Allow me to reintroduce myself: Tired Old Hack returns to full speed

Friends, it’s been a while.

Earlier this year I found myself spinning a hell of a lot of plates. Not only was I dealing with the usual juggling act of my 9-to-5 job, my freelance work and my Tired Old Hack work, I was also still getting used to the ‘new father’ role: my daughter only turned a year old this past June.

In the second half of this year another fairly large plate was added to the mix in the shape of the SNES Encyclopedia, another 180,000 word epic that soaked up all my free time.

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You can blame this one for the lack of regular content. The kid, not Shenmue III. I haven’t even had time to start that one yet

Eventually some of the plates had to stop spinning, for the sake of my own health. The first was my 9-to-5 job: I decided to take a financial hit and drop down to two days a week, so I could watch my daughter for the other three days.

Because the move to part-time meant freelance money was more important than ever, and because I was also contractually obliged to finish the SNES Encyclopedia in time, I had to temporarily stop another plate spinning: Tired Old Hack.

Since I started the SNES Encyclopedia in June, I’ve written just 14 articles on the site. They weren’t all full-fat articles, either: two of them were linking to YouTube videos I’d made, two were podcasts and two were Game Club articles, essentially inviting readers to play a game together.

That leaves eight ‘proper’ written articles in six months: this is nowhere near the level I wanted to hit, but there simply weren’t enough hours in the day, and the reality was that my paid commitments had to take priority.

Finally, however, my situation has changed: the SNES Encyclopedia has been written and sent off to the publisher, Serena’s a little older now and is a little easier to take care of, and I’ve set a routine in place that means when I start on my third book it’ll no longer take over my life like the SNES one did.

What this ultimately means is that I can finally do something I’ve been looking forward to doing for months: I’m picking up that plate, putting it back on the pole and spinning it again, with the aim of not stopping it this time.

Welcome to the return of Tired Old Hack.

Because it’s been so long, I want to start fresh to an extent. Although many of you reading this have been following the site (and my work in general) for a while, some of you will still be fairly new to it.

Regardless of which category you fall under, this article should hopefully serve as a refresh where I reintroduce myself, state the key aims of Tired Old Hack going forwards and let you know what sort of articles you can expect to enjoy in 2020 and beyond.

Much of what you read below this intro will also eventually be replacing the old ‘About’ page on the site, which is now nearly five years old and stupidly out of date. Like I say, it’s time to start fresh.

The return isn’t fully complete yet: I still want to tweak the site a bit, including returning to my previous site layout, which I preferred. But I just wanted to give you a heads-up that the site was back, before the inevitable Games of the Year article next week.

With that said, please do give the below a read – even if you think you know the full story – and, with any luck, by the time you reach the end of the article you should be as excited to read, watch and listen to all the stuff that’s coming to the site as I am to make it.


Who am I?

Here’s a very brief recap of who I am for those who may be less familiar with my work.

My name’s Chris Scullion, and I’ve been a Scottish video games journalist since 2 May 2006. I’m fortunate in that over the years I’ve experienced work in numerous types of games media: full-time on a magazine, full-time on a website, official publications, unofficial single-format publications, multi-format publications, freelance work and – hence this place – running my own wee site.

This has hopefully given me a well-rounded view of the games media landscape, but still hasn’t affected me to the extent that I don’t realise how wanky the phrase ‘games media landscape’ sounds.

Nobody wants to read a long-winded biography, so here’s a bullet point list of my career highlights:

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Yer man Scullion, circa 1991

• Summer 1987 – Travelled to America at the age of four to visit my aunt, discovered the NES for the first time and fell in love. Spent the rest of my childhood playing games and reading games magazines

• 2001-2005 – Got my BA (Hons) Journalism degree in Edinburgh

• 2006 – After doing some work experience with Future Publishing in Bath, got my first full-time job as the Staff Writer on the newly relaunched UK Official Nintendo Magazine. Promptly left all family, friends and belongings behind in Scotland to live the dream, and moved to London

