Thursday, 23 June 2011

How Jim Redner exposing the games business is a good thing

In 1987, WWF superstars: "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan and The Iron Sheik were pulled over by police, on suspicion of drunk driving. The police discovered that Duggan, the driver, was under the influence of marijuana and Sheik was on coke. Both got busted for drugs possesion, with Duggan getting a conditional release and Sheik getting probation. The WWF suspended them for most of the year as not only did they bring bad publicity to the company but as two performers, who were in the middle of a heated rivalry on TV, sharing a car together, they had exposed their notoriously secretive business. And that is what former 2K Games PR: Jim Redner did by venting on Twitter about the negative reaction, amongst reviewers, to Duke Nukem Forever.
If you're not aware, Redner stated on Twitter that he would withdraw sending any future review code (games sent out for the purpose of review) to media outlets that had criticised the game. Right away 2K Games denies any connection the tweet and fire Redner as their US PR.

Boo, hoo. It's not 1996 anymore!

Even if Redner was only venting his frustrations at the vitriol aimed at DNF's overt misogyny, and wasn't really serious about blacklisting certain websites and magazines. He certainly gave the impression that's something that he, and by extension 2K Games, would do. Thus adding to the long running theory that many a magazine or site has to suck off the publishers in exchange for review code and if they play their cards right, the odd exclusive.
Redner spoke his side of the story in a guest column in Wired  in which he mentions (but doesn't name the journalist in question) the review that caused him to post the now infamous tweet:
"Opinions are never wrong. Reviews, when backed by fact, are always correct regardless of the score. The reviewer’s story was downright mean spirited. It’s as if the reviewer had a grudge and finally found an outlet to unleash his hostile brand of negativity."
Because he doesn't mention the exact review, we'll have to take his word for it. Which is easily done, if you've read some of the reviews. Which sum the game up as an fair to middling first person shooter that's so overtly sexist, it's genuinely hard to tell if it's supposed to be a tongue 'n cheek parody of generic video game protagonists, and how all females in games  are just either feeble damsels or shameless eye candy. Or if the whole game was developed by 14 year old boys who think swearing, gore and tits are the height of mature entertainment. And it must be frustrating to someone who represents 2K Games, who would like DNF to be judged on it's gameplay. Which is fair enough, I enjoyed the God Of War games, despite it's lead; Kratos being wholly unlikable. But then Sony didn't use Loaded magazine style soft core wank offs, like 2K and Redner fucking did!

It's fair to say Redner won't be working in the games business again for this debacle. However, I'm glad it happened. Even if Redner had no intention of blacklisting the reviewer in question, it's shone a light on something hardly anyone likes to talk about. Even though most gamers suspect it and most games journalists talk about it to each other. And it's happened to me. Certainly I didn't get a brick sent through my window, with a note attached saying: "How dare you say Darksiders is average, you'll get nothing from us, you prick!" But after sending them a less than glowing review, I've not gotten a peep from them since. It's an odd relationship, reviewer and games PR. You don't want to come off like a Kokatu writer and just do a 800 word diatribe about how the character you play as is so annoying, it's ruined video games forever.The publisher is doing you a favour by sending you the game. But as a professional, you feel obligated to be unbiased and not write it like a Eurogamer review and just copy and paste the game description, on the back of the box, then trade the game in afterwards. Because you're also doing the publisher a favour, by publicising their game. And if it's no good, then that's not the reviewers fault.
Hopefully this will rattle enough cages and make the publishers and PR companies (and some of the games journalists) aspire to be more professional. I.e. don't react like everything's a personal attack and lash out like a spoilt child.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

New show review: The Blurb (warning contains traces of N-dubz)

If you're aware of production company Ginx TV's threat to launch a gaming channel, in the UK, thus increasing on their current output of shit news and review shows: Gameface and Ginx Files. Well, their channel has now launched on BT Vision, so for the 90% of everyone  in the UK, who has Sky or Virgin, their Challenge TV slot (after the crap wrestling show) is being used to now show Ginx channel's flagship show (I'm guessing): The Blurb. So I felt I would view its first episode on Ginx's youtube channel so you don't have to (because I love you). And if you've never heard of Ginx, then take the following as a severe warning.
The Blurb starts off with a rather inoffensive animated sequence, involving - what I can only describe as- sentient bacteria (maybe based on the foul germs that imagined this show) jumping on a snes controller. We then see the studio: a totally white room, decorated with only a black leather sofa and a plasma screen, on a stand. Try to imagine the MTV Rocks/2 show; Gonzo, but set in a dentist's waiting room. And like Gonzo, The Blurb has a ultra-class, annoying presenter. Yes, you guessed it, no one liked her on Gameface, but if you suck the right cock, you're in for's Julia Hardy!

