The Nine Worst Cliches in Gaming Journalism

Must have lost a few points recently, since my count was wrong. Never the less, updated.

When it comes to the gaming media, the quality of the journalism is… not very good. From lazy stories taken off social media sites to uncontrollable rumour mongering and even outright attacks on their audience, gaming journalism is to real journalism what the average tabloid is to the BBC. And just like the tabloid newspapers its quality is inspired by, the world of gaming journalism has its cliches too.

So let’s look at them all! Here are the nine laziest cliches in gaming journalism!

Video Games in Real Life

Let’s start with the most ‘harmless’ one first. Namely, video games in real life.

This was somewhat of an interesting idea… round about the time the internet started becoming a thing. So, about 1990 then. When a bunch of bored college students dressing up like video game characters was somehow a new and innovative piece of ‘comedy’ genius.

Unfortunately, since then, it’s just became way overused. For example, how many attempts at recreating Mario Kart in real life have there been?

Above: Tons

Far too many, as you can see in the tons of real life Mario Kart videos shown above. And the thing is, just about every series on the planet has been recreated like this. Mario platformers, the Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, Metroid, Super Smash Bros, Mega Man…

It’s not interesting any more, and is completely overused as an article subject. Please find something else to write about. Just not…

Classic Games Remade in the Unreal Engine

These silly remakes. Okay, there have been some cool looking Unreal Engine remakes for popular games. Like this one of Clock Town in The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask:

Or a surprisingly high amount of this Super Mario 64 Unreal Engine remake/test video:

But the vast majority of these remakes just aren’t very interesting. They’re not trying to be anything like a game, they’re just the same old bland field with a few character models chucked in for the sake of it. For example:

I get it. You can buy a bunch of assets for the engine, and find some character models from popular video games in a similar style. But they’re not interesting in any way. Anyone can make this sort of thing, it’s not special.

Talking of overused ideas, the next one is getting a bit old as well…

Video Game Marriage Proposals

It’s like rule 5963 of the internet; if a work allows user generated content, someone has used it for a marriage proposal. It’s like some sort of geeky ‘tradition’, propose to your one true love (who just happens to care about video games for some reason) through an edited video game level.

It’s happened in Super Mario World:

And Super Mario Bros 3:

It’s happened in New Super Mario Bros Wii:

Twice:

Either way, it’s getting a bit old hat by this point. Indeed, it makes me want to see either:

1. Someone actually divorce someone through an edited video game. Forget a marriage, imagine someone breaking up in the form of a custom level filled with dangerous traps and angry messages. Now that WOULD make for an interesting video.

2. The person being proposed to being an actual level designer/ROM hacker, who promptly chews out the creator for their shoddy level design. Because let’s face it, almost all of these levels are designed in the laziest, most uninspired ways possible, and laden with sprite spam and cutoff. It’d be rather funny to see someone like levelengine pick one of these hacks up, utterly annihilate with a bad score in a video review and then stick it next to Hammer Brother Demo 3 and Link’s Adventure on a worst ROM hacks of all time list.

Either way, the marriage proposals are getting a bit tired now. Time to try something new! Like, the very opposite of the next cliche on the list:

The Top Two Million X of All Time

Because if there’s anything the internet likes more than jokes and memes and ‘heartwarming’ Youtube videos, it’s lists. So if there’s a topic related to video games in any way at all, there will be hundreds upon hundreds of lists about it.

Like the top ten hardest or top ten easiest bosses. That seems pretty common.

Topmaniac

Above: There’s a good chance this guy will be on the easy bosses list. Along with Gohma and Cloud ‘n Candy.

Or lists about random subjects no one really cares about. Top ten cats in gaming? Oh sure, that’s actually surprisingly (or should I say ‘purrsprisingly’) common:

top ten cats

Above: Given how much the internet loves cats, this should surprise no one.

But the worst (and obviously most common of all) tends to be the inevitable list of ‘best games ever made’. Trust me here, every single journalist on the planet seems to have written a version of this list. And guess what? They’re all completely useless.

This is because of two obvious reasons:

1. Games are different from each other in just about every way, so even the best games of all time by Metacritic score are usually not comparable. Can you really say that the Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time:

Can be objectively compared to Super Mario Galaxy?

Above: Can you spot all the beta elements in this trailer?

