The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on December 27th, 2009 at 9:50 am.

H…ello? Hello. Thank the Lord. Oh Than… let’s do this quickly. Sundays are for crouching in the darkness of an enormous beast’s belly, feeling your legs slowly dissolve in stomach acids, listening to the whimpering of John as he calls for his mother, finally managing to get a little internet reception as the creature that ate us passes some wireless Internet so I can compile and present a list of Interesting reading from across the week and/or send desperate messages for help and/or try and resist linking to some music.

Failed And… signal failing. Please send help. All of RPS have been eaten by a monster. John is still with us, but Alec and Jim are being very quiet. Internet signal dying. And I think I’m running out of ti

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112 Comments »

  1. James G says:

    Kill Screen sounded interesting until it got to the part about mainly being written by people who generally don’t write about games / aren’t hugely familiar with them.

    • Kadayi says:

      This. I fear it could step into the realms of the embarrassing as was the case with Irish chappies confessional on Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe.

    • Vitamin Powered says:

      @James G

      I have to disagree. We already have lots of excellent games journalists, but this is about journalists from outside the general gaming press writing about something they have a passion for. It’s not so much the outside perspective that grabs me as it is the perspective and writings of those raised in the older journalist institutions.

    • Chaz says:

      Call me a pleb, but about the only reason I would buy a games magazine or look at games sites, are for the news, previews and reviews. Without those you’re just left with journalists writting frothy self indulgent tosh on the nature of games and humanity etc. When what people really want the most is the low down on the next big triple A with some exculsive screen shots please. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the odd bit of self indulgant journalistic fluff, but it’s got to be balanced with the bread and butter stuff, i.e. the news, previews and reviews.

    • Daffs says:

      @ Chaz:
      Really? Not to be hitting RPS with the “self-indulgent froth on the nature of games and humanity” stick, but “the low down on the next big triple A with some exculsive screen shots” doesn’t seem to scream yr-average-RPS-reader.

      I think it might be true to say it’s what most people want, but not what people want most, if that makes sense.

      That’s exactly the stuff I’m not interested in, and one of the reasons (other than sheer expensiveness) that I don’t buy games magazines as much as I feel should.

    • Vandelay says:

      I think it is a great idea, and is exactly what print magazines should be going for. The old style news, reviews and previews style is dead for all types of magazines, not just games. Why would you pay for a magazine that simply tells you the bullet points of a game when there are perfectly competent people online to do that for you for free? Magazines need to be heading in the direction of very high quality writing, which is entertaining to read, and that targets an older market.

      I do worry a little bit about focusing too much on people that don’t generally write about games though. I don’t agree with Kadayi that the “Irish chappie’s confessional on Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe,” was embarrassing*, but a magazine filled with articles by such people could get a tad tedious. It also seems to be a bit of a snub to current games journalists.

      *I assume you are talking about Dara O’Briain and not Graham Lineham. In fact, I seem to recall RPS writing an article that said pretty much the same thing as him on game difficulty – http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2009/09/10/why-can%E2%80%99t-i%E2%80%A6-skip-ahead-in-games/

    • Matt says:

      (As a response to James G and the subsequent thread… you know, just in case)

      I, for one, welcome any new voice in videogames journalism, ESPECIALLY those that cut their teeth elsewhere. Unfortuately, games are still a niche, and any niche tends to become stale and inbred without fresh perspectives. And if those new perspectives come attached to talented writers, then so much the better!

      And I’m also for long-form journalism. “news, previews, reviews” can go… someplace where I’m not. Reviews are fine, but previews just feed the hype machine and distort what they cover. In fact, the reason I come here so often is because it’s the best refuge I have from those awful things.

      So this magazine thing is sounding better and better to me the more I think about it.

    • Xercies says:

      I actually disagree, having someone not totally into games but as a kind of hobby can help you give a new perspective on it. Like Daras piece on Gameswipe it was actually interesting to me and it does give some questions on sometimes we want to get past the hard bits to get to the good bits. Without new voices it definitly becomes stale and maybe the hard questions don’t get asked.

    • Chaz says:

      @ Daffs

      Actually if you take a general overview of the site, RPS contains quite a large amount of news, previews and reviews, and of course some of the more intelectual style ramblings. Which as I pointed out I’m certainly not adverse to, and I think RPS strikes a very good balance of material. However I’d have to say my primary reason for checking in on these sites is for the latest news and previews etc. You say that “doesn’t seem to scream yr-average-RPS-reader”, but the majority of articles on here are of that nature.

      I love the idea of hearing views on games that aren’t from “games” journalists, or perhaps even gamers. However, as I’ve said already, I think that without the bread and butter stuff of the games news and previews etc, then any games publication is going to have a very limited appeal.

    • PHeMoX says:

      @Vitamin Powered: Read what you’ve written yourself and realize how ridiculous that actually is man: “but this is about journalists from outside the general gaming press writing about something they have a passion for.”

      I sincerely doubt most of those ‘outside journalists’ have a passion for games or gaming. In many cases they play the copy/paste game while twisting the words so it’s not plagiarism.

