I write about video games

I specialise in writing feature articles on video gaming. My work has been published on Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Kotaku UK, PC Gamer, EDGE, PCGamesN, Retro Gamer, Rock Paper Shotgun and Terminal Gamer, and I am also the founder of two popular gaming blogs: A Most Agreeable Pastime and 101 Video Games That Made My Life Slightly Better.

I’m particularly interested in the weird and wonderful stories behind gaming.


Wireframe

I wrote the below feature for the bi-monthly Wireframe games magazine published by Raspberry Pi Press.

The LOAD less travelled

In the 1980s, coders came up with ingenious ways to distribute computer programs using radio waves, records, and more (read more)


EDGE

I pitched an article on the innovative DigitalCity project in Middlesbrough to EDGE magazine, and wrote it up as a two-page feature for issue 334.

Smokestack lightning (issue 334)

This street, Tom Beardsmore tells us, used to be “an alley of prostitute and drugs.” The CEO of Sunderland-based devloper and publisher Coatsink is talking about a road that runs alongside the train tracks near the top of the high street in Middlesbrough; beyond it there was once a post-industrial wasteland, framed by the flare stacks of the chemical plants by the River Tees. This area inspired the opening shot of Blade Runner, Beardsmore points out. “And it literally looked like that.”


Eurogamer

Here are a few of the articles I’ve written for the video-game website Eurogamer. All of them were commissioned from my own pitches.

In the Loopy: the story of Casio’s crazy 90s console

As a gaming machine, the Casio Loopy isn’t particularly good. But as a collection of ideas, it’s fascinating, a ragtag novelty that may well have been ahead of its time if it wasn’t so scatty.

Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of the Loopy – it was only ever released in Japan, its life limited to a couple of years before it disappeared into obscurity. The Loopy wasn’t the first home console released by Casio – that would be the ill-fated PV-1000 from 1983 – but it was certainly the last. When I contacted Casio to find out more details about the Loopy, they were surprised that someone so far from Japan would remember their strange console from more than 20 years ago… (read more)

Where do downloadable games go when they die?

A day in the life of an independent video game store

Your Amiga games are likely dying

Video games remade in cardboard

The Story of Yugoslavia’s DIY Computer Revolution

Entering The Avatar Machine, VR’s Next Big Step


GamesRadar+

I have written several extensively researched features for GamesRadar+ on topics like gaming disorder, the future of high street games retail and the maths of microtransactions.

Source: pixabay.com

“The next few years are going to be tricky” – Streaming services like Google Stadia could change the way games are played and made forever

Streaming games from the cloud is going to be huge. There are already a handful of services testing game streaming, such as GeForce Now and Shadow, but the news that tech giant Google has thrown its hat into the ring with Google Stadia marks a sea change – streaming is going, ahem, mainstream. Meanwhile, Microsoft is busy developing Project x Cloud – and is also rumoured to be working on a streaming-only next-gen system as part of its rollout of Xbox Project Scarlett at the Xbox E3 2019 media briefing . Hell, it’s even rumoured that big publishers like Ubisoft could be getting in on the game with the rumoured Ubisoft Pass, which we also expect to see announced at E3 2019… (read more)

Is streaming the future of video games? And can it even work?

Video game addiction is now a disorder. But what does that mean and why does it matter?

Battletech arcades were decades ahead of their time, holding global 3D matches before we’d even played a SNES – here’s their story

How long have video game stores actually got left (and can they save themselves)?

Microtransactions and loot boxes in video games – are they pure greed or a modern necessity?


Kotaku UK

Below are a few of the features I’ve written for Kotaku UK, which is owned by Future Publishing. Almost all of them were commissioned on the basis of my own pitches. The full list of my articles can be found here.

