Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Why gamers need a new name

In the tradition of classic games writing, the idea for this blog post was totally stolen from someone else. But because it's games writing and I linked him (sort of), I'm golden. And 'll be damned if I give a Ready Up writer any more credit than that. But anyway, I was procrastinating like a bastard on twitter, when Johnny Ball Smasher (for legal reasons his name has been changed) brought up how pointless the term "gamer" was. Moments away from wanting to disagree with him, it suddenly struck me he was right. Hell, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

If you really think about it, the term "gamer" is so broad and non-specific in what it is supposed to be describing, yet is held onto and protected from those deemed unworthy of the label. And is treated by these so-called gamers like it was the arc of the covenant and they were the geek templars. Defending it from all those who must never know it's true location. And that's not an exaggeration, you only have to look at the insidious "fake gamer girl" phenomenon that proves gamers hold that very title  so precious, that they have to police who is and isn't one. Even though it's fucking ridiculous to do so. If you really think about it, "gamer" doesn't really mean anything. It just doesn't!

"What?! Oh god, he's not gonna say GTA 5 is shit as well, is he?"

 For example (brace yourself),I can drive a car, and like most motorists, my knowledge of said car is limited to controlling it, refuelling and changing the oil. And that's where my knowledge ends, I don't know anything about the engine, nor do I care to know anything about it. It's a  coffin on wheels I need to get somewhere that doesn't have a train station. I'm not what you would call a "petrol head" who watches endless Top Gear repeats, has a spare set of tyres for track days and is on their second driving ban for racing a biker on the motorway. I'm a "driver", that's all. By composing this blog post, I'm technically being a writer. But no way could you ever compare this rubbish to the works of any novelist, poet or even a lowly games writer. Likewise, acknowledging that previous sentence makes you a reader. You're not a rabid devourer of prose or journals that fill entire rooms of shelves. No, you're a reader, it's what you're doing, nothing else.  Using the term "gamer" as a label for the devout fanbase is just fucking stupid. I'll wrap this up right now, you know what makes you a gamer? Playing a video game. That's it. Whatever game, be it EVE Online, Call Of Duty or Candy Crush, whatever system you play on, if you're playing a video game you are a gamer. It's really that fucking simple. Gaming is what you're doing, not what you are.

Of course, that raises the question, what does the longtime, hardcore video game fans call themselves now? Don't worry those who previously identified as solely as gamers, but now need an entirely new and more accurate label to hang their entire personality on, I have you covered. After some thought (for nearly one entire afternoon) I have decided that the best term to describe the top echelon of video game players is....GAMECOCK

"Fuck your causal COD bullshit!"

Let it sink in for a minute and just say it a few times, gamecock, gamecock, GAMECOCK! Good. isn't it? If you actually know the original meaning of the term, you'll agree it's the prefect term to use. And if you don't, count yourself lucky I didn't go with my original choice of, "electric wanker." Or, you could just, I don't know, maybe not care who takes an interest in your hobby and whether they own multiple Dreamcasts to prove they belong in a clubhouse you don't own?

Friday, 15 November 2013

Channel 4 probably isn't bringing video games back to TV

It was recently announced by the mostly awful Channel 4 that professional miserablist, writer and TV critic, Charlie Brooker has made a two hour documentary, "How Video Games Changed the World" a look at the history of video games, which will be shown as part of a special evening of programming dedicated to gaming. No doubt, bar the danger of containing trace elements of Rob Florence and that fucking poet, it'll be a entertaining and informative look at standout titles and individuals throughout the 30-odd years video games have been around, all topped off with Brooker's trademark cynicism and genuine interest in the subject matter that made his Screenwipe and Newswipe shows so watchable. Whatever other programming that will be part of videogames night- I don't know, probably a repeat of the gaming episode of Equinox and GamesMaster. Or going by Channel 4's current output, probably one of those exploitative documentaries about some kid who can't stop wanking to StarCraft or a baby born with  Intellivision controllers for thumbs. What ever kind of show does get broadcast (stick it on at half in the morning, just for nostalgia's sake) it's bound to resurrect the old rumours of either GamesMaster returning to UK screens or some production company will think of making a  video game TV show. Just like it did after Charlie Brooker made Gameswipe for the BBC. If you think this will herald the return of video games to mainstream telly, you've got more chance of bumping into Elvis holding a copy of Shenmue 3.

Channel 4 doing a special night dedicated to video games is either a chance to expand upon what is the most likely reason How Video Games Changed the World got commissioned in the first place. The same reason the BBC made Gameswipe, to keep current TV golden boy, Brooker, sweet. So he doesn't totally stay with the BBC or fuck off to SKY, so he can continue trying to elevate the fuck-awful 11 o'clock show. Of course, Channel 4 has it's footnote in the history of games media, for broadcasting the first proper gaming show, GamesMaster, back in 1992. But that was a long time ago and Channel 4 has done very little in games-related content, unless you count the forgotten wank that was Bits and Thumb Bandits. Somehow I don't see the execs at Channel 4 wanting to move away from lowest common denominator, borderline exploitative documentaries masquerading as "human interest stories" so they can focus on a subject they long abandoned for over a decade.