• 2009 – Promoted to Games Editor at ONM

• 2012 – Left ONM to become the Online Editor at Nintendo Gamer

• 2013 – Became Games Editor at CVG

• January 2015 – Future Publishing closed down CVG and offered me two options: move to Bath and join GamesRadar or take redundancy. I opted for the latter, and my wife and I moved back to Scotland after nine years in London

• 29 January 2015 – Launched Tired Old Hack, my own site

• 2015-present day – as well as Tired Old Hack, I’ve also continued to write for other publications as a freelancer. These have included Nintendo Life, VGC, Official PlayStation Magazine, Official Xbox Magazine, GamesMaster, Retro Gamer, The Guardian, Vice / Waypoint, Red Bull, Polygon and GamesTM


The Tired Old Hack mission statement

When it first launched in early 2015, Tired Old Hack was supposed to simply be a place for me to continue writing about games following my redundancy. It didn’t have any real vision other than “here are a bunch of new articles by Chris Scullion”.

As time went on, though, I found myself becoming more disillusioned by the newer trends of modern gaming (not to mention the way it’s often covered).

After writing an article about this in January 2018, I then decided that Tired Old Hack was going to have more of a specific focus on older games, and it was going to cover these games in a way that respects the needs of its audience.

With that in mind, these are the main principles of Tired Old Hack. These are the things you should come to expect from the site.

A main focus on older games, from a UK perspective

I’ve always had a love for retro gaming, but over the past few years – partly because I’ve become a bit disillusioned by modern stuff – it’s become my central focus.

As a result, the focus of Tired Old Hack will be similarly focused on retro gaming going forwards.

I know there are a decent number of retro gaming sites out there, but I’m hoping I can bring something new to the table by adding my own voice to the world of retro coverage. My general mission statement is “showing old games in a new way”, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to do that with my usual daft sense of humour.

I also think my retro coverage is going to differ from many other retro sites because I’m British (Scottish, to be exact), and our history of gaming is different to that in America, where most retro sites and YouTubers originate from.

For example, many American sites will tell you about the great video game crash of 1983, when the Atari 2600’s value plummeted and arcades across the country closed down. What they don’t often tell you is that at the time, gaming was still booming in the UK thanks to the likes of the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64.

Culturally, we also experienced different things in the UK that didn’t happen in the US. America didn’t have GamesMaster or its satellite rival Games World, which they should be gutted about. They’ll probably be less gutted about not having Right Said Fred’s song for Sonic 3, though:

The other crucial element, I reckon, is that I lived all of this. I’m not just some young buck grabbing all this off Wikipedia: I eagerly watched GamesMaster every Thursday night, I bought every issue of Sonic The Comic and Nintendo Magazine System. And yes, shamefully, I bought the single for that Right Said Fred song.

It’s one thing talking about old games and throwing up funny clips you come across on YouTube, but when you obsessed over it as a child you remember the details that only an enthusiast would pick up on. Well, that’s what I’m hoping anyway.

A commitment to continue covering some modern games

Despite my focus on retro, that doesn’t mean I’ve completely shunned modern gaming. I’m still going to be covering modern releases, they just may not get the massive 2000-word review treatment.

One way I’ll be doing this is my ‘wee-view’ series (more on that below), which lets me cover a bunch of recent games in one go.

Essentially, if you have no interest in retro gaming and are concerned Tired Old Hack will have nothing for you going forwards, don’t worry: that isn’t the case.

A tendency not to focus on ‘big’ titles

Let’s face it: I’m one person, and I only have so many hours in the day. I’m not an IGN or a Kotaku, I can’t go around reviewing every major release.

Because of this, I have to pick and choose what games to cover. And because of that, I’ve decided that I want to focus more on the games that don’t get as much attention.

When the Final Fantasy VII remake comes out, every major site in the world will review it. If I reviewed it too, it would be like farting in a sewer: it wouldn’t change much.

kororinpa

Instead, I’m far more interested in spending my free time playing lesser known games. Even during my ONM days you would have been just as likely to see my name next to reviews of games like Opoona and Kororinpa than you would the latest Zelda or Metroid title.

