Those who remember previous iterations of FFG may recall that our list of reviews used to come with a brief introduction. I thought it was quite a good feature, but by God did it cause me some trouble. After tapping out a review with relative ease, the prospect of coming up with some kind of pithy summary caused significant dithering, until it seemed as if I’d spent as long thinking about that as I did writing the piece itself. So I’m also sort of glad it’s gone, although I still have the same problems with accompanying text for newsposts and social media – there isn’t much deviation from “Hello, today’s review is this.” These days, thank goodness, I can at least put in a screenshot of the title screen.

Perhaps we should return to the very early days of the site, pre-Wordpress, pre-CMS, when I had to send my reviews to Stoo to upload, and he’d come up with all of that on my behalf. I was reminded of this after I posted the last of the When I Played features, and he described it on Twitter as a piece about the therapeutic effects of writing about old games, which was both entirely correct and something I never would have come up with myself. It also got me thinking.

I find there’s something reassuring about the world of games, the fact that it all just exists: ticking away and churning out new titles faster than any one person could ever keep up with. These days, I still follow it all, without having much sense of what’s going on. But I’m still interested. One day, I might get around to some of the things everyone’s talking about now.


Hotline Miami: Not as new as I thought.

Even while maintaining a certain distance, you can’t help but notice that there’s often a lot of anger around this world – about a game, a review, a price point, whatever. Some are professionally angry, because it turns out that being angry about everything on YouTube can be quite lucrative. Others don’t like this, and it makes them rather cross too.

Just watching it all unfold, it seems like hard work. I don’t envy any of those involved in modern gaming. Certainly not the website editors and writers, who are under pressure to constantly recycle news stories, or provide a ‘hot take’ on something that is happening, or come up with a review of the latest big title while watching the clock. And not the fans, either, who try and keep up with all of this in their own time. It’s impossible.

I once read in a (non-professional) site’s mission statement that they loved games more than anything else, and didn’t want to have to apologise for that. If that’s how you really feel, sure, go for it! That kind of enthusiasm is absolutely necessary for gaming to exist and to flourish. It’s what it relies on. People have to want new systems and new games, to share their enthusiasm, and engage in debate over the internet, for the wheel to keep turning.


My one-line review of Gone Home: it was quite good.

In that regard, I’ve definitely let the side down over the years. With my penchant for budget and second-hand games, and binge-purchases at Steam and GOG sales, waiting for the commercial fates of titles to be determined before putting my hand in my pocket, I’ve probably taken more than I’ve given. I doubt the developers of games have been adequately compensated for the pleasure their work has given me. I’m free riding on the back of the so-called ‘hardcore’, and I’m definitely in no position to criticise them. But extracting myself from that mindset, and not even worrying about whether I’m keeping up, has helped make gaming an altogether more relaxing and enjoyable endeavour for me.

For the person who can’t keep up with the latest stuff, one option is of course to focus entirely on retro games, claim that the old games are the best, and deliberately shun anything new. Again, that’s fine, if that’s the way you feel. The world of retro enthusiasts, though, taken as a single entity (I know there are many fine, knowledgeable and well-meaning individuals involved) seems to be one where that desire to ‘keep up’ is simply redirected and rebranded: Do you remember this classic? (Yes, probably, as I was alive then). Ah, but I bet you don’t know about this. (No, it’s very obscure). Who knows the most about games and what is retro? (I don’t really want to talk about that).

I have wondered from time to time if my being neither a retro fanatic, nor someone who knows much about the latest games, was just my own way of trying to create a bit of a niche. But then, there’s nothing staggeringly original about covering games from a time period stretching from childhood to a few years ago. I do think, though, that what I write about here is what I’m genuinely interested in.


Press B to stop being gaffer-taped to a steering wheel.

I was never that bothered about the latest big releases, with some exceptions, even when I just played games and didn’t write about them. But they become more interesting to me as time passed, and I seem to have developed a taste for looking back at things that aren’t really designed to be looked back on, such as the Need for Speeds of this world. EA don’t care if one of those games is considered a dud or classic in retrospect, only about whether anyone buys them when they come out. After that, they probably would rather the older titles stopped existing, in case the new one isn’t as good. (That, incidentally, is the kind of thing that makes me a bit angry: that you might stop a game from being sold, or from working, in case it detracts from the new product).

I remember on Twitter once seeing a young chap being roundly mocked for describing playing an old FIFA game (FIFA 08) as ‘retro gaming’, and being told in no uncertain terms that this was not what he was doing. As this is another thing that raises my heckles slightly, I started to play devil’s advocate in my head. It could, for example, be argued that FIFA 08 is a game with some historical significance: it was game which started to turn the tide for FIFA in its long-running battle with Pro Evolution Soccer. This was only on consoles, though, because the PC got an upscaled version of the PS2 version until FIFA 11, and even then, PC gamers didn’t get the same version as on 360 and PS3, we got the FIFA 10 engine with updated kits and rosters. So there’s a few historical tidbits right there. And perhaps there was a reason why that person wanted to go back and play FIFA 08, ahead of new versions, and there might have been very interesting and compelling reasons for that.


Let’s just all calm down, lads, eh?

Maybe not. Maybe he was just a young feller who genuinely thought that a game from a few years ago could be retro, not realising the potential for controversy, or how jealously the title is guarded by 40 year-old men who used to own a Spectrum. But if he had written a piece about FIFA 08, I’d have been very interested to read it.

I suppose if there’s one thing I do really miss about the old days, it’s the monthly print magazine. Each month, there’d be a selection of reviews of titles both good and bad, and each issue represented a summary of what was going on at the time that you could catch up with at your leisure. These days, gaming sites seem to be more about instant gratification, with an (understandable) emphasis on the headline-grabbing AAA or indie titles, and an increasing tendency for long reviews, written in rather grandiose prose, to emphasise that the writer really appreciated the magnitude of covering this important new release.

I’m not trying to be critical. Retro writing, with its benefits of hanging back and waiting for received opinion to come and go, is extremely safe. Bearing in mind the circumstances, it’s remarkable how good lots of the pro writing is. Working under significant time pressure, they generally establish whether something is good or not, give a rough numerical score, and (if they get the chance) highlight any oddities or amusing moments along the way. All the while, dealing with the expectations of the great unwashed, the gaming public, waiting to pounce in the comments section below. I couldn’t do it.


The world must know more about Darius from Need for Speed: Carbon!

I still like to look back at old reviews – whether it be digging through the piles of old PC Zones at home, or searching review sites that still keep their old stuff archived – and lots of them still stand up remarkably well. Removed from the here and now, from the should-you-buy-this-yes-or-no, there’s plenty to enjoy. Or perhaps, like my constant lurking a few years behind the gaming times, it’s a bit of a weird thing to do.

Maybe not. I listen to a film podcast, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Reviews (which I highly recommend, by the way). Recent correspondence from listeners suggests that a significant minority rarely even go to the cinema, despite listening to a 2-hour film review show each week (this group now identify as Non Cinema Goers, or NCGs for short). You can like films without going to the cinema regularly, without feeling guilty that somehow you’re not keeping up. You can listen to, or read reviews, without having any intention watching the film in question. But you don’t worry about whether you still like films.

So I reckon it must be ok to play what games you can, when you can. Let the wheel keep turning, and the world keep growing. Chances are you’ll be able to find something you’re interested in, if and when you get the chance. It’s not an approach that will suit everyone, but I can certainly recommend it.