      I honestly couldn’t care less what a Foxnews reporter or New York Times journalist thinks of games, as most of what they write will be crap, regardless of their outside perspective that might be mildly interesting. Most of the time it’s annoying.

      Ever read those articles written by non-scientists that pretend to explain things to the layman and notice how it’s full of errors? Well it wouldn’t be the first time that Foxnews shows something about Counter-Strike only to show footage of Medal of Honor instead. :p

    • Kadayi says:

      @Xercies

      TBH it doesn’t take a gaming novice to tell me that game design is often neither logical or sensible, my own experiences can tell me that.

      Another way of thinking about it is like this; if you were a say a keen golfer, would you buy a premium magazine about golf written by people who by and large don’t golf, or don’t possess your enthusiasm for the subject? The best subject journalists are generally the peoples who are passionate about their subject.

  2. TooNu says:

    :) silly Kieron, if Boba Fett can get out so can you. Just use your jetpack.

  3. bhlaab says:

    If you listen to the commentary on the Season 1 South Park DVDs Trey Parker and Matt Stone just completely trash the game and talk about how crushed they were when they finally played it and found out it sucked.

  4. Ginger Yellow says:

    Kill Screen sounded interesting until it got to the part about mainly being written by people who generally don’t write about games / aren’t hugely familiar with them.

    I’ve got to agree. The implication was that games journalists couldn’t/can’t do long form cultural journalism about games, which this site among several others clearly proves wrong. Also strange that there was no mention at all of Edge, which is clearly the precursor, though not an exact template for this idea.

    That said, I’m interested to see how it pans out. Since the demise of EGM a lot of US journos have been talking about something like this as the only viable way to do games in print.

  5. Tom Camfield says:

    @ James G & Ginger Yellow

    Gentlemen, I disagree; games journalism is missing great writers. Example: look at Parkin’s work over at Eurogamer, bless him, I’ve been on his case twice today, but here’s a quote:

    “play against another human and you enter a rap battle, each player drawing moves and counterattacks from their stockpile of punch lines, tussling with one another for lyrical dominance based on timing and reactions.”

    … and yes, he is writing about Street Fighter IV.

    Parkin knows a lot about videogames, last year he played everything in the Eurogamer top 50, but, although he gains kudos for trying, I would rather read someone who’s more adept at writing and who doesn’t over-reach when it comes to metaphors. In it’s own way, it’s as bad as Dan Brown.

    C’mon, how many times have you seen a games journo use the line “the proverbial…” and not actually mention any proverb? Or muddled “metaphorically” with “literally”?

    And, these aren’t people unfamiliar with games, these are people who are familiar with them, but haven’t written about them before, and Leigh Alexander. Here’s a sample:
    http://www.good.is/post/advancing-the-art-and-science-of-virtual-crowds/

    It’s beautifully worded, though literally aimed at the proverbial newbie, metaphorically speaking. DYSWIDT?

    • EyeMessiah says:

      Although it does make me wince a little, I’d say it was a fairly accurate account of competitive SF4 play, played properly. Rhythm, timing and “flow” really are key factors, and my lack of all three factors pretty much explains why I am so poor at the game. Also, I don’t like rap music.

    • Tom Camfield says:

      Rhythm, timing and flow, sounds like dancing to me, or hitting the drums, which is far more analogous than a rap battle. I mean, the guy can do descriptions, sure, but it’s getting the most appropriate one, and not overstuffing on adjectives where he falls down.

      (And I say this as a guy who read the article and tried to download a demo on Xbox Live afterwards [not available], and he’s hardly the worst offender, so I submit to both of those counters.)

    • bhlaab says:

      I don’t know who wrote Eurogamer’s Modern Warfare 2 review offhand, but I do recall that reading it felt like an icy cold enema. I don’t think I’ve seen anything so melodramatic and hyperbolistic since… well, since I played Modern Warfare 2

    • Dominic White says:

      An avid gamer (yet poor writer) may not be able to eloquently describe the subtleties of SF4, but a non-gamer is unlikely to understand them at all, let alone convey them to an audience. It’s a game with a ridiculous amount of subtlety and precision where expert players can make not-insignificant amounts of money from playing across the tournament circuit.

      And Street Fighter 4 is one of the simpler, cleaner games in the genre. BlazBlue is just on a whole different level. Possibly another planet. These two Penny Arcade strips sum it up pretty well:

      http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/7/24/
      http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/7/27/

    • Radiant says:

      You know what the essence of Street Fighter is?
      My Abel will fuck all of you into a cocked hat.
      Then wear that hat when he goes to see your misses.
      And out your bones will pop when I introduce myself.

    • Vitamin Powered says:

      @Tom Camfield

      See, I feel that the rap analogy works well; a rap battle is wrapped up in layers of ego and responses to responses, with stakes of personal credibility on the line. Just like in a Streetfighter match.

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ Vitamin Powered

      Dude, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xBxJ805Vp0

      Ego, response etc. If dancing isn’t about using your body to crush your opponent, then I have been misled by movies.

