Features

Positivity in Games Journalism – Jon Cartwright

In this feature, I ask six questions about the positive side of gaming journalism and other topics of interest to Reggie Reviews. Today we have GameXplain’s Jon Cartwright!

Jon’s dulcet tones have been filling podcasts and Youtube videos for several years of great content. More recently, Jon has joined the mostly Nintendo-focused channel, GameXplain adding some exciting new ideas to the already diverse content.

Arrow of Light

Mike: One of my favourite aspects of GameXplain (aside from you correcting those guys on how to properly pronounce ‘z’) is the unwritten policy of ethics and inclusivity. Is this element important to you, too? Is it something that’s consciously put there or is it merely as case of naturally leaning towards a fairer, more diverse outlook?

Jon: “That’s absolutely one of my favourite things about GameXplain too. It’s not exactly something that has needed to be enforced by the channel but all the staff just happen to have similar viewpoints on equality. Ash Paulsen for instance is married to a black woman so it’s rather inspiring to see his passion for inclusivity.

I personally believe all people should be treated equally but unfortunately the internet doesn’t always share that view. Message boards and comment sections are largely male dominated and I can back this up with our channel’s own analytics. It’s simply not fair to be treated differently for being a different gender or colour of skin and when you’re on a platform with over a million subscribers perhaps we can help shape a more accepting community.”

JC5

How did you get into making video game content and what drives you to continue? Have there been any influential people in the industry who have helped or motivated you specifically?

Jon: “I was always a little lost on what I wanted to do. I remember being surrounded by others with hopes and dreams in school whereas I just kept telling myself “I’ll work it out eventually”. I always have been a massive video game enthusiast though and with magazines only printing every month, I started to turn to sites like IGN and Gamespot for more immediate news.

I truly believe that anyone who frequents a message board and writes up long posts on why they like or dislike a game has what it takes to turn that passion into a profession. Of course there’s a lot to learn but with experience and perseverance there’s no reason you can’t be paid to write those very posts!

Experience is tricky though. I started off with my own channel called NomComms and while it didn’t really take off, it enabled me to network and meet a ton of people in the industry (including Andre!). It also allowed me to learn and make mistakes; writing, editing and voice over was all self-taught and it was great to have my own space to figure it all out.”

This may be a tough one given the sheer amount of content you’ve been involved in over the years, but I’m going to ask anyway! Which of your videos did you have the most fun creating?

Jon: “Another one of my favourite things about GameXplain is how flexible everything is. Of course we need to report on news and submit reviews in a timely manner but when it comes to other content we’re pretty free to do what we like! That’s what has kept Under the Super Scope so fresh to me. It’s basically my own series where I examine older games in-depth to work out why developers did things the way they did and whether the results are fun.

I think there’s been a steady increase in quality from video to video and my favourite is probably the latest one, Kid Icarus Uprising. Not only was it great fun to play through the game again but it was also interesting to gage a consensus on how other people perceive the title. GameXplain gave Uprising a rather mediocre review upon its initial release and it seems people appreciated the different outlook I provided.

One of the reason this remains my favourite though is because I could have done so much more on it. I tend to cap Under the Super Scope videos at around 4000 words but there was so much more I could say about Uprising, sometimes it’s good to leave certain bits out though as it allows the discussion to continue in the comments.”


Here at Reggie Reviews, we’ve covered the topic of mental health and gaming – both the mainstream media’s scapegoating of the medium and discussions about how gaming can be used as a positive force for dealing with some aspects of mental health. Do you have any experience in using gaming for this purpose or do you believe gaming has anything to offer in this regard?

Jon: “That’s a very interesting topic and one that certainly needs to be highlighted more. It seems whenever we hear about video games in mainstream news it’s about something negative they’ve enabled such as violence and addiction. During my time at University I took it upon myself to try and find out if there was actually anything supporting this stigma. As I’m sure you guys are aware, the answer is both yes and no. You can play Grand Theft Auto and then later cause harm to others but there’s little research to prove that Grand Theft Auto is the cause for that.

