Author Archives: crecente

Freelancing for Glixel

It’s been about two months since I started at Rolling Stone, working to rebuild Glixel as a more deeply ingrained part of the publication. Over the course of that time, the site readership has grown past 1 million, which is fantastic and thanks in a large part to the talent of a slew of freelance writers.

I’m still not at a point where I can hire any full-time staff, but I am starting to expand the freelance work I’m looking for. Here’s a quick rundown of what it is I’d like to see from those interested in writing for Glixel.

Features
While I appreciate talented mainstream game writing driven by the monthly rhythm of game releases, and we do still run those sorts of pieces, I’m starting to look for more reporter-driven content that looks outside the shadow of a game’s release to find interesting topics that intersect with gaming, to explore.

Some fine examples of that are both Charlie Hall’s and Nathan Grayson’s take on the Laws of War ARMA DLC (I’m embarrassed to admit that this is actually a follow-up to a story I broke six years ago, but failed to hit this month) and Patrick Klepek’s fantastic analysis of the recent Trump kudos from the ESA.

Glixel will certainly continue to run more of the red meat features that delve into big, important games, but my personal goal for gaming coverage has always been flavored by a deep interest in how gaming impacts the outside world and vice verse.

Pitching: Email me some clips of stories you’ve written that weren’t spurred by a press release and include interviews with folks outside the game industry.

Come up with thoughtful story ideas that examine real-world issues through the lens of video games or explore the impact the real world has had on games or games have had on the real world.

Don’t over promise with massive story ideas you can’t deliver on, it wastes everyone’s time and and will eventually lead to editors (including me) not accepting your pitches.

Opinion
Glixel has started to run opinion pieces. Much like our features, while run some reactive pieces, I’m also looking for pieces that step outside the day-to-day of the game-release churn and address bigger issues within the world of gaming. I don’t want hot takes, I want thoughtful takes. I want something well-reasoned, that grabs the reader early on by announcing its point and then buttresses that thesis with thoughtful, fact-based arguments and counter-arguments.

Pitching: Send me some examples of the sort of opinion pieces you’d want to write for Glixel. If you don’t have any, write some and then send me links to them. Also, send along your pitch for the piece with an explanation of why you want to write it and why it should be written now.

Reviews
Starting next month, Glixel will be running reviews. More specifically, Glixel will be running A review. I’m likely to continue reviews on Glixel after that first, but this will be testing the waters. I’m a firm believer in non-scored, well-reasoned review writing. I get that review scores are a short-hand for readers without the time to read a review, but my hope is that the reviews we run will be so good, you’ll want to read them and not just to get to some sort of score.

Pitching: Don’t. At least not yet.

You can reach me at Brian.Crecente@glixel.com and I do my best to answer all emails, that said, currently I’m the site’s editorial director, copy-editor, writer, social manager, etc, etc. (I also pitch in on the mag occasionally) So I may not reply to you. Don’t take it personally, just remind me.

Ethics in Game Journalism or EiGJ

I am not a fan of Gamergate.

Maybe that’s been unclear to some because on occasion I’ve been willing to listen. That’s simply because, no matter the hashtag a group might band together with, I believe that if they raise serious issues about ethics in journalism, those issues should be addressed or looked into.

But here’s the problem: While the Gamergate movement does on occasion raise those issues, it also raises a myriad of unrelated issues. Those who use that hashtag also harass, antagonize and say and do other vile things. Sorting through the nastiness, the unrelated, the personal attacks, is both exhausting and a waste of time.

So here’s what I propose: If your concern is ethics in game journalism, if that’s what motivates you, than use a different hashtag to bring up those issues. I’m not addressing the import, value, or your right to be a member of GamerGate, but I am saying that I can no longer justify to myself, the value of wading through the political mire, vitriol, hate and ad hominem attacks to find those occasional important concerns.

Besides, if what you want is ethics in journalism, why would you want that very important message lost in a sea of unrelated messaging and antics? If that’s really your concern, it’s time you find a new home.

What about something simple? Maybe EiGJ. Of course that hashtag will only be valuable for as long as those who use it can maintain its purity as a place to discuss ethics, not the myriad of other topics that so overwhelm the GG hashtag.

GamerGate is a movement that – even if you ignore how it started and its use by people who have broken the law to harass others – is inarguable about much more than simply ethics in journalism. Continuing to use it to address that is at best a fallacy and at worst dishonest.

Game journalism, all journalism, faces a slew of ethical quandaries. Sifting through them to determine what has already been figured out through past example and what needs to be discussed or revisited is an incredibly important task.

What GamerGate has done in regards to ethics in journalism is create a smokescreen behind which some non-journalists can lob attacks and some journalists can hide from a very real, very important call to action.

