The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for finishing off an episode of Twin Peaks, crouching in your office trying to type quietly while Delightful Fiance records some music and compiling a line of the fine (mostly) games related reading from across the week, while trying to not link to some manner of future-music remix of the future-fiction of the Victorian age.



  1. UncleSmoothie says:

    That dubstep War of the Worlds is siiiiiick.

    • Feet says:

      It really really really is.

    • Toyoch says:

      I usually don’t bother listening to the Sunday Papers music recommendations. However, upon reading dubstep I just couldnt resist..thanks, sick compilation

    • westyfield says:

      F*cking dubstep. The original musical is better, and the Orson Welles broadcast is better even than that.
      Get these pesky kids off my lawn, etc.

    • Collic says:

      I’m not a fan of dub step, but I do like this. Quite a lot.

      And yes, the original is peerless, but that doesn’t stop something significantly different being a worthy tribute.

    • westyfield says:

      @ Collic

      But they took something I like and changed it! That’s not allowed!

    • DMcCool says:

      It’s…such a perfect mix. I thought I’d grown out of dub-step, but this is clearly its natural home. With H.G Wells.

    • c-Row says:

      Bloody dubstep – why can’t it just go away and die?

    • YogSo says:

      That mix was… interesting, but I really love the original much more. Also, I missed the Martians oolaaa (there’s only one in this mix, the last one, just before the epilogue).

    • Jacques says:

      I like dubstep, but I didn’t like that.

      Not enough bass.

    • Sigma Draconis says:

      Never listened to Dubstep before, but I really like this.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      A shame that most of it is the kind of “sound-effect dubstep” made by people who can produce but cannot compose (funny how 90% of dubstep is like this…). I suspected as much when I saw no Burial, Falty DL or Martyn etc in the tracklist.

      At least there’s no fucking Rusko though…

    • Michael says:

      There’s a previous occurance of music other than the original being set to the War of the Worlds dialogue, and I personally much prefer it. It keeps the narrative relatively constant and unchanged, and works a treat:
      link to

      It uses 65daysofstatic’s Fall of Math, the entire record.

  2. Doug F says:

    I guess I’m a terrible businessman then. My plan has always been to use placeholder art until I’ve actually got enough working code that I’m not embarrassed to show potential artists, and then try to convince a friend to partner with me. What a fool I am!

  3. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    Oooh a lead I submitted (probably along with lots of others) gets linked here, I feel mildly cool by association.

  4. JackShandy says:

    Why the fuck didn’t we make Inception first? Weird question. I’m fairly sure we DID do the whole set-in-a-dream thing. Called it Psychonauts. What this guy wants is an exact copy of Inceptions rules, character and plot in a game- and yeah, sorry, Christopher Nolan somehow managed to beat us to that one.

    • kyynis says:

      Erp, bit too late here as well. What he said.

    • bill says:

      didn’t eXistenZ already do it 10 years ago, WITH video games?

    • kyynis says:

      Might be, but Last Action Hero did it before ExistenZ, WITH movies — er, wot

    • Bowlby says:

      Total Recall beat them all to it. Who can forget the final few lines?

      “Douglas Quaid: I just had a terrible thought… what if this is a dream?
      Melina: Well, then, kiss me quick before you wake up!”

      Genius. Nolan only wishes he could make a movie like this. ;)

      Also, it seems a little unfair to blame those wanting to get into journalism for the way the industry has set up the barriers to entry. In other words, if it’s a case of working for a national newspaper for free or not working, it would be incredibly foolish to not take the opportunity for the sake of principle. Principles don’t do you much good when you’ve got no experience and are attempting to enter a competitive job market.

      The fact that people have to work for free anyway, not just in journalism, to get experience and their “break” is, I think, wrong on just a fundamental level. People should be paid for their time and their work – period. The fact that young people, myself included, have no choice but to reluctantly accept this bullshit is not their fault; it’s a fault of the marketplace, and it grinds my gears just thinking about it. Nobody enjoys working for free; they only do it because they have to, and behind gritted teeth they smile and get on with it.

      Calling these people “idiot scum” and “scabs” feels a bit like kicking a homeless man while he’s already down in the gutter, so sorry if I come over just a little irritated.

    • Guildenstern says:

      Open Source community says hi. Also this

    • Crispy says:

      Inception has characters? I’m sorry, I must have been viewing them from the perpendicular…

    • JuJuCam says:

      Videodrome. 1983. But instead of dreams within dreams it’s films within films… or something…

  5. Auspex says:

    It’s worth noting that it’s not just games journalism where ‘apparently some people are working for free for national newspapers for “the exposure”.’ This is usually accepted to happen a great deal in sports writing (in particular match reports of the lower leagues) in certain papers.

    However in those cases it is generally students seemingly overcome with the novelty of having their words printed in something people actually read. It seems a bit harsh to refer to them as “idiot scum” as they are naive (and not really part of the “fraternity”) but perhaps the games journalist you suspect should know better.

    • DrugCrazed says:

      The problem is that exposure at the beginning can seem like much more valuable than money. You can then go “Look at me, I was in [paper here]”.

    • qrter says:

      It’s prevalent in all forms of writing. I’m a playwright, an occupation you choose if you don’t really care about making money anyway, and I’ve encountered it there too, repeatedly.

      It’s still hard to convince people that writing is an actual talent and/or a profession. I have turned down unpaid ‘jobs’, where the director will then say “oh well, I’ll do it myself”. Because, you know, everybody can write.


    • SuperNashwan says:

      Exposure is more valuable than what you get paid per word at the beginning and the same thing happens in other competitive creative spheres, obviously like art here and also very much in documentary/tv music scoring. Anyone can self publish art/words/music on the internet now, so the value of appearing in traditional media is far greater than it used to be, it serves to legitimise you as a creator.

    • Tei says:

      Exposure? who cares about such thing? Real world experience is more important than money wen you start X. IMHO.

    • Kid A says:

      Exposure implies having written to a standard high enough to be picked up by said publication. If that’s not experience, what is?

    • Kommissar Nicko says:

      Tei is concerned that budding writers are instead seeking self-improvement through an acetic lifestyle of living (and dying) in caves during harsh winters.

  6. kyynis says:

    Piece about Inception felt more than a tiny bit Nolan-fanboyism. If anything, Psychonauts went there and did dream-based adventuring expertly and much more imaginatively five years before.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Is there anything wrong with being a Nolan-fanboy? I was doubtful if he could top himself after The Prestige and the Dark Knight, but he pulled it off, and that is just a damn impressive accomplishment.
      At this pace, his next movie will either be the best movie ever, or a totally ingenious disappointment.

    • Matzerath says:

      I really like Nolan and what he does, but I think every single one of his movies fall apart under increased scrutiny. His set-ups sorta pretend to be ‘tight as a drum’, but unfortunately they really aren’t in the end, which kind of defeats their purpose.

  7. Antlia says:

    That Yakuza article is the best piece of games journalism that I’ve read this year.

    • Nick says:

      I completely agree, it was brilliant.

    • Vodkarn says:

      Holy crap yes – that takes balls.

      I love their quotes too – they seem like happy-go-lucky, lovable murderers ;)

    • sfury says:

      The book he wrote about the Yakuza has amazingly funny backstory too, I’m kinda surprised he went back to Japan after that – link to

    • Sigma Draconis says:

      That was fantastic. The concept for such an article is interesting enough. The resulting article itself is severely entertaining.

    • Freud says:

      I love the last quote from a yakuza member “I feel sorry for the people who bought the American version. SEGA USA sucks.”. Some things are truly universal.

    • Dominic White says:

      The amazing thing is the spin that Sega USA tried to put on all the cuts they made. There’s nothing 18-rated at all. No sex, no nudity, but they cut it because they were afraid of some Hot Coffee backlash.

      The excuses they made were mindblowing, though. Apparently they were cuts to help delicate American audiences. Apparently hostess bars are just too japanese a concept for our tiny western minds to handle, and it would have only confused us if they hadn’t removed it. Yeah. Nobody bought that, even for a second, especially as it’s the most inherently Japanese game possible, about (quite accurately depicted, apparently) crime on the mean streets of Tokyo.

    • Reefpirate says:

      Certainly the best game review I’ve ever read! Games journalism in general, I don’t know where this would rank, but definitely somewhere near the top. Hilarious/surreal quotes in that piece.

  8. abigbat says:

    The “how to hire an artist” article has been inciting rage throughout the artistic community. As a freelance concept artist I’ve encountered these people before, and his school of thought is more widespread than you might think. I would encourage all artists, whether professional or in training, to read his article and learn how to present yourself to ensure that it doesn’t happen to you.

    • Starky says:

      Eh? Ensure he doesn’t treat you like what? A person doing a job for money?

      That is all he’s doing, this is all a big fuss over nothing. The guy gives an amateur artist a chance for at job, lets them decide the value of their own work (via a bid), and then pays them when it is done.

      Oh god poor sodding artists having to suffer through the EXACT same hardships of every self employed/contractor/freelancer EVER.

      This is the way industry works – a guy tells you what he wants, you say how much you want paid for doing it, both agree – you do the work THEN you get paid. Be it Engineering, Building contracting, or freelance artistry, lowest bidder (assuming equal enough quality) gets the job.
      Maybe he’s not being all delicate with your artistic feelings, but this is business, it is cold and it is hard an it is impersonal – and probably should be that way frankly.

