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Media Roundtable

Ben Parfitt
Media Roundtable

JIM ROSSIGNOL – Rock, Paper, Shotgun

Favourite games website that’s not yours or your company’s?

I suppose I’m a fan of Joystiq’s Massively portal, because it manages to get the tone and diversity of the MMO niche spot on, without being super-nerdy.

Favourite games magazine that’s not yours or your company’s?

PC Gamer UK remains the best games magazine. Having worked on it probably skews my feelings towards it, but strictly speaking they are my competitor now, so…

Favourite games writer that’s not you or a colleague?

Difficult. I’ve been impressed with Leigh Alexander’s work on Gamasutra, Kotaku and elsewhere, not least because of her fearlessness when faced with (largely male) gamer wrath.

What do you think have been the most significant trends or developments in games media over the last couple of years?

The attempts to break out of the preview/review templates and PR dripfeed seem to suggest people are making special efforts to renew the games media. I think people realise stagnation is the big danger.

What is the games media’s most important role in regard to their audience today? Is it still to help them get value for money when they buy games?

It’s about value for time. There’s so much out there that identifying precisely what the audience is looking for becomes the true goal.

Print: dead. Discuss.


Not dead, but perhaps undead. Something magical is keeping it alive.

What do you think the most interesting developments in games media might be over the next 12 months?

Everyone seems to be looking for a “Yahtzee” or similarly meteoric individual or format, and some of those will probably emerge.

Do you think that in games media, there’s an army of small outfits bubbling up from the underground and ready to make their mark, or do you think publishing might will be dominant?

Ha. Well I am an editor/owner of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, a blog owned and run by four writers, so I perhaps have an unusual perspective on this. Essentially, independent outfits can bubble up from the underground, but they have to have guts and be extremely dedicated.

TOM BRAMWELL - Eurogamer

Favourite games website that’s not yours or your company’s?

Rock, Paper, Shotgun. People often look down on platform fanboyism, but RPS proves that it can be playful, intelligent and self-aware as well as passionate.

Favourite games writer that’s not you or a colleague?

I’ve always liked Tom Francis at PC Gamer. He’s passionate and uncompromising and can be incredibly funny. His SWAT 4: The Movie blog post a few years ago is one of my favourite things on the internet.

Favourite games magazine that’s not yours or your company’s?

Edge – I wish they used bylines, because they employ some wonderful writers who deserve more credit than they get. Come on Tony.

What do you think have been the most significant trends or developments in games media over the last couple of years?

A lot of it would be technical stuff. On the internet people have learned a lot about search engine optimisation and have started engaging users more through social media. I don’t think games journalism itself has changed very much.

What do you think the games media’s most important role is in regard to their audience these days? Is it still to help them get value for money when buying new video games?

I think we should write about things that we like or things that interest us and try to be thoughtful and entertaining while doing so. Reviews should help people make decisions about what they want to spend money on, but that’s not our only function.

Print: dead. Discuss.

Print clearly isn’t dead. With that said, my advice to young games writers is to make sure that you are capable of working in lots of different mediums, because games journalism will endure but the delivery mechanisms are evolving.

What do you think the most interesting developments in games media might be over the next 12 months?

Wait and see.

How would you categorise the games media’s relationship with games PRs?

They have their agenda and we have ours, but I like to think that we can all be nice to one another along the way.

MARTIN ROBINSON - IGN

Favourite games website that’s not yours or your company’s?

Tiny Cartridge, a blog that touches primarily on the DS but extends its affectionate tendrils to various video game ephemera. If ever I get cynical about the industry, heading there helps me realise why I fell in love with it in the first place.

Favourite game magazine that’s not yours or your company’s?

What really excited me about 2010 was some of the smaller zines that were bubbling up. Matthew Kumar’s Exp had an incredible run and Invert Look was promising. It’d be great if zines like these could get traction and blossom in much the same way that blogs have online.

Favourite games writer that’s not you or a colleague? 

There are few people I have more admiration for than Christian Donlan - both for being the sweetest, funniest and most charming man you’d ever hope to meet but also for being an outstanding writer whose personality comes across in his work and then some.

What do you think have been the most significant trends or developments in games media over the last couple of years?

Social networking’s hardwiring into our day-to-day life has had a profound effect on how we digest our media, and that’s been as true in the gaming industry as it has elsewhere. It’s not just been about integrating the likes of Facebook and Twitter into what we do online – it’s been about how to best serve the rapidly changing demands of our audience.

What do you think the most interesting developments in games media might be over the next 12 months?

For online it’s going to be a hugely exciting 12 months – the emergence of HTML 5 is going to help give content a dynamic edge. It’s also going to be fascinating to see how everyone reacts to the possibilities that HTML 5 will open up.

STEVE BOXER - The Guardian

Favourite games website that’s not yours or your company’s?

I have always had a soft spot for CVG, having written for the magazine, but as I’ve contributed irregularly to the website, I guess that rules it out.
So I’d have to say that VG247 just pips Gamesindustry.biz and Eurogamer, since it reflects the unstoppable force of nature which is Pat Garratt.

Favourite games magazine that’s not yours or your company’s?

