Games, Journalism, Other, and Books

Games, Journalism, Other, and Books

That's all of life's bases covered, right?

Other

All of the posts under the "Other" category.

GJOB 2017 To Do list

New Year always prompts semi-achievable resolutions that almost no one sticks to, and yet it’s hard not to start the next 12 months with a little optimism.

I am a man of erratic ambitions, determined to accomplish certain things but constantly intrigued or tempted by new ventures. In order to keep my goals in check, I figured this year I would shun larger New Year’s Resolutions in favour or a simpler To Do list: things I aspire to but may not manage by the year’s end. And for fun, I’m going to brutally honest with myself and rate my chances of success.

So, in order of this blog’s rather forced categories instead of priority…

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James January 1, 2017 4 Comments Permalink

The Age of Spoilers

[This is a somewhat ironic choice of image. I've done my best to avoid any spoilers in this post]

[This is a somewhat ironic choice of image. I’ve done my best to avoid any spoilers in this post]

We have robbed ourselves of something wonderful: the joys of experiencing major entertainment events without prior knowledge of them.

The biggest twists, the best surprises and even some of the subtler things added to movies and TV just to please fans are laid bare on the internet for all to know before the film/programme is even available. It means we’re increasingly unlikely to ever experience a moment with as much impact as “No, I am your father” ever again.

I use the Star Wars example because that has largely what has prompted this rant (yep, another one). We’re just days away from the release of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens – which is shaping up to be a more promising prospect than any previous cash-grabbing unnecessary Hollywood sequel/reboot – and while I still know very little about the plot, some crucial details seem to be falling through the cracks.

I shan’t spoil for you what has potentially been spoiled for me, but let’s just say there’s a lot of speculation around a major detail/plot twist concerning one of the main characters. Headlines have declared this twist in a way that reading the article has not been necessary – I’m now going into The Force Awakens with an expectation/pre-conception about this character. Initially, I could attempt to dismiss this as just gossip and fan theories but when a headline then declares “Rumours confirmed by new Star Wars TV spot”, it’s the final nail in the coffin of what should have been an absolutely incredible experience for me.

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James December 9, 2015 Leave A Comment Permalink

The urge to create

gjob book

I’ve just written a novel. In fact, I’ve not just written it, I’ve proofed it, edited it (as best I could) and self-published it online.

(And before you all rush to Amazon, it’s not actually available for sale. I published it so I could redeem a code for two free printed copies. Those will be given to alpha readers, who can then tell me why the book sucks and I can fix it before sending it to a proper publisher)

The novel took me the best part of eight months, the first of which was spent writing intensively almost every day as part of NaNoWriMo. With 50,000 words under my belt, I relaxed a little and put the next 100,000 together over the course of five months.

While I may not have been writing as frantically as I did in November, finishing the book still took a lot (if not, most) of my spare time. I’ve had a number of personal commitments to deal with since the year began – not the least of which was getting married! – which meant writing was largely relegated to lunchbreaks and as many weekday evenings as I could muster.

Throughout the last two months, as I edged closer and closer to those wonderful words – “The End” – and read through my work to see what needed to be tweaked and fixed before printing, I was conscious that I was putting off other things: namely, leisure. I cut down on the number of games I played, books I read, shows I watched, all the while thinking I could indulge in these pleasures as soon as the book was finished.

The book was finished on Sunday. And yet throughout the week, a nagging question has been burning in the back of my brain: what can I create next?

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…Actually, it’s about self-perception based on our media choices

Goldfinger

For the last few months, I have struggled to understand why the consumers behind GamerGate are so upset.

Despite the fact that tensions around this ‘discussion’ (and I use that term broadly), it’s become nigh on impossible to take a neutral stance on this. Given that I am a journalist in the games industry (though not on the consumer-facing side, I should stress), my own perspective leans towards that of the media accused of corruption that – in my experience – simply isn’t there.

I’m not going to get into the discussion about ethics in journalism. Instead, I want to look at another side that until today I had been largely dismissive of.