And, as far as Brooker is concerned, he stated already that he would interested in producing a regular gaming show, but not presenting one.  Gameswipe's production company, Zeppotron, did flirt with the idea of making a continuing series, but that came to nought. And, if what I heard about it was true, it would not have been anything like Gameswipe and focused mainly on mobile and family-centered, casual games. And even if Brooker had the desire and resources to make a weekly "wipe" show about video games. It would be really hard to make it to the same standard as Screen/Newswipe.

Nothing against Brooker's talent. But, as Jim Sterling recently spoke about, the games industry is very much a closed shop compared to the world of TV. film and current affairs. Which is why the majority of games journalism has fuck all actual journalism in it. Most "news" on game sites and magazines comprise mostly of release dates, bullshit click-bait and recycling actual news stories from other sites. Another problem is video games take longer to consume  than a TV show or film. You can watch any show in less than an hour. A film averages at 90 minutes. A video game takes much longer to finish. More so if you're not enjoying it or you're struggling to finish it, it makes writing a review on a weekly basis much harder for one person to write that to the same level as a TV or film review. That's why gaming sites/mags have multiple writers to carry the workload. Or if it's a hack writer, they play a game for about half an hour before doing the write up and taking it down the nearest CRX for a trade-in.

Who's working in Camden?

Then there's the main reason why you won't see a gaming TV show on any channel of note is that those in charge simply don't think video games is worth shit. Some of the low rent channel on the SKY digital platform  had a few stabs at making shows. Some of the them decent, but most of them have been insultingly bad. Falling into the  only two varieties TV producers think gaming falls into, either a I.Q. destroyingly  kids show or wank fodder for insomniacs and the terminally unemployed. Which is weird when gaming is so closely associated to the much coveted 12-34 year old male demographic, you'd think at least one of the main channels would have a go at something other than a one off stab at tyring to get pro-gaming over as something other than a bunch of swearing, teenage fuckbags. Or something that isn't made to be an excuse to go on loads of  trips abroad and get your mates on TV. In TV, everything works in trends. A show becomes a hit, other channels want their own version of it too.  And they run that show into the ground until the ratings drop off, then it becomes a case of, "....shows don't work any more." So with many years of small to non-existent audiences, commissioning editors (the people who decided what shows a channel buys) will take one look at the media studies losers, ignorantly wanking about in front of a green screen, and will pass on it in a heartbeat. Because their (and the TV industry as a whole) opinion is that gaming on TV doesn't work, so why waste time and resources on, what they think is, a non-starter?  "Oh, what about Ginx TV?" you might very well ask, but shouldn't. Well, they've been threatening to start  a channel on UK screens for a couple of years and only now have started broadcasting on the Virgin Media service. Which has a userbase so small, Ginx would instantly reach a larger audience with they wrote. "FIFA 2013, 8/10" on a brick and threw it out of the nearest window. Their main audience comprises of young boys who's first language isn't English, so they don't realises they're being fed a load of PR-inspired bollocks.

Of course, it's not really a case of gaming doesn't work on TV. It's a case that bad games content doesn't work on TV, but while middle-aged men still run all of TV, and if they've even heard of video games, it'll be because they read of G4 going under, which only confirms their preconceptions of gaming having no audience on TV. And to a degree, they're right. When GamesMaster first started the only other games media were magazines. TV was the only way your average gamer could see new games  being played was on TV. But since Dominick Diamond's attempt to be the figurehead of the turgid "new lad" movement died the death it deserved, TV pretty much let itself fall way behind when the internet came more ubiquitous, giving rise to gaming sites that out do TV with  daily content. And when  video streaming  became the norm, you could see the latest trailers or reviews whenever you wanted, which was the end of the only thing TV exclusively had going for it. At one point the idea of doing live coverage of gaming tournaments could have been a thing, but live streaming sites, like Ustream and Twitch have that sewn up. Now days, TV isn't just behind the internet, it's way behind magazines in terms of covering video games. Of course the irony is  many, if not all, of those youtube gaming reviewers/personalities would flog their souls in an instant to get on the telly. You can tell just by looking in the, desperate for attention, eyes of that Pewdiepie that doesn't give two fucks of a lamb's tail about how many youtube views he gets because TV is still where it's at. But And how many British hack, game journos are trying to be the next Charlie Brooker? Fact is, most youtubers  are either ugly as sin and/or can't deliver anything in one take, hence the constant use of jump cuts in every other fucking video you see online now. Sorry guys, you're gonna have to keep knocking out the same tired old click-bait material in an attempt to milk an extra fiver out of your adsense revenue. If Channel 4 is going to make anything beyond video games night, chances are it'll be lightweight balls presented by an skinny jean wearing, grinning android, regurgitating whatever PR guff is feed to them. Which is just Ginx, but with a better budget. And you can watch that shit on youtube already.