Why I Don’t Think I’ll Ever Be A ‘Proper Journalist’

I like to think that I’m fairly competent at what I do with this blog. This was only ever meant to be a bit of fun for me, a way to share my passion and opinions of games and films… Sometimes TV and other subjects too. When I started Little Bits of Gaming, I only ever wanted to do small, easy to read posts. But I began to get into larger retrospectives, histories, editorials, etc and the smaller articles just stopped as the more in-depth ones took over. My skill and confidence as a writer grew and I began writing bigger and richer articles, I moved onto writing books and much more. It even got to a point where I even considered getting into ‘proper journalism’.

I spend several months last year looking into and applying for real writing jobs for various big-name sites that cover similar subjects that I do here and a few random and general writing jobs too. I’m not going to name those sites, but if you’re into gaming and film news, then you’d be more than familiar with several of the sites I looked into and even applied for jobs with a few places. I just really wanted to get into writing on a professional level In fact, several years back now, I used to write ‘professionally’ for Movie Pilot and their sister site, Now Loading as one of their paid creators. I had to go through a whole host of ‘lessons’ to pass thier writing academy and become one of their verified creators (as they called us) and bring in some side cash as well as learn a lot more about writing on a professional level.

Anyway, I’ve always believed that outside of this blog that I could easily do this writing thing for real and be a ‘proper journalist’. I genuinely enjoy writing, I like to think I’m pretty decent at it too. So, that’s why I spent a chunck of last year trying to get into this writing thing proper. It was the midst of the first covid lockdown here in England over last summer. I wasn’t doing my day job as my workplace had to close in accordance to the covid restrictions at the time. I had been dealing with anxiety and depression for a while at the time too, even before the lockdown. It was all work-related and being in that first lockdown really made me realise how much my day job was affecting my mental health. Long story short, I ended up quitting my job in the midst of mass unemployment due to the whole coronavirus thing, with many businesses closing for good.

After I quit my job, I began to feel better about myself. The anxiety and depression are both still there, but just nowhere near as badly as before and I’m managing my mental health far better than ever. As I write this now, I still don’t have a job, I’m unemployed I guess. But, my partner returned to work at the start of this year after being off for a year following the birth of our son at the end of 2019. With my better half in employment and earning well, we made the decision that I’d be a stay at home father for a while, instead of going back to work, as it saves us a fortune in childcare. Plus, I get plenty of time to do a spot of writing too. Oh, and spend a lot of time with my two kids.

Two days a week and my little monsters are in nursery. That’s two days that I have to myself and can write. I’ve never had that much free time to write before and I’m loving it. Before, when I was working full-time, I could only write after work. And my job had me working unsociable hours too. Late finishes, working weekends and holidays, etc. On top of having one, then two small children to care for too. As a result, I could only write for around four to six hours a week, if I was lucky. So, with all this newly found spare time as a stay at home father, I thought I’d explore writing as a job. As I said, I did look into and apply to a few notable sites… And it seriously began to depress me. I wish I had screen-grabbed some images of the expectations from some of these sites. I mean eight to ten articles a day… A DAY! That’s what one of the sites I looked into were expecting from a content writer.

I tend to do around three to four articles a month on this blog on average, and I feel that’s plenty of content. I actually spend time on my articles though. I research and fact-check as best as I can. Something that a lot of modern journalists just don’t seem to do anymore. For most, if not all, of these entertainment websites, it’s all about quantity over quality. Often I find myself reading badly researched and written content from (what are supposed to be) respected sites written by ‘professional journalists’, that are really generally just lazy copy & paste jobs. Big named websites churning out shit as fast as they can and screw the quality of the content itself, as long as there’s lots of it. I know I can produce far superior content for most of these sites, but they’re just not interested. It’s all about suffocating people with as much crap as possible, while the quality of the content takes a back seat. I just can’t write like that, I can’t fart out endless dreck just to meet an unrealistic quota.

I know why big-name sites do this, it’s all about the clicks and ad revenue. These sites are a business and a business needs money to survive, it’s just a shame it’s that quantity over quality aspect of the business that brings in the most money.

