Archive for the ‘ Update ’ Category

If you’re curious…

…as to the lack of content for a good couple of months, if not more, then your answer is this: I actually have a job, as of today. I’ll be writing away at my new position, as well as working on my first full-length manuscript, and I’ll return to the blogosphere at some point in the future, though possibly not to this particular blog. I thank you all for reading, and for now, adieu.

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The Sun Might Come Up.

Tomorrow, I go for a job interview, for Money Marketing.

This comes after two days of nine-hour conference learning sessions on financial journalism, fifty applications to various companies for various positions, forty-eight rejections, and far too many hours spent watching people mill around the Job Center Plus in north London like someone has just died.

Whether or not I’ll be successful, I’m not entirely sure. But this time, this time I know my content really well. I know my limits, my weaknesses, my experience, and of course, my portfolio will be 80% games journalism, because I think it represents me at my best, at my most passionate (I am aware of the irony of putting that word in italics, rest assured).

If I get the job, I will learn. I will improve. I will finally be able to show people that I can report news and investigate with the best of them, without having to desperately post things on an aggregate site just so five people can ignore the link and comment on my bad choice of relevant pictures because they lack nudity and/or Bayonetta (though both subjects share many traits).

I am scared, obviously. I’m terrified. I want this job because I want to prove myself. Do myself proud. Do Lex proud. Do my Dad proud – and most importantly, do my grandfather proud because it’ll prove him right – I got on with my studies, and I will be rewarded with the work I deserve.

I think I’ll always be a journalist, whatever my job title may change to over my lifetime. I’ll always look at events, even in my own life, in terms of news and tabloid gossip. I’ll always cringe at spelling and grammar errors in bestseller crime novels in Waterstones. And I’ll always silently fume when people choose the one game on the shelf that got bad reviews across the board because they think it’d be fun for their kid. It’s sad, really – we tell the parents of 2010 not to buy GTA IV for their 13-year-old, and yet – all the games for his age bracket are, well, shit.

Ahem – moving on. Tomorrow will be scary, and I’ll be nervous. But I’ll be damned if I won’t be determined. Hoo-rah, and all that.

Back to School.

It’s January, and I’ve just renewed this domain name (and the relevant WordPress domain add-on) for another year. In the recession, I think it’s important to make use of anything you spend money on, and I plan to.

Things are getting more intense and exciting this year, though I share the same doe-eyed wonder when perceiving the world around me as I did last January when Eddie gave me a column over at GamerNode. A year ago, I’d just begun my journey into games journalism, after working an almost month-long stint at IGN and beginning to hound the Escapist for articles, all attempts failing in the process.

A year and a half into this freelance journalism lark, and I’ve got Escapist articles banked and thanked for, along with various other journalistic opportunities. Soon, with luck, I’ll be delving into the world of financial journalism, and I’ve got to be honest, I’m more excited for it than I have been with anything else. It sounds like blasphemy on a blog dedicated to videogaming and my own critique of the aforementioned medium, but I assure you, I have my reasons. The financial industry is a seriously exciting place to be, with new laws coming into place and new rates to tackle recession, and for some reason that seems so much more real, so much more mature, than the current saturation of the games market by titles like Bayonetta and The Saboteur.

It begs the question: do I think about journalism – or the act of critiquing an artistic medium whilst still maintaining some façade of indifference to various platforms for the expression of said artistic think-pieces – differently now than I did whilst working the news desk four years ago at the Financial Times?

I’d wager I think about it very differently, having now seen both the light and dark sides to the art of putting pen to paper with only the intention of either upholding someone’s artistic efforts, or casting them down into the fiery pit of the game-shop bargain bin. “Journalist” is a pretty powerful word; something that symbolises criticism, expertise and the ability to render a marketing campaign null and void through the lack of a single star or half-per cent due to a small hiccup during the review process. Artists, novelists, games designers; all have had their career growths stunted due to the odd disappointment in the eyes of the critics, and it is this power that makes being a reporter, critic, journalist – whatever word you use in place of “advisor to those who wish to be reassured” – such an interesting task to undertake.

Unfortunately, with games journalism you’re at the bottom of that particular food chain. To most of the British public, you’re not really a journalist at all – in fact, you’re most likely a geek with a penchant for slagging things off on the internet, and then covering your own arse with clever rhetoric and a pseudonym in order to avoid any retribution for too scathing a response to a game you had sent to you for free. Most entertainment journalists are accused of simply doing the work they do for the stash – those free games, t-shirts and various other items given to us at preview events in Soho hotels – and not, in fact, to uphold unbiased commentary on the medium they claim to uphold so passionately.

Let me assure you, this is far from the case.

Looking back, I should have known that day in Birmingham was going to be an odd experience. I’d recieved the call two days prior to the event, a collegue back at IGN UK asking me if I’d be interested in previewing a fighting game (whose name I’ll remove for the sake of the lovely man in PR who I’d rather remained anonymous). I knew right then that, through covering Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, I’d been pigeon-holed into the journalist IGN used to cover games that involved people hitting other people in a ridiculously melodramatic display of masculine insecurity and hidden sexual frustration. I sighed, but I knew the money was good and I wanted the experience. That, and the developer’s PR staff are about as pleasant as you can get – their presence at the IGN Christmas bash alone being evidence enough to quantify this, as not many of those who sit on the other side of the fence are then called back into the warm fold of the thankful journalist.

