Reviews

Positivity In Gaming Journalism – Jennifer Reichel

In a change of pace for the series of interviews I've been conducting over the last couple of months I've decided to bring similar topics to a wider range of gamers including developers, writers, streamers and more. In my latest interview I’m rewinding back to games journalism as we speak to freelancer Jennifer Reichel.

Jennifer began writing for Switchwatch in March 2018 before continuing freelance work for various websites, with her excellent recent review of The Legend of Evil found on Miketendo64.com. With a burning a passion for discovering gaming’s ‘hidden gems’, Jennifer appears to play a lot of Switch games.



Mike: What gave you the drive to start writing about video games?

Jennifer: “The biggest motivation was actually to do something. Since the beginning of 2018, I haven’t been working due to health issues. I always dreamt of being a content creator and since I love to write both in English and German, I thought I would give it a try. Back then, I contributed some articles (mostly about retro games from the SNES era) to a German video game blog a friend of mine ran. The blog is currently on hiatus.

My love for writing was still there and burning, so I was searching for another opportunity. Having experience in writing for websites in the past (only in German, though), I thought I should try and review games for an English website. Maybe write some news and features as well. And here we are, me even getting interviewed!”

JR1

Mike: Which of your works did you most have fun creating and what are your main sources of motivation for putting the work into your articles?

Jennifer: “With every review I write I am having the people in mind I am writing for. The main audience is, of course, the gamers interested in the title. The others are the team behind the game.
Everyone trusts you with his or her game and title, so that is actually the main reason for me to give it my best. If I can convince just one person to buy a game I loved playing based purely on my words and opinion… It is a great feeling besides readers just enjoying the work I create or people can even improve their own project (aka their game) based on my feedback.
The most fun I have when writing… It is thrilling to create reviews and discover a new title that I never thought I would like. The most surprising title I reviewed was Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! I knew I would love it, but it was better than expected at first.
Discovering brilliant titles and help to push them is another motivation for me starting as a freelance writer. To help devs promote a great game they made out of passion is a joy for me personally.”

Mike: Have you any experience of using of video games as a positive means of managing mental health? Alternatively, do you believe gaming has anything to offer in this field?

Jennifer: “Many friends of mine use video games to cope with depression or mental health issues. The other ones were never really interested in gaming. Growing up with no siblings, I often spent my time either playing video games or in our garden surrounded by the pets we had (I grew up with a whole zoo of cats, dogs, birds and so on…)
Many of my classmates never heard of “Final Fantasy” or “Harvest Moon” nor even this guy named Link searching for this “Zelda”. But hey, they knew Mario (and probably Piranha Plant) at least! So that was a start. I preferred single player over coop back then anyway.
Nonetheless, I was pretty much alone with the passion for video games while growing up. I never really understood why they were not fascinated by everything games have to offer, from diving into a new world and exploring secrets and a story. You can get lost in it for hours, and I often did back then as well as today.
There was a time when I was unhappy working at a company and Stardew Valley helped me to escape from daily life. Back then, I often came home and started working on my farm, built relationships with the various townspeople and just forgot about the annoying life inside an office. Much like the main character does anyway, escaping the boring deskwork to get their hands into the soil.
Video games have often been branded with a bad image every time something like a shooting happens in the world. It is easy to blame games giving the aspects of killing humans/monsters in some popular titles like Doom, GTA or Call of Duty.

gta-bad-press-paid
Although, those games are a fraction of a whole lot that can bring much positivity as well in various situations. The feedback I got from people I have talked to and the experience I had with Stardew Valley are more than enough proof that gaming can help you with mental health issues just like any other hobby such as drawing or sports in my opinion.”

Mike: How have you found the gaming community’s response to your work? Do you look to incorporate any feedback into your writing?

Jennifer: “Thanks to my work I was able to make some great connections and even gained friends. Some people gave me some feedback on my work, too. I am not going to lie, sometimes it is hard for me as a German to “just write in English”. Some people are surprised I am German after all, they would have never guessed it based on me texting with them. It is a huge compliment, but I am also insecure sometimes.
The English and German grammar are different. Good old’ Germany tends to have sentences that would just sound too long for native English speakers. It was hard to keep it simple and short at first. Especially since my teacher always taught us to make sentences attractive to the reader by embellishing them.
Reading a ton of my friend’s work and fellow writers’ content is essential. Discussing it is a good thing as well. I am always open for feedback and I am also passing some around. By doing so, I got into contact with talented content creators. That helped so much, and I am eager to improve at any given occasion!”

