This is my last day writing about video games

28 11 2014


It feels strange to say it, but here goes: Today is my last day writing about video games.

I’ve spent my entire adult life going down this career path, so this is “a big thing” for me. Granted, I’m only 28 so that’s not exactly forever, but it’s still a quarter of my life that I’ve dedicated to the cause — and when I look back at how I got started, writing PC reviews for a Dutch website because I was a student and too poor to buy games myself, it feels like maybe I took this joke a bit too far.

I’ve worked with some genuinely incredible people over the last eight years, and got really rather lucky multiple times over — but I also worked my arse off too. At one point, circa 2010, I was writing three game reviews a day, getting paid around $15 for each one, and barely scraping by. When I was given the UK editor job at Gamasutra at the start of 2011, and simultaneously asked to be Handheld Editor at Pocket Gamer, the sigh of relief I let out must have been felt all around Manchester.

Ever since I started writing about games, one of my main goals has been to help amazing up-and-coming devs get noticed — that feeling of watching a game spread thanks to coverage you gave it is simply unbeatable. I still get emails and messages now from developers who I covered on back in 2009, 2010, thanking me for giving them the confidence to properly forge a career in making video games.

To this day, I still regularly hunt for new games to talk up, and that thrill of finding exciting experiences that no-one else has spotted yet is still such a rush. I’ve also been doing the conference circuit over the last couple of years, giving devs tips on the best ways to get their games noticed, and that’s just been so much fun.

I have no plans to stop doing any of this, which is why my next job (which I’ll be talking about on Monday) is essentially the obvious next step for me. I’m so pumped to tell you what I have lined up — it’s going to give me far more potential to help new devs out than writing silly ol’ words ever did (I’m just kidding words, I still love you.)

And who knows, maybe I’ll be back again someday. I’m sure the itch will get to me at some point, and I’ll do some little personal writing bits and bobs — I’ve actually been writing a novel for a couple of years now, and have been meaning to finish that up at some point, so maybe this is the right time.

But for now, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say a big thanks to the people who put me where I am today. People like Erin Bell, formerly of Gamezebo, and Jim Squires of Gamezebo who took a chance on me; Jamie Davey and Joe Robinson of Strategy Informer who, again, were nice enough to host my words; People at places like, Resolution Magazine, DIYGamer et al who gave me money and helped me survive, simply for playing video games.

Large-scale thank yous go to the people at Pocket Gamer who helped push me up several rungs — Jon Jordan is a wonderful man and owner of the best fingernails in the games industry, Rob Hearn is also a true champion, as is Chris James, Mark Brown, the whole damn PG team.

The biggest, most [EXCLUSIVE] thank yous are reserved, of course, for my Gamasutra peeps. Honestly, I feel like a crazy person leaving my job at Gama, because I genuinely believe that it is the best possible job that writing about video games has to offer. For realz, I just can’t believe how lucky I got to land my Gama job.

Simon Carless picked me up at the end of 2008, based on just a month’s worth of posts to a crappy blog I’d started (this crappy blog, in fact!), and plopped me in my role alongside the legendary Tim W. From there, he coached me in The Arts, and eventually gave me the Gamasutra job. I literally wouldn’t have the life I have now if it wasn’t for him, so I kinda owe him. Still trying to work out how to pay him back!

Kris Graft! That beautiful man. That man who molded me, made my words not shit anymore, and trusted me to look after the Gama fort while America was sleeping. The worst thing about leaving Gamasutra is knowing that I’m not going to get to talk to Kris every day. I made proper friends in this job, and I’m pretty torn up about leaving them behind.

Working alongside Leigh Alexander and knowing my words would never be as good as hers was exactly what I needed, because it always forced me to push myself – I can’t thank her enough for that. Christian Nutt always kept me on my toes and challenged what I thought was good work, only to discover that I still had plenty to learn. I only worked with Alex Wawro for a year, but Christ, I think he might be the nicest man in video games. I hope the coming years are amazing for each and every person I worked with.

OK I’m done now. Sorry that was a bit long, I probably could have written loads more, but I will curb myself. I will leave you with links to some of my favourite work over the years. Looking forward to talking about my new stuff on Monday!