There’s nothing more exciting to me than starting a new game with no idea of what it’s about, and potentially discovering a new gem. Because of this, most of the modern game coverage you’ll see on here will be smaller indie and eShop games.

Naturally, I’ll still cover some of the bigger titles too (especially the Nintendo ones), but only the ones I’m personally interested in. I won’t go chasing down the likes of Doom Eternal to review on the site, because even though it’s a big game I’m just not that fussed about it.

The same goes for my retro coverage. Everyone can write a retrospective on Super Mario World, or Ocarina of Time, or Metal Gear Solid. While I’ll obviously touch on those too, I want to focus my attention on the lesser-known retro games that deserve more love.

Edutainment (ugh)

Although this is one of the worst words in the English language – it was rife during the mid-90s with the growth of CD-ROM and Windows 95 multimedia titles – it’s still the most accurate way to describe what I’m going for with Tired Old Hack.

I want to help you increase your gaming knowledge, while hopefully putting a smile on your face at the same time.

That’s not to say I’ll be dropping jokes at the end of every sentence or anything: nobody likes an amateur comedian.

But gaming is supposed to be fun, and while there’s absolutely a place for serious, deep dives on the philosophy and culture of gaming, I’d rather play to my strengths and focus on the fun side of things.

Honest headlines, no clickbait and no multi-page articles

I’ve been using the internet for 21 years now, and it’s always been full of shite. But more recently, as sites try to squeeze every last penny out of the thing, it’s become even worse.

Clickbait headlines (most notably of the “you won’t believe what happened next” variety) and ridiculous multi-page slideshow articles are designed entirely to get traffic, with absolutely no consideration for the reader’s experience.

Worst of all are the ones that pretend they’re going to give you what you’re looking for then don’t. A couple of sites regularly post “when’s the next Nintendo Direct?” articles, and it’s only once you’ve scrolled through hundreds of words explaining what happened at the last one that you reach the final paragraph the confession that they don’t know the answer. Of course, by that point they’ve already got their ad revenue from you.

Tired Old Hack is created with your happiness in mind. The only minor inconvenience you’ll find is ads before my YouTube videos: otherwise there are no multi-page articles and every headline is honest.

High quality, authentic game screenshots and videos

A lot of older games are generally represented in one of two ways online: either through extremely blurry images (usually from the N64 to GameCube era and everything in between), or razor sharp images taken from emulators. Neither is particularly accurate.

Any prick can get hold of a Nintendo 64 emulator, bump it up to 4K and grab a bunch of impossibly crisp screenshots, but that’s not how the game looked.

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I captured this myself, using actual Saturn hardware

I’ve gone to great effort working on the games room in my house, getting as many retro consoles as I can and setting them up so they output the highest quality picture I can get. Where possible, the screenshots and videos you see on this site were captured by me, from original hardware, for the greatest authenticity.

Emulators will never be perfect. They can come close, but there’ll always be frame skips and graphical glitches. By showing each game running on original hardware, you’ll not only see exactly how the game looks, you’ll get a better idea of how it’ll look if you get it for your own retro system.

More importantly, some systems still haven’t been perfectly emulated yet. The original Xbox, for example, still can’t be emulated accurately: nowhere near it.

There will be situations where I’ll have to use emulators. I don’t have a bunch of arcade machines in my house, so when I’m covering arcade games I’ll need to use an emulator like MAME for my captures. Games on more obscure systems, like the MSX, may also need to be covered using an emulator (at least until I can get one for the collection).

The aim, though, will always be to capture on authentic hardware first.

Every article and video will make it clear (either at the start or end) what I used to get the video footage and screenshots. You’ll know every time whether I used original hardware (which is my preferred option), a modern equivalent (like the Analogue Super NT), or an emulator.

A love of games

Most importantly of all, this is a site for positivity. Negativity drives a lot of modern games coverage (and a lot of modern gamers!) and while there’s absolutely a time and place for that – like I say, I’m disillusioned with much of it too – I want this site to be a celebration.

