And so we come to the end of this anniversary series of articles. We’ve gone from a glossy video-laden epic, to a flawed movie spin-off, via whatever football or racing games happened to be cheap that week.

In the last piece, it all got slightly serious as I talked a bit about Deus Ex and how it helped me when I wasn’t having a great time health-wise. That theme sort of continues here. (And, sorry Sid Meier fans, there isn’t a lot about the game itself).

Hope you’ve enjoyed this series. We might have more anniversary things planned, but if not, there’ll certainly be some more reviews of old games at some point.


I don’t do this anymore, but when I was in my early twenties, I used to sit down and make a long list of New Year’s resolutions. It wasn’t just a mental list, or one scribbled down with pen and paper: it was typed up, in Word, on my computer.

The document that emerged was never really one that contained specific and achievable goals: instead, it was more of a bullet-point version of the futile and circular mind-talk that can go through your head whenever you’re beating yourself up over something, except this covered pretty much everything. Stop doing this, be more like that, and for God’s sake start doing more of the other. Basically, just be better at all things. Looking back, it was a fairly pointless exercise in self-flagellation, and I’m embarrassed to recall some of the more ludicrous objectives (one year, I distinctly remember writing “Stop laughing so much at sitcoms”). Given that most people fail to achieve less complicated and more tangible resolutions, like drinking less, or eating more vegetables, mine were doomed to failure.


In 2007, having emerged from what, by my standards, I considered a fairly distressing life experience, I decided to try a different approach. By that point FFG had been going for over five years and my own contribution had been, frankly, negligible. I told myself, and others, that I loved writing – that I was one half of a reviews website, and tried as hard as I could to contribute whenever I could – but none of that supposed enthusiasm was evident from my output. The quality of my rather infrequent pieces was also variable, and the tone I adopted was frequently that of a slightly smug, know-it-all, which perhaps stemmed from a feeling that I really hadn’t played as many games as I should have, and also that was it vitally important to get across that I knew my stuff about ALL GAMES if I was going to be arrogant enough to put words about them on the internet for others to read. (There remains an oddly competitive streak, the nature of which seems peculiar to the world of games, regarding who knows the most about them).

So my resolution was simple: if games and writing about games were really things that I enjoyed and was passionate about, as I had been telling myself while I acquired more and more cheap boxed titles in anticipation of “covering them for the website one day” and re-read my old PC Zones for the hundredth time, then I should make those things a priority. Not over friends, family and loved ones, but over, say, watching two hours of repeats of Friends on E4 (so a priority over Friends not friends, ho-ho) each evening. If it seemed like hard work, then maybe I didn’t feel as strongly about either games or writing as I thought I did.


Over time I also modified my attitude: if I did feel a bit like an impostor retro ignoramus, then it was time to embrace that, enjoy it, and even have some fun with it. There were so many games out there that I didn’t know, and that was something to be excited about. How dull it must be to already know everything about all of the games. In terms of approach, I also decided to take my cue from others – particularly my friend and FFG colleague Stoo and also The JMan at Just Games Retro – by swapping a bit of my trademark waffle and padding for a bit more hard work, research and thoroughness.

Sid Meier’s Covert Action was a great test of my new principles. Here was a game about which I knew almost nothing, other than that I had briefly coveted it during the dark times of the early 90s when 16-bit titles increasingly were not released on the Atari ST (cultivating a pantomime resentment of Amiga owners that I maintain to this day). In hindsight, I was probably fortunate to have chosen one of Sid Meier’s less complicated titles, rather than Civilization or Alpha Centauri, but still, I enjoyed the process: of discovering for myself a new (old) game, of uncovering how it all worked, and of putting together a few words about it. Perhaps to compensate for the sometimes sketchy nature of my reviews, I also put in a couple of additional pieces working through some of the mechanics of the game in more detail. I hadn’t exactly ironed out all of my worst habits in one fell swoop, but it was a start. And I kept to my resolution: 2007 was comparatively prolific, the product of renewed enthusiasm and improved time management.


I honestly have no idea where the name A Force for Good came from. I’m pretty sure it was a placeholder that just stuck, but looking back it seems like an absurdly grand and high falutin’ name for a bunch of old game reviews, churned out at a rate that could at best be described as semi-regular. Did the name refer to the site, or the games? Or us, the writers? Two English guys who are actually quite bad at games – the unstoppable Force for Good.

A year earlier, I’d played a game to help me feel well again, and for the first time I’d seen their value beyond simple enjoyment. Playing Deus Ex didn’t save my life, but it did give me some space to feel better about myself when nothing else was working. Now, my new-found productivity was helping me in a similar way. I was no longer in the depths of despair, but I also knew that I needed to find something – if not jogging and eating bananas – that could contribute to a more balanced emotional life.

So, I threw myself into FFG, and my planning extended beyond individual reviews. I maintained a list of titles that I might cover, a list that grew and changed the more I played and wrote. I revisited old titles that I only vaguely remembered, took the opportunity to catch up with newer games that I’d missed first time around, and discovered TV shows and films through their gaming spin-offs. My interest in old football games periodically reminded me that I did actually quite like football.


The road to health and happiness is never a straight one, but I’d say over the last few years the opportunity to spend some time with old games and write about them on FFG has greatly helped in that regard. Whatever other purposes we serve (and thanks for reading), writing here has contributed to keeping me on the right side of feeling normal most of the time, and gives me a great deal of pleasure.

For the very existence of this site, I must thank Stoo, without whom my efforts would surely have ceased at a notepad coded list of one-paragraph football game reviews and a single opinion piece about how the Blade Runner game was better than the film. (I should probably also apologise for warping the nature of his once noble endeavour to highlight old classics from the past by flooding the site with reviews of Need for Speed games and football titles better best forgotten).

Over time our name has made more and more sense to me. Perhaps games are A Force for Good. But from my perspective, this site definitely is. It has helped me more than you could ever know, and I just wanted to take the opportunity, I guess, to say that somewhere.


Next week: Nothing. Or a review. (Maybe). Or probably just nothing.