Just like how she was on Gameface, the Camden fuck-about still sports enough hair extensions to strangle a blue whale, and acts like she's never been on camera before: same pasted on smile, lame delivery and god-awful banter, aimed at (what sounds like) three people, applauding off-camera. She mentions that with a new show, they should look back over the last year in a retrospective. Why? If this is for a  new gaming channel, the audience on BT Vision (all 38 of them) want the very latest news and previews. Doing a retrospective just looks like you're reusing old footage to fill time. However, what's odd is, they don't do a retrospective of the last year in gaming at all. They go right to gaming news! Well, I say news, it's just Julia wearing glasses, mentioning three vaguely video game-related stories, exactly like she used to on Gameface. But much worse because she's trying to be funny,  interesting, or ironic. It's hard to tell when she keeps contorting her face like her eyeballs are going septic.

"So now the gaming" I thought. Alas no, even though this bottle-blonde, harpy has gurned her way onscreen since the beginning, the next section is about her, having  a fucking makeover! That's right, on this brave new gaming channel, on the first episode of their main show. The first actual segment is their presenter doing some shameful attempt at comedy as she prattles on about her looks. Don't know why. It's the rest of the world that has to fucking look at her all the time. Anyway, she goes for a makeover and is done up - for reasons never explained- as a zombie. Cut to Julia stumbling down Bond Street, while passers by don't give a shit and offer inconsequential vox pops. "What does this has to do with games?" you might ask. Well for a second, the logo for F3AR (F.E.A.R. 3) popped up! Take it from me, the actual footage is much worse than it reads here.

Actual screen shot from the segment

Back to the studio for an interview with two dance music DJs, whose names -in a typical act of unprofessionalism- I can't be bothered to remember. That said, their gaming knowledge was pretty good (one of them knew that Killzone 3 was actually the fourth Killzone game to be made) as they talked about their current, favourite games. This could've been a half decent segment were it not for the fact that Julia Hardy doesn't seem to have grasped the basics of interviewing. That being you ask a question, shut up and listen while they talk, and base your next question on their answer. If not then refer to your next written one (the one real ability I've gained from games journalism). Not, go "yeah, uh-huh" to feign interest and then interrupt  your guest, by bringing some unrelated bollocks about  some (probably made up) person on Ginx's facebook page, then clumsily going to a piece about Homefront's launch event in New York.
This was presented by a guy (honestly, his name is really worth the time looking up) who looks remarkably like the Adam and Joe show character: Ken Korda, except he's only 3% as entertaining as Adam Buxton's wannabe film director. He asks the usual questions from someone from the publisher, then makes a bit of a hash trying to use uDraw, on the Wii. Not amazing, but at least he kept things on topic. Whoever he was. Then it's back to the studio where the two DJs have a go at uDraw and verbally trash it, as does Julia. I think this is about as close to an actual video game related opinion as she gets. Well done Julia, the drawing pad on uDraw isn't much cop. I'm sure the BAFTA is on it's way right now.

After 20, agonising minutes. We get the first, and only, review! It's dragon Age 2. For those of you who've seen Gameface/ Ginx Files, the review style is exactly the same. That is, a disembodied Scottish man reads the back of the game box, tells you how the game is played and pretty much, offers no opinion, one way or the other. During the review, he suddenly mentioned the old Sega arcade title: Golden Axe, but it had no on screen information of format (i.e. compilation disc, xbox live arcade), then regaled us  with the sage wisdom, that one of the Voice Actors was Captain Janeway, out of Star Trek Voyager. For a show that's one hour long (but feels like three) you'd think there would be enough room for at least two game reviews, that didn't  pad out the writing with stuff copy and pasted off the official press release. Maybe that's why the show is called The Blurb. because the bulk of the reviews are lifted from the PR blurb, that comes with games sent to you by publishers. And why continue the Gameface style or review, where the review will stop to mention a totally unrelated game? It didn't work on Gameface and it doesn't work now.

Back to the studio, where Julia makes some inane comments about the lack of decor in the studio, which is odd, seeing as The Blurb seeks to emulate MTV Gonzo's format -  a twatty poser in an empty room- which The Blurb has copied 100%. Julia is then joined by the owner of the previous reviews voice over. Looking like a  human bucket of offal, I wished he had stayed as a voice, never to be seen.
Then  we go straight to a piece which sees Julia interviewing the lambrini and cyber bullying fueled  music act; N-dubz. Because they had a music video made via the video creator function in Little Big Planet 2. Normally any section involving N-dubz has front man, and all round gobshite; Dappy, bouncing around like a 11 year old, who's had to many jammy dodgers and been asked to do an impression of P Diddy. However, in the presence of Julia Hardy, all three members of N-dubs look about as interested as a dead nettle bush, thus Dappy almost comes across as a normal human being! Maybe he was shocked at finally meeting someone more obnoxious and untalented than he was?

