Features

Double Team – A ‘Positivity in Games Journalism’ Collaboration

Here’s something new for you; your main man, Lachlan Bruce, occupying twice the space/time! Yes, welcome to the dual-interview for both Reggie Reviews and Side Quest VGM, in which I, Mike (of Reggie Reviews) will both interview, and be interviewed, in a special feature for both sites.

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In celebration of the launch of Side Quest VGM, I figured it would be fun to get together and have a chat about our motives, experiences and future plans for writing about the stuff we love. Let’s kick it off.

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Mike: “So, Lachlan, you’ve taken a huge leap and started up your own site, congrats! Given the name of the site and your lovely introduction (read: here), it sounds like you’ll continue to spread your talent around the primarily Nintendo-based sites and podcast you’re already part of, while cutting a nice slab of time out for yourself here.

Was there any particular video game, table-top or anime series that you really wanted to talk about, that acted as the catalyst for wanting to move away from mostly covering Nintendo? Any genre you’d like to take a deeper, more personal dive into?”

Lachlan:Thank you! Starting this new site was a hard thing to actually do, considering I have zero knowledge of how to build a site, let alone run a successful one. Fingers crossed this one will survive the long haul!

A lot of my want to write about more than Nintendo gaming stems from my past. I grew up as a Sega kid in the era of the dreaded console wars, and as such, I have a weird fondness for the Sega Saturn. Basically any chance I get to talk about the Sega Saturn, I will take it, much like I am right now! Besides the Saturn though, I play a lot of retro games and am an insane person who shelled out the cash for an OSSC so that I could upscale the RGB signal from the original consoles so they look great on modern T.V’s. I also game a lot on the PS4, and occasionally the Xbox One, so I really just didn’t want to limit my writing to just one platform.

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In terms of anime, there isn’t a particular series that stands out as to why I want to write about it. Basically, I wanted to give myself an excuse to watch more of it, so I can tell my girlfriend that I am ‘conducting research’, rather than procrastinating watching T.V. If I was to say something that I would like to write about now though, I’d say that the site launch has happened at such a time that I can write an article in a few weeks about the new Dragon Ball Broly movie, which is great timing.

The table-top aspect of the site was less about myself, and more about trying to sucker my friends into getting involved! I used to play a lot of board, card, pen and paper and table-top games with a bunch of friends regularly, and although I’ve dropped off of all that somewhat, they still engage in that quite often. Warhammer 40k and Magic: The Gathering were staples of our gaming sessions, and they were always a blast. That said, I’ve recently gotten into the Dragon Ball Super TCG of late, as well as started accumulating some video game related board games, so I thought it would be a good idea to incorporate all these other forms of gaming into the site as well, rather than limit it to just video games.

Oh, speaking of taking a deeper dive into a specific genre, I actually have an idea for a bunch of features I plan to run in the future. I am a huge JRPG fan and plan to go back and play as many as I can, mainly focusing on the PS1, PS2 and Sega Saturn era, but also including any that are considered classics. I’ll also continue to review whatever JRPG’s come to the Switch for other sites and to add an extra level of crazy, I plan to rank them from worst to first as I go along. The more I think about it, the more this idea sounds completely insane, haha.

Now to throw it back to you Mike. We have only recently crossed paths on Twitter, so it would be good to find out what path you took to get to where you are today. So, how did you become a writer in the games industry? Was there a certain game or series that you felt you just had to write about or was it more general interest in the medium as a whole? Also, is this something you are making a full-fledged career out of, or more an addition to your gaming hobby?

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Mike: “It’s really great to see new content around the industry and your work is of great quality so I’m sure the site will take off.

As for me, I’m an absolute gaming nut but and have been since very early childhood. I’ve never really divulged the backstory about why I began writing (mainly because I am very new to this) but it’s actually really straightforward. Allow me to elaborate a little.

Aside from my day job, I’ve often been involved in creative works, but the vast majority stemmed from playing in and writing for bands. I’ve always wanted to get into the games industry but started to feel, as I edged closer to my 30s, that I may have ‘missed the boat’ (a naive view only my slightly younger self would take seriously). My focus in the long term is to get to grips with programming, ultimately making some form of story-driven JRPG with like-minded people. I’ve started that journey, part-time, in studying.

Moving away from creating games though, I found it difficult to keep up with the demands of being in a band, even ones with infrequent gigs. That creative itch was somewhat confined for a time and I needed an outlet.

Reggie (of Reggie Reviews) is an extremely close real-life friend of mine. We’ve experienced a hell of a lot together (pretty much everything) for the fifteen or so years I’ve known him. When he got into writing about games, I was so happy for him, but it also piqued my curiosity. After Reg got his own site it was a no-brainer to try my hand at writing about what I love, and he was on-hand immediately to provide the platform. Reggie has been a great help in getting me started and after a couple of articles I was incredibly content. It felt like comfortable, like putting on a pair of comfy pants after a long day out. Relaxing, but equally it’s been exciting.