      But really, I was saying that the analogy between using your body to interact with a controller and using your body to dance was far closer than spittin’ rhymes. See also: martial arts like Savate, which have a very low number of moves, and you mix them together. Hence also “let’s do the man dance” meaning fight (not sex). Dancing and fighting are very similar. Fighting and fighting are more similar still, natch, but there you go.

      @ Dominic White

      A. They aren’t non-gamers, they are writers who play, but one of them hasn’t written about games before.

      Second, the Eurogamer review:

      “With the action cranked to eleven, it redefined the genre in a new, frenzied form.”
      “BlazBlue’s ten original characters are distinct, colourful and vivid.”
      “the game features three main buttons for attack – light, middle and heavy – with the fourth button assigned to ‘Drive’.”
      “A lot of BlazBlue is governed by gauges; a Heat Gauge, a Barrier Guard gauge and a Guard Libra gauge. You’re damn right it’s confusing.”

      Do you really think someone from the Wall Street Journal would have trouble writing that?

      But really, better writers will make games journalism better, and I think that’s something a lot of people look forward too.

    • Lilliput King says:

      “But really, better writers will make games journalism better, and I think that’s something a lot of people look forward too.”

      I must be one of the few people, then, who doesn’t really give a toss.

      I don’t care what the wider world thinks of Captain Naked’s Orgasmic Journey Into The Unknown, a.k.a. The Void, because they wouldn’t understand. So I’m not going to buy a magazine full of opinions (expressed well, perhaps) from people who have no understanding of the subject matter.

      It just doesn’t appeal, even as an experiment. I guess I’d just rather hear from people who know what they’re talking about, rather than people who’re pretending to.

      On a less rhetorical note, isn’t Edge already all over this?

    • Daffs says:

      @Tom Camfield: See, that was my favourite bit of that article. Made me understand how SFIV might feel to someone heavily invested in it; meanwhile, when I rented it, I found it an overly-simplistic random-win generator.

      It’s also worth noting that he built up to that with the idea of training as sketching out poetry to use later. That was nice.

    • iainl says:

      Having had Simon hand me my backside on SFIV a couple of times, that’s
      exactly the right metaphor for his playing style.

    • PHeMoX says:

      In essence you’re just saying how not every non-gaming oriented journalist is also a bad writer, but that’s really not what this is about.

      I am aware many games journalists start out as games journalists, but I do think their hands-on experience in many cases makes them the better journalists to write about it.

      It would be like a games journalist writing about economic subjects. They won’t be able to compare to events that happened earlier in the past or make useful predictions and so on. Because frankly they most probably know jack about economic related subjects, the jargon and all that.

      That doesn’t mean other types of journalists can’t gain experience by diving into the subject and write good articles about it. Perhaps gaming isn’t such a specialized area of expertise in many eyes, but I prefer people that actually play games themselves.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      It’s worth taking a step back on this. Most games journalists are young, inexperienced, without decent editors, or any kind of training. The fact that any break through to produce worthwhile material is a testament to their dedication and talent.

      There is, of course, nothing wrong with writers from other fields writing about games. I’m sure their experience will do them credit.

    • Hardlylikely says:

      I’m surprised and disappointed at the reaction some are giving the Kill Screen idea. Some talented writers want to have a go at providing a deeper, or at least different perspective on our pastime, and some people are crying them down before they have even seen the first attempt.

      Not to diminish anyone elses concerns, but isn’t this what the beginnings of cultural acceptance look like? I’d be right behind someone criticising the actual work in a given Kill Screen publication, but dismissing the very notion goes a bit too far for my liking. I also believe that one way for the industry to continue to mature (really mature, not have more guns and bosoms) is to involve people with interests and experiences outside of stereotypically geek pastimes. The involvement of Leigh Alexander points to this, as she took up that banner last year.

      Just as there are ‘wanky’ expensive journals in photography, literature, fashion and just about every other cultural pursuit with recognition in the broader community, so games will have their own versions of such things. It’s another sign of being taken as seriously as many in the industry have been hoping, in my opinion. I just hope it’s actually good!

    • AndrewC says:

      HardlyLikely: I agree with you I guess, but while mainstream culture butts in on our world with intermittent ‘games are too violent’ stuff, it otherwise leaves us alone, and it would be painful to have to give that freedom away. You could describe it as the freedom of the playroom if you want to be mean, or the freedom of the wild-west is you want to be all mythologising, but we are still, even now, kind of left to our own devices and in control of the dialogue about our pastime. In what other world could Kieron Gillen be a leading light of cultural criticism? Ho ho.

      Anyways: acceptance into the mainstream is scary, probably inevitable, already starting and guaranteed to change our beloved pastime. Then again, games will then also change the mainstream, which is dead exciting. And, considering how conservative games and gamers can often be (and I’m pointing to the ‘change-fearers’ above here), perhaps a bit more mainstream assimilation would be a good thing?

  6. Meat Circus says:

    Tom Bramwell explains why they never did their critics Top 50 games of the year. In short…

    They nicked the Hive Mind’s idea instead?

