17 January 2006

Videogame journalism, old magazines and otaku stuff...

Being a journalist myself, I know it sounds awfully fake and "holier than thou" to publicly criticise the works of other journalists - especially those who write for a magazine that's sold worldwide.

However, just reading this irritated the hell out of me so let me rant. Again. Please? *Yay!* OK, here we go...

One of my sisters bought a copy of Electronic Gaming Monthly - a pretty respectable videogame magazine, although nowhere near the sort of maturity of Edge magazine (not to be confused with this other Edge).

Flipped through it just to see what I should be looking forward to in 2006 (although it goes without saying that I'll play Zelda: Twilight Princess and Final Fantasy 12 even if they get horrible reviews).

Other than Malaysia's own GameAxis, it's been a while since I've picked up a videogame mag and - sadly - not much has changed in the past 10 years. You still get over-passionate fanboys who are so fanatical about gaming to the point of making rather silly remarks. Take this for example:

It's a review of Call of Duty 2 for the Xbox 360. No real problems here - in fact, the review is concise and quite well-written, providing just the correct amount of information to get the gamer eager to buy it.

That's until you read this bit:

Just in case you can't read what's on the JPEG, it says:

    "For one, you're never taken out of the moment by fiddly controls. Movement maps intuitively to the sticks (on the Xbox 360's joypad), as does the aim that strikes just the right balance of accuracy and having grenades handy on the shoulder buttons is a Godsend. I'll go on record right here: It's better than playing with a mouse and keyboard."


How can joypads ever be better than playing on a mouse and keyboard when you're playing an FPS? It's like saying, "Oh, I'd rather lift these marbles with chopsticks - far more accurate and quicker than using your fingers alone".

Walk into any cybercafe and the chances of seeing someone in the midst of an Unreal Tournament 2k4 deathmatch mashing the buttons on a joypad are... are... well, you won't find anybody that daft!

I can't recall the last time any experienced gamer picked an analogue, dual-stick joypad as his peripheral of choice in any competition - unless he was trying to handicap himself.

If you're playing Call of Duty 2, I'd like to see you - in the space of a second - get up from a crouch, run round a wall and fire a round at, and kill, an opponent located 50 yards mile away and another about 30 degrees to its right.

I mean, you try tracking a moving target with a scoped rifle with an analog stick - It's just not possible!

That's not to say joypads are rubbish - they're excellent for sports games, fighting games, 3d platformers and racing games. But to claim that an FPS plays better on a joypad than the venerable mouse and keyboard combo is akin to telling people (and believing) that you're the Prince of Wales: you'd be mad.

And just think for a moment - suppose little Johnny reads the review, goes out and buys a copy of the game. Then, he goes to school and tells his PC gamer friends that Call of Duty 2 on the Xbox 360 has better controls than the PC version. Poor Johnny.

If you think I'm being bitter, click here for a similar but more brutal attack on videogame journalism on www.somethingawful.com. It's a pretty good read and, if you've been reading gaming mags (both print and online) for years, it'll bring a smile to your face.

Now, I'm not saying that all videogame journalists are bad - on the contrary, there are some excellent ones out there (though most of them work for Edge magazine).

However, the editors of these magazines should work a little harder to weed out the fanaticism and instill accountability, objective thinking and professionalism in the ignorant fanboys that may be working for them.

But are all fanboy gaming journalists BAD?

Not necessarily. As long as they stick to facts, and avoid making some obviously foolish remarks - some of the most passionate and detailed reviews I've ever read came from the now-defunct GAMEFAN magazine:

Based in the USA, GAMEFAN was made entirely out of gaming otaku who really knew their stuff about gaming. Best of all, they covered plenty of Japanese imported games and other obscure, but excellent, titles and tried their best to let the public know about some excellent games that never gained mass acceptance in the market.

They were huge proponents of Japanese RPGs even before Final Fantasy 7 took the western market by storm.