Cause they’re both good. Just good in different ways, and appeal to different people. Additionally, no one will ever actually play every game ever made. It’s impossible, there are simply too many of them. So how you can REALLY say what’s the best game? Or for that matter, what’s worst?

And that’s not even getting into today’s sorry excuse for a ‘media’, which wear their political biases on their sleeve and will happily give scores based on how ‘moral’ they think a game is rather than how good it actually is. So next to games people actually like, you get the odd walking simulator and boring Twine game that mostly only appeals to insane Tumblr users. But more on that later, the point is that top whatever lists just don’t work, and they’ve been done to death by now. Please think of something else to write!

top ten gaming reinvented

Above: Also, you’re reading a top nine gaming journalism cliches article. I’m a hypocrite, aren’t I?

Although it should be your own work…

Press Releases as News

Which in simple terms, means something that takes effort to write.

It mostly certainly does not mean ‘copying and pasting press releases into a WordPress post’. Journalism is not ‘being paid to press CTRL + C and CTRL + V in quick succession’. It’s meant to be about doing research. Providing a balanced look at the events of the day. Standing up for people who otherwise have no voice. Finding interesting things your readers actually need to know.

Above: This is better than your ‘article’

Copying press releases and acting like corporate yes men is nothing like that. In fact, if that’s the kind of thing you like doing so much, maybe your boss should just pay your salary to the company’s marketing team. After all, they did the hard work of actually writing the press release and providing the screenshots!

salary compare

Above: Some stats from Reed show that the industry is very aware of this, since apparently the average gaming journalist salary is even lower at about $28,000 (£19,000) a year…

But even regurgitated fact sheets are better than posting…
Continue Reading…

Ocarina of Time 2D Isn’t Dead, Gets Second Trailer

Remember a while back, how we said the fan made Ocarina of Time 2D game was dead due to being shut down by Nintendo?

Well, it’s fair to say that we jumped the gun a bit with that post.  Why?  Because just a month or so ago, a new trailer was posted for the project showing all manner of new areas and features, like Goron City, Dodongo’s Cavern and Darunia’s dancing!  Here’s the video showing all this in action:

So the game’s not really dead, and development is still ongoing over at the official forum.  Heck, even the download page has been updated, albeit with a note that the demo is ‘coming this winter’!

However, we do not know when this new demo will be released.  The video?  Says nothing about it.  The forum topic?  Merely mentions that the demo will be available sometime soon and that the game is still in development.

And the rumoured Christmas Day release date?  Well, seems like that didn’t pan out, regardless of a certain optimistic comment by a site admin:

I’m not saying v.20 will release on Christmas, but also I’m not saying it won’t.

Either way, The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 2D is still in development, and another demo will be released at some point in the foreseeable future.  Seems like you can’t keep a good Zelda fan game down!

Source:

V2.0 Trailer – Ocarina of Time 2D Forums

Banjo-Kazooie Returns; An Interesting N64 ROM Hack

When it comes to the Banjo-Kazooie series… well Rare hasn’t been too good for it in recent years.  With Banjo-Kazooie Nuts and Bolts being an awkward vehicle building game instead of a platformer and the last game before that being a handheld title, the last we’ve really seen of the traditional Banjo gameplay was back in 2000 on the Nintendo 64.  But while Rare themselves may have forgotten about the series and Yooka-Laylee may be a while off yet, one individual has been working on something that might really interest fans of the bear and bird duo.

Take a look at Banjo-Kazooie Returns, a full mod of the original game that turns it into a whole new adventure, courtesy of Super Zambezi of Mario Party Legacy fame:

So what’s interesting here?  Well, quite a lot actually.  Like the weird new Christmas themed world with a somewhat darker tone to Freezeezy Peak from the original game.  Or the new summer like forest area, or the ruined castle esque level in what appears to be a desert.  All seem like quite interesting new world designs that feel rather different to those in Rare’s previous games.

Either way, Banjo-Kazooie Returns looks like an interesting attempt at a new Banjo-Kazooie adventure, and should definitely please fans of the original games when it’s finally released.

Ten of the Worst; Ten Video Game Cliches That Need to Die

For the most part, games have been pretty good to us for the last few years. From Super Smash Bros to Mario Maker to Luigi’s Mansion 2 and A Link Between Worlds, there have been many bonafide classics that were just incredibly fun to play and all sorts of interesting in terms of their ideas.

