The lying, the self-justification, the sleepless nights... it all stops here.
What follows is the story of a games journalist who touched pitch and was defiled. The confessions of a fool who, having strayed far from the path of probity, is now desperately trying to find a way back. Judge him if you must. Forgive him if you can.
People have been paying me to write about games for well over a decade now, and at no point during that time can I remember any of my paymasters ever taking me to one side and saying “Tim. Ethics-wise, this is what we expect from you.”. It's always been up to me to draw my own lines in the sand.
And draw them I have. Plenty of them. But you know how it is with lines in sand - one high tide, one particularly heavy shower or especially champagne-drenched preview event in a Frankfurt fetish bar, and suddenly they're bloody hard to make out.
When I walk around my home today, I see accusatory fingers pointing at me from almost every shelf and nook. For the sake of my sanity, it's vital I begin (there are far too many to cover in a single article) cataloguing those fingers.
The Wages of Sin (part 1 of 8)
A day after I fired this fizzing warning shot across Shogun II's WIP bow, representatives of SEGA were round at my house enquiring as to what it would take to secure a flattering Stone review. I didn't mince my words. I told them that if they wanted unbridled positivity, they'd need to supply not two, not three, not four, but one satsuma
-ware coloured 20cm-tall samurai figure with detachable sword.
Always wondered why I seldom mention Austin Meyer's increasingly impressive GA flight sim X-Plane in my writing for RPS and PC Gamer? Here's the reason. A Microsoft Flight Simulator 'A Century of Flight' shirt 'given' to me in 2003. Sadly, the garment is so exquisite, rare, XXL and 65% polyester, I've never actually been able to bring myself to wear it. That could all change in the coming month though; I'm thinking about repainting the spare room.
Every time I find myself in jail and needing to create a hubbub, I thank my lucky stars I've got a genuine Silent Hunter 2 mug to clatter back-and-forth across the bars. To secure this priceless prison plectrum all I needed to do was assure the pun-phobic UbiSoft I wouldn't describe SH2 as “substandard”, “unfathomable”, “deeply disappointing”, or “rendered largely pointless by its reliance on a scripted linear campaign”.
The conscience cost of game-plunder doesn't get much higher than this. Well aware of my passion for sim-themed ceramics, Oleg Maddox only gifted me this Forgotten Battles mug after I'd promised not to tell the World that IL-2 was actually a Putin-funded propaganda project designed to lionise the efforts of Russian aircraft designers and rubbish the achievements of their German equivalents.
Clever, clever Novalogic. Realising that there's no better way of advertising a fairly good voxel-based military shooter, than having an obscure Englishman occasionally stroll around an obscure English village in a jungle hat discretely emblazoned with the game's logo, they couriered this item to me by RAH-66 Comanche in late 2005. Sales of Delta Force among Hampshire's farming, poaching, and leaning-on-gates communities are said to have TRIPLED as a result.
I know of only three other games writers that own a fabled NAMCO blanket. One leapt to his death from Tower Bridge during a recent Dishonored promo event. One ripped his own tongue out with a pair of mole-grips before stepping in front of a speeding Mobile Library. The other left the business and is now working as a games reviewer for News International. I've attempted to dump mine in various skips, dustbins and isolated lay-bys over the years, but every time, on returning home, there it is, draped mockingly over the chaise-longue.
What would you do in return for a week's free third class off-peak rail travel? I foolishly agreed to “Spend the next twenty years publicly questioning the commonly held belief that RailWorks is a game for the terminally nostalgic and tragically thrill-averse.”
When it comes to Faustian Pact forging, few outfits are more devious or persistent than Excalibur Publishing. During the last twelve months, in a concerted and depressingly successful attempt to persuade me to piddle away what's left of my professional reputation, these Euro-sim peddling Jezebels have sent me a can of novelty snow (Ski Region Simulator 2012), a solar-powered locust (Farming Simulator) a pair of outsized comedy specs (Circus World) and a 5-in-1 Emergency Camping Whistle (Camping Manager 2012). Beguiled by these breathtaking baubles, I caved-in time and time again.
But enough is enough. This Golden Cat trollop is hanging up her thong. Excalibur, if you're reading this, don't think that a 3-pack of Yorkie bars (raisin & biscuit, preferably) is going to secure you coverage of the just-released Euro Truck Simulator 2. Don't imagine that just because I've spent the last couple of days happily driving up and down a condensed version of Britain's motorway network (Another 300 XP and I'll have the skill points I need to upgrade my Long Distance ability thus opening up contracting opportunities on the Continent) I'm going to be admitting that fact to the 28 regular readers of Flare Path.
Mr P. R. Puppetmaster, don't assume that an unsolicited jiffybag crammed to bursting with cheap-yet-delicious confectionery, means I'm going to be waxing lyrical about the compelling run-your-own-haulage-company economic sandbox that nestles at the heart of ETS2, or staying stumm about the surprisingly empty roads and disappointingly generic cities. The old Tim would have obediently regaled his audience with tales of mesmerising night drives over the Pennines, and fiendishly tricky reversing manoeuvres in Welsh sawmills. The new squeaky-clean one, however, respects himself, his profession, and his readers far too much to engage in shady shenanigans of that nature.
The Flare Path Foxer
Expert Austrian bomb-aimer inkreis single-handedly demolished the lion's share of last week's lossword (only the red answers remained unsolved). Will he grab all the glory this week too?