Like I say, it’s only the beginning really, but if I can put the time and dedication in, and push to improve my writing, I’d love to be able to do this professionally.

I adore a host of Japanese developers and games, particularly JRPGs and their sub-genres. With many of these being relatively niche, it’s nice to be able to connect with people about this stuff online. And reviewing them is so much fun.

The Broly Movie? My man, you are speaking my language, but I’m going to dodge that subject in a bid to avoid more spoilers!

So how about you? What was your introduction to writing about games? Did you have anyone to guide and assist you? Did you just throw yourself at it?”

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Lachlan: “Oh boy, where do I start? It’s funny that I’ve ended up where I am today, considering I’ve never been a confident writer. I always did poorly in English class at school, with my teachers telling me constantly that I’d never amount to anything where writing is concerned. As someone with deep depression and anxiety issues, that basically sealed the deal for me never writing again once I finished my schooling.

From there, my creative outlet was also music, as I played guitar in a band for years. That ended in a rather unfulfilling way though, so much so that it killed my drive to continue playing, so I ended up needing a new way to let my creativity breathe.

Then in November of 2017, a mutual follower on Twitter, Marcus Sellars, put out a call for potential reviewers for a site called Nintendo Switch Network. Marcus is better known now as a leaker of sorts, but back then he was a reviewer and editor. I figured I’d just take a shot, and expressed interest, and before I knew it I was reviewing Sonic Forces which I had just bought as a test review. They absolutely loved it, and from there I got my start.

As for those who have helped guide me, I really have to give a huge shoutout to Jack from Miketendo64. He has been a great friend, giving me a lot of advice and encouragement through all my endeavours in the games industry. Also, I feel my writing grew tremendously when I was accepted as a news writer for Zelda Universe. All the editors there have given me a lot of helpful tips to improve, and even let me write a feature which I am rather proud of.

So back to you, my first introduction to your work was through your ‘Positivity in Games Journalism’ interviews. I was curious what sparked your interest in pursuing this series of features? Had you conducted any interviews before, or were you flying blind so to speak for your first one? Also, is there anyone in particular you would love to interview one day?

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Mike: “Well, Reggie Reviews has always been about keeping things positive, both on and off-site; something Reggie built in from day one. After seeing other interviews on the site focussed on mental health in gaming circles, and having some knowledge of the subject from the perspective of media coverage, I wanted to get involved, but also wanted to add my own spin. The other inspiration was seeing gaming journalists constantly being given a tough time over what they should and shouldn’t be/do/say. I wanted to shed some light on the other side by speaking to a range of people involved in the industry, specifically beginning with some journalists whose work I enjoyed.

The benefit of choosing gaming journalists is that, while some are very well-known, few are ‘famous’ as such, or wrapped-up in PR contracts. It means if someone likes the sound of what I’m pitching, they can simply make that call themselves. I didn’t imagine I’d be able to grab the attention of Peer Schneider, for example, but again, he’s a pretty big name in the industry, but not exactly a household name. Turns out he’s very friendly and very approachable online.

I had my eye on interviewing Chris Scullion when I first thought of the Positivity in Gaming series, so I’ve checked that box already! I really enjoy his work and unique spins on article ideas, as there’s a real sense of enjoyment that pulls through. He was extremely quick to respond and was happy to get involved which helped me gain footing on the format, with some excellent responses.

The next mindset was to speak to absolutely anyone, well known or smaller-scale, who has had positive experiences within the industry or in their personal life. Let’s face it, there’s a large volume of gamers of all walks that make the landscape toxic. There’s a heavy amount of misogyny, racism, lack of respect for developers, elitism and general negativity in the online space, but I have faith that the good far outweighs the bad, even if it’s not apparent a lot of the time. There’s a reason this industry is as big as it is, and it isn’t just the money. I feel if we can all pull together and keep sharing the good stuff, calling out the bad and generally aiming for what we all want the most out of this hobby: maximum enjoyment.

I’ve had a great time actively searching for content makers through Twitter, seeing what people are passionate about and getting involved in the creative side of reporting on this stuff!

You mentioned your battle with anxiety and depression and your, clearly abhorrent teachers (you have to question their judgment in their choice of career), if you don’t mind me asking, have you ever used the creative process or general gaming experiences to help you cope with, or even treat, your symptoms?”

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Lachlan: “I have a weird relationship with gaming where my anxiety and depression is concerned. When I was a child, gaming was just a fun pastime I absolutely adored, no different to any of my other toys. I also could only game at my fathers in the beginning, as my mother was against me playing them in the early years of my parents divorce.

Because gaming was limited to half of my time, when my anxiety cropped up, I initially didn’t want to rely on something I didn’t have ready access to at all times to deal with it. I also didn’t know what was ‘wrong’ with me so to speak at the time, so when I did end up using gaming, it was more as an escape more than anything.

