Mike Rose writes about games. He is the UK editor for Gamasutra and he writes for PocketGamer. He knows the indie scene so well he even wrote a book: “250 Indie Games You Must Play”. So here he is. Mike Rose answering our questions!
1. Besides writing about games and playing them, have you ever thought about designing them? We know you have! We’ve read your post titled “How to play JS Joust Hide and Seek” so… What can you tell us about this mod?
My original life plan was actually to make games for a living. I made hundreds as a kid, using programs like The Games Factory, Klik n Play, all that jazz. There’s a hard drive somewhere in my parent’s attic that has literally hundreds of games that I made on it – I really need to get that down one day, and stick them all in a Dropbox.
So I ended up doing Computer Science at University, and that was when I was completely put off coding. The way they taught it was so utterly dull and uninteresting, that I just found myself not bothering with the work, and coasting through uni trying to work out whether I could teach myself instead. When that didn’t happen, I accidentally started writing about games, which brought me to this point – but that’s probably another story for another time!
As for designing games now, I actually have something in the works that I’m not ready to talk about yet – but suffice to say, I’m going to be looking to practice what I preach in 2014.
2. As a videogame journalist, what do you seek in videogames? What draws your attention?
Something different, something I haven’t played before. I’ve played far too many games now, so I find it impossible not to make comparisons all the time – “Oh, this game is basically this one I’ve played with a dash of this other one.” It’s when I stumble across something truly unique and new that I get all in a tizzy. That still happens quite a lot, truth be told – fortunately, there are plenty of wonderful designers out there coming up with new concepts on a weekly basis.
3. Some people tend to think that videogame journalism is like a dream job. What is you least favourite memory about being one?
Yeah, I get that a lot – when I tell people what I do, they look surprised and say “So you just get to play video games all day?” I don’t actually do that anymore – I do business and development-orientated news for Gamasutra, so my days are spent looking at numbers and sales figures and acquisitions and all sorts of things with I actually find pretty interesting, but isn’t exactly what most people would deem a “dream job.”
Back when I first started writing about games, I did spend my days playing games all day – but that wasn’t exactly “dream job” territory either for two main reasons:
1) Most games suck a big one, and I didn’t get to choose what I played.
2) Games journalism pays so badly, you just wouldn’t believe it.
I remember back in 2010, I was reviewing three games every single day – I’d get up at 11am, play and write until 3am the next morning, then go to bed and do it all over again the next day. On average I was earning around $15 a review, so paying rent was pretty difficult at times! I still adored what I was doing though, so I honestly don’t really have any bad memories of it. Sorry that’s a duff answer.
4. We really like video interviews you make with devs. What is your favourite so far?
I’ve only really just gotten started with those, so I’m hoping to make them a lot better – I just wanted to set out the boundaries of what they should be first. I’d like to get some triple-A devs on, rather than sticking to indies – I think it’d be a really interesting contrast to see the differences between how they talk about their games. Probably my favourite video up to now has been the Speedrunners one, since I managed to beat the devs a couple of times at their own game. That’s always a nice, cheeky feeling!
5. As indie developers ourselves, we know that in order to do PR sometimes there are no limits or boundaries. Do you remember any crazy stuff a studio or dev pulled off to make them (or their game) noticed?
I’ve been sent some pretty weird stuff over the years. Someone gave me a box of plums at a games conference once. Another time I got a box of pebbles, and they turned out to be chocolate that looked like pebbles. I got a boomerang? Oh, just this week a company sent me a leather blanket. I don’t know why – actually, I just don’t get why people send things like this in the first place. None of those items made me want to either talk about or play their games, and I always tell indies not to bother. Spend that time and money making a bunch of neat videos for your game or whatever. That’s a far better marketing strategy.
6. I remember you tweeting about getting a name for a genre that would include games such as Enviro-bear 2000, Octodad, QWOP, Surgeon Simulator 2013 (add Probably Archery to this list!) and getting a good amount of clever replies… Any other tweetstorming you remember? Do you like puns?
I think “tweetstorm” just describes the video game journalism scene (and probably games in general) perfectly in one word, so I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint a single instance for you really. There’s always something awful or mental going on every day of the week that everyone has an opinion about.
I do like puns – one of my life goals is to become one of those dads who makes awful pun-based jokes whenever possible.
7. What is your favourite game event? Any weird story you remember?
If you mean physical events, rather than online stuff, I really enjoy visiting Cologne for GDC Europe each year. I’ve been there maybe four or five times now, and it’s always a blast. The conference itself is great and super inspiring, but in particular I’ve had plenty of weird and wonderful nights there – I remember playing “Ninja” (essentially a turn-based JS Joust without Move controllers) with a bunch of devs like Vlambeer, Die Gute Fabrik etc outside a pub at about 4 in the morning, with broken glass all over the floor making it a little bit more dangerous. Another time I ended up at a super posh piano bar at about 5 in the morning, and I’m still not completely sure why, but it was pretty awesome.
I’m a lot more restrained these days though, mainly because I have a kid now, so I like to use time away as an excuse to get a ton of sleep!
8. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?
Wow OK, let me think… if you’re saying that I’m not allowed to watch any other developer outside of the three I choose, then I’m going to have to be a massive disappointment and actually choose three AAA studios over indie devs:
1) Ubisoft Montpellier – everything they do is exciting and notable, from the very first Rayman game, through to Good and Evil, From Dust, Rayman Origins/Legends, ZombiU… and now Valiant Hearts: The Great War and maybe Beyond Good and Evil 2 are very much things I want
2) Nintendo – I’m honestly not even that massive a Nintendo fan, but what they do that others like Microsoft and Sony don’t is regularly think outside the box (sometimes losing their footing as a result). I think the games industry would be a far more boring space without Nintendo, and whether they’re forced to go software-only in the future, I always need to know what they are up to, so I can smile a bit. Also, they house Intelligent Systems, who did Pushmo, Fire Emblem, WarioWare, Paper Mario… and if I wasn’t watching them, how would I know when the next Advance Wars was out?
3) Valve – because, you know, Half-Life, Counter Strike, Portal, they own the PC games business, yada yada.
9. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now?
I wouldn’t say I’m heavy, but I do play games a lot. Right now I’m playing Rocksmith 2014 on PS3, Super Mario 3D Land on Wii U, Remember Me on PS3, Desktop Dungeons on PC, Speedrunners on PC, I just finished Tearaway on Vita… just a lot of good stuff really.
10. And one last random question. If you could read game reviews written by any writer in the world (dead or alive), who would you choose and why? (For example, I would choose Comte de Lautréamont!)
Russell Brand. I can’t even begin to imagine what they would come across like, but it would no doubt be an utterly mental and enjoyable read.