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 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 indygamer.blogspot.co.uk, 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 IndieGames.com 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 IndieGames.com, many of the bigger sites began picking up on his work. Places like Rock Paper Shotgun, Joystiq, Kotaku and more began citing IndieGames.com 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 IndieGames.com. When Simon asked me to join Tim and work at IndieGames.com, 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

Tips:
– 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)





Starting (or kickstarting) a career in video games journalism

23 03 2012

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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.





New Jobs, A Minecraft Trip and My Upcoming Book

3 03 2011

Plenty has happened since my last update, so I thought it was about time I talked about it. First up, I’ve got a couple of big writing gigs at the moment – I’m the UK editor for Gamasutra, and the Handheld editor for Pocket Gamer. I hold both in the highest regards, so it’s pretty exciting times.

I’m continuing on with all my freelancing stuff too, writing AAA reviews for Strategy Informer and casual gaming reviews for Gamezebo. And of course, I’m still the editor at IndieGames.com. I probably will be for, like, ever.

Talking of indie games, I took an exciting trip last month to the Mojang headquarters in Sweden. Apart from interviewing Notch about the wonderful Minecraft (and getting some free stuff, as the accompanying photo suggests!), and I was also there to find out about their next game, the now-revealed Scrolls. I did an exclusive interview for Gamasutra that can be found here.

Finally, I’ve got something veeery awesome on the way – a book! I’ve spent the last 3 months writing “250 Indie Games You Must Play”, and have hopefully outlined some of the best indie releases to date. My hope is that people who aren’t familiar with indie gaming can pick up the book on a whim, and become fully acquainted with the scene. Those people already knowledgeable on the topic will hopefully want to pick up a copy as a momento too!

The book is due for release on April 7th, and can already be pre-ordered from Amazon (although I believe the price is going to drop a fair bit!). I’m going to set-up a standalone page on this site for the book, so I can keep track of what’s going on with it, how it’s doing, who is talking about it etc.

That’s your lot for now!





My ‘Sleep is Death’ Session With Jason Rohrer

6 04 2010

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[This preview of Jason Rohrer’s Sleep is Death was originally posted on IndieGames and Gamasutra.]

I’m a little girl. A moment before, I made a bet with a boy (that I’ve kinda got the hots for) that I could pull a fish from a pond with my bare hands. The boy sounded a little taken aback by my absurb wager, but egged me on regardless.

True to my word I dived in, grabbed the nearest fish, and returned to the boy’s side, prize in hand. Then we got naked and jumped in an open grave to talk about marriage.

An excerpt from my recent playthrough of Sleep Is Death (Geisterfahrer) with creator Jason Rohrer at the reins. You can view the entire story we produced in flipbook form here.

Before I continue, a quick recap on what Sleep Is Death is about: Essentially, it’s a storybook weaver in which two players develop stories together. Here’s the catch – one player is telling the story, while the other player is IN the story.

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Remember those old Looney Tunes episodes when the artist would start erasing the world around Daffy and Bugs, and they’d try furiously to stay in control? Perhaps they’d do something completely out of the ordinary to catch the artist off guard, or just play along with him to see where it led.

This pretty much encapsulates how I felt as ‘the player’, although I had a hunch this may simply have been to do with who my master was. This is Jason’s baby, after all, and over time he’s tuned his game so that he can keep his victim wrapped around his finger.

Not that I didn’t try, of course. After the first few minutes, and with a clearer understanding of my role, I decided I did NOT want to go exploring. I wanted to grab a rock and throw it at my dog. Quite why, I have no idea, but with a 30 second time limit to make your move, a variety of strange ideas go through your head, and as the timer reaches 10, you make a snap decision.

Ah yes, that time limit. Opinions are rife on the topic, and after release they will continue to be. Initially I found it difficult to read the situation presented to me, come up with a suitable follow-up, then present my scene all the space of 30 seconds.

Yet as the session progressed, I came to rather enjoy the frantic stop-start of it all. With only a short space of time to think, ideas get compressed and I found myself blurting out the most weird and, as I later discovered, most wonderful stuff. See, at the time I’d hammer a line in, then as the timer ran out, look at what I’d written and mind-slap myself for being so dumb, boring or tedious.

