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 and Rock Paper Shotgun, 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.
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.”
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.
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)
I regularly contribute to Retro Gamer magazine with features about things like the Casio Loopy (a weird, hybrid printer-console exclusive to Japan), the Amiga CD32, Super Star Wars, Street Racer and the greatest magazine of all time, Amiga Power.
The Making of Skidmarks and Super Skidmarks (issue 205)
The name Skidmarks was probably unfortunate, in hindsight. No doubt thousands of bumfluff-chinned Amiga-owning schoolboys across the UK got a good giggle out of the fact that this racer shares a name with embarrassing Y-front stains. But beneath the slightly rude-sounding title is an absolutely solid multiplayer racing game that was one of the best on the Amiga. And the sequel, Super Skidmarks, was even better.
The developer behind it all, Acid Software, was probably unfamiliar to most gamers at the time. This tiny software studio in New Zealand would go on to make the excellent top-down racer Roadkill and the phenomenal Guardian, which scooped the number three position in Amiga Power’s Ultimate All-Time Top 100. But in 1993, about the only major release Acid had to its name was the fairly mediocre platformer Woody’s World. Then along came Skidmarks (stop laughing at the back)…
The History of Commandos (issue 204)
It’s Good To Talk: Retro Gaming Podcasts Special (issue 203)
Ultimate Guide: Street Racer (issue 202)
The Making of BITS (issue 201)
The History of Videogame Magazines (issue 200)
Ultimate Guide: Super Star Wars (issue 197)
The Making of X-COM (issue 196)
The Making of Amiga Power (issue 195)
The Strange Story of the Casio Loopy (issue 193)
Minority Report: Amiga CD32 (issue 192)
I wrote the below feature for the bi-monthly Wireframe games magazine published by Raspberry Pi Press.
In the 1980s, coders came up with ingenious ways to distribute computer programs using radio waves, records, and more (read more)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
And why aren’t they beige any more?
There was a time when you simply couldn’t get a PC in any other colour, and yet these days new beige PCs are practically impossible to find. Then suddenly, all these shades of sort-of-brown were gone, wiped out by successor generations of stark-white or deep-black PCs and, later on, every possible colour you can think of. Except beige… (read more)
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
I pitched and wrote a feature on fantastic PR fails for the gaming section of men’s website LADbible.
Let’s take a lovely break from all the depressing news by remembering a few times when video game companies did really idiotic things in ill-thought-out attempts to flog their latest wares…
…a reporter in Sydney, Australia, was sent a small black safe in 2014 that came with the message, “check your voicemail”. But she didn’t use voicemail, and when she tried to open the safe, it started beeping. Naturally this caused more than a little alarm. A squad of police cars swiftly arrived, the building was evacuated, and the police took the safe to the basement as a precaution. When they eventually forced it open, they found a copy of the game Watch Dogs. Ubisoft apologised, saying that members of the media were meant to receive a voicemail message alerting them to the arrival of the definitely-not-a-bomb-please-don’t-worry-about-the-beeping promo packages… (read more)
I wrote about the creator of the NES, Masayuki Uemura, for a news piece on Nintendo Life.
It’s well known that when the Famicom was redesigned as the NES for the American market, Nintendo wanted to make it resemble a video recorder rather than a games console – but the man behind the NES has revealed there is another reason why the American version of the console gained a front-loading “zero insertion force” flap (which has proven to be one of the biggest issues with the console over the decades)… (read more)
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.
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)
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.
“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)
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”…
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.
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)
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.
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)