Page 28, press hold, and reveal. Digitiser's founder speaks out
John: We know how to behave! We've had lessons
Edge #132, January 2004
What is it they say about working in a chocolate factory? Other than the pay is crap, and you'll get fat, that is. It's like being a videogame reviewer. No, really - and not just because the pay is crap, and you get fat, and you have to wear a hairnet. It's because you can have too much of a good thing. You may start out being the biggest chocoholic in town, but if you're stealing bars from the conveyor belt every day you'll end up being sick of chocolate.
It has been eight months since I last reviewed a videogame for professional gain. I spent over ten years reviewing games for a living, and once I'd stopped it was remarkable the toll it had taken. Astonishingly, it took close to five months for me to enjoy playing games once more, and only now am I regretting not having a steady stream of review copies douching out my letterbox. I've had to adjust to being on the other side of the fence - to not being able to vent my spleen publicly and with some appointed authority, when, say, I get frustrated by the abysmal AI in, say, Hidden & Dangerous 2. I've had to unlearn looking at every game from an analytical point of view, and just enjoy them. Or try and enjoy them, at least. Some games seem determined to give the player a hard time. Shame on you, Mr Developer.
Whatever the case, the past year has been both enlightened and enlightening. I'm sure you're interested, so here are the essential lessons I've learned as a born-again gaming punter.
LESSON ONE: GAMES ARE TOO EXPENSIVE. I always kind of knew they were, and when we're all paying 40 quid for them it seems to be a case of stating the bleeding obvious. I've had to buy games for my children this Christmas and, frankly, I'm gobsmacked that the games industry is still alive and we haven't risen up and marched upon Baron Von Gamespublisherstein's castle with flaming pitchforks. I know for a fact I'd buy more games if they were cheaper, rendering impotent the age-old industry whinge of "Oh, but games are soooo expensive to make, pity us as we wipe our tears away with fifty pound notes". Pff.
LESSON TWO: IT IS POSSIBLE TO ENJOY ONLINE MULTIPLAYER GAMING. I only ever dipped my toe into the online water while I was reviewing professionally. Alrighty, you may suggest I wasn't doing my job properly, therefore, but I don't care. The fact I now have to pay for my games, coupled with their singleplayer shortness, forces me to squeeze every last drop of value out of them (and therefore, idiots, delaying me buying a new game). I've been online with the old deathmatch guffs recently, and found it to be every bit as depressing and stereotyped as I always suspected it would be.
Why, I was only five minutes into my first game before I had the damning epithet "U R gay" lobbed in my direction. But hey, Uncle Biffo can type fast: "No, YOU are gay, you illiterate boy." And so at least I can get some enjoyment out of it that way.
LESSON THREE: I KNOW WHAT I LIKE. I no longer need to play every type of game, so I have no interest in playing the types of games I don't like. You just try feigning enthusiasm for what you know is probably The Best Turn-Based Strategy Game Of All Time when you don't like turn-based strategy games. Or flight sims. Or most Japanese RPGs. Or achingly po-faced driving simulations.
Give me a game with a big gun, or a decent platformer, and I'm happy. I probably shouldn't buy every firstperson shoot 'em up that comes out, but I'm addicted. That brings us nicely to...
LESSON FOUR: REVIEWS ARE WORTHLESS. We all like certain types of games over other types of games and, as the above point concludes, that includes reviewers. How can you be sure when you're reading a review that the reviewer has a completely unbiased, objective view of the game he's critiquing? Answer: the reviewer doesn't have an unbiased, objective view. If he's a fan of the type of game in question the he (or she - let's not forget even girls can be reviewers these days, Edge readers!) could mark the games higher than somebody who isn't a fan. Who would be more likely to mark them down? Curiously, when I was writing 'Digitiser', it was always the previews that I considered to be its most pointless feature. Now I'm on the outside, it's the reviews. I bought Knights of the Old Republic on the strength of positive opinion from presumably pro-RPG reviewers. I'd been convinced that this was an RPG - a 'Star Wars' RPG, no less! - that even guys like me would enjoy. I didn't. I found it tedious and wasted 40 quid, or something, on the opportunity to have exciting conversations about moisture vaporators. I could ring up any one of my stupid friends and do the same thing. Tsk.
LESSON FIVE: NOT ALL CONSOLES ARE CREATED EQUAL. As a games journalist, the standard answer to give when asked, "Which console should I buy?" is "They all have different strengths, and it depends on the type of thing you like." Well, yes. But when my sister rang me last week and asked me which console she should buy her son, the answer was obvious: a PS2. Oh, and don't start all that about me or Edge being biased toward Sony. Sony sucks, but the PS2 has the EyeToy, man, and young people like to see themselves dancing about on the telly.
LESSON SIX: TALKING OF SONY, DOG'S LIFE IS THE FUNNIEST GAME EVER. Well, since The Sims, anyway. You can do a poo, pick it up in your mouth, and throw it at people! I'd like to see THAT in a Mario game. Please?
LESSON SEVEN: THERE AREN'T ENOUGH HOURS IN THE DAY. That may seem like a contradictory point, given that I've complained that you don't get value for money from most games. Nevertheless, there are so many games out there, and when you have to factor in work, and a family, and watching television, and spending hours learning to pick up poo, there just isn't the time to play games. Shorter, cheaper games perhaps?
LESSON EIGHT: MY COLUMN NEEDS TO BE LONGER THIS MONTH. Ohhh, stop sniggering at the back, please.
Mr Biffo is a semi-retired videogame journalist. His views do not necessarily coincide with Edge's
Do you know of any important moments from the annals of Digi history that have been omitted? If so, then mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) right now, man. Credit will be duly given for anything that gets put up.