  7. Bhazor says:

    So I presume you write your posts saving the post after each and every letter? Hence why you can be cut off mid word yet still be alive to post it.

  8. mandrill says:

    Kill Screen is a bit pricey for me. I can read writing about games that will probably be far more considered and relevant (and written by people who know games) for free on the internet. $20 an issue? No thanks.

    • vanarbulax says:

      The Kill Screen interview seems to have a handy justification for that issue.

      "People read newspapers not just for the stories, but for the relationship with the object itself. And so the smaller and cheaper you make it, the less you're respecting the love and dedication of your readers. You're telling them: 'This thing you adore is truly worthless.' And then they start to believe you.".

      Soo… the information should be judged by the shiny packaging its in, not its own merits. And free dedicated communities and website, such as RPS, are clearly considered worthless.

      On the other hand may it is the way of legitimizing games. Maybe it will only be taken seriously when wrapped in clean Helvetica and artsy pictures. Maybe online articles about niche with block of texts and scarce pictures will drive away anyone who might be interested about complex and innovate games (e.g the brilliant butchering pathologic). Maybe you can't break into the mainstream if your journalist are constantly being eaten by monsters and writing from inside a full stomach.

  9. EyeMessiah says:

    I absolutely would be all over a Dick based MMO.

  10. bookwormat says:

    From Tom Bramwell’s article:

    If you stop trying to put things in order, it turns out people like reading about games again, even if you have the temerity to admit you like one!

    That’s because publishing an ordered list of things that can only be compared subjectively is always a insolence to almost everyone who reads it.

    If you declare that your kid is smart, people will smile at you. But declare that your kid is smarter that theirs, and they will be offended.

    The same goes for review scores, which are always a provocation to readers. From my experience, most readers don’t see journalists as experts, but as informants and entertainers. Readers see themselves as the experts.

    So if some critic arrogantly attaches some stupid number to a game, from his own personal scale and using his own insignificant criteria, then he insults all the other experts in the room.

  11. drewski says:

    “The BBC telling a band not to sing “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” and being surprised at what happens.”

    I “lol”ed.

  12. LionsPhil says:

    “Oh, go on, Acclaim. Say the game’s like it is because it’s aimed at kids. Go on. I dare you.”

    I remember this article, and approve of it immensely.

  13. dadioflex says:

    I used to play SX Mud over a dial-in node to JANET. Until I “found” the phone number for the local University link, I used a long distance call to the well known London one at about 4 or 5 quid an hour. Since then my gaming addiction has seemed cheap by comparison.

  14. Muzman says:

    The Poms, by and large, mock the Eurovision song contest, do they not?
    The convolutions of these endless talent shows and pop in general of late makes it seem as though they’re not above it, they’ve just got their own (and it plays more often).
    (Aus is no better. We just don’t enter whatever South East Asian contests there are)

  15. Jimbo says:

    No *way* was that Tom Bramwell thing the best article this week. I know you’re inside a monster and everything but come on, it was like third best at most. In short, Eff your list. Yeah, you heard me: Eff.

  16. Gap Gen says:

    I don’t know if AI needs to be particularly good to crew space fighters, particularly as they don’t need life support like humans do. If you’re dealing with complex situations, it might help to have a human in there, but space is confusing and a good AI might well be better at making judgements than a human surrounded by mostly-black and with weird acceleration forces and no good frame of reference to cling to, in a fully 3D battle. After all, computer game AIs are mostly fairly competent at making decisions in space strategy games, and UAV technology is improving all the time. I suspect that individual human-crewed space fighters are probably a waste of resources and lives in stand-up fights, and that human-crewed small ships will be limited to recon missions and other situations that require human judgements on political situations, etc.

  17. DMJ says:

    We should probably keep an eye out for monsters with capacity sufficient to consume all of RPS, with an eye towards rescuing them.

    Or, since all they seem to need is wireless connection, we could all leave our wireless connections unpassworded, so that their last days can be spent providing us with entertaining words.

    Option B is easier.

  18. manveruppd says:

    The David Simon interview was awesome, thanks! Yeah, the interviewer put himself in there a little too much, but it was pretty amusing to read his interjections because his changing mood was an exact replica of how I feel when I watch the Wire: I start out angry and combative, then get shocked and buckled as I realise the futility of battling the system, and I end up depressed, like that interviewer as he absorbed Simon’s angry tirades! :) Also, I totally agree with the guy that what The Wire most resembles is the great Nineteenth-Century novel. It’s true on a lot of levels, not least of which the fact that a lot of those huge War-and-Peace-sized behemoths were originally serialised!

    The PK Dick piece was also interesting, in that the guy offered an interestign POV of how Dick’s novels were rooted in their time and relevant to their time, which someone like me who didn’t discover Dick until 10 years after he’d died don’t really understand cause I’m too young. But I really wish he didn’t simply change the subject and skirt the question when the interviewer asked him about what the perennial appeal of Dick’s works are! There’s a reason why his popularity’s growing even with people who know very little about the 50s and 60s, when the guy wrote, but it’s a reason that’s really hard to pin down. On the subject of PKD and games, I once heard a guy give an interesting talk about it at a conference. I checked his website and he doesn’t seem to have put it online yet, though, so I can’t provide a link.

