So You Want To Be A Games Journalist

A. And who can blame you? Being a Games Journalist is the finest thing the human soul can aspire to, but I’ll warn you right now; demand is so high that you are going to have to “get in the fucking queue”.
The responsibilities are sometimes crushing. Other journalists (lower case – cf “hey, it’s the Roman gods” and “Hi, I’m God”) are constantly asking us what it’s like, and we have to pretend it’s not quite as amazing as it is, just to be polite. Here are just a few letters from lower-case journalists I’ve had to deal with this week.

Hey Log,
I’m going to a party tonight and Julie Burchill told me it was fancy dress. I got excited and told Kate Adie, only to find out that Julie was lying to make me look stupid. Now I’m in a race against time to intercept Kate Adie before she arrives at the party dressed as Go-Go Yubari. Is this important enough for me to use the BBC helicopter?
Tony Parsons

Answer: Fuck yes. You literally cannot afford to waste time in Games Journalism. The deadlines are so aggressive and unwavering that it’s like defusing a bomb in a convent. More often than not we are compelled to send in our copy by helicopter or witchcraft.

Shit Log quick man this is urgent,
I’m about to hand in some article about dangerous dogs and I’m not sure I’ve got any of the facts right. Dogs are those things with four knees that bend the same way, right?
Come on man I’m outside the editor’s office as we speak,
Simon Hoggart

Answer: Hey Simon, chill the fuck up. Remember: whatever he says to you, it can’t change the fact the you wrote an article, so kudos to you. If anyone says you’re wrong, simply look them in the face and say “if you know so much about dangerous dogs, elephants, or whatever it is my article is about, where’s your article? Oh I forgot, you don’t have one”

Hey Log,
What’s Poco Loco like on the PSP?
Georgina Littlejohn

Answer: I have no idea what you are talking about. 43% of that wasn’t even words.

A. No problem – we Games Journalists aren’t shy. Attempts to feign humility are useless; our excellence is so dazzlingly obvious that pretending to be anything less than amazing is an insult to your intelligence. So let me tell you about my two favourite Games Journalists of like all time.

Jeff Ptarmigan

This is Steve Ptarmigan. Steve isn’t working in the field so much these days; in fact, he ascended bodily into heaven after giving 99% to Lunar Jetman’s graphics.
Jeff was most famous for the picture on the left, which was his visual response to every single game he reviewed. He used this drawing of his face to convey anger, excitement, disappointment and even arousal; in fact, Steve Ptarmigan was the very first person to suggest that good games were sexually arousing. It’s so common to wax orgasmic nowadays, that heart-wrenchingly emotional poetry is the only acceptable method of reviewing a game. (<50% = Heartbreaking Soliloquy, >50% = Randy Limerick). Take this 1998 poem that Bathtime Mahoney wrote in response to the Otacon ending of Metal Gear Solid.
Trapped in Shadow Moses, you got pretty injured.
I bought you twenty roses, I fought a cyborg ninja.
Now just gimme the sweet stuff, Emmerich,
Open up your honey pot, Hal,
Between my legs I can tuck my dick,
I can be your slotless gal 93%
Memorable quotes from my most recent reviews include “My nuts span around so fast that I’m not even joking this time 84%” (Dark Messiah) and “After downing an enemy Luftwaffe, I slid onto my back and use the weight of my legs to hump my own chin 52%” (Wings Over Europe).

Lady Marmalade

Lady Marmalade‘s famous review of Sinistar, in which they hid behind each other and screamed for six minutes, was to kick off a crazy new era in radical feminist Games Journalism. Older readers will remember Christina Aguilera’s spectular Namco petition, when she barnacled herself onto Namco HQ with the suction of her vagina, and whaled on the windows with her fists until they made a Pac-Man she could properly identify with. Similarly, Lil Kim was so taken with the communication system in Captain Blood she has the symbols for “WANT GIVE YOU GENETIC HELP” tattooed on her fibula.
Sadly, Pink and Mya were expelled from Games Journalism, after they were tricked into admitting that they’d never played Gorf. It was a shame, but come on – you’ll be telling me they haven’t memorised both sets of moves for the Chess level in Dragon’s Lair, next. This is BASIC GAMES JOURNALISM.
That is all the Games Journalists I can think of at the minute, but if you spot any more then please do send them in and I’ll update this… well, I suppose it’s an encyclopaedia, really.
A. Games Journalism is amazingly difficult (most scientists reckon it’s mathematically impossible / miraculous), but everyone agrees that the hardest thing about it is the percentages. Here’s the system I use; in time, you’ll probably make your own up with the numbers in the wrong order or something dumb like that.

