New Games Journalism: Tenth Anniversary Reunion

“It was 10 years ago on Sunday, Sergeant Gillen taught the band (of games journalists) to play (games with their writing mainly involving talking about their subjective experience which they were doing anyway so he totally gets too much credit but he gave it a name, and history is written by those who choose to write histories so WINNAH)”

Coining the phrase New Games Journalism was my most infamous moment in Games Journalism. It happened 10 years ago last Saturday. Keith of the Guardian and I were chatting about it, and it struck us as amusing to recreate the pub evening which begat me staying up late at night hammering it out. So basically, get me, Jon Hicks and Tim Edwards together and see what happens. In a pub.

We’re doing it, Wednesday 26th. And you’re invited!

You can buy tickets here, and this is the blurb…

Ten years ago this week, Kieron Gillen got home from the pub and decided he wanted to change games journalism forever. At 2.04am in the morning on March 23, he posted onto his website, The New Games Journalism manifesto, a heartfelt call for games writing to change, to become more subjective, more personal, more better (I’m paraphrasing here).
So what happened to young Kieron on that fateful night at the Delfter Krug bar in Bath? Who was with him? And did his famed – some say infamous – manifesto have any impact on the games media?
To find out, we’ll be reuniting Kieron with the two journalists he was talking to that night at the pub, ex-PC Gamer colleague Tim Edwards and Jon Hicks, now editor of the Official Xbox Magazine. In conversation with Guardian games editor Keith Stuart (who was probably in the bar as well), the trio will attempt to recall the magic of that modest night down the boozer, as well as assessing the legacy of NGJ and the way writing about games has changed in the following decade.
Afterwards, we’ll have a Q&A session with Kieron so you can ask about his writing, either in games or for Marvel where he does those super hero comics that seem quite popular these days.
PLUS – EXCITING ADDITION: Later on, we’ll be talking to new Kotaku UK editor Keza MacDonald and ex-VideoGamer.com video journalist Matt Lees about the legacy of NGJ and the role of young games writers in the industry today.
SO, if you’re at all interested in games writing, what it means, why it is the way it is and what the heck these guys talked about that night, then COME ALONG! Doors will open at 7pm and entry is £5 (plus booking fee) – which includes one free drink of some sort. However, you then have to stay and have more booze or I’ll have to pay for the function room and my wife will kill me.
THIS EVENT IS FOR OVER-18s ONLY.

There will be fun and chat and Q&A (which can be pretty much about anything to do with what we do, so pop along. The ticket price includes a drink, so it’s pretty much a couple of quid.

Now, at last, we can talk about the war.

Which we won.

Muhahaha.

Oh – I also talk to Alec about it over at RPS.

Chaos Reborn

The Queen

I raved about this when I heard it at Reads Like A Seven last year. Now you can listen. Consider buying the track if you like it, as it’s a genuinely lovely thing. These sort of experimental pieces of game writing – both in its form and now in its business model – are something I love to see.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted Pre-Order

image

My friends at Big Robot have just announced the pre-order of their tweedpunk British indie STALKER “Sir, You Are Being Hunted.”

I’m excited by this. Jim and I are people who bounce stuff off each other, and Sir is basically Jim’s half of the cultural conversation which lead me to do things like MANCHESTER GODS and SINISTER.

Excites!

TinyGames

Sir, You Are Being Hunted Kickstarter

So, Big Robot’s tweedpunk STALKER asks for your money.

This is one I love. Rossignol and I chew over this sort of stuff a lot. With MANCHESTER GODS and SINISTER you saw my half of my conversation about Britain. With this, you’ll get to see Jim’s.

Make it happen.

Reads Like A Seven


Photo of Keith Stuart via Ian McMichael.

On Friday I was made to feel substandard. It was awesome.

I’ve been spending a good chunk of last week in Nottingham, finally getting a chance to experience GameCity. Friday night was Reads Like A Seven, organised by of Simon Parkin. In short: a bar, a stage, a mike and seven games journalists, reading games journalism. In other words, pretentious, but tongue-in-cheekly so. I was going to wear a polo-neck.

It didn’t quite work like that. It was only six writers, as Christian Donlan had to drop out. And while there was lots of laughs, it was emotionally wider. It was a reminder of the breadth of what gaming is, what it means and why we give a toss about it – and, indirectly, how writers on games have wrestled down the immaterial.

Afterwards, I found myself wondering why I thought it had to solely be a giggle. I’ve gone to prose readings about most subjects. Why not games? That I – who spent fifteen years of my life working in games writing, arguing this shit matters, and generally being wanky – still immediately went to an ironic defence for it says a lot.

Simon introduced the event, and set the mood with a list of horrific things he had done in games – and I’m reminded of the comic prose poetry at Delightful Wife’s events. I’m next, and do my Gaming Made Me piece from RPS. It’s a little too long, it’s a little too loose, I’m under-prepared. I’ve been travelling for the last five weeks, which is my excuse… but excuses are excuses. Really, I’m fine. I get laughs, I get nods. By any reasonable measure, it’s good. But it’s not an evening for reasonable. It’s an evening for exceptional.

Cara Ellison reads her first magazine published piece, talking intensely about her years of DOTA experience and the friendships and personalities. Her performance is a 50:50 cocktail of pure honesty and excited yelps. We miss friends we’ve never met and laugh at in-jokes we don’t know. She’s exceptional.

Leigh Alexander reads her urbanely cool Thought Catalog piece What Sonic The Hedgehog is Doing Now. Leigh is drama-trained, which is a fairly gained unfair advantage. She imbues the material with sadness, drama and an almost invisible smile. She’s exceptional.

