Pen & Paper RPG: Games Journo Story

By Quintin Smith on February 3rd, 2011 at 11:06 pm.

Friends all playing Game Dev Story on their iPhones? Bitter because it was originally a sodding PC game that only got translated out of the original Japanese for Apple’s fancypants lifestyle accessory? Nevermind all that. I’ve got something better for you. Games Journo Story (made in RPG Maker by aspiring UK games journalist Brendan Caldwell) is better than Game Dev Story for three reasons. (1) It’s funnier. (2) It’s only 15-20 minutes long, thus showing respect for your precious time. (3) It’s overloaded with all of young gun Brendan’s angst and desires, which pour into you like beer drunk from a wellington boot. (4) I’m in it. And so’s Kieron. (5) POP MUSIC!

The story of Games Journo Story is a comprehensively bent and exaggerated retelling of Brendan’s trip (via Megabus) to the Eurogamer Expo last year, where he (apparently) met a collection of games journalists, played some games and drank too much. That might not sound like much (and it basically isn’t) (and yet as anyone who’s ever drunk too much will tell you, OF COURSE IT IS) but the game ramps up all of its dialogue and symbolism to unreal levels in order to give these events the same amount of weight and importance that they had for Brendan.

There are plenty of injokes you won’t get and even some politics you might not agree with, but Brendan- or rather, protagonist Arthur McStension’s heart beams out over it all. He hates games. He loves the journalists. He hates the journalists. He loves games. He loves music. He loves booze. He hates booze.

It’s interesting.

Tell you what- I’m quite often asked by aspiring games journalists how to break into the industry. I now have an answer. A good start would be to create something as entertaining and uncomfortably honest as this. Not necessarily because it’ll help you get a job as a games journalist, but because it’ll let everybody know, yourself included, that you’re not kidding yourself; that your reserves of passion and talent are sufficient to make this career happen.

Man! It’s been a fun few months for RPG Maker. We’ve had Space Funeral, Marvel Brothel, Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer and now this.

Go play! I guarantee you’ll be smiling the whole way through it.

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58 Comments »

  1. snitchy says:

    The music is absolutely brilliant.

  2. man-eater chimp says:

    I’ve been reading the Caldwell’s blog, and he hits the problem right on a head with a big shiny mallet. Games journalism is one of the many industries which is nigh impossible to break through without a large portion of luck and many, many months of unpaid internships. And even then it seems like a difficult prospect. As Caldwell points out, our desperation fuels the internship system, despite it being ruled that unpaid internships are illegal.

    Just my Monster Munch wrapper.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      The half-hearted equivalent to that when you get to the level of actual paid journalism is that some newspapers and sunday supplements assemble their videogame coverage entirely from articles that they’ve asked games journalists (the ones who actually do write about games for a living) to do for free, with the only reward being able to say that the write for the Observer, or the like. The result being that games journalism is devalued across the industry.

      The journalist’s defense of this is that if they weren’t writing for free, the Observer wouldn’t cover games at all. My counter-argument to this is as follows: Who fucking cares?

    • Saul says:

      Aye, ’tis a terrifically difficult (terrificult?) business to get into. I’m definitely making a big fat loss on it at this point.

      Haven’t played the game yet, but I look forward to it muchly.

    • Hunam says:

      I think that’s the major problem with almost all creative industries is that some naive soul will always spread the cheeks because either they are desperate for the magical job or are just unaware that being taken advantage of isn’t right.

      I also think a big part of the problem is that the game industry has this very odd inclusive elitist culture that is fuelled by the hopes, dreams and tears of those clamouring to get into the industry. I mean we’re all just folk at the end of the day but their is some sort of collective mania going around.

      Although… to be honest, all the game developers I’ve worked with have been down to earth people who decent and very supportive people. I guess maybe a few bad eggs can ruin it for everyone. I don’t really know anything about the journalism circles though. Maybe you’re all super nice?

    • Xercies says:

      Its not just games journalism now that has that problem, pretty much all journalism does that to some degree now. And well pretty much all jobs have some kind of internships.

