can.

    We were watching a film today about a journalist who likes to write about herself in her articles, just like the NGJ elitorati. When she met the subject of her latest article for the first time, he pulled her up on her love of talking about herself and, accidentally, brilliantly summed up everything that’s so wrong about NGJ from the reader’s point of view:

    “Whenever I read one of these interviews where the writer says, ‘This is how I felt the morning I woke up to meet the pope. This is how I felt when the pope greeted me and how the pope reminded me so much of my very best friend Mike’, I always think ‘Who the fuck is Mike?’. So who are you?”

    This is the best passage from a film we’ve ever heard.

    Back in the glory days of Your Sinclair, Zzap! and, later, Amiga Power, the games industry was full of writers with character. If you were dedicated, (and most games mag readers were back then, as casual gamers were unheard of) you could often tell who was the author of a review without checking the name at the end. Stuart Campbell, Jaz Rignall, Dave Perry, Matt Bielby, and countless others we could mention, all had a style so unique they couldn’t disguise their identities if they tried. This was great because they all had their own favourite genres, and different ideas about what made a game worth playing. Perry loved his 2D beat-em-ups, and Campbell would rip the beating heart from anything that was slightly less than perfect. The reader could relate to the writers. They could tell who liked the kind of games they liked, and follow their opinions.

    In short, reviewers could get away with and had every right to refer to each other in their reviews. Now, this does not work.

    Several mags and websites are guilty of self-reference to the point of self-worship. Lines like “Craig’s moaning as usual” or “Neville’s up to his usual tricks” might be highly amusing to anyone who knows who Craig or Neville are and what they’re like, but in reality a huge percentage of the readers haven’t got a fucking clue. We don’t like picking on people (actually, that’s a lie) but the unreliable Eurogamer is a perfect example, with its stack of reviewers constantly name-checking each other. It reads like a giant in-joke and alienates anyone who isn’t a games writer, or a reader so infatuated with games reviewers that they practically stalk them. In other words, over 99% of the readers are being made to feel left out by this needless and pathetic mutual backslapping by games journos.

    There’s a place for this kind of thing – blogs. Reviews are for talking about gameplay and cracking a few funnies along the way, not for using as an excuse to inflict a page of someone’s tragic autobiography onto readers who just want to know what a game’s like and be entertained.

    To go back to that most excellent of quotes, the message is simple. Games reviewers need to stop talking about themselves and their “very best friend Mike”. The majority of games reviewers aren’t interesting or high-profile enough for most readers to know who the fuck they are, never mind their very best friend Mike. We know who they are, and who their very best friend Mike is, and it bores the tits off of us, so we pity the poor readers who have to wade through this drivel without that knowledge.

    Film reviewers don’t talk about themselves and their friends. TV reviewers don’t talk about themselves and their friends. Tech reviewers don’t talk about themselves and their friends. Newspaper reporters don’t talk about themselves and their friends. Games reviewers need to stop talking about themselves and their friends because they’re just not interesting enough. Make yourselves interesting, and maybe you’ll get away with it again. That’s too tall an order though, and we all know it.

    “I always think ‘Who the fuck is Mike?’. So who are you?


    1. Exactly. There's nothing more to say. NGJ is baaaad.

    2. "..not for using as an excuse to inflict a page of someone’s tragic autobiography onto readers.."

      Somebody better tell Lester Bangs, quick!

    3. Anonymous12:31 pm

      No, bad games journalism is bad.

      There's nothing wrong with, for instance, eurogamer writers mantioning each other, as quite a large amount of people read the site regulary and know what they're talking about. I prefer a bit of personality in my reviews, rather than the stuff you usually get nowdays. And you can't just say "This used to be ok, but now it's bad"


      (Most NGJ is also BGJ, mind)

    4. Anonymous2:46 pm

      I like it when people react harshly to this sort of criticism by saying that a review isn't objective enough. I don't really want it to be totally objective, I just want the information in there I care about and whether or not it sucks. Doesn't have to be formulaic like the Eurogamer shite!

