I’ve always told myself that when my time came I would hate to be the sort who writes one of those fuck-awful self-congratulatory farewell posts that so many seem to thrive on. But I’m off, and here I am, glorying in the indulgence regardless.
11 and a half years. That’s how long I’ve been at MCV. I’ve been in the games industry for nearly 13. Our CMS can’t even tell me how many articles I’ve written in that time. It’s in the tens of thousands, certainly. That’s literally millions of words. And factor in the extra editions of the mag we do from time to time, and I’ve been involved with something in the region of 600 issues of MCV, in various capacities. I’ve put in a shift. Probably one of the biggest shifts there has been. But the time has come and the bell has tolled. Perhaps it tolled a while ago.
If you can still hear me over the cries of celebration in marketing and PR departments across the country’s publishing offices, I’ll admit that in truth I’ve met some spectacular arseholes over the years. But fortunately they are monumentally outnumbered by the sheer deluge of wonderful people I’ve been fortunate enough to work and interact with.
I didn’t want to name names for fear of the many who will inevitably be forgotten. But I’m gonna, so apologies if I’ve you’ve been missed. Firstly, Chris Dring and James Batchelor. My partners in publishing crime. Together any deadline could be conquered. Dringo – we should have gone with the “Fuck off, Vivendi” cover. Along with a cheese pictorial montage, and maybe a boxout on B&Q: The Game. Spatch – let the rage flow for it makes you strong, and prey to god your son is better at games that you are.
Much love, too, to my current colleagues. Alex, for being a real pal keeping my sanity intact (while yours crumbled) and offering endless amusement with your unique take on linguistics. And Marie, without whom the levels of office depravity may have stooped too low for us to ever have hoped for redemption. Love too to the recently departed Matt Jarvis – best of luck with your future endeavours, as Spatch would say. Despite board games being rubbish and cardboard and shite and stuff.
I will forever be grateful to the mighty Stuart Dinsey, without whom I would have had no career. Friend, father, tutor, lover. No, wait… erm. The support and guidance you offered me is seared onto my soul, as is my increased propensity for swearing. You’re terrific. Endless gratitude too for MCV and industry legend Lisa Carter, whose teachings and friendship mean the world and saw me through many a tough time (and many a horrifying deadline).
Thank you Michael ‘The New Sexy’ French for being a friend and a leader, and being inspiring and infuriating – fortunately not in equal measure. The filler of impossible to fill shoes. All the thanks and love in the world to Helen French, who is one of the best people I’ve ever met and someone who I sincerely hope will always be in my life. What a superstar. And to Kelly Sambridge, who warms the heart and soul like no other. Then there’s, y’know, Billy, who I shall imagine will always remain not only the one man to kiss me on my wedding day, but also the only work experience lad I’ve electrocuted.
To colleagues departed: Will Freeman – simply one of the best humans I’ve ever met, whose enthusiasm for life continues to delight and inspire. You bring so much to those around you and deserve every bit of the success you’re having. Rob Crossley – a true professional and friend. I wish you the very best, jerk.
Wooden, OB, Butler, Ed(o), Orlaith, Greeno, Dave, Katheryn, Tim, Craig, Darrell, Hannah, Harker, Josephine, Jambo, Suzanne, Rosie, Neil, Johnny, Rob, Pete, Sam, Chris, Alex, Aaron, Dan – you’re all fab. As are so many of the great people I’ve worked with at MCV. SG14 would have been a kick-ass boy band. And thank fuck for people like Sacco, whose dedication to eSports frees the rest of us from the tedium of the entire thing.
To the hundreds of other industry people I’ve been lucky enough to have dealings with – thank you. Neil Ashurst, Rich Eddy, Rob Saunders, David Wilson, Simon Byron, Mark Ward, Simon Soffe, Steve Merrett, Simon Smith-Wright, Dom Carey, Gennaro Castaldo, Jonathan Fargher – you’re the best in the business, and I’m chuffed I got to work with you.
As for those who have ever felt injustice at my hand – it was never personal. Well, very, very rarely. That my opinion did not always align with yours or your marketing plans never meant that I hated you or had it in for you or your games or your brands. It was nothing more than me doing my job for my readers. That job meant being honest, and sometimes pushing back. Upsetting you was the price I had to pay for that. The best of you always understood.
It’s a tough time for games journalists and I wish each and every one who still stands the very best of luck. There are few professions that can match the dedication and commitment I see every day in this sector. That this is often rewarded with completely unfounded and, frankly, utterly incomprehensible accusations of bias and corruption, and the personal attacks that accompany that, still baffles and infuriates. There has sadly been a permanent souring.
There is no systematic corruption in games journalism, no payoffs for headlines and no institutional platform bias, which is why there is no evidence of it. And there is no hidden social agenda – that belief is just the byproduct of the indecent being confronted with its opposite. There are friendships, between journos and PR and sales and marketing and temps and cleaners and security guards and events organisers and cafe owners and just the people you encounter day to day. Normal human beings form friendships. We’re built that way. To cite that as conspiracy is to identify yourself as socially malfunctioning. What also exists in games writing is creativity, integrity, fierce passion, vibrant opinion, remarkable talent and the desire to make things better and to promote inclusion. Cherish it, as it’ll be missed once it’s gone.