Then there are the editors. From my last experiences writing for Movie Pilot and Now Loading, I learned to loath editors. See, whenever I published something for Movie Pilot, especially if it was a major article that got main coverage (I had several articles published as lead articles when I wrote for them), they would have to pass through an editor before publishing. Most of the time, the editors would completely mess up my work to the point where I asked for my name to be removed. Look, editors are needed, I get that. But the ones I had to work with were clueless imbeciles. I recall one article I wrote where I set up a joke and used a picture as the punchline. I send it off to the editor, a few hours later and it was published. I clicked on the link to read my published work and the editor had moved my picture punchline. The lead in joke was still there, but the punchline was gone. Now, it wasn’t an issue with the picture itself, because it was still used in the article, the editor had just moved it elsewhere and further down. I remember emailing the editor to explain the situation and all I got back was a snippy reply telling me how the image worked better in its new place. Despite the fact it ruined the joke and now made no sense… apparently, it was in a better place… How?

Then there was the time I wrote an article on why Metal Gear Solid V took me over a year to finish. Honestly, the game really kind of bored me and I found it utterly repetitive with having to do the same handful of missions over and over in the same handful of locations. Now, I was very respectful in my (long) article. I admitted to not being a huge MGS fan, but I still respect the franchise for what it is. I made that point very clear in my writing too. Again, I sent the article off to the editor for publication and yes, it made the grade, got published and even given credit as a lead article too, proudly displayed front and centre of the main site. Probably no more than an hour after my MSG V article had been published, my inbox was inundated with alerts to comments made about the article. Honestly, I was getting dozens of them, the biggest response to an article I had ever written for them. So of course, I was curious as to why I was getting such a huge response. I clicked on my article and went straight to the comments section, where I found nothing but personal attacks aimed at me, not my article, me directly. Swearing, threats, insults, you name it and there was a derogatory and personal slur there in the comment section. Now, I’m very thick-skinned and I don’t get offended easily. Call me whatever you want, I’m a grown man, I won’t cry about it. But I began to grow very curious as to just why my perfectly harmless article, where I respectfully explained why it took me over a year to finish MGS V, was attracting people to personally attack me. So I scrolled up from the comments and read my article after going through an editor.

It had been altered to the point where I honestly hardly recognised my own work. Now, the main gist was still there as I explained why the game just never gelled with me, but that respectful nature and tone of my writing was gone. I began to see vitriolic words such as ‘abhor’, ‘detest’ and ‘hate’ in the article, words I never wrote myself. See, I personally think words like ‘hate’ are often over and misused. It’s a strong word that I only use for particularly strong circumstances. Yet, here was my article littered with trigger words put there just to clearly get a certain response. In fact, the article ended with the line (and I quote) ‘If you hate Metal Gear Solid V as much as I do, let me know in the comments below’. A line I never wrote, a line that was clearly saying I hated the game. It had been put there by the editor as a final twist of the knife. Anyway, as I read my now edited article, I began to understand why I was getting such abuse in the comments section. Because the article was altered to be nothing more than a very bitter rant that came across as a mass insult to MGS fans and even Hideo Kojima himself. Which certainly was not the intention of my original scrawling. 

I was fuming, I emailed my editor and demanded the article be reinstated to how I originally wrote it. I was told the editor’s decision is final and it would not be changed. I pointed out the comments section and all the abuse being aimed at me due to how the article came across. They loved it, to them, it was traffic to the site, which meant more clicks, more ad revenue, more money. I was told to just take it on the chin, that sometimes I’d get comments I don’t like, that I should just ignore them. Fuck that, I was getting abuse over an article that had my name on it as I had written it… but one that had been edited to remove my respectful nature and replace it with hate and vitriol. Again, I didn’t care so much about the comments themselves, I could handle them. I was angry, not because I was getting abusive comments, but because my article had been purposely edited to incite those type of comments. My name was attached to a piece of work I didn’t agree with. 

Now, I don’t have anything against editing, it’s a necessity in this writing thing I do. But there are ways and means of doing editing well. I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet, not long back and a fellow blogger and friend, Lord Badger Nimahson from Stoffel Presents did a review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League for this blog. I was emailed the review and spotted a few minor gaffs, so I edited it, I also did a little polishing of some of the formatting and overall review. However, the end result was still 99% of Badger’s work and 1% of my editing. I didn’t change the tone or voice of the review, I didn’t add any vitriolic wording just to get a response.