Mike: There’s a toxic side to the gaming community that actively fights against inclusivity, diversity and acceptance. Do you feel there’s anything as a games journalist you can, should or would like to do to challenge people on these topics?

Jennifer: “Be positive and respect other’s opinion. That is the way I believe in. If someone disagrees with you, people can get offending. That is mostly a reaction because they are hurt. It goes the other way around. Every time I will post something, I try to be nice and think about how it can affect the other conversation partner.
We are all human, so mistakes and misunderstandings happen. It is only natural, and we cannot live in a universe that resembles Animal Crossing. It gets preached often but try to put yourself into the other one’s shoes before attacking them safely behind a screen.
Social Media is a blessing since it can enrich our life on so many fields. Getting information or watch something online… It is so uncomplicated. Although It is also the cause of many discomforts and can easily turn into “Unsocial Media”. It takes a massive amount of work to reach people. Especially the ones that are hurt.
So I would like to make people feel happy when seeing my content and enjoy it. Make them smile by also making sure it is a good place where they can feel accepted with a serious interest in their beliefs. Of course, there is room for disagreement, but that does not automatically mean that they are wrong. I would like to spread this mindset on the community since it is more unlikely to earn negativity when spreading the opposite.”

JR2

Mike: Here in the UK it can be difficult to gain a following for smaller, more niche titles. There’s a tendency to attach a ‘mature’ moniker to AAA games like, (the arguably juvenile) GTA, where I find smaller, lesser known games are treated as throwaway titles, despite often catering far better to a mature audience. What’s your experience of this in Germany and what’s your personal viewpoint? Is there a tendency for the older crowd to gravitate to AAA titles almost exclusively?

Jennifer: “Oh, UK and Germany are not that different there. More experienced (I won’t say old here!) gamers know their business and the audience is growing. Younger gamers are influenced by much more than they were before nowadays, though.

The endless content of new games can be overwhelming. So people stick to things they know and have been around, maybe even follow a certain developer known for good titles. Starting from Rockstar and move over to Nintendo, you expect their games to be golden and you have not been disappointed.
By giving Indie titles more attention, we all can contribute to a healthy and rich gaming community. Brave ideas can influence the market in a positive way. Seeing someone’s creation can inspire you to strife for your own dream by making your own game. I cannot stress this enough, but Eric Barone (Stardew Valley) is the best example here. He got influenced by Harvest Moon and created an outstanding game out of dedication many enjoy.
Indie titles are the future in my opinion. We cannot push the smaller devs too much in my opinion when they did outstanding work.”

Jr3

Mike: OK, last one, I promise. As a representative of your country, what are you going to do about that stupid, giant USK logo that ruins all the European box art? Will this all be resolved if Yoshi pays his taxes?

Jennifer: “… Tell me about it. I had some discussions about that huge USK logo with a few people before. It might not be a big deal. I am, although, a person that gets funny with her games. Looking always for aesthetics, that huge logo is the enemy of good design. I prefer a simple and minimalistic logo, but Germany has to make it jump into your face.
Maybe I will start another attempt and getting in touch with Yoshi on that. I mean… it’s just for his own good! He does not want to get distinct, too… He is the only hope for us dinosaur enthusiasts! 
“

Feel free to plug any of your work or anything your friends are working on:

Jennifer: “In the future, I would like to be active on both my Twitch and Youtube account, so any followers are appreciated. Being quite empty for now, I am eager to change that soon.
I can also recommend the podcast by my friends, @GamingTalkPod. Please check out their work as well. The talented @ColdDeath has also his own blog, which you can find here: blog.walkinshadows.de
Thank you very much for the opportunity for an interview! It was a lot of fun.”

Reggie Reviews recommends following Jennifer on Twitter. Jennifer can also be found as part of regular podcast The Caffeinated Banter Cast where you’ll find a range of interesting gaming topics on their generously sized weekly recording.

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