Let’s, those of us who really do care about this topic, move on and find a new place for civil discourse.

Watch these scary movies

I have seen an inordinate amount of horror movies, but most of them are from the late 80s and earlier. Over the years since, I’ve slowly tried to catch up, but never can.

Below you’ll find two lists. The first is an unsorted list of some of my favorite horror movies. The second is my short list of what I still want to see.

What am I missing?

Note, I didn’t include some great movies because they simply weren’t scary. Cabin in the Woods, for instance, strikes me as something closer to action fantasy then horror.

Psycho
Rosemary’s Baby
Babadook
Alien
Aliens
Pan’s Labyrinth
Evil Dead
Evil Dead 2
The Birds
Night of the Living Dead
Silence of the Lambs
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Cat People
Halloween
Carrie
The Omen
The Exorcist
Christine
The Shining
Nightmare on Elmstreet
Friday the 13th
The Fly
What ever happened to baby Jane?
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Blair Witch Project
The Wicker Man
The Dead Zone
Poltergeist
Misery
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Scream
The Thing
The House of the Devil
The Others
Insidious
Day of the Dead

It Follows
Drag me to hell
A girl walks home alone at night
The Loved Ones
Paranormal Activity
The Strangers
Kairo
[Rec]
The Orphanage
Kill List
The Devil’s Backbone

Crecente’s PGP Public Key

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3

I still can’t believe Iwata is dead. I found out about his death while at JFK International Airport waiting for Trish’s parents to arrive. I was completely stunned.

I still am.

I spent the week in New York City visiting with developers and publishers checking out a bulk of the games shown off at E3.

I got a chance to hang out with a slew of folks during a big PlayStation event, got my hands (and head) on the HTC Vive virtual reality headset, played some Electronic Arts and Activision games and then visited Nintendo’s New York office to see the company’s E3 builds.

It’s always fun to get to spend time in the company of so many talented people.

What I read that I liked

Emanuel Maiberg has a neat story over on Motherboard about the doctor who treats eSports athletes and their injuries. “If you don’t rest the body doesn’t have a chance to heal itself, to go into a homeostatic state and say okay, now I can repair myself,” Dr. Levi said. “Whether it’s non-stop gaming or non-stop MMA training, the body doesn’t like that, and there’s a price.”

Bijan Stephen writes about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book Between the World and Me in an article entitled How to Live Within a Black Body. “If you were to map the black bodies destroyed by American police this year, you would have what looks like the shadow of a cancer creeping steadily across the lower 48; the names would bloom across the states in the way that a malignant lung tumor might, from as common and as lethal a cause. In his latest book, Between the World and Me, journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates interrogates the effects of a life lived under the gun, aware of the ever-present violence that is systematically and relentlessly perpetrated against black people in America.”

An examination of how Facebook’s news feeds work by Victor Luckerson. “How a controversial feature grew into one of the most influential products on the Internet”

Colin Campbell exams the life and death of Electronic Arts’ soul, in this deep dive into one of the world’s biggest game makers. “If EA’s brand marketing was a call to action for the game developer as a person of note, its computer game packaging was a love letter to the games themselves and to the art of media.”

I love the Smithsonian Magazine, mostly because seemingly everything they run, I love reading. In this article, Kimbra Cutlip breaks down the deep impact the Scopes Trial had on science journalism. “John Thomas Scopes was Dayton’s high school football coach and substitute biology teacher. Portrayed today as a hero of great conviction, Scopes did not specifically recall teaching evolution. He did, however, believe the law was unjust, and the town leaders were able to persuade him to stand trial for their cause, although their cause had little to do with evolution. Their aim was simply to draw visitors and their wallets into town for the trial.”

A moment of self-aggrandizing introspection

Back when BioShock came out I managed to convince Ken Levine and the head of the Ayn Rand Institute to talk about objectivism in the game.

Etc.

I finished reading Ernest Cline’s Armada. It’s not as good as his first, but I enjoyed it. (I hope to write something about that for Polygon soonish). Most of my week was taken up by traveling back and forth between my house and the city. It’s an hour and a half to two hour trip each way, so I end up not doing much more than working and chugging along on a train (and working) on those days.

My brother and son have started working on putting together a Twitch channel of sorts. I’m not sure yet if they’re planning on doing a podcast dealio or a streaming thingie. It sounds like it could be fun though.

This weekend we’re going to have a cookout and invite some friends over. I plan on doing a lot of nothing. That and trying to decide if I should switch from Comcast cable to Fire TV and an assortment of apps.

2

Comic-Con is in full bloom, packed with gaming news, movie trailers and not a few amazing web series. A lot of people I’ve been talking to this week feel like SDCC is becoming less of a comic convention and more of a pop culture convention.

