As this kind of thing goes, A Force for Good is pretty old. In 2001 the internet was a different place, and the business of covering games for fun a relatively niche and nerdy hobby.

Leaving aside the effectiveness (or not) of our early write–ups in the unforgiving modern spotlight, just putting together each review and adding it to the site was a significant undertaking. For a number of years I would put together my reviews in Word and send them to Stoo to be formatted and published to the site itself.

Screenshots were also a bit of a pain in the arse, and though I can’t remember any particularly stubborn individual titles, a combination of tactics was required. One programme (possibly an earlier incarnation of Fraps) had a habit of mashing up the image with a small portion from the left hand side clipped off and repositioned on the right. It looked – and was – wrong, but went unacknowledged and uncorrected for a substantial period, because we only published small shots (at 320p) until we moved to WordPress in 2013.

(Initially, believe it or not, the smaller shots seemed sufficient: we later readied larger shots in anticipation of integrating a feature that would allow you to access them, which we never did.)

At some point – I’m going to say 2006 or so, when YouTube and video sharing was in its infancy – we had the idea to introduce short video clips to supplement some reviews. These were soundless AVI files captured through Fraps and converted to SWF format so they could be played through a Flash player plugin. I remember being rather pleased with it as a feature at the time.

Several years later, these – by now – rather crummy videos were transferred to YouTube, in the spirit of maintaining continuity with the old site. To preserve my sanity I disabled YouTube comments and anything that might cause someone to actually see the clips except via the site itself, but it meant that FFG had a presence, of sorts, on the platform.

(I’d previously created an account to ensure that this vital piece of gaming footage was preserved for posterity:)

Sure enough, none of them have many views, with the exception of the goal clips from Puma World Football, which gives me a small sense of satisfaction because they were assembled in an extremely inefficient and painstaking way: I used a screen capture programme to capture individual frames of the action as I nudged it along slowly in the game’s replay screen, then used some freeware programme to stick the individual images together and make an AVI. Possibly there were other and better ways to do it, but making and sharing videos wasn’t so common as it is today and things were a bit harder then.

After we moved to WordPress, and driven by a combination of the novelty of engaging with YouTube as a creator, shame at the relative crapness of the clips, and the knowledge that DOSBox had a video capture feature, I spent some time putting together video highlights from European Champions, a DOS–based football game. Unfortunately, I made a bit of a hash of things by using Microsoft Movie Maker to edit it, and failing to resize the source video (and probably 1000 other mistakes) so it turned out kind of blurry and crap, but I was relatively pleased to have dabbled, especially as (at the time) I couldn’t find an existing clip of the PC version on there.

Since then, I’ve returned to the idea a few times, but the effects of repeating the same basic errors outlined above seemed to have an even bigger effect on the quality and the clips weren’t much better than the old ones from 2006. At which point, I determined that faffing around with video wasn’t the best use of the time I had available to work on the site.

I still use the DOSBox video capture sometimes so I can more easily grab screenshots from racing or sports games that aren’t from the beginning or end of the match/race and don’t show me messing up as I fumble for the keyboard shortcut. So sometimes, if those clips seem fairly coherent, need no editing, and show me being Not Totally Shit at a video game, I do use them, as I did recently with Cyclemania.

I made some effort to upscale the video this time, which prompted me to check out the options for more modern Windows titles (last time I seriously checked it involved buying the registered version of Fraps – which I probably should have done anyway at some point – large file sizes and poor frame rates) and of course there were plenty of good options that even I could get my head around which, given the modern fashion for YouTubing and Twitch streaming, is perhaps not surprising.

Just because you can do something, though (to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park), doesn’t mean that you should. I’m not sure whether gameplay videos are ever going to be a major part of the site, for a few reasons. Firstly, I think there’s more of a danger with regard to spoilers, which we do try and avoid here wherever possible. I think a few bits of a sport or racing game are harmless enough, but anything that gives away more than a few minutes of anything with a story seems like too much.

For example: I wondered whether a memorable section of a game currently under consideration for review might be worth a short video. The intention was to highlight a really awesome bit of the game, but doing so would rob the player of the opportunity to experience it fresh for the first time.

Secondly, if you do want a gameplay video, there’s probably a number of better ones on YouTube already than one I could put together. Thirdly, I rarely watch them myself, and even when I do, it’s only for about 30–60 seconds or so. So, on the basis that what we try and do here is produce the kind of content we’d read or enjoy ourselves – if I want to read about an oldie I’d probably go to see if the guys at Just Games Retro have covered it first of all – we’ll be sticking mainly to screenshots and words for the foreseeable future.