      Internships I have to say are pretty much modern slave labour, the businesses know people like us really want jobs so they say “oh work for us for 6 months and you might” and because were so desperate we do and we do the lowliest jobs for them. They get lots of money were probably getting released without a job again.

    • jeremypeel says:

      @frightlever: I’m uneasy about your secondary point. I would argue that the choice between working unpaid or not working at all – the situation many budding (and some established) journalists find themselves in – is no choice.

      Rights are not equal. The ‘right to give away our work’ should always be superceded by our right to be paid for it; I’m describing the two as mutually exclusive because at this point in games journalism they seem to be, as unpaid writers take up positions that would otherwise be paid.

      We may have the right to give away our work, but that’s almost meaningless when we don’t have the right to sell it. Clockwork oranges, all of us.

      The task of changing things lies with those who work for free, but is far from easy. I’m sure KG will be wading in here any moment, throwing punches at anyone even thinking about accepting unpaid work. Which is right in principle – and needs to happen in long-term practice – but is much harder to accept when framed in the rather different light of graduate (or soon-to-be-graduate in my case) desperation way down here.

    • Saul says:

      @frightlever: Cheers. That’s actually not a site I write for any more, anyway, but I can’t work out how to change it. My blog is at http://pompousfool.com/

      @everyone: I’m doing a fair bit of unpaid work for Beefjack right now, but the fact is they’re not pulling a profit, so I don’t feel I’m being exploited. (Lewis Denby is my editor, and you wouldn’t do that to me, would you LD?) What I do feel is that without doing this unpaid work I’ll never have the experience to get very far.

      (Incidentally, I also do paid stuff for Gamasutra and PC Powerplay magazine, but only sporadically).

    • Quintin Smith says:

      @saul

      Doing unpaid work for an outlet that isn’t making money is a whole other ballgame. I was doing unpaid work for RPS for free for years before they had money to pay me with, at which point they started paying me.

      If an outlet isn’t making money, they’re not devaluing your profession because they’re not /choosing/ not to pay you. They’re unable to put any value whatsoever on your profession.

    • Hunam says:

      The thing is, giving work away for free to be read is easier than ever. Get a blog and a twitter account, harass the right people for links and you will be getting your work out their for free and most importantly, for free to the reader as no one in the process is making profit. Obviously the issue is people working for free in a job that should be paid for by a company that can afford to pay them.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Short version: If someone is getting rich off your free labour, it’s exploitation. Don’t be exploited. Have some fucking dignity.

      If no-one’s making any significant money off it, that’s not an issue. If you believe in it, go for it.

      It’s not complicated.

      KG

    • Mil says:

      @jeremypeel:

      Rights are not equal. The ‘right to give away our work’ should always be superceded by our right to be paid for it

      What a scary thing to say.

    • jeremypeel says:

      @Mil: That does sound a little scary now you play it back to me in the voice of Jason Voorhees, but I think it makes sense. Does it make sense?

      What I’m trying to say is this: we should and do have the right to give away work, but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to compromise our ability to make a living. Message ends.

      P.S. I too write for BeefJack. It’s lovely there.

    • GwynTW says:

      I loved this, because after I graduated I was in the same place career-wise Brendan was and met KG at a Phonogram #1 signing in my town. He told me that “everyone wastes their twenties” which struck me as a fucking amazing thing to say.

  3. James G says:

    Note that Game Dev Story is also availible for Android: https://market.android.com/details?id=net.kairosoft.android.gamedev3en

    Haven’t tried it myself, so can’t pass comment (I had actually though the English translation was available on PC as well until reading this post), but if anyone is desperate to give it a look, and hasn’t sipped from the font of Apple, but has instead eaten from the altar of Google, then it might be worth a look.

  4. Devenger says:

    Amusing and depressing in equal measure. Hmm.

  5. JohnArr says:

    Oh. So she is? Hmm. Well, I… Hrm.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Donkey_Kong_characters#Dixie_Kong

    (That was great!)