    • Starky says:

      That first line should probably read “Ensure that what doesn’t happen to you? Getting paid to do a job you bid on and then agreed to do?”.

    • qrter says:

      It’s not as simple as you posit it. When you start out, chances are you don’t know what you can ask, consequently chances are you will also ask under the standard price.

      The writer of that article knows this, and it is the sole reason why he goes after amateur artists – not to give them a break, or a chance at a job etc.

      It is possible to run a profitable business model without squeezing every extra fucking dollar out of the people under you – too many people have been conned into thinking it has to be all about money, at all times.

    • SuperNashwan says:

      Man, anyone would think there weren’t large communities of artists on the internet where you could ask how much to charge for a job and get a sensible answer. If you don’t know the value of your own work and don’t make the simple effort to find out, then of course you’re going to get underpaid.

    • sfury says:

      I had problems with some of his wording and reasoning, but he’s basically saying he’s looking for good artists that are not doing this for their day-job and offering them to produce the art assets for his games and also asking THEM to name their price (which of course won’t be as high as the professionals). So of course he would find easily lots of people willing to do some relatively cheap work for him (probably also won’t be as good as the pros) and they would get some money for doing their hobby and something to put in their portfolio.

      Of course any serious artist, or someone who has already been at least looking for a job in the field would know his price better and won’t agree to work for peanuts for him.

      But when it’s a hobbyist artist – it’s win for both sides (if it’s not win for the artist I don’t see why they’d be taking the job in the first place)

      Also that’s just a guy who’s making flash games, not some huge coroporation or gaming company exploiting the poor artists. Though the amounts he’s earning from them surprised me.

      And that’s the only (very) stupid thing he does – he also boasts on the same blog how much money he’s making off those games – but as mentioned before – that way he’s making artists a big favor, it’s rare to find someone disclosing his full income from his flash games and even go in details. So people will know next time they haggle with the likes of him. :)

    • Starky says:

      That is the bottom line isn’t it, if they don’t know the value of their own work, or can’t manage their time/costs effectively they they don’t deserve to get high pay – it’s not exploitation in any means, these people are not dirt poor rice farmers having to work and live in a box outside the factory they now work at.

      When I was self employed (PC hardware design/maintenance/support) I had the exact same issues – and you know what, I turned down jobs that offered too little money for the work required.
      It’s a gamble, on one hand you have work that will earn you very little, but it is work – on the other you have nothing but have a chance of finding good work.

      Sometimes that gamble pays off, often it doesn’t.

      The trick is making sure you earn enough in the good gambles to cover your ass through the dry spells.

      If you can’t manage that, give it up and get a JOB.

      I had to do it (too hard to make any money in computer hardware these days unless you deal in massive bulk).

    • perilisk says:

      “If you don’t know the value of your own work and don’t make the simple effort to find out, then of course you’re going to get underpaid.”

      Well, strictly speaking, you do know the value of your work — to you (mainly, in the other things you could be doing with the time required to make it). You just don’t know what it’s worth to someone else. But as long as you’re paid at least what it’s worth to you, you aren’t ‘underpaid’.

      Now, the fact that you’re willing to work for peanuts, either for exposure or because you’re an amateur, means there is less work for more expensive, professional or established artists. And because it harms them, they will complain. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Someone loses out in almost everything, for better or worse.

    • sfury says:

      I generally agree but I doubt a guy whose biggest success is a game like this link to – is somehow able to hire (or interest or even think to go for) the likes of David Hellman but holding out because he found someone on dA who’d do the job for $500. :)

      The guy, as the ones he’s looking to contract, is a semi-pro at best, though I’ll give it to him – he knows his field well enough to milk good cash from his games, but that’s marketing/management.

  9. kwyjibo says:

    National papers probably have work experience interns, they’ve probably had them forever. Covering games is one of the few things they’re trusted to do.


    And about the “hiring an artist” article. It’s correct, but that’s only because artists are idiots. Can you imagine a “hiring a producer” article like that? No.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I suppose one problem is the supply of budding journalists is still high at a time when revenue is bombing. Like you say, short internships are fair enough (PC Gamer does them, after all), but of course there comes a point where there’s an industry-wide exploitation of its upcoming workforce. It’s pretty disrespectful, and represents a kind of mentality where the suits believe they’re selling a fungible product made by unskilled labour, rather than a product where respecting the workforce makes your product stand out from all the pap out there.

    • Starky says:


      Hiring a producer? yes, yes I can – in music production for sure because it is EXACTLY the same. Out side of big name, seasoned producers, producers are 10 a penny these days – thanks to the stupidly low cost it takes to get a bedroom audio setup (hell I have one and I just dabble) – a few hundred quid can get you all you need to start producing as a hobby.

      So yeah, I can see the exact same thing when it comes to getting music for your game.

      If you meant game producer, well then that isn’t the same thing at all, given a game producer isn’t someone you hire freelance, or contract. They usually come with the funding (from the publisher) or they are a integral part of the studio and thus on salary.

    • kwyjibo says:

      You do get producers/schedulers/managers on contracts.

      You can be sure they charge a lot more than artists. It’s because they’re professionals.

  10. Auspex says:

    “The Wire” fans who liked that Yakuza piece might be interested in the “What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire?” where Sudhir Venkatesh discusses the first few episodes of the final season with a “few respected street figures in the New York metro region”.

    link to

    • Dood says:

      Damn, I really want to read that. But I fear it will get me spoilered, since I’ve only watched the first season yet. Shame on me. I really need to grab those DVDs and get on with it.

    • Auspex says:

      Oh yeah, I should have said. MASSIVE SPOILERS if you haven’t watched the last series.

      Also, (@Dood) get on with it!

    • HarbourMaster says:

      I am going to watch The Wire again this year. If I can watch BSG twice, then The Wire also deserves a second viewing.

    • Wilson says:

      @Auspex – That was really interesting, cheers for the link!

  11. Dood says:

    Not sure if it has been linked to yet, but just in case it hasn’t let me contribute this piece about games journalism compared to sports journalism: link to

    I found the stuff about the more or less enforced cheering at pres events pretty interesting.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      There is a line between polite applause and cheering. Polite applaue is the social equivalent of “Thanks for your time” at the end of the interview. I’ve written at length about my crushing embarrassment at the whooping before.


    • Choca says:

      I remember a few years ago at one of the E3 opening conferences, I was sitting just in front of the “official cheering squad” which was pretty much paid to scream like morons every time someone finished a sentence on stage.

      I’ll never understand this need to turn everything into some kind of big stupid show, especially when it’s a “business only” event.

      Must be a cultural thing.

    • Jayt says:

      And the amount of jaw dropping/nut busting at announcements is insane at events like e3. Act like men, for fucks sake.

    • Dante says:

      Some of the commentators for England matches could do to remember the ‘no cheering’ rule too. Or at least ‘no pathetic gushing over a player who hasn’t done anything yet’.

  12. Vivian says:

    Right, you used to write for Plan B, right Keiron? I know a few illustrators who contributed their stuff free to that mag ‘for the exposure’. Now, it was a good magazine and I doubt it made a lot of money, but it was commercial. How does that figure in your ‘no work for free’ ideal? I agree in principle, but in illustration at least that stuff seems so commonplace that if you don’t give it for free then someone else will, then they get their name around and you don’t. Sucks. Still, beats science journalists who literally get paid to copy the press release you wrote for your work, word for word, while you get nothing for it.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Trust me. Plan B really wasn’t commercial. It was close to a charity. No-one was getting rich off you. It’s not the same as working for a national newspaper for free where most people *do* get paid real money.

      EDIT: When Plan B also started making money, it started paying people something, if only a token.


    • Gap Gen says:

      I’m not particularly sure if the science journalism thing is necessarily a problem for the person who wrote the press release. After all, press releases are designed to attain coverage in the press, and press releases are typically written by people who are paid/funded by universities or companies.

      The problem with the thing you describe is the entire concept of regurgitating press releases. If a journalist has been reduced to a copy-and-paste typist for whatever bullshit a PR firm is pumping out, the medium is in deep shit.

  13. queue says:

    Thinking about the ‘exposure’ reason for giving it away; what’s the alternative for these people? I can see that it’s damaging for the rest, but for someone desperate to work in the industry (be it media, entertainment, fashion, w/e) working for free is better than not working.

    Saw this ages ago, more about interns being kept instead of paid staff; but they’re all looking for exposure too: link to

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Interns are interesting and awkward and sad and a confused and strange part of these kind of businesses.


    • Dante says:

      There’s plenty of sites which don’t make money off you but still give you exposure, places like Gaming Daily, Resolution, The Reticule etc.

  14. Alexander Norris says:

    This Steve Peacock fellow is a blackhearted hack of a journalist with no merits, and I am completely opposed to his being in the Sunday papers. ;)

  15. LaundroMat says:

    About that Inception/Matrix stuff. I bought The Bouncer for PS2 when it came out because I (thought I) had read somewhere that it had similar freeze-and-move-the-camera-around-subject cinematics.

    I leave all commentary to the reader.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      They don’t let someone else sell them though, which is what exploitation is about.


    • Lacero says:

      Thanks that’s a little clearer.

