This is my last day writing about video games

28 11 2014

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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 IndieGames.com 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 Play.tm, 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 IndieGames.com role alongside the┬álegendary┬áTim 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





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

Results

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.





Top 10 Things That Happened To Mike Rose In 2011

27 12 2011

Did you know that making best of lists is a thing that happens at the end of each year? Of course you did, it’s bloody well everywhere. Top 10 lists bring in the hits, since people can’t help clicking on lists so that they can find out whether to furiously disagree or quietly accept.

And so, as is Internet Tradition, I did a list that will no doubt bring in the hits. You have, I’m sure, found yourself wondering what were the best things that happened to me this year. Here’s are my TOP 10 (in order of awesomeness):

AT NUMBER TEN
My new place: I moved from an apartment in the hustle and bustle of Manchester town centre to the peace and quiet of a house in the outskirts of Manchester. I definitely do not miss drunks screaming outside my window at 4 every morning.

AT NUMBER NINE
iMake: I started a small project with a few friends that is going to evolve into something a bit special in 2011. You know when dev teams say “We’re making a smartphone game unlike anything seen before it”? Well, we’re making a smartphone game. You’ll probably have seen things like it before. But it’ll be bloody good fun, let me assure you.

AT NUMBER EIGHT
Portal 2: Oh god best game ever.

AT NUMBER SEVEN
30 Under 30: I made MCV’s 30 Under 30 list, which was nice! Being appreciated is always a pleasant experience.

AT NUMBER SIX
GDCE panel: I was part of a panel at GDC Europe in the summer, which mixed indie game PR with Britain’s Got Talent. It was rate fun, and hopefully useful to the people watching!

AT NUMBER FIVE
Indie Royale: If you follow me on Twitter, you know about Indie Royale, because I wouldn’t shut up about it. From January, I won’t be doing it anymore (due to the thing that’s at position #1 in this list) but founding it with Simon C and Scott R is something I’m very glad I did.

AT NUMBER FOUR
Book: Again, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know about this. I wrote a book called “250 Indie Games You Must Play“. It sold about 600 copies or something I think. Pretty proud to have written a whole book. A whole book! Written by me!

AT NUMBER THREE
Pocket Gamer: I did an internship at Pocket Gamer in 2010. This year saw me taking up a proper position there as Handheld Editor, covering the 3DS launch + abysmal year + sudden incredible Christmas comeback, and smatterings of PS Vita stuff here and there. I did that job from March-November, at which point I quit to work on Indie Royale (which I have now also quit because of the thing at #1 in this list). It looks like I’ll be doing more stuff for Pocket Gamer in 2012 though, just in a different genre.

AT NUMBER TWO
Gamasutra: In February I started at Gamasutra as their UK Editor, and I’ve been doing it since. It’s a really beautiful gig, working with lots of legends, getting a ton of fantastic experience, and ACTUALLY LOVING MY JOB, which is exactly what I set out to do all those years ago. I hope it continues onwards as it is for a good long while.

AT NUMBER ONE
Baby: Of course it’s number one. I’m having a kid! A boy, coming in Late Jan/Early Feb, so work is taking a bit of a backseat while I prepare myself. Very excited, and not being put of one bit by all the people saying “Oh, you just can’t understand how hard it’s going to be, oh my gooood it’s tough”. Have you ever noticed how all those people who say these things don’t have kids, and usually aren’t even in a relationship? We are a worry-mongering race, aren’t we.

So there we go – what a year. Good thing I got all that in before the world ends too. Have a good new year everyone!





So You Want To Be A Games Journalist

26 07 2011

Games journalism is an absolute dick of a profession. By reading this, you are essentially letting me know that you’re a crazy fool who doesn’t mind being trodden on and thrown about for long periods of time. You are up for the idea of working insane hours for very little payoff, all in the hope that, one day, your opinion on Deus Ex 4 or what have you will be noted around the world, and people will give a shit about what you have to say.

You’ve gotten to this second paragraph without being put off, because you know that there’s so much more to it, and that it’s actually a stupid amount of fun for the most part. Problem is, things have changed. Get this: you don’t need to be good with words anymore to make it in ‘the biz’. Day by day it becomes obvious that, for many sites, persistence and the ability to hammer out stories rapidly overshadow actual journalism. You know, wot with no speling mistakes and the like.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of sites that herald good games journalism. These are the sites you want to write for. If you know which ones I mean, then you’re already a step in the right direction. Lewie Procter asked if I’d write one of his ‘new’ set of rules for being a games journalist, so here goes. This is how I did it. Maybe it’ll work for you.