  6. Schmung says:

    This is excellent. Very funny, but with a message and everythink. I must now make a game based on day at WoL2 where you spill coffee on yourself by bumping into a games journo and spend the entire day so deprived of sleep that even sitting upright is a struggle. I’ll be using Unity3D.

  7. Lewis Denby says:

    Fortunately Brendan is destined to be the new Quinns, and will inevitably be appearing in a great many publications in the very near future, constantly outdoing everyone else around until we all have to go and cry on our mothers’ shoulders.

    (I mean this with absolute sincerity. His work is exceptional. This is one of the best pieces of writing about games that I’ve had the pleasure of reading in the past twelve months.)

    (EDIT: And this, while we’re at it.)

    • Arathain says:

      Wow, that second one in particular is something special.

    • jeremypeel says:

      I’m right with Lewis on this one. Reading Brendan’s stuff feels like reading Quinns for the first time – both write in a way that suggests form over analysis, but then BAM, the analysis kicks you in the teeth all unexpected-like and the taste of your own blood is delicious. And for both, I don’t need to look at the byline to know who it is.

      And he makes me write better. Glad to know him. The fact he hasn’t landed a great job yet makes me scared and angry in equal measure, which makes for some interesting facial expressions.

  8. terry says:

    Brilliant music, and quite depressing/true to boot. I also enjoyed the copyright-infringing Nintendo joke.

  9. Tetragrammaton says:

    Great little piece, lots of great humor.
    But yeah, the political aspect is a little overblown. The reality is that the current situation for us young’uns is a product of circumstance. And the fact remains that most really dont realise how good they have it. Comparing the British youth to the Victorian working class is hilariously daft. Yes the job situation sucks, but that is a global issue. Yes the fee hike sucks, but its previous form was unworkable in the long term. (compare our quality of universities with that of the United States, for example.) & University degrees have become so watered down that they are worthless.
    Anyway, enough ranting.Good job Brendan!

    • JFS says:

      The fee hike? In Germany, we didn’t have any fees several years ago, and even now only a few states have them, about 1000 Euro a year (which to this day stirs up a lot of fighting). And I dare say, we didn’t fare too bad. Don’t orient yourself towards the US, it’s the absolute wrong direction.

      Sorry, that was off-topic. I just noticed. This is about games journalism… but at least the main theme is the same, “bleak outlooks into the future”.

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      Im not so sure. My own experience has included time in both UK and US universities. (To be specific – studying art for the entertainment industry) US was hands down superior – in both quality (and interest – My tuters in the UK didn’t give a shit) of instruction, facilities and (though this is industry specific) networking opportunities. The downside is it left me with a nasty debt. But It was absolutely worth it.

    • Lambchops says:

      “University degrees have become so watered down they are worthless.”

      This is a bit of a sweeping generalisation, though I can understand it from the perspective of someone who studied an arts degree as I’ve heard varying opinions from friends on the overall quality of their teaching. Wouldn’t say it’s the case for science though. Or engineering from what I’ve heard. Of course job prospects are also becoming pretty bleak as well.

      Agree, with the main points about circumstance and people having it much better than Victorian times. That said, I think the one area where we have been well and truly shafted is being able to afford housing. I honestly can’t envisage doing anything other than renting (and no doubt paying well over the odds) for a long time into the future.

      —-

      As for the game it raised some laughs. I presume that crazy riverdance in the toilet bit was one of them thar in jokes.

    • Baboonanza says:

      The difference is that having a degree in any subject used to carry some sort of weight, and so a degree in English literature could still help you start a career in an unrelated field. Now that everyone goes to university that’s not the case, though career focused degrees like science and engineering are still valuable.

      The simple lesson is that if you’re going to uni to do a degree in a useless subject either accept the cost or don’t bother.

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      “This is a bit of a sweeping generalisation” – Fair enough. I suppose my situation is fairly unusual in that art is no longer taught as a technical skill here in the UK ,(I was shocked to discover that my illustration tutors couldn’t draw) and focuses instead on concept and theory. Which is all well and good, but there is little practical application. Somewhere along the way it became academic, which is fine for fine artists, but commercial artists need a vocational education.