Unfortunately though, even the best games have issues (and that’s saying nothing of the worst ones!). From a lack of quality control to bad design decisions done to exploit players or artificially extend the play time beyond belief, it seems a lot of the same issues come up over and over again, and often wreck even the best quality video games in the process. So here are those very issues or annoyances, in the form of the top ten video game cliches that need to die. They concern different genres, different types of games and even business models, but they’re all equally infuriating none the less.

So let’s begin, here are the top ten video game cliches that need to die already!

10. Timed Missions

So let’s start the list with an obvious one. Timed missions. Why are they here?

Well, because 99% of the time, timed missions just suck.  Yes, there are exceptions (Wario Land 4 and Shake It have an amusing ‘race back to the entrance gimmick’ for example), but the vast majority of them just don’t work in the slightest.

For one thing, there’s no real reason for a mission to be timed in most games.  Sure, it makes sense in Metroid where the planet is likely to explode if you take too long, and the odd game tries to justify it with other obvious reasoning (like in Majora’s Mask with the falling moon), but most times, the timer just seems to be there for the sake of it.  Take a Mario game for example.  Why does Mario just drop dead if he takes too long?  Is he plagued with some sort of virus that kills him after about two minutes in any one location?

Ilpiantissimo

Above: You may remember this guy from Super Mario Sunshine. Every time you lost to him, Mario would literally drop dead on the spot for no apparent reason.

Oh, and it gets worse.  You see, in a well designed or somewhat merciful game, the timer tends to stop when the main character is in the middle of a cutscene or talking to someone.  Cause you know, he or she can’t actually do anything in those situations, so the character being killed there just seems unfair.

Above: Steam Shovel Harry is an amusing parody of this, where the tutorial takes so long the timer runs out in the intro

Unfortunately, there’s a sort of ‘trend’ where gamers keep the timer going right through any and all cutscenes you encounter.  Like in Wario Land Shake It, where the timer for the final boss missions continues right through the cutscenes in the middle of the battle.  And through just about everything else for that matter, since the entire fight is about 90% waiting for the enemy to let you fight back.

Or how about in Yoshi’s Island DS? Now that’s a real jerkass about this whole ‘timed mission’ thing.  The optional time trial mode literally lets nothing stop the clock, to the point the messages are replaced with comments mocking how much time the player is wasting:

And there’s one more important piece of advice for you. So listen up! Time keeps on ticking even as you are reading this message!

Lost time!

Timed missions and timers in general suck in video games, and they suck even more when the game itself mocks you for its own amusement.

9. Missable Content

Next on the list, a flawed video game ‘trope’ that’s basically as old as the medium. Found all over the place in bad adventure games and eight bit RPGS, missable content is where an item, character or even entire game can be rendered unbeatable due to your actions beforehand. Like where the best sword in the game is only accessible by completely ten seemingly random tasks in the right order and with every single one being impossible to complete once you reach a different point in the main storyline.

Or where making a small mistake early in the game means your save file is as good as bricked. Yeah, that happens in quite a few video games, especially Sierra era adventure games.

As you may have figured, this sort of thing is a right in the proverbial. Especially when you have such over the top crap as this (taken from TV Tropes’ page on Unwinnable content in Sierra adventure games):

For those trying to get 100% completion, there’s a truly evil bit with the “Unstable Ordnance”. When you pick it up, the game warns you that it’s dangerous, but you receive points for it. When you fall into the sewers, it goes boom. So you decide not to pick it up next time, and beat the game. You failed 100% completion. Okay, you then pick it up after you get back out of the sewers instead. You get unavoidably lasered when trying to leave the area by Schroedinger’s Enemy (he doesn’t show if you didn’t pick it up). Okay, try again. You pick it up, then put it back. This yields a profit in points, and accounts for your missing points — but you still get zapped by the same enemy! To get 100% completion, you must pick it up and then put it back before entering the sewers. Every other choice either blocks 100% completion or makes the game unwinnable if you save after it.

King’s Quest V: Absence Makes The Heart Go Yonder! has the infamous mountain-climbing sequence, where the player must traverse a treacherous mountain. During the journey, Graham will get hungry, requiring the player to eat and letting the player choose between eating a pie (which can be gotten, and eaten, very early in the game) or a piece of meat (which the player could possibly not have gotten at all). There’s also a starving eagle the player meets later on at the mountain, who you have to feed to survive later on in the game. What the game expects you to do is eat a piece of meat yourself, then feed the eagle the rest, and the game never specifies that the meat makes for two servings, as the pie is required later on. Eating the pie, feeding it to the bird or letting the bird starve all make the game unbeatable.