      However, I seem to recall a lot of free games being put on coverdisks, especially back in the PD days. Even if the magazine asks for permission would you consider this asking permission to exploit someone? Or did the magazines pay for these free games to be on their cover?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      The Cover CDs and DVDs are free though! They’re not charging for them.

      And yeah, I know. That’s basically the maths though. Mag coverdisks are a distribution channel. Mags normally ask permission, then you do your “Do you want to reach these people or not?” maths. With freeware, normally you do. But you can easily imagine a situation which is over the line – like (say) Steam selling a freeware game for money.


    • Jimbo says:

      The ‘currency of your work’ will be reduced by free games/articles whether somebody is profiting from them or not.

      Sites like RPS being run for “pocket change” will have had just as much of a negative influence on ‘the fraternity’ as if you had all been earning your entire living from it. More probably, because to do that you’d have had to charge for the content or increase the ad revenue and RPS would have had less impact as a result.

      Sad fact is, if somebody is prepared to do your work for free, then that work is no longer worth what you think it is. If they’re better at it than you then they’ll take your place; if they’re not then you don’t have anything to worry about. The market is obviously oversaturated and people will fight for what work there is.

      If exploitation is happening then that needs addressing for its own sake, but free / subsidised content will always apply a downward pressure on everybody else, regardless of whether that content is created through exploitation or altruism.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Jimbo, this isn’t about stuff being free to the consumer. This is about stuff being free to employers.


    • randomnine says:

      @Lacero: A Half-Life mod I did ended up on a magazine coverdisk once.

      I remember asking if they’d send me a free copy of the magazine (I was, what, 15? Money was at a premium.) Apparently they couldn’t do that.

    • Lacero says:

      I’m imagining a copy of The Sun with “Free Games Reviews Inside!” on the cover :)
      But , there’s a huge difference between work produced independently that is given away and later used to add value to a magazine, and work for hire that you cannot give away yourself. I’m not sure if that’s the point you were making, but it’s convinced me.

      On the other hand, while we’re talking about giving opinions away for the love of being heard, it’s worth remembering a lot of newspapers are running at a loss. The people running the business at the highest level believe in losing money to affect other’s perceptions.

    • Jimbo says:

      So how does this freely-generated content being sold “sell out your entire fraternity, and forever reduce the currency of your work” any more than freely generated content which is distributed freely? If anything, I would expect the latter to have a greater impact on the currency of the work.

      I can understand having a problem with exploitation, but I can’t understand having a problem with the symptoms you brought up, whilst not having a problem with those same symptoms from another source. One results in the employer saying “I’m not hiring you, because this guy will do it for free”, the other results in the employer sayng “I’m not hiring you, because those guys over there are already doing it for free”. You’re not getting hired either way.

      If the issue is that some guy in a suit makes money without doing anything, then that’s an issue I can get behind, but that’s the only difference as far as I can see. Both scenarios damage everybody trying to earn a living from games journalism.

  16. HarbourMaster says:

    I’ve never played Uncharted 2, but that opening train wreck sequence in the Gamecrashers article was really entertaining. For all the talk of player-authored experiences, scripted events can still equal fun.

  17. Freud says:

    I actually thought about how little camera is used in games after seeing the brilliant Mafia II Ain’t that a kick trailer. It is as much ‘editing’ as camera work there but still.

    But there are of course limitations when it comes to using it. Gamers hate losing control so less fancy and less invasive camera work might be what actually works best.

  18. Lacero says:

    The reason games didn’t do The Matrix first, or Inception, is twofold. One, games require the player to exert control and they have to be aware of their surroundings to exert control. When reality breaks down (Max Payne) it does so in very simple ways so the player can still interact with the world. Cinema isn’t limited in this way, the audience doesn’t actually need to understand what’s happening for it to happen.

    Second, a lot of artists in the game industry see cinema as the pinnacle of moving visual art, and spend an incredible amount of time trying to copy specific lens effects and editing techniques rather than exploring games unique possibilities. Understandably, it’s extremely hard to reinvent this kind of thing. But it is a shame.

    • AlexW says:

      Jumping on this regarding games and the Matrix, I think a significant part of it is specifically BECAUSE of how easy it is to move around the character in paused motion and whatnot. It was incredibly cool in the Matrix because you just can’t easily do that kind of thing with a camera and a human being, but every third-person game out there has a full model of the player character, and it’s just not impressive.

      It’s like how nobody celebrates the ability of most movies to appear photorealistic, but it’s lauded in games.

    • Lacero says:

      I’m sure I’ve seen it in games since The Matrix did it though. I can’t remember which one now, and I may be imagining things.

      If I’m right though, it reinforces my point that games desperately want to be movies, when they’re capable of doing much more. That effect would be put in to a game to make it evoke the feelings of a movie. This is the stage games are at, still evoking other mediums as when cinema spent it’s time evoking the stage.

  19. Kid A says:

    Re: people working for exposure rather than pay in journalism:
    Being able to say “my work has been featured on Popular Website X or Wellread Magazine/Paper Y” is undoubtedly a useful thing to have on your CV when applying for any kind of journalistic job – and it’s not a huge amount different to, say, doing unpaid internships for political parties. I’m almost certainly biased, though, being one of those “does it for free in spare time” types.

    • Lewis says:

      This, basically. I keep telling the people I presume we’re talking about that they should just take their talents elsewhere. “I’ve written for Mega National Newspaper and now I’m looking for freelance with you” is a very powerful thing to be able to say.

      It’s kinda interesting that one of the papers which doesn’t pay its games writers is up for a GMA in the mainstream press category, right? Maybe it’ll make them rethink their payment strategy. Conversely, maybe it’ll reiterate to them that they’re doing just fine without the spends.

  20. DrGonzo says:

    I don’t get it. I thought it was meant to be a remix of the musical but it just seemed to be random dubstep with the narration over the top.

    I wanted to hear No Nathaniel!

  21. sfury says:


    • HarbourMaster says:

      I don’t think I’ve bought anything from them since… well, since I turned off my Megadrive for the last time. (silently sobs)

  22. Sagan says:

    Re: the Activision thing:

    Bobby Kotick talking about “taking fun out of making games:” OK I get that it just meant that he wants a professional attitude, but still Activision’s games in general have a certain kind of blandness or dullness. I don’t mean that they are boring, but that they just aren’t something that you get hyped for or that will have loveable moments or characters. As a simple test, just go to Activision’s website and count how many games you were looking forward to before release.
    And that could very well be a reflection of the work environment you create and the kind of people you hire.
    Also with the wording in the Infinity Ward lawsuit, the anti-female-protagonist policy and the stuff surrounding that, there are more indicators that Activision isn’t the best place to work.

    Bobby Kotick doesn’t play games: I didn’t really care, but I guess it’s nice that that quote isn’t true. Good for him.

    Bobby Kotick wants to raise game prices: I don’t care if that is true or not. Activision can only demand what people are willing to pay anyway.

    Bobby Kotick doesn’t want to publish any games he can’t “exploit.”: He doesn’t defend that quote particularly well, because he doesn’t get why that quote resonated so strongly. It resonated so strongly because it just seemed to fit so well to what Activision had been doing. What do you call what they have done to Guitar Hero if not “exploit?” What do you call what they are doing to Call of Duty if not “exploit?”
    The reason why John Carmack using the same word doesn’t raise a protest is, that id software doesn’t exploit their IP. They make one high quality game every couple of years for each IP, and give the fans exactly what they want. Activision on the other hand tries to make as much money out of what they have as quickly as possible even if it means disappointing the fans by making weak titles and ultimately ruining the franchise. They have ruined Tony Hawk through exploitation, but hey, they had Guitar Hero to make up for that. They have ruined Guitar Hero through exploitation, but hey, they had Call of Duty to make up for that. They are currently ruining Call of Duty through exploitation, but hey, they have Blizzard and whatever it is that Bungie is working on to make up for that.
    If you were a fan of the Tony Hawk games, and Activision has completely ruined your favourite series of games, and then you hear the boss of that company using the verb “exploit,” then obviously you are going to be upset.
    The problem isn’t that Activision is “focusing on big games,” but the way that they go about doing that.

    So in summary: The article has not convinced me on two of it’s four points, I didn’t care about one point, and the last one isn’t all that important.

    • bob_d says:

      Heck, I’d even forgive him his “exploit” comment: games cost a lot of money right now, and if the business model involves simply selling the game to people and that’s it, you’re not going to end up making a profit. So if by “exploit” he means to sell a sequel (or two or three) or DLCs or a subscription or even lots of game-related merchandise, then he’s sadly right, that is the only sort of game worth publishing, for a company like that.
      What actually annoys me that wasn’t addressed in the article was Kotick’s comment about bringing in “packaged goods people” as game industry management. I’ve worked with management who didn’t know anything about game development; it was a disaster. The game industry is fundamentally different from making widgets. It’s creative work, and needs to be managed accordingly. Anyone without that sort of management experience is likely to screw it up and make life difficult for the actual game developers.

  23. Alex Weldon says:

    “To agree to exploitation is to sell out your entire fraternity, and forever reduce the currency of your work, you idiot scum.”

    As I’ve always said, “I’ve heard of people dying of exposure, but never of anyone living from it.”

