I will stop talking about my struggles to break into journalism and get back to actually talking about games next time I promise. I am aware that it is self indulgent and boring, however my recent run in with the Guinness World Records 2012 Gamer’s Edition left me so incensed I had to write something.
It is a huge challenge to make a career in gaming, especially in the journalism/commentary side of the industry. With so many people so passionate about their hobby (and journalism being the one field that everybody thinks they can do) it is an employers market. With that in mind every time I get knocked back from a job application I take comfort in the believing someone better for the role got the position so I redouble my efforts (or get drunk, or both). Occasionally though I get the feeling that not all those who get the jobs are deserving.
There are hundreds of examples of this, and there is usually reason behind what I perceive as their lacking editorial. For example Kotaku, I find much of their work deliberately inflammatory promoting and agenda or narrative in order to drive traffic. BUT with that agenda in mind I can’t fault their work, they are masters of the catchy headline to drive comments. Begrudgingly I have to say good on them for so successfully exploiting their niche.
However, I find the failings of Guinness World Records 2012 Gamer’s Edition far harder to reconcile. Facts are amazing fun, and while books like the Guinness World Records are basically trivial tat they can none-the-less be deeply entertaining. The Gamer’s Edition however is filled with so much fluff, that it is offensive to the actually achievements within its pages.
It is hard to completely blame the books contributors, though that is who most of my vitriol will spew over, as they had a page count to fill (no doubt handed down by their publisher) in order to make the book substantial enough to charge the ten pound cover fee. But it was the contributor’s job to fill said pages with worthwhile information.
You are going to have to trust me for a second here, as to make my point I went looking for a specific example. This is not the example I was looking for but instead the first page I opened, a two page spread on Super Scribblenauts, apparently the game with “Most Internet Memes in a Puzzle Game”. Really? Lets say that this was something people were interested in, even without the second place in this illustrious category, did it really need a dedicated two page spread? It feels more like a PR release than a fact for a Record Book. Forty-eight memes by they way, in case you were interested.
That was not the example I was looking for though. No, the sins become are far more egregious. The ‘facts’ that really bugged were the ones based around a games key feature such as the “First Game to Feature Rocket Sliding”. The earliest I can think of is Cybernator (1993), the SNES Konami mech game, but I would accompany this by saying that there is a chance there was a game before that I have missed. What did the Guinness have to say? Vanquish, the 2010 Platinum game. I can only assume that Rocket Sliding was a precise phrase taken from the manual for this ability, and simply sliding around on rockets did not qualify. If this is the case what other game will ever challenge this? The “Record” here could just as easily been the first game called Vanquish. The desire to include games with influential mechanics is admirable, but to tie it to some spurious fact distract from its true contribution.
The final nail in the Guinness for Gamer’s coffin however was the “Top 50 Game Endings” category. This was decided by the self-selecting group who logged on to the Guinness site between February and August of 2011. The number one instantly confirmed this category as a popularity contest, with Call of Duty: Black Ops taking it. With the game’s popularity it could believe it was the most seen finale, but the best simply spoke to the inherent flaw of using a popular vote to determine ‘facts’. It doesn’t make it top, not even close. To claim this crown it bested four other CoD games, Zelda, Half Life 2, Portal 2 and a host of other classic titles, many more deserving.
To be fair there are some interesting sections to the book; Twin Galaxies hi-scores for a host of classic titles, and the quote quiz that gave my friends and I a bit of drunken fun, were both particular highlights. But whenever I look at the book as a whole all I can think is that for every few legitimately points the next one was phoned in… and frankly if someone wants to pay people to fluff up a book on game facts I am right here and going cheap.