Anyway, back to my Movie Pilot/Now Loading story. I refused to write for them any more. In fact, I asked for my account with them to be deleted and all of my content removed. They said they couldn’t do that, some bollocks about it going against their policy, that they can’t remove content from their paid creators. Of course, the real reason was that they were still making money off my articles every time someone clicked on them and they didn’t want to lose out on any revenue. So, as I still had access to my account with them, I spent two days just uploading articles with nothing but hardcore porn. Porn films, pictures and so on. Bombarded them with so much salacious, very adult content that they were forced to shut my account down. Then about three weeks later Movie Pilot/Now Loading shut down the entire writing department to concentrate on video content. There was a rather in-depth article that uncovered some rather questionable management practices, including accusations of sexual harassment and more at the company. I couldn’t find that article when I looked, but I did find this one about the selling off of the brand and there are a few mentions of mismanagement and the like. So it seems that I was not alone in my distrust of the company.

It’s shit like this that really put me off exploring writing professionally. What’s the point if I have to write ( copy & paste) asinine crap and lots of it, to meet a pathetic quota just to get more clicks? Why should I spend time and effort researching and writing content, just for some wanker of an editor to completely fuck up my work because they only care about getting comments and traffic to the site? That’s not what being a journalist is about. After looking into getting into ‘proper journalism’ last year, I learned that I’m a rather large square peg trying to force my way into a tiny and uncomfortable round hole. It’s just not worth it. My love, respect and passion for writing, my integrity and my moral compass just won’t allow me to go down that route.

I mean, here’s a typical piece of what passes for modern gaming ‘journalism’. An article that looks at a game character’s shoe size. This actually exists as ‘proper journalism’ from a reputable site, this is how low this shit has sunk. Even more so, the article ends with:

“What do you think of Lady Dimitrescu’s shoe size? Are you surprised by all the interest surrounding the tcharacter? Let us know in the comments or share your thoughts directly on Twitter.”

How about no, fuck off?

This is it folks, this is what passes as journalism these days. This is the kind of very low quality dreck that gets published on well known sites. This is what you get when you hire cluless writers with zero passion for writing and force them to churn out ten articles a day.

I have this very minuscule piece of real estate of a blog, lost on the gargantuan plot of land that is the internet… And I’m happy about that. I can post what I like, when I like, how I like. I mean, do you think some big-name and ‘reputable’ media site would allow me to write a lengthy rant about how shit modern journalism is now?

What I Don’t Like About Modern Gaming

The next generation of gaming is on the horizon. November-ish and well be playing on our shiny new XStation 6 and PlayBox 19 consoles. I don’t even really need a new console to be honest, I have such a backlog of games to get through that I really have no need to jump over to the next gen for a good couple of years or so… though I’ll most probably still buy one anyway… cos I’m stupid. Anyway, as an older gamer in his mid-forties, I’ve seen games and gaming in general evolve (in some cases, devolve) over the years.

Now, I’m not some old-timer who thinks modern gaming is crap. In many ways, it’s better now than ever… but in some ways, gaming is getting worse. So right here, I’m going to take a look at some of my gaming grumbles. Things that annoy me about modern gaming. From silly little niggles to a couple of quite serious issues. Get ready, cos and old man is about to yell at a cloud…

Installing Games

I remember a time when you’d buy a new game, rush home from the shops (pre-digital), excited to play your latest purchase. Removing the box from the bag, tearing away at that annoying cellophane wrap and opening the box. To then thrust the disc or cartridge (or tape if you really want to go back) into your console/computer of choice. Flick on your machine and (depending on format), you’d be playing your game instantly (negating load times). That was it, simple. 

C64 LOADING

But now, oh now you can’t do that can you? Now you buy a game, thrust it into your console…. then have to wait for it to install. Depending on the size of the game, install times vary from several minutes to an hour or more. Yes I know with some digital purchases, you can pre-install… which is nice. But you can’t do that with psychical games can you? So you just sit there, having to wait to play the game you’ve already waited several weeks and months (sometimes years) to play. I just miss being able to pop the game in and start playing it. That’s before I get in the need to buy bigger external HDDs because we now have to install games instead of playing them direct from disc. Don’t even get me started on day one patches…

Lying Loading Bars

I really don’t have a problem with loading screens, in fact, they can be good fun (see my next point)… but I detest loading bars or counters that just lie to you. Whether it be a simple straight line that fills as the game loads, a percentage counter that goes from 0 to 100%, a unique design/symbol that fills up. Whatever the method used to countdown the loading until you can play, the reason for them to exist is pretty simple. To let you know that the game is almost ready to play.