My understanding is that some (that’s, I stress again, SOME) of the GamerGaters began this campaign because they believe feminists plan to ‘ruin video games’. That criticism by the likes of Anita Sarkeesian about the way women are depicted in titles like Saints Row and Grand Theft Auto will somehow prevent such games from ever being made again.

Initially, I scoffed at this. What I have seen of Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs Women  in Video Games series so far has all seemed reasonable to me. Even if there was something I disagreed with, she had formed her argument coherently enough that I could see her point of view. But the truth is, even if Sarkeesian was trying to destroy such games, she is one voice against the millions that buy every iteration of these triple-A blockbusters.

Yes, there have been more games targeting consumers outside the traditional 16 to 34-year-old male demographic in the past few years, many with political agendas or heavy-handed points to make. But the best-selling games every year for the past decade have invariably been: FIFA, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed. They are in no danger.

And with those titles in no danger, I couldn’t understand why some gamers were getting so upset, so outraged, so defensive. Now perhaps I do.

This morning, I was listening to the Goldfinger episode of Nerdist.com’s excellent James Bonding podcast. If you’re a fan of Ian Fleming’s iconic secret agent, you owe it to yourself to give them a listen.

I have been a fan of James Bond from a very young age. My enthusiasm for his adventures is probably as old as my love of games. I am the ultimate James Bond apologist – I still maintain Die Another Day has its good moments (albeit very few of them). Bond and me: it’s true love.

So when the female guests on this Goldfinger podcasts began attacking the franchise from a feminist point of view within minutes of the episode starting, I couldn’t help but feel defensive.

It was the strangest sensation. I knew perfectly well that none of these comments are directed at me, or anyone who likes James Bond. I knew, in fact, that these women were absolutely right: Bond is a misogynistic arsehole. I’ve been watching through the films with my other half, and I become quite uncomfortable with how badly he (Connery, in particular) treats women. And yet I still felt defensive, almost hurt by some of the things said against the film, the franchise and the character. The words “No, because…” or “Yeah, but…” threatened to burst from my mouth on more than one occasion.

The only reason I can think of that would cause me to react in such an absurdly defensive manner is this: I’m too emotionally invested in the James Bond franchise.

I dread to think how many hours I’ve spent watching and rewatching these films, discussing them with friends or on podcasts, reading the books, playing the games – invest that amount of time into anything, and it’s understandable that it soon feels like a part of you. By extension, any attacks against that media feel like an attack on you, and human instinct dictates that we defend ourselves.

Perhaps this is what ran through the heads and hearts of so many GamerGaters when this whole fiasco began. The hours that many of these people pour into games is probably tenfold the amount of time I’ve spent enjoying James Bond. It’s natural that they will feel a little defensive when something they’ve chosen to invest so much time on seemingly comes under attack (if that is how they perceive it).

I am, of course, not condoning any of the abuse that has come out of this hashtag movement. Such behaviour is absolutely inexcusable under any circumstances. But perhaps now I can understand, on some level, the spark that led to such anger.

James December 12, 2014 Leave A Comment Permalink

Should 24 live another day?

24 lad

I should probably disclaim the following from the off: I’m more than a 24 fan. I’m a 24 apologist.

To me, it is perfectly believable that a man who has his heart stopped can still be revived and have enough energy to single-handedly bring down a corporate conspiracy, take out multiple commandos with a sniper rifle, and snap a man’s neck with the only side effects being the occasional need to clutch his chest and say ‘ow’. Why? Because it’s damn good entertainment.

Jack Bauer is TV’s James Bond. It doesn’t matter how diabolical the plot he foils is; I’m just happy to be along for the ride. So I was overjoyed when the show’s producers gave up trying to fund this movie that is clearly never going to happen and brought us the mini-series 24: Live Another Day.

And with the series now out on Blu-ray and DVD, I find myself thinking back on this new adventure for my favourite shoot-first, shout-dammit-later TV hero and wondering whether I want more.

