I donâ€™t think I ever wrote about New Games Journalism. I try to avoid this kind of meta-commentary, because Iâ€™m happier on the shop floor, making stuff, writing about games and so on. But with the book sent and my best piece of writing ever about to be published in PC Gamer I thought Iâ€™d step into the quagmire and slosh about. Maybe build a small pillar of mud.
So there was this thing a while back when Keith wrote a piece about â€˜Ten Unmissable Pieces of New Games Journalismâ€™. It got a lot of traffic. I still get referrals from it all the time, which is a shame because my piece is one of the less interesting things Iâ€™ve written (And look how just today a Planetside man has commented. I shall return there soon).
I think Keith wrote that article because people were bashing games journalism and a few of us made a fuss and said â€˜hey, there is good stuff, and you need to tell them, Keith, you big mainstream journalist.â€™ And there was stuff. And Keith made a list. Looking at it now it seems that there wasnâ€™t an underlying theme at all to Keithâ€™s list, except that none of it fitted with the preview/review/Top Ten Shooters templates that weâ€™re all familiar with from traditional web/mag games journalism. They were feature writing. Writing about certain subjects, in a variety of styles.
Quite a few people didnâ€™t like A Rape In Cyberspace, which came top of the list. Iâ€™m wondering if that didnâ€™t colour every single piece of critical commentary on the idea since. Given control over the flow of the universe Iâ€™d have put Chickâ€™s piece top, and seen how that changed things.
It seems as if a couple of pieces of writing that had nothing to do with Gillenâ€™s manifesto have, by virtue of Keithâ€™s excellent list, created an independent concept of what Gillen was trying to say with his ludicrous phrase-mongering.
Simply, I took it to mean â€˜we need to write more pieces that arenâ€™t just reviews/feature lists/marketing spielâ€™, which was basically the theme of what a group of games journalists talk about down the pub every night. But take RAM Raiderâ€™s summation of it:
Think of it like The Longest Journey. Stark was the world of science that took itself very seriously, while Arcadia was a parallel world where fantasy and magic existed, but was being threatened by the balance. Think of NGJ as Stark (clinical, joyless, overly existential and self referential) and OGJ as Arcadia (more basic and earthy, but tingling with magic and fantasy). Imagine thereâ€™s a King of Arcadia and a Queen of Stark. Both are arrogant, and have a belief that they are always correct (characteristics of every good critic), but the King of Arcadiaâ€™s style upholds the balance between arrogance and criticism, and self-referentialism and critique. The Queen of Stark, on the other hand, threatens the balance by forgetting the fantasy world of wonder exists, and focuses too much on reading between the lines like a sixth-form A-Level English Literature student until all traces of fun have been analysed out of the equation.
The moral of the story? The balance has to be maintained. Forget the fact that youâ€™re writing about games that are there to entertain and be fun, and youâ€™ll end up with some bollocks about being raped in cyberspace.
That seems representative of a lot of what folk had been talking about, but it doesnâ€™t seem representative of Keithâ€™s list. I am wondering, now that weâ€™ve finished the book, whether someone will describe it in a similar way. In some ways I hope they do, because itâ€™d sort out those stuck in their own ideological/personal reactions from those who realised that Gillenâ€™s warbling and Keithâ€™s list were just an attempt to point out that thereâ€™s a lot of variety in games writing. There is no NGJ â€˜styleâ€™, and to say so implies Gillenâ€™s manifesto was a style guide or some equally useless piece of classificatory analysis. There are simply new ways of talking, and new things to talk about.
For the last year, from the Korea investigation to editing the book, the job has taught me a lesson that I hope Iâ€™ve packaged in those pages we just sent to the publisher: that there is new games journalism, without the capital letters, and it speaks with a multitude of voices. And youâ€™re not going to like all of it, but why should you? There is no â€˜balanceâ€™, no status quo needs to be maintained, because people will just write about what theyâ€™re interested in. And theyâ€™re interested in some very different things, from the words they use, to the games they play. Imagine if they werenâ€™t. Hideous homogenous nonsense would result.
Weâ€™re really all cultural omnivores. As this blog shows, I donâ€™t just think about games, or just write about games. But even when just thinking about games Iâ€™m concerned with variety. The book has been a superb exercise in demonstrating just what a huge terrain games writing now covers. Having Tim Stoneâ€™s delirious 1950s parodic simulation interests next to Stuart Campbellâ€™s energised rants, next to Oâ€™Connorâ€™s lunatic Katamari review, next to my Eve evangelising, next to Chickâ€™s hilarious and human Saving Private Donny, next to Remyâ€™s classic developer inteviewâ€¦ it all just goes to show that games journalism is a juicy, evolving heap of ideas, many of which you wonâ€™t like or agree with. But theyâ€™re simply not falling into any brackets of convenience. Classifying these pieces of writing in sections was almost impossible, as we discovered.
Anyway, youâ€™ll make your own judgments, and Iâ€™m looking forward to compiling a Wasp Factory of positive and negative comments on its release.
In other news: the piece I wrote on Korea has finally been sent to press. Itâ€™s coming out in PC Gamer on the 17th of November. It has some big problems (ha) but itâ€™s the best piece of games journalism (proper honest-to-paper travelling to Far Away and talking to the people there) I have ever written and, I hope, one of the best things written about gaming this year. Please buy PC Gamer next week, read it, and tell me what you think.
Iâ€™ll write some more about it on the day of publishing, probably.