So, this is the post where I was going to detail my history as a gamer and how it related to my work. I had a vague idea in my head about how this was going to pan out, and what my arguments for my situation would be.

You see before I entered this line of work, even though gaming was a significant part of my life I don’t think I would have ever considered myself a truly ‘hardcore’ gamer.

I never really identified strongly with the hobby, it was just something to do. I used to read as well, watch films… I had a range of hobbies, and gaming was one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I do have gaming memories growing up, and I could probably identify certain things that defined me as a gamer – Blizzard games such as Starcraft, Warcraft and Diablo. Goldeneye and the Nintendo 64. Going round my friends house every weekend to play Timesplitters or Tekken. Until I got my Xbox 360 in the winter of 2007, the only consoles I had truly owned were the N64, the Gamecube, and then the Wii, but I was the only one of my friends who had these for a long while, so they were mainly solo experiences.

But I never was prolific gamer. In fact I wasn’t a prolific anything – What little money I had and the free passes you get at Christmas and Birthdays (although my birthday is January 6th, so they were kind of lumped in together), were spread out amongst all my hobbies, and were reserved for things I already liked or followed. You could say I was the kind of consumer that gave Marketing & PR people a purpose in life – If something didn’t grab me at the point of sale, I simply decided to save my money (or my parents) for something that would.

This basically meant that, come my shift from general Journalism to Videogames Journalism, I had what other’s have called ‘severe’ gaps in my gaming repertoire. I’d say my favourite genre is Strategy, yet I’ve never played Total Annihilation. I have a healthy respect for Bioware RPG’s, but I’ve never played Baldur’s Gate. I played one of the Duke Nukem games for like an hour before my Mum realised what age rating it had and summarily ordered me to return it to the rental store, and I never tried going back to it when I was older. Even more recent classics – like Bioshock or Team Fortress 2 just didn’t take my fancy at the time so I never bothered getting them.

Depending on who you talk to, this could mean anything from me having no right to do what I do, to probably shouldn’t comment on certain titles or genres, to merely lacking a certain perspective others have. Up till now I’ve defended my situation, mainly because I take pride in my work and take it all very seriously, but also because there was little I could do about it. I’m still not exactly rolling in money, so why should I spend it on games that I never really felt like playing in the first place? Whilst I’ve always acknowledged that my writing could be better if I did indeed try and get some of these classics under my belt, I’ve always tried to maintain my writing is good enough as it is.

Then everything changed last night when, whilst trying to write a preview for a sequel to a series I’d never played before, I suddenly lost some confidence in myself in a writer. I’ve had several conversations with people on this subject before, especially with two people whose opinions I’ve quickly learned to respect. Holly is a particular inspiration because she actively goes out of her way to play as many games as she possibly can. Sitting there, hands hovering over the keyboard, I couldn’t help but think to myself “Can I really go on defending this?” “Am I really a good writer as is?” and was struck by such a heavy wave of self-doubt that I had to give up for the night.

Operation: Get Behind the Darkies

That’s actually a rather humorous line from South Park: The Movie, and has little relevance on the actual plan, but I’ve decided to man up and take some action. Starting from now, I will try and play all of these games that I’ve missed. I bought Bioshock cheap on Steam over the weekend, so I’ll start there and maybe blog about how I’m getting on with it.

Other than that… well, not sure what I should be playing really. Any suggestions? I’m going to make a list and go through them whenever I have the time. But again, my policy on not spending too much money stands, so I’ll have to find cheap deals, and I also still have to do my job as a games journalist, experience or not.

Wish me luck.

  1. Tom Doyle says:

    Great blog Joe, in many ways I feel exactly the same! I’ve always identified with computer games, although there are some huge gaps in my knowledge; for example, I’ve got a good knowledge of sports/FPS games, my strategy/RPG experience is basically non-existent. As you say with Duke Nukem, I know the artwork and the idea of it, but I don’t think I’ve ever played one of the games. However, I loved BioShock, so I guess that if we combined like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly we’d make one hell of a games journalist!

    I think the essence of the debate is that there are simply too many games to play, and not enough time and/or money available to have gained a respectable background in the industry unless you grew up in the 80’s, went into journalism in the 90’s and never looked back. It’s a medium that’s effectively too expensive (within the mainstream industry at least) to do without the insurance of a well-paid job, or simply a paid job within the industry itself.

    I’ve been looking at voluntary games journalism ads to try and get back into writing as the company I was working for was made redundant from the TalkTalk games section for – guess what? – a lack of funds due to financial restructuring at TalkTalk HQ. However, a lot of the sites want news writers who’ll write at least two articles a day – who literally has the time to do this if they have a full-time job/family?
    I guess, like you say, it’s just a case of putting in the effort, doing the donkey work (possibly with Donkey Kong, an epic place to start on your quest for old games by the way), and hoping that somebody, somewhere eventually likes your style enough to pay you a few coins to eat and sleep somewhere warm; and for the awful electricity bills that you’ll run up powering up the SNES…

  2. Holly says:

    Great post! I see you’ve been thinking about our conversation a lot. I apologize if it left you feeling less than confident. I know not everyone can manage to get their hands on the sheer volume of games I do, but I confess some of it comes from having a lot of gamer friends to borrow from. I wouldn’t survive without them! I also have a library of emulators on my old XBOX, which has helped considerably. I also follow a lot of game blogs both big and small, because sometimes I can score free XBOX or PSN points that way, which frees up more finances. It’s surprising that I don’t just rent games. All in all, it’s been a tedious balance of budget, time, and importance (in terms of the IP’s importance to gaming, that is) that sums up my gaming life!

  3. Holly says:

    Also want to say, I admire you taking on the endeavor, even knowing it will be hard. I still get overwhelmed, but I can confidently say that it has made me a better video games “journalist” (ha!) to have the perspective.

    BTW your line “this could mean anything from me having no right to do what I do” made me laugh a little. I can totally identify with this knee jerk response, but at the same time, I am you, in a way. I got into this knowing I didn’t have the scope of knowledge that other writers did, but made up for it in research. I guess I feel more confident with the play time investment to back it up. I can only hope it provides the same benefit for you.

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