Back to Julia, in the studio, who goes into a "my two cents" segment (just like she used to on Gameface) about sidekicks and general non-player characters NPC) in games. Especially the female ones. Yes, when you have fuck all to talk about, either bring up online abuse, biased media portrayals of gaming or mention how every female in games has massive tits. It's the oldest hack journo trick in the book. To be fair, Julia may have had an actual point , where it not for the fact she mainly brought up the female characters in Mass Effect (who least have something resembling a personality) and forgot to mention the almighty, Alyx Vance, from Half-Life 2 as a positive example of a female N.P.C done to great effect. Plus it didn't help that Julia was spouting jokes so bad, even Michael McIntyre would've squirmed with embarrassment at them.

Then it's back to New York, with Ken Korda playing WWE All Stars and showing that doing, off the cuff, intros to camera isn't his strong point. Things take a turn for the worse when the PR rep from Mad Catz  (that fat bastard who used to be on Games World, Alex something) appears, to mention the WWE All Stars arcade stick. Thankfully things pick up with a little appearance by the frankly awesome Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. And to Ken's credit, despite not being an obvious hack -who sold his soul to the television devil- he avoided the obvious hack-journo thing of mentioning "fat men in pants" like every other crap games journalist does.

Sadly, that's where the proper gaming ends as we join Julia in a *rolls eyes* "spoof cookery segment". Yes, you read that right. She smashes up some mushrooms in a bowl with some chocolate stars to make "soup for Mario",  "Sonic Salad", a mixture of bread and cat food, and "Pacman fruit salad", from some tinned fruit. Things descended into Jackass territory (another MTV show, what a surprise)) when the morbidly obese, voice over guy was invited on to taste these dishes. To say it wasn't very entertaining would be the understatement of the fucking year. This pointless "skit" lasted 6:43 minutes...six minutes and forty three-cunting- seconds! It felt like hours as I watched these two mouth breathing, carbon blobs, go about destroying what little credibility gaming TV had left. It was like a watching a girl, you've always been in love with, getting gang raped by Darth Vader and Megatron. I'm sorry if that's an offensive metaphor, but I was greatly offended by the sheer, utter drivel that polluted my pc monitor, as I found myself screaming:
If I had a gun, at the time, I would've shot the monitor to end the pain. After watching it all, I wish I really did have a gun, so I could murder everyone involved with the making of the show and make it look like a suicide pact, where all the Ginx employees agreed to kill themselves out of sheer shame. But it's quite clear shame is a concept, beyond the comprehension of anyone at Ginx TV. As is professionalism, sincerity and talent.

Then came the final segment. A sketch called "The Pitch", based at a fictional game publisher, where a young man - who wishes he was Robert Webb, despite his obvious lack of comedic talent- pitches a game, based on going to sleep, to a bemused board. Compared to the cookery section, this would be quite tolerable, were it not for the fact that The Pitch is clearly a shameless rips off of the Video Gaiden sketch: "Devco" with some generous, stolen heaps of The Office thrown in. Normally, Robert Florence needlessly bangs on about how he invented any bit of gaming telly, post Dominic Diamond, but in this case, he would be well within his right to call his lawyer. The plagiarism is that obvious.

Then it's back to Julia to sign off on this televisual turd. She does the pre-requisite request to check the website, join the facebook, yadda-yadda-yadda. Then utters the priceless line:

"We've been making TV history"
 Yeah, you actually have. You've hammered the final nail into the coffin of video games TV in the UK. I hope you're very proud. If you couldn't tell, I don't think this show is remotely good. All it is, is Gameface, badly mixed with MTV's Gonzo. Which is not surprising as Ginx CEO; Michiel Bakker used to be the boss at MTV UK, so he's only following his own, old crappy formats. And making them much worse. And if this is any indication of the rest of the Ginx channel, I feel sorry for any poor soul who has BT Vision and happens to flicks onto it. The only positive is, that being on a provider hardly anyone has and being on late at night on a channel dedicated to quiz shows, at least hardly anyone will see it. But I did see it, so you didn't have to. Don't make the same mistake I did. And email the crap out of Challenge TV to demand repeats of GamesMaster instead.