Their reviews were incredibly long - some stretching to over 4,000 words long. And yes, it's awful by professional journalism standards. But at least they stuck to the point and tried their best to make each article nice to read.

Unfortunately, their standards dropped sharply in their final year - as did the number of articles and pages. Next thing I knew, I couldn't find their mags on newsstands and their website had shut down.

They other magazine I really liked was Computer and Video Game magazine (CVG, for short). They were the first ever games magazine in the UK and had some of the best writers and reviewers. The only problem was that they lacked feature stories - something that Edge Magazine is really good at.

CVG were also one of the first publications to eschew the percentage scoring system - using a 5-point rating system (1 - bad, 2 - below average, 3 - average, 4 - good and 5 - excellent) instead.

Their rational was this: If one game scored 92%, does it make it conclusively better than a game that scored 91%? And why note give it a 93% score instead? Can you rationally argue that a game is 1% and not 2% better than another? It made perfect sense, and showed an incredible amount of maturity for a videogames mag.

Each game review was accompanied by loads of gameplay information and screenshots to illustrate a point, and the layout was excellent - more functional than flashy. Plus, CVG had really high standards. A lot of my favourite games only scored 4 of 5 and even games that scored a 3 were fun to play. Only the truly great games scored 5 points.

I've not read CVG for years (not even the online version), so I can't say how good they are nowadays.

Here's my first-ever copy of CVG. Too bad the cover fell out.

This was a review of Quackshot for the Megadrive. An excellent platformer game, even if you can't stand Donald Duck. The game mechanics made good use of suction plungers and their inherent elastic traits. Ahh... nostalgia!

And here are some more recent issues (dating back to 1994).

My God, here's an article about the Sega Mega-CD!!! Wondered what happened to that?

Speaking of which, I actually happen to have one sitting in my closet:
Sadly, it doesn't work anymore...

Warning: Old Otaku memorabilia ahead...

And I've got a Sega Saturn too, but that doesn't work either, thanks to an incident involving younger siblings and step-down voltage transformers.

...which is a shame since I've got some excellent games for it. Yes, I actually played through Sakura Taisen part 1 in Japanese even before I knew how to speak the language (not to say I'm any good even now).

Hell, I even bought a 1000-piece Sakura Wars jigsaw puzzle. It's finished already, but I separated it into three layers and kept it in the box since I'm not hanging it on my wall.

Hell, I even have a mini Saturn-shaped CD case!

Wait, there's more stuff in there. What's this? Ah, it's my Hori arcade stick for the Saturn. Never really used it, since the Saturn's standard joypad was excellent for fighting games.

Speaking of joypads, this is the first one I've ever destroyed (It's a Sega Dreamcast joypad, BTW). I can't remember what I was playing but it probably pissed me off like nothing on Earth.

Wait, what's this...?

OMG, it's an unassembled, unpainted special edition EVA-01 from Shinseiki Evangelion, complete with official bottles of paint! Never assembled it since I'm completely shit at building models.

Oh, dear... there's more:

Yup. Anime and game soundtracks. Thank God I'm not an Otaku anymore, otherwise I'd still frighten girls and little children away.

Or am I still an Otaku? Well, my at least my book case is:

There's also a bunch of Random manga lying around my room and in my sisters' cupboard.

Perhaps they're otaku too???

Perhaps I really am a closet Otaku pretending to lead life as an normal citizen, in an normal job with an normal social life. Resisting all attempts to sing Japanese anime opening songs during karaoke sessions with friends....

...until Zelda: Twilight Princess is launched, that is. Gotta finish Pikmin 2 before it comes out.



Mel said...

I could help u assemble your model that is still sitting in the box. I'm not sure how bad I am at assembling models, but it sounds like fun and I would be more than happy to give it a try :)

ShaolinTiger said...

Do you have a workin dreamcast anywhere?

I have 120 games and just plugged in my dreamcast to find out my TV can't detect it, the problem is I don't know if it's the DSX or the cable or the weird Asian TV..

It's upsetting to say the least.