Yes, there will be some negative articles in here too: I’m not running a cult here. And some reviews will obviously be negative (though there’ll be fewer than in most other sites, because I’m specifically picking and choosing games that I think may appeal to me).

The majority of what you’ll see on this site, though, will look at gaming in a positive light. We all do this because we love games: let’s try to focus our energy on that love instead of focusing it on shouting abuse at folk on Twitter.


Regular features

So there you have it, that’s a sort of summary of who I am and what the site’s about. But what sort of stuff can you find on Tired Old Hack?

A year ago I listed a number of regular features I wanted to incorporate into the site. Allow me, then, to update this list, via the magic of copying, pasting and changing bits to bring it more up to date.

First though, a note: there are many more ideas I have for this site, but I’m wary of discussing them now in case someone else nicks them. I’ve had ideas stolen from bigger sites in the past, so I’m keeping some of my new ideas close to my chest until the first ‘instalment’ is ready.

Videos

I’m keen to do a lot more video content going forward.

Some of my reviews last year (such as my Starlink and Red Dead Redemption reviews) were accompanied by optional video versions, in which I showed game footage while reading my review over the top of them. The reaction to these was positive, so I’m going to do more of the same.

My YouTube channel is one element of the whole Tired Old Hack ‘thing’ that is lagging behind in terms of subscribers (so please do if you haven’t yet), and that’s mainly because I’ve been neglecting it. That’s going to change going forwards.

My new standard – time permitting – will be to provide both written and video versions of every major article going forward, where appropriate. Gemhunter is naturally video-only, for example, while hardware reviews will tend to be written-only (with maybe accompanying clips showing elements of the hardware, rather than the full review given in voiceover form).

For the most part though, you’re going to be able to choose whether you want to read or watch my articles going forward.

I also plan on properly getting into streaming in the near future, so follow me on Twitch if you aren’t already for a bunch of streams of less common games.

Wee-views

My coverage of modern games will mostly take the form of wee-views, a new review style I started last year but didn’t get much chance to use because of life getting in the way.

In case you missed the first articles, wee-views are shorter reviews of current games I’ve been playing, with the caveat that I haven’t finished the game yet: for each game, I explicitly state how far I’ve gotten.

The idea is that, after nearly 13 years of reviewing games professionally, I tend to know whether I’m going to like something after a few hours. Wee-views let me ‘review’ more games, while urging the reader to bear in mind that the game may still – unlikely though it may be – get significantly worse or better near the end.

Like Pilot Sports, for example, which I covered in my first wee-views article

I’m still getting a load of review codes for Switch games thrown at me, and a lot of these games simply get no coverage on big sites. Even Nintendo Life – who I’ll regularly be contributing freelance reviews for going forwards – is choosing not to review everything these days, because there are simply too many games coming to the Switch.

While other sites simply dismiss these review codes, I want to make use of them: I always feel massively guilty any time I’m given a free game and don’t do anything with it.

Wee-views will let me do my bit in covering these smaller, less noticed titles, to help you discover the hidden gems and (more importantly) tell you which ones you shouldn’t take a chance on.

That Time When…

This is still one of the features I’m most excited about. If I get this right, I can see a situation where a year or two down the line people will be subscribing to my YouTube channel just so they can go back and watch through them all.

The idea is that anyone can say “here’s coverage of an old game”, when often all they want to do is talk about a specific quirky or memorable thing about it. That Time When lets me make those moments the focal point and discuss the rest of the game around it.

Last year I put one together as a proof of concept to see if it worked. I wanted to cover Virtua Striker 3 ver 2002 on the GameCube, but not because it’s a good football game (even though I do personally like it more than most). I wanted to cover it because you can unlock a team full of Sonic characters, and it’s really bizarre.

The solution was an episode called That Time When Sonic Played Football in Virtua Striker, where I briefly introduced the Virtua Striker series and then cut to the chase, showing the bit that’s actually most interesting (and hopefully entertaining).

Although that sole episode of That Time When was the only one I created last year, I’ve got countless ideas for this one and wanted to wait until life was a bit less manic before properly pushing ahead with it.