Chasing the Whale: Examining the ethics of free-to-play games
Video games and gun violence: A year after Sandy Hook
Lords of War: The gunrunners of Counter Strike: Global Offensive
Dwarf Fortress in 2013
Ridiculous Fishing: The Game that Nearly Ended Vlambeer
Using SimCity to diagnose my home town’s traffic problem
Is YouTube killing the traditional games press?
Pay for Play: The ethics of paying for YouTuber coverage
The Sun vs Nintendo 3DS experiment

How to get rid of AMozilla Crash Reporter

30 01 2014

I started getting crash reports from a weird program called AMozilla. It appears to be something to do with Firefox, but on closer inspection, it was actually malware that had found its way onto my PC during a K-Lite Codec Pack installation. I managed to kill it off, but I’m guessing other people will have the same problem. Here’s how I did it:

1) Press Ctrl + Alt + Del and hit “Start Task Manager”
2) locate the process called “dwm.exe *32” (Its description will be “Firefox”
3) Right click this process, and hit “Open File Location” (see Arnstein’s comment below if you don’t see “Open File Location”)
4) Now you’ll be able to see where the malware is being stored – it was stored in c:/program files (x86)/common files/AirSage for me, but I’ve seen other people who have found it in a fake Lenovo file
5) Type regedit into your Start menu search bar, and in your registry editor, go to Edit, then Find
6) Search for AirSage, or Lenovo, or wherever you found the malware, and you should find one particular registry file that points to data.js in the malware file. Delete that registry key
7) Restart your PC, then bring up Task Manager again, and this time click on dwm.exe *32 and hit End Process
8) It shouldn’t come back, thanks to you killing the registry key. Now go find that folder that contains the malware, and delete it
9) Finally, go back to the registry and search for the folder name again. If a new file comes up pointing to the same data.js file, kill that too

And that should do it – or at least, it’s done it for me! Please do tweet at me if this works for you, or if you find any additions to my solution!

You should back Tim W on Patreon

27 01 2014

ImageRob Fearon has already explained why you need to support Tim W’s Patreon, but I really feel the need to throw my own two cents in, as the chances are I wouldn’t be where I am today without Tim.

There’s plenty of people I can say that about – wonderful souls like Simon Carless, Kris Graft, Geoff Gibson, Erin Bell, Jamie Davey, pretty much everyone at PocketGamer, and plenty more inspirational wordsworths who took a chance on me – but here’s why Tim is so important, not just to myself and my career, but to independent developers everywhere and pretty much the entire games industry:

  • When he started, there was barely anyone covering independent games. If you want to try and trace this current indie boom back to its Day 0, you might want to start around there.
  • When Simon Carless brought Tim on to head up the Weblog, it gave him this incredible opportunity to expand his audience. He spent his days posting up game after game after game – most of the popular indie devs that you know about now were most likely highlighted first by Tim years ago. Tim was the first person to ever post about Minecraft. Here’s Tim talking about a game from Jan Willem Nijman back in 2008 (who is now one half of Vlambeer.) Here he is talking about Noitu Love 2 around the same time. He covered Canabalt dev Adam Saltsman, Hotline Miami creator Cactus, Super Hexagon dev Terry Cavanagh, and NIDHOGG man Messhof all as early as 2007/2008. All the success you see in the indie scene now, Tim was an integral part of making that happen more than six years ago.
  • As Tim covered games on, many of the bigger sites began picking up on his work. Places like Rock Paper Shotgun, Joystiq, Kotaku and more began citing as the place they found plenty of cool games, and if you trace viral indie booms back to their source around the time that Tim was gunning the posts out, you’ll often find that he was the reason that numerous games caught the mainstream media’s attention.
  • What I’m trying to say is, hundreds of indie developers owe their success to Tim in some form. If you don’t believe me, go and check the list of people who have backed him on Patreon. You’ll find familiar name after familiar name, and often you’ll see “Patron to 1 creator” underneath their names – they’ve all signed up solely to give something back to the guy who helped make them in the first place.

I could go on and on, but I’ll finish up with my own story. I began my writing career by covering indie games at the start of 2009, due in part to having been exposed to them through When Simon asked me to join Tim and work at, I quickly became inspired by the way Tim could reach into the internet and pluck out the most incredible games from the deepest depths of some forums you’ve never heard of. I took this inspiration and attempted to mold it into my own path, and my love for indie games (and therefore my career) would not have happened were it not for him.

So whether you’re aware of Tim’s work or not, go and give him some money – the chances are he has affected you in some way, whether you realize it or not.

