Were you surprised by your win?
Surprised would be an understatement. I won last year too – so I really thought that there was no way the industry would vote for me or that the GMA organisers would let me win two years in a row. Plus, last year I had just had a baby girl and went part-time. As anyone who has dealt with me in the last year will know, that’s meant I’ve become even more infamously grumpy about being dragged away from my desk in Walthamstow for game demos.
Plus, I really don’t think I’ve done anything that amazing in the last year to deserve the award – I’ve been nailed to my desk. Compare that to Rory Buckeridge, now at Nuts. He’s had loads of scoops and exclusives. I was honestly rooting for him to win, not me. But winning has been a very nice icing on the cake that is the imminent arrival of my son – two awards, two babies, two years. And that’ll be it for both awards and babies, I hope!
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Professionally? Launching Stuff Gamer in the US. It may not have hit the sales we wanted, but I’m very proud of the mag that myself and a small team produced. Personally? Not being quite drunk enough to go skinny-dipping at Microsoft’s X01 in Cannes? Or maybe just working with some top-class journalists – big shouts out to Tim Wapshott, Rory Buckeridge, Gary Cutlack and Al Warmington among many others.
What have proven to be your biggest influences?
My biggest influences? Chance and luck. When I left university I would have given my right arm to be a music journalist. I know a few music journalists and I can count on the fingers of one finger the number of ‘em who love their job, their industry, new music. So I count myself lucky to have ended up working in such a friendly industry. And I still enjoy getting to play games for fun and for a living. But that wasn’t the gameplan from the outset.
The person who has influenced me most is my best mate Joe. I’ve known him since I was four. Joe always had the latest consoles, Sinclair computers and Micronaut toys when we were growing up. He got me hooked on arcades in Soho when I was 11. If anything, it was my determination to one day get a sodding console or game before Joe that set me down this path. Still can’t hold a candle to him at most shooters, though.
How important do you feel what the mainstream press writes is in the games sector?
I don’t think the mainstream media ‘get’ games properly yet. But the games industry doesn’t ‘get’ mainstream media either. The media doesn’t devote enough space to games, treats games as a geeky hobby and when it does cover games, we know it’s all too often “ban this evil filth”.
On the other hand, the games industry’s failure to advertise in mainstream outlets enough; failure to properly court and feed the mainstream press stories; and, perhaps worst of all, its consistent reliance on shock tactics and ‘hardcore’ games that overdose on violence and sexist imagery doesn’t help. All of that is thankfully changing.
If the games industry did one thing to make it work better for mainstream media, it should finish games three months before release. Like with films, this would allow time to both properly market games and prepare reviews for long-lead media.
How would you like to see the mainstream media evolve in terms of its treatment of video games?
Give me more space and pay me more? Seriously, though – games should be treated like films and TV programmes. So while I wouldn’t expect shock horror stories to die out completely, it’d be nice to see games not always treated by non-games journos like either a baffling piece of technology or a new street drug.