Ste Curran was the best games journalist of his generation before heading off into development. Tonight he reveals his dark secret. He still writes pieces on games, solely for himself, abandoned in a folder on a hard-drive. His piece on Dwarf Fortress is so good that I’m only smiling slightly when I describe him as games journalism’s Salinger. Not for the last time in the evening, I’m sitting next to someone crying. He’s exceptional.

As well as Guardian Blogger supreme, Keith Stuart is an old housemate of mine. He briefly left Games Writing around 2001 or so, telling me something along the lines of “That’s it – I’m off. I’ll rather starve than do any more.” Tonight makes me painfully grateful he changed his mind. He talks about playing games with his father, and now – in turn – playing games with his son. The room chokes up. I choke at this keyboard, having trouble finding any words to sum it up. The least of it would be “exceptional”.

And Simon closes the night, with his The Nightmare Before Christmas, a paranoid internal monologue about worrying about confessing his love of games to a girl. The hearts they warm, all is bright, all is exceptional.

I’ve rarely felt so proud to be in the company of once peers. It’s been a hard week for games writing, and openly strange that something so positive is juxtaposed with something so horrific. As anyone who follows my twitter knows, I’ve clearly got my side, but even so I look at it all and sigh. It’s WW1, and all I can see is bodies.

But with Reads Like A Seven, I’m reminded of something else.

In 1999, in one of my first assessments at PC Gamer, I was asked about why I’m doing it, I said something along the lines of “with a new medium, it’s a chance to push the language of writing to unexplored areas. We get to find what humanity means here exactly. It’s an incredible opportunity.”

Which threw my new editor a little. He was fine with my characteristic wankiness, but noted “Kieron – you have to realise that you’re not writing for the NME.” To state the obvious, the best games writing now is much better than the writing in the NME. It’s better than the best writing in the NME circa 1999. It’s as good as writing in the NME ever was.

A decade ago, something like this evening could only be a joke, a comedy sketch. But tonight, it’s something else entirely. We’ve come a long way.

I’m reminded that it’s not enough to fight – it’s just as important to remember what you’re fighting for.

Reads Like A Seven read like a ten.

GameCity Schedule

I probably should have posted instead of tweeting about this explicitly earlier, but frankly it’s been a fucking insane few weeks. Basically, GameCity is on in Nottingham for the next week or so, and I’m there for a bunch of it.

Here’s my appearances. You can find more details and locations for ‘em here.

Monday, October 22

4:00pm
Writing for Comics, Writing For Videogames

Comrade Antony Johnston and me do a Q&A/Presentation thing about writing for comics and videogames. We’re old friends, so expect us to prod each other amusingly.

6:30pm
Decompressed : Live Podcast Recording

Yes, we’re doing DECOMPRESSED… LIVE! I’m going to talk to Antony Johnston about his recent cold war Thriller with Sam Hart THE COLDEST CITY. I literally want to make this very much WE DO IT IN A LIVE FASHION, so expect it to be agreeably downmarket.

Tuesday, October 23

10:30am
Singing about Gold

Interactive Fiction is sort of a theme for this year’s GameCity, so I was asked to do a bit of a talk about it. I’m writing it at the moment, but expect a personal spin on the genre, probably wandering into the larger topics of writing in games and writing about games generally. Also, a Q&A, which is a good time to ask me about any old nonsense.

Also: 10:30? It’s Leigh’s birthday the previous day, apparently, so expect to see the GILLEN HANGOVER in full effect.

12:30pm
Mike Bithell Gets the advice he needs (writing)

As in, Thomas Was Alone’s Mike Bithell. This is sort of a running theme across the con, where Mike gets his splendid Indie game picked over by people from different disciplines. This is Antony and me doing it.

5:00pm
Gillen and Johnston Signing @ Page 45

Page 45 is my favourite comic shop in the world that I’ve never been to. So clearly this will be fun for finally coming here. Do turn up and get us to write stuff on books, and generally high five one another.

Friday, October 26

7:30pm
Reads like a Seven

Simon Parkin’s brainchild. Basically Keith Stuart, Leigh Alexander, Christian Donlan, Ste Curran, Cara Ellison, Simon and myself reading games criticism. Celebratory and fun is the idea. Will I read something new? Will I read something old? Will I do it in full mime-paint or a polo neck? You’ll have to turn up to find out.

Lots more details about what else is on at the GameCity site, which sounds like a splendid time. I’ve been saying that I wanted to do GameCity ever since it started, and this is my first chance. Hurrah! And if you’re anywhere near Nottingham, do come along.

The GMAs

Thank you.

I sort of bumbled through a speech, hitting some of my standard riffs. Mainly, the awesomeness of Duncan McDonald’s Stunt Car Racer reviews and how games journalists are awesome – and certainly a damn sight more awesomely talented than they sometimes realise. I forgot to thank anyone, which I really should have (“thanks to anyone who’s ever corrected my spelling and grammar. In a real way, I owe you everything”). There was a cute little video, which didn’t include the PC Gamer logo, so I should have definitely thanked them. I would have, if I noticed, but I was too busy covering my eyes with my hands.

I also wanted to state something that is 100% true and doesn’t get said enough: writing on games in 2012 is better now than any time in history. The range of approaches being fruitfully explored now would have stunned my early-00s self. Frankly, I could have pointed to any of the winners last night to show that. There’s some stunning work being done here, and that’s just in this country.

Full winners here. Congrats to them all. Frankly, all of them have written pieces in the last 12 months that have left me bitterly jealous and feeling blessedly obsolete.

Onwards.

Brit Games Industry Film