Well, this has been a lovely wee start.
I launched Tired Old Hack at the end of January and right away my introductory article got a decent response, mainly thanks to my lovely Twitter followers getting on board from the beginning.
Since then, while the quantity of articles hasn’t been as great as I’d have liked – thanks to freelance work and job-hunting, which have to take priority just now – I’ve been happy with the quality and, hopefully, so have you.
While I loved being a paid video games journalist for the best part of nine years, it’s so refreshing to have no limits on deadline, article length, topic of discussion or what have you. I’m having fun slowly building this site and I hope that shines through.
Until now I’ve just been posting articles as ideas pop up in my head, so you’d be forgiven at this stage for wondering just what exactly it is this site is supposed to be. Is it a news site, a reviews site, a features site?
In truth, it’s whatever I feel it is each day. I’m not fussed about having a structure at this early stage in the site’s life and I’m enjoying that freedom.
That said, I do feel it’s worth letting you know the sort of content you can expect on Tired Old Hack in the coming months, so you’ve at least got an idea of my short-term plans for the site.
Look, don’t roll your eyes. It’s fine, I’ve already given my views on list features in an earlier article, and you can rest assured that any list article I post on here will be worth reading. Well, in my eyes, at least.
List features get a bad rap these days thanks to the likes of Buzzfeed and other sites milking the piss out of the formula to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised if their About page is soon replaced with an article called ’17 Things You Won’t Believe About This Site… Number 8 Is Really Shocking’.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no longer any value in choosing to present an article in the form of a list. It’s still a brilliantly effective style that, when used properly, makes articles both easier to write and much easier to read, especially online.
As I pledged in my previous article, my list features will either be informative or humorous (or at least attempt to be). You won’t get arbitrary “let’s just post a list for the fuck of it to get loads of hits” articles like ‘The 30 weirdest looking trees in PS3 games’ or ’20 songs that should be in Guitar Hero based on me taking my iPod out and seeing what albums I have on it’.
With rare exceptions (like my ‘Nintendo NX: What I want to see‘ article), my list features will inform you about actual, factual things in gaming history – such as the article I’m working on about 8-bit and 16-bit games that tried to deliver oddly specific positive messages to children – rather than my own opinions. There are a million forums and comments sections out there: if you want to see some arsehole pretending their opinion is the most important thing in the world, check them out instead. I’ll probably be on there too, anyway.
Of the lists that do feature my subjective opinion, most will be in the form of ‘best’ articles, like the ’30 best [specific console] games’ ones I’ve been doing (check out the DS, GameCube, Dreamcast and Amiga ones if you haven’t already).
In fact, you’re reading a list feature right now. Mwa ha haaaaaaa.
When I was at CVG, the main priority was the getting the news out there quickly. Not as quickly as possible, mind – we took pride in our news being detailed and accurate and that takes a little longer to write – but still bloody swift.
It should go without saying by now that Tired Old Hack will not focus on reporting the news. There are enough sites already doing that, and they have numerous editorial staff compared to my grand total of one.
Instead, any time there’s a big news story that appeals to me, I’ll write a lengthier article adding a lot more detail and discussion to the straight facts being reported elsewhere.
I’ve already posted examples of this. The throwaway news that 2K Sports was killing the NBA 2K14 servers led to an 1800-word article on why it was important that the decision should be reversed (which it thankfully was). Meanwhile, the announcement of Lego Dimensions got me excited enough to bust out a 2500-word guide on everything you needed to know about it.
At CVG I’d often write 10, maybe 15 news stories a day. On Tired Old Hack the focus will very much be on quality rather than quantity (not that my news stories weren’t well-written, mind!), meaning it’ll be rare that you’ll see more than one article on a single day, but that sole article will be – as I believe the Guardian style guide describes it – chunky as fuck.
I haven’t posted a game review on Tired Old Hack yet, mainly due to coincidence. Every time I’ve planned to review a big game – Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, Code Name STEAM, Mortal Kombat X, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate – I’m then commissioned to review that same game on a freelance basis for a magazine or website.
Out of courtesy to the publication, I don’t feel right writing one review for them then rewording it (because my opinion obviously hasn’t changed) and reviewing it again on my site. They’re paying me to do this ‘work’ for them so I feel a bit iffy willingly doing the same thing for free.
With that in mind I’m planning to focus on reviewing less well-known games on here: partly because I’ll be less likely to be asked to review them, and partly because – let’s face it – there are a million fucking Witcher 3 reviews out there.
This will mean reviews of digital-only console games – the sort you’ll only see on eShop, the Xbox One store and the PlayStation Store – as well as indie Steam stuff and mobile games (because I’m not a snob and know there are still some bloody good iOS and Android games out there).
I’ll also happily review any hardware I end up buying. I’ve already done this with the New 3DS, and expect one for the JXD S7800b Android Gaming Tablet and the Neo Geo X in the near future.
My reviews won’t always be timely, either. Games don’t suddenly stop being great a month or a year after they’ve come out. If I’m playing a game and decide to review it I’ll do it, even if it’s an Xbox Live Arcade game from five years ago. I’ve heard from people who bought NBA 2K15 after reading my gushing praise for it in my 2K Sports rant: just because it came out last October doesn’t mean it’s not still worth reviewing.
