October was busy, because I’m always busy and I wouldn’t have it any other way, etc. I even managed to get out of the house a fair bit, assembling a game of Artemis: The Spaceship Simulator with a bunch of other games journalists and somehow attending the Games Media Awards too, even though I wasn’t nominated.
Oh, yeah. The GMAs. I should probably talk about that.
Understand: I don’t actually want to. I feel like, between them, John and Dan have said everything which needs to be said – but I’m still getting people asking me for my thoughts. In brief they are: Yes, there are problems. No, I did not enter the competitions. Yes, the abuse being thrown around over all this is terrible. Yes, so is the censorship.
Other than that, I’m more interested in actually trying to solve the (very real) problems, rather than talking them to death. To that end I’m working with my some of my editors to outline an informal Code of Conduct for the younger writers we work with to refer to; because if anyone is right about anything in all this then it’s Lewis Denby about everything.
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So, Split Decision: The Nonsense Knowledge Game isn’t the only new project I’ve had on the go this year – I’ve also been collating and editing a book. It’s called The Science of Computing and it’s a collection of some of the best hardcore technology journalism from authors such as Ben Hardwidge, Mike Bedford and Phil Hartup.
You can buy The Science of Computing now on Amazon’s Kindle service for the low, low price of £2.05. You can also check out a free sample and, because it’s on the Kindle platform, you can access it on your phone with the official Kindle app if you don’t have an eReader.
The idea for the book – and others that I hope to create in the future – came from when I first saw Dennis Publishing’s back-issue archive one day. In the labs under Cleveland Street there are cupboards filled to the brim with old copies of Custom PC, Men’s Fitness, Bizarre and all the other magazines. There’s some really good writing in those pages and a lot of it’s still relevant, but most of it goes to waste. There’s a great article on AI development by Ben, for example, that’s not ever been seen outside of the pages of the one issue it was published in years ago.
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August was a spectacularly busy month, but it was also a rewarding one. It saw me realising a lot of the goals I’d set for myself at the start of the year, such as attending a foreign show as a freelancer and releasing a game. I also met several heroes of mine, got published on another big site and made my Kindle debut.
August was also the month that I ate zebra, alligator, kangaroo and barracuda all in the same bowl.
And that’s just the start too, as a lot of the projects I started or worked on this month are part of larger projects which will trickle into the future. I wrote a script, did some proper investigation and started to formally present some ideas I’ve had about creative industries as a whole.
That stuff is for the future though. Here’s what I did this month.
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I’ve been reading Kill Screen lately, which is a new American games magazine that’s currently working towards its fourth issue. I’ve already subscribed to the mag (which costs a pretty penny when you factor in shipping), but it’s important to note that ‘magazine’ isn’t really the correct word. It’s more like a periodical or multi-author novella.
Structurally, the first thing that sets Kill Screen apart is that there are no adverts in it. In fact, there’s very little in the way of pictures at all and what few are there are usually illustrations or brief photo-articles in their own right. This alone sets it apart from the increasingly flashy magazines that spatter across newsagent shelves – most magazines like pictures because they grab the attention of customers and are far cheaper than paying writers. Once a magazine has more pictures than words, it’s usually a bad sign.
Kill Screen does a few other things I like too, but it’s important to note that much of this is only possible because it doesn’t really care about the recent trends or news. Each issue has a central theme, which is decided far in advance and which all the writers discuss in their own way. There are no reviews and no news pieces – just a topic and the guiding tone, which can admittedly get pretty pretentious. New Games Journalism and its approximates are out in full force.
Kill Screen has a website too, by the way, but like me they don’t like to repeat content from the magazine on the site. I’ve been forced to do that occasionally (usually because of interfering deadlines or because we’ve had an article that I think needs repeating). Other than that, nearly all games content for Custom PC is either unique or rewritten.
Mainly though, what I like about Kill Screen is that it’s different. In the publishing industry there are still plenty of folk going over the same arguments that we’ve been having for years – what do we do when print dies and internet advertising finally bottoms out? At the moment the focus is on tablet devices and Social Media, because that’s all anyone ever talks about. Those things will doubtless be important, but as the primary form of publishing? I’m not convinced.
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Christmas’ are always a difficult time for the friends of boring people in my line of work. I only really have two hobbies – writing and playing computer games – and both of them are sated on a daily basis. I play computer games, write about them and people give me money for that. Sometimes I don’t even bother to write about them because I’m too busy playing. Other times, vice versa.
The other potential gift that would work would be films, naturally…but I can get those when I want them too, for free. My occupation really does make it difficult on my friends and family. Mostly they get me sci-fi books, which are great.
Now, I’m expecting something in the post that will completely ruin that avenue of giftage too. I’ve ordered an Amazon Kindle. I opted for the 3G version, just so I can always read about comics on Wikipedia if the whim takes me, and it’s set to arrive in a day or two. I expect to be instantly struck by buyers remorse when I get it, because it’s hugely expensive compared to my current tactic of buying books from charity shops or waiting for birthdays, but I figured it’s been a while since I last treated myself. God knows I could use cheering up at the moment anyway – or he would if he existed.
Bit-Gamer’s steady growth continues at the moment. In line with Dennis’ new Social Media Strategy, which I read over the Christmas break, I’ve created and optimised a Facebook page to complement our Twitter account. I’ve also been contacting new freelancers and designing advertisements to feature across other Dennis publications. Fun!
We put some content up over Christmas, as usual, and I’m going to link to it below. Before I do though, here’s a link to Craig’s latest piece – a short one-page feature about Trackmania, why it’s awesome and why I’m an idiot. The article is really good, even though it gets some fact wrong. I love Trackmania. Anyway, the article is called Trackmaniac.