[Oh, and just before I start, I should tell you who I write for so that you can decide whether I’m worth listening to or not. I’ve freelanced for over a dozen different sites, but I’m currently UK editor at Gamasutra, Handheld Editor at Pocket Gamer and Editor-in-Chief at IndieGames.com.]

Find a niche and own it

Look around you. Everyone is writing about everything. It’s a bit of a mess. Over there you can see a guy who has never played an MMO in his life, and he’s writing a feature called ‘the top 10 MMOs for Mac’. Oh also, he doesn’t own a Mac.

And what about that person sat at his home personal computer. He has to interview the dev who created Final Fantasy some-teen, but he’s never liked the Final Fantasy games. In fact, he used to take the piss out of people who play them. Now he’s writing questions like ‘Do you think this Final Fantasy will be the best one?’ because he doesn’t know any better.

People who know specific genres, platforms, whatever inside out are useful. If you’ve been playing iPhone games for the last 2 years and you’ve got dozens of iPhone developers in your contact book, then you are incredibly useful to someone, somewhere. You build a name for yourself, and in doing so, people who don’t even need you right now will also remember your name. That’s when you do the branching out into everything else.

I’m not saying focus on one thing and ignore everything else. That would be silly. But if you’ve got this one good thing going for you that you really know your shit about, you’ve got more chance of going places. I really liked indie games, so I went for them in a big way, and that worked out pretty pleasantly for me.

Be persistent

In December 2008, I started an indie games blog. It was a sorry little WordPress site, for which I simply chose one of the default themes and then starting banging stories into. During the month of December, I put 6 or 7 stories into that blog daily, and made sure to follow up on every single thing that ever happened.

New game out? I emailed the dev to ask for a review copy + an interview. Game jam going on? I played every single game and reported on the ones I liked the most. For that whole month I did not stop searching for anything indie-related – and this was while working full-time in a convenience store on minimum wage at the same time.

At the start of January, I was contacted by the owners of IndieGames.com, who said they’d noticed my feverish newsing and wanted me over to write for them. In the space of just over 30 days, I had gone from writing my own blog to getting paid and writing for someone awesome.

I’m not telling you this to blow my own trumpet (I still spent the next 18 months in that crappy shop job!), but rather to show you that, if you go like the clappers and what you do is good quality, people will notice.

Know when to work for free

Ah, the dreaded ‘should I work for free’ part of the banter. The short answer is yes. The longer, more confusing answer is ‘yes, if you know it will benefit you’.

When you very first start out, you have no names on your portfolio. For this reason, no-one is going to hire you. You need names. You also need money. Money allows you to keep doing your thing, but names get you more money. It’s what I like to call the New New Games Journalism Getting Paid Conundrum. Until someone comes up with a better name.

Let's liven this up with a picture of a catI did an unpaid three-month long internship with Pocket Gamer during 2010. Whether you turned your nose up at the word ‘unpaid’ or not, I can’t deny that it helped me get places. Being able to put a big name on your portfolio helps a surprising amount, and people who were previously ignoring me were suddenly getting in contact with me to ask for freelance jobs to be done.

At this point, I decided to myself that, unless it was someone with a name that is respected, I would not work for free. For example, I did free reviews for Resolution, because there were some great people on that site and I knew that getting to know them would help me.

One argument that some people make is that, if a site is obviously in a position where they can afford to pay you, then it’s disgusting if they ask you to work for free. I see that argument – it makes sense to me. But at the same time, I go back to my original statement. You’re looking to get names on your portfolio. Once they are on, they’re there for good. Remember this when you’re balancing up the pros and cons.

Get on Twitter

Do you have a Twitter? No? Get one right this second. Now find every single games journalist on the whole of the internet and add them. Now listen to what they say, and take an interest in what is going on. Make a comment to someone now and again. Link them to someone that you’ve previously written that has something to do with what they’re talking about. Gain a voice and use it to make people know who you damn well are.

