Crysis 2 – The Official Press Trip Review

This will probably sound like some sort of extension to last week’s series of ‘How To Be A Games Journalist’ series of blogs I posted. You can probably consider this bonus material; free DLC for you lucky punters.

Anyway, I just (and by ‘just’ I mean quite a few hours ago) got back from a press trip to review Crysis 2. As you probably expected, the game is (blank), full of (blank) and certainly made me (blank) when I (blank) the (blank) (blank). (Blank) (blank) (blank). This joke is so old it’s practically (blank).

Anyway, off to sunny (cloudy and grey) Guildford, where EA have their HQ (glass hub of wonder). My mind made a quick exit out the back of my head after spotting Max and OB (those guys off of Hollyoaks that don’t deserve real names) sitting next to me in reception. And when I say my mind was blown, I literally don’t mean it.

After spending several hours in a hot room with a bunch of smelly men, we were given chance to drink and dine at Jamie’s Italian. What impressed me most about Jamie’s restaurant (apart from the fact he resisted drowning my face in olive oil when I entered) was the authenticity of his employees. Never have I been served by a waitress that so personified everything ‘Oliver’ (voice, mannerisms, laid back charm mixed with chirpy enthusiasm). As you can imagine, it was all rather horrifying. But hey, at least the grub was pretty good.

Then it was off to the Holiday Inn, to spend the night in one of their wonderful rooms. Frankly, I probably could’ve gone home, as I live in Farnborough, but I’m a journalist. Inherently lazy by nature, therefore getting a hotel was the easier option.

Now I’m back, I’ll have to collect my thoughts and put them down in words that’ll be better thought out than this, more amusing than a video of a kitten being tickled by a feather and, most importantly, will earn me some of that currency that helps me pay for my hair gel.

Overall verdict, the press trip gets 4/5.  The game gets (blank)/5.

 

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Trains…

It’s kind of weird getting the train today. Apart from the fact I contracted frostbite while it ran ridiculously late (over 40mins). This was a train I used to get to officially the worst job in the world…ever…67.

So It’s kind of liberating in a way to hop back on this metal cabinet of speed and glum faces. The fact that I’m off to do something genuinely interesting, exciting and enjoyable kind of feels like a middle finger to my old daily commute.

It still smells, though. Smells like middle management.

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Driving Range!

I went to the driving range today:

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How To Be A Games Journalist Week: Things They Don’t Tell You

This week each day of my blog is aiming to impart some sort of wisdom onto any would-be games journos. It’ll be a collection of experiences that I hope will educate. Most likely you’ll realise I’m a complete plank.

There are plenty of things that you won’t know when you embark on your journey to be ‘The Best Video Games journalist EVA!!!’ Firstly, it’s that women will find you no more attractive than they did before. At least in most cases, anyway. SHOCKER!

What they also might not have told you is that you’re likely to be poor. Quite poor, in fact. Let’s take a Staff Writer position: if you want to get one in London, then expect to get paid around the 15k mark. Outside of The Big Smoke and you can expect something around 12k. It sounds like a bit of a joke but the written word isn’t worth as much as it should be. *shakes fist in the general direction of the recession*

You’ll also find yourself (especially in the early days) frantically scrambling for work, spending all hours of the day finishing off commissions. It’s quite likely that you’ll have to have two jobs, thereby meaning you will affectively be working 24/7. Prepare to alienate family, friends and even that little cat you usually say hello to on your way into the house. It’s a job that you have to commit to completely and it’ll take a lot fo understanding from those around you (especially when you have to miss your girlfriends birthday to go on a trip – this happened and it wasn’t warmly received).

However, the most heinous of casualties in this job are games themselves. You’ll talk, write and crack-wise about them all day and night, but the amount of time you’ll have to play them (at least ones you want to play; ones you have to play are a different matter) will gradually diminish. I have games piling up in my living room that are either untouched or half-played. And as the constant stream of quality titles are unrelenting, you’ll find your list of unfinished titles getting longer and longer.

