Synergy: Should games journalism be on games consoles?

It’s no secret that games consoles are trying to do everythingXBOX One, for example, has it’s sights on being an all-round entertainment platform. Microsoft made it’s intentions clear, telling Polygon that the console was aesthetically designed to interest a wider audience. PlayStation 4 might be focused on the core gaming experience, but still has a variety of entertainment apps. IGN even has a place on the PS4. Is it time, perhaps, that more games journalism took advantage of these platforms?

The question is, why isn’t this already happening? The current situation is that a gamer will go onto XBOX Live or the PlayStation Store and be battered by sale offers. There aren’t enough critical outlets, meaning that gamers, particularly more casual ones, may end up spending money without knowledge of the quality of the games that they are purchasing. Shouldn’t there be a balance between sales pitching and criticism?

One problem is that it’s unlikely to happen, or not without significant demand, anyway. Why would Sony or Microsoft have apps for all and sundry? The most likely scenario is that they would be selective about what appears; they wouldn’t give a platform to publications that provide harsher review scores. So no Edge, for example. This would make only a slight improvement over the current situation, as to have balance there needs to be as wide a range of views as possible.

If it happened, it could both reinvigorate magazines by sparking their move to digital. It could drive up the traffic for both online-only publications and magazines that have an online presence; whilst this could make magazines look even less financially viable, they would at least have somewhere to move to. There would be plenty of options for magazines to approach this situation, though. What about selling and viewing digital magazines through consoles? That would be mean far fewer people out of jobs than in a move to websites.

I can’t see this happening, as I think that if it turned out to be as successful a venture as I envisage, publications would be wary of upsetting the platform holders as they wouldn’t want to be turfed out. I’ve considered YouTube as an alternative, but obviously that isn’t game focused, and neither would Twitch be suitable, since it is focused purely on streaming games.

Even if everything worked out as hoped, even if there was a broad range of publications, it wouldn’t be fair. It could be a death knell for many a smaller website, with the bigger ones getting more traffic, more money and more success. Of course, IGN’s appearance hasn’t been a game changer to my knowledge, but IGN was already enormous. Even so, it is likely that we would see change if a flurry of outlets appeared.

I just can’t see this type of synergy working, and it’s a shame. It could bring an end to the this awkward tension in games journalism, this uneasiness with not knowing when magazines are going to disappear from the shelves. That’s where the real worry is. Until someone comes up with a revolutionary idea, I can’t see my concerns going away.

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Review: The WordPress Android App (Part 2)

I’ve decided not to do this part of the review on the go, as I thought that it wouldn’t be particularly fair or relevant since I can just as readily test it’s features anywhere. I’ll be giving the app a bit more of a grilling this time.

You might remember me saying before that the app is useless if you are starting a blog…but not totally. I’m going to try and create and use a blog, and see the difference in doing so.

Browser

Setting up the blog via a browser isn’t particularly daunting. It’s a linear process: you’re asked what you want the URL and title of the blog to be. You’re then shown through introductory steps to give your blog a tagline and a visual identity.

I decided to make my first post, and I knew that what it needed was a picture of my thumb. I had my phone to hand but, without the WordPress app to use, I had to tiresomely email the photo to myself and then download it to the computer before uploading it WordPress.

App 

One doesn’t have to turn on a computer to be a WordPress user, it seems. It’s easy to set up and account a start a blog from scratch, but alas, you aren’t given the nice introduction you get on PC. However, I was able to pick the nice Flounder theme for my blog, with Themes displayed clearly on the sidebar.

The rest of the appearance options weren’t to be found, meaning that I couldn’t insert widgets. This means that if I happened to start to generate traffic on the blog, I would be losing a significant opportunity to direct some of it to my social media accounts.

It’s easy to create a page or a post, and your tagging and categories options are available. However, don’t expect your first post to be an in-depth masterpiece. Images don’t always appear in the text box when you’re writing your post, unless sent from your phone, so if you’re looking for text wraparound, get to a computer.

You also shouldn’t bother using the app if you have a small touchscreen and research to do for your piece. The app is handicapped by the likelihood that you will have thrown your device against a wall after trying to search the internet.

Overall

The WordPress app should be viewed as a supplement for everyone apart from the casual blogger. It’s not convenient for every situation, but a keen WordPress blogger should not be without it.

DSC_0077

Here’s that picture of my thumb.

2014 Update #3

Hello!

I’ve let you all down recently, and I apologise for that. I’ve been really busy, so I haven’t been able to produce content at the rate that I would like to. 

That WordPress review will be up today, so you will get a Friday post, don’t worry.

I must also warn the blog will turn temporarily ugly as I have to write ASSESS next to some of the titles of my blog posts. This is because this is part of a university project as well as being a personal passion.

