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! ūüėÄ

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.

Games, Journalism and Culture: Games aren’t niche, so don’t make it look like they are (ASSESS)

This is the second and final of two pieces in my Games, Journalism and Culture series, focusing on how games are represented across the breadth of journalistic output. This particular piece also explores the importance of other media.

The debate of whether games are art may have a future, but there is no debate when considering whether games are a financial powerhouse. They are. The Motion Picture Association of America reports that the box office revenue for films worldwide was $34.7 billion¬†in 2012, whereas the projection for¬†video games, which reside nearly exclusively in the home, was $78.5 billion (including mobile) according to Reuters. Video gaming clearly isn’t a niche medium, yet it is treated as if it is.

The media needs to hold itself to account for making the medium appear niche. The U.K. ¬†launches of the PlayStation 4 and XBOX One, momentous on financial and cultural levels, found themselves on the none of the front covers of the U.K.’s four traditional high-quality newspapers: The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph or The Times. Indeed, the Financial Times did have PlayStation and XBOX on the cover of their November 29 issue, but only because of a feature looking at them in relation to media devices like Apple TV.

Sadly, when high profile figures speak about games, the stereotype of games as ‘bad’ or ‘trivial’ sometimes rears its head. The Telegraph reported how Prince William stated, regarding the PlayStation 4¬†“It’s very addictive….I’d like to get one but I’m not sure how my wife would feel about it.” (via PlayStation Universe). The implication is that games are a sort of guilty pleasure. David Cameron has also admitted to playing games¬†(BBC), and whilst it might be positive for him to reveal playing games, it would have been better if he had¬†revealed he dabbled in the likes of Papers, Please instead of Angry Birds. The problem with Angry Birds that it is merely games as entertainment. Whilst games being presented as appreciated by mainstream figures is positive, David Cameron’s revelation may have further enshrined the idea that they are trivial, and not aiding them in becoming further widespread.

The games industry can, surprisingly, be represented poorly by games journalists, even without apparent negative intention. The reference to the ‘gaming community’ is also problematic, something that an article by Simon Park for New Statesman brought to light for me, pointing out that its use¬†unintentionally suggests there is an archetypal gamer, when this is likely less true than ever. Wider culture isn’t helping either, with the blockbuster film Gamer being a generic action film, and reaffirming the image of games as being violent and childish. If only mainstream films portrayed the breadth and depth of games.

A major problem is the link between video games and celebrity, as we just don’t have any who have taken the world stage. Nolan North is, according to The Guardian, “the nearest thing the games industry has to a bona fide leading man.” Sure, he may be well know by by gamers, but how well known is he by the wider world? I think we all know the answer to that question, and as such, it needs tackling. The gaming industry needs high quality television shows, prestigious events, powerful orators. It needs to¬†appear¬†to be cultured, mature and mainstream. For the most part, we lack these. There are few T.V. shows worldwide dedicated to gaming. Some major gaming events have found themselves tainted by immaturity, which PSU shows with the case of VGX. Celebrities from other cultural forms regularly turn up to launch events. All of hese things make the industry weaker.

GamingByte has produced a helpful compilation of cringeworthy moments at VGX 

It wouldn’t take much for the games industry to gain more credibility, though the representation of gaming isn’t purely in the hands of gamers, games journalists, and the rest of the games industry. However, all gamers¬†can¬†do their bit. Treat our passion, our industry as mature and respectable, appreciate that it is made up of a diverse range of people. If we respect ourselves, others will.

What are your thoughts? Let me know below!

The next post will land on Monday, December 16. From that date onward, I will not be posting on Wednesdays. New blog posts will appear on Mondays and Fridays at the usual time of 6 P.M.  

Networking as an Amateur Journalist

Going to ExPlay 13 early this month was a new experience for me. I might be working and producing content on the internet, but I had not previously engaged with the industry on a face to face level. For someone just breaking into the industry, getting the opportunity to network was incredibly exciting. I don’t think I can preach the benefits of networking for the established journalist and the wannabe, as both have different aims.

Being at a conference sells you in a way that you can’t over the internet or even at an interview. When an editor of the publication sees you there, it is like seeing an animal in their natural territory; they get to see how you really behave out in the field. It’s also a good opportunity to chat to writers and editors on a more personal level, which could lead to work experience. However, when you’re chatting with someone who is already employed, don’t be robotic and desperate. You want your dream job, but they’ll know that by the fact you’re unemployed and yet at an event. Just be friendly and natural. Even if you don’t come away from your chat(s) with an opportunity, you should come away with new friends (and, yes, ‘contacts’).

You can also go ahead to chat with developers. If you’re chatting to indie developers, they could offer to let you have a hands on with a build of a game. This is a great opportunity for a write-up and, if you don’t have that much experience behind you, then it is even more valuable. Integrity, though, is a growing concern, so if you’ve been specifically sent something then I think you should be honest in your piece. Give a disclosure that is was sent to you directly. You can really like a developer on a personal level, but you are a professional, and both parties should expect each other to be professionals.

Whether you go to an event or you don’t, using social media is important. I don’t want to have to tout the benefits of one particularly platform but Twitter is where you need to be (aswell as LinkedIn, obviously, which is a mark that you take yourself seriously). You should be engaging with the work of journalists. However, there is a way that this should be approached. Being false and sucking up to people is not cool; showing your honest ‚Äď but not brutal ‚Äď opinions is. Show that you are a person rather than some copywriting machine.

You’ll find that the need for networking will never go away. As Matthew Reynolds, Gaming Editor at Digital Spy, said to Wannabe Hacks, you need to be personable in order to make contacts. ‘Without that, you won’t get leads’, he states. Readers will also want to see that you have a social media presence – and they’ll notice if you keep yourself to yourself.

Networking is both a necessity of journalism and rewarding. If you don’t think you can hack it but are desperate to be a games journalist, then you need to work on it or consider another career path. If you can hack it, then be prepared to meet plenty of interesting people, and to have a good social life ‚Äď journalists do have a reputation for being able to party. Being able to network successfully is by no means a guarantee of a career in journalism, but it will take you more than halfway towards that goal.

Keep an eye on my blog – I’ll be posting every Monday and Wednesday at 6pm, and whenever there’s a hot topic.