Hopefully, you’ll soon see how much potential there is for this series, and how it won’t necessarily focus on specific games but can also look at curious, funny and downright bizarre things that happened in the gaming world in general.

Kartography

I launched Kartography in the summer of 2018 and the reaction has been brilliant, which I’m really thankful for.

If you haven’t read any of the five I’ve already done, it’s a series based on licensed karting games in which I go into unnecessary detail breaking each one down in terms of the licence, characters, tracks, weapons and other features.

Each of these elements is given a score, and they’re all then combined to see where the game places on the Tired Old Hack Kartography leaderboard. Over time, as more games as covered, the aim will be to create the definitive list of licensed karting games sorted by quality.

This one’s near the bottom

Naturally, since there’s a fairly obvious retro focus here already, it goes without saying that Kartography will be continuing.

I’ve already written Kartography articles for Hello Kitty Kruisers, Garfield Kart, Mickey’s Speedway USA, Sonic R and Team Sonic Racing, and I’m currently working on new ones for Crazy Frog Racer (PS2) and Nickelodeon Kart Racers (Xbox One).

Gemhunter

Gemhunter is my video series in which I take an old and forgotten game (or, more often, one that looks suspiciously like shovelware) and try to find a hidden gem.

The gimmick is that I’m going into the game completely fresh, having never played it before, and I just leave the capture card running as both the viewer and I experience it for the first time.

I then make a ridiculous snap judgment about whether it’s a gem or not, having only spent anything from 30 minutes to an hour on it. It’s just a bit of fun, after all.

I’ve done 15 Gemhunter videos to date (catch up on them here) and only found two gems so far, which is two more than I’ve expected to find, to be honest. Folk seem to enjoy the videos, and I enjoy doing them, so it looks like a win-win.

Licence Test

A forthcoming new series, inspired by the positive reaction to Kartography. I started Kartography because I’ve always been fascinated by the way karting games handle existing licenses, but that fascination doesn’t just extend to that genre alone.

Licence Test will take licensed games from any genre – platformers, shooters, what have you – and subject them to a similar series of tests to the ones I give in Kartography.

It’s a widely accepted belief that movies based on games and TV shows are almost always rubbish, a couple of exceptions aside. Licence Test will put that theory to… well, the test.

Buffy, anyone?

This time I’ll be judging games based on the licence itself, how well the game sticks to its plot, how ‘authentic’ it is (does it use the actual stars and voice actors, or ropey replacements?) and finally how fun it is to play.

There won’t be a leaderboard for this one: instead, each game will be getting a licence test result using the tried-and-tested Crazy Taxi scale of Class E, D, C, B, A and S.

Much like Kartography doesn’t cover the obvious games (i.e. the Mario Kart series), Licence Test will generally stay away from your GoldenEyes. Expect to see more weird and wonderful offerings, from Short Circuit on the ZX Spectrum to Beverly Hills Cop on the PS2.

The 30 Best

When I first started Tired Old Hack back in early 2015, one of my early series was The 30 Best.

To an extent, it was essentially a shameless attempt at SEO-baiting by adding a load of ‘the best X games’ articles to the site so that people downloading emulators would stumble upon the site while Googling which ROMS to pinch.

For the most part though, it was my chance to finally and definitively list my favourite games on every system for the first time (we’d done it on the likes of ONM before, but they were group decisions).

I wrote nine of these – DS, GameCube, Dreamcast, Amiga, Wii, SNES, Vita, Wii U and Nintendo 64 (catch up on them here) – and now I plan to keep going by covering the other systems I haven’t done yet.

Before that, though, I want to go back to the ones I’ve already done and put together video versions.

Retro console reviews and buyer’s guides

As I said in my previous article, when we moved house a year and a half ago I started putting together a games room.

Part of this has involved re-buying many of the old consoles I had to sell back in 2006, which I grudgingly did to fund my move to London so I could start my career at Official Nintendo Magazine.