    • Vitamin Powered says:

      @manveruppd

      I know what you mean about a lot of the PKD’s novels containing a lot of references and background knowledge that I don’t have. The latest William Gibson novel Spook Country contained so many references to things that were so highly related to devices and cultural movements of the last 2-3 years that I wonder how much I’m missing of his earlier works by not having been plugged and tuned in to what was going down and on at the time.

    • manveruppd says:

      I think you misunderstood me a bit Vitamin Powered, I was saying that I don’t get PKD’s topical references either – I just enjoy the stuff that’s perennial about them, whereas people like that anthologiser and his interviewer seemed to enjoy them because they tapped into the Zeitgeist of the time they were written in. Which is weird for me cause I always thought of his books as relevant to all times, not a particular one. Guess it’s a “you weren’t there, man” thing, like ‘Nam! :p

      It’s funny you should bring up Gibson though, cause I always thought he was a totally different kind of writer than PKD. Gibson was a true futurist, while PKD was a philosopher. So while PKD used sci-fi devices to expose something perennial about the human condition, Gibson was basically just 20 years out of whack with reality and was writing about this cool, wired world that’s only just now starting to exist. My point is, I don’t think you need to know much about 1984 to enjoy Neuromancer, because it’s more about 2004 than about 1984. This isn’t just the case with his Sprawl series – the rise of reality tv shows like the X-Factor, user-generated content and stuff like viral marketting are all out of his “Bridge” books, which were written 10-15 years ago.

      Pattern Recognition really confirmed this idea I have of Gibson, because it felt like the future had finally caught up with him, so the only reason he wasn’t writing predictive/speculative sci-fi anymore was that he didn’t need to. But tbh even though I knew enough about the Iraq War and its aftermath to know what he was on about in Spook Country, I don’t think it would’ve made much of a difference if I didn’t. For me, the book wasn’t about that specific war and those specific groups of people, but about

      [MINOR SPOILER]
      some rogue government agents attempting a high-tech embezzlement feat, and a bunch of cyber-activists concocting an equally high-tech ploy to stop them.
      [SPOILER ENDS]

      In other words, it was about the cool, the action, the gadgets, the Cyberpunk. It might’ve been written in 1987 and set in 2027 and I think it would’ve been largely the same book. :)

      Anyway, I’ve gone on too long, and if I had a point, I’ve forgotten it.

  19. Bret says:

    Nifty little article on space warfare. Food for thought.

    Rather than food for the monster what ate RPS, like Kieron.
    Shame, really. I enjoyed his fictionalized illustrated periodicals.

  20. Slaphead says:

    It’s RPS – The Edition!

  21. Slaphead says:

    Ehhh. That doesn’t look right!
    Damn non-standard tags…

  22. Amqz says:

    Perhapes, Mr Gillen, you should challenge the monster to a game of Rock, Paper, Shotgun. HINT: you should choose shotgun.

  23. Gpig says:

    I would be absolutely all over a dick.

  24. Saul says:

    Nah, I can get reviews from metacritic. Proper writing please!

  25. Daffs says:

    Also, those two X-Factor articles are just brilliant. I think there’s a lot of room for good journalism in this Christmas No. 1 debacle. Room I will no doubt try and fill at some point, like ever-expanding journalistic foam.

    One day I will work out why exactly I can’t stand the X-Factor…

  26. Prospero says:

    Ok, I suppose that Sexbot article is ironic, but people in comments to it are a bunch of disturbing creepazoids…

  27. Kieron Gillen says:

    Tom: On the point of Literally, I direct you to this lovely piece over at Slate. Oh, to be as bad a writer as Twain or Fitzgerald. I’d literally explode with joy.

    (There’s an irony that people who always knee-jerk at less-literal Literally-use are having trouble with the concept of figurative.)

    KG

    • manveruppd says:

      Thanks for that, I always felt slightly guilty when I caught myself using “literally” in a non-literal sense. How that I know I’m in good company (hi, Francis!) I can [literally] literally use it until I’m [figuratively] literally blue in the face!

    • TeeJay says:

      I’d literally explode with joy. No, Really. DYSWIDT. etc.
      ;)

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ KG

      That Slate article is gash I’m afraid, The Great Gatsby has big chunks of, what, first person narrative, so when Fitzgerald writes “literally glows” (which seems to mean blush anyway) it’s actually the narrator talking: “when I came in she jumped up and began wiping at it with her handkerchief before a mirror. But there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. He literally glowed”. Now, as any fule kno, a narrator in a book can make mistakes, and sometimes purposefully makes them, for example, the unreliable narrator.

      See also Twain, who even called himself an unreliable narrator, and pretty much the whole of Tom Sawyer is littered with colloquialisms. If someone in the south somewhere said it, it was going in the book, whether it’s proper English or not.