The fact that I’m wondering this at all is not a good sign. Every previous series (yes, even the meandering confusion of Day Six) has left me eagerly anticipating Bauer’s return. As much as I knew that the ambiguous open end of Day Eight was constructed solely to allow more series to be produced – and purely for commercial, not narrative reasons – I wanted more.

Live Another Day has – SPOILER ALERT – just as open an ending, but I can honestly say I’ll not lose sleep if the 24 clock never ticks again. Even an irrepressible fan such as I can recognise when things have run their course.

Given the hype that surrounded Live Another Day, I doubt this is the last we’ll see of Jack Bauer (it’s Kiefer Sutherland’s biggest earner – the man’s got to eat, after all) but have they even left themselves anywhere to go?

As it stands at the end of Day Nine, Jack Bauer – MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT – has been taken away by the Russians to pay for all the people he killed in Day Eight. Chloe O’Brian is free to find a new direction for her life, having learned that the last few years of anger towards the Government for the death of her husband and son were completely unjustified.  President James Heller is suffering from the slow decline of Alzheimer’s. All other characters of note, that could have any importance on the series’ future storylines are dead.

24’s character kill count is both a triumph and a burden. From the heart-breaking death of Teri at the end of Day One – if you’re still reading, it’s safe to say spoiler alerts are redundant by this point – to Bill’s sacrifice in Day Seven, the writers have masterfully made us care about the deaths of these on-screen heroes.

But with such a body count now behind them, there’s no one left to kill. in fact, we’re now so accustomed to losing the ficitional people we love that the faked death of Heller and very real death of Audrey had no impact – which is criminal, given how well developed the storyline between her and Jack has been since she debuted in Day Four. Her declaration of hatred towards Bauer when he inadvertently causes the death of her ex-husband still upsets me on later viewings today, and yet her death did nothing.

Similarly, Jack’s rampage through the Chinese ship at the news of her death was nowhere near as dramatic as it should have been, because we’ve already seen him hell-bent on revenge in the final hours of Day Eight.

Herein lies 24’s biggest problem: it’s a victim of its own success. From the very first season, the show has broken new ground, changed the rules, presented plot twists and set pieces that had never been on TV before. The result is that there is very little it can do to shock us anymore. In breaking the formula for TV thrillers, it has formed its own and thus become formulaic.

Don’t get me wrong, the premise for this series was great: 12 episodes, spread across four hours. Jack’s on the run from the whole damn world for murdering half the Russian government in a murderous rage. Much missed characters James Heller and Audrey Boudreau (née Raines) are back. And it’s set in London. Many boxes ticked here, particularly for the most devoted of fans.

But there are so many missed opportunities. I thought the shorter format was to allow them to skip hours of travel that would have been boring to watch. Spend the first few hours in London, skip the hour or two it takes to get to Paris and have a few exciting episodes there. Europe is so closely connected that 24 could have delivered a thriller on a scale not seen before, but the cost of production and limits of what an on-location team can do means Live Another Day failed to live up to this potential. To call the ten-minute ’12 hours later’ epilogue disappointing would be an understatement.

Even the overall villain lacked something. The twist that Chang, the vengeful Chinese agent who harks back as far as Day Four, was the baddie would have been a great revelation… had he not been missing from the show for at least half a decade, and crammed into the last few episodes.

There was a lot 24: Live Another Day did right, and I’ll certainly be picking up the home entertainment release for later viewings, but I almost hope this is the last we see of Jack Bauer. Given all he has endured over Days One to Eight, the only satisfying ending would be one of two things: death, or retirement with Kim and his grandchild. The latter, sadly, is far too happy an ending for the show’s producers to even consider, and they have no way of making the former meaningful given that Jack has already died once, faked his death and been on his deathbed due to a biotoxin a few years later.

The only answer is to leave it, unless they can come up with the mother of all finales. Live Another Day was intended to give closure to fans, something it failed to do. I reckon they have one last chance, but they’d better be damn sure to make it a good one.

James October 8, 2014 Leave A Comment Permalink

‘One can’t be doing with this nonsense’

the queen

I had thrown this together as a potential April Fool’s story for Develop, but thought better of it. Still, why waste it, eh?