  24. Sweedums says:

    that article about hiring artists was very interesting, especially since im currently doing a degree in the field and will hopefully be in the position to get a job as an artist/animator in a few years. It reminds me of something one of my lecturers said near the beginning of the year, about how people don’t often realise how long it can take to get an animation done, and how much work it can entail. Specifically, hand drawn animation such as old Disney films etc, if i were ever asked to do some freelance work by someone like the guy who wrote that article i would probably jump at the chance, though depending on the type of work, it would be easy to be exploited as i just don’t know how much i am worth in business terms.

    certainly something to look into.

  25. Urthman says:

    Emily Short’s article is an old story, but it needs to be shouted over and over.

    Everyone thinks he’s a good writer. (Just like every guitarist thinks he can sing.)

    Game designers spend millions hiring the most talented professional artists to make their games look wonderful and then have utterly amateur writing, often programmers and game designers moonlighting as writers.

    But to be fair, you have the same problem in Hollywood. Movies like Avatar that have the highest quality visual art with lame amateur writing, otherwise excellent directors who think they can write.

    The problem is that it’s very hard to sell good writing. Great visuals will put butts in the theatre seats and discs in game machines. It’s not that people don’t appreciate good writing and good storytelling when it happens (Portal), but it’s rare for that to actually bring people in.

  26. stahlwerk says:

    Re: Inception. (SPOILERS!)

    Good piece there, Lewis. Such a great movie, the very end is the best set-up and executed pseudo-cliffhanger I have ever seen, because it totally hinges upon the logical fallacy of proof by example. Just stunning.

    Do we need “Gaming’s Inception”? I don’t think so, because the movie plays with the “dream-like non-interactivity” of cinema itself, exposing the holes and leaps in the realities portrayed by a movie. IMO, games construct a different kind of reality, because as a player you need a much tighter string of causality, else immersion may be broken. Of course a game may use exactly this to effect, exposing its nature as a game, without resorting to blatant fourth wall breaking (Metal Gear Solid 2 may be a good example for this, but also as an example how doing stuff like that will be met mostly with “WTF” responses by the gaming community).

    A game that did leave me with a similar feeling of “What if all of it was just a dream? Where there any clues that I somehow missed?” was Monkey Island 2. And maybe that’s why I like it best in the series.

  27. pupsikaso says:

    Lol KG, way to blow that last question in the interview. “Oh no, I’ve got nothing to say really”, when you could have said /anything/ =(

  28. BrokenSymmetry says:

    About the “How the hire an artist” piece: Keep in mind that this is a 16-year old highschool kid, who creates Flash games on very small budgets.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      … And has made 10s of thousands of dollars.


    • Mad Doc MacRae says:

      No one forced those artists to work with him.

      /I’m actually impressed he’s just 16, didn’t know that

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      No, of course not. But he is immoral scum for taking advantage of them being ignorant.

      Which was kinda my point – Now they’re not. Problem solved!


    • Frye says:

      Well I had to read the comments to find out what exactly it is that people have taken offense to, and i couldn’t help thinking comments on that site were very naive. He is simply talking about human resources as if it were a brick or a kilowatt of electricity. Exactly the sort of detachment that makes a good manager. It reminds me of my old marketing books, the standard books taught across the globe (Kotler et al.) are downright evil.

    • Chris D says:

      Evil is treating people as things.

    • Taillefer says:

      To me, it read like he was also ignorant of the fact what he’s doing would be considered immoral and just thought it was a logical way of doing things (naivety of youth?). Otherwise, he probably wouldn’t have just told them all.

    • Freud says:

      @ KG

      “No, of course not. But he is immoral scum for taking advantage of them being ignorant.”

      I strongly disagree. First of all, he is trawling Deviantart looking for talent. (which has an opportunity cost for him). He is targeting hobby artist looking to make a few extra bucks, not professional artists. Complaining about it is like street musicians not earning as much as studio musicians. If he can live with getting hobby quality work, I see no foul here.

      Secondly, this is simple economics. Supply and demand. There is no inherent law that says the cost of game art should be where the current professional artist claims it is. If someone is willing to do it for less, someone will hire them. This is the same mechanic for why no one is building ships in Sweden anymore. Someone somewhere was willing to do it for less money. That doesn’t make those that buy ships “immoral scum”.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Well, go run a sweat shop in a country without laws to stop it then.

      “It’s Economically Viable” isn’t an ethical escape clause.


    • Sunjumper says:

      Just because it is good for the business of one person does not make it moral.

      It is exploitation.
      And just because there are people who are ignorant or desperate enough to be exploited does not make it any more justifiable.

    • Metalfish says:

      @Chris D,

      Nah, Evil is raping someone and having them thank you afterwards.

      “Pure Capitalism” is pretty horrible, but luckily it is almost as rare as “Pure Communism”.

    • Freud says:

      @ KG

      “Well, go run a sweat shop in a country without laws to stop it then.”

      Where exactly do you think the affordable kitchenware you find at IKEA or your mobile phone is manufactured? It is not by labour in the western world who are paid what they think they should be paid.

      I don’t really see why we have to be outraged when someone manufacturing/designing something aiming to keep cost down. That has been a governing principle of industrialism for well over 200 years.

      And no, this guy finding hobby artists at Deviantart is not analogous with child labour or slavery.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      A system that leads to tantalum and other rare earths being mined by child slaves in the congo, has chinese people being paid a pittance to assemble those raw materials into products and then a lucky few making millions in profits is still broken if it leads to artists being ripped off for their work.

    • Mad Doc MacRae says:

      Are people saying they’d prefer the alternative – (flash) games with crappier art and no artists getting paid at all?

      (Who knows where this replay will go)

    • Freud says:

      @ ReV_VAdAUL

      “A system that leads to tantalum and other rare earths being mined by child slaves in the congo, has chinese people being paid a pittance to assemble those raw materials into products and then a lucky few making millions in profits is still broken if it leads to artists being ripped off for their work.”

      And you of course show you don’t accept this by:

      a) being angry on the Internet
      b) stop providing a market for these products by not buying them

      You are as much responsible for the dark side of capitalism as this kid is (more if you buy more stuff). But hey, let’s lay into a 16 year old kid who makes flash games, because he is clearly what is wrong with the world.

    • Arthur Barnhouse says:

      I’m honestly surprised so many people are siding with the guy. He was not talking about people as if they were a kilowatt of energy, or any other mesurement of raw resource. He was stating, in no uncertain terms, that people who are new to an industry do not know what a fair or reasonable wage are, do not know what a profit margin on a game are, and do not know how to negotiate a price. Then he states, again in no uncertain terms, that since they do not know these things yet, you should give them an unfair wage which is well below the profits of the game, and then pocket the difference. He also says to not give them any money in advance, lest they become complacent for even a minute, as if they are a donkey being lead by a carrot. Generally speaking, abusing employees because they don’t know anything about an industry yet is considered to be, minimally, in poor taste. It also suggests that the best solution for maintaining a profit margin is to always control all information about a project and to keep everyone in the dark, which, long term, isn’t going to produce quality.

  29. Freud says:

    @ Sunjumper

    “It is exploitation.
    And just because there are people who are ignorant or desperate enough to be exploited does not make it any more justifiable.”

    Did you even read what he wrote? Where does the exploitation come in?

    Professional artists, according to him, demand an outrageous share of the profits to work for him. Do you think the artists at Bioware get a % of the profits? Of course not. So he does the rational thing. He goes and looks for artists that are willing to do work for a fixed fee. He even does a lot of the research to find them himself, perhaps providing them with the first opportunity they ever had to be paid for their art. It is very arrogant of you to assume that those that agree to work for him are “ignorant or desperate”. What evidence do you have to support that stance?

    Then he pays them after they have provided the work. Also perfectly standard.

    So please inform us about where the exploitation comes in.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      As long as we take his assertions at face value AND assume all the artists he uses know exactly what is going on then yes, he does seem like a swell guy.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      He also says he knows how much value their art adds to his game. The demand isn’t ridiculous*. It’s actually what would actually be fair. He’s doing everything he can to avoid paying them what their art ads to the value of the game. He knows what their art is worth and is pocketing the difference.

      If you buy something off someone for 10 dollars knowing you can sell it for 100,000, you are immoral. And, of course, they are ignorant – which was the other point about all of this.


      *I get paid royalties on the vast majority of comics I write. And when I don’t, you can be I’ve been compensated for giving that up, one way or another.

    • Freud says:

      He also says that the artists he uses are “they are being payed slightly less than what professionals are payed”. The assumption that sweatshop fees are involved is one you have created yourself. All freelance work include negotiating for the price. He and the one who does the art for him agree on a fee. The assumption that they are being exploited and are “ignorant and desperate” is something that simply isn’t there in what is written.

      If you read the comment thread you can see someone claims the average price for a flash game is $2K and median price is $1K. In light of that is $500 for the art unfair? From what he writes, you don’t even know if he makes more per hour than the artists do.

      I think the only thing he really does wrong is that he writes in a tone that offends (he is 16 years old) and then someone probably linked it on some art forum and he get slammed in the comment field. But nothing in the actual text indicates that what he is doing is to “buy something off someone for 10 dollars knowing you can sell it for 100,000”. That is an absurd exaggeration that I don’t know why you feel the need to use.

    • Chris D says:

      The exploitation comes in from the fact that he’s deliberately targetting unestablished artists who don’t know how much value they add to the project and then deliberately keeping them ignorant of that fact.