How to play JS Joust Hide and Seek

3 01 2013

joust hide n seek1) Wait until night time
2) Turn out all the lights
3) Everyone go and find a room to hide in
4) Activate your Move controller
5) Decide whether you think your hiding place is so good that it’s worth staying there, or whether you might as well go looking for other people
6a) If you chose to hide:
– Attempt to shield your Move controller as well as possible such that the ball isn’t lighting the room up and giving away your position
– Wait until someone enters the room and is sufficiently jump-prone, then leap from your hiding space (making sure not to set off your own controller in the process) and make a huge noise of your choosing
– If that doesn’t do it, engage is regular Joust battle
6b) If you chose to hunt:
– Move slowly but surely around the house, entering rooms by either flinging the door open or by batting the door back and forth, just in case combatant is hiding behind the door
– When you discover someone, make sure not to drop your controller in fright, then use your positional advantage to box them into their hiding place and slap the Move controller out of their hand
– Once opponent is beaten, move on to next room

– Use items around the room to your advantage. Because it’s dark, your hunter won’t notice a book hitting them in the face until it’s too late.
– Sometimes the best hiding places are right out in the open. If it’s dark enough and you can hide your Move controller under your top, suddenly throwing an arm out in someone’s eyeline can have great effect.
– 3 on 3 team games can work just as well: 3 people have 20 seconds to hide, then the other 3 go looking for them, preferably splitting up such that team-mates hear them screaming from various places around the house as a game progresses.

(Tom took the photo)

The doubt is there

19 11 2012

Save for a number of snarky comments on Twitter, and last week’s “Are you a true games journalist?“, I’ve tried to directly stay out of the whole MCV and Square Enix debacle. It pains me that a lot of readers now just take it for granted that shoddy journalism is how the games journalism space works, and discount those of us trying to make an honest living out of it as a result, but there’s not really a lot else I can add to the discussion that hasn’t already been said. You’ve most likely already read John Walker’s write-up of the whole debacle, but it’s here if needed.

This morning, however, things have changed for me with this post on MCV. It’s an article about how critics love the new Hitman game, and are giving it 9 out of 10s across the board, all except for that one “grumpy” outlet that gave it a 7. It paints a picture that tells its readers to go out asap and grab the game, because just look how great it is.

A quick Google, however, shows that this really isn’t the full picture. A 66 percent from PC Gamer. An Edge 7/10. A 7.5 from GameSpot. 6.9 from GameTrailers. Either everyone’s being a little “grumpy” this morning, or the article isn’t as reliable as you might first believe.

Of course, games journalists all piled on, as we do. MCV first put out a snarky update about how people were “up in arms” about it, yet still kept the “Critics delighted” headline. Then another update after even more pressure, in which they quickly note the negative reviews in a single sentence, while also rectifying the article’s positive angle by adding more high-scoring reviews just below, along with the Metacritic scores. The headline still read “Critics delighted.” A final update altered the headline, after even more pressure and complaints.

I haven’t played the new Hitman. I honestly couldn’t care less whether it’s good or not. Whether Hitman is an enjoyable game isn’t the point here. The issue that people are driving at is that MCV has told its readers that the game is reviewing incredibly well, when in fact they simply failed to list the negative reviews. It’s a false article. It does not hold the full truth. And in turn, it is lying to its readers.

The reason I wanted to say something today is because, for the first time, I’m not even sure if it is shoddy journalism anymore. Up to this point, I’ve been telling myself that all this MCV and Square Enix buddying up malarkey has simply been a result of naive, silly journalists not understanding the gravity of the situation.

I believed that MCV hasn’t officially responded to what happened because it’s acting like a teenager, and when a teenager has done something wrong, they just bury their head in the sand and try to brush all the complaints off. It’s far easier to do that on the internet, where you can simply just not mention it.

After this article today, my opinion has completely swayed, to the point where I now believe that I may have been duped. Maybe it isn’t MCV that is naive – maybe it’s me.

Let’s cut the situation down to its fundamentals. One of the following must be true:

1) MCV has been writing shoddy pieces about Square Enix games, and simply not realizing it. Even after being at the centre of such a wide discussion, MCV continues to write these articles that paint Square Enix games in a hugely positive light, accidentally leaving out whole chunks of fact

2) Square Enix is paying MCV to write positive articles

Again, one of these two things must be true. Now, up until this particular article, I was certain that number one was true. With this latest development, however, I have now swung partially into number two territory. That’s not to say that number two is definitely true – rather, this Hitman article puts enough doubt in my mind such that I can’t help but consider it.

Which is exactly what Rab was saying in his Eurogamer piece. Doubt is the real killer. If I doubt that a journalist or a news website is completely impartial, then how can I trust a word that they write? Whether it is the case that MCV is being naive or just plain devious with the facts, there’s no real way to know unless someone speaks out. But the doubt is now there, and I can now no longer read an MCV article without wondering if there’s someone else pulling the strings, or throwing cash about.

Again – there’s no hard evidence to suggest that anything untoward is going on. But doubt doesn’t require confirmation – it just needs a two to put together with another two. And doubt can be the true killer of a reputation.

