30 Sep 2010

Fare Thee Well, Mr Gillen

Those of you who don't know who Kieron Gillen is are probably not gamers. Today he announced his departure from the world of games journalism and it is a loss that will be felt by all who encountered him or his work. In response to his piece on his personal blog announcing this I have written the following. It was going to be a comment but I thought it deserved its own post.



Kieron,

I've probably left it a little late to attempt to embark on a freelance games journalism career (I'm almost 33) and I know that I have a hard road ahead of me. If it all goes wrong there is a fairly short list of people upon whom I can dump some of the blame. You, and the rest of the crew at RPS, should feel privileged to be on it. You, among others, have inspired me to take this path and I plan to follow it as far as it will go and then drive it further, into the unknown.

Saying that, I do believe that games journalism has the potential to mature along with the medium it covers. Why shouldn't there be games critics who are in the same age bracket at the Barry Normans and Roger Eberts of the world. This is is what I want to do, I love doing it, so why should age be a factor?

As games become more a part of our mainstream culture and the audience ages, should it not be so that those whose job it is to speak to that audience about games ages with them? I'm far more likely to trust a games journalist who has the same experience and amount of time spent with the medium as me than I am some snotty kid who doesn't know his Bullfrog from his Bungie and doesn't have first-hand experience of the noises their tape loading 8-bit machine made when they were loading their games.. I believe that there is mileage in making games journalism a lifetime career, and I plan to find it.

The attitude that only kids play games and only the young can write about them comes from the same place as the "games are toys for children' attitude that threatens to hold back the medium and prompts outcry when mature games are found in the possession of 9 year olds. Only by making sure that the people reviewing and writing about games have a mature attitude towards them can games be released from the misconception of the mainstream audiences and be given the same respect and consideration as film and literature. Those who grew up with games as part of their life and are still active gamers, well past the point where they could be considered children, have a far better chance of changing the attitude of the wider press than a newly minted 20 something journalist. It is unfair, but it is a fact.

In my future freelance career I would consider my age and experience to be an advantage. Bringing a more seasoned and mature voice to games journalism than simply 'This game is teh AWESOMENESS! Its got explosions and everything!!' An understanding of the history and pedigree of a game can open up new ways to look at it. For example, many WoW players would not see the roots of the game as being back in the '80s with the first MUDs, indeed those games are part of the pedigree of all MMOs. Actually having experienced the salient points in a game's history bestows a huge advantage on a writer about games over those who have only read about it.

While I find the sentiment of your post inspiring, I don't believe that I will be wasting my talents in a stupid way. Games journalism is the big thing, and while I may well do other things on the side I aim to make it my primary focus.

I wish you the best in your future work for Marvel, its an amazing opportunity and it just goes to show that you are one of the best among the seas of people who want to be either games journalists or comic writers. I can imagine that there are many many jealous nerds out there in the world right now.

M out.

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