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Nice Job

9 Jul

In an almost comical stroke of good fortune, one I’m still considering in mild disbelief, the nice folk at V3.co.uk have seen fit to make me their new full-time reviews writer! At last, I can devote my career to my shared loves of journalism, technology, and not working somewhere I need to wear a tie.

It's a hilarious reference!

It’s a hilarious reference!

I’ve actually done a few freelance pieces for V3 already, like little auditions for my ability to analyse key travel and screen viewing angles. Since this blog has a long and proud history of plugging, here are a few of my favourites:

I am, of course, genuinely thrilled to have landed such an fun role with such a great site, and I hope you’ll join me as I endeavor to avoid screwing it all up.

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Crossing a line

16 Feb

I quit my job in December. Some might say it’s neither big nor clever to go voluntarily unemployed while living in Britain’s most expensive city, but sod it – I needed a change, and with my journalism degree quite literally gathering dust, I thought it high time to elbow my way into the press full-time.

This (intensely hopeful) career plan, couple with a newfound surplus of free time, has brought me to learning Teeline shorthand. Self-teaching, of course, since a £3 textbook used by the National Council for the Training of Journalists represents a significantly lower risk of early onset bankruptcy than the NCTJ’s own courses. Having spent most of my uni years in Cardiff’s libraries, I’m finding the experience of nabbing a tax-funded desk and hitting the (singular) book to a pleasantly familiar one.

It’s also bloody weird. The genius of the Teeline style, as my second-hand tome excitedly explains, is that the symbols for each letter are based simply on their regular English equivalents. I’m inclined to differ – B looks like an obese 6, Z is a 9, and F resembles a partially deflated balloon. Meanwhile, Q is a giant U, Y is a smaller U, O is a wide U, and U is a U. Sheesh.

Putting aside the fact that this alphabet has more Us than a 11 year old’s IM logs, it’s undeniably a clever system. Almost all of the symbols are designed to be joined with the others, so it’s comfortably similar to writing in normal cursive, and it’s flexible enough that I could start out writing whole words before becoming more adept at cutting unnecessary vowels. I can almost see why, in age where good digital sound recorders are available for £20, it hasn’t died out as a form of taking dictation.

I’m having bigger problems than obsolescence, though: fancy symbols or otherwise, my handwriting is still bloody appalling. This inability to draw a flat line without giving it a slight curve, or a curve that looks too much like a flat line, is proving a bigger barrier to my self-inflicted education than the actual syllabus ever could.

On the plus side, I recently gave myself a lot of time to practice.

Watch my voice

14 Feb

Players of the popular action-strategy video game and peculiar wealth creation exercise Dota 2 would do well to watch Tales From the Trench, a frequently hilarious play-by-play series commentated with infectious enthusiasm by a chap named Rusts. I suspect that is not his real name.

I’m obviously a big fan, partly because of the brilliant Twilight Zone-inspired sequence (which is actually more akin to Futurama’s The Scary Door) at the opening of each episode. Since I’m also a big fan of parody, Dota, writing, and apparently the sound of my own damn voice, I got in touch with Rusts to ask if I could contribute to a future episode with a voiceover of my own.

I could, I did, and the episode in question is now live!

As far as 27 seconds of talking goes, this was a hell of a lot of fun. I love writing pastiches, even if they aren’t my forte, and a game as complicated and characterful as Dota 2 lends itself perfectly to parody. There are a few places where I might have delivered a phrase differently, given another chance, but considering my normal speech consists mainly of shapeless mumbling, I think I gave it a decent crack.

Stealth Bastard Deluxe hands-on/interview

26 Mar

I’ll be honest: I’ve kind of gotten really fucking terrible at maintaining this blog. With that in mind, I have some good news: I’ve decided to use this blog to whore myself and my writings like never before. I promise.

For starters, I’m actually updating that Features sidebar on the right there, with a combination of stuff and things that even I think aren’t that bad. First off, here’s a hands-on preview of Stealth Bastard Deluxe – which also includes an interview with lead dev Jonathan Biddle – I did for BeefJack last year.