All the best to you, and Happy Friday! 😀

2014 Update #1

wpid-DSC_0075.jpg

The face above represents my disappointment in that I can’t get the second part of the review to you today. My phone charger is not with me, and my phone is due to die imminently.

I would like to state that this post had come from my phone, so I can give you a quick preview of my thoughts: I’m happy, especially with how easily you can share photos to WordPress.

To assuage your disappointment, I’ll be doing my first podcast today! The app review will follow on Friday at 12pm.

Cheers for now!

UPDATE: I’ve made the image smaller as I wasn’t too happy with how my face was blown to gigantic proportions. This might have been an error on my part, as I missed as to whether there were size options on the app.

Review: The WordPress Android App (Part 1)

This is the first part of my two part review of the WordPress app. The second part, which will constitute a hands-on on the go, will arrive on Wednesday at the earlier time of midday.

The app was tested on a Sony Xperia J mobile phone.

I felt a sense of doubt when I first launched the WordPress app. WordPress has so many customisation options and is pretty easy to use, but I feared that neither aspect would translate into the app. What I found was a well crafted app, but one that didn’t totally confront my concerns.

The most striking aspect of the app is it’s simplicity. There’s a sideboard but no dashboard, which seems to signal the intended use of this app: it is for blogging on the go, not for intricacies. That said, you can pick themes and look at stats, meaning that this is probably all you need after an initial PC setup.

Thankfully, you can write a post and no-one would be none the wiser as to the fact that it came from the app. The options are fairly comprehensive, though lacking the ‘kitchen sink’ found in the browser. However, images proved to be a source of hassle, by not always ending up where you want them despite alignment options.

You certainly aren’t the target audience of the app if you are a blog reader instead of a producer. WordPress’ reader is fully functional and is good for reading the blogs you follow. You won’t be happy if you’re trying to find new ones, though, as you can’t search by tag.

The app is fully functional and is a recommended download. It can’t be recommended as an alternative to the browser version, as it lacks the extensive functionality of it’s parent version. 

2014: Why look back, not forward?

Many people will be desperate to hear more about this year’s big titles. It seems that the expectation will be realised of most gamers going online to play story-led games such as Destiny and The Division. Perhaps the precursor to this was LEGO Star Wars, which popularised the idea of drop in/drop out local multiplayer, or perhaps DOOM’s influence is more notable, a game which showed the potential for online multiplayer. Does the past of a form of entertainment matter for our readers, though? Why shouldn’t journalists purely set their sights on the here and now?

destiny

Destiny (Image credit to Currys, game by Bungie/Activision)

There is a need to keep present and up to the demands of the 24 hour news cycle. For instance, people clamour to hear any information about the next Uncharted release, and a relevant website that doesn’t report updates on time risks significantly damaging their credibility. The focus of games journalists, for most publications, needs to be on current issue if they are to serve the needs of their readers.

The readers are the ones who keep a website running, but they are done a disservice, however, if it is assumed that they won’t have an interest in the past. Many gamers might if they were exposed to it, and it’s clearly evident that many still are, with services like XLink Kai keeping games alive that have said goodbye to their servers. If we don’t provide recognition that gamers buy and play games in different ways, then readers will undoubtedly spend more time on sites that dedicate themselves to their particular passions.

Understanding the past and the small communities that still exist around old games can also help the crafting of news and features. Press releases are all well and good in providing news about AAA releases, but what about a developer who has disappeared from the mainstream for ten years? Won’t the audience want to know what they are up to? And researching the past can’t replace thorough knowledge because, like following anything change, one doesn’t follow a straight path to see the evolution of games.

Understanding the past also lets games journalists understand the future. You can see trends, and you can write pieces that contain analysis based on a wealth of knowledge. I have previously said that communication is the most important part of journalism. However, what’s the point in communicating ideas if it is merely regurgitation? What makes games journalism irreplaceable? Games journalism only is if journalists have insight that others may not.

Remember that your work has the side effect of serving the games industry. I don’t mean that the needs of PR should be served, but if journalists aren’t going to champion all corners of the gaming industry, then who is? Yes, you might tell a friend about that trilogy Bungie made before Halo, but writing an article about it lets many more people know about something they might not. You will have provided a gateway to people who may not be familiar with games before the last generation. You have stopped the overwhelming hype PR for upcoming releases from dominating the gaming conversation.

 A screenshot of DOOM's multiplayer (Image credit to Dedoimedo, game by ID Software/Bethesda)

A screenshot of DOOM’s multiplayer (Image credit to Dedoimedo, game by ID Software/Bethesda)

The year has yet to begin in earnest, with none of the big titles having been released. This leaves a good chunk of time to consider how we can serve our readers better. As long as there is cause and effect, the past will always play a part in the present.