< 10% This is really fucking low, so you can only give this score if there’s no graphics. There’s probably no script either, but if there is, it’s probably like “hello it’s aliens is this a superpower yes I’m flying high now that’s for sure”. Actually, that’s a fucking amazing script, which only goes to prove my previous point about how difficult it is for us to pretend not to be brilliant.
11-20% Never give anything 11-20%. If a game scores this low, you should just give it 6%, so you can phone all your journalist mates up and say “I totally just gave this game 6% and I didn’t even play it”. This will earn you a reputation as a tough cookie, especially if the game is excellent. You’ll be like Judge Steinberg, in situations where defence attorneys say “Shit, we got Judge Steinberg, he totally convicts everyone in trials of exactly this kind”.
21-30% This is a kinder score, and more like a sophisticated Wildean insult. It’s like inviting the games developer to a 19th Century party, and when they arrive you say “aha, sir, ’tis one thing to make a sub-par video game, and quite another to have a face like a big scabby dog plop”. It’s around this percentage that games start to have sound.
31-40% This is quite cruel. It’s like taking the developers out to dinner, then saying “perhaps you shouldn’t eat anything, after all you are pretty fat”. Then when they start crying you say “try to do the big heaving sobs, they’re like doing sit ups”. Games scoring 31-40% will feature puzzles which take you to up to three different continents.
41-49% Most people will be happy with a score in this bracket. It’s a begrudging embrace, say, after an argument you started about the Hoovering. But that wasn’t what was bothering you at all – you’re just embarrassed to approach the real problem. The game probably has a couple of driving levels, bullet time, and stuff that flies across the room when you walk into it.
50% No-one can argue with 50%. It’s the fairest score you can give to a game. To suggest otherwise is to imply that a universal truth exists inside your head, and a continuum of quality can by synthesised from human opinion, which is pretty arrogant. I give most games 50% because I’m the only truly humble person in the business.
51-70% This game probably has a bit where you drive a boat between waypoints to impress a mafia Consigliere. Use these scores wisely – throw too many high scores like this around and people will say “if you love games so much why don’t you marry them”, and you’ll have to marry the game, otherwise your Journalistic Integrity will be fucked.
71-99% Not currently used.
100% Games scoring 100% will obviously have cool stuff like cel-shaded tits and a spooky mini-game where have to blow out candles in the right order, but more importantly, it will have to reinvent the way we play games forever. Usually this involves there being no right or wrong way to complete a level, and unprecedented levels of freedom. Watch out for games where you can just run around and no-one says “come over here, we’ve got missions on”.

Once you’ve got the hang of percentages, you’ve got to learn the initials of all games, and the shorthand for the most common percentages. We’re constantly saying things like “Wow, Gamer slapped GRAW with a beefy Turlington”, just to remind everyone else how difficult our job is.

A. Yeah, but I’ll sign off with the three things I’ve learned in my nine long months in Games Journalism.

  1. If someone says “I liked that game” and you gave it a bad score, say “well on a superficial level it did have some merits, but it lacked the substance, nuance and finesse that I, a Games Journalist, require”
  2. If someone says that a game you scored highly was rubbish, simply make up some incredile plot twists and groundbreaking set-pieces that might have happened in the game. When they look confused, say “did you not get to that level? It really picked up around then”.
  3. If someone takes issue with something you wrote – perhaps you said a game was real-time strategy, when in fact it was a point-and-click adventure – refer them to your editor. Then put your finger under your nose, claim to be your editor, and tell them to fuck the fuck right off.

I hope you have fun becoming and being a Games Journalist. And remember; if you get asked a riddle in which one person always lies, and the other person always tells the truth, the answer always involves asking one person what the other one would say.
Also with opinions on this matter : Tom Bramwell, John Walker, The Triforce, Bill Harris, Mathew Kumar, Tim Edwards, Richard Cobbett, Kieron Gillen, Stuart Campbell, Affectionate Diary

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