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.

Call of Duty Black Ops : Shooty mcbangy bang




Call of Duty Black Ops

So I played the new Call of Duty. More specifically Call of Duty: Black Ops. Even more specifically in internetese: COD BLOPS. I love that name, don’t you? BLOPS. Completely devoid of the utter destruction inherent in the game it describes. Come to think of it, I may have eaten some BLOPS sometimes in me life.

Anyway, it was fun. Now I have made posts that may lead one to think I hate generic blockbuster shooters. I don’t. I hate generic blockbuster shooters that want you to think they are an intelligent piece of art commenting on the human condition. Remember no Russian? (see what I did there? Never mind.) BLOPS was entirely fun. It was made to look and act like a stupid 80s action film, and it does that. If you have a specific itch to shoot people in the face while moving along a fixed path whilst things blow up all to kingdom come around you, BLOPS will scratch it to HELL.

It occurs to me that most people are perfectly content to shoot humans in the face with pyrotechnics all around. By that yardstick BLOPS is for most humans. It isn’t especially different or interesting or builds a great world, but that’s not what most people want, yes? It’s not the best Call of Duty game ever made, it’s not even the most polished. For a game that choreographs each set piece, it often breaks its own rules about not keeping the player in the dark. The best thing about it I can say is that it is probably the best game Treyarch has made yet. And after years of mediocre Spider-man games and Calls of Duty, at least Activision’s hajaar dollars have made them competitive enough.

Long the bastard child of the CoD franchise, Treyarch has earned both player ire and mainstream derision by being mediocre and delivering games made by committee. They still do that here, but at least they do that with a sense of humour and a hitherto missing maturity. Maturity in development only, of course. The vision is still the 12 year old gun freak’s porn. Check your boxes for semen.

In any case, the story making a point to establish that it is bunkum makes up for the ludicrous ending, and you can enjoy the Shooty bits without rolling your eyes too much. It looks fantastic too. The production values, or to call it by its technical name, Activision’s 3rd world debt ending budget, are what they are – astounding and beyond comprehension.

I could pretend I give a rat’s ass about the multiplayer, but I can’t be arsed. It’s as good or as bad as you think the last one was. I’ll play it for a few months and then move on to some obscure German RPG, though, so the question is not for me to answer. Meanwhile, here: it is Mostly Harmless.

The set pieces do not overtly steal anything from a famous film, so at least I think the multiplayer will have some originality too, as much as is possible for a Call of Duty game to be original. (Infinity Ward were an amazing developer, but they pegged the biggest moments of their games on moments from iconic films. Back when they were 2015, it was Saving Private Ryan. With the first Call of Duty it was Enemy at the Gates and so on. With Modern Warfare 2, it was Bad Boys 2, so you can imagine how deep the shit hole was in which they found themselves at the end of that game. PS Anyone who likes both should probably try and grow a real beard before they can discuss the merits of any artistic endeavour with me. )

ANYWAY, Call of Duty Black Ops is perfectly okay, and not at all pompous or stuffy like its predecessor, so if you ever wanted to play a Michael Bay movie, this will work just fine.

Now where’s my Risen at.

Sherlock Holmes

Where I review the new Sherlock Holmes film.

Sherlock Holmes

I can find faults with the film all day, but I can equally find good things to say about Downey Jr.’s and Law’s amazing work. Sherlock Holmes is not a flawless film, but it is immensely enjoyable, and definite good times at the cinemas. It doesn’t require you to keep your brains at home, but neither does it necessarily stimulate it. It’s the Holmes-as-action-superhero conceit, and it works stunningly.

More at Fullhyd.

Naah

Maggie woke up to see the lizard sitting comfortably over the now stationary fan. She hated lizards; this one particularly so because it was huge, scaly, and somehow reaffirmed the alien status of the place she lived in. It had a body like baby croc, she thought, and big beady eyes staring at her with lizardly lust. Sweating more than she had in her entire life, Maggie got up to draw the curtains back, but one glance outside made her change her mind. The electricity kicked back in, the table fan whirred back to life, and the bastard lizard lazily moved down to the table, one eye still leching. She had tried telling the manager (Ha! Manager! Seedy-motherfucker-who-ran-this-joint, more like), but it just hid itself every time the slimy bastard came to the room. He was more interested in the underwear anyway, the fucker. Last night she had closed the hole in the wall with her bag, but it found a way out from somewhere else. Today morning she actually hit it with her shoes, but it got up again and licked her bag. She was never going to touch the bag again.
The phone rang again. She finally got up and put on a tee shirt. She knew the little hole in front of the phone was where the Ukrainian lesbian prostitute dancer from next door was standing, trying to get a peek. As she picked it up, the lizard moved away from the table, almost as if it knew who it was on the line.
“Uhrr… Hello?”
Maggie hated her own voice in the mornings.
There was no mistaking the smoked out voice from the other end.
Firangi bhenchod, it’s time.”
She hated it when he called her Firangi.

On Andy’s comments

She broke my heart, I wanted her dead;
I mused when I was lying in my bed.
Loneliness drives you to extremes;
Sometimes you begin to see all in red.

I called him on the phone, made a deal under the veil;
He said there was a discount on the second hit, their summer sale.
His deal kept on getting better, unitl I could afford everyone dead;
I was scared as he smiled and said, “Sir, we can get them for you wholesale”.

–Inspired by a story I read a long time back. I know it doesn’t make sense, though.