So say goodbye to friends, relatives, animals and those things you love so much, games. Congratulations – you’re now a video games journalist.

Any questions about the industry, then feel free to send me a message (or comment below).

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How To Be A Games Journalist Week: Press Trips

This week each day of my blog is aiming to impart some sort of wisdom onto any would-be games journos. It’ll be a collection of experiences that I hope will educate. Most likely you’ll realise I’m a complete plank.

By far one of the biggest perks about getting into the industry, the press trip is a magical adventure, full of games, hotels, drinks and food. I’ve been across the world to pick up various joypads but there are a few things you may not know.

Don’t be a dick. This is pretty important and the chances are that if you are a massive bellend, you won’t know it. PRs will, however, and they’ll make sure to make a note of it and news travels fast. One particular chum I had the pleasure of meeting was such a self-absorbed, pretentious weirdo that he alienated the whole party. He did become something of a legend, though.

You’ll get free stuff unloaded onto you, often hoping to coerce you into liking their product that little bit better. Most of the time it’s just a crappy keychain. What you have to remember is that you are there to do a job and you should act accordingly.

I was blogging from Gamescom last year and while I could’ve got swept away with all the glamour of the occasion – free Diet Coke (WOOO!) – I had to get as much done as possible in the little time I was given. It wasn’t easy, and I still had fun, but it’s important to never lose focus as to why you’re there.

Hopefully, if you do a good job and you make the right impression, then you’ll get to go on more gaming expeditions. Some of which will allow you to have more free time than others – I went to San Francisco last year, having a day to work and then a day of play.

I’ve travelled more places internationally over the last year than I have done in my life. I even once accidently ordered a 36oz prime rib steak, thinking I was ordering a rack of ribs on one trip. That’s the type of mind-blowing experience you can look forward to. So, if you, oh lovely reader, and I are ever to meet on one of these in the future, just make sure you’re not a weirdo, m’kay!

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How To Be A Games Journalist Week: Job Interviews (And How Not To Look A Complete Twit)

This week each day of my blog is aiming to impart some sort of wisdom onto any would-be games journos. It’ll be a collection of experiences that I hope will educate. Most likely you’ll realise I’m a complete plank.

I’ve had a few industry job interviews over the last couple of years and some have been more successful than others. Not that I ever got one of the jobs…I promised myself I wouldn’t cry writing this

Okay, I’m over my failure as a human being, but that’s kind of the point of this post: a job interview is an emotional experience. Before I went off like a gibbering wreck to any of these companies to promote myself, I would prepare myself (especially in the first instance) by scouring the net for any relevent information. I found zilch. Well, nothing specific for the video games journalism anyway.

This is where I come in. Standing heroically on top of a mountain, cape billowing in the wind like a wisdom crusader. I’ll detail some of my experiences and hopefully it’ll give an idea about what to expect and how best prepare for such a occasion. Some of it may seem simple. But then I’m quite simple, so a lot of this didn’t occur to me.

Firstly, it’s very likely that you’ll apply for any appropriate position (let’s say ‘Staff Writer’ in this occasion) that may crop up online. Sometimes it’ll be with an outlet that you may be familiar with but the likelihood is that you’ll come across a job for a magazine/website you’re not familiar with (at least in style). Now, as I’m talking about interviews, I’m assuming that you’ve enamoured the Editor/HR gatekeeper sufficiently to the point where they think you have an understanding of their cherished publication (hint: you may want to mention you like it because of A, B and C in the cover letter). So, on to preparation it is.

Step 1: Buy the magazine/find website. Step 2: Read the magazine/website. Step 3: Read it again. Now you need to understand its style, its content. What type of features it runs, how different writers read. It seems rather obvious but it’s something that some may overlook and a quick way to make you look like a plank. A little knowledge of history is an advantage but not always as easily accessible.

