Friday, June 02, 2006

Byte: Cats, bags and outages; beans and spillages

You may recall that I was a little cryptic recently about one of the games I was playing. I think it's time to déborder les haricots.

I consider myself quite privileged to know quite a lot of people within the videogames journalism paper press, and a couple of weeks ago, I got a rather unexpected offer. I was MSN'ed out of the blue by Keza McDonald, (a former contributor to Pro-G) who's now a staff writer at Games TM, who said that her editor needed someone to cover a couple of PC games, and wondered if I'd be interested.

Like I was going to say "No"...

A brief flurry of emails with the GTM editor later, and I'm inaugurated as an Imagine Publishing freelancer. The timing was splendidly ironic, given that only a couple of hours earlier, my GP had just signed me off work and told me that I couldn't use a computer for two weeks, due to my burgeoning RSI. Though thanks to some wonderfully serendipitous coincidence, the first review I had to write was for a game I'd already reviewed the previous week for Pro-G: Auto Assault - meaning that I didn't have to plug upwards of 30 or 40 hours into the game with a gammy arm before I could review it - since I'd already stuck the necessary game time doing the review for Pro-G. I just needed to type up the article with my one remaining good arm.

Thanks to the timely intervention of E3, I also had undoubtedly far more leeway than normal in terms of time before submitting the second review; which was just as well, given that it gave my arm sufficient time to recover and me enough time to play the game: Heroes of Might and Magic V. The game itself didn't - the review code was time-encoded to expire once the retail version hit the shelves - hence me having to go out and buy it to finish the review. You may have seen my review of it on Pro-G by now, so you will know that in terms of game length, it's a bit of a monster. (And also that it's very good, so I'm not at all bent about having to buy the game - it's something I may very well have bought anyway)

It's at this point that the story would be done and dusted, except that my girlfriend and I took advantage of the long Bank Holiday weekend to pop down the M4 to Bath for the day - where I recounted the story over a pub lunch to my friend Rich Cobbett, who happens to be Features Editor on PC Plus. After a long and valiant struggle, he's managed to persuade his editorial masters on the magazine to include an "After Hours" section to cover selected PC games. Knowing that I still had my Future freelance contract from the Devil's Advocate that I did (seemingly years ago now) for PC Gamer's redesign issue, he asked if I'd like to review HOMMV for him on PC Plus.

Like I was going to say "No"...

To be honest, I've been pretty surprised (not to mention flattered as hell) to be asked to do these reviews, as I think anyone who likes writing about games has pretensions of reviewing games for the paper press, but only a relatively few of those get to do it. Whether it's just a coincidence, a statistical aberration or a sign of greater things to come, I really don't know. I'd like to hope it's the latter, but I'm not counting any chickens and just enjoying the feeling of it.

Though after having done two reviews of Auto Assault and three of HOMMV in the space of a few weeks, I'm not sure I'm ever going to want to see the sight of them again...
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