      Joyce, good grief, I’m pretty sure none of “broadshouldered deepchested stronglimbed frankeyed” are in the dictionary either, but there’s a difference between mashing up the language for literary intent, and using words incorrectly. Next we’ll be arguing that we don’t need to use speech marks because Joyce doesn’t. Furthermore, Ulysses is written from so many different internal perspectives that to argue none of the characters would misuse ‘literally’ is just bizarre.

      As for Little Women, and here I’m particularly angry with the ignorance at Slate, the land LITERALLY DID FLOW WITH MILK AND HONEY!!!! It’s in the book, the kids all go out and try drinking milk while they’re stood on their heads. The land was therefore covered with milk and honey, hence flowed with milk and honey. Grr.

      So yes, if we’re writing reviews in the style of a Southern Gentleman or whatever, misusing literally is fine, but if not, stop it. If it’s used as pure hyperbole, fine, but know your audience, half of them will think you’re misusing the English language, so just don’t do it. Finally, as the dictionary discretely advices, there’s no need to add emphasis to a line like “my head will explode” since you’ve already emphasised the point enough and look childishly expressive. Unless, natch, that was the point.

      (Also, there’s a big debate between the rules of English and how English is used, and which one represents proper English, the solution is simply to use the language that best communicates your meaning, and adding literally will hinder communication with some people who will think you’re an ass, which also undermines the reviewer’s stance as an expert.)

      Sources: Me am un Englis teach-r. Und Studie filosophy o’ langage.

      (Sorry this is long and argumentative, Campbell was always my favourite.)

      Big fan, love your work! (Really, it’s aces.)

    • invisiblejesus says:

      What Tom said. Words have meanings, and when people appear not to understand what those meanings are, or when they somehow think using one word when it’s opposite is actually called for is a good way to add emphasis, that does not send the message to me that this is someone worth reading or listening to. If a writer feels so strongly about their misuse of the word literally that it’s worth it to them to risk putting off potential customers like myself, that’s their decision, but it’s not my sales that suffer for it.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Tom: First the terminally literally minded came for our “literally”s. Then they came for our metaphors. Then they came for their similies. AND THEN THEY CAME FOR YOU.*

      It’s an odd one. Some people say that people who use literally sound thick. It seems more to me people who read the sentence “I literally exploded with rage” and think it could mean anything other than what it does are the ones who sound a bit on the dense side.

      I mean, your first response to a piece is to pick on tiny stylistic grounds when you fully understand what it means? That’s the least important part of writing. It’s literally small change. You deserve to be annoyed.

      It’s doubly odd I’m arguing this, as I don’t really use literally myself. But I’ve spent a career as someone with only a loose command of the basics of English, and I generally do okay. What people respond to seems to be something a little more fundamental than just knowing where to put commas.

      Or put it another way: as much as this is one of Stuart’s high horses, what people dig about his writing isn’t his elegant choice of colon placement. It was much more his forcing of his enemies inside their own colons.

      KG

      *I’m only half joking: “I literally exploded with rage” is not really any more confusing than “I exploded with rage”. The argument that only clarity counts must stomp down on any figurative approaches. And fuck that with an fossilised dino-cock.

      (I mean that as a figurative expression to show how forcefully I reject the concept, in case anyone’s confusedly wondering how I could penetrate an argument – a purely conceptual entity – with a dinosaur’s stony penis.)

    • AndrewC says:

      Tom: So I guess it is about writing for your audience, and games journalists must be held to a higher level of formally correct English than Joyce because games journalists are writing for a bunch of pedantic nerds who can always be relied upon to get get extraordinarily angry about exactly the wrong thing. I think that’s the argument, anyway.

      The problem with the use of ‘literally’ is not its literal meaning, but its use as a lazy and meaningless intensifier – as if the argument it is used to describe is somehow more correct simply by its inclusion. It belongs in the family of ‘at the end of the day…’ and alike. It suggests the writer can’t justify his opinion and is falling back on rhetoric and cliche to avoid having to actually explain himself.

    • manveruppd says:

      @Tom Cranfield: You’re right about Fitzgerald (in that he’s trying to portray his narrator as a bit of an idiot) but not about Little Women: the land only flowed with milk and honey insofar as the kids (as I understand from the context) spilt a little bit of milk as they were trying to drink while standing on their heads. I assume, although it’s not explicitly stated, that they still drank from a bottle, rather than from a river of milk. So there was a light shower and a small puddle of milk at best, rather than LITERALLY a steady flow. In any case, since Alcott only talks about the milk and doesn’t mention honey, we have to take “flowed with milk and honey” as figurative at least in part (if not entirely as I interpret it). As they say, no money, no honey.

      I think the point, however, is intentional misuse (whether through genuine ignorance or, as in the case of Fitzgerald, for satiric purposes) has established the misuse as an acceptable use. That’s what the OED says : “Now often improperly used to indicate that some conventional metaphorical or hyperbolical phrase is to be taken in the strongest admissible sense.” They cite a quotation from Kemble dating from 1863 to illustrate it.