    5. ad objectivity - I never really understood how anyone can be objective about games (or books, or movies, or music, or..). If you see a soap, you can tell it's color and if it makes bubbles or not. But when you say it smells nicely, whoa, you're being subjective.

      Same goes for gameplay, graphics, soundtrack..

      That said, I agree with the "who the fuck is Mike" point. Bad journalism is boring. Bad NGJ is a disaster.

    6. Anonymous10:48 pm

      I think part of the problem about film, music, tech and tv reviewers is that they are a much broader range of people doing the reivews.

      Naturally with games reviews and the internet being a BIG part of that, you get this little 'clique' going on where they are all in competition with each other so the cock sucking begins.

      Youre spot on though. Its very irratating to read and reviews would be better off without it. The people who are guilty of this should keep it in their own blogs. We can then decide if they are interesting enough people or not to bother reading it (more often than not they arent).

    7. Anonymous9:52 pm

      What film was that - I have an annoying "I know that line where's it from?" thing happening in my head an it is unpleasant.

    8. Anonymous10:18 am

      "Who the fuck are you?" is a bit of an ironic complaint from an anonymous blog, no?

    9. Anonymous2:16 pm

      So says the anonymous blogger :D

    10. Right, so the problem with NGJ is that unlike in the good old days before NGJ existed, writers would make references to each other as in-jokes and it was great, but now, what with NGJ and all, writers keep making references to each other which is really rubbish.

      It's an interesting argument. If by "argument" I mean, "string of babble".

      I know you're obsessed with being all cross about NGJ, despite not yet having managed to describe exactly what you think it is - now it's referencing other writers on the mag/site, like, er, all computer mags ever - but really, come on, at least try.

      I think if you were to go back and actually read some of the mags you eulogise (because they were fucking fantastic), you'll be rather devastated to find that they were about 90% in-jokes and references to what the writer had done that day. But you won't, because, you know, that would require some effort and thought and whatnot and why let that spoil your day!

    11. Heeeeere’s Johnny. I love the way you keep missing the point. Here – let me explain:

      First of all, I’m not *defining* NGJ as referencing other writers. I’m saying it’s a common problem (one of many) with modern NGJ articles. The reason it’s a problem now and wasn’t back then is because there’s hardly any personality shown by most of today’s reviewers, (partly because their evil overlords and paymasters won’t allow any truthful criticism to be printed, but that’s another point) whilst before there were loads of colourful characters allowed to distinctively speak their minds. The readers knew who they were back then, but now they don’t, so the style doesn’t work any more.

      “I think if you were to go back and actually read some of the mags you eulogise (because they were fucking fantastic), you'll be rather devastated to find that they were about 90% in-jokes and references to what the writer had done that day.”

      Which is exactly the point I made. The in-jokes and references could be shared by the readers back then. They worked. Not any more.

    12. Anonymous3:02 pm

      That's a point I agree with completely. Look back at the glory mags of old and they were defined by great writers with big personalities. Not sure who you could put in the same bracket from today's crop of bland faceless journos. One of the main problems is Future's insistence on rushing people through positions to keep editorial costs down. It's not out of the ordinary to see deputy eds and even eds at the age of 24/25, something which is quite clearly ridiculous, if cost-effective.

    13. The real difference between then and now was that back then the reader was most often in on the joke - even if they hadn't read the mag before. You could infer what the in-joke was by reading between the lines or just using your imagination, and crucially, the gag wasn't that the writer was making a reference to something funny, but that they were saying something that was funny anyway, and happened to refer to some other funny thing.

      It's the difference between a tedious catchphrase sketch show and a decent sitcom.

      A lot of people miss that point, and think that anything esoteric is inherently amusing, in the same way that a lot of people think that simply churning out a catchphrase again is inherently amusing.

    14. Anonymous10:41 am

      I've seen that film, it was almost entirely narrated by the characters in the first person.

      I think the writer was having a laugh with you.

      Still, Alice in Wonderland lesbian cunnilingus, eh?