Until recently, I would have said PC Zone, the last remnant of what games mags used to be like. But since it’s now defunct, I’d probably opt for GamesTM, which makes a decent fist of doing what Edge used to do so well.

Favourite games writer that’s not you or a colleague?

These days, probably Jon Blyth: he makes me laugh and is generally a conspicuously good writer.

What do you think have been the most significant trends or developments in games media over the last couple of years?

Where to start? The rise of the web, obviously, and emergence of new forms such as downloadable magazines, magazine apps and blogs – although something needs to be done about the morass you have to wade through before you find the odd gem. The most disturbing trend is the mystifying absence of any credible games coverage on TV – which is easily explained when you actually meet people who work in TV. Although the new Ginx channel could hopefully redress that balance.

What do you think the games media’s most important role is for their audience these days? Is it still to help them get value for money when buying games?

What it always has been: to give gamers an insight into whether the games they are thinking of buying are actually worth the expense. And to root out the truffles which might not obviously present themselves as must-buys.

Plus, to look at where the industry is heading, and to tell the interesting stories behind the games, if they exist.

Print: dead. Discuss.

Anyone who thinks that is a moron. And if they don’t read anymore, they will only become an even greater moron.

What do you think the most interesting developments in games media might be over the next 12 months?

Hopefully, Ginx’s channel will make the rest of the TV industry realise that people do want to see programmes about games, and that its current state of being far too self-important to do anything so infra dig as actually play a video game was a form of collective madness. It would be nice to see more quirky, independent online efforts arise out of what we’re always being told is the democratisation offered by things like the App Store and Android.

Do you think that in games media, there’s an army of small, independent outfits bubbling up from the underground and ready to make their mark, or do you think publishing might will be dominant?

As I say, it would be nice to think so, although the jury currently remains out. I certainly don’t think that near-monopolies held by games publishers are healthy. They lead, at the very least, to fudged issues and, at worst, to a breakdown in trust between readers and publications.

How would you categorise the games media’s relationship with games PRs?


Same as ever, really. You can be idealistic and fulminate about PR as a bad thing, but journalists and PRs still have a symbiotic relationship. It’s always nice to get the odd glimpse beyond the PR hype, and that still happens.

TIM INGHAM - CVG

Favourite games website that’s not yours or your company’s?

I never fail to be astounded by TheSixthAxis’ professionalism. Most of their staff are volunteers and enthusiasts, yet they run a site whose content, community work and presentation often put the big boys to shame. They have a really enviable, active following that they’ve worked their socks off to accrue. All power to them.

Favourite games magazine that’s not yours or your company’s?

Retro Gamer is really readable and provides something you can’t really find elsewhere. It often makes me feel old, though.

Favourite games writer that’s not you or a colleague?

Christian Donlan (Edge, Eurogamer) is, for my money, in a different league. Even when I’ve done something I know is good, it’s rare that I don’t fear it shows ‘strain’; like it might ache with the effort that went into it behind the scenes. Even if he’s writing about third-party Wii kids’ fluff or a leftfield indie game you already know you won’t download, his writing combines an intellect and grace which sort of effortlessly coaxes you to the very last line.

I also make time for Jon Blyth, Ellie Gibson, Steve Hogarty, Kristan Reed and Tim Smith, who are all excellent writers.

What do you think have been the most significant trends or developments in games media over the last couple of years?

Apps. I think I’m supposed to say Apps here.
In all seriousness, just as with games themselves, people are consuming media on all sorts of platforms, and publications have had to evolve to accommodate that shift.

It’s also been great to see games given more attention on the culture pages of the nationals – not only because it’s well-deserved, but because it makes a callous anti-games news agenda harder for them to justify. You can’t really call GTA a child killer when you’re running a DPS on Red Dead Redemption ten pages on.

What do you think the games media’s most important role is in regard to their audience these days? Is it still to help them get value for money with new games?

Of course that is a factor – certainly to never mislead them into wasting £50 on a game that doesn’t deserve it. But more than anything, I think it’s to own the debate; to provide information and a platform where like-minded readers can have their viewpoint tested – by the publication and its community.

Print: dead. Discuss.

What is this answer being published on again?

What might be the most interesting developments in games media over the next 12 months?

CVG’s continued astronomic rise. We have our sights set high.

Do you think that in games media, mirroring the sort of thing that’s going on in games development, there’s an army of small, independent outfits bubbling up from the underground and ready to make their mark?

Yes, absolutely. And like in games development, the ones who specialise in niche areas will more easily find an audience that can sustain them. I said before that a games media outlet should provide a platform for ‘like-minded’ readers, and that phrase is crucial. The information age is stuffed with choice. If your site or magazine doesn’t have either a pinpoint focus or a strong editorial identity that chimes with what its audience is thinking, you’re in trouble.

How would you categorise the games media’s relationship with PRs?

There are sore points – embargoes, exclusive content deals, the lies – but I think it’s healthy. Often, the main concern of a PR is to ensure a product is portrayed accurately.

JON BLYTH - Freelance

Favourite games writer that’s not you or a colleague?

Chris Donlan, for Eurogamer and Edge. He’s always tone-perfect between entertainment and information. You basically get two articles in one
with him.