    • Chris D says:

      Freud, that’s an utterly ridiculous argument. There’s a massive difference between being unwillingly complicit in a system which is pretty much unavoidable for most of us and actively advocating exploitation. Many people do care about how their goods are manufactured, hence fairtrade and freerange products. I certainly wouldn’t knowingly buy a product if I knew anyone involved in it’s production was being exploited. I’m sure I unknowingly buy several but not being able to perfectly follow my principles does not mean I should cease to do what I can.

      As for being angry on the internet, some things are so reprehensible that if we are not angry then something is wrong and we should oppose these things whenever we can.

    • Freud says:

      “The exploitation comes in from the fact that he’s deliberately targetting unestablished artists who don’t know how much value they add to the project and then deliberately keeping them ignorant of that fact.”

      With your logic the artists at Blizzard are exploited while the artists at Troika wasn’t since WoW is disgustingly profitable while Vampire: Bloodlines wasn’t.

      The profitability of his games aren’t really all that relevant here. He is hiring people to do x amount of art for y amount of money. They agree to do so. He isn’t looking for partners here.

      Once again, the assumption that those that provide art for him are “ignorant” is something you made up for yourself. They might be completely informed about every facet of the flash business but are fine with the terms.

    • Arthur Barnhouse says:

      “Once again, the assumption that those that provide art for him are “ignorant” is something you made up for yourself. They might be completely informed about every facet of the flash business but are fine with the terms.”

      The person who wrote the how to for exploiting artists stated that. He said to choose people new to the industry because they don’t know much, then keep them in the dark about profits or they might think that producting half of a $10,000 game and getting a mere $500 was somehow exploitative.

    • Chris D says:

      A quote from the original article:

      “Keep them in the dark:

      This relates back to what I talked about earlier. If an artist knows how much their artwork will increase the value of the game they will then feel they deserve that amount of money. This is not how a market economy works, you hire whoever is able to do the best job for the lowest amount of money, anything else is a loss of money on your end.”

      I feel the words “keep them in the dark” may be a subtle indication that he’s not interested in a fair and equiatble working arrangement. Tell me again how I’m seeing exploitation where there isn’t any.

    • Chris D says:

      My reply to Freud two above this one was supposed to be in the thread above in respnse to his reply to Rev_Vadaul

    • Freud says:

      “The person who wrote the how to for exploiting artists stated that. He said to choose people new to the industry because they don’t know much, then keep them in the dark about profits or they might think that producting half of a $10,000 game and getting a mere $500 was somehow exploitative.”

      Clearly there are some artists that don’t see themselves as contract workers but as co-creators that deserve 50% of income while this guy sees them as contract workers who should work for a fixed fee. He then finds people who are willing to work for a fixed fee because he doesn’t think any artist should get 50% of his game. The profits is completely irrelevant here because that has nothing to do with how the contract artists he employs get paid. Do you think the guy who plays guitar on a Robbie Williams album gets a % of the sales? If not, is he exploited because the albums are so profitable?

      Once again, where do you get the idea that these artists are ignorant. Can you link me to any source of a disappointed artist he used who felt exploited and ignorant? All this outrage without a single word from any of the supposed victims.

    • Chris D says:

      I expect that the musicians on Guitar Hero were paid the going rate for session musicians. This guy is advocating avoiding artists who know what the going rate is and targetting those who don’t. I refer again to the phrase “Keep them in the dark”.

    • Freud says:

      And I repeat the phrase “they are being payed slightly less than what professionals are payed”. You cling desperately on to the phrase “in the dark” while completely ignoring this phrase. So how on earth you draw the conclusion that these artists aren’t paid a fair fee and are being exploited is just weird. Can we please stop making up fantasies about how they are ignorant people with zero knowledge about how the world works?

      Like I said, his wording is clumsy but what you guys are arguing is that fixed fees are bad, while in fact most creative types do not get paid a %, but a fixed fee. Obviously what he means by keep them in the dark is that he prefers not to pay artists a % of the game but a fixed fee, which makes perfect sense for lots of reasons. Cost certainty being the main one.

    • Arthur Barnhouse says:

      Freud at this stage I just genuinely wonder if you and I read the same article. He stated that you should pay an artist less than what they are worth, and that you should choose people who do not know the industry that well because they, specifically, do not know what the market value of their art is worth. He said they you should ask them to value the project even thought he knows they are new to the industry, that way he can trap people by pretending that he was only being fair,. He suggested $500, one time payment, on a game that turns $10,000. If an actual corporation like GE made these sorts of statements, they would be burned in effigy. but this guy gets a pass because why, exactly?

    • Freud says:

      And clearly the artists feels they provide $500 worth of art. You don’t how much art his games uses and how much programming they use. It is stated in the comment thread that Flashgames sell for $1-2K on average, so how on earth $500 for art should be unfair is beyond me. What if he doesn’t manage to sell the game at all? Then the artist has made money and the programmer lost it.

      “If an actual corporation like GE made these sorts of statements, they would be burned in effigy.”

      Of course someone making public statements for a big company (BP excluded) won’t be saying things as clumsily as a 16 year old. If you want to be mad at him for writing in a slightly offensive style, be so. But to be mad for him for wanting to pay a fixed fee is bizarre. You do realize GE does the same thing?

    • Chris D says:

      To be clear, I’m not mad about the style, I think it’s actually quite well written. It’s the content I object to. I have no objection to paying either a fixed sum or a percentage of profits. If a first time developer decides they can only afford £500 on art and the artist is happy with the deal then I’m ok with that, so long as the deal is done in good faith.

      The point here is that this guy clearly has no intention of dealing in good faith. Hence I desperatley cling to the phrase “Keep them in the dark” in the same way a prosecutor might cling to the discovery of the murder weapon, five eyewitnesses and the suspect covered in the victims blood saying “I’m glad I killed the bastard”. The amount is not the point. It’s that this is no fair deal, it’s exploitation and it’s a rip off. Whether it’s for a large amount or small is irrelevant.

    • Arthur Barnhouse says:

      GE also wouldn’t suggest that the best way to pay people is to get people who do not know a lot about an industry, come up with a number out of a hat, then pay them that irrespective of how much profit is anticipated. My concern is not about flat fees necessarily. It is that this guy sees no problem of using someone who is ignorant of profits in an industry, asking them to determine a price, knowing full well that they do not have the information to determine a price, and then pocketing the added value of their contribution. That is not how the free market works. I make $40,000 a year because that is how much I am contributing to the added value of my company. When my company offered me a job, they offered me a salary based on the industry standards for my salary. What they didn’t do is take me right out of collage, ask me how much I’d guess people in my job get paid, pay me that, pocket the difference, and then do everything in their power to not let me find out how much my work was actually worth to them.

    • Freud says:

      “The point here is that this guy clearly has no intention of dealing in good faith. Hence I desperatley cling to the phrase “Keep them in the dark” in the same way a prosecutor might cling to the discovery of the murder weapon, five eyewitnesses and the suspect covered in the victims blood saying “I’m glad I killed the bastard”. The amount is not the point. It’s that this is no fair deal, it’s exploitation and it’s a rip off. Whether it’s for a large amount or small is irrelevant.”

      It is only a ripoff if there is artists have a right to a % of the income. Which they don’t. It is only a ripoff if the artists aren’t paid a fair sum for the work they provide, and we have nothing to indicate that they aren’t. Just because some artists demand 50% of a games income as a fee, it doesn’t mean that this is the only fair fee.

      Anyway, it is pointless discussing further and we are going in circles here. Get back to me when you dig up one of his ‘victims’ side of the story.

    • Arthur Barnhouse says:

      I am not suggesting 50%, I am not suggesting ongoing fees. I AM suggesting that using people who are ignorant of an industry, then making them guess what their art should be worth is exploitative. We are just going in circles, but I would say that at the bare minimum I would never want to work with you.

    • Chris D says:

      I think the one thing we agree on is that it’s pointless to continue. You appear to have missed everything i said about how the issue is not how they’re paid.

      Classy of you to ask that I do far more research than you have any intention of doing. Your parting shot appears to be along the lines of “He may have killed them but you’ll never find the bodies”. I would ask how much that matters if we already have a smoking gun and a signed confession.

    • Dr_Ham says:

      @Arthur Barnhouse

      “I make $40,000 a year because that is how much I am contributing to the added value of my company. When my company offered me a job, they offered me a salary based on the industry standards for my salary. What they didn’t do is take me right out of collage, ask me how much I’d guess people in my job get paid, pay me that, pocket the difference, and then do everything in their power to not let me find out how much my work was actually worth to them.”

      Arthur, you must be a companies favourite employee, the above paragraph is an employer wet-dream.

      Surely you realise, you are adding more value to that company than what they are paying you? Or does the company make no profit and have no other costs than employee salaries?

      Does your company encourage its employees to talk about their wages, and compare them so that people who are being paid less will become upset and ask for more, or does it discourage talk about salaries?

      A company will do everything it can t pay it’s employees as little as they can get away with while still being able to keep them from leaving.

      Big companies love hiring people straight out of college for precisely the reason that they can do the work with not much training and pay them a lower wage, which they can then keep lower than their peers at the company until the employee decides to leave. That is why the real salary jumps you earn will be when moving from one company to another, not by staying at one place.