Royal family challenges King over trademark infringement

HRH Queen Elizabeth II decries Candy Crush creator’s “blatant disregard” for monarchy’s long-running brand

The royal family of Great Britain has given King a taste of its own medicine as it accuses the Candy Crush firm of trademark infringement.

Representatives at Buckingham Palace have told Develop that HRH Queen Elizabeth II personally gave the order to protect any terms that specifically relate to the monarchy, including ‘King’, ‘Queen’, ‘Prince’, ‘Princess’, ‘Crown’, ‘Palace’ and ‘Corgi’.

In a rare phone interview, Her Majesty explained why this issue is important to her.

“In these austere times, it is One’s solemn duty to protect One’s family and One’s branding,” she said.

“One will sit by and be usurped no longer. The English Monarchy far predates this King company – quite how they think they can get away with blatant disregard of One’s rights is quite beyond One.

“In the light of our most recent launch, Prince George of Cambridge – currently in Alpha, and later to be upgraded to King George VII – One felt it was prudent to pre-empt any attempt to capitalise on the Royal brand.

“Besides, One can’t be doing with the Candy Crush nonsense. Bejeweled is far better.”

Our sources suggest Buckingham Palace is also preparing a case against Ubisoft to block the Prince of Persia series.

Let’s try this again…

The yearly email reminding me to cough up for the domain name and web space required to run this bloke has for once made me stop and question what I want to do with it.

Originally, GJOB was set up as Games Journalism Or Bust, a blog that would chart my journey into video games journalism – but that was when I thought that journey entailed a five-year journey through local newspapers and non-games magazines interspersed with brief stints of work experience.

But that’s not what happened.

Through a little hard work, perseverance and a lot of luck and fortuitous circumstances, I not only secured a full-time position as a games journalist within months of graduation, I now find myself as Editor of games business magazine Develop. At this point, charting the journey would essentially amount to naval-gazing, perhaps even be misconstrued as bragging.

Equally, the intensive schedule of working on trade weekly publication MCV meant that for the last five years, I’ve been less inclined to spend my spare time writing for the blog. But now I’m on a (theoretically more relaxed) monthly schedule, I can think about what I want to use this web space for.

When backing up the original GJOB blog, I found that it had fallen away from expressing personal opinions and simply dumping my latest work into the feed as a half-arsed way to compile a portfolio. I found that I miss the former, and don’t really need the latter, so it’s time for a clean slate.

Games, Journalism, Other and Books sums up the four pillars of my life. It will be a place for a mixture of personal opinions, industry-based anecdotes, reflection on any pieces of work I’m proud of (I do still need to form some of portfolio) and possibly a little self-promotion if my writing career ever takes off.

As the title would imply, all posts will be split into four categories:

  • Games – Video games are my second favourite pastime. And while I don’t play them nearly as regularly as I want to, they still provoke interesting reactions (often unnecessary irritation) in me. Part of the fun of being a gamer is sharing your experiences and opinions with others like you. So I will.
  • Journalism – I am lucky to be where I am, doing what I do, and I can’t help but want to share that. These posts may be few and far between, and may even end up simply being copy and pasted articles that I have written for various publications, but this will be the realm of all my games journalism career stuff.
  • Other – Because I hate the phrase ‘Misc’ or ‘Uncategorised’. I am, after all, a human being and my life does expand beyond video games and my day job. You might get an insight into that with Other posts.
  • Books – My favourite pastime, shamefully drowned out by my second favourite. I’ve been both an avid reader and an aspiring writer from a very young age, but sadly after a full working day of staring at words on a screen, I usually just want to come home and blow stuff up. In video games – obviously. But I’m still trying to read more, and finish my many botched novels. If I ever finish any, I’ll be using Books posts to pimp the bejesus out of them.

So that’s that. And this was an unnecessarily long post to describe what hopefully the blog title and a brief glimpse of the homepage already tell you.

And yes, I’m aware it should probably be Games, Journalism, Books and Other, but I’m not buying another inevitably neglected domain name.

James November 28, 2013 3 Comments Permalink

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