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A Games Journalism Journalism Game

Wall Street is a clear motif, decrying the greed at the heart of videogame journalism

If you want to be posted, you can always play to the heaving ego. Even the Masochistic Heaving Ego. Karl Adamson – creator of the best version of Sonic the Hedgehog in years – does that with Imagine: Embittered Videogame Journalist, which takes a back-to-the-1970s Life-on-Mars/Ashes-to-ashes approach, bouncing between decades to show Karl’s disgust with the fall of modern games journalism. It is, of course, not a very good satire, both on the factual (there were nothing we’d recognise as game reviewers in the 1970s and if they were, they wouldn’t be referencing Commando) and the conceptual (As if anyone’s ever listened to me) levels, but it’s a bit of a giggle and involves throwing big handfuls of faeces at my noggin, which is always a plus. You can get it from here. It also reminded me of my half-started attempts at similar…

Well, not very half-started. Every few years I start playing around with whatever the simple-game-making thing du jour is, and play making some oddball numbers games. Basically management stuff, but applied to non-trad-management topics. One of them was something that was aimed as a serious game sort of thing, a little simulation to make a point about the business, and for people who to play it to sort of get how the system works. And I’d have done it anonymously, because I wouldn’t want my name getting in the way.

It’s have been called FREELANCER, and be based around a really simple axis. You’re a freelance games journalist and your job is to review games. You get given games to review. You earn money for handing in a review. You simply have to manage your time, choosing between playing some more and writing a review. At the point of commission, you have a deadline. You know roughly what sort of game it is. And when you spend a day playing the game, you get told how much you think you’ve played and what you’ve made of it (and how sure you are of your opinion on it). Go over deadline too often, you’ll get sacked. Get the review totally wrong too often, and you’ll be sacked. And if you don’t earn enough to eat, you’ll get kicked out of your flat and have to live in the gutter.

Point being, the game’s simulation would be tweaked so that if you try and complete everything, you’ll either starve or be sacked. And by playing gamers would realise why not every single game will be played to completion, because there was no systemic way to support it.

(In the real world, my standard answer to the inevitable question of “Do you complete all the games” is “I play the game until I know what score it’s going to get”. Which is sneaky, because for an incredible pile of shit, it could be half an hour.)

I didn’t do it, as it started feature-creeping in my head and I wanted to add a load more stuff to it. The statement of the game would be clear and not without truth, but it’s actually much more complicated than that. I started seeing fun in different magazines, different sizes of work and whatever. The actual point of a larger sim would be “You cannot review games for a living. You have to write features, interview, etc”. And, perhaps key, there’d be a Princess Maker-esque end-game of What You Do Next. Because there’s certainly routes that starving yourself can lead which are worth pursuing.

There’s also the urge to do a whole Football Management-style game about being an Editor I’d love to write, but that’s another story.

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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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