Changed, too, is the industry. PR control of execs and communications is tighter than ever. The press is more of a hindrance than a help to them now. Why run the risk of an awkward question or feature that doesn’t chime with the pre-approved ‘message’ when you can blog directly to willing buyers or hand out codes to excitable YouTubers and streamers who will give it both significantly greater and more positive coverage?
I was gravely disappointed by the way publishers sat back and let the press (and developers, and any female with any sort of level of involvement in the industry) get massacred by the ‘gaters. In truth, this was maybe when I started to realise I needed to move on. But really I should not have been at all surprised. The demise of the specialist press is widely regarded as a positive within the walls of business, from what I can tell. I fear few tears are shed when we are criticised on the one hand for regurgitating press releases and then on the other by ‘spoiling’ PR reveals with genuine reporting.
Indeed, it’s the perpetual feeling of being in a lose-lose situation that has led to the departure of so many I respect from games journalism. The saddest truth of it all is that the vast, vast bulk of our readers are decent people who value our work. All of which is easily forgotten when we’re constantly forced to engage with the vitriolic and, let’s be honest, shockingly idiotic and all too frequently entitled minority whose fuel and passion appears to be hate, anger and resentment. The passing ignorant swipe of a no-one may count for very little, but lots of very little eventually amounts to a lot. I’ve lost count of the hours I’ve lost churning spiteful hate mail over in my head.
Not that such frivolous ignorance alone would lead to my departure. The truth is I’m finding it increasingly hard to get excited about modern games. That is in no way me saying they are ‘bad’. At any given moment there’s likely to be an absolute gem just around the corner. But I shall admit that the increasing noise of triple-A has started, to me, to feel like an indistinguishable smudge. I feel like I’ve played every game before. An increasing number of clearly very ‘good’ triple-A games fail to engage me. Even the indie scene, which has by and large been a wonderful thing, is becoming so prolific that the gems are starting to feel a little less precious. Although perhaps I’m completely wrong and we’ve got it better than ever and it’s instead me that has changed. That could very much be it. Either way, the consequences are the same.
The last decade has been a whirlwind of change and personal challenge for me. MCV has been one of the few constants throughout it all. It does and forever will run through my blood, and I’ll always love it dearly. It has one of the hardest working teams in the business, who never flinch or relent in the battle to produce a weekly mag, populate a website and run several events. The latter, in particular, seem to receive some stick, often for the audacity of not being free. Sadly, until Corbyn has defeated the evil capitalists and Jezza and Diane have overseen the rise of The New Communist State, the team still needs to be paid, and I don’t think that fact should undermine that each and every event is offered – often thanklessly – in the hope that it will be of benefit to the industry. The intentions are absolutely the best. I urge you to throw your support behind the MCV team in whatever capacity you can.
I’m lucky to be leaving with few regrets. Do I wonder from time to time whether I should have taken on the full editor role when those chances were presented to me? Yeah, of course. But circumstances at home meant doing that job properly would have always compromised my role as a parent, and my daughter always had to come first. I look at the amazing young woman she is now becoming and, while I will always ponder what might have been, I know I made the right decisions. Other than that, I wish I’d met a few more of the cool people I interact with every day. And told a few more of the tales I have to tell – tales of stupidity, mischief, betrayal and outright scandal. But that time will come…
So I’m doing what journos do. No, I’m not going into PR! I’m going freelance. The hope is that the flexibility will better suit the demands of being a dad and husband, and allow me to spread myself a little more evenly across those precious few available daily hours. I had planned to take a couple of months off but I’ve already had a fair amount of work offered to me and don’t feel able to turn it down – adjusting from a steady, salaried position to thinking in terms of my value per hour and what is and isn’t financially efficient is pretty strange, I’ll tell you.
One of my first gigs is at MCV, actually, where I’ll be freelancing for the website as the team transitions into a new era. Business as usual! We’ll see where things go but I have a couple of bigger projects that I’m hoping to get off the ground – neither of which are video games related. Which feels somewhat strange. Still, I can’t ever see myself not writing about games at all, and who knows – perhaps my feelings toward them will warm once I’m able to gaze upon it all with a little more freedom, and liberated from some of the baggage. At the same time, I really do think like I’m ready to shift my attentions elsewhere. Or at the very least broaden them.
So if you’ve ever read my stuff, thanks. If you’ve enjoyed it, great. If you haven’t, tough. If we’ve chatted, I thank you. If we’ve drank together, I probably don’t remember you. If you’ve ever emailed me and used the word ‘synergy’ or ‘webinar’, I probably don’t like you. If you’ve @’d abuse at me, whatever. If you’ve ever called me a ‘so-called games journalist’ then you’re a prick, because I was. But now I’m not, really. It was great. And that’s how it ends. Bye x