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.

My two personal journalistic highlights of 2013

It’s 2014, and I can’t quite believe it. 2013 was memorable, and I’ll sure all of you will agree if you’re looking on gaming terms, with massive titles such as BioShock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V, but both were arguably dwarfed by the release of XBOX One and PlayStation 4. The games journalist has had the opportunity to write about one of the most important years in recent gaming history.

I don’t just want to talk my thoughts on the year’s games, or purely about my writing games journalism. I’ll be looking specifically at my personal highlights as a writer across all fields.

2) Radio and Podcasting

I’ve done a lot of radio work in the past year, to my surprise, and it’s made me realise that I have an unexpected passion for it.

It started when I was unexpectedly asked to co-host the sports segment on Amplify, one of the shows on Bath Spa University’s student radio. It was an opportunity that I was keen to take up as I love sport. However, it was nerve-wracking entering the studio for the first time, with other hosts watching me from beyond the glass. I didn’t know if I could pull it off. Apparently I can, though I’m still learning.

My co-host and I had the idea to do something that combined news with analysis. The balance was a difficult one to strike, and I found switching from one to the other a little difficult. SpaLife has tested my talents as a speaker as I’ve not just done sports but experienced film review and chat too, and I’ve loved it.

Since then, I have indeed been in an episode of PSU’s podcast, PlayStation Unchained, which was great fun. It’s easy to forget that you’re doing work when you’re talking to a bunch of friends about your mutual and personal passions.

One of my great passions is the Star Wars franchise, so it was with no reluctance at all that I took the opportunity to guest on EUCantina’s EUCast. There has been a pan of Star Wars related information boiling in my head for years, and to be able to release some of it, to be able to seriously discuss something I have a deep interest in, was a real highlight of the year.

1) Working for PlayStation Universe

My highlight has undoubtedly been working for PlayStation Universe. It’s been a tremendous, exciting time, and I can’t believe I’m nearly at the point of having been staff for one year.

It is said that joining workplaces can be sometimes intimidating. I never found that the case at PSU. From the start it seemed a place where I could share my ideas and they would be seriously considered as if I wasn’t just new on the team.

Finding my feet took a little time as it does with anywhere. I had writing experience, but with any new environment, one has to get used to the way that things are done. I had to become familiar to the ideas of working with a team of people over the internet, making sure I posted regularly, etc. The thrill has been from trying to master all of this; I find no thrill in standing still.

Getting increasingly involved has been brilliantly, and I’ve loved taking the variety of stuff that I’ve done: covering the E3 livestream, podcasting, general day-to-day writing and, most of all, working with a creative and energetic group of people.

To sum up my journalistic year, the real pleasure has been tailoring it towards my passions. The last year was one of the first where I was able to go in my own direction and make what I believe to be a real success of it.

DISCUSSION: What do you want from games journalism?

Hi all,

I’m not blogging today, but I’m keen for some discussion. I would really love to hear what you want from games journalism. It seems appropriate to reflect since we’ve just headed into a new console generation, which has affected PlayStation journalists; it makes gameplay streaming easy, which opens up new opportunities for how journalism is conducted.

What I would love to hear in particular is: in what manner is games journalism succeeding and how is it not? What type of articles do you want to see more or less of?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

~Lee