      “The simple lesson is that if you’re going to uni to do a degree in a useless subject either accept the cost or don’t bother.”
      This.

    • Josh04 says:

      “The simple lesson is that if you’re going to uni to do a degree in a useless subject either accept the cost or don’t bother.”

      What is a ‘useless subject’, pray tell?

    • Hidden_7 says:

      He means vocational. A job training subject.

      I sort of agree. I graduated 2009 with a degree in Philosophy. I work as an airport baggage handler. My sister graduated last year with a degree in Art History. She maybe gets a couple days a week of work as an assistant for a friend of our mother’s. Both our degrees are barely assets in job hunts. I include mine on my resume because I paid 20k for it damnit, but I often feel like it’s just wasted space. My peers that I’d consider most successful are the ones who did more focused vocational type degrees. I’m considering going back to school to learn a job, get a “proper” degree, though I’m still very much at the point where I have no idea what I want to do with my life.

      I’m not necessarily unhappy with my academic decisions. I think I got value from what I learned, I enjoyed my time, and I do think I’ve come out a better person with a broader skill set. There are days, however, when I sort of wish that I could go back and warn myself on graduating high school not to do an arts degree . Hell, don’t even bother with anything academic, go to a technical school.

      And as for housing? I live in Vancouver, B.C., which has a reputation for being a shade expensive. My dream is to be able to afford rent. Owning a place ever seems as ludicrous a hope to me as going to space.

  10. moof says:

    The game crashed for me during the scene where they ride home on the bus.
    Probably crashed my graphics driver, given the horrible things I was witnessing. It looked like the kind of freaky colours people claim to see whilst taking psychedelic drugs.
    Can someone spoil the rest of the game for me? I’m afraid of running it again.

  11. Brendy_C says:

    To anyone who enjoyed the music, the two bands were really glad to give permission to use their tracks. And I can’t recommend them enough.

    Captain Kennedy’s best song to my mind is Sweetest Friend. I think you can get it on iTunes – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgKApEnBXcA

    And DEFINITELY buy Heaven’s To Betsy by Blackbeard’s Tea Party if you like the trad stuff. I saw them busking in Sheffield and bought their album right there on the basis of two tunes. Not a single regret. It’s like listening to a rum-drunk Belgian pirate tell you his life story through moosic. Stellar.

    • snitchy says:

      What’s that song when King Kohl walks in?

    • Quasar says:

      Aha, the man himself! I haven’t had a chance to play the game yet, but I do very much enjoy your writings. Best of luck making yourself a proper career – if anything, it means there’s hope for the rest of us.

      Incidentally, I had no idea there were this many RPS readers that fancied themselves journalists. We should all start a blog together.

    • DeathHamsterDude says:

      *clap clap* Mr. Caldwell! Really enjoyed the game, and I think you’ve earned yourself a trove of avid admirers with this!

      By the by, if you’re into (and anyone else here too of course) folky-piratey music, then you should really check out the compilation album ‘Rogue’s Gallery’. It has songs by Nick Cave, John C. Reilly, Lou Reed, Antony Hegarty, and a cornucopia of other excellent musicians doing renditions of old pirate-folk songs. It is amazing. I really can’t express how very very awesome it is. On a scale of awesome to awesome it is most likely awesome.

      (On an unrelated note; ahem . . . AMANDA FUCKING PALMER!)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogue's_Gallery:_Pirate_Ballads,_Sea_Songs,_and_Chanteys

      My Son John by John C. Reilly (yes, the actor, and yes, he’s awesome) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4ieiIS8Hu8

      @Quasar – I know man, everyone’s a journo! I write about music though so I’d be left out of the scene. ;( But the more I read RPS with it’s old fashioned sensibilities and values the more I would like to review games on the side for funsies!

    • Brendy_C says:

      @snitchy That song is “Bean’s Secret Cider Cellar”. You can get it from the Fantastic Mr Fox soundtrack – a film I suggest everyone go and watch and enjoy and laugh and live like merry kings of yore RIGHT NOW.