Finally, I’ll occasionally post round-ups of any freelance work I’ve done that can be found online. For starters, here are some reviews I wrote for GamesTM:
Some sort of E3 coverage
As someone who’s currently employmentally challenged, this year will be the first time since E3 2005 that I’ll be able to just sit back and enjoy watching the press conferences rather than frantically juggling news stories in a mostly empty office at 10pm while I and fellow colleagues go out of our minds.
I do want to cover E3 in some way, but my coverage will be a lot more relaxed and reflective rather than the usual “oh fuck here’s all the news gaaaargh” that’s expected from every site during E3 week.
I haven’t decided what I’ll be doing yet, then, but rest assured I won’t be ignoring E3.
I’m a words man. That’s what I do. I’ve only dabbled with video in the past.
That said, I want to properly get into it. I want to start making videos that, hopefully, people will enjoy. More stuff like this daft shit I did for Nintendo Gamer back in 2012:
Expect to see regular video content on here in the coming months. Just bear with me, because I’m still learning how to make it all look good.
‘Complete history’ articles
As CVG neared its end, I started a series of articles called ‘An illustrated history of’. Each article focused on a specific game series – Batman games, FIFA games, Mario Kart, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the like – and covered every single main game and spin-off in that series, complete with screenshots and summaries.
I really enjoyed writing those: they were essentially list features but definitive ones, providing complete checklists for anyone interested in seeing how many games in a series they’d played.
I had a big list of future ‘ilustrated history’ articles saved on my computer at work, about 30 series deep. I still have that list.
I definitely want to do more of these but they involve a lot of work, so they won’t exactly be regular. But they’ll be coming.
I’m 32 years old. I’ve been gaming for about 29 of those years. There’s a lot of retro gaming knowledge bouncing around in my noggin just aching to pry itself out and roll itself all over a website.
Anyone can boot up Wikipedia and get information on retro games. But not everyone was there at the time and experienced it as it happened.
Here’s the deal: I’ll still be covering modern gaming. Of course I will. But let’s face it, if you want coverage on Project Cars or the latest Steam releases there are a million sites out there offering content just as good – if not better – than I could provide.
But there are fewer sites celebrating retro gaming, and most of the ones who do focus on the obvious stuff. There are so many great games that are trapped in the past, games I played back in the day and want to share with you all, giving them the same level of attention and detail as modern game reviews.
Some of this coverage will come in the form of written articles, some will come in the form of videos. But it’ll all be coverage coming from someone who remembers standing in Toys R Us in Edinburgh, watching slack-jawed as a TV ran Wonder Boy on the Master System: not some young buck passing on knowledge they gained by looking up a Let’s Play of it on YouTube.
I bloody love retro gaming. I want to share that love with you. Which brings me on to the final, most important point…
The reason I loved gaming magazines in the late ’80s and early ’90s was they made me feel excited to be a gamer.
You paid your money, you bought your magazine, and you read with delight as a group of writers reminded you why gaming was brilliant.
They’d take great pleasure in showing you the games coming out soon, and every new game would be met with wonder and awe, complete with (often poorly photographed) screenshots to get you pumped up.
The only negativity you’d see was usually when a rubbish game got a bad review, but even then it was often handled in a comical way and before long it was back to the “isn’t gaming ace” message.
Then the internet came along, and with it gaming websites. No longer was the deal ‘you paid your money, you bought your magazine’. Now it was ‘you visit the site, and if you like the look of the stories you click them and earn the sites ad revenue’.
When a publisher is essentially earning money by the article rather than the entire issue, there’s a need to optimise each story in order to ensure it appeals to the largest audience possible. And, as newspapers have known for decades, bad news sells.
As the late American news reporter Jessica Savitch once quipped: “The bad news is that 50 people died in a hotel fire. The good news is that we got exclusive footage.”
So these days we still have previews… though not as many. We still get advance screenshots… but they’re chucked in screenshot galleries and rarely given much more attention than a brief “look at these” and a hope the readers will form their own chat about them in the comments section.
Instead the focus is more on negative news stories, because everyone likes a scandal and – as a double bonus – they tend to provoke more reader comments.
Frame rate issues. Day one patches. Server problems. Game delays. Job losses. Scandalous quotes from developers. Poor financial reports. Free-to-play whining. Season Pass bitching. The never-ending PS4 vs Xbox One resolution debate, where people pretend they can genuinely tell the difference between 1080p and 900p on their 26″ TV just so they can be outraged about something.
Well, I don’t care about traffic or page views. I don’t care if ten or 10,000 people read one of my articles. Because of this – the previous NBA 2K14 article aside – I’m going to be strongly focusing on positive coverage of gaming.
If you want my cynical side then follow me on Twitter, where I can occasionally be as negative as Sterile Sam’s paternity test. But you won’t get it here.
I want you to come away from Tired Old Hack every time with a smile on your face and an urge to go play some games, rather than a frown and the feeling that this hobby we all love so much is headed for the shiteheap.
What do I want from you in return? Nothing much, really. Ideally, I would love it if (if you felt like it) you could add a wee comment to stories you like or – even better – link to my articles on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, forums or any other blog or Tumblr you write. The larger my audience grows, the more of a wee positive, game-loving, negativity-shunning community we can build here.
Also: expect more Night Trap references.