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.





Update On My Book

22 04 2011

My book was released this week! Or at least,  it was meant to be. Amazon UK stated an April 18th release date, but that came and went without any copies being sent out. Then I was told the actual release date was April 21st – which also came and went without a word.

Lots of people let me know that they haven’t received anything, which obviously has me a little worried/flustered/stressed. I emailed my publisher about it, and they’ve got back to me saying that April 21st wasn’t the actual publish date either, and that Amazon is displaying the date that the books were being sent out to various retailers, rather than to customers.

To put it into perspective, I haven’t even received my copies yet! I’m assured that they are indeed on the way and, although I’ve not been given a set date for release yet, I’m hoping it’s going to be sometime in the next couple of weeks.

If you have pre-ordered my book, you are a legend among men/women,  and I apologise for the delay. It’s pretty furstrating that it’s completely out of my hands, and there’s nothing I can do to speed up the process, but I thought I should give an update – it’s the least I can do.

(PS: Click the pic of the book above for a huge, lovely crisp version!)





L.A. Noire Is Pulling Faces At Me, And I Like It

14 04 2011

It’s been a while since I was properly excited about some new gaming technology or advancement. Motion control à la Kinect and the PlayStation Move was solid stuff, but nothing we hadn’t already seen – the Eyetoy and the Wii had been doing it years before.

‘Real’ 3D gaming hasn’t particularly gripped me either. There’s no way I would buy a 3D TV (at least, not until it drops heavily in price) and I really don’t see why I’d want to sit wearing silly-looking glasses and trying to focus on phantom 3D images. Even the Nintendo 3DS’s stereoscopic images aren’t a huge selling point for me – I just wanted a new Nintendo handheld!

So it’s a big deal for me to say that my ‘Next Big Thing’ is the MotionScan technology used in upcoming Rockstar title L.A. Noire. I’ve always had a huge problem with faces in video games – visually the industry has been pushing the boundaries over and over for many years, but facial expressions have always been a little crappy.

I remember thinking that the expressions in Mafia were the most impressive I had ever seen, and honestly, we haven’t come very far since then. Characters still don’t look like they’re actually saying the words coming out of their mouths, and it’s long been an issue that I’d completely given up hope on, naively deciding that it must just be one area that is out-of-reach.

I was already interested in L.A. Noire before I saw the videos. It’s Rockstar. It’s like a cross between Phoenix Wright and Mafia. Why wouldn’t I like it! Then I caught a glimpse of those facial expressions, and immediately pondered ‘why has this not been done before?’. It’s bloody gorgeous, and gives a real movie feel.

There are plenty of reasons that I’m looking forward to L.A. Noire, but that MotionScan technology is the main selling point for me. Hopefully in a few years time, every studio will be using it. Give this short Gamasutra interview a read if you’re interested.






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.





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!