LOADING BARS

So why do we have loading bars that lie to us? I’ve played games that feature loading bars/counters that reach 100%… to then continue loading for a minute or so after they are finished. So they’re not 100% then? I’ve even had the converse happen with a bar that was two-thirds of the way filled up, for the game to start before it was finished. If your loading bar can’t keep track of a correct period of time to tell when when it’s ready to play, then why is it there?

We never had this in the ‘good ole’ days’, those micro-computer days of the eighties. If a game took four minutes and thirty-seven seconds to load, then that’s how long it took. It was never four minutes and thirty-eight seconds or four minutes and thirty-six seconds. It was exactly four minutes and thirty-seven seconds every single time. We didn’t have counters that lied to us, the game loaded when it loaded, no bullshitting.

No Loading Screens

It seems that one of the key features for the next gen is to remove loading and loading screens. The idea is to hide the loading within the game itself, therefore cutting out long pauses in the gameplay to create one long flowing experience.  But I like loading screens, I may not like lying loading bars, but the screens themselves can, sometimes, be really enjoyable.

From beautiful looking game art, hints and tips to just outright funny jokes and references. Plus there’s the fact they offer a nice break from gaming (when you don’t want to pause) to challenge yourself. I can’t be the only person who does the fridge dash when a loading screen pops up. Can you put the controller down, get from your seat and to the kitchen, open the fridge, grab a drink or snack and then back into your seat with the controller back in hand before the loading screen finishes? That’s what loading screens are for, to do the fridge dash.

BAYONETTA LOADING

But even if you remove the fridge dash challenge, loading screens can still be really great and part of the game itself. What about Bayonetta’s loading screens that let you practice the various moves and combos? Or take a look the cover/shooter Spec Ops: The Line as an example. I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you here if you’ve never played it, but that game has some of the best and most amazing loading screens ever. They go from standard guff offering you game tips, to… well they change into something far more sinister and actually part of the narrative of the story. Loading screens can be great when used well and to see them go next gen is a bit disappointing… I’ll have to buy a mini-fridge for next to my gaming chair too. 

Gaming ‘Journalism’

I don’t consider myself a gaming journalist, I’m not simple enough to do that. I’m just a gamer with a passion and his own blog. I like to share my views and opinions, I like to throw in some gaming memories and so on into anything I write. For me, this is more of a personal thing than a job, it’s a fun hobby that I really enjoy doing. But ‘proper’ gaming ‘journalism’ I really do detest for the most part. 

Big name sites throwing together half-arsed articles with no passion or drive just to get traffic to their site. I really don’t like click-bait, I’ll never do click-bait myself. The headline of my articles tells you what you are going to get, and often I throw in extra stuff just for fun too. So you are getting more for you click. But there are so many ‘respected’ sites that thrive off click-bait and badly written drivel. But you know what annoys me more than anything else? Click-bait articles that are literally written about nothing.

GAME WRITING

Here’s a prime example of what I mean. Rare have a new game coming soon-ish (no release date yet, it’s all just guess work). The game is called Everwild and very little is known about it outside of its title. A few screens and trailers have been released, yet they don’t actually tell you anything other than give you a glimpse at what the game looks like. Anyway, here’s an article from trustedreviews.com about everything they know about Everwild. Now, in their ‘about us’ bit on the site, they bang on about their expert team of journalists and many years of expertise and so on. But the article is utter shit.

It’s these kind of ‘what we know’ articles that really annoy me. Other sites do them too, the amount of GTA VI ‘what we know’ articles I’ve seen over the last few weeks is astounding, the truth is that they don’t know anything. Just taking that linked Everwild article up there ^^^ as an example. they even admit they don’t know anything in the article about what they know. These quotes are taken from said article…

“Beyond a few trailers and screenshots, we currently don’t know much else about it.”

“It remains unclear exactly how Everwild will play”

Aside from a very rough outline of the (unconfirmed) plot, they don’t know how it will play, they don’t know anything about the gameplay mechanics, they don’t know a release date, they don’t even know what genre of game it will be. So they know nothing in an article written about what they know. It is quite literally an article about nothing. So why does it exist if it doesn’t tell you anything? Could they have written an article speculating on what the game may possibly be? Yes they could… but that’s not what the headline says is it? The headline very specifically claims the article is going to detail what they know. I guess the fact they don’t tell you anything means the article kind of delivered on it’s headline promise. They don’t know anything and the article delivers just that.