The Fall of Rise of the Robots

Rise of the Robots tainted nearly everything it touched. This absolute car crash of a beat ‘em up ruined many a Christmas, as kids who’d looked forward to it all year, whipped into a froth by breathless magazine coverage, fired up the game on a snowy morning only to discover… it was awful. The game destroyed the reputation of its developer, Mirage, which went bankrupt not too long afterwards. And the reputation the game had acquired prior to release led everyone to wonder… had these magazines even played it? (read more)

20 Years of Lego Star Wars

The Light Keeps Us Safe — Not That There’s Much To Be Scared Of

Minecraft-style MMOG Boundless Bursts Out of Beta

The British Games Companies Seeking Success in China

Sable is a Beautiful Tribute to 1980s French Comics, and Much More Besides

Ninja Theory is a Great Purchase for Microsoft – But is it Good for Ninja Theory?

The Final Days of Grainger Games — As Told By Those Who Worked There

Why Does Everyone Hate GAME?

The Secret Douglas Adams RPG That People Have Been Playing for 15 Years

How People Used to Download Games From the Radio

No Man’s Sky Versus the Actual Universe

Inside Scotland’s Real-Life Fallout Vault

The Most Helpful Pilots in the Galaxy

How Do 1993’s Future Predictions Stack Up 25 Years On?

What’s Going on With GAME’s Reward Card?

The Man Who is Keeping 1990s Virtual Reality Machines Alive

How Far Away is the Technology of Ready Player One?

Why We Feel So Bad About Gaming Backlogs

The 20-Million-Selling Game Series You’ve Never Heard Of

The Forward-Thinking Genius of Neuromancer

The Land Where the Spectrum Lived On

The Dungeons and Dragons Session That Became a Real-Life Phenomenon

Which Games are Made in the UK?


PC Gamer

I’ve written previews and features for the UK edition of PC Gamer, all based on my own pitches. I wrote a six-page feature will on Genesis LPMud, one of the longest running online multiplayer games, in issue 323.

Feature: Back from the dead (issue 323)

Genesis LPMud is one of the oldest online multiplayer games in the world: it’s been running continuously for nearly 30 years. But six years ago it almost came to an untimely end. This is the story of how an enthusiastic cadre of fans rallied to save this important piece of gaming history from extinction… (read more)

Preview: Partisans 1941 (issue 332)

Preview: Night Call (issue 322)


Retro Gamer

I regularly contribute to Retro Gamer magazine. I’ve written articles about the Casio Loopy (a weird, hybrid printer-console exclusive to Japan), the Amiga CD32 and the greatest magazine of all time, Amiga Power.

The Making of Amiga Power (issue 194)

“My biggest disappointment,” says Matt Bielby, Amiga Power’s first editor, “was that we had a very different cover design at the start.” Later AP staffers would gently mock the initial incarnation of the magazine, with its clean white look and word-spattered covers, referring to it as the ‘Matt Bielby Golden Age’. But Matt reveals that he never wanted those dull cover designs.

Originally, he had called in Jamie Hewlett, the artist behind Tank Girl and Gorillaz, to draw the covers for every issue of Amiga Power. “He developed a character for us,” says Matt. “She was a bit like Tank Girl but had green hair, and she had kind of blobby floating alien sidekicks. And Jamie was going to draw them for every cover in the outfits of whatever the lead game was. So if it was Sensible Soccer they’d be in football outfits, and if it was a car racing game they’d be in racing outfits, and so on.” The suits soon put a stop to all that, though…

The Strange Story of the Casio Loopy (issue 193)

Minority Report: Amiga CD32 (issue 192)


Convergence

I contributed to the book Convergence: How The World Will Be Painted With Data by Charlie Fink, writing chapters on ‘AR and Journalism’ and ‘AR and AI’, as well as columns on Niantic, Pokemon Go and the AR firm Rokid.

AR and Journalism

In 1896, the Lumière brothers blew people’s minds. Urban legend has it that their screening of the early short film L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station) caused the audience to stampede for the exits, fearful that the moving train would burst through the confines of the screen and smash into them. This story is almost certainly untrue. But what is certain is that the 50-second movie, which was screened along with a handful of other depictions of everyday life, such as workers filing out of a factory, was a massive hit. Journalists at the time lauded this astonishing new technology of moving pictures.

