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Dear Esther: Some thoughts

I’d have loved to review Dear Esther. I couldn’t, of course. Having waxed lyrical about it on the internet and in magazines for many years, I was absolutely delighted when thechineseroom approached me in late 2011 with the offer of heading up their PR campaign for launch. Since November it’s been my job to get others talking about Dear Esther, rather than talking about it myself – but that doesn’t mean I have nothing to say.

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Nia’s Birthday Surprise: The Videogame

This week I made another game, and it’s quite different to Masked.

It’s a one-room point-and-click adventure called Nia’s Birthday Surprise: The Videogame and, as the name might suggest, I made it as a birthday present for my girlfriend.

In it, you play as me, trying to rescue Nia from a locked building of DOOM or something. To help you are a collection of items, a talking frog, and an annoying little girl.

You can’t play it, because it’s just for Nia.

Happy birthday, missus!

Masked: My room-escape game, out now

I made a game! It’s called Masked.

It’s a short-form point-and-click adventure. More precisely, it’s a room-escape game, which I made in response to bafflement at missed opportunities within the genre.

Everyone fears being trapped. The idea is terrifying. So why don’t more room-escape games play on these sorts of primal emotions? Heck, I’d be happy if some bothered to try anything interesting with storytelling at all.

So yes, this is my attempt to do just that. It’s my first Adventure Game Studio release, it took me just a couple of weeks to make, and it’s not supposed to be hyper-polished, but… yeah. See what you think. I’ll write a lengthier commentary when I get the chance.


Analogue: A Hate Story – some thoughts so far

I finished a playthrough of Christine Love’s first commercial release, Analogue: A Hate Story, today. But as odd as it sounds, while I’ve finished the game, I’ve barely begun scratching the surface of its story.

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Indie developers: How to get your game in the press

One of the more common troubles I run into during my career as a games journalist is that, sometimes, its seems as though developers don’t want me to write about their titles. Every now and then, when I’m looking for something to pitch to an editor, I browse indie sites to see if I can catch a glimpse of something exciting that I might like to big up. Often, I come across one such games, decide I want to write about it, but then run into a thousand barriers that mean I just… can’t.

To begin with, I was baffled by some of these common mistakes. Surely it’s obvious? But after talking with a few people on Twitter, it turns out that maybe it isn’t. Developers: I assume you want people to know about your game, so here are a few suggestions of what you might like to consider doing in the future.

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Absolutely mental

It was encouraging, the other day, to be shown a page in the Metro campaigning against mental health stigma. The admittedly fantastic mental health reforms that have occurred over the past few decades worry me, because there’s a danger that people now think the transition is complete. It is not. Mental health is still a taboo. It is still astonishingly underfunded. And those in need of help are now caught in a tricky, well-meaning middle-ground that aims to reduce stigma, but could actually be doing more harm than good for some people.

On the internet today, news broke of a man in Leeds who, after discussing his depression with his employer, was told that the company would have to let him go. The reason? That his difficulties would be likely to lead to prolonged poor performance at work.

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B.C. police refuse to reveal which drugs are deadly

A tweet from Ben Goldacre pointed me in the direction of something considerably alarming. In an absolutely extraordinary example of disregard for public health, the British Columbia police have refused to disclose important information about potentially lethal adulterated ecstasy tablets, on the grounds that they feel it would make taking other ecstasy tablets seem more acceptable.

Despite a series of deaths linked with PMMA – a highly dangerous chemical that’s been infrequently used to adulterate ecstasy tablets for a while now – police in Vancouver say that they are reluctant to reveal what the seized and tested adulterated tablets look like, because they don’t want users to think they are sanctioning other pills.

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Now now, NowGamer

Today, videogames website NowGamer caused a bit of a stir by launching a new competition. That might sound innocent enough, but this competition wasn’t to win a free copy of a game, or a trip to see an upcoming title in action. No, this competition carried a slightly more dubious prize: column inches on NowGamer.

A lucky winner will be selected by the NowGamer team to write a new regular blog on the popular games website, whose other writers are all professional and paid. Games journalism might sound like the best job in the world, but whether that’s accurate or not it is still a job. NowGamer is turning it into something you win, not something you earn.

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The plan

The plan is to start using this blog far more often. Don’t worry, I’m not crazy enough to commit to One-A-Day again – I enjoy being able to say ‘no’ to blogging, should I choose – but if all goes well you should see this page updated a little more than once every seventy-five years. Also: look! A new design. Bye.

Ecstasy, or hysteria? Part 3: Of course, the tabloids

It was today, when searching the Internet for any reports of what actually killed two men in Ayrshire earlier this year, that I instead discovered some new reports of ecstasy deaths. (Incidentally, those toxicology reports remain elusive, which – pure speculation, of course – would suggest to me that there was no evidence that ecstasy killed them at all.)

This time the stories – which I somehow hadn’t picked up on over the past few days – relate to two deaths at London’s Alexandra Palace, which has recently played host to a series of dance events. As well as the two fatalities, 20 further people were alleged to have been admitted to hospital, one of whom was critically ill.

It is ecstasy that takes the blame. And yet there is no evidence, it seems, that ecstasy was taken.

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