Upon arriving, we stood in the station, a mob of geeky individuals trading banter with the PR staff and various journalists waiting to jump on the coach and go to a gym. They spoke of the gym as if it were a mystical place – as though we’d not really fit into the lean, mean, keen demographic that (I take it back, “lean” may be correct) would visit this place. I’ve got to be honest; looking at us, I had to agree. Eventually, we arrived at the gym and took our goodie bags.

I’m a child, let me state this for the record now, your honour. I am a child, and when someone hands me a bag with presents in it, I’m going to take a look, even if I’m never going to actually use or consume the contents of this mysterious sheath of plastic between me and the free bits and bobs doled out at events, presumably in the vague hope of tilting our bias towards the positive. In the bag was a massive plastic cup – protein shake mixer, I suppose, though I only use it for water, even now – and various discs and bits of paper allowing us access to the images, videos and banners we’d need to compile the visual aspect of the article.

However, hidden near the bottom, was a little tub of what I can only describe as mild steroids.

“Weight Gain Pills,” the label loudly proclaimed. After presuming this to be the case, Lex’s mother – a nurse of some thirty-plus years – assured me this was not, indeed, the case at all. In fact, they’d given a load of games journalists a bag full of steroid-chugging manly equipment to firmly put us on the road to looking like the blokes on the covers of Men’s Health who we all claim to despise but secretly admire for their ability to put the gym over the other G-word (I am, of course, referring to “gamerscore”).

Bags of stuff, however, don’t exist in the financial journalism world, as far as I’m aware. Information vital to the talk taking place is of course, present, but outside this, there are no legendary bags of swag. There are, therefore, no more awkward thank yous on receipt of said bag, and then the mad hunt to find somewhere to leave it inconspicuously so the publication’s office staff don’t think you’ve been bought off (they needn’t worry, the game was of questionable entertainment and filled with the precise sort of hyper-macho bikini-clad sweating muscular bullshit that makes FHM one of the most successful magazines in the country despite a complete lack of journalistic merit – and yet a five star review by The Daily Star is more valuable to my District 9 DVD than a mediocre review by The Guardian).

Soon I’m off to a course to brush up on my knowledge of the financial services industry. My father is an independent financial adviser, and, though he denies it, a bloody good columnist for a number of financial publications. Growing up in that household, I took business studies at GCSE, though initially it was simply to understand what he was talking about when he got home from work. Finding that business studies is simply a mixture of basic maths and common sense, I decided to persue the subject to A-level, before realising I’d rather write about the company with a big return, rather than having a 90-hour-a-week part in bringing the revenue in.

Fund management, new banking laws, the RDR (a law stating your examination qualifications have to be redone to continue being an IFA in a post-2012 environment): all of these are important to me, now, though I realise they’ve all had some resonance in my life growing up in a household where I was taught to budget before I was taught to pronounce the word itself. An odd childhood, sure, but it’s resulted in financial stability and a forward thinking attitude.

Sometimes, if you’re writing a blog post, it’s best not think forward. I’ve gotten through 1398 words in 15 minutes or so simply by writing without thinking, and it’s all very well. With news, there’ll be press releases, maybe a calculator application open; and with features, simply myself, a keyboard, and occasionally a phone to harass poor IFAs/developers about what exactly makes their pension plan advice/level 27 sub-boss so damn important and better than that of everyone else.

*pause*

Good lord, will someone give my writing purpose, before I start penning romantic comedy novels.

And now, we cue the music.

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He came, he saw, he somehow graduated.

One Saga Finishes, Another Begins

Tuesday was a very odd day in terms of moving on to the next stage in my life as a growing adult.

I was sat on the sofa, taking in both the background television and some good old Dan Abnett swashbuckling fiction. The phone rang, and I picked it up, the private number code signifying to me that it could only be one ex-directory person: my mother. The conversation was normal, at first, and I assumed she was simply checking in.

“By the way, I have your results.”

I stopped for a moment, knowing that for the last five months I had been on a knife edge between a 2.2 and a 2.1, the board’s decision of whether my grade average, a mere one point two percent below a 2.1 deciding whether or not I would attend graduation with my head held high or low. I swallowed, and steeled myself against the disappointed tone she had accosted me with.

“You got a 2.1.”

I stopped for a moment then, and after a few tears I realised that, in life, there are a few times you’re allowed to feel fairly good about yourself. Some of those times are small, grin-worthy moments, such as rejecting a doughnut, or winning a skateboard luge contest at thirteen. However, some are when you know you’ve achieved something magnificent by the goddamn skin of your teeth.

