A long, long, long, overdue update

I never did get around to The Witcher 1, or The Witcher 3 for that matter.

However, I am still alive, which isn’t something that would’ve been apparent to those that during the last THREE AND A HALF YEARS will have wandered through here by mistake.

So, yeah, a quick catch-up: We moved back to Salisbury in July 2016 and Little Miss Shoe #2 arrived pretty soon after. However, we found ourselves moving again a year later, when, after being made redundant (after maternity leave, go figure), Mrs. Shoe found herself in the employ of Wargaming in Paris (yes, the World of Tanks people). That was two years ago, and now, close to 700 pain aux raisins later, we’re still here! Possibly not for much longer, but I’ll save that for another day (in another decade).

As for myself, I stopped chasing freelance work a year or so ago. Being wedded to a computer monitor all day seemed a lonely existence at the best of times, but even more so when you’re in a country where you don’t know anyone or understand much of what they’re saying. Figuring out taxes and whatever an MOT is in France kinda took over for a long while. So, I eventually went out to find what these job things were all about, ending up as a content manager for a game called Conqueror’s Blade.

Despite being a freelance position that requires me to be wedded to a computer monitor all day, it’s also different to what I’ve been used to, both in terms of being closer to the development side of things, and having a team of people in various countries banging away at me all day in Skype. It helps of course that Conqueror’s Blade is an enjoyable and distinct little game, which makes it easy to get behind.

So, basically, things are pretty good. The Little Miss Shoes (soon to be 3 and 6) are proper little French girls now, the missus is busy creating tank videos and I’m writing about medieval warfare while snarfing baguettes and pastry all day long.

Sadly, there’s not much room for witching (or to swing a cat in these tiny Parisian flats), but who knows what the next three and a half years has in store. Hopefully, I’ll be reporting in again long before then.

A long overdue update

Gosh. It’s been nearly a year since I last wrote an update. That’s pretty shoddy, even by my standards. The thing is that I have appeared to have reached an age where as soon as something happens that might be worth mentioning here, it gets forgotten about until something else vaguely interesting happens. And the bigger a backlog becomes, of course, the easier it is to overlook.

Let me try and remember though: Well, there’s another Little Shoe under construction – which is pretty hard to ignore, given the volume of baby clothes being dragged from the attic on an almost daily basis. We also moved from Salisbury to the waterside fringes of Southampton, which hasn’t been entirely successful. It’s a nice enough place, just not the sort of area you want to walk around in a Pompey shirt – as I’ve been known to do on occasion.

On the work/games front, with Little Shoe #1 recently starting pre-school, I’ve been writing a few more bits and bobs for Eurogamer and other sites, as well as helping out with some community content for EA. Things haven’t progressed an inch on any of the book projects I’ve promised myself to start/continue, but I remain hopeful on that front.

Oh, yeah, and last year I got my name in The Witcher 3 credits (look, I even have a Mobygames profile), which gave me a warm glow of satisfaction proportional to a cold week spent in Warsaw.

Which reminds me, I really should finish The Witcher 1…

Resuming light duties

I’m reminded that it’s been some time since I last blogged or updated the site. Partly this has been out of sheer laziness, but also because I’ve had plenty to be getting on with that’s either of little interest to anyone else, or that I’m not in a position to talk about quite yet. That said, given that it’s been a good three months since my last update, another is probably long overdue.

I’ve not been doing a great deal of writing, more’s the pity. Aside from a feature or two for Eurogamer and a couple of reports for publisher clients, the only regular exercise my keyboard has been getting has been thanks to games.

Acquired just in time to be the first game installed to a new PC, Elite: Dangerous is my current obsession. Given how much the Bell/Braben original consumed much of my adolescence, I probably won’t be too upset if my work schedule remains light, at least for the foreseeable future.

Virtual cover insanity

A new issue of GamesTM appeared last week, the final one in which I’m credited as editor. In spite of the hassles that came with waiting for various post-GDC interviews to come through, I’m rather proud of how the magazine turned out, especially the cover feature. I’m less pleased about the cover itself. The main coverline was originally “The VR Revolution Will Resume Shortly”, hence the test card, but that line was deemed “too clever” and a last-minute change was insisted upon by the direktors. Mission accomplished: it is now deeply unclever. Oh well.

gamesTM 147

Well that didn’t last long

You know that dream job I mentioned, well it ended up being a bit of a nightmare. Imagine Publishing decided it no longer required my editorial services at (pretty much) the same time as I decided I’d be happier taking them elsewhere. I think for both parties the realistion that we weren’t a good match dawned a good few weeks back, but we were polite enough to see out the three-month probationary period in case there was a change of heart. While I would have accepted an extension to the probation on the basis of having very else little lined up, concluding the relationship was preferable to being locked into a three-month notice period. In any case the thought of not having to sit in another Tuesday morning “cover meeting” brings me more joy than I’ve known all year.


New year, new job

It’s been an inconsistent twelve months, to put it mildly. The closure of Eon magazine and my own subsequent redundancy delivered a crappy start to 2013, especially with a baby on the way and a new house to move into. Fortunately I was able to get stuck into a couple of publishing projects that kept me busy until Little Miss Shoe made her summer appearance. Since then I’ve mostly been enjoying the diverse and unending delights that come with cleaning up after a small human, all while plotting where next my career should head.