AR and AI

Pokemon Go on and on and on

Niantic’s Real World Platform

Rokid company profile


PCGamesN

PC Games Network commissioned me to write an investigation into the Thargoids of Elite Dangerous after my article on The Fuel Rats for Kotaku UK. I’ve since become a regular features writer for them.


How to deal with your gaming backlog

We’ve all been there: yet another Steam sale has come to an end, and despite your best efforts at restraint, your already sizable backlog of PC games has ballooned even further. How on earth are you going to find the time to play all of these games?

It’s practically the definition of a First World problem, but having too many games and not enough time to play them is a common dilemma these days. Take a look at the dozens of unplayed titles on your hard drive and you’ll feel that nagging guilt as you catch yourself buying even more to add to the pile. The question that arises from this issue is how do you go about reducing that gigantic number of unplayed games? (read more)

No Man’s Sky NEXT is confusing, frustrating – and wonderful

Cyberpunk 2077’s warning for the world is more important than ever

What Star Citizen can learn from the Second Life players who break into houses and have sex

World of Warcraft blood plagues and religious fanatics in Civilization 6 – gaming’s funniest bugs

How Elite Dangerous players saved a player stuck beyond the edge of the galaxy

Studying the Thargoids: the intrepid players facing Elite Dangerous’s greatest threat

Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia PC review


Rock Paper Shotgun

I’ve recently started contributing to this hugely popular PC gaming site – my first piece was a preview of the video game conversion of board game Terraforming Mars, and I’ve also reviewed At the Gates.

Wot I Think: John Shafer’s At The Gates

“Winter is coming!” yell the tiny minions in At The Gates as they flee, incredibly slowly, back to the safety of their settlement. They don’t actually yell that, but in my head that’s what I imagine they’re shouting as their little health bars tick down underneath the message ‘SUPPLIES EXHAUSTED’. I also imagine them clutching frost-bitten hands to their chests as they trump miserably through the snow, occasionally collapsing from sheer tiredness, the welcome hearth fires of home so close, yet so achingly far.

Sadly, imaginary scenes like this were far more exciting than the actual process of playing the game. But I’m getting ahead of myself… (read more)

Terraforming Mars but without the fiddly bits


GAME Magazine

I interviewed the head of gaming charity SpecialEffect for GAME Magazine, a free publication that’s handed out in GAME stores and given away in national newspapers.

Everyone deserves to play

Gaming is a social activity now, explains Mick Donegan, founder and CEO of gaming charity SpecialEffect. “It’s something that you do with friends or anyone on the planet”…


GAME MEDIA

During E3 2019, I wrote articles on upcoming releases for UK retailer GAME’s online news portal. The small team I was working with produced around 80 articles and social-media posts during the show. Below is a list of some of the articles I wrote.

Characters we’d like to see in Watch Dogs Legion

Ubisoft’s newly announced Watch Dogs Legion allows you to play as anyone in its depiction of near-future London. Every passer-by can be scanned and then eventually recruited to the cause of the resistance.

On top of that, the season pass for the game promises to add ‘four iconic heroes’ after launch. But who will they be? If you’re listening, Ubisoft, here are some suggestions… (read more)

Who are the villains in the new Marvel’s Avengers game?

5 things we learned about Nintendo at E3 2019

Luigi’s Mansion 3 introduces Gooigi for online co-op

5 times Keanu Reeves has appeared in games

5 new tricks to try out in DOOM Eternal

The Ubisoft dog is utterly adorable

5 moments from E3 2019 to make you smile


Terminal Gamer

I was a regular contributor to this gaming site. I mostly wrote news stories, although I did the odd feature here and there – like the one below.

Goldeneye-natalyaThe Top 5 Most Frustrating Gaming Moments Ever

It’s a rite of passage that all gamers will be familiar with: reaching a point in a game that’s so ball-breakingly frustrating that you hurl the controller at the TV, slam your fist down on the console ‘OFF’ switch and storm out of the room, possibly giving the cat a good boot up the behind for good measure. The best games will always see you returning eventually, whispering apologies like a spurned lover… (read more)