Pretty annoying isn’t it? You play through a game, make one little mistake (because you’re not psychic) and then have to do the entire thing all over again to reach the ending.

Oh, and it gets worse. That’s what happens when this ‘unwinnable’ thing is done on purpose by a sociopathic video game designer. If the game is broken as well? Then you get a game that can be made unplayable by accident, like The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess and the bug where you got stuck on the wrong side of a bridge. So even when the game isn’t intended to be like this, it can still end up being so due to a lack of decent quality assurance.

Try and avoid letting your games become unwinnable please. It’s just infuriatingly bad game design.

8. Unexpected Gameplay Changes

A quick word or two for game designers: When someone buys a game, it’s usually because they like playing that type of game.

Do you know what they don’t like?

When a game turns into something completely different for no damn reason whatsoever. Seriously. If you buy Super Mario 3D World, you want to play a platformer. If you buy Mario Kart, you want to play a racing game. If you buy say, Call of Duty, you want to play a first person shooter.

What you don’t want is to play through said game and have it suddenly become something else. Imagine if real life games worked like that. If suddenly after four rounds, chess turned into connect 4. Or if football had one third of the game use ‘soccer’ rules, one third use NFL rules and one third play like rugby. It sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it?

Because that’s how a depressing amount of games seem to work nowadays. For example, going from a ghost hunting adventure game to a shoot em up where you’re heading down a mine shaft in an exploding sleigh:

Above: This is so contrived and out of place.  Especially with motion controls.

A normal game is not Mario Party or WarioWare. Find one gameplay idea/genre that works, and stick with it throughout the whole game please.

7. Air Meters

In the old days of gaming, there was a pretty simple way to handle water levels.  You swam forever, and you never ran out of breath.  It was very simple, it worked rather well, and it kind of made underwater levels somewhat bearable.  Indeed, with the exception of Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s actually quite tough to think of any NES or SNES era hero that could only stay underwater for a limited amount of time.

But then… ‘realism’ came in.  So because some developers were absolutely in love with the idea that ‘games had to mimic reality as closely as possible’, we got these as a way instead.  Annoying bars or timers that count down til the player character dies, and sometimes get refilled whenever they collect an air bubble or coin in the water.  And oh boy, they are absolutely terrible.

Why?  Well for one thing, they turn water levels from an already tedious exercise in bad physics to an equally. tedious exercise in bad physics… where you have to go as quickly as possible to avoid drowning.  Or in some cases, find those tiny holes and openings in the roof that let your character breathe for air for a few minutes.  Which is often even worse, since the actual underwater sections are usually made much longer to compensate.

Forget air meters, let’s just go back to the Super Mario Bros way of never having to breathe underwater.  It’s much more fun.

6. Knock Back

And now, perhaps one of the most infuriating video game cliches of all time due to how stupidly thought out it is and how obnoxious it makes games.  Knock back in video games (especially platformers) is a terrible idea.

Why?  Well, not only are you usually thrown to your doom by way of a nearby bottomless pit (just count how many times those damn birds or medusa heads have killed you in Ninja Gaiden or Castlevania for example), but it actually makes no sense in the slightest.

Think about it for a minute.  In real life, do you get chucked across the room the minute a gnat decides to bite you?

No?  Good, cause physics doesn’t work like that.  The distance something throws someone backwards depends on its velocity and mass.  Small objects (like bullets) make holes in the skin due to their quick speed and tiny surface area.  Large objects (like a speeding bus) send you flying through the air because the force of impact is spread over a larger area.

So in any realistic setting, most of these tiny enemies shouldn’t really do anything as far as knock back is concerned.  I mean, how big is a medusa head for example?  Maybe the size of a football?  The result should be someone like Simon Belmont basically shrugging off the hit, or maybe just falling straight to the floor.  Not him careening across the screen like a pinball before plunging into the abyss ten feet away from where he was originally standing.

Above: This theme shouldn’t ever play in those circumstances.

What’s worse, this cliche is just as bad when you can’t die.  Remember Wario Land II and 3?  Great games, with the rather unfortunate design choice that any damage merely knocks you back rather than killing you.  The result?  Every boss may as well have a one hit kill move, since being hit and flung out of the area means starting the entire battle again.  Which reminds me, remember this guy?

