Sunday, 2 November 2008

Writing about games

Where to start?
Well I have to say, I'm quite taken by this 'New Games Journalism' style of writing. It's so much more interesting than reading any games magazine jam-packed with shallow reviews and glossy page-filling images.
When I started reading Kieron Gillen's Workblog on the subject, I must admit his writing appeared a little arrogant and I would've dismissed him on that first impression alone, but five scrolling minutes later and I'm hooked. He's brilliant.
I read some examples of NGJ - I particularly like 'always_black' - and although it's thoroughly enjoyable to read, I wondered how it would work if everyone started writing like this? I don't think it would. We'd find ourselves over-saturated with poorly executed, soulless attempts.
Also, the subject matter seems to carry heavier issues of social and political matter intertwined with the gamers real life and their virtual gaming world.
It's refreshing, but it doesn't tell the reader about the game, more the gamer. I think it satisfies human curiosity with insights into other peoples lives but ultimately, has it really helped decipher the game? Is this what everyone wants to read? No, but I do. I'm just trying to look at it from an outsiders point of view.
As I don't think I could put it better myself, I'm going to insert an excerpt from Mr.Gillen here:

"What a gamer feels and thinks as this alien construct takes over all their sensory inputs is what’s interesting here, not just the mechanics of how it got there. Games have always been digital hallucinogens – but games journalism has been like chemistry, discussing the binding reactions to brain sites. What I’m suggesting says what it feels like as the chemical kicks in and reality is remixed around you."

"you’ll be interested in it even if you didn’t give a fuck about videogames. While it’s using videogames as its subject, what it’s really talking about is the human condition."

1) The worth of gaming lies in the gamer not the game.
2) Write travel journalism to Imaginary Places.

Personally, I can get really involved in a game, especially one that can invoke emotion. I think that's a target which is worth striving for. That is, perhaps, why I feel I can relate to this style of journalism. It goes beyond the surface comments of 'awesome graphics', 'awesome gameplay' and just 'general awesomeness'. It has depth, soul and the capacity to reach out to more than just gamers.
On the other hand, I understand that magazines have deadlines and they are only really marketing to the gaming community. Their job is to review, say what's good, what's bad, does it live up to any hype. It isn't their job to tell us stories, they have to sell us facts and scores and reasons to spend our cash. I've bought oxm a few times recently and noticed there is a considerable amount of competition in the gaming magazine market. I mean if you're gonna charge £7-£8 for a magazine when you could buy a perfectly good fiction book for that price, then what the hell am I buying it for?
My answer: the demo disk. and a few free gamerpics. That's what swayed it.
And did I buy any of the games they said were a 'must buy'? No. Why? Because I spent all my money on your magazine, that's why.