But, this is fast becoming a trend too. People are being paid to write articles that may contain plenty of words, but not any information. This is how the above article should’ve looked…

Everwild: Everything we know about Rare’s next big
adventure

TRUSTED PIC

EVERWILD

Nothing, we don’t know anything. See you in the next article about nothing.

TRUSTED PIC 2

There you go, that’s a far more accurate and honest article on what the headline promises. If you don’t have anything to write about, then don’t write about it. It’s pretty simple really. Destructoid, GamesRadar+,  Game Informer, IGN, GameSpot and more are all guilty of this shitty click-bait crap and articles that really don’t say anything. I hate that click-bait crap and yet, I keep falling for it regardless.

Not Actual Game Footage

This isn’t a new thing, in fact, it’s been going on for a number of years now. But recently, it’s become more and more prevalent. I’m talking about game trailers that don’t contain gameplay footage. Now, there are some exceptions to this. If a game is recently announced and in early development, then it is often the trend to release a teaser trailer that is purely a CGI movie. I don’t necessarily have a big issue with this as the game is in early development. I’m not a fan of these early teaser trailers, but I understand why they exist. So those are exempt from my rant. Also, live action trailers also get a free pass as I don’t expect them to have game footage… doesn’t mean they can’t though.

NOT GAME FOOTAGE

However, it’s those trailers of games that are currently out or are soon to be released and the trailer is part of the main marketing campaign for that game… yet they still do not contain game footage? Even worse are those trailers for games that are/soon released and have full computer generated imagery to sell said game, but that CGI is not of the actual game. Ergo, not actual game footage. Why? That means they have used a computer to create images for a trailer not in the game for game that is made from computer created images. What kind of backward thinking is that? They’ve just created needless extra work for themselves instead of using the already existing in game graphics to sell the product they are trying to sell.

Multiple Game Versions

You know what I miss? Buying a game and getting a game. That’s how simple it used to be. You picked up the game from the shelf, took it to the counter to pay for it and then, the game was yours. Now though, games are released in all sorts of different flavours that contain all sorts of extras and bonuses. I’m not strictly against DLC, but I am anti-crap DLC. But it’s not just DLC that grinds my nuts, but more so all the different versions of one game, even to the point where the one that sounds the most complete still has stuff missing. Seeing as Forza Horizon 3 is soon to be discontinued due to licensing issues, I’ll use that game as my example.

So, if I were to go to the Microsoft store to buy Forza Horizon 3 (currently on sale due to its being discontinued), there are three different versions of the game. There’s the standard game, the deluxe edition and the ultimate edition. Standard version is exactly that, just the base game with no extras. The deluxe edition though gives you, along with the base game, VIP membership and cars, Forza Hub App, and the Motorsport All-Stars Car Pack. Then there is the ultimate version of the game, this one you get all of the above and early access to the game (before it was officially released) and the Forza Horizon 3 car pass, which gave you every DLC car released for the game. It is called the ultimate edition so of course, you get everything for the game… that’s what the word ultimate means: being the best example of its kind. So there is nothing more to the game and you get everything with the ultimate edition… only you don’t.

There is still the matter of the Forza Horizon 3 Hot Wheel and the Forza Horizon 3 Blizzard Mountain DLCs that you don’t get with the ultimate edition… so it’s not the ultimate edition then is it? If there is extra stuff outside of the ultimate version of a game… then how is that game the ultimate version? This keep happening too, different developers/publishers use different terminology, but the end result is always the same. Collectors editions are another thing I have an issue with because all the useless tat you get with them are just not for me, but I do know people who enjoy all that stuff. Still, have you seen the various editions for the up and coming Assassin’s Creed Valhalla? Standard version, gold edition then the ultimate edition. So that’s it then, no more because they have the ultimate edition right? No, because there is still yet another version of the game after the ultimate edition…. so not the ultimate edition then! There’s still the collectors edition… which isn’t the ultimate edition? If you don’t get everything with the ultimate version of a game, then it’s not the ultimate edition. The word ultimate, look it up.

ASSASSINS CREED EDITIONS

Why has doing something as simple as buying a game become so complex? Now, you have to research to see what version of what games comes with what specific content. And because these publishers don’t know what words like ultimate means, you the consumer get screwed over when you think you have purchased the version that is ultimately the best one when it’s not.