Here’s a weird point that nobody gave me a straight answer to: dress code. Suit and tie? Smart-casual? Or do you just stride in with a comedy shirt sporting some HI-LARIOUS tagline, such as ‘Beavers Eat Wood’? I’ve always gone in with a shirt and tie, smart trousers and smart shoes. I know others have gone in their traditional journo garb (jeans, fairly smart-casual shirt, trainers and a little bit of beard clinging to the bottom of their lips). My choice is based purely on risk factor. Who knows what the person interviewing you prefers and it’s a smart enough option not to offend either way.

There’s always one aspect of an interview that is sure to get me in a mild sweat before I arrive: the handshake. Sure, easy enough you may think. Mis-time it and you could be grasping the fingers in a rather strange manner; go in too strong and you could risk overpowering your potential boss. The urban clinch is usually out of the question as well, unless they instigate it.

Once you’ve introduced yourself (usually in a squeaky voice, considering your throat has probably turned into a desert due to nerves) you’ll sit down and be facing (very likely) the Editor and the HR administrator. This is, most likely, the first half of the interview process.

The Editor will have a checklist of questions he’ll go through. Most of which will be questions you may have heard in a job built for ‘norms’ (name a stressful situation you’ve been in; where do you see yourself in five years; and, the always horrifying to which there is no easy answer, name some of your faults) but some of which will be geared for what could potentially be your new job. Nothing too much to worry about if you know your games stuff. Still, if you no shit-all about the industry, then you might want to buff-up on some names. Nerves can get the better of you and I found myself in one situation totally going blank at half of the industry names that I had interviewed in my experience.

The second half of the process is what caught me off-guard in my first interview, which was a written test. Now, I know some people say this part of the interview isn’t as important as the first. A couple have even mentioned that, after getting the job in question, their new employers said that this area didn’t even factor into their decision. But I’m saying that it does.

I’ve been given an hour to play a game and write a 500 word review for it. Another gave me a press release and asked me to write a 250 word preview based on it within 40mins. I’ve also had a second interview that asked for a 200 word news item, along with an outline for a feature idea. It’s always a good idea to go in prepared to write, get yourself in the right mentality and not over think it. If I’m honest, the last job interview I went for I totally blew on the written test. It’s something that should’ve come naturally but in my crippling anxiety I found that the time evaporated. I turned to the clock to begin and I’m calm; turned back after what felt like two minutes and all the time had disappeared. Before I knew it I was rushing. Putting words together with all the grace of a child fishing in alphabet spaghetti. It lost me the job and I knew it instantly.

That’s pretty much the gist of the whole experience. Sometimes you’ll hear back instantly, other times it’ll be a couple of weeks. Once it was over a month before I got a second interview. If you are called back it’ll be more of the same, except you might meet the Big Boss. Still, it turns out, at least from my experience, is to remain calm. No amount of preparation will help you with this of course. Unless you get drunk, perhaps. Good luck!

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How To Be A Games Journalist Week: Visceral and Words You Should Never Use!

I’m going to keep this succinct today. Mainly because I’m tired but also because I like the word succinct. Succinct.

There are certain words that make journos cringe. Now, unfortunately there’s not a book with them all in…except the dictionary. But there are certain terms that you’ll hear your contemporaries moan about, like ‘decimate’ and ‘Madonna’.

One that seems to get most people’s goat is ‘visceral’. A term that’s frustratingly easy to drop into any article discussing something with a mild splash of gore. It’s also a word that has ‘lazy’ stamped across its v-shaped fac

Nobody really tells this to you, of course. Especially if you’re like myself and haven’t studied journalism at university. It’s little nuggets of information like this that you’ll inevitably stumble over along your way to success. Now this isn’t my most insightful blog of the week, which I apologise for, but as I’m opening up my head like an ugly over-sized Pez dispenser, dispelling tablet-shaped treats of information, I thought it was best to warn. Beware of words.

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