After briefly flirting with routes into community management and game content, the realisation dawned that in spite of some residual bitterness from my Eon experience and the continued uncertainly surrounding print publishing, the process of making and developing magazines was something I deeply enjoyed – especially so magazines about games. So with 2014 fast approaching I set about finding a dream job in time for the new year. I didn’t have to look very far, for just down the road in Bournemouth a publisher needed an editor. I applied, bought a vaguely smart shirt, had some interviews and was eventually offered the position.

I start work tomorrow.

Soon: Eve Online Collector’s Edition

One month to go until CCP start shipping the Eve Online (feat. Dust 514) box of lovelies, which means just a couple more weeks until I get to see the Into The Second Decade book in the flesh, so to speak. To be honest I was sick of the sight of the thing after six months of working on it (which for me is par for the course after every deadline), but it’s been a couple of months since it went off to production and I’m quite keen to flick through the final product and find out what people think about it.

It was rather an honour to be asked to chronicle ten years of Eve Online and I hope I get the opportunity to do so again, assuming I and the game make it safely through another decade. Going on my performance in this promo video, I suspect my services will no longer be required.

Here we go again: Death by gamer

The narrative that follows your typical mass killing tends to go one of two ways, either the perpetrator is discovered to have Muslim tendencies and people suddenly rally around flaccid symbols of freedom and democracy, or a copy of Call of Duty / Battlefield / Doom is found at the guy’s flat and a sinister love for pixelated violence becomes the favoured cause of his murderous frenzy. The speculation over the Navy Yard killings a couple of days ago, during which 12 people were tragically killed, is currently following the latter.

I only tuned into the news yesterday and the one and only report I saw focused on the killer’s like for first-person shooters. By happy coincidence crime spree simulator Grand Theft Auto V was released that very same day, which made the connection between guns and gaming even easier to make. ‘Here we go again’, I sighed. ‘Tomorrow the newspapers will be gunning for games and John Walker will be forced into making an entirely reasonable call for sanity’. And lo it has come to pass.

Ban this sick filth now, etc

Ban this sick filth now, etc

Unlike Mr. Walker I long ago gave up on challenging the lazy assumption that journalists make in trying to blame the ills of the world on violence in games. I remember in the wake of 9/11 when a news reporter called up the PC Zone office so that we might help substantiate a rumour about how Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000 had apparently been used to tutor the hijackers on the fundamentals of flying aircraft into buildings.  What he wanted from us was a screenshot of the World Trade Center looming large in the digital cockpit. He was politely told to go away, not because his story lacked merit, but because the assumption was being explicitly made that had MS Flight Sim not been widely available, the hijackers would have been less able to carry out their terrible deed. To borrow Mr. Walker’s phrase, correlation was being reported as causation, as a subsequent headline linking in the 7/7 London bombers made abundantly clear.

That was 12 years ago and little has changed in the way games are often wheeled out as the bogeyman for all manner of societal distress. I don’t doubt that games can be a very literal guilty pleasure – riddled with misogyny as many are – but by accepting the blanket vilification of games as part of the process of the reporting of mass murder, those of us that do little more than mock laziness and incompetence are perhaps as much a part of the problem as those commissioning it. Then again, when the choice is between playing one of the most highly anticipated games in recent years and trying to fight stupidity, I know what I would rather be doing.

Settling scores

Edge have just published their Grand Theft Auto V review. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m looking forward to doing so just as soon as I’ve posted this. What I did do was scroll through the text to find out the score. I’m sure a good proportion of their readers do the same. In my case it’s more than impatience and curiosity: I actually rather like scores.

That number at the end of a review may be arbitrary to some people, but I can think of no better climax to a review than a couple of bold digits. It’s a statement, made all the more powerful when the publication has worked hard to protect the significance and integrity of its review policy, by which I mean giving average games a median score and only the greatest games the highest. In Edge’s case there are famously only 16 games that over the last 20 years have scored a perfect 10 – GTA IV  and V are the ninth and sixteenth respectively.

I’m not ashamed to admit that for me the score has often been the most difficult part of submitting a game review. It doesn’t just summarise an opinion down to its briefest possible form, it places the game against its peers and predecessors, siblings and successors. It’s the only part of the review that helps form part of a larger picture – a mosaic of opinions, if you will. Just because it’s the most reductive part of the review,  it shouldn’t be dismissed as the most subjective or meaningless.

As to whether GTA V is any good or not, I shall endevour to find out for myself when the next-gen properly arrives.

Needs must, or better late than never

When applying for a job the other day it struck me that I didn’t have anywhere to offer examples of my efforts for prospective clients or employers. The trouble is (was) that I’ve been continuously working on gaming magazines for so long now that I’ve never really had a need to bother with a personal website. Perhaps that was a mistake given the increasingly precarious nature of the print industry and the ever-decreasing number of jobs suitable for old dinosaurs like me.

Still, they say it’s never too late to start a journal, which is something I hope this tiny corner of the internet will develop into beyond being an online CV. If nothing else, perhaps hanging out at this digital homestead will be good for my sanity. Apologies in advance if it isn’t.