    • Arthur Barnhouse says:

      Did everyone subscribe to the Marxist Economic Newsletter this week? With a statement like “Or does the company make no profit and have no other costs than employee salaries?” you are betraying a basic misunderstanding of total valuation of a company. I already wrote a very long thing on my blog (PLUG!) but I will repeat here that Marx got it wrong when he wrote Capital. The total profit turned from a company is not merely a product of whatever it can take directly from the added benefit of its employees. The facilitation of the creation of the widget has economic value as well. After all, the total process at a certain scale is undoable absent a corporation. You are correct, that I am probably sacrificing some amount of the benefit I add to the company, I was being overly simplistic. But it is hard to calculate what that might be. What I do know is that I can currently gauge my pay as within normal range for the industry, and, pivotally, my company offered me a certain level of pay at the start, rather than suggesting I just go ahead and guess what my time might be worth. It is harder to gauge the level of pay in this instance without being in the industry, he makes them guess what their pay should be, his pay is less than standard, and the total benefit that the artist is adding to the product is easy to determine because there are only two people involved in the creation of it.

      You’re confusing the cause and effect on moving to other jobs and hiring out of University. They hire from university because the employee has low work experience in the field. If they are untested, it makes sense to pay less because the output is likely less. When moving to a new job, the pay spikes because the additional experience makes you a better hire. I don’t think corporations are an absolute good, and certainly I am troubled by a great many things that they do, but this kid is beyond the pale.

    • Dr_Ham says:

      Obviously the total profit of a company is more than the sum of its employees, of there we have no disagreement. However, the costs of employees, will be budgeted for, and generally a new hire will not be made unless they can be proven to either be a necessary expense in order for the company to keep generating profit, or that they will be profit generating themselves.

      “You’re confusing the cause and effect on moving to other jobs and hiring out of University. They hire from university because the employee has low work experience in the field.”

      It would be very rare I think for an employer to want a less experienced employee for any other reason than economic.

      I’m not a fan of companies, or capitalism in general, but to pick on this kid like he is the exception rather than the rule is just ridiculous. The artists in this case may be being underpaid by industry standards, but they are getting the experience and some money out of it. I don’t like it any more than you do, but it’s unfortunately not markedly different than any salaried employee, contractor or creative starting out in their industry.

      Looking forward to reading your blog after work.

  30. Guildenstern says:

    So why won’t those artists hire some programmers on the cheap and sell their own flash games? I mean if this 16 year old can manage that then so can they.

  31. Wilson says:

    Kaitol mentions the $10,000 figure himself, and he suggests that artists in the know expect a ‘decent percentage’ of the profit. Surely that isn’t badly written, he’s saying that experienced artists know a fairish sum they could be paid and will ask for that. Kieron’s figure of 10 dollars for 100,000 was an exaggeration to make a point, but this guy is saying look for the people who don’t know what they’re selling, and rip them off. Nowhere is it mandated that you can’t pay people fair wages for the work they do. As Henry Ford said: “There is one rule for industrialists and that is: make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.”

    Obviously we aren’t talking about industrialists here, but I think the quote is still relevant. Below is part of Kaitol’s article which stuck out to me.

    “Artists who have done a lot of game design work are also bad for a similar reason, they know how much flash games can earn so they expect a decent percentage of the profit. It’s ridiculous to pay something 50% of a sponsorship when you can find someone else who would accept $500 for the same job. When your game sells for $10,000, the difference in cost is a multitude of 10.”

    • Wilson says:

      That was aimed at Freud above, and also I appreciate that “paying the highest wages possible” might only mean to yourself, but I’ve never looked at it that way.

  32. sapa says:

    I don’t think newspapers are getting rich off free games journalism. I doubt there’s a single gamer who buys a newspaper for the game reviews.
    Also, you’ve said that the comments are part of this site’s content: we’re all making you money for free, here, oh the shame of it all.

  33. Guildenstern says:

    And seriously, he’s a dick, but so is every boss everywhere ever. If you are hired by somebody you can bet they are making more off your work then you do, what makes artists so special that it shouldn’t happen to them?

  34. Premium User Badge

    john_silence says:

    “It’s the same in games journalism. I recently heard that apparently some people are working for free for national newspapers for “the exposure”. It was only not knowing for sure if it was true which didn’t stop me hunting them down and boiling the little scabs alive. It’s fine to work for free when people aren’t making serious money off you (i.e. You aren’t being exploited). To agree to exploitation is to sell out your entire fraternity, and forever reduce the currency of your work, you idiot scum.”

    Yoohoo! RPS thinks I’m idiot scum!
    OK, the setting is a bit different. I’m not a regular games journalist; I mostly cover art shows, as well as a bit of design and fashion, but my first articles were about video games (they’re art, I tell you!). I got my first papers published for no money by independent magazines that, although they enjoyed widespread distribution and a glossy look, actually barely covered the cost of publishing; the owners had “real” jobs on the side to pay the bills. Yep, weird country, France. Still, it means I wasn’t technically exploited according to your definition of that word.

    But seriously, you may want to tone down the hate here a bit. I’m sure Kieron Gillen doesn’t have too many problems getting his papers published, and gets enough commissions not to have to consider working for free. Kudos on making it! Although I think the condition of the press sector back when you started was a wee bit different to what it is now.

    For me, starting out working for free meant having my name featured over pages-long articles that no one would have entrusted me with over at the larger mags. It helped me set my foot in the door. Actually, it’s what made the difference between the door going slightly ajar and the door staying shut tight.
    A few years down the lane I charge roughly 200 euros for 230 words at a large luxury magazine, which is not bad for a freelance. I’m definitely not selling out the so-called fraternity – not that your misjudged statement implies much of a fraternal spirit.
    Also, what you wrote irritated my fiancée (did I mention we work together?). Not a wise thing to do, going by the trail of dead :D

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      I direct you at what you just quoted: “It’s fine to work for free when people aren’t making serious money off you (i.e. You aren’t being exploited).”

      I’ve included something that removes you from what I was talking about. You appear to have even realised it excludes you from what I was talking about. What on earth are you being angry about?


    • Premium User Badge

      john_silence says:

      I was just saying: maybe you should dial down the insults. People who work for free may have all sorts of reason, but I’m pretty sure none of them do it basking in the thought that they’re decreasing the worth of the entire profession they’re trying to establish their career in.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      It’s probably worth noting that I’m far angrier with people who choose to exploit people like this. But they’re unlikely to be reading and already know all too well what they’re doing.

      But, yes, someone new choosing to hand over masses of work in what’d normally be a paid position is just making sure that paid position won’t exist. Do you think – as what I’m talking about here – a real money-making newspaper is going to go back to paying someone for the work after someone’s doing it for free? This isn’t art for art’s sake stuff. This is selling out the very concept of your job for a byline you can sell around while increasing the idea that games writers are just some desperate, grasping, bottom-feeders who you don’t need to pay. And – really – fuck you if you do that. You should have some more dignity. As you’ve shown all too well, there’s plenty of places where you can go out, do work and get a name without doing so.

      Have some dignity. If you don’t have some respect for yourself as a writer, no-one else ever will.


    • Premium User Badge

      john_silence says:

      I absolutely agree with the whole self-respect thing. But many people in this industry won’t respect you as a writer, no matter how highly you think of yourself, until you have a few papers out and a few prestige names in your resume. Breaking through may mean seizing a few opportunities that you wouldn’t consider in regular circumstances. No one should be boiled alive for adapting to the current climate.
      It is, I guess, pretty obvious from my other comments that I’m a giant self-righteous pri – sorry, that I share your indignation at the way in which freelance journalists are vulnerable enough, both in their actual position vis-à-vis their employers, and also in their subjective opinion of themselves, to accept unpaid work.
      I am probably taking this issue too much to heart. Although I was only fleetingly concerned by the situation you describe, I still identify with those people you publicly call little scabs. It is depressing enough working for nothing; people who do it don’t need an established journalist whose work they enjoy singling them out for a bubbly death – even in jest. Frankly it doesn’t help with the dignity…

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      That’s the point, man! You were *never* in the situation I described. In a column which I’ve written for over two years, regular as clockwork, which 50% links to amateur journalism done for the sake of it, the idea that I think writing for free in a non-exploitative venue is wrong… well, it’s just wrong.

      But there is a right way to break in, and a really dumb way.

      I’m being really very, very careful about who I’m lashing out at here, and it’s mainly to make clear that this is one of the few things which I’ll go out and say “It’s 100% wrong”. I just want to grab people and shout “HOW CAN YOU BE SO STUPID” if they consider it. It isn’t, for me, a position I want to be polite. In fact, being polite would undermine the point in this case.


    • Kyle says:

      Yikes. The fire and fury of Kieron Gillen.

      I’ve been reading everyone’s responses to this, and the people who are disagreeing seem to be a little hung up on Kieron’s definition of ‘idiot scum.’ I think it was made reasonably clear by the original spiel, but there may have been a little interpretative wiggle room (which has since been tightened up). Combined with the severity of the insult (and, let’s be honest, the fact that it was being spat by games writing’s biggest rock star), I don’t think anyone can be blamed for getting their hackles up a mite.