Stealth Bastard Deluxe 2

Interviews continue to be a glowing yellow weak spot pulsating on the surface of my confidence, but I’d say I did alright with this one. I was determined to wrangle at least one truly new bit of info out of a developer who’d been doing the pre-release promotion ‘thing’ for a while by then, and – judging by what did and didn’t appear in my pre-interview research – I ended up with several.

It’d be fun to do more.

PC Gamer Review: Scribblenauts Unlimited

26 Mar

Here’s another largely unneccessary post that exists solely to link to my Scriblenauts Unlimited review that went on up PC Gamer’s site earlier this month. Hooray!

PCG251.rev_scribble.grab5_

I also covered The Showdown Effect, but I’m not quite sure it deserves Featured status as much. For one, it has a lot more comments than Scribblenauts, so since I’m too much of a fat crying baby to read my own comment threads I’ll assume more people thought it sucked and that I’m corrupt.

Hey everyone, look how much I’m in PC Gamer UK again

31 Jan

PCG249.cover_subs-610x841

Specifically, two-and-a-half whole pages of this most delightful (and red!) of PC gaming magazines were written/screenshotted by my own fair hands. Therefore, it’s totally worth paying six quid for your own copy, then perhaps framing the two reviews I did in it on your wall or something. They are, and feature such sentences as, the following:

Air Buccaneers “Most ship-on-ship battles are surprisingly pacey, with crews racing to load and fire their cannons while cursing the captain – who’s probably trying to perform evasive manoeuvres with a vehicle the size of a cottage – for not keeping her steady. Every cannonball volley has to be deliberate and adjusted for height and distance, and it’s this total non-reliance on freakish twitch skills which makes sinking en enemy vessel an immensely satisfying experience.”

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams“This is a hard game. And that’s fine – even when roughly half of it looks like the Ages 5-7 section of a Toys ‘r’ Us, you could never accuse Twisted Dreams of dumbing things down. But it’s hard to enjoy the rare triumphs when they’re punctuated by deeply tedious boss fights, trial-and-error acrobatics sequences and checkpointing that lurches between moderately generous and diabolically cruel.”

What the fudge I’ve been doing recently

11 Dec
  • Cutting down on profanity!
  • Writing for PC Gamer! I’ve been on a steady drip-feed of review commissions for the UK print edition, in what I’m fairly sure is some kind of test to prove my worth, loyalty and fertility. Right now it’s only going to be a source of some extra pocket change, but it’s both immensely satisfying and ever-so-slightly terrifying to be doing paid work at a professional level. Christ, is this what becoming a man feels like?
  • Stopped writing for BeefJack! Well, news posts anyway – I wouldn’t object if they kicked in my email inbox with long-form stuff, but a combination of time pressures, PCG work and the fact that pumping out news for four hours straight just isn’t that fun led to me deciding it was time to move on. I’m still grateful, perhaps even grateful as balls, for all the writing opportunities Lewis & co. gave me, and you should all go over there and give them hits.
  • University! Third year’s peculiar but passionate love affair with choose-your-own research projects has allowed me to wrangle Cardiff’s Journalism BA into a course that actually has something to do with journalism, which most previous modules…well, one of them was basically about Bruce Lee. Sometimes I wonder whether going here was a good choice, considering I’m a writer rather than a researcher, but then I remember that most other places would probably have me trying to operate a boom mic or something. The hell with boom mics.
  • Seeing Muse at the O2 Arena! Excellent stuff. The 2nd Law is probably the first Muse album I didn’t love during its first month or so after release, but something about their live performances has changed for the better – more energetic, less rigid, far, far sillier. If you’d asked me during the Black Holes era whether Matt Bellamy would ever dive into the gap between crowd and stage and start thrusting the microphone into the vocal range of two dozen sweating fangirls, I probably wouldn’t have answered “Yes, and it’ll actually work.”
  • Playing Videogames! Of course I fudging did.