      @Quasar Cheers, blud!

      @DeathHamsterDude You have a marginally disconcerting screen name.

    • DeathHamsterDude says:

      Well, it’s not my screen name actually, it’s my real one . . . long story short my parents were Satanist Veterinarian Surfers.

    • Gerbick says:

      Haven’t played the game yet, but it’s on my to do list for the evening. But, just wanted to second the Blackbeard’s Tea Party recommendation. I also saw them busking (in York) and bought the cd on the spot. Also saw them live with the full band (not all of them busk every time) and they were fabulous. And thoroughly nice folks too.

  12. phenom_x8 says:

    haha! Nice game there!
    I’ve been played the game that allow us to be game developer, but I forgot the name!
    I knew it from 1up in their 101 free games 2007 feature.
    Oh, Quintin there is some news said that STEAM revenue were almost 1 Billion dolar in 2010 here http://www.hardocp.com/news/2011/02/03/steam_2010_revenue_nearly_1_billion/
    Can you confirmed it?? Thanks

  13. Kanamit says:

    More games should be like this.

  14. plugmonkey says:

    Can someone who has it, share it? Caldwell’s drop box account has been overwhelmed so the link to the game doesn’t work anymore.

  15. Richie Shoemaker says:

    What doesn’t destroy us makes us stronger – isn’t that how it goes?

    Becoming a games “journo” was a relative breeze for me, which is why I’ve always been a bit rubbish at it and have to put guilty quotes around the J word.

    Mr. Caldwell is clearly a talented writer and a decent little game has come from his struggle (which I seem to be absent from, but I’ll live with that). He will be successful, not just because he is good with thoughts and words, but because he is willing do something different other than complain in order to realise his dream.

    I’m looking forward to reading Caldwell’s “Gaming Life” in a few years. In book form, hopefully.

  16. Acosta says:

    Working as videogame journalist is easy, living as videogame journalist is the hardest part.

    • Brendy_C says:

      I’ve just been blinded by wisdom. Listen to this man.

    • Acosta says:

      After 11 years in the field, some of them working for the privilege of playing the game I was commenting, and having worked for 11 printed publications (9 of them closed, included the local brands of Edge and PC Gamer), that is the only pearl of wisdom I have out of it, glad you liked it.

      But let me tell you, I don’t regret anything and I keep pushing for it (my last paycheck was of 100 euros, wohoo!), this is the job I dreamed about when I was a kid and only starvation will keep me away of it. This is the curse of this job, the ones who do it, they really want to do it, and that sadly comes with a price.

  17. Acosta says:

    Well, now I have played the game and discovered Brendy’s blog, I don’t think I have much to say. Kieron got it right: don’t worry too much. You’ll get what you are seeking. Is certain that the laboral situation is shitty, but these times have their advantages, and one of them is that is easier to show and share your talent. It´s not the same being another guy in the pile of CVs, that being Brendan Caldwell, that one who wrote that Game Journo game with the dancing spectacle in the toilet.

    In all these years I never worried if I was good or bad at it, never considered I had to surpass anyone and I got mostly what I found on my way. Of course I wanted to live from my job, I wanted to get a pay and I did (more or less), but I always did what I did for my own enjoyment and took what my editors offered. I never did job hunting, I have never got a proper contract, I started directly as freelance and let my job talk for itself. When we had a a proper editorial industry in my country, that was enough, I don’t know how things are in UK but you have a lot of active outlets and the chance of jumping to USA, so I’m sure someone as talented as you will have his chances soon or later.

  18. Easydog says:

    I enjoyed that. It was a fun game :)

  19. JackShandy says:

    EuEueuuerghrghhshuddershudder, now you’ve made me finally go through and play dungeoneer.

    I love the magic realism, and I love how personal this game is. It’s so rare to see a game’s author so clearly in their creation.

    On the other hand, I really hope what I’m seeing in dungeoneer isn’t the game’s author.

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