Are you a true games journalist?

6 11 2012

Hey you! Are you a games journalist? Ha! You might think you are, but I’ll be the judge of that. The following quiz will test whether you have the stones to call yourself a true games journo like the great Geoff Keighley (pictured above, of course), and has been approved as “extremely scientific” by an extensive board of PR bigwigs.

Simply answer the questions truthfully, marking down a, b or c, then check out your results at the bottom to discover whether you can keep your head held high, or whether you should be looking for another job.

1. There’s an embargo of 5pm this afternoon for the review of a huge AAA game. Do you…

a) post your review at 5pm on the dot
b) post your review at 4.52pm, to get ahead of the Google traffic
c) post your review at 4.30pm, but hide it lower down on your site for half an hour before shifting it up to the top, thus securing your ‘first’ status on Google while not getting in trouble

2. Sony announces that a trailer for GTA V will appear on YouTube tomorrow. Do you…

a) set a reminder for yourself so that when the trailer drops tomorrow, you’ll be prepared for it
b) tweet from your website’s Twitter account that a trailer for GTA V is dropping tomorrow
c) make an entire news post about the fact that a trailer for GTA V is dropping tomorrow

3. You’re getting married this weekend. Your favourite PR person is…

a) invited to the party afterwards
b) Your best man/bridesmaid
c) Your husband/wife

4. A new mobile social game is selling by the bucketload. Do you…

a) download the game and try it out, and then armed with your opinion and experience with the game, contact the studio and work up a detailed interview about its success
b) post about the game, whether you’ve tried it out or not, and give a little context to the title’s success
c) post a couple of lines about the game, with the main sales figures in the headline, and then wrap it up with some sort of derogatory comment about how all social games are shit

5. A game has arrived for you to review, and it’s ‘the next big thing’ that everyone has been waiting for. It’s also not out to the public for another few weeks. Do you…

a) take pride in the fact that your job allows you to enjoy moments like this, and keep it to yourself
b) post on Twitter that a game has arrived, but tease that you’re not allowed to talk about it yet
c) take a picture of the game box, and then post it to Twitter with the caption “Guess what I’m going to be doing this weekend.” Then take pictures of any of the promo stuff that came with it and post them up too

6. A big story hits, and you need to get it written up asap. Do you…

a) work quickly and efficiently, making sure to give all the facts to your readers, and getting someone else to check it over for you before you post it up, since you may well have produced an error or two in your haste
b) post the news up as quickly as you can, not checking for errors or grammatical mistakes until it’s live, because getting up on Google asap is the name of the game
c) write a quick line or two summarizing the news, and get it up within a minute. You can then go and add the actual details of the news later, or maybe just not bother and copy/paste the press release below instead

7. Markus ‘Notch’ Persson, the creator of Minecraft, has tweeted about something. Do you…

a) notice that he has tweeted something, and move on to something else
b) consider whether you can turn what he has said into news, and look elsewhere for information to pad the single tweet out with
c) post the tweet in full immediately to your website, because let’s face it, just mentioning Minecraft brings in mega-hits, so who cares if it’s actually news or not

8. A French games website that you’ve never heard of before is reporting that the PlayStation 4 will support 4D visuals, and feature microwaving facilities. Do you…

a) be extremely cautious of the report, do some quick research, and most likely find without much work at all that it’s a load of bollocks
b) carefully pick apart the report and post what you think might be true to your readers, making sure to put “Report:” in your headline, and telling your readers to take it all with a pinch of salt
c) immediately post about it, taking a good portion of it as fact and presenting it to your readers as such, even calling the French website “a trusted, valuable source”

9. A single screenshot for BioShock Infinite has appeared online. Do you…

a) Look at it, think “that’s pretty”, then close the tab
b) Tweet a link to the image from your website’s official Twitter account
c) Post it immediately to your website with a brief line of text, after you’ve stuck your website’s watermark on it of course. Then post it to N4G with the title “New BioShock Infinite image is the best thing you’ll see today”

10. A journo friend of yours has just this second posted a link to their opinion on a topic on Twitter. Do you…

a) Click through to read their opinion and, if you deem what they say to be worth sharing, retweet the link
b) Immediately retweet the link before reading it, then check it out to make sure it isn’t baloney
c) Immediately retweet it, followed up by a complimentary tweet about how everyone should be following them because they know exactly what they’re talking about


Mostly a: Don’t bother
Are you sure you’re in the right job? You clearly have no idea what you’re doing at all. Don’t you know that games journalism is all about the hits and getting there first? Why are you bothering to do some proper legwork and deliver top quality writing to your loyal readers? Stop being such a snobby prick, and get your act together. Haven’t you heard? Everything new is news, whether it’s an announcement of an announcement, or a random variable in the millions that has absolutely no context with anything else whatsoever. Do a better job, or you might as well get the fuck out.