      @K.G. I don’t agree with you that people don’t take style and grammar into account. You may mock the humble comma, but you have no idea how much of a pain a piece of writing is to get through if it’s badly punctuated. In any case, one of the reasons I read this site is because the 4 of you write well, and style/grammar is part of it. If you think your style and humour would survive bad grammar, try this little experiment. Take your next post. Translate it into German using Babelfish. Then translate it into French. Then translate it back into English (still using Babelfish) and post it on here. It’ll be hillarious, but no thanks to your scathing wit! :p

    • Gap Gen says:

      I love hyperbole. I love it so much that I will find the next person who rejects it and tear their fucking head off to use as a waste paper bin. Literally.

      I think there’s a danger of a certain phrase becoming cliched through over-use, which is possibly why people are angry at ‘literally’. Otherwise, I don’t see the problem at non-literal use of language.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      It’s not so much that, Gap Gen, at least for me. It’s that a) the word doesn’t convey any meaning, even metaphorical (it’s different from “I exploded with rage” in Kieron’s example because “exploded” conveys an easily understandable sense of the person’s behavior and state of mind as a result of his rage, while the meaning of “literally” has nothing whatsoever to do with emphasis at all), b) “literally” isn’t just not strictly correct, it’s meaning is the exact opposite of what people are often saying, and c) frankly I’m not convinced that most writers and speakers actually know they’re using the word improperly.

      Obviously, this all doesn’t apply if the word is being used ironically, but in most cases it’s not.

    • AndrewC says:

      It remains my opinion that ‘hyperbole’ has three syllables. Also, I reject it.

    • manveruppd says:

      @invisiblejesus: there is in fact a specific kind of rhetorical device which involves using words in an extravagant and counter-intuitive (metaphorical) manner, and it’s called “catachresis”. I think this would count as an instance of that.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      @manveruppd

      The definition of catachresis, taken from http://www.dictionary.com:

      n. pl. cat·a·chre·ses (-sēz)

      1.

      The misapplication of a word or phrase, as the use of blatant to mean “flagrant.”
      2.

      The use of a strained figure of speech, such as a mixed metaphor.

      So yes, you are correct. This is in instance of the misapplication of a word. That’s not something that a serious writer should be aiming to do, especially when the misapplication in question results in them saying the opposite of what they mean to say.

    • Hattered says:

      @This “literally” nonsense:
      Language is (as are most things, of course) more than the rules used to model it. The inclusion of “literally” alters the immediate interpretation of the phrase. Modifying “exploded with rage”, its usual purpose would be to incite an image of the subject actually exploding, possibly into little bits, rather than that of just becoming emotional. The user of “literally” is attempting to override the reader/listener’s instinctively figurative interpretation of the phrase. The use of “figuratively” isn’t expected to have the same effect, being an admission that the phrase is not to be taken as stated, and is redundant.

      That said, it seems to most often be used to modify clichéd phrases like “exploded with rage” which have lost their impact. It is, literally, a crutch and generally indicates the user understands the phrase is weak. It also allows for the ridicule of the user, as in the David Cross bit about the guy saying he literally s*** his pants. Its use is acceptable, but not advised. (Please note, the opinions expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the English language.)

    • manveruppd says:

      @invisiblejesus: that’s the whole descriptive vs. prescriptive argument again, in which, despite generally being a pedant, I tend to lean on the descriptive side as long as it doesn’t hinder understanding. But if you do a simple google search you’ll find plenty of serious writers liberally (ab)using catachresis as a literary or rhetorical device, so I think I have support in this.

      @Hattered: You’re precicely right, that the phrase “exploded with rage” has become so commonplace it can no longer convey the sheer scale of frustration people feel when they use it. But perhaps by intensifying it with literally they’re allowing themselves to vent _just enough_ to NOT literally explode. Until someone says “I want to explode with rage” without modifying it with “literally” and DOES explode, we can’t be sure that it’s not the extra pressure valve of adding “literally” which is stopping everyone else from exploding! :) Witness the Great Blast of ’84, in which Optimus Prime literally exploded with rage, immolating the entire Decepticon army that had surrounded him. As the Autobots mourn the ultimate sacrifice of their great leader, would you discriminate against Earth’s robo-citizens from beyond the stars by mocking those who pay humble homage to him through their speech patters? :)

  28. Tei says:

    *** Random Comment ***

    Confirmation:
    Saint Rows 2 is awesome. Playing it this xmax. Freedom, and cheesines, and fun, and lots of minigames, and more freedom.

    GTAIV is a very boring game. It take itself so serius, you start the game with not weapons at all, and helping your cousing or whatever visit a shop to play cards while you wait on the car. Arrggh. Assssisine. Mind poison.

    Farscape (the TV serie) survive a rewatch with gold medal. Every episode feel different in a refreshing way.

    Dollhouse (the TV serie) contains cute, pretty awesome hot womens. Worth watching yummy yummy delicious. It makes you a better persons.

