12 April, 2005

Sod New Games Journalism - What's Wrong With Old Games Journalism?

The RAM Raider is sure he's not the only one that’s absolutely sick of this whole bucket of fuck-all that’s calling itself New Games Journalism. The fuss is centred around an entry in the blog of ex-PC Gamer staff writer Kieron Gillen, who now makes a living freelancing for PC Gamer, PC Format and, erm, Eurogamer.net. There are two things in particular that irk about the whole situation – one is that the original piece was originally written over a year ago and was only recently dug up in a Guardian blog, the other is that there’s sod-all to it, other than being overly wordy.

The principle is that an NGJ article should centre around the writer and his experience. Taken at face value, this sounds quite sensible. Unfortunately, applied to an industry full of giant egos, this has resulted in a breed of articles that are more about the writer telling the world about himself.

Gillen himself is playing it pretty cool, claiming that the whole NGJ manifesto thing has been blown out of proportion. While he does tend to take himself a little too seriously (a quick look at his blog will confirm that one), Gillen’s not a bad guy when you meet him in the flesh, and it’s a shame to see his name brought to prominence with an issue that we can already see the community lashing out at.

A perfect example of so-called NGJ at its worst is PC Gamer’s Extra Life section. Usually consisting of a miserable mixture of pointless “this is me playing a game” bits and ten page articles on specific game levels (ten fucking pages – I don’t know whether to laugh or cry), the only entertainment that can possibly be derived from it is from attempting to find something interesting to read amongst it all. How fucking pointless can you get?

Applying NGJ to reviews is an even bigger nightmare, positively inviting the egos with typewriters to wank themselves silly while forgetting what the main purposes of these articles actually are. You basically need three things for a successful review: i) to describe the game (and you’d be surprised at the amount of reviews out there that don’t), ii) to describe what it’s like to play, and iii) to bolt those two ingredients together in an entertaining fashion.

Crash and Zzap are legendary thanks to their abilities to hit the exact balance in getting their views across while making the reader feel included, and this tradition was later mastered by Amiga Power. When they fired off a concept review, it not only worked, but the industry took notice. In a good way.

NGJ is little more than an excuse for the writer to talk about themselves first, and let everything and everyone else be damned. There are so many reviewers who talk constantly about their own sad lives, but this is completely the wrong track – you have to be talking about yourself as the reader, who is the potential player of the game. This applies equally to feature pieces and opinion articles – if you write about yourself, you’ll alienate your readers and end up as one of the bunch of self-deluded pricks who waffle on about fuck-all in shite like Edge.

Perhaps the worst thing about the whole sorry debacle is that the world’s gaming press is having a good laugh at the expense of us – the British gaming press – for being deluded enough to believe that NGJ was some revolutionary concept in the art of writing. The real guilty party is The Guardian’s blog for publishing their pretentious and pathetic list of NGJ crap in the first place.

As for Gillen, he’s probably getting the rawest deal in that he’s getting quite heavily slagged off by anyone with enough common sense to see that NGJ is complete nonsense, but let’s not forget that he, like practically every journalist, is a different person in his writing than he is in real life. The RAM Raider is sure Gillen’s unphased by the whole situation anyway – after all, it’s better to be a laughing stock than ignored. And we should know.
In the name of all that is good, let’s all just stick with old games journalism from now on. Clever. Witty. Incisive. Funny. Informative. And, crucially, not pretending to be something that it isn’t.

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