The thing with English as a degree, is it’s a pretty damn subjective thing to write about. I could have done any number of subjects where, for example, one plus one would always, without fail, equal two. However, I chose to do a subject where they’d give you just under a 2.1 simply because you weren’t fucking Dickensian and willing to worship at the altar of Jane Austen. Thankfully, in my third year I got my head down (thanks to a girlfriend who works hard and isn’t afraid to offer helpful criticism – I can be a right git when told I’ve written something incorrectly), and I succeeded. It’s not a first, but damn it, it’s great considering the subject, and I’m happy.

Another week, another post.

It’s been a week of mixed emotions and mixed events in and around London, but I’m now sitting comfortably in the living room, pondering my moves for the coming week. With not much work done on the current novel I’m a little frustrated with myself, but this week will be adequate time to catch up, as will the weeks leading up to my graduation ceremony in October, though my mood on said day will depend on whether or not I’m in the middle of an appeal for a 2.1.

It’s strange going from writing news daily in a hardworking office to simply not doing anything much from day to day in terms of journalism, but it’s allowed me to get my bearings. I have five (I know) job applications on the go, all of them interesting, and I’m seeing someone tomorrow that may result in a much-needed financial boost. I’m attempting to track down both ODST and Arkham Asylum over the coming week, and I’m excited to play them both. I’ll be writing a long entry on ODST after I’m done with the campaign and have experimented in FireFight a little.

Working my way through more science fiction; almost done with Fallen Angels, and about to launch myself into the Ravenor Omnibus by the extremely talented Dan Abnett. Little frustrated with Angels as it’s not gone as far with the plot as it should have in the space of 400 pages; it’s not a three-act story, and they’re stretching it out into a climax, whereas a far bigger plot event, such as the Space Wolves coming for Magnus and the Thousand Sons, will be over and done with in two novels. That being said, Graham’s indicated that the Thousand Sons book is ridiculously long, so perhaps the two will justify the gravity of their subjects in terms of length.

Had a great deal of fun seeing some old friends (decade, at least?) and found they had the most amazing habit going, collectively; playing the demo track of DiRT on the Xbox 360 on hard to see who could get the best time. At first, I was a little puzzled as to why one of them hadn’t simply purchased the game, and then I remembered how much fun I’ve had playing demo tracks over and over, especially in racing. The graphics are stunning, and it’s one of the few racing games that have piqued my interest, though that small number is increasing more and more, recently.

I also managed to borrow Grim Fandango off of one of them, as I’m missing my copy, so I’m ecstatic to be returning to the Land of the Dead in a couple of weeks when I get some spare time. As most people know, it’s my favorite game, actually introduced to me by the person who has just lent me a copy. Many fond memories of running up my phone bill asking him for a live walkthrough of the game. Many memories indeed.

I’ve also decided to put my Warhammer 40K dreams on hold for the time being, until I can get steady on my feet with a regular source of income. That said, I’ve got my eye on the shiny new MX laptop from Alienware, so the Black Templars 7th Company may have to wait a few months. Anyhoo, back to reading through seven years of Ctrl+Alt+Del, tara.

Freedom.

As of this weekend, I am no longer a reporter at Money Marketing as my internship has now finished. I got fourteen articles up on the web and a ton of stuff for their printed counterpart, so I’m happy with the workload. In my spare time between news-rushes, I completed 15% of my novel, which at a predicted total of 100,000 words is a fair amount to do in five-minute snatches.

Currently awaiting the results of three job applications, and crossing my fingers so hard I fear they’ll snap. I’m excited about all of them as all three have a lot of future in them and will help me develop as a writer, so I’m pleased if I even get an interview. In the meantime I’ll be working, seeing friends and, most importantly, spending some much-needed time with Lex. I enjoy working, but spending eight to ten hours away from someone you’re living and in love with is always difficult.

I’d also like to give a shout out to The Daily Scoundrel, a blog maintained by Lewis and a few of the Resolution boys that deals with film, music, TV and more, whilst still putting up interesting commentary on games. It’s also mostly work-safe (as in you can access it at work and your IT dept won’t shout “GAMES” at you and deny access, not as in it’s pornographic), so it’s great if you want to read something interesting in your lunch-break. I recently had a great debate about District 9 in their comments section.

They’ve worked damn hard, so go visit! They put up a fair bit of content every day, and it’s all very high-quality and in-depth as opposed to the majority of twitter-length bullshit posts you get on entertainment blogs these days.

Also looking into returning to Warhammer 40,000. I’m tempted to not spend tons on new figures, as Lex (quite astutely) pointed out that although a fair bit of it is broken (collapsing wardrobe, go figure), I’ve still got at least 1000 points of Orks and as many of Tyranids, so I can simply buy a few new paints and get started again without breaking the bank. I’ve had a (pdf-based, don’t shoot me, I’m broke and I’m buying it at Christmas anyway) look at the fifth edition rules and they’ve ironed out a lot of the ridiculously complex bullshit that made me more of a painter than a player.

I’m also in the process of looking at changing this blog’s domain name and exporting all the old posts to a new blog that simply has my name on it, as I think this fits the wider range of writing that I’m doing – that and forthegamergood.com doesn’t look so great when making serious applications to business publications.

Enjoy the weekend!