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.


  1. Psychopomp says:

    It’s like I’m really throwing shit at Kieron!

  2. richmcc says:

    Would FREELANCER have a feature where half of all games to review didn’t install, or didn’t come with notes on how to install, or didn’t come with a keycode, or didn’t come with the USB stick, or partnernet is down, or the shaders don’t work with your card and the devs are asleep?

    Because that’d be an accurate sim.

  3. Mario Figueiredo says:

    >> The actual point of a larger sim would be “You cannot review games for a living. You have to write features, interview, etc”.

    And probably get another job. Unless freelance is your job, in which case you write for more than one magazine. Which could be interesting. Managing not only all the details of producing actual work, but also your resume and career.

    >> 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.

    Paperboy comes to mind. And it was fun to play… if a bit repetitive.

    But seriously, I don’t envy you guys. But I don’t pity you either, you bastards :)

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      >> Paperboy comes to mind. And it was fun to play… if a bit repetitive.

      Hmm… or starting your own magazine…

      Interesting sim. I’m imagining something the likes of Kudos but without all the social nonsense. Or, more charming, Little Computer People with a wealth of sim detail.

      May sound weird, but this would actually interest me. I could pull it out on the development side. But someone else would have to come and do all the artwork. Anyways… right.

  4. Sonic Goo says:

    Does it give you an MMO to review in the same time as a regular game and you’d have to pretend to have spent as much time with it as regular players?

  5. Brumisator says:

    There must be some kind of in-joke I’m not getting.

    now judging this game journalist game purely as a game, it’s hard to judge if a review game is supposed to be good or not when everything about this thing is rubbish.

  6. Flimgoblin says:

    Of course if someone made that then you’d end up missing a deadline for a real article because you were too busy trying to meet a deadline for a virtual article in FREELANCER. At which point you’d make front-page news in a reactionary “Games are evil” piece.

  7. Cherokee Jack says:

    I like the designer’s seeming enmity towards any games journalist with an education.

    Also the soundtrack was nice.

  8. Tei says:

    Does it contains mini-boss levels?

  9. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    It’s a bit limiting if your only interaction is throwing faeces at the journo’s head.

    Imagine if we could talk to Kieron Gillen.

    • AndrewC says:

      If you could you’d just end up wanting to throw shit at his head. This is called ‘streamlining’.

    • Bret says:

      Ah, but it would add depth to the shit throwing, and a defense when the media asks about it.

  10. Ben says:

    That’s it, Kieron, I’m designing a game called “Incredible Pile of Shit”

  11. Cunzy1 1 says:

    I have a games journalist related question.

    Is ‘You’ren’t’ ever allowed?

  12. jonfitt says:

    You may have needed to choose another name:
    link to microsoft.com

  13. TeeJay says:

    I’m stuck! My console has just “bricked”…and… what now?

  14. Down Rodeo says:

    The really important question is, how much would you give it out of ten?

  15. Karl Adamson says:

    Go and talk to Alan. He’ll tell you what to do next.

    Oh, and for more great ideas crippled by terrible execution, come on down to my website – link to bedroomcoder.wordpress.com

  16. TeeJay says:

    Aha, Thanks Karl.

    (ps. when is the Facebook version coming out?)

  17. Karl Adamson says:

    No Facebook version of this, sadly.

    But I’d love to do a Farmville-esque game. Called Real Farmville, you’d have to deal with getting up at 5am, killing vermin, shooting trespassers, molesting your livestock, keeping tabs on your illegal liquor setup and bribing DEFRA when an E-coli scandal rocks your petting zoo.

    I’m sure it’d be a smash hit.