Yeah, Moldorm (and its spiritual successors) were absolute hell to fight in the Zelda series because of this knockback thing.  You took one hit, bounced out of the area, then had to climb all the way back up and start the fight from scratch.  Which, like in the Wario Land games, meant these bosses could effectively one hit kill you.

Just stop putting this in video games. It’s not realistic, it’s not fun for the player and to be perfectly honest, it just reduces the player character to a one hit wonder for most of the game, since being knocked off is often effectively a loss even without a bottomless pit there.

Continue Reading…

Kunkel Video Game Journalism Awards Announced

Annoyed at clickbait or gamer hating posts in the gaming media?  Want to support sites that don’t think Nintendo is doomed every time a new smartphone game becomes popular?  If so, you’ll be happy to know that the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) has just announced the start of the Kunkel Awards for gaming journalism.  Judged by Michael Koretzky and open to submissions until February 2016, these awards are meant to promote high quality, ethical gaming journalism.  They’re open to all sites and sources (including ‘professional’ news sites, personal blogs and video channels), and include the following five categories:

Excellence in News Reporting

One story, or up to three stories on a single topic. News can be breaking (reporting on something that just happened), in-depth (studying a topic by surveying all sides), or investigative (digging into a topic by uncovering previously unknown facts). No one kind is considered superior by the judges.

Excellence in Feature Writing

One story, or up to three stories on a single topic. A feature can be a profile (an in-depth look at one person), a Q&A (a verbatim interview with one person), or a color piece (a descriptive put-you-there story).

Excellence in News Video/Streaming

One recording of no more than one hour. See description above. Can be edited down from a longer stream. As with written submissions, judges expect multi-sourcing

Excellence in Feature Video/Streaming

One recording of no more than one hour. See description above. Can be edited down from a longer stream. As with written submissions, judges expect multi-sourcing

And

Excellence in Photography/ Illustration/ Infographic

One photo, original illustration, or infographic. Visuals are a crucial part of journalism. Submissions should stand alone as visual elements but also complement any text surrounding them. Submit with any supporting text and as a separate file, so judges can focus on both elements.

So there’s plenty of room for all kinds of content, regardless of whether you’re a blogger, traditional journalist or video creator.  What’s more, all categories are judged based on things like accuracy (whether sources have been properly verified and facts are correct), balance (whether all sides have been covered in the article or video), clarity (whether the work is easy to understand), ‘verve’ (aka whether it’s interesting or ‘fun’ to read/watch) and whether the piece adheres to the society’s code of ethics.

Above: Descriptions and titles for categories from the SPJ website.

In other words, they want real journalism, not clickbait nonsense, rumours and personal attacks.  They want submissions that adhere to these guidelines and that try and give a balanced view of the story that takes into account different viewpoints.

Either way, it’s pretty impressive, and a real help for turning video game journalism into something of a more respectable field. We’ll be nominating our own favourites soon, and if you’re interested, you can find them here:

Excellence in News Reporting

Nintendo Force Magazine. The fact these fans and writers have come together to make a full print magazine about Nintendo (and entirely on their own dime, without publisher backing) is truly incredible and should be celebrated whenever possible.

Excellence in Feature Writing

Any of Emily Rogers’ works on Dromble (and past sites). I think her Star Fox article could be a good choice.

Excellence in News Video/Streaming

Maybe one of the Nintendo Direct streams, like GoNintendo’s. We haven’t thought much about this one yet, since we don’t get much news from fan made videos (and we doubt Nintendo Directs can be nominated)

Excellence in Feature Video/Streaming

Unseen64’s Project HAMMER video, no question about it. Both videos are amazingly well done, and give a ton of insight into the development of the game and the challenges within Nintendo as a company.

Excellence in Photography/ Illustration/ Infographic

Nope, we’ve got nothing here. Sorry.

But those are our choices for nominations, and we’ll be sending them in to the SPJ in the near future. So what do you think about the Kunkel Awards and their effect on video game journalism? Are we going to see more interesting, well written articles now that there’s actually an award to honour the best examples of the genre? Could this finally be the point at which the ad click chasing, bottom of the barrel scraping tabloid media gets replaced by a respectful gaming press that actually knows what it’s talking about?

Source:

SPJ Announces Kunkel Awards for Video Game Journalism – Techraptor