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The end product, however, was far from it. The overall story Jason presented me with had a serious tone to it, yet my anxious and awkward off-the-cuff comebacks added a silly, sometimes dark tone to it all, creating a wonderfully confused yet charming tale.

Some of my mistakes even gave the story a moment of accidental hilarity – for example, as the scene changed to a time in the past, I assumed I was still in the role of the little boy. However, my control had now passed to that of the mother when she was younger, and so the girl spoke the line which the boy was meant to have said. Seemingly unfazed by this, Jason pulled the dialogue into the main script flawlessly.

An interesting point to consider – since the controller always has the ‘first go’, it falls to the player to end each scene. Jason explained that whenever he comes to the end of a set piece and wants to move on to the next screen, he throws in some dialogue which he hopes to move the story on with.

However, since the player then has their turn, it can lead to some odd moments if the player doesn’t realise it’s time to move on. Two such moments happened during my playthrough, the second time the most poignant – Jason attempted to end the story on a light note, and I misread this and proceeded to have a conversation with my dog, which was cut short by THE END.

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What I’ve said up to now can be pretty much summed up as ‘I like game’. Flaws, then. After playing a few more games through with my brother, it quickly became apparent that the whole thing relies heavily on the controller’s imagination and quick-thinking. That’s not to say my dear sibling is devoid of such things – his tale started off strong, putting me in the role of a policeman interrogating a suspected murderer.

But after just 10 minutes of play, his envisioning had been played out, and he then proceeded to fill the screen with cops and naked women, each exclaiming ‘PARTIIIIE’. Like I said, the strangest stuff pops into your head when you’ve got that time limit hanging over you, but in this case the ‘stuff’ put quite a downer on a potentially interesting story.

What I’m saying is that the problem Sleep is Death has is the exact thing the entire experience is based around – imagination. I had a fantastic time playing against (was it against? I’m really not sure) Jason, but I reckon if it had been the other way around and he’d played out something from the mind of Michael Rose, it may not have gone down so well, simply because I don’t rate my story-telling abilities.

As previously mentioned, the entire storyboard for my session can be found here on Indiegames. After each playthrough, your story is saved as png files, along with the necessary php files so you can upload any story to your own personal site with ease. You’ll notice one of my flipbook pages is blank somewhere near the beginning – unfortunately, this was due to me minimizing the game. The dog gave me a puzzled look, in case you were wondering.

Enough about my role as the player – time to tinker with the inner workings of being the controller. I’m not going to explain in depth how every part of the scene editor works, as I don’t want to spoil your inevitable fun, but I’ll provide an overview and whether it’s actually any good.

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The action takes up a good portion of the screen,and the controller can select and drag any object anywhere on the playing grid. Objects can then be made to say something. One prop is different to all the rest, and that’s the one which the player controls, marked with a big pointy arrow.

Objects and scenes are selected from the panels on the right, and are word-searchable. Type ‘cop’ into the search box and behold, a whole bunch of rozzer-related material appears. Once a scene has been put together, it can be saved and then recalled at any point, making transitions from scene-to-scene in-game quick and simple.

There’s a whole bunch of other stuff you can do, too. Pretty much everything has its own special editor which can be pulled up at any time, ranging from drawing and editing objects on the fly to even editing and choosing music samples.

It’s a really nice system. Simple enough for casual players to dabble with, but with enough underlying features for master storytellers to have a field day with. After playing around with it for around half an hour, I was able to present a short story and keep it going relatively well. There’s definitely a sense that, with time and experience, some more patient souls will be able to do wonderful things with this equipment.

Sleep Is Death (Geisterfahrer) is now available for pre-order and will set you back $9.00 and give you access starting from April 9th. After this date, the game will then cost $14.00, with the main release happening on April 16th. Remember as well that one purchase equals two copies of the game delivered to your inbox – one for you, and one for your unsuspecting victim.

If any of the above rambling sounded like your kind of thing, head over to SleepIsDeath.net for more details.