    Rumor control:

    I can’t denie nor confirm that Rogue Troppers is a prequel of Gears of War and all these “cover and fire” games, but hell… plays a loot like ti, minus generic spacemarines models and unreal 3 engine.

    I can’t denie nor confirm Mini Ninjas is a bad game. But It contains Quick Time Events to kill Bosses. It unorganically tell you to press [SPACE BAR] on every fucking item you can pick, activate,.. Console dev’s still don’t “GET IT”.

  29. CdrJameson says:

    My God! Kieron’s running out of Tia Maria? Quickly, grab the Creme de Menthe!

  30. jsutcliffe says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    My God! Kieron’s running out of Tia Maria? Quickly, grab the Creme de Menthe!

    My God, you know it’s Christmas when someone’s resorting to Tia Maria.
    [Elite fanboy] edit: I don’t like how it changes unregistered users to “Anonymous Coward” when you quote them, especially not when that person is Commander Jameson. Commander Jameson is a stand up guy! [/Elite fanboy]

  31. PHeMoX says:

    It’s unrelated to this topic, but I’m digging that ‘ I stroked a cow and I liked it.’ punchline, good job RPS!

  32. MacBeth says:

    To anyone who liked the “physics of space battles” article, I heartily recommend the site mentioned in the comments – Atomic Rockets

    http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/index.html

    I was fully expecting someone to refer to it as I knew I could not be the only person who stumbled across it a year or three ago and read and read and read and read page after page of pure sci-fi goodness… it makes you want to write/design/code all manner of space-based tomfoolery…

  33. Freudian Trip says:

    Just saying but Graphic Designers cost money, high quality paper costs money, embossing costs money, goldprinting costs money. Without design it’s just a bunch of poorly put together journals. At 20 bucks an Issue I expect it to be a work of art though.

  34. mungobungo says:

    Tom Bramwell explains why they never did their critics Top 50 games of the year. In short…

    it’s political correctness gone MAAD.

  35. Dante says:

    Distress signal from hivemind received. Dispatching extra-ordinary freelancer Quinns armed with Rock, Paper and Shotgun.

    God speed boy, god speed.

  36. Taillefer says:

    Out of curiosity, is it easier to bypass the image or the audio?

  37. PanicProne says:

    What’s up? No news or updates in 2 days?

  38. manveruppd says:

    As someone who’s red-green colourblind I hate uber-secure CAPTCHAs. The ones with the various colours and lots of squiggly line interference are impossible. (Not that I care, I’ve registered, just standing up for my colour-blind brothers.)

    • manveruppd says:

      I have no idea how this ended up here – it was meant to be a response to Tei’s comment made OVER 12 HOURS BEFORE MINE!

    • Tei says:

      @manveruppd:

      Colorblinds can use the sound version, Will a colored noise really interfere with reading?
      It really don’t add much to safety, it seems easy to beat for a lame bot, but using monocrome noise is even more lame. Probably writing the text inside the captcha will beat it anyway, since It will make the captcha special from all other captchas.

  39. Tei says:

    Kill Switch sounds like a nice idea, but we know the S. XXI is harsh for dead wood stuff , I hope is a success of quality, I may subscribe.

  40. WFL says:

    Wish I could take this kind of vacation (I work in the newspaper industry).

  41. Simon says:

    Yes, yes, I read the thing about your holiday hiatus… But I still check RPS twice daily, just in case! Please come back?

  42. Darkfall gold says:

    It is very good post.I like to read it.

  43. Formal dress says:

    Nice post. This post is different from what I read on most blog. And it have so many valuable things to learn. Thank you for your sharing!

  44. Formal dress says:

    It is very good post.I like to read it.

  45. TCM says:

    THE CAPTCHA, IT DOES NOTHING

  46. Vinraith says:

    @TCM

    Sadly true. Though I’d hate for the RPS guys to have to take more serious steps that might prove off-putting to new folks, these are apparently very persistent (and surprisingly sophisticated) spam bots. What’s particularly strange to me is that anyone would bother to program spam bots as obvious as these with the ability to bypass CAPTCHA. I mean, if they can do that, why can’t they come up with a more effective (or more subtle) sales pitch?

  47. Slaphead says:

    I’d suggest moving to reCAPTCHA. It should be a teeny bit more secure.

  48. Slaphead says:


    What’s particularly strange to me is that anyone would bother to program spam bots as obvious as these with the ability to bypass CAPTCHA. I mean, if they can do that, why can’t they come up with a more effective (or more subtle) sales pitch?

    Coding != Marketing.

    Spamming is big business, so the spammers most likely bought a pre-made bot that can pass some captchas. I’m guessing they have plugins for different captcha systems too, the basterds.

  49. Tei says:

    A possible solution is to change the parameters. There are some background noise, make that noise multicolor (is now monocrome) and darker. These lines that strike the numbers, add more, maybe add more characters, like “$,%,&, @”, and change the font to a different one.
    The text “Enter the below CAPTCHA, human” can be drawed in the captcha itself.

    This will beat all pre-made bots, because pre-made bots are designed for pre-made captchas, If your captcha is not pre-made (or modified) then can’t work.

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