Favourite games magazine that’s not yours or your company’s?

I’m excluding Future Publishing magazines because I’m most closely linked to them, so I’m going for Retro Gamer. Because I’m an old fart who’s convinced no-one’ll ever make a game better than Chuckie Egg. That and because it’s a great magazine, obviously.

Favourite games website that’s not yours or your company’s?

Again, excluding ones I’m too close to: Rock, Paper, Shotgun. They’re extremely good with indie stuff, there’s a strong sense of personality and passion, and the effort they put into moderating their comments almost makes you believe that the internet is civilised.

What do you think have been the most significant trends or developments in games media over the last couple of years?

I’ll go for the iPad. I’d prefer it if some mags didn’t bloat every issue to 500MB with locally stored video content, but it’s a new and instant way of getting your hands on magazines, and some of the design work I’ve seen has been fantastic.

What do you think the games media’s most important role is in regard to their audience these days? Is it still to help them get the most value for money when they buy games?

I definitely feel like I’m performing my most valuable function when I’m reviewing a game. Even if there are loads of other people reviewing the same game, and we’ll all eventually end up in the personality-free number graveyard that is the Metacritic website. Other than that, making jokes about things that come out of bodies is an important role.

DARRAN JONES - Retro Gamer

Favourite games website that’s not yours or your company’s?

Rock, Paper, Shotgun, because it’s intelligently written and rarely relies on hyperbole in order to secure hits.

Favourite games magazine that’s not yours or your company’s?

Mean Machines, before it went and split into two separate magazines. I always loved the sense of community the magazine conveyed and it’s something I always try to emulate in Retro Gamer.

It was a fantastic magazine made by journalists at the top of their game. Whenever readers point out the similarities between our mags I always feel honoured.

Favourite games writer that’s not you or a colleague?

Stuart Hunt – Retro Gamer. Yes he’s my features editor, but he’s a fantastic writer who’s been a major part of Retro Gamer’s success and doesn’t really get the recognition he deserves.

Print: dead. Discuss.

Absolute rubbish. Retro Gamer has had its most successful year yet and has had another healthy increase in both readers and subscriptions. If the alternative is to work on a games website that prides itself on hits instead of integrity, then I’d rather be out of a job.

What do you think have been the most significant trends or developments in games media over the last couple of years?

Definitely websites, although not necessarily as a good thing. More and more of them are resorting to tabloid-style headlines in order to grab people’s attention and gamers aren’t going to put up with it forever.

What do you think the games media’s most important role is in regard to their audience these days? Is it still to help them get great value for money when they buy games?

I think that a games magazine’s role is to provide educated, passionate opinion about the industry and its video games, as well as informing its readers about all facets of gaming, not just the number that comes at the bottom of all review scores. After all, you can get that anywhere.

DAVE COOK - NowGamer

Favourite games website that’s not yours or your company’s?

Ready Up, as it’s made up purely of blog reels by everyday gamers from all walks of life. It delivers insight into a wide range of topics that you just wouldn’t find in sites that are staunchly consumer-facing or industry-focused.

Favourite games magazine that’s not yours or your company’s?

I honestly only read Retro Gamer properly.

Favourite games writer that’s not you or a colleague?

Neon Kelly from VideoGamer. Great writer and top guy.

What do you think have been the most significant trends or developments in games media over the last couple of years?

Thanks in part to the instantaneous nature of gaming news online, the creation of bespoke, exclusive content has been ramping up considerably across print and online. If you can’t be first with something, give readers something they can’t get elsewhere. It’s an old method, but it’s never been more relevant.

What do you think the games media’s most important role is in regard to their audience these days? Is it still to help them get value for money with new games?

Regardless of how games media evolves in coming years, that – to me – will always be the main objective. Money’s tight for a lot of people right now, and if we can inform gamers so that they invest wisely, then we’re doing something right.

Print: dead. Discuss.

Absolutely not. I think it’s more about how print operates to accommodate the online sector. My earlier point about giving readers content they can’t get elsewhere rings true here. If you can’t match the speed of online coverage, the remedy is to give the reader a unique experience and a reason to buy your publication.

I definitely see enough publications doing this to prove that print isn’t dead; it’s just  adapting to change.

What do you think the most interesting developments in games media might be over the next 12 months?

I see a lot of great live blogging on sites today. I think Twitter and live blogs will become further ingrained in games media, and I think publications will find new ways to put them to work. Anyone following me on Twitter will know that I’m never off the bloody thing, and with good reason.

Do you think that in games media, there’s an army of independent outfits bubbling up from the underground and ready to make their mark, or do you think publishing might will always be dominant?

Possibly, but I think there needs to be some sort of understanding of what makes for proper games writing these days. I see a lot of knee-jerk reactions on social networks and forums from gamers complaining that the games press is a joke. I think standards have slipped in some areas, mostly due to a few unprofessional sites, and while there are some top quality indie publications and blogs out there, there are some who simply water down standards of quality.

How would you categorise the games media’s relationship with games PRs?

I sometimes wish PRs and the press could work even closer together and with more transparency, and I know some PRs feel the same way.

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