Monday, January 31

Blankets and Yardsticks

On Monday I received the earth-shattering news that I had "Two Lives Left." That means that only two more issues of Gameinformer (Australia) magazine will be delivered to my doorstep.

I am indebted to my brother for the one year subscription to Gameinformer magazine that he gifted me with last year. Not because it's a particularly well-written publication (which it is not), but rather it has often provided me with inspiration to continue writing. Why? Because it is the highest-selling gaming publication in Australia, so I have decided to use it as a yardstick for this blog. I'm not saying that this is the definitive source for all your gaming information needs, nor is it the best written one. Throughout my time writing however, I believe I have shown an ability to engage with videogames critically, and make some bold statements (at least when compared to the yardstick).

Why all the hate, you may ask?

Is it jealousy? Possibly. I must admit that being paid to write about videogames would qualify as somewhat of a dream job. Further to that, having access to review code would allow me to save thousands of dollars for any hopes and dreams that I (and/or my lovely wife) might have for life away from the living room.

Is it a difference of opinion? Not exactly. Gameinformer have run two features within the past three months that have infuriated me to no end. The first of which I had discussed previously in the post "Response to Kotaku AU's Open Letter to Metacritic," where I highlighted the contradictory nature of some comments found in their list of the 30 characters that defined a decade. I disagreed with their list, not only in terms of order but content as well. My latest beef is with their "Top 50 Games of 2010," visual feature. That's right dear readers, fifty (5-0) games. To put this into perspective, the list of titles I considered for the High Horse Audit totalled forty-one. I am aware that Gameinformer features the work of more than two writers (sorry I didn't consult you for the list, Dawson), but you might as well have stated that every game released last year was awesome, a must-own if you will.

Am I being a little too dramatic? Of course! But then again, people wouldn't bother to read opinion pieces (or pages worth of forum trolling) if they weren't looking for drama. More to the point though: how much thought goes into a list of fifty good games released in a calendar year? Final Fantasy XIII, Darksiders, Modnations Racers, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World: The Videogame, and several other undeserving titles are included in this feature; as are those that are of high quality like Just Cause 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Red Dead Redemption (Stead, 2011:1-2). But so are those that were good, but definitely not "Game of the Year," qualifiers like Alan Wake, Mafia II, Fable III (which I'm currently being led through by a trail of tinsel), and Blur. It is a list bereft of integrity, designed so as not to offend anyone, and celebrate everything.

I have a great many gripes with Gameinformer, from high review scores, to the ratio of preview to review space (Ninety percent hype, with ten percent post-mortem). I understand that the publication needs to cater to as many EBGames customers as possible; but is it possible to perhaps engage with games on a higher level? I'm not talking about the Games = Art debate either. If I want pre-release hype, I'll hit up YouTube for a trailer rather than turn to Gameinformer for a six-page spread with large text and big screenshots. What I want from a gaming publication is a second opinion. A thoughtful rebuttal to my praise, or another soul to join the angry mob. The review for Scott Pilgrim Vs The World: The Videogame, one of "The Top 50 Games of 2010," is forty-seven words long for fuck's sake (Stead, 2010: 97)!

Finally, I'd just like to share some gaffs I've come across over the course of my subscription. The most obvious of which can be found in issue 12, where rumours and speculation regarding the PSP2 are put to print. The short story ends with the following embellishment "C'mon Sony it's time to fess up: we've even found this leaked image!" (Stead, 2010: 21):
Now you may not have seen this image before, but I have. Several times, and well before November 2010. I did a quick search for "psp2," at Kotaku, and this image surfaced as early as November 2008! Apparently the guys at Gameinformer took more than two years to catch up to the online competition (perhaps even funnier, the newly announced NGP looks nothing like the mock-up above). Also worthy of a laugh (and I'll admit that this is very petty of me) is the September issue (released in August), where it's claimed that "Batman: Arkham Asylum rocked the gaming world two years ago," (Stead, 2010: 5). Batman: Arkham Asylum was released on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 on September 3rd, 2009. Now mathematics is not my strong suit (particularly when time is involved), but by my calculations, when this rubbish had been printed not even one calendar year had passed since the game's initial release.