As I used gaming to escape, I actually did more harm than good. It was the equivalent of running away from my problems, running from things I didn’t understand, and putting off dealing with whatever issues I was facing. It wasn’t until my mid 20’s that I actually went to therapy to figure out my issues, and found out they were much more serious than I knew.

Once I was diagnosed with anxiety (which in turn caused major issues with depression), my relationship with everything I engaged with changed. Seeing that I was using gaming as a form of escapism meant that I began to game less, focusing more on my music. That was short lived, as I mentioned earlier, that didn’t end in the best way, leaving my coping mechanism dead in the water.

It was then I turned back to gaming, but instead of using it to escape, I started to use it to clear my mind of unnecessary thoughts. The thing with anxiety and depression is the constant voices in your head telling you some of the most horrible things you can hear, pointing out your flaws, all in the guise of your voice, meaning you start believing what your thoughts are telling you. I began to use the concentration needed while gaming to silence that side of my brain, while also being aware enough not to abuse it.

My relationship with games changed again when I was in a near fatal car accident almost three years ago. My depression ended up spiralling out of control at multiple points, forcing me onto medication. It was during this time I used gaming to stave off self destructive and suicidal thoughts. I was thankfully aware enough to know what those thoughts were, though I did start using gaming as a form of escapism once again. This time though it was out of self preservation, rather than a form of running away.

Since all of that though, writing about games has really added a new aspect to the hobby I had never considered in the past. It means that I’m thinking about games differently, whilst enjoying them as much as I always have. It has introduced me to a multitude of people I would have never met had I not started on this journey, and even made strong connections with people. Overall, I would say that gaming has had an immeasurable positive impact in my life, especially in the latter part of it.

Well that got a little heavy, haha. Anyway, my question to you isn’t going to be as intense as that. I am always curious about other reviewers processes and things of that nature. So, I was wondering how exactly you tackle your reviews? Do you take notes as you go, or write it all out as you start typing? Do you even have a set method? Also, what do you find has been the most fulfilling thing to you in terms of writing in the games industry?

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Mike: “Before I answer, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you for being so open about your past and sharing your experiences, you’ve obviously a really strong character and it comes through in your writing.

Moving back to your question, it’s a very set process for me generally. I first tackle the game head on, taking shorthand notes on my phone then, after playing enough to get a feel for the game, I begin writing some paragraphs, sorting the format out and jotting down a few headers. After that it’s grind time! I’ll throw every spare moment I have into the game and only stop when an idea springs to mind or when I come across a part I just have to write about, while I’m still in the moment.

It’s not always that rigid of course, but once I get the writing started, I find it to be a cathartic, relaxing and almost meditative when I’m in the zone. Then I panic and look at the clock. Time perception sure has a way of telescoping sporadically.

The most fulfilling element of this experience so far is just basking in the opportunities to reach out to others in the industry and make new ties. The freedom to discuss and collaborate is intoxicating and it’s something I hope to continue for years to come.

How about you? Any tried and tested methodology to your writing, or is it a case of go-with-the-flow? Is there any style of article or feature you’re yearning to experiment with or any piece in particular you’ve got planned that excites you the most?”

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Lachlan: “Unfortunately my process is extremely boring. I tend to focus all my attention on a game, and have never taken notes. I feel a need to get absorbed in what I play, to the point that I sometimes forget to take screenshots for my reviews and end up having to replay sections before I start writing.

When the writing starts, I then become fully immersed in the flow of the review. I find that as soon as my fingers touch the keyboard, every moment I had with the game washes over me, and I am able to put forth my experience and thoughts on a game in a rather coherent manner.

I’ve found that the few times I’ve taken notes, or started writing before I am done with the game, has had a negative effect on the way I write. It is odd, but I seem to forget more when working from a framework, as opposed to starting from scratch. My writing doesn’t flow as well either, making it feel a little disjointed or harder to read. I’m not exactly sure why, I guess my brain just doesn’t work that way.

To answer the last part of your question, I’ve got so many feature ideas at the moment that it is hard to pick one that I’m most excited for. I mentioned the JRPG series of features earlier, which I’m very excited to get to work on. Besides that, I want to write features on games that I find have exceptional soundtracks. Highlighting games like The World Ends With You, Nier:Automata, Splatoon 2 and Majora’s Mask, and talking about how their soundtracks have affected me personally, both as I was playing, and as I listened to those soundtracks in the real world.

Getting to write about anime and manga has me excited as well. I’ve never written about them before, and I’m hopeful that it will help me engage with that community, and maybe get some great recommendations from people for shows, movies and manga that I otherwise would have missed. Let’s just say I’m excited about the future as a whole!”

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Mike: “Glad to hear it and you’ve got me greatly interested in your future output! Especially the soundtrack idea (high five for TWEWY!), very excited to see how that turns out.

Well, it’s about time to wrap up this feature, but let me say just it’s been an absolute pleasure and allow me to thank you for providing such great content!”

I hope readers on both sites enjoy this piece and look forward to more collaborations in the future!

This article has been published on both Reggie Reviews and Side Quest VGM. Thank you for your continued support.

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