One thing I’ve noticed while doing this is that buying retro systems can be a bit of a confusing mess, especially in the UK where our consoles were almost always shitter than they were in the US due to games running slower and with borders.

Since my hope is that my site will eventually encourage other people to start dabbling in retro gaming, it would be a bit shit of me to leave folk to it and not guide them along the way.

It’s research, innit

With that in mind, I’m going to start doing special guides to each retro console. These will consist of a number of elements, starting with a review of the console and its various gimmicks from a modern point of view.

I’ll then explain the differences between each region’s consoles and redesigns, and give advice on the best ways to get them running on modern HD and 4K televisions (with different options depending on your budget).

Finally, since I appreciate that collecting retro games is an increasingly expensive hobby, I’ll cover the different ways you can play the games on each system, including modern re-releases on other consoles, emulation and any ‘alternative‘ methods that let you play backups on real hardware (though I won’t be directing you to those backups: that’s on your own head).

The aim is that by the end of each of these articles you’ll know these systems inside-out and, should you want to buy one, have a good idea of exactly which model and setup to get.

The podcast

The Tired Old Hack podcast will be returning very soon, and will be far more frequent.

Last year it was difficult for me to find a free, unbroken hour, thanks to having a baby in the house. Any time I did, I was more likely to need to spend it writing my book.

I always wanted to bring the podcast back to a regular routine, and that’ll happen again in the very near future.

Long story short, don’t cancel your iTunes subscriptions yet.

Loads of other random one-offs

The above are some specific examples of regular features and series you’re going to be seeing on Tired Old Hack in the coming weeks, months and maybe years.

That isn’t everything I’ll be doing, though. I’ve got a Trello board full of ideas for one-off, standalone articles and features I want to write for the site.

Some will be interesting, others will be extremely silly. But the aim with all is to entertain, educate and hopefully have you coming away with a big smile on your face.


What you can do to help

So that’s it! Tired Old Hack is back and ready to start providing you articles and videos on a far more regular basis, and I’d be delighted if you came along for the ride.

If you want to help me, please do share any articles you like, be that on Twitter, Reddit or what have you. The more people who read the site, the larger it grows and the better it’ll become as a result.

If you want to support me financially, I have a Patreon account. All the money goes back into the site, either by funding my Adobe account to help me edit my images and videos, funding the site’s storage (for future embedded videos that won’t be subject to YouTube’s harsh copyright checks) or helping me buy hardware and software for review. Otherwise, if you don’t want to commit to a monthly payment, I have a PayPal tips button at the bottom of every article. Oh look, here it is now:

Donate with PayPal

Alternatively, if you’re an Amazon shopper, you can use my affiliate links (including this general one for the UK and this one for the US) to do your shopping: this helps fund the site too without costing you any extra.

Those are all bonuses though: the most important way you can help is by doing exactly what you’re doing now: coming to my site and reading my words, or watching my videos.

Every article on Tired Old Hack is one on page, and there are no slideshows or clickbait shit to annoy you. This site is designed with you in mind, with the aim being to make your eyes light up and your mouth smile.

The focus may have started to shift from modern to retro gaming, but I will continue to be yer man Scullion, and Tired Old Hack will continue to be a site designed with the reader’s best interests at heart. Because my heart is what I’m using to write it.

Thank you so much for your patience during my downtime. I hope to make it up to you in 2020.

With love,

Chris

2 comments

  1. Looking forward to reading more from you. I’m fairly new to your site (been following a few months) although I have read other articles and reviews from you on other sites like Nintendo Life. I have been catching up on your many articles on this site from the last few years and very much enjoyed reading them. I love your humour and knowledge so can’t wait to read more in the new year. As a newish father myself (I have 23 month old and 10 month old daughters) I can fully appreciate you needing to take some time off to spend with your daughter. You’ll never get this time back so makes sense to prioritise. I’m glad it’s worked out for you and all the best for the new year!

  2. Looking forward to the new articles, I really appreciate your sense of humour and more mature coverage of gaming for us non-teen gamers, keep up the good work and don’t overwork yourself!!

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