Games Are Getting Are Too Big

It’s all about size these days with AAA games. As the rumours surrounding GTA VI continue, I keep seeing people commenting on how it would be great to have all of the previous GTA maps in one game, a huge map that’s more of a state with multiple cities in it and similar ideas. Why? Don’t people think the map of GTA V was big enough or something? There’s that clip on YouTube that looks at map sizes over the years.

Not counting (pretty much) endless games like Minecraft, Elite Dangerous, etc and just looking at ‘normal’ maps. Some of them are stupidly big to the point where you don’t even see some of the map while playing the game.

But even some games with more sensible map sizes just have too much going on in them and soon become tiresome. Plus there are games that have huge maps and yet still offer way too much to do. I’m looking at the more recent (again) Assassin’s Creed titles. With both Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey, I personally gave up after putting in several hours. Seriously, I clocked up around thirty hours on Odyssey, which for me should be when the game is ending. Yet I popped up the map screen and I had only revealed about a third of the map. Plus there was dozens and dozens of icons for things to do that I just got completely bored with. Some say ‘at least your getting plenty of game for your money’. No, I’m getting bored for my money. If I’ve put thirty hours into a game and I’m still not even halfway done, that’s way too big. If I were to pay a normal price to watch a ten hour film at the cinema, the cost is irrelevant if I’m bored.

I’m older, I have kids, I write and other things like life get in the way. So my gaming hours are not as free as they used to be. These games that keep getting bigger and bigger, year after year just pass me by as I don’t have time for them. Smaller and more original indie games are the way forward, not these ever expanding open world things. Yet whenever a new game is announced, one of the first things the developers/publishes brag about is the map size. 

Wasted Licenses

So this is something that very recently came up on my radar. Licensed games do have a bit of a bad history. A game based on a movie or TV show is often just lazily thrown together just to cash in on the popularity of the IP it’s based on. Now, this isn’t new and you can find plenty of examples through gaming history of terrible licensed games. But, the idea of just farting out some old tat of a game based on a popular name really hit me hard today when I saw the trailer for the Cobra Kai game. I’m not even going to directly post in on my blog as it’s so offensively terrible, I’ll just do an external link instead.

That looks unbelievably shoddy. A lazy, shovelware game shat out because the show it is based on is pretty damn popular. For those not in the know, Cobra Kai (the show) is a continuation of the Karate Kid films, and you know what? It’s bloody excellent too. It’s a show that clearly has a real passion and drive behind it, one that does a lot of new things and yet still pays a lot of respects to its source material along the way. But just look at the game. That’s not respecting the source material. I love a good scrolling beat ’em up and I think that Cobra Kai is perfect fodder for a game of that style too… but it still deserves better then that poop in the trailer. You remember that The Warriors game? No, I don’t mean the pretty damn good version from Rockstar Games a few years back, I mean this one. That’s what the Cobra Kai game reminds me of… only difference is that it’s not 2009 anymore.

RAMBO

There have been other wasted licensed games too. Remember Rambo: The Video Game from 2014? I recall seeing the teaser trailer before the game was released and despite some pretty low standard graphics, the trailer made the game look pretty good. The cops stalking Rambo through the forest of the first film, it looked like it could be a really interesting action/survival game. You playing as John Rambo having to survive off the land, taking out the cops before they get to you. Building traps, finding places to hide, kill wild boars for food, etc. A blending of stealth, survival and action game, all using the Rambo film license… amazing. But no, what we got was a shitty on-rails shooter with terrible controls and awful gameplay. That’s how you waste a great licence and completely miss the point of the IP you are trying to capture in game-form. 

If you’re not going to respect the licence of the famed IP you are using, then why bother? (I already know the answer to that, it really was a rhetorical question) 

Grindy Games

I’ve already moaned about some modern games getting too big, but this is a different spin on the same problem. Games that make you needless grind out to level up to move onto the next part (yes, I’m looking at the recent Assassin’s Creed games again). This is just padding and forcing the game to seem bigger then it really is, or worse, make an already huge game pointlessly bigger.