Sour grapes? Yeah. I want to work in the industry, and I'm sure that attacking a popular publication is not the best way to put my name out there. With that being said however, I can't believe that so many people turn to this magazine for information, opinion and validation.

After I lose my final two lives, I will not dispose of all the glossy trash as I may need it somewhere down the line. To inspire me, to ignite my will. I know one thing for sure however, I will not be searching for a 1UP from Gameinformer.

Does anybody else read Gameinformer? What are your thoughts?

References (any web references are linked in text):
1. Stead, C (Editor) (2010). Contents. Gameinformer, Issue 9, p4-5.
2. Stead, C (Editor) (2010). The Score. Gameinformer, Issue 10, p97.
3. Stead, C (Editor) (2010). The 30 Characters Who Defined a Decade. Gameinformer, Issue 12, p26-49.
4. Stead, C (Editor) (2011). The Top 50 Games of 2010. Gameinformer, Issue 14, p1-2.
5. Stead, C (Editor) (2010). The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Gameinformer, Issue 12, p21.


  1. No problems here Dutch. To be honest I'm struggling to play my four games a year so the list would've been fairly short. As for Gaminformer, I've never heard of it let alone read it. I'm all over YouTube or online reviews for game/gaming info. I only really buy mags if I'm ultra keen on a game or travelling.

    I too dream of one day basking in the awesomeness of professional writing and am taking the steps to get there. With your style and content knowledge it won't take you long. Submit stories to papers with tech liftouts, magazines, industry bodies and leading sites and I'm sure you'll be there soon.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, mate. I'm thinking of doing a postgraduate degree in journalism. Not sure what the employment market is like in game journalism though. I'm guessing it's competitive :(

  3. Competitive would be a tad understated. However it would be awesome if you cracked the market. I also agree with Dawson on this one though, you know so damn much about the industry.

  4. I'd recommend you sign up and start submitting stories and articles to Bitmob, sir. It's a great way to get a foot in the door and the traffic to that site is pretty awesome. A lot of industry folk lurk, too. Looks great for a portfolio, and while submissions get the fat editor eye, you'd get a lot of people reading your stuff.

  5. Just signed up as per your recommendation, Taz. Haven't had the balls to send in anything. Once I think I'm onto something, I'll let them know.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Team!

  6. Supplementary advice? Interviews. They're a great way to offer up a more objective article, they show initiative on your part and, hell, they write themselves! Plenty of smaller and indie devs love interviews, because it's essentially free, honing the ability to throw curve-balls and hard-hitters is a valuable asset. It's probably the best way to instantly sidestep the "blogger-turned-journo" stigma that purveys the media side of the industry.

    I managed to net interviews for my old blog with PC/PSP devs Storm Region (Codename: Panzers, Mytran Wars), Finnish devs Mountainsheep (Minigore, Super Hind), Positech's Cliff Harris (Gratuitous Space Battles), Nimbly Games (Altitude) and Guy "Yug" Blomberg from Australian Gamer and then-community manager for Creative Assembly. And that was just for a hobby. If you're serious about it - and you certainly are, by all accounts - you could do a lot more.

    Don't deny iPhone and Android platform developers, they're legitimate and successful (Brisbane's own Halfbrick is a success story, and Sidhe across in NZ is huge as well). Fire off a lot of emails. PC indie developers are a goldmine. Go outside your favourite genres.

    I wish you the best of luck with this. Just keep hustling, submit like a naval broadside to a lot of online venues. The folks I know who freelance and write for particular outlets? Let's be frank, some are no great shakes at all. You can do this. Just separate yourself from the also-rans.