They’re probably right, though I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

What I read that I liked

I’m a sucker for book lists, and while this one over at io9 isn’t the best, it is neat to see some of the sci-fi books professors are using to teach with.

Rosalind Wiseman has a fantastic piece over on Time about the inherent misperceptions some people have of boys and video games. “Kids are fed up with Kate Upton. When the ads for Game of War started showing up on my students’ phones last year—they haven’t stopped—many were annoyed. They hated that it was impossible to close the ad, forcing them instead to watch the video until the end. But what really irritated them was Ms. Upton, in a full-cleavage-baring white flowing dress.”

Rachel Nuwar discusses new research on the decline in bumblebees and how it’s linked to climate change over on Smithsonian.Com.  “To probe the mystery, scientists from Canada, Europe and the U.S. turned to bumblebee observation records collected across Europe and North America, dating back 110 years and encompassing 67 species.”

Colin Cambell has a great, deep read on the reinvention of Lara Croft over on Polygon. “Camilla Luddington is frowning seven different ways. She’s an experienced actor, so each frown carries its own nuance and meaning: defiance, confusion, vulnerability, fear.”

Rukmini Callimachi led a team of reporters at the New York Times to pull together a fascinating look at ISIS and how it recruits young americans. I missed it last week, if you did too, you should absolutely take the time to read it this weekend. “Alex, a 23-year-old Sunday school teacher and babysitter, was trembling with excitement the day she told her Twitter followers that she had converted to Islam.”

Josh Dzieza’s profile of website The Awl seems to be the most talked about story in my circles, and for good reason. It’s a deftly written, nuanced description of not the website, but the people who drive it. That I know quite a lot of them might make it feel more engrossing to me, but anyone who starts reading this story will find it hard to stop. “As more content is published directly onto Facebook, users will gradually lose a sense of who’s producing what. The most consequential journalism becomes just another unit of content in a single stream of music videos, movie trailers, updates from friends and relatives, advertisements, and viral tidbits from sites adept at gaming fast-changing algorithms and behaviors. Readerships that seem large now will turn out to be as ephemeral as Snapchats.”

A moment of self-aggrandizing introspection

I stumbled across a police blotter entry about a man dying of a heart attack one night in the middle of a swamp. After a month or so of reporting on and off, I ended up writing this story about snail hunting in the moonlit waters of Florida.

Etc.

This week has been completely absorbed by meetings and helping out the away team covering San Diego Comic-Con. I put my longer stories on hold to spend time popping out a dozen or so dailies a day from the show and help where I can in terms of editing and asset wrangling.

I also put my reading on hold to try and zip through Eric Cline’s soon-to-be-released Armada. It just arrived, so I haven’t gotten very far. Speaking of Armada, when I was looking for it on Amazon, the shopping website let me know that people that purchased the book about video games and aliens also tended to purchase Harper Lee’s new book. (You can read the first chapter of that right here.) I suspect that may not be the case.

My left arm has been feeling tingly and numb for a few days now. I’m fairly certain it isn’t heart related, but it has reminded me to schedule my check in. I’ve gained a disgusting amount of weight, a first for me. And it’s had all kinds of weird implications. Like the other day, watching Clue while lying on the floor and feeling the weight of my body pressing my into the thick carpet, it was weird. I probably should do something about that.

We somehow managed not to see Jurassic World yet, but I have high hopes for this weekend.

On Sunday, Trish’s parents arrive from Australia for their summer stay. At some point we’re all going to Montreal and I will be eating obscene amounts of fancy gravy-soaked french fries.

1

I’m going to start writing a little weekly thing summarizing the big stories I’ve read and enjoyed. Most of them will be about video games, but not all of them. I’ll likely evolve this over time. Think of it as a Daily Note to myself … as sad as that sounds.

What I read that I liked

David Shimomura has an interesting story over on Kill Screen which examines Kojima’s “dark and often troubling preoccupation with the human body and the basic dignity of humanness.”

Hua Hsu talks about the impact video games have had on popular music over in the New Yorker, by writing about the book Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack. “There is,” Hsu writes, “an entire alternate history of modern music that revolves around figures like Kondo, Hip Tanaka, and Nobuo Uematsu, whose scores for the Final Fantasy series are now performed in concert halls.”

Paul Theroux returns to the town that inspired To Kill a Mockingbird to examine what’s changed and what hasn’t for Smithsonian Magazine. “Every year, a highly praised and lively dramatization of the novel is put on by the town’s Mockingbird Players, with dramatic courtroom action in the Old Courthouse. But Nannie Ruth smiled when she was asked whether she’d ever seen it. “You won’t find more than four or five black people in the audience,” a local man told me later. “They’ve lived it. They’ve been there. They don’t want to be taken there again. They want to deal with the real thing that’s going on now.”

