The Storm is bigger and nastier than you think

So a game journalist source of Bill Harris over at Dubious Quality had some things to say about publishers and their renewed interest in screwing journo’s jollies:

http://dubiousquality.blogspot.com/2011/04/storm.html

There’s a sequel to this post, in which they bring up Eurogamer, Rock Paper Shotgun and others as hallmarks of Game Journalism (they truly are, never think I doubt that), and go on to say that the death of independent ballsy publications like these over the IGNs or the Gamespots of the world will be the loss for all readers.

By looking at the consumer and the industry as one entity aligned against disparate news and websites varied in their quality of journalism, the source is making the same mistake he assumes people make against game journalists.
This is something that also part of the problem loop, as much as you or I wish it weren’t. Consider this: the games industry is not just Gears of War or Skyrim or Modern Warfare, it is also smaller games, and medium tier games. We all know this, and yet we don’t practice it. Some with artistic integrity, and some with just enough spit and polish to be fun, but not wholly original. They are all works that deserve to be talked about, to be shown to people, to be discussed as original/unoriginal, refreshing/bland. And yet we don’t. Most of the coverage you see from even the most respected outlets is about the big names. A slew of Skyrim screenshots is page one news, while a new XBLA or PC game announcement is hardly ever mentioned. Even the publications I most respect are party to this. I do a search for Terraria on Eurogamer, a publication I respect above all else, except maybe RPS, and I see a “No results found” page.

Where is the coverage for Ghost Recon Online for the Wii U? It was on the show floor at the E3 Nintendo booth, and while it may have been too bland/unfinished or anything else to be seen by journos, it is almost as if it wasn’t there. You know why that is? I was at the Nintendo booth at E3, and the VIP and the regular show floors had the game, but the “press” both on the second floor didn’t – understandable as it was Nintendo’s showcase floor and they only wanted to show their own demos. There is your lack of proper journalism right there. Here’s a game announced and playable at the show floor, but the barest of peeps were heard from the news outlets. I could count many such instances, but the fact is that this happens too.

Also thinking of your audience as one huddled mass is quite sad. The death of Eurogamer WILL affect the large Eurogamer community that attends the expo, takes part in discussions on the boards and carries that badge proudly. Same for any other website – but a large percentage of consumers now treat games just the same as films. They see reviews on their favourite general magazine or newspaper or Sunday supplement and go ahead and buy it if their friends also make a fuss about it. The reason they do not turn to specialist outlets has a lot to do with the casual way in which they interact with their gaming time, but I have also seen a lot of hardcore gaming friends completely disenchanted with the journalism on display. The 7 to 9 scale is not a myth or an exaggeration. You know it’s a reality, and even some of the most respected outlets are guilty of that. The fact that competency in craft and polish count for more than artistic integrity, vision or even fun in game reviews is true enough; the PR and publishing wings of most game companies accept that. They may be part of the problem, but they are now working with that – they want to convince the “legitimate” news outlets more than the gaming press which will grant them an 8 anyway (unless the game’s quite boring, in which case they get a 7).

My point is that saying that there are different, better game journalists in the same statement where game companies, games and the audiences are homogenised is just as bad, and contributes to the problem. We are stuck in a vicious cycle of pandering to the biggest and the loudest, and the biggest and loudest publications (in this case being non-specialist press) is getting preferential treatment is not a surprise. By calling themselves part of the “games industry”, gaming press has subjected themselves to the machinations of the very industry which forgets the small ones.

There are defiant small player in every part of this equation – sites like RPS or GWJ, the small, well made games, the indie developer, and the discerning fan who reads better kinds of journalism. We need to celebrate them all equally; the entire cycle is nothing without any of them.

Disclaimer – I work for a games developer, and am a fan of well written games journalism and discussion. None of what I say here comes from my employer.

Nuggets of Awesome #1

Nuggets of awesome is where I try to tell the world that about hidden little awesome things that they don’t usually see. Hidden behind the overly marketed monstrosities are little things that you may or may not know about, but WILL make your day better

It’s called Chop Sushi and it’s a gem/sushi matching puzzler for the iphone. Wait, don’t go away. It’s not awesome because it’s a small little game that is well made and looks purty. It is, and it does, but there’s another reason it is full of win.

It’s philosophical.

Human beings love patterns (so much so that news channels regularly construct narratives out of random things and pretend to BLOW YOUR MIND on a daily basis, but that is way beyond this post), and they love it when a plan comes together, chomp on your cigar, why don’t you? It is very easy to make a charmingly animated little game about matching 3 or more kinds of the same thing on a puzzle board and add some experience/spell things and ape Puzzle Quest and be done with it.

Chop Sushi

Chop Sushi goes further. You encounter different people with internal demons as you go along, and you must fight those inner demons with different sushi if you are to make them happy. And to make them happy is your goal, for you are the ultimate sushi chef in the world. What’s most interesting is that once defeated, the demons don’t go away; it’s just that the people you spoke with can now live with those demons, bear their burdens. Sushi, and good food, it seems to say isn’t a fight, but very good therapy. To be happy, you don’t have to get rid of your inner demons, you simply have to learn to accept yourself and live with your flaws.

Chop Sushi

It’s a basic thought which is regretfully rarely found in videogames. Along side the adventure are interludes (cleverly hiding loading of levels) where you, the protagonist Master Chef, swim to different lands, always resting on a rock (the same rock, weirdly enough). Pay attention, and a small blurb explains the changing relationship between the rock and the Master Chef. “Master Chef stood on the rock and they felt a kinship” leads to “Master Chef didn’t notice the rock. Master Chef was the lord of all he saw”. When his ego becomes too big, you must play as the rock and defeat the egotist within Master Chef to show him humility, the final lesson, the game seems to say, that makes a good human being.

Know you’re good, but don’t get too big for your friends. It’s a little blunt, but when was the last time a game was able to convey that in gameplay?

It’s also a pretty good game with interesting new power ups and gameplay twists, and it genuinely looks good. But if you check it out, you will see a small little game that says some very simple things that games rarely do.

A Conversation I had with Beatzo

See, it’s like this. Indians are everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Every country. The usual suspects like the US, UK, Canada, but also countries like Romania, Ghana, even St. Kitts. Bet you couldn’t place that on a World map.
In some, even most of these places, there is growing resentment around them as well. Sometimes it’s wholly acceptable fears like Indians are taking their jobs, or their 7-11s or whatever. Sometimes it’s as simple as Indians don’t assimilate and unnecessarily judge their culture, or pray to demon ghosts or whatever other prejudice (warranted or not). I do think some complaints are very valid, but most are just people being afraid of something different than them. Something that is intrinsically NOT them. Kind of how normal people are afraid of mutants in the Marvel Universe.
You know what this means?

Bal Thackerey is Magneto.

Toy Story 1 and Toy Story 2 in 3D

Where I review the immensely great value 3D double bill of one of the best films ever:

Toy Story 3D

Oh my God Woody was totally kidding but Buzz fell anyway and then they saved each other and then Woody was like you’re flying and Buzz was like no I’m falling with style and then Al stole Woody and Buzz had to save him but there was an evil emperor and an evil toy but then they save Jessie and everyone is so happy and also Mrs. Potato Head.

Squee.

More at Fullhyd.

So totally knackered millionaire

So I just played 4 back to back albeit short games of football with the work peeps, got utterly knackered and took a cab to the airport without pausing for breath. (or pizza, tantamount to the same thing, no?)
Bali beckons, like a saucy minx.
Fun fact though, when I changed some 700 odd dollars at the airport they gave me, listen to this: FOUR and a HALF MILLION Indonesian rupiah.
Now that is what you call currency exchange.