Archive for the ‘Magazines’ Category

Magazine Scraps #3 – #GE2015: THE VIDEOGAME.

I’m not sure what it is about early May and these Magazine-themed entries (just over a year since Magazine Scraps #2), but in trying to find an analogy to suit my dismay at recent events in the UK, gaming seemed to provide the most holistically pleasing answer. This reminded me that, as a writer, my roots will always be in games journalism… even if I can’t actually afford to enter the current gen.

Less than 48 hours on from the trumpeting of the triumph of immense stupidity over simple compassion in the British public that was #GE2015, like huge swathes of the stunned electorate, I’m attempting to find a balance between being positively determined not to let the new government flog off one more element of our National Health Service, to do every peaceful thing possible to be part of any movement holding the Bullingdon bastards to account… with just needing to shut the blinkety-sodding-flip up about politics for a while, and think about anything else.

My anger in the last week has no doubt spiralled into obnoxiousness on at least one occasion. It’s been an exhausting, frustrating time for all correct-thinking, full-working-heart-owning Britons, and the worst possible outcome is now impossible to ignore… but let’s at least catch our breaths.

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It ultimately struck me that the numb feeling was something like pounding your way through an advanced level of a perversely, horrifically tough hack-‘n’-slash videogame, a Dark Souls-plus nightmare set on ‘INSANE-OH-CHRIST’ difficulty, and wearing away every scrap of skin from your hands on a bloodied controller trying to beat the final End of Level Boss (a sickening homunculus with the faces of Cameron, Osborne, Farage, Duncan-Smith, Hague, Schapps, Gove, Hunt, Jeremies Paxman and Clarkson, and Uncle Tom Conti and all), hacking and slashing and thudding thumbs down to complete sodding Quick Time Events, determined to beat the blisteringly unbalanced challenge…

… And then having your last tiny scrap of Energy smashed out of you with a totally illogical, impossible-to-dodge killer move from the evilly-grinning Boss, wiping out your very last life… Game over.

… And then you press ‘A’, and there you are – on the next level. Without explanation. You lost the battle, but you’re still there, with another vast new world to traverse, for five years, until you reach the next seemingly-impossible-to-beat End of Level Boss. This time, on this worse level (probably heavily featuring enormous pits of lava) the challenges are even harder, the monsters tougher and crueller (particularly, it already seems, to foxes, and disabled people), and you’ve not levelled up one iota to deal with this.

But we have no real option but to play on.

Press ‘Start’.

Get hacking and slashing, and looking for all the power ups we can find.

Because we can’t let this game beat us.

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But anyway – we know a song about that, don’t we?

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Apologies for turning a diatribe on the tragedy of #GE2015 into a song plug, but the subject matter here is so obscure, I don’t get a lot of chances to play ‘Aw QTE’, and I think it’s a lovely tune and don’t care who knows it. Plus, Dizzy references.

So while we’re on the subject of videogames, here’s the apparently traditional annual array of scraps from my early magazine career, when I was a tinpot handheld gaming despot given the freedom to get away with all sorts of weird gaming mag excesses. All snippets are circa, ooh… 2001?

Such as these Total Advance ‘Daft Professor’ boxouts, for Disney’s Atlantis and some Crash Bandicoot outing, which I assure you were almost amusing at the start of the millennium…

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And to return to the subject of fighting, this was rather a fun afternoon’s work, promoting a King of Fighters competition in Total Advance… I still have those pyjamas somewhere.

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Any which way but bloodily, let the fight go on. Not literally, unless Osborne’s nose itself is within punching grasp.

Having continually vented my anger at them, albeit comedically, I’m trying my very best to develop a more Christian attitude to the actual deluded, selfish Tory-voters who have ruined the foxes’ weekends. I’ve perhaps permanently fallen out with some very old friends who stunned me by admitting their voting habits, but to them I will aim to say, “The fight continues… But not with you.”

Wow, now THAT’S going to be a challenge.

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Magazine Scraps #2

It is slightly worrying to note that it’s exactly a year since Magazine Scraps #1, but then I have written an entire book in the ensuing time. Of which more anon…

But here are two or three utterly random snatches from my 20-odd years in magazine publishing – or certainly, my many years of active videogame journalism, particularly Total Advance magazine, which I ran pretty much solo from the age of 22. I thought I could get away with anything… but sadly I couldn’t get away with not making enough profit every single month, and so the mighty title was slain, to the wailing of a dozen or so thousand stalwart readers, leaving me washed up on the shores of Pokémon World…

But anyway, these were wilder, shinier times…

First, a couple of the traditional ‘write any old bollocks’ Professor boxouts we could get away with back when gaming was obligatorily fun:

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Secondly, from a year or two later, TA issue 34, a slightly more factual (i.e. less testicle-flavoured) item from the Yoshi’s Island review, concerning the act of infantilising famous characters, a la Baby Mario…

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… And here’s an exclusive from the same issue. These magazines were created at the now defunct (or transmuted into Imagine Publishing) Paragon Publishing, based down in Bournemouth, where I lived from 2000-2003. And the sad truth is I never lived anywhere with so little of historical or cultural interest – okay, now I live in Bath, so I’m a bit spoiled, but Bournemouth was only built less than two hundred years ago as a London overspill, so it’s little wonder that there was nothing much there of note but terrible clubs filled with stags and hens, and old folk’s homes.

The one major exception was Mary Shelley’s grave, which was literally just opposite the offices, and very often the location for a lunchtime or otherwise extremely taboo smoke with friends, and of course it was also very much a Goth hangout. One of my few favourite spots in the town, Goth or not.

And of course, an irresistible scoop for any young journalist looking for a boxout for their Frankenstein-featuring Monster Force review…

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Magazine Scraps #1

As threatened, I will be posting unsolicited scans from my magazine career as the fancy takes me on this blogwallplace as the years roll by.

I consider myself very lucky to have been at the height of my influence and journalistic freedom back when woodpulp-based magazines were A) bought in large numbers by gamers, B) numerous enough to allow for real character and experimentation. When I was a kid, mags like Crash and Your Sinclair were bursting with daft gags, comic strips, puzzles and all the other features which should be a mainstay of all consumer magazines, but which have been outlawed for most of this century, on the dumb presumption that gamers no longer possess a sense of humour – presumably laughter being shellshocked out of the typical gamer’s system by all those years of mindless blammo in CoD and co.

But when I ran Total Game Boy/Advance magazine at the turn of the millennium, I was still playing by 90s rules, and filled the pages with fun features, ridiculous non-sequiturs and, frankly, tripe. I can’t pretend it was wholly successful – as the decision to close the mag because it never reliably delivered the correct amount of profit sort of suggests. But I do know that it was well-loved by the dozen or so thousand readers who did keep coming back for more.

Dr. Shrew, Marvin McFly, Mona Lisa’s Gallery, Osmondle the Frog – the rights all still belong to Paragon Publishing, or its inheritors, but I was proud to be their boss at the time.

It’s a bit shocking, looking back, to see how many errors got through – CHECK OUT THOSE WIDOWS & ORPHANS!* – and to recall just how late in life I really managed to understand the difference between “its” and “it’s”. But as you may already be aware, I have no shame. Therefore, to kick us off, here’s a totally spurious boxout from a game I believe was called ‘Santa Claus Jr’, from Total Advance 36 circa 2002…

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And then there was SATIRE! In TA21, circa 2001…

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And I’ll leave you with a couple of extracts from our time-travelling heroes… Someone really should bring the rodent back for a new regeneration…

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* It’s a Production Editor thing, really. Google should be to the top right, there, look.