Mostly b: You’re nearly there
You understand the fundamentals of games journalism, but you’ve still not fully locked it down. You know that press release it took you five minutes to write up? You need to get that down to two minutes. Just cut out the paragraphs that give the news any context, and don’t bother spell-checking it – your readers don’t care about the odd typo anyway, and anyone who does is just a grammar nazi. Of course, you’re going to need to grow a thicker skin to combat all those twats on Twitter who say your work isn’t “real journalism.” What the hell do they know? Your site is getting quick and easy hits, and that’s the name of the game. How else are you going to pull in the advertising?

Mostly c: You are a games journalism god
Congratulations! You are wise in the ways of games journalism. You know that nothing matters except bringing in the hits, and really, does it matter how you do it? Of course other journalists will grumble when your review goes up ahead of time because you told the developer you were going to give it a 9, and sure, they’ll get irate when you write up a headline that is blantantly trolling and does not at all match what the body of the article says. But here’s the scoop – you’re winning. Morals are for the weak. Sub-editors? What are those? What’s great too, is that if this all goes tits-up, you can always fall back easily into PR! Anyway, run off and enjoy your spoils. Have a bag of Doritos on me.

Starting (or kickstarting) a career in video games journalism

23 03 2012


I don’t usually do full written responses to pieces that I read – that’s what a few badly thought-out tweets are for. But after catching up on the kerfuffle Christian Higley’s Bitmob posts caused this week, I can’t really help myself. I’m still going to keep this short and sweet, as it’s late and I have a looong drive tomorrow, but I need to get some points out so that I don’t end up stewing over all this instead of sleeping.

I’ve already written at length before regarding how to go about doing games journalism, but there are certain key points that some people still aren’t getting. I’m not going to repeat the obvious ones that everyone else keeps throwing out (write lots, pitch lots, love writing, etc), but rather, highlight areas that I don’t feel are brought up enough.

1) Holy hell, will you please get on Twitter? Not to call Christian out, but he says in his follow-up post on Bitmob that he realised people were talking about him and his piece on Twitter well after the conversation was over, and everything had already been said and done. If that had been me, I would have been checking Twitter constantly after I posted it to see reactions, and then getting involved in the discussion from the moment it started.

I think he believes games journalism is some sort of elitist club because he hasn’t actually tried hard enough to be a part of discussions, laughs, controversy et al that appears on Twitter daily. I certainly have never received a tweet from him on Twitter, nor have I seen anyone else talking to him. When I first started on Twitter, I talked and talked and talked and talked and oh my God I would not stop talking, and I still don’t. Your Twitter presence is so, so incredibly important.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that my presence on Twitter (and let me note at this point that I’m incredibly small fry on Twitter) is a huge part of what got me jobs. When I applied for jobs, I made sure to supply people with a link to my Twitter. They click it, they see I have 1000+ followers, they think “Hmm he must have something interesting to say then” and they then go and check me out more.

To any aspiring journalist (including Christian) I say get on Twitter, follow every games journalist going, and talk talk talk to people! If people know who you are, they are more likely to hire you for work than someone else who comes completely out of the blue.

2) In the summer of 2010, I decided to apply for freelance work at every single games website I could find. Have a guess how many websites I emailed. 30? 50? No, in fact I emailed over 100 websites over the course of 2 days. From that, I received around 10 responses, and 3 acceptances. For the next few months I worked like the clappers for those 3 websites (they were DIYGamer, Gamezebo and Strategy Informer, if you’re interested), and then once again I emailed all 100 websites again. This time I got another 3 jobs. By Christmas, I was earning a decent wage, and in January I got my full time job with Gamasutra.

I *hate hate hate* reading how games journalists sent a pitch to one or two websites, waited a day or two, then got rejected and felt down about it. Here’s why you didn’t get it – there are people like me who are emailing every site under the sun, and getting the jobs. It’s basic maths really – the more websites you email, the more chance you have of finding a job. APPLY APPLY APPLY and then apply some more.

I have more points to make, but it’s late and I think I managed to get out most of what has rubbed me up the wrong way. What I’m saying is, if you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, don’t give up for Christ sake – just try something different! Talk to other journos online, email them, ask for advice – I myself always try to email back with advice, for example, as I’m sure the majority of other journos do too.

There is no club. There’s just you and a wall you need to break through, as there is in the majority of careers. Make some friends, make a name for yourself, break that wall.