February 14, 2007

Yeah, yeah. I know.

I am told that this is useful as a place to track what I’m writing. If I’m still on your RSS reader: thanks for keeping the faith.

Here’s what I’ve been up to since the start of the year –

Star Trek Legacy Review

Elebits/WarioWare Review

Lost Planet Review

Hotel Dusk Review

2006 In Review

It Must be Time To Burn the Crusade

Why eBay is Small Potatoes

The Sony Station Exchange – The Result of One Year of Trading

Straying from the Flock

Damn. When it’s all laid out like that, I appear to have busy. Sheesh.

An entire sentence I wrote down was quoted by Kyle Orland in a response to some questions about gaming stuff we felt like we’d missed out on. He took probably the best part of the email, so … no problem.

If you’re interested, here’s what I said:

Kyle: What video game do you feel most guilty about never having played?

My dirty, well-kept secret, my ‘hole’ in my gaming knowledge … is in the shape of a snake. Specifically, I’ve never played a single chapter of the Metal Gear Solid series. I have seen the ads, watched others play it; heck, I watched a buddy of mine work his way through most of the first quarter of Sons of the Patriots. I personally have never held the controller while a Metal Gear title was in the disc drive of a console.

I feel like my gaming knowledge is pretty broad; I’ve played everything from Eve Online to Viva Pinata, Splinter Cell to Soul Calibur. But this particular hole has always elicited raised eyebrows and grunts of disbelief from other gamers when I have brought it up. Metal Gear’s nature as one of the driving franchises on Sony hardware makes it sacrosanct. Likewise Kojima’s well-known quirky brilliance is something that every games reviewer is just assumed to have in the back of their minds when comparing titles from Japan.

I do have to say I feel kind of guilty about it. Almost everything I know about the series is one sort of over-the-top accolade or another. The fourth chapter in the saga is going to be a money hat fountain for everyone associated with it.

Kyle: Do you find yourself actively pursuing games outside your usual comfort zone just so you’ll be conversant about them?

All the time. While my appreciation for titles in the RPG, MMOG, RTS, and FPS genres is high, pretty much everything outside those areas just doesn’t do anything for me. I like the odd adventure game once in a while, and I’ve played every title in the Splinter Cell series because I like Sam Fisher, but otherwise I’d normally never play, say, Dead or Alive. That said, I’ve played games in the Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive, Virtua Fighter and Mortal Kombat franchises in recent years to stay on top of things. When Madden was released on the 360, I even Gamefly’d that to see if I could wrap my head around the hype that game carries. I’ll be honest: I don’t get why that thing sells so many copies. It’s … football. And you have to work at it. : /

Kyle: Do you think that breadth or depth of knowledge is more important in a video game journalist (or both)?

I would say it depends. As a single reviewer, I think depth is much more important. Being able to speak with a voice of authority on a given genre is (to my mind) crucial to the relationship between reviewer and reader. If you’re reviewing an RPG the reader wants to know that you’ve played every RPG ever made, so that you can tell the reader (who has not) how this stacks up against the body of work out there. On the other hand, I think news editors and EICs are better served by breadth. Knowing at least a little bit about everything ensures that when news comes in your direction, you at least recognize it coming. You may not understand the full import of a press release or studio buyout, but you’ll at least have some idea where it is coming from.

Kyle: Do you open up every game in that pile of press review copies sitting on your desk just so you’ll be able to say “I played it”?

Not really. If I know that I’m not going to be able to play a game for review, for time or readership interest reasons, I send it back. Why would I want to play “Dragonball Z Budokai Senwhatever 2”?

Kyle: How do you make sure you’re well-versed in all the major games of the day without completely devoting every waking hour to gaming (or perhaps you do devote every waking hour to gaming)?

Not … every hour. I personally go about it in two ways:
1.) Experiential. Even if I’m not reviewing something for Slashdot, if it is a big enough title I will be sure to play it so that I can get a feel for it. GameFly is a wonderful, wonderful service.
2.) Vicarious. RSS feeds filed under ‘Gaming News’ is currently hovering somewhere around 50 strong in Bloglines. I have a whole separate folder for reviews, which has about a dozen or so outlets pouring opinions into my ears every day. While I don’t spend every hour of every day gaming, it definitely feels like I spend almost every hour of the day reading. Once you’ve read the opinions of Greg Kasavin, Chris Grant, Chris Kohler, Sam Kennedy, Brian Crecente, Allen Rausch, *and* Steve Butts, you have a pretty good idea of what a game is like even if you never pick up a controller.

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