Twitter (and knowing how to use it properly) is now just as essential as everything else about your career. You need to make a presence for yourself- but don’t be careless about it. It will take a long time, but once you start to build up speed, it’ll make a huge difference.

What do you talk about? Well, you can use me as an example if you’d like (although I don’t know if it’s such a great idea – I’m pretty rambly):

– Link all your work
– Ask your followers questions and get them involved in your conversations
– Retweet anything interesting that potential bosses and future workmates say
– Be friendly and compliment people! (this is really, stupidly important)

Couple Twitter with the first three points on this list, and it should make a killer combo. You know, like a Super Shinkuu Hadoken or something.

Get lucky (and if that fails, cover all bases)

I’m sat here telling you how to get into games journalism, but let me be perfectly honest – I’m a seriously lucky bastard. I may have worked my arse off, but I also got incredibly lucky all over the place, whether it was the people who picked me up, the times I just so happened to be emailing people who needed someone, or the whole ‘right place, right time’ element.

Right now, someone somewhere on some random games site is considering taking on a new writer. Someone will email them randomly this week asking if they have any jobs going spare, and they’ll think ‘hey, I’ve actually been looking for someone, so why not!’ and hey presto – that person just got lucky.

The way I saw it, the best way to get lucky is to try every single person going and hope luck is shining on me. After my internship with Pocket Gamer, I emailed over 100 gaming sites. Seriously, that’s not an exaggeration. I scoured Google for gaming sites big and small, and applied, applied applied. I think on my first run, I got around 10 responses, and 3 jobs out of that.

That is, quite obviously, a miniscule payoff from such a huge undertaking, but it got me started on my way, and 3 months later when I did the rounds again, this time I had an extra 3 sites on my portfolio. This time, I got loads more responses, and I was away.

My advice is to simply keep trying. If you have good things to say, eventually someone will listen.

Don’t do it if gaming is your only hobby

Out of all of my points, this is the most important. Games journalism will change the way you play games. Eventually, if you’re anything like me or the numerous journalists I talk to, you will not enjoy playing games as much as you once did. Essentially, playing games for a living will take the fun out of playing games for fun.

When my work day ends, I do not go and turn my PS3 on, or boot up an Xbox Live Arcade game. I barely ever play games in the evening anymore. I’ve spent the day playing them, writing about them and analysing them, and the last thing I want to do is play even more of them.

You may be fine. Your love for the medium may extend outside of your box room, or office, or wherever you are. But if you do lose your favourite pastime, make sure you have a back-up. I love my TV shows, amongst other things (is drinking a hobby yet?), so losing video games wasn’t a huge deal for me. You know whether it will be a huge deal for you.

I think I’m done. Hopefully this was useful in some way, and of course, if you’d like to ask me anything, feel free to bang anything into the comments below.






Game Journalism Taboos

11 04 2011

Today marks what I hope will be a new-found relationship between myself and this blog. The plan is to update it daily with some new gaming topic I’ve been pondering, or at least multiple times a week. Nothing too heavy, mind – just short points of discussion.

I want to start off with a bang, so let’s discuss a taboo subject – the standard practice of game reviewing, or rather, the bits we’re not allowed to talk about. Actually, it’s not that we’re not allowed to, but rather that no-one dares to.

Certain questions cannot be asked, mainly because no-one else is asking them, and no-one wants to be the first one in. I was discussing this with a couple of my fellow game reviewers last week (behind closed doors, of course), and it’s interesting to see the flood gates open once one person has asked one of these taboo questions.

Questions like ‘how much should you get paid for a review?’, ‘who pays the most?’, ‘do you need to play the entire game all the way through before you can review it properly?’, and other such hush-hushes. I’m not going to answer these questions for the very same reason that others won’t – you don’t want to tick any current (or potential) employers off.

Of course, the other reason why people might not want to discuss money is because no-one wants to find out that they’re earning pennies compared to others.

But when someone does finally ask one of these questions in a public place – such as the Games Press forums, for example – there’s this odd balancing act between jumping in to discuss a topic that is rarely brought up, and keeping your answers safe.

Of course, this situation is found in most jobs. When I worked in a shop, there were plenty of questions that you wanted to ask, but just couldn’t. Yet I still feel like games journalism is one area where reviewers need to start being more open with each other. That way, employers would be forced to start providing better rates and a more healthy career.