We Want Our Tea Back! 12.04.03

Yes, things went somewhat to pot last week. I’m sure all four of you loyal readers were deeply upset that I wasn’t here with my ramblings, but stuff came up. But hey, I’m back, and ready to enlighten, amuse and confuse.

First things first: I’m going to shout-out to a guy named Julio who emailed me since the last column came out. Turns out, this is a guy I was best friends with back in primary (elementary) school, and he made contact with me from seeing my name on the columns here.

Who needs Friends Reunited when you have 411 Games?

Now, onward with the show.

RWC Spotlight

Well, the tagline should give it away. England have indeed won the Rugby World Cup, beating the Australians in a brutally-close final that never should have gone that far (Flatley’s original equaliser should never have been given, since the first offence was the Aussie pack pulling down in the lineout previously. And the match should have been sewn up a few minutes into the second half anyway). But hey, the excitement was so off-the-scale that it was worth it! And we got the right result. The only snag is that now I have to come up with something else to fill the void in the column. Damn.

Oh, and there’s a kernel of an idea that relates to this, but you’ll have to wait for THE BLACK to hit to see it.

Gaming News

More PokeNews!

Yet more clips of Pokemon Colosseum!! Click to check ’em out! I’m excited (as if you couldn’t guess), and so should you all be, too!!

Indestructible X-Box!

Who needs bullet-time when you can stand there and shrug off 9mm rounds? Turns out some mad American whose friends were playing their X-Box too loud attempted to shoot the thing, only to find the bullets ricocheting off the plastic. Click here for more info, courtesy of GameSpot.

UK Release Dates

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (PC)

Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (PS2, Xbox)

Counter-Strike (Xbox)

Metal Arms: A Glitch in the System (PS2, Xbox, Gamecube)

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (PC)

Mission: Impossible – Operation Surma (PS2, Xbox, GBA)

Ghosthunter (PS2)

Mario Party 5 (Gamecube)

And finally things start shifting up a gear. Max Payne 2? Very nice. I was never sold on the series myself, but I know many people loved the first game to bits. Counter-Strike? Watch those X-Box Live sales skyrocket. KOTOR? Oh hell yes. All I need to do is get my PC fixed, and then I can vanish from the real world for a month.

(courtesy of gamesradar.co.uk)

Pimp me nice

The BaxMan has had a bit of a tough time job-hunting. So compensate by going and making with the click-click for RPGoodness goodness twice, in his Final Fantasy X-2 review as well.

Cory talks ratings. Good stuff, and far less confusing than last week (thought it was probably my sleep-deprivation contributing to that).

And lo, the Great Bebito didst return, bringing the Reviewy Goodness with him, and there was much rejoicing on the Internet..

Alex W is back in full flow. Go read his column! And his Mario Kart review!

Bryan has something special right here. He’s posting on the wrong day. But he has a good excuse.

Lots of Fred as he gives us a column and a mailbag. Only another 4 months before I get enough feedback for a mailbag of my own!

Liquid is still on a MegaMan thought-train. Join him as he stops by your station.

This is NoSoul. He writes. He’s funny. He deserves kudos, hits, and nice feedback.

Commentary

Is games journalism really so hard to do right? Think about the magazines you might have seen recently. How many of them even look good? Perhaps you’ve read one or two of them recently. What were they like? Now think about the last games websites you visited. Obviously, you’ve seen how great 411 is, but what about the others? You’ve only got to look at Cory’s deconstructions of ESPN Gamer’s Matt Wong (one example here) to see that not every games site is as good as ours

The trouble with games journalism seems to be split two ways. On the one hand, you have the Puerile Problem. This is the phenomenon where games mags seem to be under the impression that their entire readership is under the age of 12, and dumb everything down to ridiculous levels (or just shove in a load of random, unfunny toilet humour). These are the sorts of magazines that no adult gamer would ever be seen dead buying; content-lite, with layouts that look like they were designed using Mario Paint. For all you US gamers, think GamePro. UK-wise? The old-style CVG/Mean Machines (like, 1993-era) come pretty close. You could also leave most gaming websites in this category, too.

On the other hand, you have the Sellout Problem. Whilst I freely recognise that if mags want to get review copies of games, and news stories, and previews, they need to keep the games companies on-side. But there’s a fine line between Keeping Sweet and Outright Butt-Kissing. Sometimes, magazines cross that line. Apparently, back when GTA3 was first released, Rockstar said that they would only give preview copies to publications/websites that promised 90%+ reviews for a fundamentally buggy product, and sure enough, a whole bunch of magazines all over the world lamely toed the line. I couldn’t possibly comment on which online

Of course, there are some mags which make no bones about it: Official Licensed Magazines tell you from the start that they’re pushing an agenda. Whilst this is honest, it brings with it its own problems, since the licensee *will* use that publication to spin its own story, true or not. UK gamers may well remember the Official Nintendo Magazine (which has had many names over its time) that for the first 3 years of the SNES’s life insisted on printing scare-stories about how the slightest use of adapters to play import cartridges would damage your machine (all lies, unless you were *very* careless).

Often, a magazine will start out with the finest of intentions, only to fall by the wayside. Edge in the UK would be prime example of this: It used to be special, mature, reasoned, impartial. Now, it’s become just another random magazine.

The final tragedy is, of course, that very often, the finest magazines will be pulled from circulation before their time has truly come. Whilst we are denied their brilliance on our shelves, it often has the benefit of preserving their shining legacy as an example to all. US gamers: Think back to your days or GameFAN, and smile. Japanese gamers can still head off to their local newsagent to but their copy of Famitsu (acknowledged by many as the finest games magazine in all existence). But since this is a UK-themed column, I’m going to take everybody way, way back to the heady days of the early 90s. The SNES is fresh-out in PAL format, and everyone’s excited. Then, Future Publishing release the magazine to change the world; Super Play.

What was it about Super Play that made it stand out? The answer has to be a mixture of everything. A crisp, clean design, with articles, reviews and features from professional, knowledgeable games, a good smattering of humour, and due respect for the wider picture of the subject matter (Super Play was the first UK games magazine to feature anime and mange, and to draw the connections between these and gaming in a cultural context, all backed up with some fantastic images from writer/artist Wil Overton). It’s very interesting to note that much of what made the magazine great (the dedication, the intelligent content, the knowing references, the sometimes off-the-wall, yet never tacky, humour, etc) has now found its way into 411 Games.

This is only the briefest overview of the magazine; It would require an entire column on its own to analyse the true brilliance of the whole package. Since its tragic demise, the “spirit of Super Play” has progressed through N64 Magazine and now NGC, and has continued to be a banner standard for magazines; however, there will only ever be one true original. It defined an era, and set the benchmark for others to follow, both in print and online.

And that’s all for now. I’ll see you elsewhen; Here and in the Black, hopefully.

Take care, and send feedback!