  35. Premium User Badge

    john_silence says:

    I am baffled by the attitude of those who seem not to take offense with Kaitol’s abject how-to, and feel the urge to express my sheer disgust at those who actually, in a more or less roundabout way, consider this display of everyday sociopathy as “normal” and even embrace it.
    Indeed Chris D, “evil as treating people as things”. It is the banality of evil that makes it so menacing, the fact that it is ingrained in people’s brains (here a teenager) and they just do things without realizing how monstrous they are.
    Of course I’m not a naive young butterfly discovering that type of attitude, but I must say I’m surprised to read so many comments displaying that frame of mind here, on RPS – just as I was a little surprised by that ruthless paragraph I quoted in my previous comment.
    But hey, what can I say? I’m too social to have a social life.

    • Taillefer says:

      “…and they just do things without realizing how monstrous they are”.

      I actually think that’s why people are being a bit unfair on him. I’m not sure he does realise what exploitation even is. He’s written this article like an “Artists Bargain Bucket”, which I don’t think he would have published if he were so manipulative, and is only now even considering “Oh, is that wrong?”. He may very well be cold-hearted monster, but I think it’s mostly naivety from a teenager not considering anything but monetary cost.

      It also exposes wilful ignorance on behalf of the artists. So, hopefully it’ll be a learning experience for everybody involved.

    • Freud says:

      Holy hyperbole, Batman.

      This is a guy that prefers to pay artists for his Flashgames a fixed fee instead of 50% of the income. Not Idi Amin.

      “sociopathy”, “banality of evil”, “menacing”, “monstrous”, Seriously? Seriously seriously?

    • Premium User Badge

      john_silence says:

      Oh yeah, seriously. It’s the same bend, you just have to take small steps, one at a time. I’m not saying what he’s done is horrible – yet. It just may be teenage naivety, as Taillefer is saying.
      I don’t think I was okay with exploiting people when I was 16, though; I’m sure Bobby Kotick thought Kaitol’s exact same thoughts at his age, and now look what a hateful pile of un-fun he has become.

    • Guildenstern says:

      Jeez. I thought [i]I[/i] was giant self-righteous prick. My hat is off to you, john_silence.

    • kwyjibo says:

      Yeah, because asking artists how much money they want for their work, and then paying them that amount of money for their work is an explicit example of the banality of evil.

      Asking someone what they want, and then giving someone what they want is evil.

      Get real.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      The actual number settled on is irrelevant, which is what I think a lot of people are missing. It doesn’t matter if he were using these tactics so that he only had to pay 50% of profits instead of 75%. What matters is his attitude is one of trickery. He is being willfully deceptive and manipulative.

      People aren’t perfect rationalizing self-interest maximizers, which is what economics often seems to assume. It is for this reason that it is possible to trick or manipulate people ever. As such, he is creating a situation where he will get someone to do something that is not in their best interests, and yet they will THINK it is, and, now this bit is important, the fact that they DO think it is, does NOT make it alright.

      He is very intentionally approaching people who are ignorant, who aren’t fully informed of the situation, getting them to make decisions from that ignorance because he knows that that will best benefit him, and then doing all in his power to KEEP them ignorant. It is treating people as merely a means, rather than an end in and of themselves. Treating them like objects, as someone mentioned earlier.

      It is important to realize that people who are taking exception to this AREN’T taking exception to the final number. If he approached these amateurs in an open and honest way, saying that he is looking to hire at below the going rate, that he’s looking for “discount artists” but in exchange they get an opportunity to have their work on a for profit thing, and to get experience, and are they ok with that, then no one would have a problem. He isn’t doing that though. He’s going after people who don’t know anything about the business because that means they will be easier to manipulate to his ends.

      It’s his attitude and methods that are despicable, not the final monetary arrangements he arrives at.

    • Freud says:

      “He is very intentionally approaching people who are ignorant, who aren’t fully informed of the situation, getting them to make decisions from that ignorance because he knows that that will best benefit him, and then doing all in his power to KEEP them ignorant. It is treating people as merely a means, rather than an end in and of themselves. Treating them like objects, as someone mentioned earlier.”

      What is this nonsense? I know what my time is worth. You know what your time is worth. A guy working for General Motors knows what his time is worth.

      But somehow Deviantart is filled with cretins with no idea whatsoever of what their time is worth. They are lucky Nike doesn’t have them make footballs for $0.50 because they are obviously too stupid to say no to any offers. They completely lack the ability to set a price for what their time is worth, unlike us others.

      You guys are more patronizing towards them than this developer is.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      Maybe you know what your time is worth. I don’t. I’m terrible at valuing things, I’ve got no sort of business sense. My friend who did a business degree once told me to never tell an employer what my expected salary is.

      Unless you mean by “what your time is worth” what the minimum amount of money I will accept to do a given amount of work. I don’t know if that’s the definition you meant, since you suggested that these deviantart people could potentially be ignorant as to what their time is worth, but if it were simply defined as what someone values their time at then it would be impossible to be ignorant of what your time is worth.

      What I think you mean though when you talk about what your time is “worth” is the generally accepted definition of worth in a supply and demand economy, i.e. how much people will pay for it. If I have a diamond I found, and I sell it for $10, even though lots of people would have gladly plaid $1000 for it, it certainly seems like I didn’t know what that diamond was worth.

      This fellow recommends asking these artists to set their own price, since he knows from experience that they will quote a lower number than he would have. That is, he was prepared to pay X, but they will ask for Y, where X > Y. This is a clear example of someone undervaluing something. They are prepared to offer it for less than someone would happily (happy as in not under some sort of coercion or duress) pay for it.

      I don’t think I’m being patronizing here, since as mentioned I myself am terrible at valuing things, including my own time, but also because he rather explicitly suggests picking people who don’t know what their time is worth, i.e. people who if asked to set a price for their work, will set one lower than one someone would have been willing to pay them.

      Contrary to your belief, business knowledge is not a universal thing. It is a bit of a niche skill. Some people are very good at it, some people are ok, some people go to school for it to get better at it. These people are all artists, and thus not necessarily good businesspeople. This kid clearly IS a good business person. He is using his position of knowledge over their ignorance to get them to agree to do something that is not in their best interest. It’s not openly lying, but it is certainly far from being honest.

      It would be very similar if someone hired, say a lawyer, which is paid by the hour. The lawyer knowing this person has no idea how long it takes to do legal work, since they aren’t a lawyer themselves, then says that it took him twice the time it actually did to do the work. This is clearly unethical. In the latter case someone had to actively lie, but in both cases it is exploitive because someone is willfully using someone else’s ignorance to get them to do something not in their best interests. I also question exactly to what ends this kid goes to “keep them in the dark.” The way he talks certainly doesn’t lead me to believe that he actually would be above outright lying about things.

    • Premium User Badge

      john_silence says:

      It’s pretty great: I am in a position to tell Freud he lacks any psychological finesse.

    • Freud says:

      “This fellow recommends asking these artists to set their own price, since he knows from experience that they will quote a lower number than he would have. That is, he was prepared to pay X, but they will ask for Y, where X > Y. This is a clear example of someone undervaluing something. They are prepared to offer it for less than someone would happily (happy as in not under some sort of coercion or duress) pay for it.”

      No it is not. It is the other way around. X is overvaluing their price. Their price is what they expect to be paid to do a job. It is a negotiation. It is not in the employers interest to argue that someones salary should be higher. It is in the interest of the employee. If the artist indeed feels Y is what he should be paid for the job, he should state so and then the employer can accept or reject it. Alternatively the artist can tell the employer to make him an offer.

      “This kid clearly IS a good business person. He is using his position of knowledge over their ignorance to get them to agree to do something that is not in their best interest. It’s not openly lying, but it is certainly far from being honest. “

      How do you know it is not in their best interest to get this job? Don’t you think these people are capable of determining this for themselves? You obviously think you have the ability to determine this but somehow they don’t. That is a bit presumptuous.

      This 16-year old is a good business person because he isn’t bidding against himself in an effort to drive up the salary of the contract workers he employs? More like he isn’t a borderline retard. He is completely honest with them. He tells them what artwork he wants, when he wants it and what he is willing to pay for it. There is no hidden information here.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      If it is in their best interests to do the job, then it is clearly in their best interests to do the job for as much money as they can get for it. This is uncontroversial yes? Thus, if through negotiations they end up settling for less than what they could have gotten for the job they are not acting in their best interests. They asked for Y money, but they could have asked for X (X>Y) and gotten it, so that’s what they should have done. That’s not a huge debatable point, is it?

      Given that this guy preys on people he knows will ask for Y (a number he personally feels is low “lower than what you normally pay”) he is specifically looking for people who aren’t able to maximize their self-interests. This is because they are not experienced with negotiating, so they will sell themselves short. People who aren’t experienced with negotiating are far more likely to name the minimum price they would find acceptable to do the job, not necessarily what they’d LIKE to be paid, and they probably wouldn’t want to risk for asking for MORE than they’d like to be paid, for fear of souring the deal. I’m speculating here, but this is based on my mentality as someone who is bad at negotiating. He specifically picks people he suspects are bad at negotiating, or don’t have much experience in valuing their work, “Do not look for either professional artists, or an artist that has done a lot of game design work in the past.”

      Free market capitalist economics proceeds from the assumption that everyone is a perfectly rational self-interest maximizing agent. Under that assumption capitalism works amazingly, it’s impossible to exploit people, good, worthy products rise to the top, the chaff stays at the bottom, unethical business practices cannot flourish etc. etc. The problem is that in reality people AREN’T perfectly rational self-interest maximizing agents. People are ignorant to the rules of the game they are playing, or that they are even playing a game at all.