I find positivity a far more interesting field. I know several people who suffer from social anxiety and interacting with others over online games has actually boosted their self-esteem. A close friend of mine has truly come out of his shell in recent years and formed a brand new group of friends through Final Fantasy XIV.

I also really enjoy games like Hellblade that allow others to understand issues they aren’t personally faced with. Video Games can be a really powerful medium and I would love to see more games like this come along.”

JC4

Has a specific memorable gaming experience ever brought about new and lasting friendships/relationships? Or do you frequently share gaming experiences (outside your work) with those closest to you?


Jon:
I would say video games are kind of a key pillar to how I made friends at school and I still speak to a number of my childhood friends today. We weren’t exactly the cool kids but we all had unique tastes and played on a variety of different systems. Well, apart from handhelds. We all had a Game Boy Advance (what else could we have had then, an N-Gage?) and we were brought together by Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire.

I remember playing Pokémon Red and Blue a little with my sister but it felt so unique to bring our 100+ hour adventures together and see exactly how we all raised our Pokémon. I of course played multiplayer games before that but nothing ever felt quite as social as this, it was almost like visiting someone’s house for the first time and feeling a sense of trust and companionship. We all played very different games to one another but Pokémon was the element that united us.”

JC2

It’s tough getting people to play anything beyond AAA titles in the UK, in my personal experience. This seems to extend to Nintendo games not found on the Wii/DS. Do you find UK adult’s general view of Nintendo franchises as tiring as I do? Any ideas on how we go about changing it? Perhaps forcing JoyCon into people’s hands?

Jon:The UK’s tastes never seem to change. Outside of the handheld space, Nintendo systems don’t really seem to take off. The Master System was more prominent than the NES, the PlayStation more so than the N64 and so on and so forth. Our charts are always the same too with FIFA and GTA constantly dominating. I suppose the UK’s tastes are rather safe and we just tend to buy annual franchises that we know we’ll like rather than trying something new, perhaps this is also enforced by the price of games.

You’re quite right though, the Wii was an exception. It was a phenomenon that tore apart demographic barriers and had anyone from anywhere in the world playing video games. I believe the Switch is capable of that, for the first time since the Wii we have a system that’s wildly different to the competition and it enables so many different ways to play. Super Mario Party just came out and many of its minigames feel straight out of the Wii era – and that’s a good thing!

The importance of social games is we share them with others, and if someone who doesn’t typically play Nintendo games tries and enjoys Super Mario Party then maybe it will help change their purchasing habits. I think that’s part of the reason the Switch has done so well, it kind of advertises itself with how inherently social it is.”

JC3

Seventh question, which is what I do every time, even though it’s supposed to be six. I’m a fraud. Where did you find the crystal ball that allowed you to predict those Final Fantasy games appearing in the Direct… and where do I get one?

“I think Ikea have a few left. There’s a ridiculously long thread on Reddit about this and it’s hilarious to see all the different theories people have for how I managed to guess the contents of the Direct. Simple answer? I’ve watched Nintendo for a long time! Kirby’s Epic Yarn seemed like an obvious port given their other recent 3DS games (I also keep predicting Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door for 3DS) and Square seem all in for Switch support – even setting up a port studio.

The Final Fantasy 7 exclusivity has always been somewhat of a myth. I found it a little absurd how people could accept that Cloud could appear in Smash Bros and numerous 3DS Final Fantasy spinoffs but not have his own game on the system.

We do a lot of predictions on GameXplain so I inherently predict a lot of stuff! A lot of it is wrong – but sometimes I get super lucky. It’s worth noting that I also predicted the Kingdom Hearts Collections would come which were obviously not part of Square’s announcement during the Direct.”

Thank you very much for sparing some of your personal time to answer my questions, it’s greatly appreciated. Your passion for gaming shines through and I just love that! Can’t wait to hear more of your discussions and content.

Check out Jon’s own GX feature, Under the Super Scope.

Reggie Reviews recommends checking out GameXplain and following @JonComms on Twitter, where you’ll find consistently awesome and creative content!

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