Side quests can be great, a nice little distraction from the main story when you feel like taking a break. But I’ve begun to notice that games are getting into a trend of forcing you to level up in order to keep progressing through the story, and the only way level up effectively is to grind away at side quests. Meaning, they’re no longer side quests as they’re not optional. As previously mentioned, the recent Assassin’s Creed titles are guilty of just this. It’s like going to the cinema to watch the new James Bond film, it opens with the classic of Bond being on a mission before the main plot kicks in. It cuts to the iconic gun-barrel opening… to then force you to sit through twenty minutes of cute kitten videos on YouTube before you can watch the rest of the film.

DESTINY 2

Then there are games that are built solely around grinding. Games where you have to play and re-play the same sections over and over to progress. See the Destiny games for a perfect example of grinding to progress, and yet, they’re still popular. I just don’t understand why so many people want to play a game where they have to repeat the same bits over and over for little reward or progression. The fact that there is now a sub-genre for grinding games, I just find that a bit sad really.

Microtransactions

So this really is a big one and my final rant. My previous gripes were meant to be taken with a bit of humour. Yeah they still piss me off, but in the grand scheme, they are just minor annoyances. This however, this is a very serous problem with modern gaming. Microtransactions are the cancer of gaming and they need to be cut out before the cancer takes over.

It’s easy to put the blame of freemium games, ones that are ‘free to play’, but in order to progress (and not grind for countless hours), you really need to pay real money to get anywhere. These games are everywhere, usually found on mobile devices, but they have started to creep into console gaming now too. From one perspective, you can kind of see why the ‘need’ to include microtransactions in free to play games, as that’s the way these titles ultimately get funded… but then, when you take a look at some of the prices for in game items and so on, it really make no sense.

CURIOSITY

Curiosity – What’s Inside the Cube?, that experimental tappy-tap game from Peter Molyneux’s 22Cans studio featured a diamond chisel that allowed you to tap away faster, it’s price? £50,000. That is one of the more extreme examples of a one-off microtransaction i admit. But what really boils my piss is those games that have lots of smaller ones. Games that sell in game currency for real world money in various bundles, smaller single use items for lower amounts but ones that all mount up to so much more. I mean, here’s a story about someone who spent over £113,000 ($150,000) on the ‘free to play’ Transformers: Earth Wars game.

The thing is that microtransactions can and do become an obsession or even an addiction to people. Even worse is that many of them are presented like gambling machines, or loot boxes as the big name companies like to call them. It is gambling. You pay money to see a animated box (or similar) open and give you a prize. You have no idea what that prize will be, could be great, could be crap… it is gambling.

But things get worse because these things are not only found in free games. Big, AAA titles now have them, games that you already pay full price for are now fleecing people for every penny they may have. EA’s FIFA games with their FIFA Coins that cost real money, for you to spend on players to build your team. Let’s not forget the fairly recent NBA 2K20 gambling controversy. EA are not some small, independent game studio struggling to make money, they are a worldwide famed developer and publisher who bring in literal billions year after year. Rockstar Games with their Shark Cards of GTA Online are another guilty party. Rockstar Games who made the biggest and fastest selling piece of entertainment ever, who also bring in billions in profits.

But it gets even worse. A lot of these freemium games are often aimed at kids. Here’s a game called Coin Master

It’s a fucking slot machine and one you can pay real money to play it too. On the app store, its age rating is only a 12+. It’s a slot machine, you can’t play those if you are twelve years-old in the real world, so why is it okay in games?

This really is a a serious issue and there have been thoughts of making any game that features this kind of gambling to be automatically rated for adults only. For me, that’s just not enough. It’s quite clear to me that parents don’t pay attention to a game’s age rating, just look at how many kid play GTA, CoD, etc. Slapping an age rating on a game won’t do anything. Then there are certain companies who refuse to accept that microtransactions are gambling, they give them clever little names to try to create a loophole…

‘Surprise mechanics’? Fuck off with that. It’s gambling. See, this is what these companies will do if microtransactions are allowed to continue, they will worm their way out of the bad press by creating loopholes and buzzwords. As I said, these things are the cancer of gaming. The loopholes surrounding them need to be closed sooner rather than later. Slapping age rating on games won’t do anything, microtransactions need to be made illegal across the board, no exceptions. If not, then this cancer of gaming will be allowed to grow until its un-treatable. I have two small children and my eldest had begun to take an interest in gaming, but if this shit is the future, then I’ll be doing my very best to ensure my kids don’t grow up as gamers.

End rant!