      This kid is intentionally exploiting that ignorance. He is offering amateurs a job, and getting them to name a price for it specifically because they have no experience in this field. Until he contacted them they probably had no idea that they had a salable service. People that DO have an idea, he avoids. He gets them to name a price because he knows that they will offer to work for both less than market rate, less than the cut rate he was willing to offer them, less than they are “worth” in the sense of what other people would be willing to pay for their services. They will do this because the whole process is such a novelty to them, and they have no experience or skill with negotiating.

      It’s one of the clearer examples of someone being taken advantage of I can think of.

      “He is completely honest with them. He tells them what artwork he wants, when he wants it and what he is willing to pay for it. There is no hidden information here.”

      He isn’t completely honest with them. He tells them what artwork he wants, when he wants it, and has THEM tell him how much they’d be willing to do it for, because he knows they will usually offer lower than what he is willing to pay for it. He then “keeps them in the dark” (his words, obviously, not mine) about how much value their artwork actually adds to the project, because he doesn’t want them to get any crazy ideas about asking for more money (that he could afford to pay, and may have been willing to pay). The fact that he explicitly suggests keeping information from them indicates that YES there clearly IS hidden information here.

      As someone mentioned earlier, Flash games are actually a lot more art asset intensive than they are programming intensive. The reality of the situation is that he needs the artists a lot more than the artists need him. He is specifically looking to hire people who have no idea that that’s the case so he can pay them the absolute minimum he can get away with.

      This is totally understandable from a “humans are greedy” standpoint, but “I want more money” really shouldn’t excuse not dealing in good faith. “I want more money” really shouldn’t excuse anything. It’s base human greed, and being able to effectively acquire money may mean that you are clever, but it certainly does NOT mean that you are good. No one is disputing this kid’s effectiveness, it’s his scruples that people are worried about.

  36. Freud says:

    Slowly walks away, careful not to look john_silence in the eyes.

  37. Demon Beaver says:

    60-20-20… five people. Is it just me or is this the first reference to Quinns officially being one of the RPS team?
    If it is, GO QUINNS! Congrats, I hope your name will quickly appear on the bottom bar. Also, keep writing The Journey of Saga! Please?

  38. Cinnamon says:

    I would be interested in knowing Kieron’s opinion of people who make mods for games where they are not allowed to sell the mods commercially and the rights to the mods are supposedly owned by the game company. This was the case with Bioware/Atari and NWN mods. I don’t know the deal with all other companies. In that example, if you make a mod, you are essentially working to add value to someone else’s game for free. Many people might be happy giving the content away for free but some people are essentially doing commercial level work under a contract for people who are making money.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      But while abstractly owning the rights, they don’t directly sell those mod packs. Exploitation is the key issue. Fundamentally, mods are about a *format*. In the same way writing a game on the PC adds a little value to the PC, writing a mod for a game engine adds value to the game engine… but it’s not exploitation.


  39. Alan Twelve says:

    I had the weirdest certainty there that Bobby Kotick was the high-pitched one from the Righteous Brothers and had to dig out a CD to check. He’s actually Bobby Hatfield.

  40. Tetragrammaton says:

    @Kiren: Man has a point, the issue here is ignorance on the artists part. The fact is he/she didn’t do his research. As a game artist myself I can attest to that: It can be a brutal Industry. And by its very nature you ‘sell out’ on every job you do to some extent. The fact is that most young artist have no clue, because no one tells them. They are not ‘idiot scum’, they are just inexperienced.
    Like John It strikes me that you not the person to cast aspersions on those who are just trying to put food on the table.

  41. Vodkarn says:

    “Mr Denby writes over on Game Set Watch on Inception and videogames, specifically on “Why the fuck didn’t we do this first?”. I had similar thoughts circa the whole Matrix. Stuff they had to create entire camera arrays for, we can get by simply pausing the action and spinning the camera.”

    Because new things ‘don’t sell.’ Every game is a copy of the last game that sold well because no-one has the balls to try anything new – and I realise it’s their money at stake, but they don’t have to carbon-copy games (in fact, that usually fails utterly, but they don’t seem to get that).

    • Thants says:

      Well, movies are mostly the same way. (Think about how many recent movies were remakes or sequels)

  42. Tetragrammaton says:

    @Vodkarn. Depressingly true, I miss the days of Sacrifice and Giants CK.
    Also that Boing Boing article was amazing.

  43. Guildenstern says:

    Anyway, I hate to defend this guy and my first reaction would be to do the opposite, but after reading all those purehearted angels of artistic integrity in his comments section threaten to ruin his life and destroy his future employment chances… You know what, fuck them too. I’m now done with this sucky topic.

  44. Muzman says:

    Vaguely related to the ‘get ’em when they think exposure means something’ article on artist hiring.
    Groups like Demand media seem to be doing similar things for writing
    link to
    (their name is funny, as mentioned. Supply Side Media would seem more apt)
    This model may not work for graphic arts as is but this is, I fear, a bit of a glimpse at the future of content generally. Spam and grind.

  45. Premium User Badge

    john_silence says:

    @Freud: I’m merely reacting to a post that reads: “It was only not knowing for sure if it was true which didn’t stop me hunting them down and boiling the little scabs alive… idiot scum”. And this, not referring to criminals, but to people who, as kwyjibo would probably say, “got real”. If you found my comment scary, you should have fled the page in a panic when you read KG’s words.
    @Guildenstern: rest assured, your opinion of yourself is grounded in fact. Your scornful reply splendidly testifies to that.
    @kwyjibo: your logic is false. It’s not “asking someone what they want and giving it to them”. It’s “asking someone what they want, knowing perfectly well that what they will dare ask is less than they deserve, and exploiting their position of weakness to give them as little as possible.”

    By the way, Kaitol’s organized breakdown of the best way to take advantage of artists chimes exactly with the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of an antisocial personality disorder: “…a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.” People afflicted with this disorder are duly labeled sociopaths. Not only Wikipedia says that.

    @Thants: a sad truth.

  46. Crispy says:

    “The problem with turn based console games is the same problem that haunts JRPGs, they’re almost all identical with teenage protagonists saving the world from some bland evil entity. Mix that with prolonged grinding replacing strategy and you can lose the will to live.”

    I agree that the plots are total codswallop and somewhat cringeworthy. Everything else has been said above and can be summed up as “Why are you playing TBS games for the plot? Yes it’s sad that they mostly tend to be about tactics and not tactics with strategy, but they’re still really quite fun”.

  47. Dean says:

    Couple of things re KG’s comments on the work-for-free thing.

    Internships shouldn’t be exploitative. That’s not to say that some aren’t, but the point of an internship is that you’re offering the work in exchange for mentoring and training from professionals in the field. It’s meant to be a give and take. Every good, legit internship will have documentation outlining the intern’s learning aims and what and how much feedback they’re meant to be getting on the work they do.

    Second, RPS being done for ‘pocket change’ is a million miles away from doing it for free. We can argue all day over what the going rate should be for any type of work, but remember that 1p is infinitely more than nothing. Being paid something, anything, even if if it’s well below market rate, says “we acknowledge there is value in your work and that you should be paid for it”. Now maybe the company involved can’t afford to pay much, they’re just token amounts, but it gives some sort of value to it. And if the company clearly can afford to pay a lot more… well it’s a much smaller leap from being paid £50 for a feature to £200, than it is from nothing. Working for nothing is a tacit admission to your work have no value. Working for something, even a small amount, and it’s just a debate over price.

    • Premium User Badge

      john_silence says:

      Couldn’t agree more. There always has to be something in it. Sometimes it is seeing your name out there in print and being able to leverage that for paid work, as Lewis Denby implied. Sometimes, as in an internship, it’s learning from watching how the professionals operate (man, I make it sound like it’s a hitman internship).

  48. Thiefsie says:

    I would hazard a guess that exploitation like this exists in some way or other in all fields. In mine – Architecture – it is oft-known that the big name designer ‘starchitects; a la Zaha Hadid, Herzog & DeMeuron, SANAA etc all take unpaid placements in their offices, which I too agree is highly immoral, and I loathe my colleagues/friends who have happened to have worked like this for some time. Partly as it favours people who are well off and able to support themselves without income, partly because it cheapens our profession, partly because I am annoyed they are selling themselves short, and partly because they are allowing established ‘identities’ to exploit them as such.

    At least at my company we make an ethical position to not accept anyone working for us for free, even though we are offered that from prospective staff from time to time. It is no good for the industry and cuts your own nose to spite your face.

    There is nothing that can be done about it except for some personal moral stance, and passing judgment on the people that do partake. I have a mate or two who knowingly work under the minimum award rate for the profession just because they are at an interesting job, and are too chicken/unwilling to ask for what they are legally entitled to. This deeply enrages me, as I believe it completely drags down the worth of our profession in the community, let alone in terms of our salary across the board – for a field which is quite arguably under paid for the amount of schooling/expertise/responsibility and stress it involves.

    Such is life as an Architect, as in being an artist/journo It would also appear so.

  49. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    Why is it wrong to do work for free if it gets you experience so that you can compete in the marketplace? I’m asking in a general sense here. I’m not sure if part of KG’s argument is that that doesn’t work in journalism (and I don’t know if that’s true or not).