Over on Design Oriented you can try applying the Vlambeer Scale of Quality to your favorite games with a handy tool inspired by Jan Willen Nijman’s game design talk.

The Murder in Exam Room 15 is a wonderful examination of the escalating battle between patients and healthcare written by Chris Sweeney for Boston Magazine. “For 20 more minutes, the two men continued to talk. No one outside the exam room heard a sound, until all at once two blasts from a .40-caliber pistol tore through the morning calm.”

Jack Smith IV (I can’t help but think he’s a robot now, better than the last three models) does a nice job of examining Disney’s odd little hybrid between video games and toys: The Playmation line for Mic.com. It’s a little PR-heavy, a little breathless, but it’s also packed with interesting insight into the way Disney thinks and designs.

A moment of self-aggrandizing introspection

Ex Machina really is a great sci-fi movie and you should see it if you haven’t. Here’s what I wrote about the movie and the people who made it.

Etc.

I’m most actively reading Seveneves, Neal Stephenson’s latest, right now and it’s pretty good. I somehow accidentally purchased Bum Rap, a book I’ve never heard of by an author I never heard of, and will likely dig into that soon too because … providence?

I bought a clutch of old CDs from a library sale the other week and immediately imported them into my digital library. So right now I’m listening to a collection of 70s love songs (the best love songs) 80s rock and one-hit wonders and a mix of artists I’ve never heard of singing songs that are sometimes great, sometimes awful.

We’re hoping to go see Jurassic World this weekend and in preparation rewatched the first three. I think I may like the third more than the first, but maybe I’m crazy. Finally watched John Wick. It was fine, but not nearly as good as everyone lead me to believe it would be. Maybe I don’t like turtlenecks as much as the next person.

I’ve been tinkering a bit with Bierzerkers, Counter-Strike: GO and VainGlory.

Now that I own an Amazon Echo I’ve become obsessed with getting it to do things it wasn’t designed to do. My latest goal is to get it to boot-up my computer when I ask it to and to flash the lights in my son’s room when an alarm goes off. I guess that’s better than using it to send text messages to the slack room where everyone at Polygon works. There’s something wrong with me.


Let me know what you think, if you want more of something or less of something and I’ll keep it in mind for next week.

 

 

The video game beat

Video game journalism is, as I love to say, journalism. But it’s also a beat. That means a specific area of coverage that brings with it its own set of issues, its own field of knowledge and, yes, its own sort of journalistic quandaries.

In this video we talk about that, a bit about GamerGate, and edit mentee Andrea’s news story.

That’s it for this week. You can check out all of the mentorship stories and videos right here.

The importance of previews

This week’s New York Comic-Con means I won’t be able to do a video with Andrea this week for the video game journalism mentorship. We’re still working through her take on the fish piracy story, but I wanted to try and put something up for those of you not in the program, but following along.

Given that this week is packed with preview events, I figured it would be a good idea to walk people through my advice on covering a preview.

In some ways, the gameplay is the least important aspect of a preview. I treat it like I do anything that involves going to cover something, it’s important color, something that can help inform the story and put the reader in the experience, but it’s not the story.

Previews are inherently news events, events created by developers and publishers to impart new information about a game to reporters, typically with a strong time peg. As with interviews and other news events, you should go to these events prepared with not only an understanding of what has already been reported on the game, but also what angles you might explore.

While a reporter may come away from an event with an opinion about the current state of a game and its future potential, they should also leave with a solid idea of what new information came to light during the event through gameplay and interviews. The news story or stories that come out of these events should clearly explain to readers what new information came to light, what the game’s current state is and what you personally found interesting. Interviews at the event that push deeper into those new elements, or other interesting angles, will go a long way in helping preview coverage stand out.

The best sort of story from one of these events has a solid hook or angle that pursues and explains that new information and provides color and light opinion through immersive gameplay explanation. The right balance will lean more heavily toward the news, but remembers to place the reader in the game at some point.

Here are a couple of examples of straight preview events that lead to interesting stories:

Max Payne is a character study shaped by addiction and violence

A video game about mass surveillance in the age of big brother and little brothers

The point is that as a reporter you’re not there to write the story public relations or developers want you to write, you’re there to find what’s interesting, to report it out and then to write it for an audience of passionate gamers who want more than anything else to be intellectually stimulated, engrossed, informed.

The notion of writing a preview that tells you what the buttons do, what the graphics look like, what the new game mechanic is, is and should be dead. Those are all bits and pieces that can and should be weaved into your bigger story: How did the game make you feel? What is important about this game? What sets it apart?

Previews aren’t dead, but previews as early reviews are. Game coverage shouldn’t stop with a game’s release, but it shouldn’t start with it either.